A Bicycle Made For Two (Love in the Dales #1)By: Mary Jayne Baker
To my lovely and supportive Firths: grandparents
Eric and Maura, mum Sandra and naughty little
sister Erica. Thanks for everything, family.
My Friday nights were not like other girls’, I reflected as I laced up the black leather corset.
Tom poked his head around the bedroom door just as I’d finished tucking in my cleavage.
‘You ready yet, wench? It’s been your shift for five minutes.’
I jumped. ‘God, learn to knock, can you? I could be starkers in here.’
‘Excellent, I’ve always said we need to try something different on the weekends. Funbags Friday, we’ll call it. Corner the lad market.’
‘Yeah, and you can explain to Dad why you’ve reinvented the place as a family Hooters bar.’
‘Look, hurry up. I need to take over in the kitchen so Deano can go for his break. He’ll play pop if we keep him waiting.’
‘Ok, ok, keep your jerkin on,’ I said, stuffing my dark brown curls inside the unattractive Mrs Tiggy-Winkle mop cap that went with my costume.
He wasn’t wrong. Ever since Dad had become too ill to keep up with cooking duties, it felt like we’d been dancing round our diva-ish new chef Deano. Dad said a temperament like that was the sign of true talent. Tom said it was the sign of an arse.
I laced up the leather boots and stood to examine myself in the mirror.
‘All right, I’m ready. Come zip me.’
‘Hey, treat for you tonight,’ Tom said, grinning at me in the mirror as he fastened my skirt. ‘Mr Squeezy Sauce. Thought I’d save him for you, I knew you’d want to give him the star treatment.’
‘Harper Brady? He’s here?’
‘Yep. Can’t wait to tell Dad.’
I shook my head. ‘Not tonight, Tom. He’s not good at the moment.’
He frowned. ‘Bad afternoon?’
‘Yeah. Gerry’s sitting with him now.’
‘Ok, if you close up I’ll relieve Gerry after my shift.’ He patted my arm. ‘You take a night off Dad duty. You look jiggered.’
‘I am a bit. Thanks, bruv.’ I turned to face him. ‘So what do you think Brady’s doing here? I wouldn’t have thought he’d be caught dead in a place like this.’
Tom shrugged. ‘Maybe he fancied slumming it for a change. Hey, think we can get a signed photo to put behind the bar? It’d be great PR.’
I curled my lip. ‘You can ask if you want. You know I don’t groupie.’
‘Come on, you nearly wet yourself when that boyband bloke came in last year.’
I tilted my nose, trying to look superior. ‘That was different. He was childhood nostalgia. That band were massive when we were kids.’
‘Yeah, childhood nostalgia you wanted to hump.’
‘I did not. Shut up.’
‘Still. Harper Brady,’ Tom said, a faraway look in his eyes. ‘I bet he’s the biggest name we’ve had in.’
‘He certainly knocks that bloke from Last of the Summer Wine out of the water.’ I groaned. ‘God, I hope he doesn’t expect special treatment. Celebrity diners give me a pain. If he tries to order off the menu he can explain it to Deano himself, see how he likes the heavy end of a skillet.’
Still, as celeb customers went I had to admit Tom was right: this one was a pretty big deal. Oh, we got the occasional soap actor or washed-up pop star coming along to check us out – the quirky medieval theme restaurant with the pulled hog platters and spiced mead on tap, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the Yorkshire Dales. Then when they’d had a good laugh, off they buggered back to their usual highbrow dining establishments to tell people how hilariously ironic they were. We didn’t mind. A visit from a name was usually good for a few weeks’ spike in business.
But we’d never had a name as big as Harper Brady.
The family were well-known locally. Harper’s mum Sonia had made a mint back in the nineties when she’d patented a design for the upside-down squeezy ketchup bottle, and when she’d passed away, her only son had got it all. He’d lived it up as a jetsetting playboy for a while, then, not content with being a gentleman of leisure, he’d blown the lot on acting lessons in the hope he could make a name for himself in TV.
If there was any divine justice, that would’ve been the end of the story. A few acting tutors would be living the high life on the squeezy sauce millions and Harper Brady, spoilt trust-fund kid extraordinaire, would be forced to get a proper nine-to-five like everyone else. But no. In the most irritating twist of fate ever, it turned out he was actually bloody good at acting. Now he was twice as rich and just as handsome, with a legion of adoring fans and a string of TV credits to his name.
I made a mental note to make him wait for his food.
Downstairs in the restaurant, I spotted Harper near the front of the queue. He was perfectly groomed as always, in a designer suit and tie – I mean, a waistcoat and everything, talk about overdressed – with his long, flaxen hair stylishly gelled like he was the lost member of One Direction.
I couldn’t tell if the good-looking, slightly scruffy man he was chatting to was with him or if they’d just struck up a conversation. However, there were certainly eyebrows raising among the other waiting diners. He preened slightly when he clocked the looks of recognition directed towards him, all the while talking to his friend as if he hadn’t noticed a thing.