Book Title: SKIN and BONES (London Love)
Author and Publisher: Sophia Soames
Cover Artist: Christina Stern
Release Date: January 31, 2024
Genre: Contemporary M/M Romance
Tropes: Hurt/Comfort, Grumpy/Sunshine
Themes: Eating disorder, domestic violence, hotel setting.
Heat Rating: 3 flames
Length: 92 000 words
SKIN AND BONES is best enjoyed if read after TASTE.
It does not end on a cliffhanger.
Buy Links - Available in Kindle Unlimited
Hugo Burrows has life under control.
He's got a decent job, a long-term relationship and a flat in Canary Wharf.
It's all under control. It's just becoming a little problematic trying to hold everything together. Keeping the bruises on his skin hidden away. A smile plastered on his face. Controlling the calories he allows his body to consume. And now his boss is on his back with too many questions, and the grumpy French head chef keeps staring at him like he's a freak or something.
Everything is under control. It has to be.
Ben Desjardins may be the Head Chef at the Clouds Hotel but he definitely hasn't got anything under control. His relationship with his best friend is crumbling and simply turning up for work seems to automatically cause never ending chaotic disasters. Yet there is something about the new concierge that has crawled straight under his prickly skin.
Ben doesn't need more complications in his life. The last thing he needs is to inconveniently, and reluctantly... fall in love.
SKIN AND BONES is best enjoyed if read after TASTE.
Reader Advisory. This book contains the following topics: Eating disorders, OCD, domestic violence and sexual assault. Please look after yourself and take care if these topics could upset you.
So, the new concierge, his name was Hugo, and he was tall and skinny—far too skinny if you asked me—with a head full of bouncy blonde curls, thick, dark eyebrows over deep-set eyes, sharp cheekbones and plump, puffy lips. He seemed like a nice bloke, stood up for himself. Finn moaned about him, saying something about the guy being great at his job but an untidy bugger. The floor around his desk was always a disaster zone of scrunched-up pieces of paper and torn-up leaflets. Finn wasn’t wrong. I could see stuff on the floor from where I was, while Hugo gave directions to some guests, arms flailing, his phone miraculously still pinched between his cheek and his shoulder. He smiled at something. I smiled too. He had that kind of smile.
Dropping my cigarette on the ground, I squashed out the embers with my shoe. So sue me. I was French. Had grown up there, then moved to England with my mum in my teens and had to adapt to being Ben instead of Benjamin after my arsehole dad kicked us out. I didn’t take shit from anyone.
It hadn’t been bad. Just…my life hadn’t become quite what I’d expected.
I strode back through the lobby with confidence, smiling politely at our maître d’hôtel, who pursed their lips at me. Yeah, I was a dick. I had tomato juice down my front, and my apron was covered in cooking fat. I looked a state and shouldn’t be anywhere near paying guests. I knew it. Mabel knew it. I actually liked them. A lot. Today, our super-efficient restaurant leader rocked a shocking-pink dress and sky-high heels with a face full of make-up. Some days, they presented as a stunning bloke, other days, like today, they wouldn’t look out of place on the cover of a women’s fashion magazine, and they knew it too.
“Looking good, Mabs.”
“Oh shut it, Ben.” They grinned and blushed while giving me a full head-to-toe inspection. “You really need to go change, babes. Honestly, you’ll give Mark a heart attack.”
“You mean I look that good?” I laughed, enjoying another of Mabel’s many smirks.
“You look like shit, babes. How are you ever going to get laid when you walk around looking like someone has dragged you face down through the walk-in fridge?”
“Bah,” I huffed and left them to it. I washed my hands and ripped off my apron, dropping it in the laundry chute and grabbing a fresh one from the shelf before glancing over the line. All under control. Nobody panicking.
“Watch the liquid,” I commented to one of the trainees as they flipped a tray of mushrooms into a serving dish and splattered juice all over the hot plate. Yeah. Newbies. They had to learn, usually the hard way, and there wasn’t much I could do other than show them how to do it the right way, remind them to watch the bloody timings, let them make mistakes and hope they didn’t kill themselves in the process.
I looked down at my own battered hands. I had too many scars to count. Cuts, burns. My hands had survived years of being battered on the rugby pitch, which was nothing compared to getting fingers stuck in blenders and close encounters with sharp knives.
I blamed my mum, getting me into cooking when my hand-eye coordination had been blasted to hell. I had to concentrate, not be stressed, keep focused for my mind to function the way it was supposed to, not that it ever did, and this was a working kitchen. My entire shift was always one huge, stress-induced, disaster-prone trial.
“You all right?” Mark appeared next to me in his immaculate suit, his hair up in a tidy man-bun and eyebrows tightly knitted. Arms crossed, he surveyed our little world. Him and me, we were brothers, partners in crime, a duo of idiots who should have known better, but we worked well together, and there was nowhere else I would rather work than here with him by my side.
“All good,” I said, mirroring his pose.
“The boys out there,” he said conspiratorially. “They’re placing bets on who can get a hook-up with Hugo. There’s good money involved.”
“Hell.” I sighed, rolled my eyes harder than Mabel. “He gay then?”
“I went over and asked him. He just laughed, so yeah. Between you and me, he lives with his long-term boyfriend down in Canary Wharf, so I think all the boys are barking up a dead tree, but I’m not going to tell them. Are you?”
“Nah.” I laughed. I wasn’t. As long as they did their job and made my food look good, I wasn’t getting involved with anything. And anyway, this Hugo? None of my business.
Rolling up my sleeves, I plonked my arse down by my little office set-up and logged into the laptop. I had orders to sign off, menus to plan, things to do. A life to live. Mark shook his head and disappeared back out to the restaurant.
This Hugo? God help him.
About the Author
Sophia Soames should be old enough to know better but has barely grown up. She has been known to fangirl over TV shows, has fallen in and out of love with more popstars than she dares to remember, and has a ridiculously high-flying (un-)glamourous real-life job.
Her long-suffering husband just laughs at her antics. Their children are feral. The dogs are too.
She lives in a creaky old house in rural London, although her heart is still in her native Scandinavia.
Discovering that the stories in her head make sense when written down has been part of the most hilarious midlife crisis ever, and she hopes it may long continue.
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