London Ever After: First Chapter Preview!

My upcoming sapphic romance, London Ever After, is less than two weeks away. I hope you’re excited! But if you can’t wait until then and want to read the first chapter to get a taste of the book, this is your lucky day. Read on to get a glimpse into the world of Cordy and Hannah, along with the whole of the London Romance gang. It’s quite the ride. And it all starts on a London tube…

London Ever After: Chapter One

The first thing Cordy Starling noticed about the woman was her tits. Specifically, the flash of her cleavage, coy and charming like a Mona Lisa smile. Next, her eyes fell on the coppery, streaked skin beneath the wide rip on the knee of her jeans, so uneven it had to be from a bottle. Then Cordy eyed her stretched Asda Bag For Life, clearly not on its first outing, rammed with oranges.

The woman gripped the handle tight as she threw herself into the warm tube carriage, before lowering herself into a seat, eyelids fluttering shut. Her cheeks were flushed candyfloss-pink, as if she’d been running, her thick black winter coat open, missing all but one button. Cordy dropped her gaze to the other bag the woman carried. She squinted at the logo on the side: Fruity Tooty Juice Bar! It was also filled with oranges. Someone ought to tell her they are not the only fruit.

The tube picked up speed as it vibrated away from Stratford. The metal door to Cordy’s right rattled on its tracks, and she wondered, as she always did, if one had ever sprung open by mistake. After a couple of minutes, the train slowed, and then stopped. The classic tube signage told her they’d reached West Ham. The carriage doors beeped, then jerked open. A man got on, accompanied by a sandy-coloured cockerpoo. A ball of fluff with two eyes.

“Sit, Nigel,” the man instructed.

The dog obeyed. His owner sat in the spare seat next to Orange Lady. It turned out, Nigel was just as intrigued by the woman’s fruit haul as Cordy. The cockerpoo nudged its wet nose into the top of one of the bags, dislodging a single orange. It landed on the floor with a thud, then rolled across the aisle and settled between Cordy’s scuffed blue-and-white Adidas.

Orange Lady shifted, her brown eyes wide. She pushed herself up, let go of the bag nearest Nigel, then leaned forward to grab the orange from between Cordy’s feet before the tube jerked away.

Big mistake.

Fluff-pot Nigel saw his chance, and promptly stuck his nose inside the nearby bag. It toppled sideways.

Before Cordy or the woman could do anything to stop them, a stream of oranges rolled onto the carriage floor, thudding one by one, like the drum section of an experimental jazz track.

“Fuck!” was the first word Cordy heard from the woman’s lips.

Beside Cordy, a teenage boy, headphones over ears, jolted as oranges pooled at his feet. He glanced down, frowned, then closed his eyes.

Orange Lady let out an exasperated noise, then sprang to her feet, letting go of her other bag.

More oranges cascaded left and right, banging into feet, bags, and poles.

That caused a mini-flurry of activity as people nearby leaned down to rescue oranges. It was quite the scene. London was often thought to be a selfish capital city, but if the world could see this tube carriage, on a cold Friday in January when everyone just wanted the month to be over and to get paid because they were still skint from Christmas, they’d know that wasn’t true. Meanwhile, having caused the kerfuffle in the first place, Nigel was now barking madly, tail wagging, clearly thinking this was the best game ever.

To Cordy’s left, a baby with a shock of jet-black hair sat in a man’s arms. Alarmed by Nigel’s incessant barking, they began to wail a high-pitched holler.

This was not the relaxed tube journey Cordy had hoped for today. Her destination was only two stops away. But the woman opposite now wore a haunted look.

She couldn’t leave her hanging. Not with oodles of oranges milling about the tube floor.

Cordy jumped up and started grabbing oranges, depositing them on her seat, then diving down for more like she was a contestant on a game show. The most oranges collected in a minute wins an all-expenses-paid trip to London including a show and a meal! Cordy would jump at the chance. She’d been in London for over three months and still hadn’t been to a West End production, much to her gran’s displeasure.

When she’d scooped up all the oranges within reach, she strode down the aisle and started collecting them from nearer the door, where customers were looking at their feet like they couldn’t compute what they were seeing. She bent down and picked up one, two, three oranges. Then three more. She turned to walk back to her seat, just as the tube lurched to a hasty stop. Cordy reached out to steady herself on one of the yellow poles, and dropped all the oranges in her grasp. They bounced to the floor, one landing squarely on her foot.

“Ow!” She hopped on one foot, just as the tube lurched again. With nothing to hold onto and her balance compromised, she promptly toppled herself, landing on a bed of oranges and a bag of shopping, spilling some of its contents on the floor.

Cordy ignored the pain that skittered through her hip and elbow. She scrambled to her feet, picking up her crumpled dignity, noting what had fallen from the upturned shopping bag: a tube of lube and a packet of condoms, along with a box of Ferrero Rocher. Someone was in for a good night. The owner, a woman with exquisite eyelashes, blushed aubergine as she bent to pick them up. Cordy gave her a sympathetic smile.

The tube stopped at the next station, and passengers got off and on, stepping over oranges with hardly a blink. Did they think it was National Orange Day?

Cordy bent down to scoop up another fistful. She wasn’t going to take too many this time. When she had them securely cradled in her right arm, and the train was on the move again, she looked up and came face to face with the owner of the oranges. The woman’s eyes were hazel, but that was too flat a word to describe them. Gold and green danced in the brown. They were multi-layered. Was the woman who owned them the same?

“Thanks for helping,” she muttered, cheeks still flushed. She pushed her hair from her forehead. It was the colour of burnt buttered toast. The woman had flawless skin, too. But even though she’d thanked Cordy, her tone didn’t sound very thankful. She sounded pissed off. Which Cordy could understand, considering the past few minutes.

The tube lurched again, but this time, Cordy was holding on.

She squeezed past Orange Lady and put the fruit on her seat, then repeated her action, like she was in the weirdest relay of all time.

New passengers stepped through from the adjoining carriage. Laughter came from near the door as a group of teenage boys picked up three oranges, and one proceeded to juggle with them. If she had free hands, she might have applauded. She’d never mastered juggling, much to her frustration.

“Hey, they’re my oranges!” Orange Lady pushed past Cordy, then grabbed the oranges from the juggler.

The three boys made a noise that showed she needed to lighten up.

She ignored them and dumped the oranges back in her bag, before doing the same with the mound of fruit on Cordy’s seat.

Once clear, Cordy sat down. She caught the woman’s gaze. She tried to keep her face neutral, and not judge this stranger. Who knew what had led up to her orange frenzy?

“Thank you, and sorry.” The woman sighed. “It’s just been quite the day.” She grabbed a final orange from the floor, then steadied her Asda Bag For Life.

Cordy nodded. “Right.” She had no idea what that meant.

“Actually, quite the week. Quite the last few months.”

The tube pulled up at North Greenwich. Cordy’s stop.

“Enjoy your oranges,” she told the woman.

Finally, the hint of a smile.

As Cordy reached the tube door, she heard a yelp. When she turned, the baby had projectile vomited across the carriage, and the puke was now dripping from the top of the oranges.

Cordy got off the tube before Orange Lady had a complete meltdown.

London Ever After is due out in ebook and paperback on February 29th.

If you’d like to pre-order a signed copy, drop me an email: