Christmas Cheer: He’s Behind You by Rebecca Cohen

HesBehindYouFS

He’s Behind You by Rebecca Cohen

The second of our Christmas cheer. Leave a comment to win a copy of He’s Behind You. The draw will be on 12th December at 9am GMT

Buylink: Dreamspinner | All Romance | Amazon

Blurb: A Treading the Boards Novella

It’s panto season for the Sarky Players, an amateur dramatics society based in Greenwich, South London. With the traditional Christmas play around the corner, it’s time to get ready for more larger than life performances—on and off stage.

While Craig Rosen is happy with his quiet life playing Warhammer and working in a university lab, a new colleague thinks he needs more excitement and drags Craig along to an audition for the Christmas pantomime, Aladdin.

Corporate lawyer Jason Carter accepted he’s gay a little later in life than most, but now divorced and in his late thirties, he’s ready to embrace who he really is. He can’t believe his luck when he runs into Craig at the audition and the cute younger man agrees to help him navigate his new life. There’s no doubting the attraction between Craig and Jason, but with Craig’s insecurities and Jason still finding his way, they’ll need to make sure they don’t veer off script.

Treading the Boards Series

Overly Dramatic

Summer Season

 Bio and Links:

Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/R_Cohen_writes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.cohen.710

DSP author page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_462

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Cohen/e/B007UEFIXS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Excerpt:

Chapter One

THE LAB door banged open. Craig flinched and failed to maintain a grip on the bottle of buffer he was holding. He swore loudly as it hit the floor, smashed, and sent glass flying everywhere.

“Oh shit. Sorry, Craig,” said Stuart, the new postdoc who’d burst into the lab. “I’ll help you clear it up.”

Craig grabbed a roll of blue paper towels. “There’s a dustpan and brush under the sink.”

Stuart trotted off, and Craig removed his samples from the benchtop centrifuge and returned them to the fridge. The accident sorted his dilemma of whether he’d run one more gel before the weekend.

Stuart collected up the glass, and Craig mopped up the liquid. “Make sure you use the right bin or Kevin will kill you,” Craig said.

“Kevin?”

“Our research assistant. He’s on holiday this week, but you’ll meet him Monday, and trust me, you don’t want to risk Kevin’s ire by slightly disturbing his extraordinarily complicated system.”

Stuart threw away the last of the glass. “You ready? You’re still coming out, right?”

“Yeah, give me a minute to sort out my bench, and I’m good to go.”

Craig wiped down his bench and tidied away his pipettes, liking to leave everything just right to put him in the best frame of mind on Monday morning.

He’d originally hoped to use his experiment as an excuse not to go to the impromptu evening out Stuart had suggested, but now he had no reason or inclination to remain at work. Friday night in Central London was something he usually avoided, preferring to wind down from the week by playing one of the online games he followed or going somewhere a little farther out of the city center, somewhere the clientele were less likely to be of the rich-suited-knob variety.

Several other members of the lab stood chatting in the corridor as Craig and Stuart emerged. Craig zipped up his light jacket, looped his messenger bag across his chest, and awaited instructions. The lab often went out for drinks, but Trish, another of the experienced postdocs, had given up on trying to get Craig out on a regular basis. Unfortunately Stuart had been more insistent, and his gaydar was much better tuned than most.

“Where we going?”

“We thought Jerusalem,” Stuart said, herding their colleagues in the general direction of the exit.

“Which one’s that?”

“I’d think that working here you’d have known the local area better.”

Considering Craig had worked at the Medical Research Centre labs in Bloomsbury for over four years, Stuart had a point. “I studied in a different bit of London. But working for University College doesn’t make me want to rub shoulders with the undergrads during term time. Some of them don’t have an off switch.”

Stuart nudged him with his shoulder. “Well, aren’t you the gregarious one. Cheer up, Craig. It’s just a few beers. I’ve not asked for your firstborn or your Warhammer 40,000: Collector’s Edition Mini Rulebook.”

“Ha-bloody-ha. I’m perfectly happy, thank you.” Typical that Stuart was one of the cool geeks. He had picked up on Craig’s throwaway comments about Star Trek that had gone over everyone else’s head, and had already worked out Craig’s favorite places in Nerd-dom. “I just don’t know this bit of town.”

They headed down a set of steps to an underground bar called Jerusalem, which Craig supposed could’ve been a lot worse—it only vaguely reminded him of a bomb shelter. Stuart clapped him on the back. “My round.”

“No, let me. You won’t have been paid yet, and I know what it’s like to survive the gap between PhD and postdoc.”

Stuart shook his head. “No, I’m good. My partner’s not exactly short of cash, and he’s already at the bar.”

Craig looked at the bar. Stuart pointed out a blond guy, and Craig thought he was more than gorgeous, beautiful even. Stuart wasn’t exactly bad on the eye, and the two of them together would be striking. Craig blinked away the image of Stuart and his partner entwined. He really needed a boyfriend if his overactive imagination was providing him with flashes of his colleagues. “Oh, well, I’ll have a lager. Whatever’s on tap is fine.”

Trish grabbed Craig’s arm as Stuart went off to the bar. “We’ve got a table, but we’re short a seat. You’ll need to find a stool.”

She must have reapplied her perfume before leaving, because the strong waft that assaulted Craig made his eyes water. “Will do.”

Her ponytail swinging behind her, Trish dragged Katy, the newish PhD student, away with her to where the rest of the lab had bagged a table. Despite the bar being busy, Craig spotted a free stool a few tables away. A group of four had a spare seat, although they were using it as a bag stand. Craig pointed to it. “Would you mind if I took this?”

