Today we are thrilled to share a sneak peek of ‘The Bright Side: A Flippin’ Fantastic Romance’ by Lucy Bexley.
This is the final novella in a trio of romances by authors Bryce Oakley, Stephanie Shea and Lucy Bexley. Each novella explores romance and friendship and can be read as standalone stories, “but just like with friends, they’re better when they’re together,” says Lucy.Can Darby convince Astrid that people make a place a home? Or will Astrid leave Denver in search of greener grass before she gets the chance? Find out in The Bright Side by Lucy Bexley – Read Free Book Extract here. TWEET THIS
If you enjoy this book extract then make sure to read the full novel which can be purchased on Amazon here and don’t forget to take a look at the others in the series!
Read the blurb
Darby lives her life on the bright side. She loves her two best friends Mia and James, so much in fact that she’s built an awesome career running Flippin’ Fantastic Renovations with them. All she wants is to decorate houses, cheerlead the people around her, and for no one to call her by her given name (Jane).
Astrid West is restless. She’s curated a life that ties her to nothing and no one. Her best friend is a stray cat named Meatball. She works a series of part-time jobs and owns exactly 8 shirts, all of them black. She’s lived in Denver for a year and has yet to commit to a lease. She moves cities on a whim, always looking for that perfect location where everything will fall into place.
Astrid is working the door at Revel, a Denver lesbian bar, when she meets Darby. Darby, who wears mittens and pink heart sunglasses and offers to help her, a total stranger, move apartments on New Year’s Day. Can Darby convince Astrid that people make a place a home? Or will Astrid leave Denver in search of greener grass before she gets the chance?
The Bright Side by Lucy Bexley
CHAPTER ONE: IT’S A LOVE STORY
“ALL THE BEST FRIENDSHIPS ARE LOVE STORIES.” DARBY’S VOICE had the buoyancy of a hot air balloon.
“But isn’t the point of tonight to start real love stories, Darbs?” Mia looked like a runway model, her skin a striking contrast to her cream coat and fluffy hat.
“The point of tonight is for James to talk to some women who aren’t us and for you to get back on the horse or mechanical bull or whatever.”
Mia widened her eyes. “Ok, that was one time, and it was your birthday.”
“God, that was a great night! I wonder if I still have the pictures.” Darby reached for her phone, but Mia caught her wrist and shook her head in a slight yet threatening manner.
“I talk to Nora all the time,” James huffed.
“I think Darby means human women, babe, not your cat.” “And I think I deserve a friendship award. I can’t believe you talked us into speed dating. And that the theme is ‘love at first line’. Mia, we’re losing our edge.” James raised an eyebrow and pulled her flannel shirt tighter around her thin frame.
“My offer to make you both friendship bracelets is still on the table. I’ve been working on my beading skills.” Darby linked one arm through James’ and one through Mia’s, resisting the urge to skip. Linking arms always felt distinctly like traversing the Yellow-Brick-Road. James shivered next to her. “Where’s your coat, James?”
“It’s in my truck. I didn’t realize this place was a mile away .”
Mia quirked an eyebrow at James. “To be clear, you were too cool to wear a coat, but decided the flannel and insulated work boots were fine for tonight?”
“I just didn’t want to deal with a coat all night. It’s awkward.” James shrugged.
Darby came to a halt in front of the speed dating sign and did her best Vanna White reveal. “Well, lucky for you, we can go inside before you freeze!”
“Wait.” James crossed her arms over her chest and took a step backward toward the street. “You didn’t mention it was at a club.”
Darby threw an arm around James’ shoulders and reeled her back in “Revel’s not a club, per se.”
The door flew open and a woman in all black stepped outside. The booming base ricocheted into the night air.
James cleared her throat.
“Ok, look,” Darby said, going into damage control, “if you hate it we can all just hang out together. Have a pal’s night. We can celebrate the stunning, perfect, absolutely incredible house Mia found us to flip.”
“Have you been practicing your superlatives again, Darby?” Mia arched a perfect dark brow.
“No need to practice. I’ve perfected them.”
James snorted a laugh.
The woman in all black pulled a beanie from the back pocket of her dark jeans and settled onto a wooden stool by the door. She was built like a dockworker. Strong and compact. Every inch of her 5’6 frame looked like she could throw Darby over her shoulder and run for a mile. Maybe later. For now, her goal was getting James inside and with a name tag.
The heat of the bar engulfed them instantly, fogging Darby’s glasses. Winter was the one time she was more blind with her glasses than without them, and she was not legally allowed to operate heavy machinery without them. She removed the frames and cleared the lenses with the hem of her sweater, squinting into the mood lighting of the space. It had the faint red and purple glow of a boardwalk fortune teller. James was going to hate it.
She slipped her glasses back on and wrapped a hand around James’ wrist before she could disappear to the bar, leading them over to the card table for check-in.
