Jacque at The Jeep Diva gave Hard Choices a fabulous FIVE STAR accolade. Read the full review on Goodreads
Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt. Nick’s just had a bit of a shock.
“What the fuck makes you think I’m your father? I’m no one’s father, for Christ’s sake.”
Nick rakes his fingers through his hair, glaring at the scruffy youth now huddled at our kitchen table, his hands clutching a cup of hot chocolate. I look from one to the other, and I can see quite clearly that he’s wrong, that he definitely is someone’s father and that someone is sitting right here. The family resemblance is uncanny.
Nick took some convincing to even allow the young man through the door, but it’s dark outside, cold, and after midnight. After my initial shock, I could see our unexpected visitor looked to be just about dead on his feet so I persuaded Nick that we should all go inside to discuss—whatever.
“My mum. She says it was you. Why would she lie about that?”
“How the fuck would I know?”
I shoot him a reproachful look. He really shouldn’t swear at the lad. Nick has the grace to look chastened and mumbles an apology before taking once more to pacing the room. The lad continues to drink his cocoa, seemingly unimpressed by the formidable Nick Hardisty in a foul mood. He’ll learn.
Meanwhile, I rap on the table to attract Nick’s attention, then sign the questions uppermost in my mind, “We need to know his name. And his mother’s name.”
“Right.” He turns back to our surprise guest. “So, what is your name then? And who’s this mother of yours who’s so sure I…” He breaks off, which is probably wise. Some sentences are better not completed.
The lad eyes both of us curiously, clearly wondering what the signing’s all about.
“Callum. Callum Lee. My mother’s called Astrid. You knew her in…” Evidently he’s opted to confine himself to answering Nick’s questions for now.
“Liverpool. Yes, I remember Astrid. We weren’t together long. I wasn’t her type, particularly.”
Callum shakes his head. “No, I expect you weren’t. But it must have been fun while it lasted, and here I am.”
“I’ll be wanting a DNA test…”
I rap the table again. Nick turns to me, one eyebrow raised.
“You really don’t need that. Look at him. He’s exactly like you. DNA testing won’t tell you anything that’s not already perfectly obvious.”
Nick stares at me, and paces some more. Then, “You believe him?” Unusually for Nick he signs the question rather than verbalising it. It strikes me that he wants this part of our conversation to be private.
I nod. “I do.”
“What’s with all this hand waving? She dumb or what?” Callum’s ill-mannered and very indelicately phrased question hangs in the air.
Nick turns to him slowly, and I have an awful suspicion that he might be about to deliver that punch after all. This has to stop. I stand, rapping the table hard and moving round to position myself in front of Callum.
“He’s young, he doesn’t know what’s going on. He didn’t mean that the way it sounded. Don’t do something in anger that you’ll surely regret later.”
Nick stares at me, visibly reining in his temper. At last, “Okay, you’re right.” He lifts his hand, places his palm against my cheek. “Thank you, Freya. Now, sit down, please.”
I stand my ground a few moments longer. “I will if you will. We need to talk, all of us. And probably this Astrid, too. Work out what’s going on here and why Callum’s turned up out of the blue like this.”
With a last glower in the direction of his new-found offspring Nick subsides into a chair. He’s not quite done, though. He places his elbows on the table and fixes Callum with a glare I recognise, one that says do not provoke me further.
“Freya can’t speak. She uses sign language to communicate, and I understand it.” This is Nick in his sternest, ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ Dom mode, and Callum is getting both barrels. Nick continues, “So here’s the thing—Freya’s my girlfriend. She lives here with me, and I love her. And while you’re here you need to treat her with absolute respect. Is that clear? Is that absolutely clear? Because this is not negotiable.”
Wow. I’m stunned. Did I hear that right? The L word from Nick? Where was that lurking? I don’t have time to ponder it, though. Callum turns to me, his expression one of admiration now, tinged with perhaps a dash of curiosity.
“Hey, cool. Can you teach me that sign language stuff? And I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything by what I said. I didn’t mean you were stupid or nothing.”
I smile and hold out my hand by way of accepting his apology. He takes it, and we’re friends.