Offensive Behavior (Sidelined #1)(5)

By: Ainslie Paton


Beside him Owen sighed. “Do something with your life, Reid. How long has it been since you played a game, went to a movie, rode your bike till your head cleared? How long has it been since you’ve had a date? You need to learn how to just be, and not like this.”

He grunted. A date. He had more money than he knew what to do with. He had continuing income from his Plus shareholding. He could travel for pleasure, he could have a life, and maybe he could work out how to trust himself like Lux did, not to grip too hard or too soft and break things. It was at least a year before he could start a new venture without Kuch suing him under a non-compete clause, so unless he wanted to change industries, in the short term he had nothing better to do than learn how to be a nicer person.

If only he knew how to do that. If there was a program or an app or even a book he could read that would teach him how not to be somehow too much.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll regroup. I’ll take some time to smell the roses.” He tried to sound upbeat. It wasn’t like he was dying, he had a first world problem, the kind most people would never have, but it came out flat and resigned.

“The last rose you smelled was probably in a kid’s picture book. Having a normal life is going to be difficult for you. Don’t spend too much time here trying to avoid the hard stuff.”

“You knew I never touched that woman and you know I’m drunk and lusting after second-rate pole dancers because I’m terrified. I never meant to be a monster and without Plus I don’t know who I am.”

Owen pointed at Lux, now on her knees in front of the pole. In a second she’d invert herself and defy the natural laws of the way a body can move. “There is nothing second-rate about that woman.”

That was for sure. It was probably the only thing Reid was sure of. He smiled into his bourbon.

Owen quirked his head. “Except perhaps the fact she doesn’t know you’re obsessed with her, and when Reid McGrath is obsessed, the future holds its breath.”





FOUR



“Hit me again.” Kathryn made a come at me gesture and Zarley eyed the list looking for a question she’d not already used to test the wannabe chiropractor.

“A fracture in which the radius is bent but not displaced and the skin is intact is known as what?” She knew this one herself without flicking to the back of the test guide for the answers.

“Too easy.” Kathryn eye-rolled and then peeled off her false lashes. “Is that question really on the list? A closed greenstick fracture.”

“You’re ready,” Zarley said. At least it wasn’t fractures that would stop Kathryn passing. “You’re going to ace it.”

Kathryn bent forward to undo the ankle clasp on her seven-inch clear Perspex platform Pleaser Sky sandal, with the red flashing lights in the toes. “I’d better. If I fail again, I have to repeat the subject and I don’t think I can take that much more of being Cinnamon the stripper.”

“You’re an exotic dancer, not a stripper.”

“Do you think the fact we keep our bits covered here is a distinction that matters to anyone?”

“Matters to Gerry,” said Melinda. She pushed her wedding ring back on her finger and shook out her curly hair. “He tolerates Missy because otherwise we’re never going to get out from under hospital bills, which if you ask me is pure evil in the first place, given the whole I’m a nurse thing.”

Melinda yawned. Gerry was the reason Missy performed dressed like she’d walked off the set of Flashdance instead of sexing it up. “God, I’m tired. It’s nights like this I wish I was game enough to steal something fortifying from the dispensary.”

“I wish I could steal a pass mark,” said Kathryn. “I’m not greedy, a lousy pass will do.”

“You girls have no ambition,” said Lizabeth. She’d already ditched her sex kitten Lavinia lingerie for jeans and a 49ers sweatshirt. “I’d steal me a new car and a bank vault full of gold.”

“A fistful of diamonds,” said Melinda. “A holiday house in Key West.”

“A stock portfolio,” said Kathryn. “And a job I loved.”

Lizabeth said, “A man who—”

“Cooked and cleaned,” said Kathryn to laughter while she nudged Zarley. “Go on.”

Zarley played with the zip on her hoodie. Stalling. She’d steal time, the one thing in all those dreams and wishes that was a real world impossibility. She’d go back to that last trip home before the team shipped out and she’d . . . it wasn’t worth thinking about. Being an Olympic team gymnast, a medal hopeful, was a long dead dream, but having a man in her life again was at least a possibility. “I’d go the man who cooked and cleaned so long as he was clever and funny and—”

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