A woman covered almost entirely in red sequins smiled at them from behind her clipboard. She looked like a mermaid and Darby was here for it.
“Hi, my friends and I would like to check in for speed dating!”
“Like is a strong word,” James mumbled beside her.
Darby glanced to Mia for backup, but she was frowning at something on her phone. Maybe tonight she’d stage an intervention to get her off social media for good. Too much time spent comparing yourself to others didn’t leave enough time to appreciate all the good stuff. Like your best friend who found the most amazing speed dating event.
“Perfect! We’ll get started in about twenty minutes, so I’ll get you checked in and then you can grab a drink while you wait. We’ve got a few specials tonight. What’s your name?”
The woman scanned her list. “Oh, there you are. Sorry, we organized it by first name.” The woman handed her a name tag that said Jane D.
“Oh, could we change this? No one calls me Jane.”
Mia looked up from her phone. “It’s fine, Darbs. That’s only because you think people will confuse you with James. You are the only person worried about this.”
Darby grimaced. Getting used to going by her last name had been strange at first. But James’ name suited her so well that the only thing that made sense to her was to pick a different name.
The woman held out a sharpie and Darby sighed in relief crossing out the Jane on her nametag and writing in Darby in neat letters. She added a smiley face for good measure.
James and Mia got their names and then they headed to the bar. The event would start at eight and the New Year’s Eve festivities would begin at ten. A perfect evening where Darby didn’t have to worry about Mia scrolling sadly through her Instagram at home. Instead, she could observe her sadly scrolling her phone next to her at the bar.
“This place looks great, don’t you think?” Darby asked, turning to her friends.
“It’s got a very Gatsby’s final party vibe.” James glanced around at the gold decorations.
“Yeah, it’s nice.”
“Should we come up with a plan for speed dating? Do you two want a signal in case you’re both interested in the same woman?”
“I don’t think that will be a problem,” James said with a slow smile. “What about you? Do you want a signal?”
“Me? No, I’m not really looking to meet anyone tonight.”
Darby’s friends looked at her with expressions that hovered between blank and murderous. “Then why are we here?” Mia asked at last.
Darby took a deep breath. The hard part was over. The hard part being getting her friends through the door of a New Year’s Eve speed dating event. “I thought you both could use a bit of excitement!”
“I see you’re confusing torture with excitement again, Darbs.”
DARBY LIKED to think of herself as someone who could talk to paint drying, and for the past thirty minutes, she’d felt like she’d done just that. Usually, she was the one who exhausted people, but after her most recent conversation with a depressed writer obsessed with old-timey circuses, she was ready to tap out. Maybe James and Mia had been right, speed dating was not “fun”.
She glanced around and saw Mia settling down across from a white woman with messy blonde hair who threw her head back and laughed at something Darby felt sure Mia hadn’t meant to be funny. Mia cringed behind her smile.
She scanned the rest of the space and saw James at the bar. At least everyone was accounted for. She could take a few minutes to reset and figure out how to still make the best of this night.
THE COOL RUSH of Denver air hit Darby as she pushed outside. She winced as the smell of cold burned in her nose before adjusting to something pleasant, akin to a campfire. She leaned back against the brick wall of the building, rummaging in her bag.
“I’m going to have to ask you to do that 100 feet from the entrance.”
Darby startled and looked up to see an apologetic smile softening the features of the bouncer’s face. She was standing just outside the light of the door, and in her night watchman garb, Darby had missed her completely. The calm she’d felt at stepping outside wound itself into a low anxious knot like nerves before a performance.
“Oh, um, okay.” Was it a fire code thing, not having people near the entrance? She glanced around but didn’t see anyone else on the street. Not surprising, as her breath was all but crystalizing in front of her face. Darby took a few distracted steps away from the door as she continued ransacking her bag. Was it possible James had the right idea with her pockets only shtick?
“Do you need a light? I think there are matches inside, though good luck with this wind.”
“Oh, no, I’m not—” Darby interrupted her own train of thought by pulling out her inhaler and triumphantly holding it up in the air for the bouncer to see.
The woman let out a laugh. “You know, I think those are still legal to use indoors.”
“True, but hard to recover from, socially speaking.” Darby took a deep hit from her inhaler, holding the medicine in.
“Oh right, speed dating’s tonight. How’s that going? Did you meet anyone interesting?”
“Sure, lots of people were interesting! But I’m not really looking to meet anyone. I kind of dragged my friends here to find dates for New Year’s Eve. One is recovering from a breakup and the other… could use some company, I think. Tonight seemed like the perfect time for a dual intervention.”
“Are you not looking because you already have a date?”
Why did the conversation keep returning to her? Darby pulled her open jacket more tightly around herself, turning fully to face the woman in black. “No, I just like to be alone. I’ve got my friends and a lot of hobbies.” Darby shrugged. “I’m happy.”
