Hello readers! Today is mt stop during the blog tour for Outreach by Shelly Berry, organized by Rachel’s Random Resources . Check out the book details and excerpt in this post.
Outreach by Shelly Berry
Publication Date: 28 September 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
When Emily was offered a new job in London, she was sure that her life was about to change – new friends, a career in the big city and the boyfriend she always wanted.
Her new life turns out to be more complicated than she expected. Her flat mates don’t understand her. Her colleagues mock everything about her. Even her father doesn’t support her. The only person who offers her any encouragement is David.
He’s married. He’s her manager. To Emily it’s clear that they have something special. As their relationship develops, everyone seems to want to sabotage their chances.
But some things are meant to be…
Feeling ridiculed and isolated at the Christmas party, Emily finds herself sat outside in the cold, crying and alone – until David appears
The wooden decking was slippery with a coating of winter drizzle. Tentatively I picked my way through the revellers outside, shivering in groups or glued to their phones as they smoked. Spotting an oversized planter by the window, I pushed past a couple immersed in each other’s embrace and perched on its edge. Tears were falling freely down my face, but nobody noticed. Nobody cared. A new wave of self-pity deepened my sobs.
I didn’t need to look up to see who it was. And I certainly didn’t want him to see how upset I was. As I quickly wiped my face with the back of my hand David sat next to me, wobbling slightly as he balanced on the narrow rim. I glanced at his knees, almost touching mine. His forearm was resting on his lap, a cigarette dangling from his fingers. He lifted it towards me.
“You want a drag? I’d offer you one but I had to skag this one off someone else.”
I shook my head vigorously before taking a peek at his face. His earlier joviality had disappeared. His blue eyes searched my own blankly. I dared to stare back at them for a moment before looking back down at the floor, wishing desperately that he was easier to read. I heard the tobacco crackle as he pulled on his cigarette. He was so close to me that I could hear his breath as he exhaled.
“So, are you going to tell me what’s wrong or am I going to have to try some amateur psychoanalysis on you?”
My response was half laugh, half sob. As I put my hand over my mouth, I felt David’s hand on my shoulder.
“Christ, Em, I know it was a bad joke but I didn’t think it was that bad.”
I managed a giggle in return and looked at him again. His face had softened, his eyes smiling. I felt a pang of guilt as it hit me how much seeing my tears had upset him.
“Sorry,” I stammered. David raised his eyebrows.
“Sorry? What for?”
I pointed at my damp face. His frown was exaggerated, clown-like.
“Hey, don’t worry about it. It’s a Christmas do. Someone’s got to have an emotional meltdown, right?”
I giggled again.
“I was starting to worry that I was going to have to do the honours. I thought it was Fran’s turn but even my best attempts to wind her up didn’t crack that nut.”
His mouth broke into a smile as I laughed some more. He released my shoulder to push his hair out of his face.
“That’s better. Now, tell your Uncle Dave what’s up.”
I shrugged and looked down at my hands, my laughter fading.
“Oh, it’s nothing…”
“No, it isn’t. Now spit it out.” He elbowed me softly as he spoke, his warm smile encouraging me. I took a deep breath.
“Okay, well…” I bit my lip and looked up at him through my eyelashes. He nodded his encouragement. “It’s Fran. If she isn’t criticising me then she’s making fun of me. You should have heard her just then.” The words tumbled out of my mouth, almost tripping each other up in their haste. David’s eyebrows drew together.
“Really? Why, what was she saying?”
I hesitated for a moment, suddenly unsure whether telling my manager, our manager, was the best way to deal with Fran. But it wasn’t just our manager; it was David.
“She was making comments about what I was wearing.” Involuntarily I sniffed. “I know I’m not exactly cool or anything, but…”
“Hey, hey, enough of that.” This time his arm was around my shoulders, squeezing me. “No more tears, okay? And, you know what? There’s nothing wrong with how you dress. I mean, just because Fran chooses to dress like a skinhead stuck in the seventies doesn’t mean that you have to.”
I covered my face with my hand as I snorted another laugh.
“Okay?” He squeezed me again. I looked at his eyes. They were so close to mine, my face so close to his. I felt my stomach lurch with excitement.
“Okay,” I whispered, my gaze not leaving his, willing him to kiss me. He stared back for what felt like an eternity before his eyes flickered away. His arm fell away from me, taking with it the heat of his body. I followed his gaze as it scanned the scene in front of us. A handful of hardcore smokers were still gathered by the door, huddled together like penguins. Suddenly I was all too aware of the bitterness in the air around me. David put his hands on his knees and pushed himself to his feet.
“Good, that’s settled then,” he said, turning to face me as he dug his hands into his pockets. His smile was bright but void of the intimacy I had just felt. I stared at him dumbly.
“Bloody hell it’s cold. I’m going back in. You coming?” He shivered dramatically as he nodded towards the door, his hands still firmly in his pockets. I looked behind me through the window of the pub. The party was in full swing, my colleagues getting louder by the minute as alcohol melted away their inhibitions. But not completely. Even in his inebriated state, David wasn’t about to admit his feelings for me here, not with the entire service looking on. I turned to him. He grinned back before striding over to the door. He swung it open and waved his hand through grandly.
“Ladies first.” He nodded his head in a small bow as he spoke. I stood up and gingerly walked towards him, unsteadied by heels and wine. As I approached him I glanced up at his face. Meeting my gaze his smile intensified, deepening his dimples. I smiled back before walking into the pub, my head bowed, not with embarrassment, but to hide the joy that was illuminating my face.
Shelly Berry lives in Waltham Forest, London. Having gained a BA Joint Honours Degree in Visual Art and Sociology at Keele University and a Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling, she has since worked in the public sector with vulnerable adults and children – including those affected by mental illness, drug and alcohol misuse, disability, criminal behaviour, homelessness and domestic and sexual abuse. During this time, Shelly developed and nurtured her love of writing. As well as writing fiction, she has previously written for a number of blogs and now writes for the Waltham Forest Echo.
Author Photo credit Bianca Kirby.
Giveaway to Win – 5 x PB copies of Outreach (UK Only)
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