First Page: Unpublished manuscript / Contemporary
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“SO it’s just gossip? You aren’t in love with the Yank?”
Craig Davenport didn’t so much as blink. Him? Love? Just thinking the bloody word gave him the heebie-jeebies. “You know me better than that, pal.” He ignored the scowl that tugged at his friend’s brows. Jett Bracken – like his identical twin, Josh – knew he had neither the time nor the inclination for emotional involvement – or all the crap that went hand in glove with it. Jesus! Thanks to his genetic makeup he wasn’t even capable of it. Not that he’d ever told the twins about the genes. He’d confided all the sordid details of his existence on the planet to just one person.
Reminded of the reason why he met up with Jett at the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia every Saturday, he tried to ignore the self-contempt souring his stomach. After three years he should be used to it. He’d always been brutally honest with Jenni, so the fact that what he was doing was kindest for her, annnnd kept the twins happy into the bargain, didn’t sit well with him. It was still deception. “Just make the bloody call, Jett. Before Shae comes back, for Christ sake.” When Jett chuckled with obvious relish, Craig wanted to plant his fist in his best friend’s face.
“Any other girl would have twigged by now.” Grinning, Jett pulled up his kid sister’s number and put the phone on speaker. As he set the iPhone on the bar, both men hunched over it.
“Jett! Love ya dearly, fella – but I’m in a hurry so…”
Jett was happy to skip the chit-chat. “Okay, kiddo. You going to any of the Milongas this w-”
“You’ve asked that question every Saturday for three years and you’ve never made it to any of the blasted Milongas, Jett – so why do you bother?”
Even Craig winced.
Jett cleared his throat. “C’mon, Jen… Life gets in the way. But I do try…” He grimaced, uncomfortably aware of why he made these calls. And that reason was standing right beside him.
The background buzz of the wall mounted widescreen TV; the clink and clatter of bottles and glassware; the drone of numerous conversations… Amid all the racket the silence from the iPhone seemed loud. The two men exchanged a brief glance.
“Jenni?” Jett prompted.
“Tuesday and Thursday. Same as every other week for the last three years. Now I’m going. Lunch date” she muttered.
And cut the connection.
The two men exchanged a startled glance. Without speaking a word, they turned away from the bar and strolled outside to The Deck – the waterside dining area on the lower level of the clubhouse. Built on the banks of Rushcutters Bay in Sydney Harbour, the location was idyllic.
“Better just assume she’s attending the Tuesday and Thursday Milongas for a while” Jett advised as they took their seats at an empty table.
Craig nodded. Jenni hadn’t sounded happy at the end of the call. She’d sounded – well… gutted. Not a trace of light, bright and sunny. Guilt. Remorse. Regret. Each and every one of them savaged him. “So who’s she seeing these days? Anyone we know?” He felt Jett’s gaze sharpen with rapier swiftness.
“And why would you be asking?”
Craig pretended not to hear the edge of menace. “Don’t want to see the kid end up with the wrong sort.” He hoped he’d sounded a damn sight more fraternal than he felt. Truth was, Jenni had been his Worst Nightmare and Favorite Fantasy for years.
“Brendan McFarlane. Well, that was last weekend – but you know Jenni. She could have moved on to another victim by now.”
“Let’s hope she has.” Craig caught Jett’s quizzical glance. “I heard that McFarlane senior’s under investigation for embezzlement – and given that his son has never done a day’s work in his life; and is said to have one hell of a nasty temper when thwarted, she’d be safer dating the Devil.”
“Just so long as you’re not putting your hand up for the job.” Jett glanced over his shoulder, but his wife wasn’t within earshot. “Remember, pal. She’s off limits to you.”
Craig raised both brows. “May I remind you that I haven’t been near her in years.”
“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll keep it that way.” Jett saw Shae emerge from the clubhouse. “Mind you, it does amaze me how you always manage to know the dirt on every guy she sees. It’s like you think no-one’s good enough. Now drop it. Shae’s about to rejoin us.”