A young red-haired woman grabbed her bag and smiled. The guy sitting opposite her smirked, looked Craig up and down, and licked his lips. “Oh, for someone as adorable as you, I think we can allow it. It might cost you, though.”

“Si, stop teasing,” said the redhead with a sigh. “Sorry about him. One too many margaritas,” she said to Craig. “Please take it.”

Si winked at him, and Craig thought it best to avoid him for the rest of the evening. The guy had a cocky manner. He was attractive and knew it, with his shiny black hair and chiseled chin. The way he presented himself—designer suit and expensive haircut—made Craig think he wasn’t used to taking no for an answer. The sooner Craig legged it, the better.

“Thanks.”

Craig hurried away, but not before he heard the redhead say, “Si, can’t you behave for once? You don’t even know he’s gay.”

“Of course he is, Di. Geeky and gay. My favorite for a bit of fun—always so desperate.”

Craig tried not to let the words hurt, but it was hard to ignore the truth. He carried the stool over to the table, refusing to dwell on his pathetic love life. Even the geeks he’d dated had moved on to someone better, to guys who weren’t as socially awkward or boring as Craig, once the shine of his Warhammer status waned.

Stuart had arrived at the table with his boyfriend, who he introduced as Ryan, and Craig squeezed into the gap left between Trish and Stuart toward the end of the table.

Small talk was not one of his best skills, but he forced himself to make an effort. “So you’ve survived the first week. No plans to run screaming for the hills?”

“Can I reserve judgment until the end of the month? It’s taken most of the week to get access to the university computer systems and get my staff pass.”

“You’re doing well,” said Trish. “But you should double-check with Senate House that they’ve got your bank details right. They messed up mine, and I nearly couldn’t pay my rent that first month.”

Ryan laughed and nudged Stuart. “You’ll have to be extra nice to your landlord if that happens.”

“I told you I had a nonmonetary payment scheme worked out for emergencies, but you weren’t interested.” Stuart blew a raspberry at Ryan. “Apart from being rich, attractive, and normally a nice guy, I have no idea why I put up with you.”

Craig couldn’t help but be envious. Stuart had mentioned they hadn’t been together long, but a whirlwind romance had escalated into more. They made a lovely couple, and Craig wished he had someone waiting for him at home after a long day in the lab.

Before he knew it, they were ready for the fourth round. Stuart and Ryan were great company, so for once Craig wasn’t itching to go home. Ryan had even somehow managed to convince him to come along to an open audition at the amateur dramatics group they belonged to. Once Ryan learned Craig lived in Deptford, only a couple of stops away on the Docklands Light Railway, he wouldn’t let Craig refuse. Maybe it would be good for him to have a social life outside his computer and gaming meetups. He got to his feet at the call for the next round. “My turn.”

“You need a hand?” asked Trish.

“Nah, I’ll get a tray.”

The queue for the bar was several people deep, and Craig checked his phone while waiting to be served. He had a few game notifications and an offer from his credit card company, but nothing of any consequence. At least reading his e-mail meant he didn’t accidently make eye contact with anyone.

Once he’d been served, he realized he didn’t have room for all the drinks on the tray and would have to come back for his pint.

“I’ll keep an eye on it for you,” offered the guy standing next to him, who, Craig realized too late, was Si from the table where he’d got his stool. Si grinned.

Craig had a sudden thought that he should be wearing a red riding hood. “Er, thanks.”

“My pleasure.” Si winked at him.

Craig scurried away with the tray of drinks, intending to come back to grab his pint and return to the table again as fast as possible.

The bar had cleared a bit by the time he went to retrieve his pint. He hoped Si would have collected his own drink and pissed off back to his friends, but no such luck.

“There you are. I was beginning to think you weren’t coming back.”

Craig reached out to pick up his pint, but Si took hold of his arm. “I hope you aren’t rushing off.”

“I need to get back to my friends.”

“I’m sure they can cope for a little while without you.”

Craig tried to shrug off Si’s hand. “I need to go.”

“Oh, come on, we can have a little fun. What do you say to me letting you suck my cock?”

“What?” He aimed for outraged, but it came out more like a deranged squawk.

“You’re gagging for it. I can smell the desperation. I bet you can’t even remember the last time you got laid. Here I am, offering you a simply wonderful opportunity.”

Craig could tell Si was the wrong side of sober, and he tried to dislodge Si’s hand. “Let go of me.”

“Feisty!” Si swayed a little and grabbed Craig’s arm harder.

“Look, Dick For Brains, the guy’s not interested, so fuck off to whatever sewer you crawled out of.” A hand reached from behind Craig and pulled Si’s hand away. “Piss off and leave him alone.”

Craig turned to see a man—at best guess, in his late thirties with dark brown hair and a square jaw. He was dashing in a knight-in-shining-armor way, although dressed in a suit with his shirt collar open, rather than chain mail. Craig supposed he should be incensed another man thought he needed rescuing, but he was far too relieved to be upset.

Si scowled. “Who the fuck are you?”

“Someone with a black belt in judo who doesn’t like arseholes picking on people in bars.”

Si snorted. “Fancy a piece yourself, I bet. You can have the dorky thing. No loss.”

Craig watched Si stagger off before turning back to his savior. “Thanks.”

“Sorry. I wouldn’t normally butt in, but you looked like you needed a bit of support.”

“I’m not very good with conflict.” Craig reached out and claimed his pint. “He’d have got bored eventually, most people do, but I’m glad you helped.”

