Horns and Haloes came out for Valentine’s Day 2014. It had originally been subbed (in a much shorter form) for the RNA anthology – it made the long list, at which I was delighted, although not the final cut.
It was the first story in which I wrote about an aspect of my ‘other life’ which I know well. School governance. I have to say, I don’t think I ever encounter school governors as ‘hot’ as the two I featured here, so maybe this book should be labelled fantasy?
Next morning, Jamie was first into the training room, stifling yawn after yawn.
Not his best night’s sleep. There’d been a phone call from work—problems on the plant that he needed to be aware of—that had spawned both a handful of further communications and waking at four in the morning worrying that he’d be called in today and not get to see Alex again.
He’d been the other root cause of sleeplessness. The book. The wink. A dozen little things Jamie had noticed through the day that might mean something and might equally be nothing more than a mare’s nest constructed around his wishful thinking.
Why did romance—especially in its early, budding, “does he fancy me or doesn’t he?” stages—have to make you feel so nauseous? He put his papers on the table and wondered whether he could sneak a cup of coffee before the fun began.
“You look worse than I felt after the dentist.”
Jamie almost jumped out of his chair. How—and why—had Alex snuck up so quietly?
“Nervous, with it.” Alex grinned.
“Sorry.” Jamie tried to compose himself and not keep looking at the left side of Alex’s face, which seemed a bit swollen. What would that feel like to kiss better? “Problems at work. I keep thinking I’m going to have to go in and sort them out.”
“Oh, that would be a shame, to miss out on the practice interrogations, I mean,” Alex added, just a touch too quickly.
“Yeah. I’d hate to miss today. May be my last chance, to practice, before next month,” Jamie said, trying to convey about a dozen different messages in his tone of voice and the look in his eye.
“And there was me thinking you were wondering who’d sent you that mystery Valentine.”
“What mystery Valentine?” What was Alex talking about? Surely the bloke hadn’t somehow managed to sneak a card through Jamie’s door, and he’d missed the bloody thing?
“Hey, I was only joking. Sorry.” Alex looked mortified. “You mustn’t have slept well. I’ll keep my stupid jokes to myself.”
“No, you’re all right. I just need to dose myself up with caffeine, and I’ll stop being an ogre and become my usual miserable self.” That definitely counted as fishing for compliments. He hurried on. “I can’t get the worry I’ll be called in out of my head.”
“Turn your phone off, and tell the people at work you had no signal. Somebody else can cover, can’t they?” Alex slung down his briefcase and jerked a thumb in the direction of the cafeteria. “Right. That coffee.”