Monday, 11 November 2019

Book Blog Tour Stop and Extract: Outreach by Shelly Berry

Outreach by Shelly Berry

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 flatmates 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...

“So… what do you think?”
The question was out before I’d even shut the office door behind me. I turned around to see Eric hunched over a cigarette he was rolling. I tried to ignore my own craving for nicotine and pushed on.
“Refreshing, wasn’t she?”
Eric peered up at me over the glasses perched on the end of his nose.
“Well, that’s one word for her. Inexperienced is another.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“What? What happened to getting in fresh blood? A team of eager beavers who we can mould before they become carbon copies of our cynical old selves?” I slid into the chair opposite, where the girl in question had been sat only minutes before, and smiled at my manager mischievously. “Besides, with all that enthusiasm, she’ll be much harder to burn out.”
Eric shook his head and he eased himself out of his chair.
“Very funny David. And, whilst I admit, the energy she had clearly put into researching things she had no practical experience of is very impressive, I’m not convinced she’s up to it.”
“But isn’t that why we have a probation period?” I suggested, my hands held up in what I hoped was a diplomatic stance. Eric regarded me as he edged his way around the table towards the door. I gave him my widest smile, but the narrowing of his eyes told me that this time good humour alone wasn’t going to work.
“Well, whoever we give the job to, they’ll end up in your team, so it’s your hands that will be full if they struggle.”
I grasped a hand to my chest, my mouth open.
“Struggle? Once I’ve got my hands on her? Never!”
Eric rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his rounded stomach.
“You know what I mean. But,” He added with a point of his roll-up before I had time to protest, “I can see your point too. She was very impressive. I just don’t know if she’s a little timid and, well, naïve. But never mind that. I need a fag – and a cup of tea.”
He raised his eyebrows as he looked at his empty mug pointedly. I grinned again.
“Anything for my old mate Eric.”
Ignoring his groan, I held the door open for him before striding towards the kitchen. Swiftly I pulled out two mugs, diligently dished out tea bags and sugar, and filled them carefully from the urn above the sink, already precariously piled with crockery after the breakfast rush. I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I thought of her. So keen, so earnest, and more than eager to please. And that shy way of looking at me was hard not to take as a compliment. As I added the milk, I glanced at my reflection in the window. I hadn’t changed much since I was her age, physically anyway, but I was getting more and more aware of those greys, those lines clustered around my eyes and mouth, and the increasing snugness of the Levis that I’d already had to increase the waist size of in the last few years. Whilst I wasn’t about to admit to anyone else, seeing a twentysomething blush when I smiled at her was a real boost to the ego.
“Er, excuse me? Where are the biscuits?”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
“In the biscuit tin. Where they are staying, if you’re serious about doing something about that.” I pointed at Eric’s stomach, and laughed again at his mumbled retort. “Anyway, shall I go and see if the next candidate has arrived yet?”
Eric slurped noisily at his tea.
“Go on then. And, David, one more thing.”
I turned from the door that I’d already half opened. Eric hesitated, his uncertainty clear in his tired eyes. I couldn’t help but soften. Eric had been a great manager since I started and, as we had got to know each other, a close friend. In our daily banter I sometimes forgot how hard his life had been – and how much the past was impacting his health now. I let the door close again.
“What’s up?”
He carefully spread his hands on the table.
“If we do offer Emily a job… just be careful.” He glanced up at me and frowned at my clear confusion. “I saw the way she looked at you David. It’s an overgrown schoolgirl crush waiting to happen. And I know how you like a bit of a flirt…”
My laughter was louder now, if for no reason than to hide my unease. Eric really knew me better that I’d like him to sometimes.
“Oh Eric, you have nothing to worry about. I know how to handle young women like, what did you say her name was? Emily?”
Eric nodded slowly.
“Well, honestly, it will be fine. Besides, everyone has crushes when they are young, right? Or even at our age? Or is it that it - you just want me all to yourself?”

I laughed again, walking out the office before he could respond, and strode over to the duty desk. Eric really did worry too much. Even if Emily did develop a crush on me, what was the big deal?

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.

twitter @ShellyBerryUK
Author Photo credit Bianca Kirby.

Giveaway to Win – 5 x PB copies of Outreach (UK Only)
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