“I’m pretty sure he’ll find a willing body if he can stay standing long enough. He’s lucky he didn’t try it on with someone who’d take offense.”

“I am a bit offended. Strange men don’t usually assume I’ll suck their cock on demand.”

“I didn’t mean that. I mean some guys wouldn’t like being hit on by another man. They’d have punched him into next week.”

Craig didn’t think he’d have the balls to hit someone, but it wasn’t Si’s sex that had been the issue. “Being hit on was a problem, not him being a guy.”

“You are gay, then?”

Craig thought it an odd question to ask someone you didn’t know. He took a sip of his pint before answering. “Yes….”

“Sorry, you must think me a complete twat. I’m new to all this.”

“All this?”

The man chuckled and rubbed the back of his neck, an impossibly endearing action that had Craig’s imagination running away with itself. “Yeah. Let’s say I’m late to the game and still figuring out the rules.”

“I’m not sure I know the rules any better. In fact, you could say I’m pretty rubbish at most games that aren’t coded in C++.”

“Eh?”

“That was a bit geeky. It’s computer code. Well, one of them, and of course it depends on the game and the platform.”

“Right.”

A wave of awkwardness swept through him as Craig realized he’d geeked out in front of a rather sexy older man. Still, the encounter would keep his right hand busy for a while, as long as he left before he could embarrass himself further. “I should get back to my friends.”

“Yeah, I’d better go myself. I needed a beer after the day I’ve had.”

“Least it’s the weekend.” Craig gave him a quirky little smile that was meant to say good-bye but probably made him look like a worried poodle. “Thanks again for your help.”

“Anytime.”

 

Cover Reveal and Giveaway: Rebecca Cohen

HesBehindYouFS

He’s Behind You by Rebecca Cohen

Buylink: Dreamspinner | All Romance

Blurb: A Treading the Boards Novella

It’s panto season for the Sarky Players, an amateur dramatics society based in Greenwich, South London. With the traditional Christmas play around the corner, it’s time to get ready for more larger than life performances—on and off stage.

While Craig Rosen is happy with his quiet life playing Warhammer and working in a university lab, a new colleague thinks he needs more excitement and drags Craig along to an audition for the Christmas pantomime, Aladdin.

Corporate lawyer Jason Carter accepted he’s gay a little later in life than most, but now divorced and in his late thirties, he’s ready to embrace who he really is. He can’t believe his luck when he runs into Craig at the audition and the cute younger man agrees to help him navigate his new life. There’s no doubting the attraction between Craig and Jason, but with Craig’s insecurities and Jason still finding his way, they’ll need to make sure they don’t veer off script.

 

Treading the Boards Series

Overly Dramatic

Summer Season

 Bio and Links:

Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/R_Cohen_writes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.cohen.710

DSP author page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_462

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Cohen/e/B007UEFIXS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Giveaway

2 x A Treading the Boards ebook. Giveaway closes 15th November at midnight GMT.

 

DIRECT LINK:

 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ec3c1e582/?

Giveaway: Summer Season by Rebecca Cohen

SummerSeasonFS

Buylinks: Dreamspinner | Amazon | All Romance | Barnes & Noble

Blurb: A Treading the Boards Novella

A trip down to Cornwall is just what Ryan Penniford needs to recover from the daily grind of London life. Ryan and his amateur dramatics society, the Sarky Players, are traveling to Porthcurno to perform at the stunning Minack Theatre.

Stuart Box has returned to Cornwall after earning his PhD, and is killing time as he looks for a job back in London. Spending time with Ryan from the Sarky Players is a great way to take his mind off things.

During their first meeting, sparks fly, but not in a good way, and they must work to get past their initial hostilities to discover they have great off-stage chemistry. Stuart soon learns Ryan is not the superficial man people assume he is, and Stuart likes what he sees. The feeling is entirely mutual.

Pity Ryan is only visiting for two weeks, but both men want to see where this holiday romance might take them.

Bio and Links:

Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/R_Cohen_writes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.cohen.710

DSP author page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_462

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Cohen/e/B007UEFIXS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Giveaway:

$20 gift card for Amazon or Are, 2 ebooks from back catalogue (excluding Summer Season). Giveaway closes 21st October 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OR DIRECT LINK:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ ec3c1e581/?

Blog Tour:

October

7th: Dawn’s Reading Nook – unique excerpt

8th: Hearts on Fire – guest post

9th: Love Bytes – guest post | MM good book reviews – unique excerpt

10thRJ Scott – promo post

11th: UK Gay Romance – promo post

12th: Novel Approach – guest post

13th: Because Two Men – unique excerpt

14th: Zipper Rippers – guest post

15th: Bookwinked – unique excerpt

16th: Prism Alliance – guest post

17th: Creative Ink Romance – review

18th: Sue Brown – promo post

19th: Diverse Reader – unique excerpt

New Release: Summer Season by Rebecca Cohen

SummerSeasonFS

Buylinks: Dreamspinner | Amazon | All Romance | Barnes & Noble

Blurb: A Treading the Boards Novella

A trip down to Cornwall is just what Ryan Penniford needs to recover from the daily grind of London life. Ryan and his amateur dramatics society, the Sarky Players, are traveling to Porthcurno to perform at the stunning Minack Theatre.

Stuart Box has returned to Cornwall after earning his PhD, and is killing time as he looks for a job back in London. Spending time with Ryan from the Sarky Players is a great way to take his mind off things.

During their first meeting, sparks fly, but not in a good way, and they must work to get past their initial hostilities to discover they have great off-stage chemistry. Stuart soon learns Ryan is not the superficial man people assume he is, and Stuart likes what he sees. The feeling is entirely mutual.

