Friday, 2 January 2015

Bells and Balls Out Now

How's 2015 doing for you so far, my lovelies?



I finally managed to get Bells and Balls out within a whisker of the end of 2014. The With A Kick series is now four strong.



Rob Barker had plans for his weekend and they didn’t involve struggling through the pre-Christmas crowds with the five-year-old niece he barely knows. Left with no choice, he grudgingly takes Pearl to see the sights of London but, instead of following the list his sister-in-law gives him, Rob takes her to With A Kick, an ice-cream shop with a difference. 

His plan is foiled when he discovers With A Kick is closed for a private children's party, but the owners kindly let Pearl join in. Rob’s mood improves considerably as he watches Father Christmas hand out presents. Not only is Santa a hot red-head under the beard, he is also one of his rugby team-mates, Mick, a man Rob has always lusted after. After Mick confesses a mutual interest, he agrees to meet Rob at With A Kick’s evening party—where there are definitely no kids - or girls - allowed. 

Excerpt

Prologue

With one eye on last week’s rugby match replaying on the TV and one hand holding a large slice of pizza, Rob listened to his big brother’s request, horror coiling in the pit of his stomach. “This is a joke, right? You can’t be serious.”
He didn’t really just hear Jack ask him to go out into the cold, wet December day and take his six year old niece up to London… did he? 
“Look, I know you’ve probably already got plans but we really need to have the afternoon free.” Jack sounded as unhappy as Rob felt at being asked to give up his free time for…
“You want me to look after your brat for the afternoon?” Rob hooted down the phone. “Mate, I’m the uncle from hell, remember? The one who can’t be trusted with a goldfish, let alone your kid.”
“Her name’s Pearl, not brat, and you know I wouldn’t ask unless I was desperate.”
“Why can’t the Nemesis’ sister have her? She’s the favourite aunty.”
There might have been a degree of bitterness in Rob’s tone. The Nemesis, Jack’s wife and she-who-should-not-be-named, thought Rob was a shallow, self-centred, good-for-nothing lazy git, and they were his finer qualities. Never in a million years would she let her precious Pearl anywhere near him. She’d said this just after Rob their dog had escaped on his watch when he got too involved in a match on the TV. Maybe she had a point. But she could have toned down the venom.
“Jill’s gone away for Christmas and before you ask, Mum is out with her bingo crowd so she can’t help either.”
“What about a neighbour? The milkman? Anyone?” He paused the match, not wanting to miss the try he knew was coming up.
Jack huffed down the phone. “Rob, I wouldn’t ask you unless I was desperate.”
“Thanks.” Nice, make it fucking clear he was the last resort.
“So what do I have to do with it?” Rob put the pizza back in the fridge, having lost his appetite.
“Her, Rob, not it. Her name is Pearl. And Millie’s got a list.”
“I’ll bet she has.” The Nemesis had lists for everything on her clipboard. She probably had a spreadsheet for when everyone was meant to pee and poop in the house. Pee and poop weren’t actually the words Rob thought.
“Rob, why can’t you just be fucking nice for once?”
“Because I know nothing about kids, especially your one.”
“And whose fault is that?” Jack said sharply. “You never even visit now.”
Rob opened his mouth to point out that if the Nemesis wasn’t so fucking unfriendly every time they met he might come around more often. Then he shut it again. What was the point? “Yeah, well, as you said, I’ve already got plans.” 
“Doing what?”
“I’ve got a rugby match.” On the TV, with beer, more pizza and his duvet.
“No, you haven’t. I thought you might use that excuse so I checked with Gimpy. The match is on Sunday.”
Damn, trust his brother to call his best friend, who also happened to be the team captain.
“If Gimpy’s free why don’t you ask him? At least he’s got kids.” Rob asked.
“Because his wife’s taking him Christmas shopping.”
“I might be going—”
“If the next words to come out of your mouth are Christmas shopping, don’t even bother. You never buy anything until the January sales and then it’s always a tin of biscuits.”
Rob grimaced because he distinctly remembered handing over a box of Tesco’s finest biscuits last January and the year before. “Fine. What time?”
“Great.” Jack let out an explosive breath. He sounded relieved. Presumably the Nemesis would be happy. “Be here at two.”
“How long do I need to keep her out?” Ten, fifteen minutes?
“A couple of hours.” 
In the background Rob heard his sister-in-law say, “Make it three to be sure.” He poked his tongue out at the phone. Childish? Yes. But there was no one to see him.
“What are you doing that’s so important?” he asked, not that he really cared.
“Uh… I… er…” The fact his brother was stuttering caught Rob’s interest. 
“Well?”
“We’re trying to have another kid.”
“Yeah, so?” The thought of the Nemesis breeding again filled Rob with horror. Last time had been such a drama-fest. 
“We’ve been trying for a long time.”
“So you’re going to see a doctor?”
“Not exactly.”
“Spit it out, Jack. I haven’t got all day.” Not now his day had been cruelly hijacked.
“Millie worked out the best time to… er… you know… is this afternoon.”
“Er… you know?” Rob was genuinely confused.
“Christ, Rob, why are you so dense? The best point to try and conceive can be worked out by temperature. Today is the day.”
“She’s been taking your temperature?”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake, just google it. Be here at two.”
The call disconnected abruptly.
Rob looked at his phone and said out loud, “What the hell was that all about?” He shook his head and reached back into the fridge for the slice of pizza. On second thought he took the plate out. He needed fortifying if he was going to deal with a six-year-old kid for an entire afternoon.
He sat down on his sofa and restarted the match, but his mind wasn’t fully on the game. Then it struck him and he choked as a piece of pepperoni stuck in his throat. Once he’d stopped coughing, Rob quickly typed out a text.
Ur gonna get laid!!!!
The response took less than a minute.
My brother’s a fucking genius
U want me to bring a blue pill?
Can manage to keep it up ta
Sure?
Fuck off!!!!!
Rob grinned as he took a large mouthful of pizza. He was never going to let Jack forget this. Ever. If he managed to live through the afternoon. Jesus, what the hell was he going to do with a six-year-old kid? He rang the one person he knew wouldn’t laugh at him.
“You? They’re trusting you with the Peril? Are they insane?” Charlie, his best mate from school hadn’t stopped laughing for five minutes.
“What the hell am I going to do?”
“Take her to McDonalds, go to the swing park if it’s not raining and a museum or even better a ball park if it is, and ice-cream. Kids always like ice-cream.”
Rob swore as he dropped the pen. “Hold on, I’m trying to write this down.”
“McDonalds, swings, ice-cream,” Charlie repeated. “It’s only three hours. You’ll be fine.”
“Can’t we come round to you?”
“Sorry, mate, we’ve got the in-laws round for the day. You’re on your own I’m afraid.” Rob let out a whimper of despair but Charlie just snorted at him. “Suck it up, arsewipe, you can cope. You’re fine with our kids.”
“They’re walking cans of body spray who grunt, fart and stay in their bedrooms. Of course I like them. I don’t have to speak to them.”
“True, true.” Charlie didn’t seem a bit put out at the description of his kids. “Just take a deep breath and remember, you can hand her back to her mother. She’ll probably hate it as much as you will.”
“Thanks.”
“You’re welcome. Gotta go.” Charlie hung up on him but not before Rob had heard him laughing hysterically. 

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