Holly McCulloch: Just Friends

Today is my turn on the blog tour for Just Friends and I’m pleased to be sharing with you an extract from the book. My post is shared with thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me on the tour and to the publisher for providing the extract.

Blurb:

It’s easy to put someone in the friend zone. But what happens if you change your mind?

Bea isn’t happy. Desperate for a change, she looks to her friends for inspiration. Every single one of them is paired off, perhaps that’s what she needs too.

So, she starts dating again. But everywhere she goes – amid the hilarious and scarring dates – there’s Peter. Good old, oddball Peter, her closest friend from university. He’s always been firmly in the friend zone but something’s happened lately – he seems taller, more handsome and suddenly making him smile is Bea’s favourite thing.

But how can Bea possibly risk their friendship? And how do you even go about taking someone out of the friend zone? What if Bea and Peter were only ever meant to be just friends…

Extract:

‘Bea! Bea! Where are you going?’

For the second time in the night Peter has caught me trying to escape.

‘Come here.’

He pulls me under one arm, meaning there really is no running away.

Shouts of ‘Three! Two! One!’ fill the air, and I don’t know what to do. Everyone else has found someone to kiss, but I feel awkward and tense. My shoulders are up to my ears. I don’t want Bodley to kiss me, even if Mia is right, he does look good this evening. But it wouldn’t be just a kiss between us, it would be . . . something else. I hope he doesn’t think he has to kiss me merely because we’re standing together. I smile at him awkwardly. He starts to come towards me, and my body reacts. I step a little closer.

He kisses me. On the cheek.

I’m sure I feel relieved. My shoulders sink back down, and I smile up to him. I should have realized that he wouldn’t want to kisskiss me either.

‘Happy New Year, Peter.’

 ‘Happy New Year, Bea.’

After a while, once all of the bizarre, overly enthusiastic and totally undeserved congratulations are over, Peter turns to me once more. The music has kicked back in. ‘Now that’s finished with, can I treat you to a dance?’ Peter has many skills, but dancing isn’t one of them. His limbs are too long for his body, and he’s incapable of moving them in a consistent, predictable manner. My feet are killing me and I know he’ll step on them, but I don’t want his smile to fade so I nod.

The night continues as expected. There is some mild scandal, excessive eating of fairly bland wedding cake, more terrible dancing, and some questionable confessions of love. We score full wedding bingo when one of the bridesmaids starts crying.

I say one of the bridesmaids – it’s me.

I have a weep on poor Peter’s shoulder.

I blame it on the fact I drank too much, an activity I typically avoid as neither my finances nor my hangxieties can handle it. Unluckily, the open bar made the former issue irrelevant and the latter was quite forgotten.

‘See, the thing is, I want to be genuinely happy. I have all the reasons in the world to be genuinely happy, but I’m not.’

Good lord, have I ever sounded so pathetic? ‘Everyone here is happy. I want to be happy too.’

Peter puts an arm around me as I really scrutinize the room. Everyone looks happy. Everyone looks content. Everyone looks paired off. I squint a little, trying to see the root of my problem.

 ‘Huh.’ I look again to make sure. Every single person who is attached to another person is smiling. ‘Look!’ At this moment I hit Peter on the knee, a touch harder than intended, and point to the couples glued together, drunkenly swaying on the dance floor, propping each other up. ‘Look at them all. They all look so happy. Like nothing is missing, not even rhythm. Maybe it’s because they’re loved by someone who’s not genetically predisposed to love them.’ I breathe again, finding it hard to keep my thoughts on track. ‘Maybe I need that too?’

I haven’t been interested in having a boyfriend for a while, so my own dating history is exactly that – history. Nevertheless, I take a breather so my thoughts can make their way through the whisky haze. ‘Is it silly to wish to be happy?’ I shift slightly so I am almost facing Peter.

‘Not at all. I think happiness is a great aim.’

I slouch a little less and use his body to anchor myself. ‘OK! I’ve decided! I’m going to start dating again!’ I wipe the last of the tears from my eyes and decide to stop feeling sorry for myself. ‘I think I need to see if I would be happier if someone out there who isn’t genetically predisposed to love me, loves me. Know what I mean?’ I turn to face Peter and smile. He smiles back.

‘I love you.’

‘Yes, but, Peter, you don’t count.’

***

Just Friends is available from Amazon

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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