Home > Husband Material (London Calling #2)

Husband Material (London Calling #2)
Author: Alexis Hall


To Mary

Thank you for believing in these books



I’VE NEVER SEEN THE POINT of hen parties. Though given my experiences of garden parties, dinner parties, and fancy dress parties, it might be that I just don’t like parties in general. Which, in retrospect, might explain why I spent so much of my party-boy years being miserable and hating myself. Personal growth. I was nailing it.

I was also nailing Bridge’s hen do. Or rather her non-gender-specific bird do, because she was never going to want her big prewedding bash to exclude half her friends. Also, since she’d made me her maid of honour, it would have meant excluding myself, which would have been weird. Even if, on some level, I might secretly have preferred an evening at home with my amazing barrister boyfriend.

My amazing barrister boyfriend who still felt like an amazing barrister boyfriend after two whole years.

My amazing barrister boyfriend who—on account of the amazing barrister part rather than the boyfriend part—was currently running late.

So there I was in the roped-off VIP area of an affordably swanky cocktail bar wearing a crocheted vulva hat. A bespoke crocheted vulva hat I’d commissioned from one of Bridge’s friends when I realised that bachelorette-party genital merch skewed strongly in the direction of all penis all the time. And, obviously, I could have just not had genitalia-themed decor at all, but then it wouldn’t have been a proper non-gender-specific bird do and that would have made Bridge sad. And making Bridge sad was something I wanted to avoid both in my capacity as maid of honour and in my capacity as her, y’know, friend.

James Royce-Royce plucked a dong-shaped lolly from the dong-shaped lolly jar. It was the first time I’d seen him, or his husband James Royce-Royce, without their newly adopted son in months. Their newly adopted son who they had, inevitably, named James. Although to avoid confusion, they just called him Baby J. “I must say, Luc,” he said. “I’m a little offended that you went with commercially produced phallic sweeties rather than asking for my contribution.”

Bernadette May, a relatively famous cookery book writer who Bridge had gone through so many work-related disasters with that they’d become friends out of sheer necessity, smouldered dismissively from across the table. She was one of those people who could smoulder at anything—and usually did. “That’s because your contribution would probably be a real horse’s penis rolled in saffron and finished with gold leaf.”

“Whereas yours,” retorted James Royce-Royce, “would be a Victoria sponge topped with marzipan willies.”

“Which is why”—I pulled my vulva more tightly over my head—“I asked neither of you. This is our night to celebrate Bridget, not for you two to have a schlong-themed cook-off.”

Bridge was sitting beside me, wearing a penis hat and, like all of the guests, a T-shirt that, owing to a miscommunication on the phone with the printers, read Bridge’s Bitches No Oliver I Think It’s Fine We’re Using It in the Reclaimed Sense and Anyway It’s Too Late to Change.

“Actually,” she said, “I think a schlong-themed cook-off would have been pretty cool.”

“Nongendered-genitalia-themed cook-off,” said Priya. “I’m not going home to my girlfriends and telling them that I went to a phallocentric baking event.”

Girlfriends, plural, was a new-enough development in Priya’s life that it had messed up Bridge’s seating plan. She and Theresa were still making it work, but an experimental threesome over Christmas had turned into a much less experimental set of regular hookups, which had turned into a solid official relationship just as I was helping Bridge address the invitations.

“You know,” I told her, “Theresa and Andi would both have been super welcome. I made spare T-shirts for them and everything.”

Priya gave a dismissive shrug. “Yeah, but the truly great thing about being in a throuple is that your partners can keep each other company instead of having to come to shit like this where they have to pretend to like your arsehole friends.”

I winced. “Can we remember that not everybody here knows everybody else, so calling people arseholes might come across the wrong way?”

“It’s fine.” That was Jennifer, who was sitting in her husband’s lap sipping a cocktail through a perfectly ordinary straw, thank you very much. “Brian talks like that all the time.”

“Then again,” said Peter from underneath her, “Brian is kind of an arsehole himself.”

Bridget spread her arms wide in an effort to encompass the entire group. “How about we accept that I love you arseholes and leave it at that.”

“Thinking about it”—James Royce-Royce was still inspecting his untouched phallic lolly—“we should probably have had arsehole-themed decorations as well.”

I glowered at him. “How about we definitely shouldn’t. My search history is incriminating enough as it is.”

“Is it, though?” Priya was giving me an I-think-not look. “You and Oliver practically live together. I bet your search history is nothing but ‘how to make vegan jam’ and ‘scenic walks near Clerkenwell.’”

Scarily, non-gender-specific bird do aside, that was pretty accurate. “You can’t possibly know that.”

“Last week,” said Priya in a devastating monotone, “you emailed me to ask my opinion on a table lamp.”

As one, the guests gasped.

“Luc,” cried James Royce-Royce. “No. Not a table lamp.”

“Shut up,” I responded very maturely.

Priya nodded gravely. “Yeah, he and Oliver are getting into raw, hard-core table lamping.”

“Shut up,” I responded very maturely.

“They’re at it,” she went on, “nearly every weekend. In every room. On every table.”

“It was one table.” I waved my hands despairingly. “One time.”

Peering archly over his martini glass, James Royce-Royce raised an eyebrow. “That’s how it starts. But before you know it, you’ll be getting into the really kinky stuff like uplighters.”

“No uplighters!” I yelled. Though Oliver had suggested that one would do wonders for the living area in my flat.

“I do hope,” said Peter, “that you’re at least using surge protection.”

I stood in a way that I hoped was decisive, not huffy. “I hate you all. Does anyone want another drink?”

Thankfully, most tails were already cocked, but a couple of Bridge’s work friends called for a round of cosmos. Cosmoi? On the way to the bar, I checked my phone to see if my amazing barrister boyfriend was actually going to show up.

I’m so sorry, he’d texted. Snowed under at work. I’ll be with you as soon as possible.

I’m so sorry, he’d texted again. I can’t get away quite yet.

I’m so sorry, he’d texted again again. I’ll be leaving in ten minutes.

And then: Please don’t worry. Everything is fine and I’m definitely going to be on my way soon.

Then: I’m sure you’ve thrown a wonderful party.

Then: I realise this is substandard boyfriending. I’ll make it up to you and to Bridget somehow.

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