I love this name, thanks again to lovely buddy (who might prefer to remain nameless) for thinking it up about five minutes after I asked for a name that would be suitable for a book too lively and risque to go out under the EJ Lamprey name!
A few years ago I joined a website for mature singles to do some research for Five Six Pick Up Sticks. I wasn’t terribly impressed, only expected to be there for three months, had a lively battle with the website when they willy-nilly renewed my membership (watch out for that, if you join a paid website!) for another three months, and apart from making lasting friends with a very nice man, who contributed some of the anecdotes in the book, and the very nice woman he eventually met, it wasn’t something I expected to do again. However, the further my books developed my four main characters, the more I realized I wasn’t really keeping up.
I joined a free website with a lively blogging facility, and turned my life upside down. It coincided with the start of the lovely period I call Indian summer in my blogs, and has been enormous fun. I got a few stories of my own from it but also made friends, ‘met’ a great many people on line and a few in real life, and and heard horror stories about scammers, heart-breakers, players, sociopaths, pathological liars and malignant narcissists. Second-timers are a whole new kettle of fish. Some still have the innocent naivety of the first time round, but that gets knocked out of them pretty quickly. Even the nicest people on line – and there are some very nice people indeed – are cynical and cautious because of bad experiences.
Dorothy’s story is a road of self-discovery after she finds herself unexpectedly single after a placid and sedate life and a long but dull marriage. She meets a fairly standard cross-section – a serial cheat, a player, a younger man with some very odd ideas, a pathological liar, a fairly hard-boiled bunch of single women who have been hopping on and off the shelf for a long time – and gets caught by a well-handled scam. Does it have a happy ending? Not all the beta readers thought so, but then anyone believing a happy ending with a flawless perfect Mr Right was ever possible needs to read this book before venturing onto a website. There’s love, tears, genuine fear, betrayal, but there’s also laughter and hope and changing completely as a person into someone she rather likes. There’s a sub-theme, the thread running through most of the book is linked to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, not the film, the L.Frank Baum book first published in 1900. There is sex, not pornographic, but far too overt for a EJ Lamprey book. Leo, the ‘cowardly lion’, would make even Donald and William blink. There’s an extract below, of their meeting, which can also be downloaded on this link – Leo section
It’s a book for women, but men curious about how women see their side of the singles life, and what other men out there are like, would learn a lot.
Do look at Clarissa’s Facebook page, which will be predominantly jokes and videos which celebrate, rather than mock, being no longer young, not yet old.
He was unusually tall, broad, with a curling mane of golden blond hair and a trimmed golden beard, and extremely masterful. Within twenty minutes he had not only paid for her changed ticket but upgraded her seat to a more expensive one next to his in the emergency exit.
‘Nonsense,’ he waved aside her objections. ‘I told you, by driving me home you’ll save me the taxi fare, and we’ll be square. As for the upgrade, you owe me your company. I’m terrified of flying, and was dreading being on my own.’
‘You don’t seem the cowardly type.’ She was slightly tart and he grinned lazily at her and picked up her cabin bag.
‘I hide it well, so long as I have company. I may clutch your hand on take-off, but nothing worse than that. We’ve got enough time for a drink, or coffee, before we have to go through – which?’
‘Coffee,’ she decided and followed him through the sunburned holidaymakers until he picked a place which pleased him, dumped their carry-on bags at a table and headed off to the counter without asking how she took her coffee. Very masterful.
He returned with two black coffees and separate cream and she eyed him covertly when they were sitting opposite each other on extremely uncomfortable plastic seats. He was the hairiest man she had ever seen, and not just the shoulder-length mane of hair. Gold tendrils curled thickly on his exposed forearms, and crowded from the open neck of his shirt, and his beard, although neatly trimmed, covered most of his cheeks, making it hard to judge his age. He was definitely a good decade younger than she was and she relaxed slightly. He was far too attractive to have designs on her, and anyway his attitude was relaxed and friendly rather than flirtatious.
‘Where do you think your purse was stolen?’ he asked curiously and she sighed, reminded.
‘I don’t know that it was. I packed in such a hurry, I could have left it behind. Or it could have slipped out of my bag in the taxi. The driver braked sharply several times and my bag fell on the floor twice. I’m an idiot. I had such a lot on my mind, I wasn’t thinking straight.’
‘Well, all’s well that ends well. You’ll have to forget about any cash you had in it, but stop your cards, the sooner the better, and you should be okay.’
‘Oh, done.’ She picked up her phone from the table, and put it back in her handbag. ‘These things can be useful sometimes, I sent a text to my husband while you were getting the coffee. He’ll stop them for me.’
‘You’re married? You don’t wear a ring.’ He seemed undismayed, and she relaxed further.
‘We’re separated, but friendly enough that I can phone him for something like this. He’s an accountant, very organized, he has my card details on record. The only new card I had was one loaded for euros and I’d spent pretty nearly everything on that. I suppose he would have got money to me somehow, if you hadn’t come to the rescue, but it would have taken ages, I certainly wouldn’t have got on the flight.’ She changed the subject firmly. ‘Why are you travelling, if you hate it? I’m glad you are, but is there a story?’
