Daisy's given up on love.
She's had the dirty done on her once too often and has put her heart on ice.
A chance meeting with a sexy singleton leaves her kicking herself - what a time to become a Born Again Virgin! - but when he suggests she gets a dog for company, she can't begin to imagine the complications that follow.
Join Daisy as she falls head over heels with her four-legged friend, discovers that not all men are mongrels and realises that sometimes, once you stop looking, you'll find exactly what you've been searching for.
‘KISSING FROGS AND DOGS’
Which one will lead to a fairy-tail ending?
I'm often asked where I get my inspiration from and, with this book, the answer is easy. Around about last June I decided that the need for a dog in my life was too great to ignore anymore. The time was right and a niggling thought began to tell me that it was almost essential that I listened to my gut feeling. Much searching online, convinced that I'd find a dog who 'spoke' to me, and two months later a black bundle of fur, fun and love came into our lives in the shape of Alfie.
I'm a firm believer that many things happen for a reason. Why was it suddenly the right time to take on another little life? For those who know me well, it's blindingly clear. Alfie came to help me during the difficult time of my mum passing and to remind me to smile through the grieving process. In short, he's been my saviour.
So, that got me thinking about how a dog can change a life and thus 'KISSING FROGS AND DOGS' was born. Alfie was by my side as every word was written. He was my buddy when I returned to work after losing my mum thinking I'd never get the book finished and he forced me to get up and get on with it - and on the days I couldn't, to just go walking until the block lifted.
Without Alfie, there would be no book. Although don't tell him that - he might want me to give him his share of the royalties to feed his addiction to Doggy Chocs.
So without further ado, here's . . .
'I really think that tonight may be the night, Grace. Women get a feeling for these things, don't they?'
I was celebrating my twenty-eighth birthday with my best buddy and a mountain of cakes, sandwiches and Earl Grey tea at a posh hotel in Mayfair. We'd talked about doing it for years and, with the money finally in my account from a particularly lucrative illustrating job, I'd decided to treat us both.
Through a mouthful of egg and cress, Grace replied, nodding enthusiastically, 'Oh, deffo! When Milo proposed, I practically said yes before the question even had a chance to form on his lips - I just knew it was coming.' She rubbed her enormously pregnant tummy and continued, 'Oooh ... pass me another smoked salmon sarnie. Bubba's hungry today.'
Grace and Milo's whirlwind romance and almost instant baby making had given me hope in the wilderness of single life and disastrous dates. Theirs was a classic love story that made your heart flutter and your pulse quicken - every girl's dream. In true tradition, their eyes had met across a crowded bar and ... bam ... within a flash, they knew. There was no going back - they were done for! He'd bought her a drink, asked her how many babies she wanted and within a week he'd proposed. No one questioned it. They were just so right. He adored everything about her and she reciprocated. Their happiness gave the rest of us saddo singletons the faith we needed to keep on looking and to believe that love was out there for us somewhere.
Shortly after Grace and Milo married, I bumped into Reece - quite literally. I was late for a meeting with an author and their publisher, and my head was filled with pixies, magic dust and flying unicorns. No, I hadn't been on LSD - my mind's usually away with the fairies because that's what I do best. My speciality, as my friends call it, is LaLaLand. It's a cosy place to live and certainly beats the real world. When the going gets tough, I sketch a mystical creature who bestows love on the world and everything is sparkly and shiny again.
Anyway ... I digress. Bumping into Reece shook me up a bit. You see, I'd convinced myself that I'd have the same thunderbolt moment with the man of my dreams. After all, as best friends, hadn't Grace and I always spookily followed one another in the patterns of our fortunes - good and bad?
Let me give you a few examples so that you don't start to get the impression that I'm totally loop-de-loop and I think you'll see what I mean:
I lost my beloved mum when I was only fifteen.
Grace lost hers a year later.
My dad remarried an older lady - the lovely Elsa.
Grace's dad also found love again - except he bought himself a rather young Thai bride on the internet and was happily knackering and bankrupting himself.
My dad has since passed away but he left me with the best stepmum I could have hoped for. Grace's is OK too but she looks more like a lady-boy and constantly pinches Grace's clothes and her dad's money.
We both failed our driving tests three times before we eventually passed, had our tonsils out at eleven, had crushes on two separate boys called Tim when we were in the sixth form and neither of us passed our GCSE maths despite numerous attempts.
You see? So, once she met her Prince Charming, I just knew that it wouldn't be long before I followed suit and I was ready and waiting, legs waxed and sexy underwear on ice.
My collision with Reece was just the way I'd come to expect my own love story to begin. Lady Luck, fate, Cupid, or whoever had the responsibility for the meeting of soul mates, had plotted and planned to lead us both to that moment when we made our connection - in our case, my head with his back as I hurried through one of those stupid glass spinny doors where you're meant to stay in your own section. As we both spewed out the other side of it and I fell in a heap on the marble entrance hall, he bent to pick up my bag, file, umbrella and mobile and I swear I heard angels singing. The bemused twinkle in his eye set off butterflies I didn't even know I had - certainly far more than any that had ever fluttered before. This was it!
'Well, I've heard of falling for someone, but this is ridiculous!' he said as he took my hand to help me to my feet.
Corny? Yes! Win me over? What do you think?
My poor besotted brain struggled to get through my scheduled meeting - not helped by the fact that the book I'd been asked to illustrate was about a Princess bride and her excruciatingly handsome Prince - because after helping me from the floor, Reece had asked if he could meet me for coffee. Just to see that I hadn't broken anything, he'd said with yet more of that wonderful eye-dancing stuff.