Pity Ryan is only visiting for two weeks, but both men want to see where this holiday romance might take them.

Bio and Links:

Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and baby son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.

Blog: http://rebeccacohenwrites.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/R_Cohen_writes

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.cohen.710

DSP author page: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_462

Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Rebecca-Cohen/e/B007UEFIXS/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

 

Giveaway:

$20 gift card for Amazon or Are, 2 ebooks from back catalogue (excluding Summer Season). Giveaway closes 21st October 2015.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

OR DIRECT LINK:

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ ec3c1e581/?

Blog Tour:

October

7th: Dawn’s Reading Nook – unique excerpt

8th: Hearts on Fire – guest post

9th: Love Bytes – guest post | MM good book reviews – unique excerpt

10thRJ Scott – promo post

11th: UK Gay Romance – promo post

12th: Novel Approach – guest post

13th: Because Two Men – unique excerpt

14th: Zipper Rippers – guest post

15th: Bookwinked – unique excerpt

16th: Prism Alliance – guest post

17th: Creative Ink Romance – review

18th: Sue Brown – promo post

19th: Diverse Reader – unique excerpt

COMING SOON: SUMMER SEASON BY REBECCA COHEN

Summer Season is now on Dreamspinner’s Coming Soon page

with a lovely new cover by Paul Richmond

SummerSeasonFS

Buylink: Dreamspinner

Blurb: 

A trip down to Cornwall is just what Ryan Penniford needs to recover from the daily grind of London life. Ryan and his amateur dramatics society, the Sarky Players, are traveling to Porthcurno to perform at the stunning Minack Theatre.

Stuart Box has returned to Cornwall after earning his PhD, and is killing time as he looks for a job back in London. Spending time with Ryan from the Sarky Players is a great way to take his mind off things.

During their first meeting, sparks fly, but not in a good way, and they must work to get past their initial hostilities to discover they have great off-stage chemistry. Stuart soon learns Ryan is not the superficial man people assume he is, and Stuart likes what he sees. The feeling is entirely mutual.

Pity Ryan is only visiting for two weeks, but both men want to see where this holiday romance might take them.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

STUART SPLUTTERED as he took a deep breath of sea air. He must’ve been away from Cornwall for too long if the once restorative powers of the sea made him sound like he had bronchitis. He lifted his heavy rucksack into a more comfortable position and set off down the coastal path and away from where he’d asked his friend to drop him.

No one had thought to tell the weather it was meant to be high summer—the gray sky threatened rain. The strong, warm wind buffeted Stuart, despite him being weighed down with the possessions from his now ex-house share. July in Cornwall could be amazing, but not today. The weather gods must be suffering from a hangover and were taking out their annoyance on the inhabitants of Porthcurno. Stuart stepped to one side to let a family of five pass by, the little boy taking great delight in antagonizing his two older sisters with a constant barrage of whys.

He should have asked to be dropped closer to the service road to his mum’s cottage, but he’d been away from the sea for so long and jumped at the chance for a twenty-minute walk following the coast. He hadn’t factored in the heavy rucksack on his back or the way the straps might dig into his shoulders. When would he learn not to romanticize the mundaneness of daily life? Maybe if he’d got his head out of the clouds, he’d have a job rather than be slinking back home to do his job-hunting. His PhD in molecular developmental biology was all very well and good, but it didn’t help his temporary employment chances in the Cornish tourist industry while he looked farther afield for an academic position.

As he approached the bar gate across the path to a small collection of cottages, he saw Malcolm leaning against the gate. “Back again, I see. Big Smoke too smoky for you?”

Malcolm had been a fixture of the village for as long as Stuart could remember. The only thing that seemed to change was the extent of the gray hair on his head and in his beard.

“Not exactly. But it’s always nice to be back by the sea.”

“I dare say you couldn’t have picked a uni farther from the sea if you tried.”

“London’s not quite that bad, Malcolm.”

“Well, your mum’ll be glad to see you. Talks about you all the time.”

“She’s always been one to bore the neighbors.”

Malcolm patted him on the shoulder and opened the gate. Walking toward the cottage brought back a flood of memories from growing up there and playing with Malcolm’s cheeky Tibetan terrier. Shirley, Malcolm’s wife, used to spoil him rotten, making Stuart chocolate chip cookies during their frequent babysitting stints.

“Your mum’s not sent me deaf yet, lad. Even after living next to her for all these years. Speak of the devil, ’ere she comes.”

Moments later Stuart was engulfed, not really caring that some people would consider him too old to be hugged by his mum.

Malcolm chuckled. “Careful there, Fi. You’ll break the lad.”

Fiona pulled away, and Stuart was powerless to stop her pressing a wet kiss to his cheek. “Nonsense, my little man’s made of sterner stuff. He won’t break from a mama cuddle.”

Stuart wiped away the bright pink lipstick, knowing complaining would result in a matching smear on the other cheek. Malcolm waved a good-bye as he headed for his own cottage. Stuart let Fiona lead him inside.

“It’s so lovely to have you home, Stuart. Even the cat’s missed you.”

“If Sprocket’s missed me, then it’s only because she had one less minion to open her food.”

Stuart unbuckled his rucksack, shrugged it off his back, and set it down to rest against the kitchen table leg. The sense of nostalgia hit him hard as he saw nothing in the large kitchen had really changed from his last visit home; a mixture of cooking paraphernalia and the odds and sods that made up Fiona’s craft supplies still cluttered the surfaces. The only difference since his visit last Christmas was a new oil painting above the inglenook fireplace.

