My new novel Love Without Limits (Pink Bean Series – Book 7) will be out next week. Here’s a preview. Enjoy!
Love Without Limits
© Harper Bliss
I thought it would have taken me much longer to get used to this domesticity, but when I get the chance to crawl under the covers with Jo, it’s like I’m glowing on the inside, all warm and lit up and ready for a prolonged snuggle.
Jo doesn’t look so pleased to be sharing this intimate moment with me.
I scoot closer and curl an arm around her waist. “Look on the bright side,” I say. “You get to go to bed early with Caitlin James.”
This makes a smile appear on her face. “Aren’t I the lucky one,” she says.
“No, that would be me.” I kiss her shoulder. “I get to have an early night with Josephine Greenwood.”
“I should really sleep in the other room,” Jo says. “My coughing will only keep you awake.”
“I refuse.” I curl my arm around her tighter. “Stay.”
“Your choice, but I don’t want any complaints about this in the middle of the night.” Her face scrunches together before it erupts into a sneeze. I instinctively recoil a little.
After she has blown her nose, she asks, “Are you sure?”
I nod, although I hope I don’t catch this cold. I shuffle a little closer to her again.
She sighs. “I don’t even mind about the money so much. It’s letting the audience down that I care about. This is the twenty-first century. How can no-one have found a cure for the common cold yet?”
“Fair question. Maybe you should go over to the science department tomorrow and ask one of the brainiacs there.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing in bed yet. I’m not tired.”
“You need to sleep, Jo. You don’t get nearly enough sleep.”
“I don’t need that much.” Her voice is scratchy from coughing.
“A good night’s sleep will boost your immune system. With a bit of luck, you’ll feel much better in the morning.”
Jo looks at me from under her lashes. “You just sounded a lot like Amber. All these yoga lessons you take with her must be rubbing off on you.”
“Amber only ever has good advice to dispense.”
Jo’s lips draw into a pout, but she doesn’t say anything.
“What?” I ask.
She shakes her head. “Nothing.”
“If you’re not ready to go to sleep, we might as well talk.”
She adjusts her position so she can look at me better. “You know how the brain can make these crazy associations, jump from one random thing to the next?”
“Thinking of Amber made me think of how you slept with her once and that made me think of something else… Something I’ve been meaning to ask you for some time.”
“We’ve been together a while now.” Jo reaches for a handkerchief and wipes the underside of her nose. “I guess I’ve been wondering when you’re going to bring up the inevitable question.”
“The inevitable question?” I know what she’s getting at. Of course I do. But before I can bring up this subject, we’ll have to work on our communication skills a bit more.
“You know.” Her facial expression tightens. “Sleeping with other people.”
“Darling, I’m not sure tonight is the right night to start that conversation. You’re a little grumpy about having to cancel your gig, which I understand completely. And you’re sick.” I stroke my thumb over her hand. “Tonight, you just need to be pampered.”
“I just would like to know. I feel like this has been hanging over my head since we got together. That at any time you can sit me down and tell me it’s time we started sleeping with strangers.”
“I would never even dream of broaching the subject when you’re so defensive. Although I’m beginning to think we should have talked about it already, as it’s clearly weighing on you. You make it sound like something I’m going to force on you, while that’s absolutely not the case.”
Jo’s features relax and she sinks a little deeper into the pillows. “Frankly, I don’t even know where we would find the time.”
“To have a conversation?” I envelop her hand in mine.
“To find other people to sleep with. I barely have time to spend with you.” She locks her gaze on mine.
Even though Jo has moved in with me, she’s very adamant about her financial independence, so I have to tread carefully. “How many colds have you had this winter? It seems you’ve barely healed from one when another’s already waiting in the wings. Maybe your body is trying to tell you something.”
“I’m not even thirty. I can take it.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to listen to the cues your body is trying to give you a little more. It’s not normal to suffer from so many colds. This is not the first gig you’ve had to cancel. Maybe it’s time for something else to give?”
Jo pushes herself up a little. “How did this turn into a conversation about my health? I thought we were talking about something else entirely?”
“Being under thirty doesn’t make you superhuman. You need to take care of yourself. You were already stretched too thinly when we met, between working at the Pink Bean, working on your Phd and being Sheryl’s Teaching Assistant.”
“Which is why I’m no longer Sheryl’s T.A.”
“I can tell you’re not in the mood to talk about this, but—”
“You just need to tell me one more time.” Jo’s lips draw into a soft smile. “Maybe it’s time to stop working at the Pink Bean.”
“You can’t keep on doing all the things you’ve been doing.”
“So I can have more time to sleep with other people.” She tilts her head.
I shake mine in response. “You’re being deliberately contrary.”
She clasps a hand to her chest. “Who? Me?”
“Yes, you.” I sneak my hand along her belly. “If you weren’t sick, I’d punish you.”
“Oh really? How would you do that?” She puts her hand over mine.
“I have my ways, but if you want to find out, you need to get better first.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Jo leans forward and kisses me on the forehead. “I just hate not being able to sing.” She lets herself drop against the pillows again.
“Don’t I know it.” I give her a smile.
