Will Johnstone’s father is desperately ill, and he races home from London to the Yorkshire village of Napthwaite to be with him. Almost immediately he meets cute postman, Hardeep and mysterious newcomer, Andrew. There weren’t handsome men like this in Napthwaite when he lived here…
Heat flares between the three very different men, passion they have no intention of resisting, or denying. But having their roots deep and their lives entwined in a small village is not like living in a bustling metropolis. And with domineering mothers, problem teenagers, sick fathers and someone’s past knocking at the door, the path of true love is anything but smooth.
Can Will, Hardeep and Andrew, three very different people, steer their relationship past the rocks and find a way into uncharted territory…together?
Steam swirled in the air as Will Johnstone took the lid off the bone marrow broth that had sold like proverbial hotcakes since he’d insisted it went on the menu.
“Smells delicious,” Stacey, the new waitress, said with a wink.
Will smiled weakly. She had been flirting with him ever since she’d started. He would have to get one of the waiters to fill the poor girl in. She didn’t stand a chance.
To the untrained eye, the kitchen seemed to be in total pandemonium, but Will understood every move of this dance. He should. He’d been sous chef at Haven in Shoreditch for three years.
Serving under renowned chef, Anton Romano, he’d learnt all the foibles that his cantankerous boss preferred. As usual, Anton patrolled the pass where the plated meals waited to be served. If they stayed there longer than three minutes, he would scream at the restaurant staff until he went hoarse.
The month of August meant the traditional lull while valued customers enjoyed time on the beach in some far-flung place. Haven had that reassuringly expensive air that meant the clientele was more London’s high society rather than tourists. Will had decided to use this time to test out new dishes before the inevitable surge in September that built steadily to Christmas.
“Are you going to let all the air get to that fucking broth?” Anton shouted across the room. Will realised Anton meant him and dropped the lid with a clatter.
He didn’t even bother replying. Anton would be on to something else by now. That appeared to be the mousy new waitress whom he seemed determined to drive out of the door in less than two days. Will couldn’t remember if that would be a personal best for Anton or not.
These days, he didn’t even bother getting to know the wait staff unless Gustav, the maître d’, tipped him off that they’d lasted the first month. They would tend to stay on then.
Will hated kitchens in August. The heat outside made it unbearable. He’d often tried to persuade Anton to reduce the number of hot dishes they served but Anton wouldn’t have any of it. He didn’t seem to feel the heat or the cold.
The intensity of the kitchen had started to lessen, the orders coming in slower. Anton stalked past him towards his office.
“Anton, could I have a—?” Will started.
“You may not,” came the reply.
The staff regarded Will with amusement. They loved it when Anton treated him like shit. Anton liked to play a divide-and-rule game in his kitchen. He ruled with a culture where he positively encouraged climbing on top of colleagues, and at least three people were eyeing Will’s position.
The smell of the duck main being prepped at the next station filled Will’s nostrils. Anton might be a bastard, but he was an absolute genius too.
It had gone eleven and there would be no more orders. His body ached, but he had that adrenalin rush he loved after a mad shift. It would be hours before he could even think about sleep. As the staff scrubbed everything in sight, he made his way through to the office.
Anton sat with his feet up on the desk, engrossed in a recipe book that could have dated to Noah’s time on the ark.
“That looks interesting,” Will said. Ever the optimist, he could almost imagine one day the ice thawing, and Anton bothering about their working relationship.
Anton snapped the book shut with a bang and put it in his drawer. He scowled at Will, daring him to speak. Tonight clearly would not be that night.
As a concession to his seniority, Will had the honour of being able to hang his coat and bag up in Anton’s office rather than the changing area. Instead of engaging with a riled Anton, he chose retreat.
He could visualise the cold bottle of Sancerre in the fridge at home if bloody Angela hadn’t stolen it.
“This came for you,” Anton said.
Putting his jacket on, Will turned around to see Anton holding up a letter. Will frowned. Who sends letters these days?
“It’s from head office,” Anton continued. His expression suggested he was passing something toxic to Will.
Head office was Anton’s kryptonite. People only mentioned it if they absolutely had to. Anton had this fantasy that Haven was his own personal restaurant. He didn’t want to accept that they were really being bankrolled by a Chinese investment firm. Most of the communications with head office were done by Will. It was nice to know he came in useful for the boring stuff.
