Made In London (London Romance Series Book 6), page 1
Made In London
London Romance Series, Book Six
Also by Clare Lydon
A Note From Clare
Also by Clare Lydon
First Edition October 2019
Published by Custard Books
Copyright © 2019 Clare Lydon
Cover Design: Kevin Pruitt
Editor: Kelli Collins
Copy Editor: Gill Mullins
Find out more at: www.clarelydon.co.uk
Follow me on Twitter: @clarelydon
Follow me on Instagram: @clarefic
All rights reserved. This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favourite ebook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This is a work of fiction. All characters & happenings in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons (living or dead), locales or events is purely coincidental.
Also by Clare Lydon
London Romance Series
London Calling (Book One)
This London Love (Book Two)
A Girl Called London (Book Three)
The London Of Us (Book Four)
London, Actually (Book Five)
The Long Weekend
Nothing To Lose: A Lesbian Romance
Twice In A Lifetime
Once Upon A Princess
You’re My Kind
A Taste Of Love
All I Want Series
All I Want For Christmas (Book One)
All I Want For Valentine’s (Book Two)
All I Want For Spring (Book Three)
All I Want For Summer (Book Four)
All I Want For Autumn (Book Five)
All I Want Forever (Book Six)
London Romance Series, Books 1-3
London Romance Series, Books 4-6
London Romance Series, Books 1-6
All I Want Series, Books 1-3
All I Want Series, Books 4-6
All I Want Series, Books 1-6
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Heidi Hughes lowered her driver-side window and leaned out. A barrage of fat raindrops hit her cheeks. She pulled herself back into the car, glancing at the bright blue digits of her dashboard clock.
“Fuck.” Who got stuck behind a florist’s van on Valentine’s Day when they’d been single forever?
The florist gave her a what-ya-gonna-do smile as she got back into the van, the massive bouquet and garish red-and-white teddy bear safely delivered. There were plenty more squashed against the van’s back window.
Heidi ground her teeth together. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Swearing wasn’t going to teleport her to the photography studio for her annual family photo any quicker, but it made her feel better. Fuck was her very favourite swear word. Perhaps even her favourite word, full stop. It got people’s attention. However, now her daughter was talking, she was trying to curb her enthusiasm for it. It wasn’t easy.
The van moved finally, and Heidi pressed the accelerator. She eyed the clock again, guilt settling in her stomach. She wasn’t just late. She was next-level late. The kind of late that needed to sit in a chair and think about what it had done. The kind of late that made her mum talk about disappointment.
The original Maya Hughes was a laid-back woman. She’d had to be, having given birth to Heidi and her sister, Sarah. The only thing she didn’t tolerate was bad timekeeping. Mum always said it was a reaction to her upbringing, where timekeeping was non-existent.
Heidi had been on board until she’d had her own daughter, Maya. Now, she had no idea how anyone with children got anything done on time. With her work and her daughter, Heidi’s life was one constant race against the clock, and the clock normally won. That excuse held no truck with her Caribbean matriarch mother, though.
Fifteen minutes later, Heidi parked and pulled the sun visor down. When she clocked the full extent of her makeup fail in the tiny square mirror, she shook her head. It had been perfect when she’d left her flat this morning. However, this morning’s engagement photoshoot — which had massively overrun — had also involved her clients’ cats, Laurel and Hardy. Who Heidi was massively allergic to. Hence now she looked like she’d been sobbing for a century. Her waterproof mascara hadn’t stood a chance.
Heidi flipped up the visor and got out of her silver Audi. She’d fix her face once she’d said hi to everyone. She pulled her coat up over her head in a bid to keep out the rain, inhaling the thick, damp air.
Heidi’s tardiness didn’t matter to her daughter. Maya greeted her with a shriek as she walked into Pippa’s studio. Heidi felt the heat of her mother’s glower, so decided not to look up and face it just yet. Rather, she was going to enjoy giving Maya a cuddle because she hadn’t seen her for four hours. The way Maya was grinning, it might have been four years, because that’s how kids measured time. Whenever Heidi was away from her daughter for anything longer than an hour, it was like she’d been on expedition to the Arctic for months.
“Hello, my little munchkin!” She picked up her daughter and spun her in the air, much to Maya’s delight. Her dark curls framed her face, her brown eyes sparkling as she let out her adorable cackle. At times like these, Maya was the perfect Sunday supplement child. “Were you a good girl for Aunty Sarah?”
