The first book in the Isles of Scilly series will be available from the 21st of April 2022. Scroll down to read chapter 1…

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Chapter 1

Having her birthday fall on a Sunday meant Keira didn’t have to put any thought into how to celebrate. She’d spend the evening the same way she spent every Sunday evening: in the local pub with her best friend, Mel – listening to the dulcet tones of strangers singing karaoke. 

“Are you sure you don’t want to do something different tonight?” Mel asked when Keira flopped onto the couch in the living room of their rented two-bedroom apartment in Bristol.  

“No. I’m very happy with a couple of drinks in the Flute and Fiddle.”

Mel pushed her short blonde hair away from her face but kept her eyes on her phone. “I can always round up the gang if you want a proper party.”

“No, thanks.” Rounding up the gang would involve spending the evening in a gay bar with Mel’s friends, and their nights out were a bit too wild for Keira’s liking.

With a look of defeat, Mel changed the subject. “How was it at your mum and dad’s?”

“Good.” Keira had dutifully gone over for lunch. 

“What did you eat?”

“Egg and chips.” Admittedly it wasn’t the grandest of birthday lunches, but the way Mel rolled her eyes annoyed Keira immensely. 

“Do they ever eat a meal that doesn’t include chips?”

“No idea,” she said frostily. 

“Sorry. I just thought they might have gone to a bit more effort.”

“Mum baked a cake.”

Mel looked unimpressed. “Did they get you a present?”

It was tempting to make up something that wouldn’t prompt more eye-rolling from Mel. Except if she said they’d got something impressive, Mel would inevitably want to see it. 

“An umbrella and a couple of scratch cards,” Keira admitted. She closed her eyes briefly to avoid the look of disdain on Mel’s face, but it was evident in her voice anyway.

“Did you happen to win thousands of pounds on your scratch cards?”


“Your dad would probably have claimed it back from you if you had.”

“No, he wouldn’t,” Keira said through gritted teeth. 

“I hope he didn’t ask you to lend him money on your birthday?”

“Of course he didn’t.” To be fair, Keira wouldn’t have been surprised if he had, but she resented Mel’s comment nonetheless. Coming from a perfect, supportive family, it was difficult for Mel to understand the nuances of Keira’s less functional family. She stood, needing to put an end to the conversation. “I’m going to have a shower. What time are we going to the pub?”

“Whenever you want. I was going to cook mushroom risotto for dinner before we go.”

The mention of Keira’s favourite meal put Mel firmly back in her good books. “Thank you.”

“I also have an idea for how to liven up your birthday, if you’re really going to insist on staying in the Flute and Fiddle for the evening …”

“What is it?”

“You should ask Noah out.”

Keira leaned on the doorframe. “There’s no way I’m asking Noah out. We already talked about this – I can’t date the barman of our local pub. If it doesn’t work out we’d have to find a new local. Besides, he’s not interested in me like that.”

“The flirty banter that’s been going on between you for the last two months would suggest otherwise.”

“That’s standard barman etiquette. He’s the same with you.”

“The jokey conversations might be the same, but his eyes don’t sparkle when he looks at me.”

“They don’t when he looks at me! And weirdly enough I’m not that keen to make a fool of myself on my birthday.”

“If it weren’t for Noah you wouldn’t even be bothered about going to the pub tonight. We’d be going into town. In fact, if we got there and he wasn’t working, I bet you’d change your mind about where we spent the evening.”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Keira replied weakly, but the thought that he might not be working didn’t sit well. “He always works on Sundays. Why wouldn’t he be working?”

“I’m right.” Mel pointed an accusatory finger. “He is the reason you want to go to the Flute and Fiddle.”

“No! I want to go there because we always go there. It’s convenient. And what’s more entertaining than making fun of people who can’t carry a tune?”

“That’s a good point.” Mel headed for the kitchen. “Go and make yourself pretty for Noah while I cook.”

As she walked away, Keira’s protests that she didn’t even like Noah were half-hearted to say the least. 

* * *

Like every Sunday evening, Noah continually glanced at the door until Keira and Mel arrived. He’d worked at the Flute and Fiddle for ten months. He supposed they’d been coming into the pub all that time, but it was only in the last few months he’d really noticed Keira. He’d even swapped his shifts to ensure he was always working on Fridays and Sundays – the nights they usually came into the pub. 

With hindsight, he should have asked her out months ago, but he’d told himself there was no point. Why start something when you knew it wouldn’t go anywhere? For her sake, as well as his, he hadn’t made a move, but it grew increasingly difficult every time he saw her. 

He was ringing a food order into the till when Mel’s voice got his attention. 

“Have you seen the weather forecast for next week, Noah?” she asked, the familiar ring of teasing in her tone. 

“I haven’t checked,” he told her over his shoulder.

“It’s supposed to rain on Tuesday afternoon but only light showers, nothing that’s going to cause a flood. No need to get your ark out.”

He turned and smiled, catching Keira’s eye. “That’s a relief. I don’t really have time for rounding up animals this week.” The Noah’s Ark jokes should have been annoying, but he enjoyed the banter. “How are you two this evening?”

“Fine,” Keira said, pushing her glossy brown hair over her shoulder. “Ready to put our judging skills to use.”

“You know that’s not really the point of karaoke?” Though if he was honest, their sarcastic commentary was the highlight of his Sunday nights. 

“It’s exactly the point of karaoke,” Keira argued. “If people didn’t want to be judged, they wouldn’t get up on stage and sing.”

“Fair point. What can I get you to drink?”

“What’s a good birthday drink?” Mel asked.

“Is it your birthday?”

“Not mine – Keira’s.”