He stirred his coffee thoughtfully, then met her glance squarely. Even his eyes were golden brown, and what skin she could see under all the hair was lightly tanned. She sternly suppressed a most inappropriate flicker of attraction.
‘It was my daughter’s birthday yesterday, and she’s here on holiday with her mother. It was fly or not see her on her birthday. She’s nine. Bit of a Daddy’s girl. I couldn’t tell her I was too afraid to fly, now could I?’
She laughed, even as she winced inwardly. Nine! As though he had read her mind he added lightly, ‘I do also have a sixteen-year-old son. How old are your kids?’
‘Just the one, and she’s mid-twenties. That’s a big gap between your children?’
He shrugged. ‘Different mothers. You must have been jailbait when you fell pregnant. Shotgun marriage?’
She was startled into another laugh, but slightly awkward. ‘Hardly! I’m old enough to be your mother.’
He laughed. ‘Physically, perhaps, yes. But my father for sure would have gone to jail for it. Mind you, he would probably have felt it was worth it. I personally prefer older women because they know what they like and aren’t prissy.’
Rather to her relief her phone rang. The caller was Tim, and his voice sounded aggrieved.
‘You left your purse. Are you completely stranded, do I have to come through?’
‘No need, I was rescued by a knight in shining armour. I’m glad you found it, although the cards have been stopped already.’
‘Quick work.’ He sounded interested. ‘The knight, I mean. Will you have to have sex with him?’
She hastily pressed the phone closer to her ear, hoping his voice hadn’t carried, but her cheeks heated as Leo blinked, then looked studiously interested in a couple at the next table.
‘Thanks for letting me know. There’s no point in posting it on, it was a cheap purse, and I don’t think there was much cash left.’
‘Twenty euros or so. I’ll buy Blanche a drink in your memory. I’m almost sorry, I was genuinely considering rescuing the damsel in distress. It would have been a new role for me. I did wonder if you left it on purpose.’
‘No. I must go now, Tim. Goodbye.’
His voice changed. ‘Goodbye, Dorothy. I think I will miss you. He’s a lucky man, your rescuer, I hope he realizes that.’
Leo proved to be a relaxed travelling companion, once they were safely airborne, and didn’t respond to her polite conventional general remarks. The third seat in their row was empty and he promptly moved to the middle seat, stretching his long legs with a grunt of relief. She was privately amused to realize his generosity in paying extra for her seat was in part to ensure he got more than his fair share of the extra space. She gave up on trying for any of their shared arm rest, and took a magazine out of her handbag.
‘You’re going to read?’ His eyebrows rose into the mane of hair and she glanced at him doubtfully.
‘I didn’t think you wanted to talk?’
‘Not about the weather or garbage like that. Entertain me. Tell me about Tim, and why you had to pack in such a hurry.’
He had a remarkably compelling personality, and almost against her will she found herself telling him more than she intended about Tim, and then Simon, and even John. He listened with lazy interest, prodding her on with more questions when she fell silent, and ordered wine for them both when she complained laughingly that her throat was dry from talking.
He shrugged off her attempts to get him to talk in turn. ‘There’ve been women, of course. Women like me, and I like them. No-one lasting. Two kids, as I told you, and I keep close tabs on them, make sure their mothers do a good job of raising them. I’m a website designer in business for myself, I work from home and live alone most of the time, with a housekeeper who comes in once a week to keep everything tidy.’
‘Doesn’t it get lonely? Do you have a dog?’
He shuddered. ‘Can’t stand them. There are cats, about five I think. They come and go. If I want company I phone up a woman and tell her she can stay for a while. It works out. Do you get lonely?’
‘No, never, I like being on my own after so many years of being with others. Although I am thinking of getting a dog.’
‘Don’t. So if you left this Tim character early, no-one’s expecting you home for a few days?’
‘Well, John knows I’m on my way, of course. He will probably tell our daughter Emma, although she’s not really talking to me at the moment.’
‘Because of your bad behaviour.’ He smiled at that. ‘It’ll be cold, after Greece. No-one to switch on your central heating for you.’
‘It’s a very small house, and very easy to heat. I’d love a housekeeper, though, even a weekly one. That sounds pure bliss, how did you find her?’
‘She’s an occasional girlfriend.’ He was indifferent. ‘She likes doing it, and I don’t mind. As you say, it’s a luxury. Every now and then she stays between visits but she’s a good girl, she doesn’t sulk when I say someone else is coming. I loathe women who sulk.’
He obviously attracted extremely obliging women, and Dorothy felt the faint scorn of an independent woman, coupled with the warm satisfaction of finally being an independent woman. She was also now slightly regretting agreeing to drive him home. The more he said about himself the less they had in common, and the prospect of being alone in her car with him for at least an hour didn’t appeal at all.
