Two words: Lex Gibson.
Lex is the hero of Jessica Hart’s Juggling Briefcase & Baby and he's more than a little bit delicious.
There’s something endearing about a man with a baby, especially if that man is Lex Gibson and he’s not quite sure what to do with it. I fell in love with these characters and I think you will too. Here’s the excerpt that sold me and one of my favorite scenes:
Lex was left nervously eyeing the baby on the floor. Freya sat on her bottom for a while, looking around with wide-eyed interest, then to his alarm, she crawled under the table.
Now what? He sat dead still, afraid to move his feet, but after a moment, he bent his head very carefully to look under the table and see what she was doing.
Freya’s expression was intent as she patted his left shoe, apparently pleased by its shininess. Then the small hands discovered the lace, and pulled at it experimentally. Delighted to find that it came apart if she tugged at it, she looked up to find Lex watching her under the table, and she offered him a gummy smile.
The smile had an odd effect on Lex, and he jerked upright once more and snapped his computer open. Where was Romy? He was terrified to move his feet in case he kicked the baby by mistake, but if he was stuck here, he could at least try and get some work done. He would pretend everything was normal and that there was no baby undoing his shoelaces under the table.
‘Where’s Freya?’ Romy asked when she came back at last.
For answer, Lex grimaced and pointed wordlessly under the table, and Romy peered beneath to see that her daughter had undone both his shoes, and was sucking one of the laces with a thoughtful expression.
‘I thought it was an unexploded bomb at least!’ she said as she scooped Freya up and straightened.
‘I would have been just as nervous,’ said Lex grouchily. ‘You were gone ages. What have you been doing?’
‘I didn’t even have time to brush my hair this morning,’ Romy pointed out, settling back into her seat. ‘I was still in bed when Tim rang. I had a real panic to get here, and I’m still worried I left something vital behind.’
‘How could you have left anything behind? It looked as if you brought the entire contents of the house with you!’
She sighed. ‘ You should see what I left behind! It’s not easy to travel light with a baby.’
It was a careless comment, but suddenly the air was fraught with memories. There had been a time when Romy would have packed everything she owned into a rucksack.
‘Yes,’ she said, turning the bracelets on her wrist. ‘Yes, I have.’ She eyed Lex under her lashes. ‘And you?’
‘Have you changed?’
He looked away. ‘Of course. I’d hope we were both older and a lot wiser.’
Much too wise to run off to Paris for a wild affair, anyway. The unspoken thought hung in the silence that pooled between them until Nicola appeared to offer coffee and biscuits.
‘Thank you.’ Romy was grateful for the interruption, but even more for the sustenance. She hadn’t had time for breakfast that morning.
Freya’s eyes lit up when saw the biscuits and she set up a squawk that made Lex wince until Romy gave her a piece of shortbread to shut her up. This was promptly mangled into a soggy mess, watched in horror by Lex, and Romy rushed into speech in an effort to distract him.
‘You never got married.’ It was the first thing that came into her head, but as soon as the words came out of her mouth, she wished she had stuck with the soggy biscuit.
Lex raised his brows.
‘The last time we talked, you said you were going to marry Suzy Stevens,’ Romy said with a shade of defiance.
Lex had almost forgotten Suzy. Romy’s mother, Molly, had remarried about a year after that week in Paris. As her godson, he had had little choice but to go to the wedding. Romy, of course, had been there too. She had just started her first year at university. After Paris, she had got herself a job in some bar in Avignon. Lex had heard it from his mother, who had it from Molly. Romy had had a great time, he had heard.
He had been determined to show Romy that he was over her. Suzy was everything Romy wasn’t. She was calm and cool, elegant where Romy was quirky, sophisticated where Romy was passionate. She was suitable in every way.
But she certainly hadn’t been stupid. She had seen how Lex looked at Romy, and broken off the relationship when they got back to London that night.
‘It didn’t work out,’ Lex said shortly.
No one had worked out.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Romy.
‘I’m not. It was all for the best.’
Lex’s pale grey eyes rested on Freya, still sucking happily on her shortbread. Her fingers were sticky, her face smeared and there were crumbs in her hair and dribbling down her chin.
‘I don’t want any family responsibilities,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen too many people – like Tim today – compromise their careers because of commitments at home. Children are a constant distraction, as far as I can make out. Even a wife expects attention. You can’t just stay at work until the job is done. You’ve got to ring up and explain and apologise and make up for it by taking yet more time off … Relationships are too messy and demanding,’ said Lex briskly. ‘I long ago came round to your point of view and decided that marriage wasn’t for me either.’
He looked at Romy. ‘It’s just as well you wouldn’t marry me. It would have been a disaster for both of us.’
A disaster. Yes. Romy turned her bangles, counting them like beads on a rosary. She had eleven, in a mixture of styles, and she wore them all together, liking the fact that they were so different and that each came with its own special memory. Beaten silver. Beaded. Clean and contemporary. Ethnic.
One came from the suq in Muscat, another from Mexico. One was a gift from an ex boyfriend, another she had bought for herself in Bali.
And this one … Romy’s fingers lingered on the silver band. It was inlaid with gold and intricately carved. An antique.
This one Lex had bought for her at Les Puces, the famous flea market at the Porte de Clignancourt. They had spent the morning wandering around hand in hand, bedazzled by the passion that caught them both unawares. Whenever Romy looked at the bracelet, she remembered how intensely aware of him she had been, as if every fibre of her being was attuned to the feel of his fingers around hers, to the hazy excitement of his male, solid body.
A disaster? Maybe. Probably.
Want to get an eyeful of the blurb? Click here.
Now Lex probably wouldn’t be caught dead in a pink tie like on the RIVA cover but I think you’ll agree he has a serious set of lips on him.