I said last time the spring flowers were in for a shock and it arrived last night. We haven’t got it as bad as other parts of the country but there’s enough to snow to make a snowball or two. I can neither confirm or deny the fact that I made and threw one at Mr Cochrane in Waitrose car park this morning.
First off, a challenge. I’ve just taken back the rights for the stories I had remaining at MLR, so if you’re after one of them please mail me direct and I’ll sort you out with a copy. My plan for them is to stick them all – and any other stories currently out of print – into a self published collection. Now, the challenge is to find a good title for it, so if any of you have a brilliant idea for a miscellany of Charlie stuff, please let me know. A free copy of anything out of my back catalogue for the best suggestion!
Talking of giveaways, I’ll be doing my usual giveaway of a British-themed goodie bag (which I’ll post to anywhere in the known universe) as part of my Old Sins blog tour. I’ll link all the tour stops at my blog and will choose the winner from among all the comments made. The more times you comment, the more chances to win.
A reminder that Lessons in Love and Lessons in Desire are still on offer on kindle. Catch ‘em while you can.
Today’s excerpt is from an older story, Dreams of a Hero, which was the first story I had published by Carina.
“It’s beautiful.” Roger Searle peered into the display case, his long, expressive fingers dancing on the glass, obviously itching to break through the protective barrier and touch the golden mask. This would be the high spot of their visit so far. Three hours on a plane, airport transfers, a coach trip and a lot of Shank’s pony had brought them from a cold and wet English spring to within inches of one of the greatest icons of the classical age.
“It’s beautiful, but is it Agamemnon’s?” Miles Storrie admired the stunning face, trying to penetrate the metal and the years, to work out whether this really was an image of the great king. Mycenae had kept her secrets to herself for a long time.
“I don’t know.” Roger peered closer. “I’ve read too many arguments on either side to be convinced one way or the other. I thought if I stood before it I’d be able to tell.”
“And can you?”
“Not a cat in hell’s chance. Not even sure that I care anymore.” Roger stood upright again, nursing a back which had started to twinge on the plane. “Does it matter whether this particular mask has adorned that particular face? It’s magnificent. The historical significance has transcended its particular provenance.”
“That sounds far too clever for me.” Miles fanned himself with his elegant straw hat. It might only be early May, but Greece was a damn sight warmer than Surrey, and a holiday which had started at Gatwick in sweaters and raincoats had ended in shorts and shirts, hastily put on at the hotel within minutes of arrival. Still, it was more pleasant here than it had been in the city, so the exhibit they sought being on temporary loan had worked to their advantage. Staying too long in Athens might just have been a trial too far.
“Heat getting to you?”
“As always. It’s all right for some.” Miles considered his partner—official civil partner as pronounced by the registrar—in admiration of how cool he appeared even when the sun blazed down. Roger had slightly olive-toned skin, as if some Mediterranean blood had somehow inveigled itself among the strictly Norman Searle family stock, a line which alleged it had come over with the Conqueror.
“I think it’s quite a pleasant change from the Arctic conditions of Epsom Downs.” Roger grinned, dark eyes alive with delight. “Can yae Gallic blood nae stand it, hen?” Roger may have been some throwback to an Adriatic ancestor, but when Miles looked in the mirror he thought himself all Celtic edges.
“It’s never this warm in Edinburgh. Except for the week before.”
“When I used to go and visit my granny, it always rained, and she’d say I should have been there the week before because it had been lovely.” Miles gave up fanning himself and tapped his partner’s arm. “So why this outbreak of apathy towards the mask’s provenance?”
“Not apathy, imagination. I don’t care if it really was Agamemnon himself bearing this burial mask, or one of his generals. To me it’s more than that—I feel I’m within a few feet of the Trojan War.” Roger’s fingers inched towards the glass again. “Degrees of separation. This is as close as I’ll ever get.”
Miles smiled, always delighted at his partner’s ability to make connections and gain enjoyment from them. There’d been one notable occasion when Roger had almost clambered over the side of a Dart River pleasure cruiser to get eight inches closer to Agatha Christie’s old house up on the hillside. Their journey through Greece had been littered with him getting excited at how he was treading the same paths trodden in the great age. His battered copy of Mary Renault’s Fire from Heaven had been dragged out time and again, along with joyous cries and fingers jabbed at the text.
This is where this scene happened, Miles. Look. And Miles had smiled indulgently.
And finally – it isn’t quite this snowy in Hampshire today, but we’ve had our Norway boots on!