My new lesbian romance, A Girl Called London, is due out next month – huzzah! To whet your appetite, here are the first couple of chapters to get you interested. Let me know what you think in the comments below!
“I’ve got two pieces of advice for you. You got a pencil handy?”
“Sure,” Tanya lied, sitting on her sofa. Her gran sounded perky today, more like her old self.
“First, don’t grow old gracefully, okay?” Her gran cleared her throat at the other end of the phone.
“No problem, I’ll follow your lead,” Tanya replied. “And number two?”
“Stop working so much, loosen up, have more sex,” her gran continued, deadpan.
“That’s more than two pieces of advice.”
She could almost feel her gran smiling down the phone. “Okay, have more sex.”
“Have more sex it is,” Tanya spluttered, her cheeks heating up as she said the word ‘sex’ down the phone. Even at 83, her gran had a habit of making her stop in her tracks.
“I wish it were that easy,” Tanya mumbled under her breath. She didn’t want to count on her hands how many months it’d been, but she knew she’d need all her fingers and thumbs, repeat to fade.
“It is — just go out there, find a woman you like the look of and charm her.”
Tanya stared at the violet lounge wall of her rented flat: she hated the colour, but she wasn’t sticking around long enough to paint it. Perhaps a new address would give her more luck romantically, too? She hadn’t been inclined to charm any women of late: the thought of bringing them back here felt unrepresentative of who she really was.
“I’ll note it down,” she said. “I just need to locate my charm and we’re good to go.”
“You’ve got charm by the bucketload — you’re my flesh and blood!” Her gran’s voice went up at the end, as if she couldn’t believe her granddaughter’s hesitation. Tanya pictured her propped up in her hospice bed, laughing more than any of her bedfellows, just like always.
Her gran had always taken the starring role in her life and lived it in high-definition.
“Now I’ve given you my wisdom, next question: have you spent my money yet? I know we discussed a flat, but drugs and hookers would be okay too, if that’s what you need.” More coughing followed, and Tanya could tell her gran was getting a little over-excited.
Still, she wasn’t going to scold her.
“I haven’t spent it yet,” Tanya replied, flexing her toes. “Although I am seeing a place this weekend that looks promising, so I’ll report back. It’s by the river.” She paused. “And if it’s good, I promise I’ll blow a grand on cocaine and hot women to celebrate.” She smiled at her own joke, at the absurdity of it. She was more likely to buy a bottle of decent red, but she didn’t want to dampen her gran’s spirits.
Her gran rasped down the phone at that, before succumbing to another coughing fit.
Tanya waited for her to recover; she knew it would take a few moments.
“Take photos, please,” her gran said, when she had her breath back. “Of the flat, too.”
Now it was Tanya’s turn to laugh.
How her gran had managed to spawn her humourless mother was a mystery.
“But seriously, I want to know my only granddaughter has somewhere decent to live before I die.”
Tanya shook her head: that outcome was too outrageous to consider, so she squashed it down, along with the clamour of emotion it brought with it. “You’re not going to die, Gran.”
There was a pause before her gran replied. “We’re all going to die, sweetheart,” she said. “I’m just a little closer than most.”
Tanya Grant was going to be late, and she hated being late – it simply wasn’t in her DNA.
Tanya hated being late almost as much as she hated her own mother.
Somebody on her train had pulled the emergency cord, which meant she’d now been stuck in a tunnel for nearly half an hour. She checked her watch for the third time in five minutes and tapped her black Chelsea boot on the train carriage floor. She couldn’t miss this viewing — the flat had looked incredible online.
Beside her sat a young man with beautiful, smooth skin, wearing perfectly ripped jeans. “That’s not going to help, you know,” he said, raising an eyebrow in her direction.
She didn’t reply at first, wondering if she’d imagined the words; however, he was looking at her, expecting some response.
She put her index finger to her chest. “Sorry, are you talking to me?”
He nodded. He had a piercing in his bottom lip: Tanya had always found those so off-putting. Didn’t they get in the way when you wanted to do things like eat, drink or kiss?
“You’re constantly checking your watch and sighing. I’m just saying, it’s not going to make the train move any faster.” He gave her a smile that disarmed her. People didn’t speak to each other on London transport, so why was he breaking the rules? “You’re going to be late, accept it. Stop fretting.”
Tanya stared at the young man: she knew he was right. Her gran’s words on her call the other day rattled in her head: loosen up.
