Paul Cranford regrets asking Louise and Darcy Middleton to let the kids from his class have a look at the fifteenth century letter they’re selling at auction. If it hadn’t been for him, it would never have been in the theatre overnight to even get stolen in the first place.
Darcy isn’t keen on Paul Cranford. He’s never quite got over the way Paul knocked him back when Darcy tried to ask him out. But when the letter is stolen from the theatre and Darcy is hurt in the process, Paul steps up to help him and he starts to understand him better.
Getting back the letter means they get to know each other better. Will that date Paul turned down happen after all?
A date turned down. A stolen letter. A reminder that nerds don’t just play board games. Reading It Wrong is a gentle M/M romance set in the small-town world of Theatr Fach.
Darcy had been pondering all evening ... would it be creepy to ask the guy out again, even though he’d turned him down once already?
He’d concluded that maybe it would be, but hadn’t yet decided whether he was that slightly creepy guy or not. Probably not. But ... he was going to sleep on it.
It had been a long day and he was tired. The swish-swish rhythm of the mop, swirl in the bucket, twist out the excess water, swish-swish, swish-swish, repeat was hypnotically soothing in a weird kind of way, set against the murmuring chat in the background from the one remaining table.
He was nearly asleep on his feet when the alarm went off. It shocked him into dropping the mop over the bucket with a clatter and swinging round in confusion.
“What the fuck is that?” Dave, one of the boardgames guys was asking as he got to his feet. “Fire alarm?”
“No,” said Darcy, turning back to face them. “It’s the burglar alarm.” He didn’t know the second and third guys at the table. “Stay put, I need to ...” he didn’t get to finish his sentence, because all the lights went out.
“Shit,” he said. The other guys were expressing similar sentiments. He fumbled in his pocket and got his phone out, using the torch to illuminate the area with a weak light. It was better than nothing.
“I need to see if anyone else is still here,” he told his companions. “I don’t think there is.” His eye flickered over the group. “Where’s Paul?” he asked.
“Went to the Gents. I saw Lacey go out about five minutes ago,” Dave said helpfully.
“Shit,” Darcy said. “I’ll call her mobile.”
She was probably already driving ... she didn’t pick up. He left a message and then sent a text as well. The alarm was shrill and shrieking in his ears, making thought difficult.
“Can you turn it off?” one of the guys whose name he didn’t know asked.
Darcy shook his head. “No, we’ll have to wait til the coppers get here. The alarm company will have called them. And hopefully get in touch with Lacey, and Luke as well.” Luke was the Production Manager, Lacey’s second in command. Darcy tried his number too, but it went straight to voicemail. He was probably in The Dragon with the theatre company, there was rubbish signal in there.
He picked up the mop and bucket and moved them out of the way in the inadequate light of the phone. “I should go and check the doors,” he said. “It’s weird the lights have gone off.”
“You should probably stay here if it’s a genuine break-in,” Dave said. “Rather than hunting for burglars.”
“Point,” Darcy said. “But ... oh shit! What if they’re after the letter?”
“The letter?” Dave hadn’t been here this afternoon.
“The medieval letter ... it’s being auctioned tomorrow. It’s still in the Small Hall.”
They had discussed putting it back in the bank, but had decided against it eventually. The case, the room, the wing of the theatre and the theatre itself could all be locked. And there was the alarm.
Which was still shrieking.
“Dave, could you go and see if you can pull Luke out of The Dragon?” Darcy asked. “He has the alarm codes. I’ll wait for the police.”
“Sure,” Dave said. “He’s the tall, dark-haired guy, isn’t he? The one in charge?”
Darcy nodded. “He’s usually got a leather jacket, and maybe a twink with him.”
Dave snorted. “Yeah, I know Alex.” He turned to the other two. Are you guys all right staying here with Darcy until the coppers turn up?”
They both nodded. “Sure,” the shorter one said. “No problem.”
“Do you think there’s really something wrong?” the taller one said as Dave made his exit, guided by his own phone torch.
“Yeah, I do,” said Darcy. “If it was a fault, the lights wouldn’t have gone off like that, surely? Or if it was a general fault, they’d have gone off at the same time as the alarm triggered.”
The taller one nodded. “Good point,” he said. “So, what are they stealing?” He waved an arm in the dim light.
“I don’t know,” Darcy said grimly. “But I’ve got an idea it might be ...” He turned towards the entrance to the wing containing the Small Hall, which let off the far side of the cafe.
At that point the taller man grabbed him.
“What?” he had time to say, before the shorter one joined in and they had him face-down over the table, arguing over the top of him.