It’s Jack’s birthday today and he’s already looking all naffed off about me making a fuss. It’s bad enough when Gareth embarrasses him with attention and mush like roses and heart-shaped biscuits. He doesn’t need me to do it, too. You see, Jack and family occasions don’t mix. And a birthday isn’t anything more than a date on a calendar.
Unless it’s Gareth’s birthday, of course. Then Jack does make an effort.
What he won’t make an effort for is me telling more of his story. And yes, he’s gonna pout and sneer and probably hand the contents of my bank account to the nearest cat charity when he finds out that I’ve just signed the publishing contract for Ghosts, the second book in the Power of Zero series.
But that’s okay. In my book, even Jack the Hacker at his most evil can do no wrong. He’s someone who inspires me, warts and all, and I’m endlessly glad he’s in my life. He’ll never know how much of a difference he’s made to me but then, Jack Horwood is a true zero. And you know what they say:
Zeroes are important. A one is a very lonely thing. Add a zero an’ you’ve got a party. Add a few zeroes an’ you’ve got a crowd. There’s no maths without zeroes, an’ computers wouldn’ work at all. Zeroes change things. That’s how powerful they are.
And with the Job Hunt audiobook on the slate for November, Ghosts due out in February, and House Hunt almost ready to be submitted… I’m very happy to celebrate Jack’s birthday whether Jack likes me to or not.
And as a heartfelt (-shaped?) thank you to everyone who’s helped me get here, there’s a little sneak peek of Ghosts under the image.
Sitting at his desk one morning, diligently minding Nancarrow Mining’s business, Jack Horwood would have sworn that nothing was amiss in his life. Until a text from Gareth flashed up on his screen, that was.
Gareth had taken to conversing with him by text during working hours— usually when he was stuck in meetings that bored him and he couldn’t find an excuse to get out of—and Jack tended to indulge him. They teased, they flirted, they discussed plans for the evening or talked about food, but this time Gareth’s question surprised him.
Are you into all that Valentine’s Day stuff?
Jack’s answer was prompt, short and very much to the point. Valentine’s Day, like Mother’s Day, Christmas or Easter, had been erased from his calendar before he even reached puberty. He’d never seen a reason to reinstate them. He sent a terse Why? as an afterthought and then frowned at the answer that showed up on his screen moments later.
My mother usually throws a party for her girlfriends and she’s not sure the boys can cope alone in a house full of squealing women.
Jack cringed at the very idea. She wants us as backup?
She wants us to babysit.
That, Jack decided, he could handle. Easily. Fine. Dojo and Pizza?
I’d understand if… Sure you don’t mind?
Jack couldn’t imagine what had gotten Gareth’s knickers in a twist. They’d spent plenty of time with Daniel and Nico over the last few months. The boys regularly stayed over at either Gareth’s house or Jack’s and Gareth had never made a big production of it before.
Jack had just settled back to his work when it occurred to him. Maybe Gareth was into all that Valentine’s Day stuff. Had the man looked forward to flowers and chocolates?
Pulled from his task, Jack crossed the open-plan office to the coffee machine. He’d have had to be blind not to notice shop displays all over the city turning pink in the run-up to the holiday. He’d ignored it as he always had in the past. One night stands and casual hookups, which was all he’d ever bothered with before Gareth, didn’t require chocolates, flowers, heart-shaped balloons or cards with silly messages and the only time he’d ever dated was during an undercover stint when he’d been asked to seduce his target’s daughter. If he remembered rightly he’d taken the girl to dinner. And bought her flowers.
Now Gareth’s question ran through his mind on a loop. Had he given the wrong answer? Had Gareth been looking for an out, so he could spend the evening at home with Jack?
Jack didn’t think so. Gareth just wasn’t that soppy. And why should a date on a calendar matter, anyway? Though Gareth’s unusually hesitant reply stuck in Jack’s mind. And kept him wondering.