“I know,” Tanya replied. “But it makes me feel like I’m doing something.”
The young man shrugged. “Just so long as you know it’s pointless.” He gave her that smile again, glancing around the carriage before his eyelids drooped, shutting out the world completely.
Tanya let out a long breath, just as the carriage’s lights flickered and the train began to move, the tunnel’s thick brick walls sliding by the windows.
Apologies ladies and gentlemen, but the alarm has now been sorted and we’re on the move. We’ll be pulling into our next station, Woolwich, in a few minutes time.
True to his word the driver did just that, and Tanya sprang from the train, zipping in between fellow passengers, whizzing past commercials for a popular bourbon brand, another for a bank and one for a book that’d been on her list to read for as long as she cared to remember. But honestly, who had time to read these days? Not a busy person like her.
The grey concrete was hard under the soles of her black boots as she ran to the end of the platform using the full length of her long legs, veering too late from a woman ahead of her. Tanya’s shoulder slammed into her, and the woman rocked sideways, her glasses falling from her face and clattering as they hit the floor.
“Hey!” the woman said, her eyes watery, her face a frown.
Tanya skidded to a halt. She bent down to pick up the woman’s glasses from the cold floor and pressed them back into her warm hand. “Sorry, I’ve got to run,” she said, throwing the woman an apologetic glance. She then set off once more, passing her Oyster card over the metallic ticket barrier before sprinting towards the stairs, every step bringing her closer to the block of flats on the river that might just be her future home.
Her plan to make a fast exit might have worked, too, had Tanya not slipped on the penultimate step of the stairs, which knocked her off balance. As her other foot missed the top step, her ankle gave way beneath her in a flash of pain, and she fell forward. Her shins hit the concrete steps with a sharp thud, followed by her knees, then her hands.
Tanya squeezed her eyes shut as she came to a halt in a crumpled heap, sprawled face-down at the top of the stairs, pain rippling through her body. When she opened her eyes, her cheek was pressed into the station floor, with shoes walking by sideways as her vision adjusted.
Summoning all her strength, she dragged herself up and onto the station concourse. Then she got onto her knees and gingerly pushed herself up, the heels of her palms stinging. People thronged by her, left and right, nobody stopping to see if she was okay. Would she have stopped if the shoe were on the other foot? Probably not. Outside, she could see it had started to rain, with umbrellas being shaken and unfurled all around.
“Do you need any help?” asked a kind woman, pushing her thick black hipster glasses up her nose. She was around Tanya’s age, her short, blonde hair already tussled from the day. She wore skin-tight blue jeans, ripped at the knee, a white shirt and a green army jacket that Tanya would never have attempted, yet she pulled off with aplomb.
Tanya squinted, still dazed, her heart thumping in her chest. With pain still stamping round her body, she couldn’t compute sentences yet. However, she couldn’t help noticing the woman’s eyes, which were simply stunning. Cornflower blue and surrounded by long dark lashes, they weren’t a colour Tanya had seen often, and she was momentarily mesmerised. Whoever this woman was, her nose delicate, her lips full, she was brightening up a shitty day. Tanya had to tear her eyes away to stop herself staring.
“I’m fine,” she replied, far more abruptly than she’d intended, before wincing at her tone. Damn it, she hadn’t meant that the way it came out. It was her pride that was hurt more than body.
And this woman was only trying to help.
This incredibly hot woman.
The incredibly hot woman gave her a confused frown, her blue eyes rippling again, making Tanya blink rapidly. Was that her natural eye colour or was she wearing contacts? Whatever, the effect was astonishing.
“I just thought I’d ask. Only, it looked like it hurt.” She gave Tanya a once-over, along with a concerned smile. “I’ve got a tissue if you need one.”
Tanya shook her head. “I have some,” she said. Still curt. She really needed to work on her delivery, as her friend Alice kept telling her.
The woman, giving up, flashed her a thin-lipped smile. “Suit yourself, I was just trying to be nice,” she said, before rummaging in her bag and pulling out a packet of cigarettes, along with an umbrella. She didn’t look at Tanya again, just put a cigarette between her lips, before shaking out her umbrella and walking away.
A Girl Called London is the brand new novel in the London Romance series, due out in June. You don’t have to have read London Calling or This London Love to enjoy it, but why not read them first so you can get the most out of it?