I hope that spring is springing as beautifully wherever you are as it is here in England. The daffodils have been stunning and now it’s the turn of the bluebells and the blossom and they’re making the most of it.
It’s a busy old time. I’m reaching the last stages of the first draft for the next Lindenshaw book, alongside doing the edits for the upcoming Alasdair and Toby novel which will be out this summer. Amazing what you find that you didn’t get right in the first or second draft!
Event wise, I’m taking part in two panels at the Bold Strokes Books UK Bookathon on Sunday June 6th. I promise to be on my best behaviour – sort of – but the fact that Cari Hunter and I are on the same panel doesn’t bode well for us not descending into fits of giggles.
Meanwhile, I’m getting together with some other cracking authors, including my old muckers RJ Scott and Anne Barwell, to highlight some of the excellent hurt/comfort books there are lurking about out there waiting to be read.
Has to be an excerpt from Lessons in Discovery, doesn’t it? Here’s the hurt coming up…
It was such a fine afternoon, they ventured far beyond the lock to a stretch of river where a few rowing eights were practicing, their red-faced coaches cycling along the towpath, scattering ducks and little old ladies as they went.
“Did you ever attempt rowing, Dr. Coppersmith?” They’d been content to use Christian names when they were in public on holiday, but back in their own city they’d gone back to their usual formality.
“I did, with no great success. Every time I took to a boat I seemed to have acquired an extra pair of knees and all four of the bony things kept trying to smack me in the ear.”
Orlando laughed and Jonty laughed with him. Orlando’s attitudes had changed beyond all recognition this past year. Before Jonty had come and stolen his chair, he’d been sullen, unsmiling, someone who viewed intercourse as akin to the preparation of Egyptian mummies—he knew the procedures existed, but the mechanisms were a puzzle and the process itself of no interest. Neither love nor easy laughter would have been possible before Jonty came along. Anything was possible now, even intimacy. Now they made love for all sorts of reasons, not just for gratification but in friendship, for consolation, because they were happy or because they were sad.
Jonty smiled indulgently as they walked along, even while he was sniggering just a little at the sight of a seven-foot oarsman suffering a tongue-lashing from a cox who was all of four foot eleven. He could see this idyllic life stretching long into the future, God willing, with his true love by his side and a bank balance full of his grandmother’s money to support them in whatever they decided to do. To buy a little house, with an apple tree in the garden and a flowering cherry outside the bedroom window, that would be ideal. Some of the furniture held in store for him up in London or down in Sussex could grace it, although it might seem rather grand for a little villa up the Madingley Road. If Orlando would ever agree to their buying one.
The two men tired of watching the rowing, turned and began to amble back to the college, a slight anticipation starting to bubble up in Jonty’s stomach. There was every chance that he could get Orlando into a bed this afternoon, and that would be an absolute delight. Even if the mattress wasn’t visited there would still be at least a hug or two on the sofa which was always very pleasant. They’d reached a stage where the last favours were not the be-all and end-all, wonderful as they were. Jonty cast a glance across at his lover and caught him, unquestionably, in the same act of anticipation.
Orlando blushed, something that hadn’t happened for a long time. I know what you’re contemplating, Jonty mused. Great minds definitely do think alike.
Their pace quickened and by the time they’d reached the Bishop’s Cope they were no longer just ambling but striding along with great purpose. Their tempo was brisk by the time they passed the porters’ lodge and they positively sped up Jonty’s staircase, eager to find themselves alone and safe to express their affection.
Orlando was taking the steps two at a time, as usual, in his desire to be in the room as soon as possible. He misjudged the edge of a particularly worn stair, which had endured hundreds of years’ worth of treading and wasn’t inclined to be kind anymore, then slipped. Perhaps nine times out of ten a man might have done that and suffered no worse than bruised knees or a scraped hand. Orlando suffered the ignominies of the tenth, and went clattering halfway down the flight.
It was ironic. Orlando normally led the way, making the joke that Jonty should be behind him in case he slipped, so that there would be adequate padding to break his fall. But this day Jonty was ahead, even more eager to reach the room than his friend was. He heard the tumble, turned—dismayed—and rushed back.
“Orlando!” the rule about names was immediately broken. This was a moment of crisis, as the minute Jonty looked down he could see that his friend wasn’t moving. “Can you hear me? Are you all right?” He reached the crumpled body, was relieved to see the chest rising and falling and to hear that the breathing sounded clear.
But there was no response, not even a moan, and blood had begun to trickle from the back of Orlando’s head.
Jonty leapt up, his heart racing and a nauseous feeling filling his stomach. He knocked at the nearest door, demanding that the occupant go to the lodge to make the porters fetch a doctor. The inhabitant of the next room was sent for Nurse Hatfield. He returned to keep an eye on Orlando, making sure that he was comfortable and not about to do anything dramatic like swallow his tongue. It was all he could do, apart from worry himself sick.
Lots of love