Heidi glanced her sister’s way as she walked towards her. Maya wrapped her arms around Heidi’s neck, her hot cheek sticking to Heidi’s own. When she reached Sarah’s side, Heidi brushed her lips against her sister’s cheek.
“She was a perfect little girl for me, weren’t you?” Sarah gave Maya’s side a tickle and she wriggled in Heidi’s arms. “She went into Albert’s room and messed up his cards, which he’s still getting over. But I told him to clear them up, so he’s learned a valuable lesson.” Sarah paused. “And then we made cupcakes and Maya helped to mix the dough, didn’t you?”
Maya nodded, her smile slick with dribble. “Cakes!” She clapped her hands, before wriggling too much. Heidi put her down. Maya ran over to her cousin, Max. Heidi glanced back to her sister.
“What happened to your
“I meant to sort it out in traffic, but I gave up. It was too stop-start. Let’s just say this morning’s photoshoot involved cats.” Heidi nodded towards the bathroom. “Let me go and fix it before Mum frowns at me.”
She was going to do just that when her sister’s husband, Jason, arrived at her side. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” He studied her face.
“If you say I look like a panda, I’ll give you a different kind of black eye.”
Jason opened his mouth to speak, then promptly closed it.
“How about a raccoon?” Sarah offered, flashing her trademark grin.
“A sad badger?” Jason followed up, gaining momentum.
Heidi let a smile invade her face. “Fuck off, the pair of you.”
Both Sarah and Jason turned up their grins.
“By the way, I’ve made a decision about my birthday weekend.” Sarah paused for added effect. “I’ve found a festival we can go to, so that’s what we’re doing. Jason’s going to be the at-home dad to look after all the kids — Maya included — while we go and listen to music and get drunk. Sound good?”
“Free childcare and booze? Count me in.”
Footsteps walking across the laminate studio floor signalled Heidi was too late to move, and her heart deflated like a balloon. She’d failed at avoiding her mother. She blamed her sister.
“You’re late, Heidi Ray.”
Her mum was using both her names, so it must be bad. “I know, I’m sorry.” Even though she was 41, she still felt 12 at times like these. “The shoot ran over, and then I got stuck in traffic. The rain didn’t help, either.”
Her mum peered closer at her face. “Have you been crying?”
“Allergic reaction. The clients had cats.”
Her mum waved her away. “Go sort yourself out before the photo, then. We’re already far too late, so let’s get things going.”
Heidi gave her mum a nod, obeying immediately. She walked towards the bathroom, knowing exactly where it was because they’d been coming to this studio for their annual family photo for as long as she could remember. However, this year was special, because it was to be Maya’s first where she knew what was going on. Last year, she’d been eight months old. This year, she was approaching the grand old age of two.
Heidi rearranged her face the best she could, a sparse single radiator on the far wall not really doing enough to heat the space. She shivered as she balanced her makeup bag on the edge of the white porcelain sink, wiping away the mascara on her cheeks, touching up her foundation and lipstick. She put a comb through her hair, practised her family-photo smile, then rolled her eyes. She’d have to do. Maybe Pippa could touch her up in the post-production. She’d have a word.
When she got back outside, Pippa was waiting. She gave her a hug. Heidi had always been close to Pippa. What’s more, her mum’s oldest friend had been an invaluable source of advice when Heidi had become a wedding photographer some years ago. Now she was older, Pippa mainly stuck to studio work, referring any wedding clients to Heidi. Without Pippa, Heidi wouldn’t have the thriving business she did.
“Come on, eldest child. We haven’t got all day!” That was Dad, his tone soft, his smile wide. Her dad never drove her as hard as her mum.
Heidi walked towards her family. Sarah and Jason standing behind their three children, Albert, Alex and Max. Her parents, Maya and Robert, to their left. Up until last year, she’d always been alone in the family photo. Just Heidi, year after year. None of her girlfriends had ever been permanent enough to make the shot. She’d never dreamed her child would make it before a partner, but life had a funny way of surprising you.
Now Maya was nearly two, Heidi was thinking about dating again. She missed sex. She missed romance. She missed regular adult conversation. She missed all of it. Maybe next year, she’d have a partner as well as a child. The full set.
Maya already had both hands in the air as Heidi scooped her up, kissing her curls as she settled in her arms. At times like this, she never wanted to let Maya go. Her dad squeezed her shoulder as Heidi settled next to him.