“Weird they didn’t just email,” Will replied.
Anton stood and wandered to the drinks cupboard they had in the office, that Will had been warned on pain of death to never touch.
“Fancy a whisky before you go?” Anton said, trying to come across as friendly which really did not suit him.
Will could have been knocked down with a feather. “Erm…fine. Just a small one.”
He poured a generous slug of Will’s favourite, Hibiki. His mouth started to come alive in anticipation.
Anton raised his glass. “To Haven.”
“Haven,” Will replied.
He took a sip. His tastebuds exploded with all the different flavours of honey, orange, sandal and oak. They fought and danced together as he took a second to enjoy it.
“Good stuff,” Anton said, smacking his lips.
“Amazing. My absolute favourite.”
“A man of taste,” Anton said, walking to his chair and sitting. He gestured to the chair in front of the desk.
Will lowered himself and waited. This Hibiki had more strings attached to it than a double bass.
“It seems one of the little shitcans out there has made a complaint,” Anton said.
Everything slotted into place now. Anton didn’t want to lose face in the kitchen but didn’t mind trying to curry favour behind closed doors. What a wily bastard.
Anton pushed the bottle to his side of the desk. Will sank in his seat with a feeling of gloom coming over him. This was going to be a long session.
* * * *
An hour later and an exhausted Will let himself into his apartment, the remains of the bottle of whisky gurgling around in his backpack and his ears still ringing from Anton’s rant.
Angela lay on the sofa with the TV blaring out a repeat of a soap opera. She opened her eyes as he put his bag down. “What time is it?” she said, stretching.
“Just gone two.”
She frowned. “You’re late.”
“Ugh. Anton needed a friend.”
“I thought he hated you.”
Will stared out of the floor-to-ceiling windows at the view of Canary Wharf. He had to take three Tubes to get to work but he’d bought this place when he’d got his first professional job and wouldn’t give it up for anything.
“One of the waitresses has made a complaint. I’m getting dragged into it. Lucky me.”
Angela sat up and leant across to retrieve her half-drunk glass of wine. “And he wants you to defend his honour I suppose,” she replied, taking a sip.
Will couldn’t even be bothered to get a glass for himself, instead just holding his hand out. Angela gave him the glass, still staring at him.
“Got it in one.” He took a sip. “Hey that’s my bloody Sancerre.”
Angela crawled across the velvet couch to his end and snuggled up to him.
“You’re the best friend a girl could wish for.”
“And you’re a bloody thief.”
“But you love me.”
Will gently swatted her on the head. “Just as well, isn’t it?”
Angela had been a waitress at Haven when he’d first started. It hadn’t taken long until someone had seen her potential and she’d soon made a name for herself in the world of PR. He’d tried to get her to help the restaurant, but she despised Anton and refused to put her name to making him a success.
“It was only a matter of time before someone took that wanker on,” she said, yawning.
He couldn’t even argue. Anton played a dangerous game with his sexist comments. Will didn’t know if he would cover Anton’s arse yet again or gamble by telling the truth.
Whatever happened, it would have to wait for another time.
“How was your day?” he asked as he drained the glass. Sometimes he forgot about the world outside Haven.
“Oh, you know, went to the gym, had a few meetings, applied for a job in New York.”
“Relax. I won’t get it. They want someone to run a massive campaign for a baking show over there. Everyone is going for it. I’ve got no chance.”
He thought about life without her. It didn’t seem very appealing. He extracted himself from Angela and stood.
“I’m having a shower then bed. I’m knackered.”
“You know, if you came out from behind those bloody cookers once in a while, bed might be a more exciting option.”
Not this again. He walked over to his bedroom door. “Change the record before the morning, please. Good night.”
As he closed the door, she shouted, “Your penis is begging to be released, William Johnstone.”
He stripped down and threw his uniform in a heap in the corner, catching sight of himself in the mirror. At thirty-five years old, he still had his looks. The six-pack he’d crafted so diligently in his twenties might have disappeared, but he didn’t brush up too badly.
He tried to remember the last time he’d had sex. Ah yes. Brian. The guy from the gym. He frowned—that had been his birthday treat to himself. His birthday was in April. It was now August.
Perhaps Angela had a point.
Another task for tomorrow then.
I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.
I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.
Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.
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