We are so excited to share with you an exclusive excerpt from Lucy Parker’s upcoming novel, Headliners, out January 28th, 2020!
For years, TV presenters Sabrina Carlton and Nick Davenport have entertained a fierce rivalry on their respective shows—and a growing enmity away from the cameras. Now, with both their professional reputations on the rocks, they have one chance to salvage their careers. If they can set aside their differences and resurrect the network’s ratings-disaster of a morning show, they’ll both still have a job in the New Year. However, with an unknown saboteur working against them, the public convinced that they’re secretly madly in love, and a very inconvenient attraction burning hotter by the day, it’s going to be a rocky road.
The following exclusive excerpt sees Sabrina and Nick taking to the Thames on a very cold day, in a very small boat, to attempt to raise money for charity.
The quest for breakfast-TV success could be off to a better beginning…
Nick leaned forward to speak to another of the students, and grinned at the teasing response.
At his side, Sabrina shivered violently again, and pressed—probably involuntarily—against his shoulder. She’d gone very quiet the past few minutes; she usually talked happily with guests on the show.
As the student finished abusing the opposition and reconcentrated his efforts on his oars, Nick glanced at Sabrina again. Her teeth had been chattering since they’d left the dock. The wind was picking up, and he moved, angling his body to try to shield her from the worst of its bite.
The boat juddered as the coxswain, a lanky teenager with messy brown hair and spots, called out encouragement to the crew and they shot forward. Sabrina put a hand down to grip the edge of her seat.
The active camera view switched back to a panning shot from the motorboat, and Nick saw her swallow hard. He suddenly realised how pale she was beneath her makeup.
“You all right?” He pitched his voice low, although with their mics lowered, he doubted they’d be heard over the lap of oars and creaking of wood and the constant shouts and cheers from the banks.
Her lips parted, then clamped together once more. More sharply, he said, “Sabrina.”
“Motion sickness,” she got out between her clenched teeth. “I don’t do well in boats. Or the backseats of cars. Only okay in trains and planes.” She took a few shallow breaths. “Which is lucky when ‘Planes, Trains, and Automobiles’ is the unofficial theme for this month.”
This weekend, they were both flying to France for a night, for the wedding of a network colleague at a resort in the Alps. And at some point during this advent calendar joy, they were doing the Murder Train, which had switched up its usual dinner-theatre format for a special Christmas-themed whodunit and was running a one-off daytime excursion for charity.
“For charity” was the other unofficial theme of the month, which was both fantastic, for the causes receiving aid, and ensured that neither of them could balk at any activity without looking like a selfish dickhead. The more cynical atoms of Nick’s brain couldn’t help thinking Hania and Fenella had taken that into account.
In this case, however— “Why didn’t you say something when we got word about this?”
The boat crested, and she made an awkward movement on the wooden seat. He switched his mic to his right hand and reached out to grab her leg, steadying her.
“Good cause,” she managed. She was staring at his fingers on her knee; he immediately removed his hand. “And I took a tablet. It just isn’t working.”
The water moved them in a rocking movement that made even him feel a bit nauseous; Sabrina put her hand over her mouth. She looked miserable—and understandably horrified, considering where they were if she did get sick.
“Can I try something on your arm?” he asked abruptly, and she frowned.
“I interviewed an acupuncturist once. She said you can naturally ward off motion sickness if you apply pressure to a certain point on the wrist. It could be bullshit.”
Sabrina made a sceptical sound, but they had another close-up and more commentary coming any minute.
She flicked a look into his face, and moved her arm fractionally in his direction.
Keeping the movement subtle, his attention seemingly fixed on the finish line in the distance, Nick pressed his thumb under the heel of her palm, and rubbed a slow circle over her pulse.
Reflexively, her hand gave a tiny jolt against his leg.
“Is it helping?”
“Um. Maybe. A bit. Thanks.” She sounded strained.
One side of the rowers suddenly got completely out of sync with the other and the boat took a sharp turn. This wasn’t the serious business of the annual Boat Race. The kids were hamming it up for the cameras. Caught off guard, Sabrina jostled into him, and her hand slipped down, sliding against his. On pure instinct, their fingers linked.
Two seconds later, with the coxswain ordering everyone back into formation, they were back on a straight route, gliding across the water, and he and Sabrina were holding hands. For a frozen moment, Sabrina stared at their entwined fingers, before she lifted her gaze to his face.
They simultaneously remembered that they were sitting in front of a live camera, just as the wind caught at a student’s lightweight novelty hat. Sabrina was already in the process of jolting away from Nick when the cardboard Viking horns smacked right into her cheek, almost getting her in the eye. She stumbled back and up, promptly caught her shoe on something, and tripped sideways towards the edge of the boat.
Nick lunged forward to grab her arm.
And, with quite a lot of momentum behind them, they both fell into the Thames.
About the Author:
Lucy Parker lives in the gorgeous Central Otago region of New Zealand, where she feels lucky every day to look out at mountains, lakes and vineyards. She has a degree in Art History, loves museums and galleries, and doodles unrecognisable flowers when she has writer’s block.
Her interest in romantic fiction began with a pre-teen viewing of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (Firth-style), which prompted her to read the book as well, and the rest was history.
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