“You look lovely,” he whispered, giving her a smile. Heidi wanted to find someone just like her dad. But perhaps with more hair and less stubble. And female.
“Alright, everyone! Jason, could you scoot in a little. Get closer to Sarah, act as though you like her.” Pippa was in full-on directing mode.
Jason did as he was told.
“On my count, look at me, best cheesy smiles, and say Valentine’s Day!” Pippa held up a hand. “Three, two, one!” The camera clicked, and Heidi gave the best smile she could.
Maybe next year, she’d have someone standing to her left, too.
“You’re 40. It’s a big deal. We’re going away. End of story.”
Eden Price raised a single eyebrow at her flatmate, Lib. “I’ve told you before, I may be 40, but it’s also just another Saturday in March.”
Lib didn’t even react to that. “What about Lithuania? I’ve heard it’s gorgeous and the wine is less than a quid a bottle, so it gets the thumbs-up from me.” Lib was clutching a glass of Chablis as she spoke, neck crooked to look at the screen of Eden’s tablet. “Tammara went last year and said it was gorgeous and unspoilt, so long as you avoided the stag parties around the main square at the weekends.”
“We don’t have to go away.”
Lib let out a long sigh and turned to face Eden, putting down her wine and the tablet. She got hold of Eden’s shoulders and squeezed, looking her in the eye. “How long have we known each other?”
“That one’s easy. Ten years.” They’d met through a friend of a friend, dancing in a club in King’s Cross. Lib and Eden had hit it off right away. When Eden bought her Camden flat five years ago, Lib had moved in the following weekend. She hadn’t been able to shake her since.
“Exactly. In that time, I’ve taken a holiday every single year.” Lib furrowed her brow. “Tell me, how many holidays have you taken in the past decade?”
Eden wriggled under Lib’s glare. She knew the answer, but she didn’t like to say it out loud. It sounded bad when she did that. “I’ve been to Scotland to visit my uncle and aunt.”
“That was ages ago. Plus, seeing family is not a holiday. You’ve taken precisely none of those. You either stay in London, or you work and take the money. You never have an adventure, never put yourself out there. It’s why you get those tension headaches, too much staring at a screen. You need to stop working all the time and take a break.”
Eden swiped her hand through the air, doing a 360 of the lounge. Lib was right about the migraines, but she didn’t miss holidays. She’d rather work. Going away on her own wasn’t much fun. “Take a look around. I might not have gone on holiday this year, but the money I saved, I spent on new furniture and redecorating. You must admit the place looks pretty cool.” Eden was still revelling in its newness. The couch was stone-coloured and a dream to sit on. The walls were dapper in olive green with crisp white cornicing and skirting. Her carpet was a lush grey that cushioned your feet. Eden especially loved her new coffee table – a retro gaming machine with a glass top.
“It looks amazing, I told you that. But I still think for your 40th we need to mark it with something special. And don’t tell me it’s just another Saturday in March, or I might clock you over the head with your tablet.”
“You should see someone about that anger, you know.”
Lib shook her head, a wry smile invading her face.
Eden sat up. How could she convince Lib she was okay staying local? “I can go to Barcelona or Madrid or wherever when I’m 41 or 42. Even 40 and a half. But going away on my birthday isn’t an option, you know that. It doesn’t work. You’ve got your mum, plus Issy and Kath have their kids. I don’t mind postponing.”
“But I do.”
She picked up her tablet and did a search for events on her birthday, March 2nd. An ad popped up for a festival on her birthday weekend: Year Awakening. What’s more, the headliners were a band she wanted to see. She sat up a bit straighter. A one-day local event could be the solution to their issues, and then she could drag her mates away for something further afield when it suited them all.
“What about this?” Eden pointed at the screen.
Lib peered closer, before glancing up at Eden. “But will you be happy celebrating your 40th in a wet field rather than sunning it in Barcelona?”
Eden nodded. “So long as I’m with my nearest and dearest, I don’t care where I am.”
Lib raised a single eyebrow. “You sure you won’t regret not going away for your big birthday? I know you said it’s ‘just another Saturday in March’, but still.” She used her fingers to put quotes around her words.
Other author's books:
- Once Upon a PrincessAll I Want For SummerAll I Want For AutumnLondon, ActuallyMade In London (London Romance Series Book 6)The London of Us
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