“That’s new.”

Fiona glanced over her shoulder as she filled the kettle at the sink. “Oh, that. It was an early birthday present from a friend.”

“Your birthday’s not until September.”

“It’s a good job he gave it me when he did, since we’re not that sort of friends anymore.”

Stuart groaned, opened a cupboard, and grabbed the biscuit barrel before sitting at the table. “He was one of those friends.”

“Yes, if you must know.” Fiona busied herself making a cup of tea. “Nice chap. Bit too clingy at the end.”

“Not another one mistaking a holiday fling for finding his true love?”

“It’s not my fault, Stuart. I can’t help being friendly.”

As long as she was careful, he didn’t mind her being a free spirit. He’d had a long line of “uncles” while growing up, and the majority of them had tried to bribe their way into his affections to get into his mum’s good books, as his extensive Lego collection could testify.

“I know, just be careful.”

“Anyone would think you were the parent, not the other way around.” She laughed as she placed a cup of tea on the table in front of him and ruffled his hair. “Y’know, I’m not exactly a mumsy mum.”

“Who said I wanted one of them?”

“Good job too.”

Stuart knew that Fiona Box had been accused of a lot of things in her time, several of them not so pleasant, but being mumsy wasn’t one of them. She tottered around the kitchen in her high-heeled slingbacks and tight jeans, wearing a long top cinched at the waist by a wide belt. They’d had a blazing row over her dress sense two days after his sixteenth birthday, Stuart embarrassed at having a mum younger than everyone else’s and dressing like it too. One very painful month of seeing her miserable in shapeless cardigans and sensible black trousers made him feel such an arse that he’d apologized. She’d cried, and never again would he ask her to change for his benefit.

Fiona pulled a saucepan out of a cupboard. “Right, what you want to eat? I could do orange dinner?”

“I see your cooking skills haven’t got any better?”

“Nothing wrong with fish fingers, chips, and baked beans… hardly stunted your growth, did it? I thought at one point if you were going to grow any taller, I’d have to have the doors altered.”

“That serves you right for bringing me up in a hobbit’s hole.”

Her mobile vibrated on the table, and she checked it and frowned. “Arse.”

“What’s wrong?”

“I was hoping to give my tickets for tonight to Mel, but she can’t go.”

Stuart fished around in the biscuit barrel in the hope of finding another chocolate digestive. “Why aren’t you going? I thought you went to see all the plays?”

“You’re home. I can’t leave you when you’ve just got back.”

“Bollocks to that.” He claimed the last chocolate biscuit hiding under a garibaldi. “I don’t need a babysitter. I’m sure whoever your date is will be disappointed if you cancel.”

“Cheeky bugger! So you know, I haven’t got a date. I bought those tickets months ago. I’d hate to see them both go to waste.”

“I could come with you… just as long as it’s not a Chekov.”

“Really? I thought you’d have better things to do than want to be seen with your old mum.”

Stuart shrugged. It wasn’t as if he minded going out with his mum, and he hardly knew anyone around Porthcurno anymore. Most of his friends had escaped Cornwall and not come back, except for obligatory family visits. “Since when’s forty-one old?”

“If you’re sure….”

“As I said, as long as it isn’t Chekov…. I couldn’t bear another bloody awful version of The Cherry Orchard.”

“Never fear. It’s Rebecca.”

“That settles it. I’m a good Cornish boy; I like a bit of Du Maurier. And it’ll give me the chance to speak to Mike. I’m hoping that while I’m here for the summer, I’ll be able to volunteer at the theater like I used to. I can’t spend every minute filling in application forms.”

“Lovely.” Fiona beamed. “Oh, will Tim be coming to visit?”

“Subtle, Mum. Real subtle. I told you we weren’t together together.”

“He sounded so nice on the phone.”

Stuart huffed. “He was nice, really sweet, but he was always planning to head off overseas with Médecins Sans Frontières and we were just killing time.”

“Oh. You all right about it, love?”

He’d also come to the conclusion years ago that he had a much more open relationship with his mum than anyone else he knew. She’d bought him his first pack of condoms and tube of lube when he’d told her he was gay. A little early for a fourteen-year-old, but still, her heart was in the right place. At least she waited until he was seventeen to buy him the Gay Kama Sutra.

“Yeah, fine. Tim was never going to be Mr. Forever. I’m happy enough being single for a while. He was probably a bit too nice for me.”

“No such thing as too nice a man.”

“If you say so. Let’s just leave it at he didn’t push my buttons, all right?”

She wrinkled her nose as if deciding whether to continue digging or not. Much to Stuart’s relief, on this occasion she seemed satisfied to leave it be. “Fine. Take your bag upstairs. We’ll head out after dinner… and don’t forget to bring a cushion.”

Stuart drained his mug—the tea was at the perfect temperature to be dealt with in a few gulps—got up, and grabbed his bag. “I’ve been going to the Minack every summer for as long as I can remember. Do you really think I’d pull a rookie mistake like not bringing a cushion?”

ORANGE DINNER always tasted better when cooked by his mum, and he had it as a welcome-home meal every time he returned from university, or when he was younger and having problems at school, or to celebrate the end of exams. True, it was one of the best things she could cook, as the rest of her edible repertoire was usually accompanied by the words “pierce film several times” and gave the time for an eight-hundred-watt model. As Stuart finished dinner, Fiona raced off to redo her makeup. By the time she returned downstairs, he’d washed and was waiting to go, cushion in hand.