“Oh.” He felt oddly side-swiped, as though he should have somehow known. “Happy birthday! I guess this round is on me. Do you want to go crazy and have cocktails?” 

“Go on then,” Keira said. “Surprise us.”

To his annoyance, customers were waiting to be served once he’d given them their drinks and he barely had a chance to speak to them for the next couple of hours. Even with four staff behind the bar, they were rushed off their feet. He could never fathom what it was about karaoke that drew such a crowd.  

Being so busy also had the disadvantage that Keira and Mel moved to a table instead of propping up the bar. 

Things were starting to quieten down when Mel frantically beckoned him over to the table. Keira was nowhere to be seen.

“What’s up?” he asked, going over to her. 

“How do you feel about being my partner in crime this evening?”

Puzzled, he glanced around for Keira. “What’s the crime?”

“I think Keira should do karaoke since it’s her birthday.” Mel held out a slip of paper. “I already filled it out. You just need to hand it in. Keira will be back from the bathroom any second, so she’ll catch me if I go.”

“Is she going to be happy about singing? I’ve never seen her get up on stage before.”

“She’ll hate it! But it’ll be funny. Go on, quick! She’s coming back.”

Turning, he caught Keira’s eye and didn’t manage to shift from the spot. 

“Are we getting table service because it’s my birthday?” she asked, then glanced at the empty glasses on the table. “Maybe I should call it a night and avoid being hungover for work tomorrow.”

“I was just going to get you another cocktail.” He tucked the slip of paper into his pocket. “Stay for one more at least.”

She squeezed past him and into her seat. “I suppose we could stay for one more, but when my head’s pounding at work tomorrow I’m going to blame you.” 

He flashed her a smile, then went to get the drinks. Mel glared at him when he returned. 

“What do you think of Elvis?” Keira asked, nodding towards the stage. “I give him a four.”

“Five because of the costume,” Noah replied. 

She shook her head. “I knocked a point off because of the costume. It’s weird that he comes dressed as Elvis every week. Also, that’s the third time he’s sung tonight. Is he friends with the DJ or what?”

“Can you tell the DJ we’d like to see more variety?” Mel said, giving him a pointed look. “Tell him you’ve been receiving complaints about Elvis.”

His lips twitched to a smile. “I can mention it to him.”

“Please do!” 

Amused, he left them and went over to Duncan, who was in charge of karaoke. As he handed him the slip of paper with the song request, he mentioned it was his friend’s birthday and asked him to jump the queue with it. 

A couple of songs later, Duncan asked for the birthday girl to come to the stage. From behind the bar, Noah looked over at Keira, who was clearly having harsh words with Mel. Then her steely gaze whipped to him and she mouthed that she was going to kill him. In response he held his hands up, feigning innocence. 

As Duncan called out to her again, Keira begrudgingly made her way up to the stage. When she shyly sung the first lines of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, Noah couldn’t keep the smile from his face. After hurriedly serving a young guy at the bar he went over to Mel, slipping into Keira’s unoccupied seat to watch her on stage. She’d loosened up a bit and seemed to be enjoying herself, even if she was giving everyone earache. 

“God, she’s terrible,” he muttered, unable to take his eyes off her or remove the smile from his face. 

“She’s even worse than Elvis,” Mel replied. “And I wasn’t sure that was possible.”

The song came to an end and they applauded loudly. 

“I’m going to kill you both,” Keira hissed, pulling Noah out of her seat when she arrived back at the table. “That was so embarrassing.”

“I’d give you a four and a half,” Noah said cheekily. 

She cocked her head to one side. “You realise we score out of ten and not five?”

“Yeah. I realise that.”

“Well then you’re very mean. And I think it’s rude of you to judge me when I was brave enough to get up there.”

He stifled a laugh. “I thought people who get up to sing are asking to be judged.”

“Shut up!” She smiled widely and took a swig of her drink.

“I’d give you a five,” Mel said. “But you get extra points for being pretty. I’m surprised Noah didn’t give you points for that too.” She wiggled her eyebrows at Noah and he took a step backwards, thinking it was probably a good time to get back to work. “Wait. I have a question,” Mel called after him, stopping him in his tracks.

“More drinks?”

Her eyes sparkled as she shook her head. “I wanted to ask if you’re ever going to ask Keira out?”

“Um …” He glanced between the two of them, catching the look of reproach that Keira shot at Mel. “W-what?” he stammered.

Mel sighed dramatically. “You’ve been exchanging flirty looks across a crowded room for long enough, just ask her out already.”

“I … um …” He opened his mouth a few times.

“Oh my god!” Mel laughed. “This is painful. Do you want to go out with her or not?”

“Yeah,” he replied uncertainly while Keira mumbled about how embarrassing Mel was. 

“Have you got your phone on you?” Mel asked.

“Yeah.” He unlocked the screen and gave it to her. 

“I’ll put Keira’s phone number in here, then you can give her a call sometime and arrange a date. How about that?”

“Sorry,” Keira said, looking more mortified than when she’d been called up to sing. “You can ignore her. She’s had too many cocktails. I should take her home.”

“It’s fine.” He held Keira’s gaze until Mel pushed his phone back into his hand. “Do you want another drink before we call last orders?”

“No, I think it’s time for us to go.” Keira stood and pulled her jacket from the back of the chair.

“Happy birthday again,” he said. “Sorry about karaoke.”

“No need to apologise,” Mel said cheerfully. “Just take her out for dinner one night and she’ll forgive you.”

“Shut up!” Keira shook her head and wished him goodnight before marching Mel to the door. 

After watching them go, he looked down at his phone and scrolled to Keira’s name. He felt a tug of desire and wasn’t sure his willpower would be strong enough to resist calling her.