Length: 63,000 words
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover: Bree Archer
Is this the makeover of a lifetime?
Ambitious fashionista Perry Goodwood lands the project of his dreams, track down a celebrity family's missing brother in the Scottish Highlands and bring him back to London for a TV reality show. But first he must transform the rugged loner into a glamorous sophisticate.
Greg Ventura has no use for high fashion. He lives on the isolated island of North Uist to escape the reminder that he's nowhere near as handsome as his gorgeous brothers and avoid the painful childhood memories of being bullied.
Greg wants nothing to do with city life, and Perry's never been outside London. When Perry is stranded on North Uist, this conflict seems insurmountable. But Greg is captivated by the vivacious Perry, and Perry by both the island and his host. However, Perry's one heartfelt wish remains: that ugly duckling Greg fulfill his potential as a swan.
After the meal, they settled in the living room again. Greg poured himself a glass of what he introduced as his homemade wine, but Perry politely declined a glass for himself. He couldn't recall any decent wine he'd ever drunk being that particular shade of purple. He was definitely making a mental shopping list for when he could find somewhere civilized, and gin and tonic would come several steps above couscous on that.
Greg picked up a book and started reading. Perry waited a while, after deciding against asking what they could watch on the minuscule TV in the corner of the living room, with obvious dust settling on the controls,then coughed to get Greg's attention. 'Where do you need me tomorrow?'
Greg peered at him over the book. "What are you talking about?"
"Working together, remember? Um. What exactly do you do, apart from painting?"
Greg's look was possibly sly, but that could have been due to the waning light outside the cottage.
"Sometimes I work in the Sea Bird restaurant."
Perry thought he remembered seeing a sign to that place on his journey here in Dougie's car. The building itself had been very small, more like a tea room, with a single light on in the front porch, and it didn't look very open for business. But he'd go with the flow. "Are you a chef?"
Greg laughed. He seemed more relaxed tonight. "No, I think you've realized my cooking skills aren't the best. And it's not really big enough for a chef and full kitchen staff. I mean, it wouldn't meet your London standards."
"That has nothing to do with anything."
"My London... standards, experience, whatever you want to call it. I'm in Uist now, and I want to know what you do here."
Greg was looking at him oddly. Was he, Perry, coming across as too bossy? God, this man was impossible to gauge properly.
"It's more of a large dining room where friends can hang out." Greg still sounded reasonably relaxed. "It's owned by a couple of elderly sisters who are marvelous cooks, and we sometimes hire it out for a celebration. We're not big on dinner parties here, you can imagine. I help out with serving when it's busy. But mainly I provide the fish dishes, especially scallops."
"You're a fisherman?"
Greg nodded slowly, his gaze still on Perry. "Yes, you could say that. I'm a diver. I dive for scallops."
"Can't you just... I don't know." Buy them in a shop? "Don't they have official suppliers?"
Greg frowned. "Hand-collected scallops are better. The sweeter ones are chosen, and the dish is more precious. Haven't you ever tasted the difference?"
It pained Perry to admit weakness, but he did. "I've never had scallops in my life."
Greg's eyes narrowed. "I thought you lived in the center of the sophisticated city?"
"We can't all afford posh restaurants," Perry snapped back, then blushed at, yet again, having to admit shortcoming.
"Oh." Greg blinked. "Well, you'll see them in the raw when you come out in the boat tomorrow with me."
"When I...? Tomorrow...? Boat?"
Greg smiled slowly. "Yes. The weather should be fine, so I'm driving west past Lochmaddy to one of my favorite coastal seawater lochs. I'll pack some provisions so we can eat lunch there. You can help carry the equipment, then collect the scallops into boxes and keep watch for me."
"We... I...." Perry was struggling for words. Worse, Greg seemed to realize it and find it highly amusing. "I've never been in one."
"Boat. I've never been in a boat. Well, until the ferry two days ago."
Greg nodded, also slowly. "That's fine. You can stay here if you want."
"No!" Perry's cry was instinctive. Did this brute of a bloke think he, Perry, was a lightweight? "I will not! We made a deal."
"Okay. Well, I hope Bridie brought a selection of decent waterproofs as well as your day clothes, because you'll need them."
"You said the weather should be fine...."
"Just in case," Greg said ominously. He concentrated back on his book.
Perry sat silently for a long moment. In fact, everything was silent, inside the cottage and out, apart from the occasional call from a bird, and Greg turning a page. Perry wasn't used to such quiet. Nor was he used to living in close quarters with a man who barely tolerated him, and actually wanted him to get lost. There was a small pile of paperbacks on the table beside Greg's armchair, and Perry picked one up. He also wasn't used to reading anthologies of horror stories, his preference being for romantic comedies and the occasional biography, but he supposed there was always a first time. Opening it to the first chapter, he bit back a sigh. At least he'd won this stage of the battle with Greg Ventura, and he had more time to convince him about the TV project.
But thinking about the trip out onto a likely freezing Scottish loch tomorrow, he wasn't sure whether the price would be too much to pay.
Clare London took her pen name from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fueled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.
She's written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she's just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she's happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic, and sexy characters.
Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter three stage and plenty of other projects in mind... she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fueled family home.
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