“Ready?” she asked, threading hooped earrings into place.

Stuart spotted the stilettos. “You can’t wear those shoes—you’ll break your bloody neck.”

“They’ll be fine.”

“No. I’m not carrying you down the steps when you decide you’ve made a mistake. Put your flats on.”

She grumbled under her breath but didn’t argue, and finally, five minutes later, they were on their way to the theater, and Stuart felt more confident that they wouldn’t have a visit to A & E in their immediate future.

The weather had made a dramatic improvement, the clouds having given way to a clear blue sky. Turning off the path and crossing the car park made Stuart travel back in time to the rose-tinted summers of his childhood, when he was allowed to stay up late because he was going to the theater. Depending on the weather, he’d be decked out in shorts and a thin T-shirt or in full rain gear, but the excitement never waned. He’d tried to explain the Minack to people in London, his enthusiasm possibly more off-putting than inclusive. Only when he’d come across a theater buff or a lucky soul who’d experienced the place themselves did someone understand where he was coming from.

The audience began to file in, making him realize it was later than he’d thought. His mum dug through her huge handbag and handed over their tickets at the entrance. They moved to the left and waited to start the descent of the steep steps to the amphitheater carved out of the cliff face. Stuart was glad of the chance to enjoy the great view of the open-air theater and the Atlantic Ocean stretching out almost endlessly before them.

Fiona stopped dead. “Do you want a choc ice?”

“Don’t stop there, keep going.” He gave her a gentle shove. “I’ll get you an ice cream in the interval.”

People shuffled along the rows of seats, which were nothing more than blocks of stone with a grassy top. Stuart sniggered to himself as he spotted the first-timers, already squirming in their seats, who were ill prepared and would regret the lack of a cushion by the end of the evening. It’d be much worse in a couple of hours when they would have to climb back to the entrance with numb bottoms.

Their seats were quite close to the stage, thanks to Fiona being a Friend of the Minack. As she made small talk with a few people Stuart vaguely recognized, he flicked through the flimsy program, the blurb from an amateur dramatics group somehow hypnotically fascinating—especially as he didn’t want to get embroiled in a conversation about a local petition doing the rounds to complain to the council about the color the rubbish bins in the village had been painted.

Fiona elbowed him. “Are you listening to me?”

“Eh?”

She shook her head. “I said Tanya here knows Mike needs a few extra people to help on Saturday and Sunday if you’re not busy.”

“Oh, sorry, Tanya. I didn’t see you there.” He gave Tanya—who was Mike the theater manager’s sister—his best sheepish smile. “Needs help with a bulky get-in?”

“You know this place too well, Stuart. Always good to have a few people who know their way around during the get-in, particularly for a group new to the Minack.”

“Fresh meat… now there’s a surprise.”

“Cheeky! I know it feels like the same groups come time after time, but we’ve a lot of new ones. The next lot are from Greenwich. Which explains the silly name, I suppose.”

“Oh come, it can’t be as bad as the Norfolk lot… something like the Singing Tractor Men and Women of the Broads.”

“True, but the Sarky Players is a daft name if you ask me.”

Fiona snorted. “After the Cutty Sark, I suppose.”

Her supposition was neither confirmed nor denied, as the rest of the audience fell silent at the cue that the play was about to start. Unfortunately the opening lines were lost on most of the playgoers as a pod of dolphins were spotted in the distance.

NEW RELEASE: OVERLY DRAMATIC BY REBECCA COHEN

Blurb:

A Treading the Boards Novella

Andy Marshall moves to London looking for a fresh start after breaking up with his long-term boyfriend. To stave off boredom from his day job as an accountant and to meet new people, Andy joins a local amateur dramatics society called the Sarky Players based in Greenwich, South London. Despite his best efforts to avoid it, Andy is cast as one of the leads in a truly dreadful play called Whoops, Vicar, There Goes My Trousers, written by a local playwright.

The play might be bad, but the Sarky Players are a friendly bunch. Andy quickly makes new friends and finds himself attracted to Phil Cormack, a local artist helping with the props. But life doesn’t run to a script, so Andy and Phil will have to work hard to improvise their own happy ending.

Excerpt:

Chapter One

A FEW more boxes and Andy would be finished. The remnants of a failed relationship and four years of love, tears, and anger down the drain and packed away into cardboard. He didn’t know if it was a good thing that he’d been able to shift his whole life one hundred and twenty miles in the back of his VW Golf, or if he should have fought harder to keep hold of more of their shared possessions. Too late for that type of thinking; he’d made his choice, and he was back in London—at least his mum would be happy. He shoved the keys into the pocket of his jeans, balanced the box on his hip, and looked up at his new block of flats. Not bad: new home, new job, new start.

Having committed the PIN code for the block’s outer door to memory, Andy let himself in and took the lift to the fourth floor, deciding not to think of the problems it might cause if it were ever out of order. He’d already worked harder today than during his usual visit to the gym, and the thought of lugging all his stuff up four floors without a lift made him thirst for a cold beer or—even better—a nice cup of tea. Dear God, had he really thought of tea over beer? Maybe Charlie was right about his head being twenty years older than his body. He was only thirty-bloody-four, but his back felt like it belonged to a sixty-year-old with an aversion to exercise.

“Do you need a hand?”

Andy turned to see a man who should be gracing the cover of Men’s Health leaving the flat across from his. Blond hair, blue eyes, and filling his Armani jeans like he was born to wear them, the stranger graced him with a blinding smile. If Andy had known the neighbors were this attractive, he wouldn’t have haggled so much over the rent.