“If only you could hold a tune, I could send you as my replacement.” She chuckles.
“What are you insinuating?”
“Same as always.” She puts her head on my shoulder. “You’re a woman of many talents, but singing’s not one of them.”
“My voice is just more of an acquired taste, that’s all.”
“No, honey.” Her chin bumps against my shoulder as she shakes her head. “It’s really not.”
“Go to sleep now,” I say. “We’ll continue this conversation later.”
As we settle under the sheets, I know it will be a while before I’m able to nod off. My mind is too preoccupied with things left unsaid.
“Come on, Sheryl,” I urge. “How many times are you going to make me beg?”
“It’s not me making you beg, it’s you who can’t stop begging.”
“This is exactly why I want you on the show. So you can say things like that on camera.”
“I have no desire to be on TV, Caitlin. Besides, there are many people more interesting to interview than me.”
“Completely false. To me, there’s no one more interesting than you.”
“Really?” Sheryl cocks up an eyebrow. “You’d not rather interview yourself?” She bursts out in a chuckle.
“I don’t know where I got this self-centered reputation. Am I really that bad? As my friend, tell me the truth.”
“I wouldn’t dare.” Sheryl shoots me a wide grin. She looks over at the counter where Jo is busy with a customer. “You should have Jo on.”
“That would be a conflict of interest.”
Sheryl rolls her eyes. “Excuses, excuses.”
“Maybe I would, if she weren’t so exhausted all the time.”
“She has already quit working for me. Something I hold you personally responsible for, by the way.”
I know Sheryl doesn’t mean it. Not that she wasn’t sad to lose Jo as her T.A.
“You should have paid her better than your wife does. In what universe does working in a coffee shop pay more than working at the university?”
“Being a Teaching Assistant is more of a prestige than a money job.”
“A sad state of affairs,” I say. “No offence to Kristin or the Pink Bean, but I so wish she would stop working here. It’s too much.”
“But it’s not your decision to make.”
“I know. It needs to come from her. I just don’t understand why she’s so stubborn about it. She makes good money singing. She has royalties from the book.”
“It was already a big decision for her to stop being my T.A. For the first time, she’s making ends meet. She might be scared that her luck will run out.”
“I was like her when I was her age, so I do understand. But I have the benefit of hindsight. If I could be her age all over again, I would take more time to enjoy life instead of working all the time.”
“Singing is not a job for Jo. And I dare say she gets more than money out of working here. Next year, she’ll finish her Phd. Everything will change then.”
“I have the most uncanny buzzing in my ears.” Jo suddenly stands next to our table. “As though you were talking about me behind my back.”
Instinctively, I bring my hand to her back. “You’re my girlfriend and Sheryl is my friend. It’s only natural I should talk to her about you.”
“Only good things I hope.” Jo looks at Sheryl.
“How could we ever say anything bad about the great Josephine Greenwood?” Sheryl says.
“Oh, Christ. It must have been really terrible then.” Two new customers walk in. “Excuse me.” Jo walks away, leaving my hand to tumble down.
Sheryl hunches over the table. “We all have to make our own way in life, no matter how experienced the woman we share our life with.”
“But isn’t that one of the big advantages of being in a relationship with a woman who’s twenty years older? To learn from the wisdom she has acquired?”
“I don’t think it’s your age that made Jo fall in love with you.” Sheryl sits there smirking. “Nor your life experience.”
“Just my general loveliness then.” I lean back and smirk at Sheryl.
“What else could it be?” She sips from her coffee.
I roll my eyes at her and glance at Jo, who is chatting to a customer. I think of all the conversations we’ve yet to have and how, if she hadn’t pushed me to think about it yesterday, I wouldn’t have brought up opening up our relationship for a good long while.
“So,” I straighten my posture again. “Is that another official no from you? Jessica’s not going to be pleased.”
“Who is this Jessica you keep mentioning, anyway? And why does she want you to interview me so badly?”
“She’s my new boss at the network and an executive I actually get along with. She does, however, very much enjoy suggesting guests for my show.”
“But why me?”
“Maybe she’d like to get to know you better.” I quirk up my eyebrows.
Sheryl shakes her head. “You tell Jessica that not every person on the planet wants to be on TV.”
“Fine, but remember when I made you look good by guest lecturing at the university?”
“As if you would ever let me forget. Besides, you enjoy lecturing. It was no hardship for you. And it allowed you to woo Jo. You can hardly say I’m the only one who benefitted from that.”
“Nor would I be the only one to benefit from you coming on my show. You have important things to say and we need more women like you on television.”
Sheryl paints on a knowing smirk. “The answer is still no.”
“I bet the dean would love it.”
Sheryl holds up her hand. “Stop, please.” She looks at her watch. “I need to get to the university, where I will tell the dean all about this missed opportunity, of course.”
“I’d better go too. Off to disappoint my boss again.”
We both rise and kiss each other goodbye. I stop by the counter to blow Jo an air kiss.
“See you tonight, darling,” I say.
“I’ll be home late,” she replies. “Jimmy and I are rehearsing a few new songs.”
<<End of preview>>
Love Without Limits will be available on Friday 16 February 2018