We are so excited to bring you this exclusive excerpt from The Love Square by Laura Jane Williams!
About The Love Square:
She’s single. But it can still be complicated…
Penny Bridge has always been unlucky in love.
So she can’t believe it when she meets a remarkable new man.
Followed by another.
And then another…
And all of them want to date her.
Penny has to choose between three. But are any of them The One?
The bestselling author of Our Stop will have you laughing, crying and cheering Penny on in this funny and feel-good exploration of hope, romance and the trust it takes to finally fall in love. Perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane’s If I Never Met You and Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare.
‘I could introduce you to some friends, you know,’ Stuart said, wiping down stray specks from around his display. Stuart was a twenty-five-year-old art school graduate who treated coffee like as much of a craft as his own pottery. Slim build and black skin, he wore straight-leg jeans rolled twice, socks on show, and bulky sneakers that seemingly never got grubby – as well as a t-shirt with two rolls of the sleeve and a single pierced ear. ‘If you wanted somebody pre-vetted for ghosting, or lying, or general romantic ambivalence.’
Penny stood and walked behind the counter to make another coffee, her third of the morning. ‘Aw, thanks. But I don’t think you should be setting your boss up.’
Stuart stepped out of her way. ‘You have too many rules.’
‘If I dated one of your friends – who, you know, let’s be fair, would be too young for me anyway – in three dates’ time I wouldn’t want to be running into him because he’s here to meet you after your shift, but had told me he had to move to Kazakhstan for a work assignment and that’s why he couldn’t be with me. When I get ghosted, I really do expect to never see them again. It’d be added mortification other- wise, and I haven’t got the stomach for it.’
‘Just promise me you won’t give up,’ Stuart soothed. ‘Dating is hard for everyone until it’s not. You only have to get it right once, that’s what my pa says. Your soulmate could be just around the corner. He could appear at any minute, and it’d be a shame to miss him because your head is too far up your own self-pitying—’
Stuart was interrupted by the sound of three knocks against the glass of the café door, forcing both of them to look over. Stood on the pavement was a dark-haired, olive- skinned man in a beanie hat and puffer vest, accessorized with an armful of sourdough loaves. Stuart immediately issued Penny a smirk. She didn’t catch it.
‘Ah, yeah – I meant to say,’ she started, already in business mode, holding up a hand to the man outside to signal she was coming. ‘The bread delivery is going to be late today because Safiya had an issue with somebody falling off a bike and so had to ask her friend to help out.’ She bent down to unlock the bottom part of the door, opening it up to say, ‘Are you Safiya’s man-who-can? Come in.’
‘Safiya fell off her bike?’ Stuart said, worriedly, whilst also acknowledging the man Penny had let in. ‘Alright mate?’ Stuart had a crush on the bread supplier and did a terrible job of hiding it – even the way he said Safiya’s name betrayed him.
The puffer-vest-wearing man put the brown paper bags down on the table by the door and happily inserted himself into the conversation. ‘Not Safiya. A guy she’s dating. But I’m here to save the day! I’ve got more in the van. Croissants, I think. Nice to meet you. I’m Francesco.’ He shook Stuart’s hand and nodded at Penny, who’d already walked back across the café.
Penny caught Stuart’s face fall. A guy she’s dating. That must’ve stung. She went back to the counter just as the coffee maker roared into life and spat hot, syrupy espresso into her cup, and Stuart busied himself by filling up the sugar bowls on each table. She watched the man outside shift several delivery trays in his van around into a more orderly fashion. His complexion and hair colour made sense now she’d heard him speak – he had a slight accent. He wore a striped apron over his clothes and paused his work to pull out a phone from the front pouch. Whoever was on the other end of the line when he answered delighted him so much that he threw his head back, laughing. Seeing somebody so elated made Penny smile by proxy. A handsome man enjoying his life. She wondered if it was his girlfriend, and then wondered why she’d wondered about him having a girlfriend. She concluded it was because of the accent. And the smile. And the heavy-lifting.
‘I wish you’d let me do that for you,’ Stuart said, inter- rupting her reverie. ‘You don’t treat it with the respect it deserves.’
‘It’s just a double espresso,’ giggled Penny.
Stuart looked stern and held up a finger. ‘It is never just
an espresso, Penny.’
‘My bad . . .’ Penny stepped away from the machine, back around the counter, holding her hands up while giving a mocking roll of the eyes.
‘This is your café – you’re Penny?’ Francesco said, re- appearing in the doorway and dropping down two smaller paper bags.
He wiped a hand on his apron and held it out to her as he approached.
‘I’ve read about you.’
The warmth of his palm met hers. They locked eyes.
His smile was broad – not just wide, but all-encompassing. It was disconcerting to look him in the eye, this stranger, not least because they were stood not even a body’s width apart, but Penny found that she couldn’t look away. She took him in – his sprinkling of stubble and the tangy smell of coffee on his breath.
‘I wish I could stay for breakfast,’ he said. They were still shaking hands.
‘Leaving before breakfast and you didn’t even spend the night,’ Penny baited without thinking, shocking herself at how easily she’d let something so inappropriate slip out.
‘I’ve heard great things,’ smirked Francesco.
‘Well . . . I . . .’ Penny spluttered. She was embarrassed now. Why had she said that? Maybe this explained her perpetual singledom – she was a horrific flirt who, when it came down to it, didn’t actually know how to communicate with the opposite sex.
‘I meant about the breakfast.’ Francesco laughed. ‘Yes. Of course! Right. Yes, so did I.’
‘Uh-huh,’ he murmured, clearly enjoying her squirming. They stood, touching, him grinning at her, looking at her, scanning her face like maybe he knew her, and Penny realized
she was grinning just as widely back.
Something was happening.
About the Author:
Laura Jane Williams (she/her) was born in 1986 in Derbyshire, England. Her 2019 debut novel Our Stop was an international hit, and her next novel, The Love Square, is out in summer 2020. Her non-fiction includes Becoming, Ice Cream for Breakfast and The Life Diet. Laura has been translated into 11 languages in over 17 countries – and counting.