“Well, er, if you’ve a few minutes.” As he tripped over the words, he wondered if he could sound any more idiotic. “I need to do a few more trips to my car.”

“More than happy to help. The name’s Rob, by the way.”

“I’ll just drop this in my flat,” Andy said, indicating the box. “And I’m Andy.”

Andy opened the front door, dropped the box in the hall, and glanced at the chaos of his life that needed to be sorted. He quickly shut the door again. “Thanks for helping. My car’s just downstairs.”

“No worries. I know the pain of moving. We’re just doing the final big clean before we give the keys back.”

Any hope of coming to Rob’s aid in a future “locked out just wearing a towel” scenario vanished, and Andy tried to tell himself that beautiful men who liked to help out their neighbors weren’t on his agenda right now. He was happy being single, no matter how lickable someone’s biceps might be.

“Oh, now there’s a pity. I thought I’d found a friendly face.” They entered the lift together.

“My boyfriend’s got a job in New York, and, well, you don’t turn down that sort of offer, do you?”

Andy consoled himself with the knowledge that at least his gaydar was working and the prospect of the wonderful view of watching Rob lift the boxes out of his car as they made two trips to bring up the rest of Andy’s possessions.

“Fancy a cup of tea as a thank-you?” Andy asked, setting the final box down in his hallway.

“Sorry. I need to get the keys back to the agent before they close.”

Andy waved Rob off with a wistful sigh because he’d never see that beautifully pert arse grace the hallway on a daily basis.

He retreated to his new flat, which wasn’t even half the size of the one he’d shared with Charlie. Although he might have dramatically culled his possessions, the London property market had reduced his living space as well. He hoped his expert Tetris skills would finally come in handy when it came to sorting through what was left of his “ordered mountain of clutter,” as Charlie had referred to it.

He hopped over a box containing books and CDs and picked up the one marked Essential Items, which he plonked down on the countertop of the kitchen. Out came the kettle, teabags, and his favorite mug, and a few minutes later, he sat in the small remaining space on the sofa, sipping at a cup of Earl Grey with a notebook open on his lap. His to-do list spanned several pages.

Andy chewed the end of his pen, trying to figure out which of his many three-star priorities he should tackle first. The new filing system would need to be high on the list, but so would the color-coding of cupboards and getting the tracker set up for the contents of the fridge and freezer. This was something else Charlie had hated—Andy’s lists. As if Andy’s perpetual planning were an affront to his own “throw a bag in the car and drive” mentality. Andy snapped shut the notebook, annoyed with himself for letting his mind wander. He had too much to do to waste time thinking about a selfish prick who’d valued casual sex over their relationship.

Draining the last dregs of his mug, he stood up with purpose. First things first: get the bed made and his suit sorted for Monday.

“Positive thoughts,” he muttered to himself and headed to the flat’s master—and only—bedroom.

With the duvet defeated, a new bedcover in place, and pillows plumped, Andy lay back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling. A crack ran out from the light fitting and a tangle of spiders’ webs would have to go before he went to sleep, but despite his initial misgivings, he knew he’d made the right decision. It had been a while since he’d lived on his own, and it would take some getting used to, but he was already relishing sorting out the kitchen cupboards and ordering the plates by size.

Finally he could have the home he wanted, a home fit for his purpose and not for a fat-headed, duvet-stealing bastard who wouldn’t know a good thing if it danced naked in front of him.

THE HEADQUARTERS of Bennet and Mulrose, international accountants, were housed in an impressive building Andy had visited a number of times, but it didn’t stop his first-day nerves from rolling around his stomach as he crossed the road to the converted church on Curzon Street. At least he didn’t get lost, unlike the embarrassing first time he’d visited, when he hadn’t expected the building to be an old church and had walked straight past it. The columns and archway frontage still belonged to an in-use church, but beyond the steps, hidden from the road, was a courtyard with two fountains and flower beds lined with slate pieces. Suddenly the noise of the city was gone, swallowed by the high sides of the building. It made him believe he could forget he was in the center of one of the world’s busiest cities.

The efficient receptionist soon had him shuttled off to HR, and before he knew it, he had his new ID badge, had survived the tedious Health and Safety videos, and, with a clutch of HR forms to complete, had been delivered to the open plan space that would be his new office.

“You must be Andy,” said a blonde-haired woman as he stepped out of the lift. “I’m Cathy, one of the admins. Let me give a quick tour while the boss is in a meeting. Richard won’t be long, but he’s had to take an important call.”

He received a number of curious looks from the occupants of the desks he passed. Some had to belong to people he would be managing, who were trying to get the first glimpse of their new boss.

The toilets, break room, and stationery cupboard were first on Cathy’s list. She was a whirlwind, and a terribly efficient one at that, preempting his questions and covering everything she deemed important. She led him to a desk that was part of a cluster of four. The other three desks were unmanned at the moment, but the array of personal items indicated their owners were somewhere around. Andy smiled at the crayon drawing on the desk next to his, reminding him of the painting his six-year-old niece had done for him that would need to go back on the fridge as soon as he unearthed it.

A laptop was cradled, ready for him, alongside a keyboard and large monitor. It didn’t take long for him to get set up and running once Cathy pointed him in the right direction of the servers and file paths. Andy sank back in the familiarity of the company’s computer system and was amazed that IT had managed to transfer his e-mail account without irrevocably losing half the contents of his inbox.