It had been almost six months since that joyous day and I was walking on Cloud Ninety-Nine. He was good looking, solvent, generous, attentive, funny and rather good in bed. The only downside was he worked a little too hard - always at weekends - and I worried that I might end up being a lonely wife and mother. A small price to pay though for having him in my life, but I was sure that once the first stunning baby came along he'd cut down on his hours a bit.
'Where's he taking you?' Grace asked as she devoured a slice of Madeira cake. 'That could give you a better idea.'
'He's booked a table at The Ivy. Pretty special, huh?'
Grace smiled approvingly, pouring more tea into our fine bone china cups. 'Oh yes! That does seem like he might be about to pop the question. Have you got something new to wear?'
'I bought a gorgeous little black dress and some killer heels. Figured I couldn't go wrong with those.'
'Lucky you! I couldn't get this bod anywhere near anything little right now - and as for killer heels, just about any shoes cripple me at the moment.'
'Yes, well with any luck, this time next year it'll be me complaining about those sorts of problems. Oh, Grace! I can't wait! Why can't it be eight o'clock already?'
'Promise me you'll ring me as soon as you can.' Grace was clearly as excited as I was and she suddenly looked all dreamy-eyed as she stared far into the distance. 'Oh, I can just see it now - the candlelight, the soft music playing in the background, you looking good enough to eat and him all chiselled and groomed. He'll be a little nervous - and you'll be cacking it - but he'll take your hand ever so gently and then he'll utter those words ... bloody hell ... he's over there with another woman!'
I'd been so wrapped up in Grace's description of how things might play out, like a child being lulled by a bedtime story, it took me a while to feel the impact of the dropped bombshell. What on earth could she possibly mean - over there with another woman?
Grace had carefully placed her delicate cup and saucer onto the table and, as my eyes turned to see where she'd been looking, I kind of wish I'd done the same myself.
Dropping Royal Doulton porcelain on a marble floor makes one hell of a racket.
Luckily we were at a table where we could see them but were obscured enough by a giant pillar for them not to be able to see us. It brought bile to my mouth to watch them but it had to be done. Maybe she was his sister or just a friend? Maybe we were over-reacting.
The kiss he gave her as he got up was our first clue, swiftly followed by two kids who appeared from a table behind him uttering the words, 'Bye Daddy. See you later.'
Pretty conclusive evidence, I'd say. Wouldn't you agree?
'Oh, Daisy!' Grace looked positively sick - either with sympathy or from excessive cake and sandwich consumption - and I pretty much felt the same. 'What are you going to do?'
I could barely think straight but I knew I couldn't just let him get up and walk out of the hotel without him knowing he'd been rumbled. Gathering every bit of my courage and taking a massive breath, I stood and began to approach the treacherous bastard. It would be cold comfort but I just wanted to see the look on his face when he realised that his game was up.
The woman I now assumed to be his wife smiled pleasantly at me as I got closer to their table. Reece had his back to me as he readied to leave and turned to see who she was acknowledging. He may just as well have had 'Guilty' branded on his forehead - the colour drained from his face, he gulped, his eyes darted like a cornered animal and I could almost hear his sphincter pucker.
Good. He deserved it, and a whole lot more, and it was on the tip of my tongue to reveal the whole sordid story there and then - to let his, really rather pretty, wife know what a cheating heel he really was.
But then I saw his kids - two girls, wide-eyed and innocent. Probably Daddy's girls who believed that he was the best man in the world. I realised then that I couldn't do it to them, I couldn't rob them of that. A vision of my own dear dad popped into my head and I had to swallow down a mounting sob. It was because of him that I'd followed my chosen career path. Years of bedtime stories filled with dragons, magical people and fantasy lands read in his myriad of voices had given me a vivid imagination and a dreamy outlook on life. In light of recent events, maybe too dreamy, but I couldn't shatter these little girls' lives. I may have drawn many wicked witches but I would never be one.
'Reece! How lovely to see you,' I said as lightly as I could manage. Grace later told me that it was Oscar worthy. I then turned to his wife and added, 'Hi. I'm Daisy. Reece and I worked together years ago.'
'Pleased to meet you,' his wife replied, offering her soft and beautifully manicured hand. 'Was that at Newton Pierce?'
'Yes! Yes, that's right,' Reece cut in hurriedly. 'Good to see you again, Daisy. Where are you working now?'
Taking my final look at him and meeting his gaze head on, I replied, 'Oh, I don't work any more. I'm married with two kids. You know … these things happen, don't they?'
The colour returned to his face in a flush but he was unable to answer and I was done with him. I just needed to get out while my dignity was still in one rather fragile piece.
'It was nice to finally meet you,' I said to his wife. 'Reece used to talk about you so much,' I lied with my last reserve of fake jollity and then, as I turned to walk past Reece, I mumbled loud enough for only him to hear, 'May you rot in hell, you stinking piece of crap'.
As birthdays went, it wasn't the best I'd ever had.
Grace insisted that I went home with her and stayed for dinner with her and Milo.
'You can't be alone and miserable on what should have been your special day. It's unlucky.'
'Unlucky? Not much more can go wrong, can it? I thought I'd be betrothed by now and instead I'm single once again and feeling like a complete and utter mug. I hold you two wholly responsible. If it wasn't for the fact that you and Milo had given me such unrealistic expectations, I'm sure I wouldn't have been quite so gullible.'
'That's a bit unfair, Daisy,' Milo said gently. 'We were as surprised by it all as you were. The right man's out there for you somewhere though - you just have to believe.'
As Grace placed a bowl of ice-cream with a lit candle for me to blow out, I said, 'Well, I don't believe any more and ...' extinguishing the candle with a violent huff, added, 'You wanna hear my birthday wish? I wish that my heart becomes like stone and I never let another man take me for a ride again. I'm done with love!'
|Alfie has his copy!|