So, the count down has begun. Loose Connection will be hitting the electronic bookshelves late next week. I've had a lot of fun with these boys, so I thought you might like a taster. Here's an extract from Chapter One. Enjoy!
Rick pressed the bell, keeping his finger glued to the button. The silhouette that he could see through the partially glazed front door moved towards him, and Rick heard a bolt being drawn back with a thud.
"Bloody hell, Rick, it's not even nine yet. It's almost the middle of the night," Zack grumbled as he rubbed his eyes across his sleep-dazed face. His wild mop of curly hair stood up and out at random angles. The too-big tracksuit bottoms threatened to slip down his narrow hips, and the T-shirt was on inside out. Even so, Rick could see the name of the manufactured boy band emblazoned on the front.
"I've been awake since 3.00am. Jet lag," Rick said as he picked up his bags and walked past his friend into the hallway.
Zack eyed the bags. "Boiler on the blink again?"
"Got it in one, hun. Which means I’m using your shower too," Rick grinned.
"You know where everything is. I'm going back to bed. You can make yourself tea, but keep your thieving hands off my pain au chocolat, or I'll rip your dick off," Zack said as he trudged back upstairs and banged the bedroom door shut.
Rick walked into the kitchen and helped himself to the open packet of biscuits that lay on the table. The house was quiet and overhead he could hear Zack’s muted grumblings, and another voice, consoling the morning-averse Zack. Rick switched the kettle on, and armed with tea, sat down to work his way through the remaining biscuits. At the sound of the steady overhead creaking and the thud of the headboard as it hit the wall, Rick glanced up towards the ceiling. Archie was well on his way to putting a smile back on Zack's face. Rick swore under this breath. He really didn't want to hear his friends' bedroom antics. It was too blunt a reminder that his own sex life was currently a big fat zero, and had been since his last boyfriend had dumped him by text. Dumped by text. He had never believed that happened. Until it had happened to him. He looked around the kitchen. He'd received the fateful text message whilst sitting at the table he sat at now, where he had alternately raged and howled. Zack hadn't bothered to hide his glee. He hadn't liked Terry, he'd said. But then he never seemed to like any of Rick's boyfriends. The sudden increase in noise and rhythm pushed all thoughts of Terry away. Rolling his eyes, Rick grabbed his bags and headed to the steps leading to the basement where washer/dryer heaven and wet room nirvana lay.
Showered, shaved, clothes washed and tumbling dry, Rick sat at the kitchen table reading the previous day’s Evening Standard and popped the last piece of pain au chocolat into his mouth. Chased by his tongue, golden, buttery crumbs clung to his lips. Sweet, rich pastry - the good stuff from the pricey artisan bakery around the corner on the main road, not the mass produced supermarket crap - and lots of tea made the morning feel good. Without taking his eyes off the paper, he reached into the empty bag. All six pastries were gone.
"You greedy bastard. I told you to leave those alone," Zack said behind Rick and making him jump. Zack picked up the empty bag and made a show of tipping it upside down and shaking it, the only evidence of the pastries the few crumbs that tumbled out and scattered on the table top.
"Don't listen to him. He shouldn't be eating that stuff anyway, 'cause he's getting fat." A pair of beefy arms encircled Zack's waist from behind.
"Piss off, I am not getting fat," Zack said as he shook himself out of Archie's embrace and walked over to the shiny black coffee machine.
Rick and Archie grinned at each other.
"How was the good ol' US of A?" Archie asked as Rick got up and gave his friend a warm hug.
"Ah, it was great. Karen's living the good life. She's all Floridian tan, golden highlights and bleached teeth. She floats around doing a bit of charity 'work'," Rick said, waggling his fingers in an air quote. "And goes out to lunch with her friends. And shops. She does fuck all, basically. I suppose that’s what you get for marrying a plastic surgeon from the Sunshine State."
Archie laughed as he put his hand out and mussed Rick's still damp hair. Light sandy brown, the sun had lightened it, at the same time tanning and freckling his skin. Rick had thought that the combination made his big blue eyes (his best feature, he secretly thought) look bigger, bluer and brighter than normal. Karen had called him sun kissed as she'd hugged him at the departure gate. In the cold grey of a London January, Rick didn't think he'd be holding onto that radiance for too long.
Zack topped up his coffee, his bad-temper fading as the caffeine hit his system.
"You need to get that bloody boiler sorted. You can't keep coming round here and using our hot water and electricity. And nicking my pastries," Zack said, the ill temper in his voice at odds with the smile that played with the edges of his lips and crinkled the corners of this eyes.
"You don't mean that. You know you love me really."
"'Course I love you, you silly bastard." Zack placed his cup down and sauntered over to Rick. Cupping Rick’s face between his long-fingered hands, Zack landed a kiss full on Rick’s lips. With a loud smack he pulled off and enveloped Rick in a tight hug and nuzzled at the soft skin below Rick’s ear, on the spot that always made his knees buckle.
Rick squirmed and tried to pull himself out of Zack’s embrace, but the combination of his friend’s arms that wrapped around him like wire and the kryptonite effect of the nuzzling on that spot left him helpless.
With a lascivious wink, Zack let Rick go and picked up his half-drunk coffee. Rick ran his hand across his head to flatten his messed hair, aware that his face was warm and his dick was starting to throb. Zack’s behaviour was still as unconventional as when they’d met on their first day at university eight years before.
"Take this number," Archie said as he concentrated on his phone. "Whilst you've been manhandling my boyfriend, I texted mum for the name of that plumber she used a couple of months back. She said he didn't over charge and was quick and clean."
"He sounds like my kind of man," Zack said into his cup.
"You like quick and clean, do you? Not what you said earlier, or last night." Archie and Zack looked at each other before, as one, they turned their heads towards Rick and grinned.
Rick looked at his friends. He knew what was coming next. Time to go, he thought.
"Right, I'll just grab my stuff -"
"You don't have to go," Zack said, "does he, Archie?"
"Of course not. We've missed you." Archie once again ran his fingers through Rick's hair.
"Yeah, we have," Zack said as he moved in close and slid his arms around Rick's waist and squeezed him.
"No, I've got to go," Rick said as he twisted out of Zack's embrace.
Zack sighed. "You're not still pining for that twat Terry, are you?"
"No, but I can do without - complications."
"Nothing complicated about us, babe. Just some fun and games. Light and frothy," Archie said.
"Yeah, right. Sorry lads, but they're not the games I want to play." And he didn’t. Not anymore. Rick had a flash of memory, of the three of them in Zack’s double bed, years before when they had lived in that scruffy student house.
Zack shrugged. "Suit yourself. But if you change your mind..."
"Leave him alone Zack. You know what a prude he can be."
"Sod off, I am not a prude,” Rick said as he scowled at Archie. “And don’t do that, for fuck’s sake,” he said, batting away Archie’s hand as he reached to muss his hair again.
"Okay, okay. Don't get your knickers in a twist,” Archie said with a grin. “Alright, a hopeless romantic then. Always looking for Mr Right.”
Rick shrugged. He’d put up with his friends poking fun at him for years. A hopeless romantic, they said. He didn’t mind it, at least most of the time, but sometimes he did wonder why they seemed to find the idea of meeting somebody and falling in love something silly and unattainable. Archie and Zack lived together, after all, and they loved each other, so he didn’t understand why it was a joke when it came to him.
Zack sniggered. "Good luck with that," he said, pulling open the dishwasher and placing his cup inside. "I'll give you a call in the week. And get in touch with that plumber," he said as he drifted out the kitchen.
A E Ryecart
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