A loud bang, followed swiftly by someone swearing, made him look up and peer over his monitor. He saw a flustered woman in her early thirties, with her long curly hair flying in all directions as she raced across the office. She had a shopping bag dangling from one wrist, a rucksack slung over the opposite arm, and a laptop clutched to her chest. In her mouth was an apple, and spilled coffee stained her once white shirt and pale blue raincoat. She stopped at the desk next to his, dumped her bags, and spat out her apple, which she only just managed to stop rolling over the edge.

“What a shit morning!”

Andy smiled weakly at her, standing up and about to ask if he could help. It looked as if she’d only that minute realized he was there.

“Oh, sorry. Early-morning meeting with a client at their office, the other side of the river.”

She struggled out of her raincoat, tutting at the coffee stain. “What a mess. I swear I’m single-handedly putting my dry cleaner’s children through university.” She draped the coat over her chair. “You must think I’m a right one. The name’s Naomi Jameson.”

Andy shook her hand. He recognized her name from the organizational chart Richard had shown him and remembered that Naomi was one of the other team leaders.

“Andy,” he said. “And no worries. I’ve had plenty of ropey starts to a week.”

“You want to get a coffee? It’s pretty decent from the machine in the break room, and as you can see, I didn’t get to drink mine.”

He let her lead him, and once in the break room, she poured two mugs of coffee and leaned against a high table in the center of the room, which was the perfect height to stand and rest his mug on.

Naomi sipped her coffee. “I heard you were at the Bristol branch before. What made you jack in the South West for the capital?”

“I’m from South London originally. I fancied moving back so I could see more of my family. Richard said he had an open position, and here I am.”

“Most folks want to escape to the country, not from it.” She blew on her coffee.

“Bristol’s hardly countryside. And I had a rather nasty breakup—you know how it goes.”

“Oh boy, do I! Still, her loss, eh?”

“His, actually.” He braced himself for the reaction. Andy had debated hiding his sexuality at work when he made his decision to move, but he hadn’t hidden it since school, and he was damned if he was going to do it now.

“His loss.” Naomi corrected herself without missing a beat, and Andy let his defenses drop. “So now you’re footloose and fancy-free. London’s your oyster.”

“I’m happy enough on my own for now. I daresay the gay men of Greenwich will be breathing a collective sigh of relief.”

“Greenwich?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, how’s that for a coincidence. Desk neighbor and home neighbor. That’s my neck of the woods.”

“Really? Brilliant.” Naomi seemed nice and accepting, and Andy was happy to have found a friendly face.

“If you want, you’re more than welcome to join me and my hubby for Friday night drinks.”

Andy beamed. Although he had never been a social butterfly, he would admit he had been worried that until he could build up a network of friends, he would be spending his weekends and evenings alone. “I’d love to.”

“I’m afraid this week the luvvy lot will be there.” Naomi wrinkled her nose.

Luvvy lot?” Andy wondered what it was about Naomi’s friends that could make her pull such a face.

“My hubby’s am-dram group,” she said with a roll of her eyes.

“Amateur dramatics? Surely they can’t be that bad. I did a spot of it myself at university.”

“They’re okay, if you have enough to drink. They’re just a bit… one-track minded when it comes to conversation.”

“Compared to some of my ex’s friends, I’m sure they’ll be scintillating company.”

Naomi laughed. “Better get back to the grindstone. It’ll take you the rest of the day to fill out the HR paperwork.”

“I had hoped I’d avoid most of it,” he admitted, following her lead and rinsing out his mug and putting it in the dishwasher. “I mean, I’ve worked for the company for years.”

“You poor, deluded fool. If anything, you’ll probably have more.”

Andy settled back at his desk. Cathy appeared half an hour later to give him another whirlwind tour, this time of his colleagues. By the end of it, he doubted he would remember any names apart from the ones on his team, which he’d made a special effort to commit to memory. He imagined he’d be trying to surreptitiously read ID badges in the weeks to come.

The morning, what was left of it, was filled with reading the local policies and completing the forms HR had given him. Naomi stood up and called over her desk, “Want to come with us to lunch? The canteen’s not up to much, but Tim and Sharon are on their way to a Chinese place that does pretty decent dim sum.”

“Tim and Sharon?”

“Our deskmates, the other two team leaders. They’ve been on an influencing skills course this morning.”

“Sounds great. Lunch, not the course. I hate those things.”

“I think if you enjoy them, you need a different kind of help than those courses are offering.”

Andy laughed and followed her out of the office.

Available from DreamspinnerAReAmazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

COMING SOON: UNDER GLASS BY REBECCA COHEN

Blurb:

Creating planets and guarding the stars leaves novice planet builder Kai Faewiva lonely. For members of Kai’s species who are born with an organ called a caerellon, their true love, their Sun or Moon, is identified at birth. But the novices are people who have lost their perfect love, and Kai’s Sun is long dead, killed in an accident when he was five years old. Or so everyone thought.

After recovering from another bout of the unidentified illness he has battled for years, Kai returns to work. But his quiet day at the planetarium is thrown into chaos when scans of Goka Prime, one of the planets in the Sol-Alpha2 system, picks up a life-form that shouldn’t be there. Kai’s Sun, Oliver Gyin, is alive and well, but how he got to be on Goka Prime, no one knows. Now he needs to be brought home.

Ollie has lived most of his life in the City of Harrea, never guessing he is from another planet. Surprised to find a stranger means the world to him, Ollie wrestles with his loyalties and the drive to return with Kai. To leave Goka Prime, he must give up everything and everyone he knows. But twenty years apart means Kai and Ollie face a fight to secure their destined future.

Available for pre-order at Dreamspinner