“Happy people can date too, I think. Not speaking from experience, obviously.” The woman pulled the beanie from her head and ruffled her jet black hair, not quite long enough to tuck behind her ears.
The woman took a few steps closer to Darby, absolutely studying her chest. She was torn between wanting to curl in on herself and basking in the glow of her attention. In the end she took another discrete puff of her inhaler.
“I’m Astrid, by the way.”
“Oh, so that’s what your nametag says. I couldn’t make it
out in the dark. I was trying to figure out if you were Jane with a line through it like when Prince was a symbol.”
“Yes, I’m the lesbian formerly known as Jane.”
“So, your name is Jane? Or you stole Jane’s speed dating identity and I’m going to get a call in twenty minutes that they found her unconscious in the coatroom?”
“Does that happen a lot here?” Darby laughed. “Jane is technically my name. But I go by my last name for logistical reasons.”
Darby shrugged. “My best friends are Mia and James. James and Jane sound a lot alike. Like a lot. It started when we waited tables together and just kind of stuck.”
“But what about now? How much time do you spend with James?”
“Well, we’re best friends and we own a company together. If James and Mia would let me I’d get us a house where we could grow old together in Golden Girls bliss. Except more like Golden Gays, I guess.”
Astrid laughed. “Wow, that’s… something. So, your friend claimed the J name, and you had to pick an alternate? Why not them?”
“I volunteered. Jane is just—” Darby shrugged. “Well, you know, plain Jane. Jane of all trades. Et cetera.” She waived her hand in a circle. “But James’ name is perfect for her. You’ll see.”
“Why would I see?”
“I suspect they’ll send a search party for me before long. I snuck out during the lightning round.”
“Oh, well, I don’t want to keep you from your friends.”
“I thought I was keeping you.”
Astrid held Darby’s gaze, her dark eyes were kind, but the edges held a sadness like worry lines that had yet to form. “Yes, you are keeping me from my very busy job of guarding this door. I think I have about fifteen more minutes until the pre-midnight New Year’s Eve rush hits.”
“Okay then, fifteen minutes.” Darby put a finger to her chin. “Tell me your New Year’s resolution.”
“I don’t have one.”
“Great! Then now is the perfect time to make one.”
“Tell me yours first.”
Darby nodded and moved a few inches closer to Astrid.
“First, I want to take a tarot reading class. And I want to work on my pottery. I’ve already got another cooking class lined up. And I want to volunteer more. Besides just at the food bank and library book sales, I mean. And I want to find my friends love, but I can basically check that off after tonight! Okay, Astrid, it’s your turn.”
Astrid removed her hat again and ran her palm over the buzzed hairs on the back of her head. “I guess it’s to make my new apartment a home. I never really settled into my old place.”
“That’s a great resolution! I can totally help! I do interior decorating for the company I own with my friends. How long have you been in your new place?”
“Negative one day. I move in tomorrow. I’m not sure why I thought January first was a good day to move in Denver. With my luck, I’ll probably be walking my stuff over in a blizzard.”
“What do you mean walking your stuff over?”
“My truck rental fell through and I haven’t found a reliable way to secure boxes to the back of my motorcycle. It’s only like ten blocks from my current place.”
“You’re not going to walk boxes, silly. I’ll help you move. Give me your address.”
“Oh, no, you don’t have to.” Astrid’s eyes went wide, and the streetlight highlighted the tears in them.
Probably the relentless wind. How did she do this job and not freeze completely?
Two women were approaching the bar in a haze of raucous laughter with their arms linked. Astrid glanced at them and took a step toward the door.
“I’m serious, you know. Give me your address, I’ll help you move.” Darby tore her name tag from her shirt and pulled a pen from her bag.
Astrid hesitated before grabbing the pen and scribbling down a street address then handed them back.
Darby stuck the sticker on the back of her phone. “See you tomorrow, Astrid.”
“Right, okay. Happy New Year’s Jane Darby.”
What the readers are saying!
“It’s no secret I love this authors books. In fact I read everything each of these three authors put into print. This is a great series but the humor that Lucy interjects into her stories makes them something really special. This is a series I’ll read again” – Amazon Customer
“Wow fantastic storyline I loved it the flow throughout this series has been phenomenal you would not know that each book was written by different authors defiantly top ten series to read congratulations.” – Amazon Customer
Can Darby convince Astrid that people make a place a home? Or will Astrid leave Denver in search of greener grass before she gets the chance?
Get to know Lucy here:
Lucy Bexley writes lesbian romance and romcoms. Lucy lives in Boston with her partner, dog, two cats, and eleven bookcases. She’s a fan of terrible jokes, seltzer, MarioKart, and silence. She started reading romance novels in 2019 and hasn’t been able to put them down since. She fell in love with stories featuring queer women getting their happily ever afters.
Lucy is Marketing Assistant to Niamh Murphy. You can contact Lucy via the ‘Contact’ page if you have any questions about Niamh’s books, website and newsletters.
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