Still, the flight was due to land at six, and by the time they got through the motorway should be less of a parking lot. She resolved to drop him at his gate and leave him to his obliging harem without a backward glance. Single men, no matter what age, were far more complicated than she had ever realized and she felt a sudden pang that John, so normal and so nice, had seemed so boring.
‘Damn, put out my bad knee.’ His face was suddenly drawn and she could see in the streetlight that he had gone white. ‘Sorry. It’s a bloody nuisance. Could you be an angel and fetch my neighbour to help get me out the car and to the door?’ They both peered through the car windscreen at the next house, which had open curtains, no visible lights, and no car outside.
‘I don’t think he’s home,’ Dorothy said doubtfully. ‘Could you manage if you lean on me?’ The drive hadn’t been as bad as feared, and the traffic had been moving swiftly. She had put on Radio Two and they had listened in companionable silence, but she was tired and eager to get on her way home.
He sighed and leaned back against the headrest, eyes closed. ‘I’m twice your size. Give me a minute. Sometimes it passes pretty quickly. Or you could take my keys, get a walking stick from the hall stand inside the door? With your help, and the stick, I could probably do it.’
She hurried up the path and fumbled with the keys in the unfamiliar lock. The warm smell of the house reached out as the door opened: he had obviously left his central heating on. There was a waft of wool carpets, furniture polish, fresh coffee. Was the housekeeper still here? ‘Hello?’
A cat appeared and eyed her curiously, then slipped past her into the small front garden. Well, the cat hadn’t made the coffee, but it seemed no-one else was in the house. She picked the sturdiest-looking stick from the three in the hallstand, tried fruitlessly to shoo the cat back inside, and went back to the car. He had hauled himself out and was standing on one leg, cautiously flexing the other and wincing. He was extremely heavy, as he had warned, but the stick helped. The path was painfully but successfully navigated and he drew a deep breath as they entered.
‘Good, Sandy remembered to leave a fresh pot on. She doesn’t always, she’s a bit scatty. If you will complete your good Samaritan duties by helping me to the kitchen, you can have a quick cup with me before you go? Lock your car; the area is okay but there are a few rubbish kids kicking round some evenings.’
She sighed inwardly but what else could she do? Leave him to hop through the house? And in her light summer clothing she was feeling a bit chilled, so coffee would be very welcome. She clicked the remote to lock the car, and he balanced himself on his stick to close the door, turning the key in the lock. ‘Kitchen. You’re a very good sort.’
The coffee tasted as good as it had smelled as they sat at the kitchen table, his bad leg thrust out straight to take up half the length of the tiled floor.
‘What’s wrong with your knee, anyway?’ she asked politely and he waved a slightly embarrassed hand.
‘Dislocated it playing rugby a few years ago, and it’s been known to slip right out of joint. For a moment I thought it had. Hurts like a bugger even when it slides, though. And yes, there’s an operation I could have which would help. You know how it is.’
‘You’re a coward,’ she agreed, smiling at him over the lip of her mug, and he laughed, then leaned forward intently.
‘Are you? You’re an odd mix, I can’t make you out. Back in the airport you were happy to let me take control, which I find very attractive in a woman, yet you’re feisty. Do you like alpha men, dominants?’
‘The caveman type?’ She kept her voice calm, through the sudden shudder of alarm. ‘No, not really. I like being civilized.’
‘I’m extremely civilized. I’m also extremely masterful, but it can be boring, always being with utterly submissive women. I think you would be exciting.’
‘I will also be late getting home, if I don’t go now, and I’m not a confident driver at night.’ She put her cup down with finality and pushed herself up to her feet. ‘Thank you again for rescuing me, Leo.’
He rose swiftly and reached her in a stride, no sign of lameness, catching her forearms in his hands and putting them behind her back to pull her close as he bent to kiss her on the mouth. She jerked her head back, alarmed, and he changed his grip to hold both wrists with one big hand, burying the other in her hair to hold her head still as he kissed her thoroughly. She shook with shock, but also, to her own astonishment, a rush of dark excitement, as his tongue explored her mouth.
‘Mmm.’ He finally freed her mouth and smiled lazily down at her. ‘You’re going to be very good. I have an instinct about these things. You’ll be fun.’
‘I’m going home.’ Her voice sounded odd in her own ears.
He shook his big head. ‘No, sweetie, you’re not. No-one expects you for another three days, and no-one knows you’re here with me. This will be our little adventure. Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to hurt you. Unless, of course, you want me to.’
The Leo section is the frankest in the book and also the last of the outrageous bits – after that the story drives forward through a fairly shattering scam, joining forces with some hard-boiled single women who had been caught as easily as she had, and – well, read it for yourself.
Clicking on the link below, or the cover in the margin (top spot, ‘A Second Rainbow’) will take you straight to your nearest Amazon.
If you’d prefer to buy it here through the website, I’m set up through Paypal on the SHOP tab. Thanks for reading this far, I’d be extremely chuffed if you’d click ‘like’, leave a comment, or even a review here on this page, too. I’ve only just set this up so you’ll probably be the first!