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Authors: Louise Cusack

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The
big expensive hotels would have reception desks open all night, but to be
honest I wanted to get out of Dodge and nurse my wounded pride. So I cruised
into the drive-through at McDonalds and fueled up on coffee and muffins then
headed south. By nine I was pulling into Fritha’s driveway in the hippy town of
Belandera on the northern New South Wales coast, knowing it was a bad idea to
visit a girlfriend while I was living a secret life, but I needed uncomplicated
comfort.

If
I could just keep my trap shut about what had happened and make up a lie, I
might get the
poor baby
sympathy I was after. I certainly wasn’t at
liberty to tell Fritha about Brittany and her bad boobs. I knew my sister would
never speak to me again if I did. So I needed to keep my new job—which I was
shit at—a secret too. When I had Brittany home and it was all over, I’d forget
the whole thing had happened—treat it like an alcoholic blackout. Just smile
and move on.

That
was my plan, anyway.

So
I turned off the ignition and a second later Fritha was out her front door,
batting dream catchers aside and flying down the rickety steps of her
multi-colored weatherboard cottage. She wrenched the driver’s door open and
pulled me out into what would have been a bear hug if she hadn’t been built
like a stick insect.

“Good
to see you too.” I patted a cheesecloth covered shoulder that felt like a
child’s.

“Dirty
rotten bitch.” She hugged me tighter. “Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?
My house is a wreck.”

“Your
house is always a wreck. I gave you an excuse this time.”

“Double
bitch,” she said and pulled back, grinning that gap-toothed grin that made her
look fourteen. “Have you gone back to Doug?”

Fritha,
the eternal romantic.

“No.
I told you its permanent. There will be no wedding. You’ve gotta give it up,
F.”

She
manufactured a frown. “I’ll never be a bridesmaid.”

“Maybe
you’ll be a bride.” I slanted a glance at the house with its cobwebbed windows
and falling down guttering. “Is he home?” Not that I was looking forward to his
company. Alec had always struck me as being lazy, not to mention a drain on
Fritha’s meager finances.

“No,
he’s gone.” She linked arms with me, pulling me with her as she set off. I only
just managed to grab my handbag and shut the car door before I was wrenched
away. “I found him sleeping with Bambi.”

“Pardon?”

Who
or what was Bambi?

She
pulled me up the stairs but I hauled her to a stop on the creaky veranda.

“His
ex,” she said, laying some of my more lurid imaginings to rest. “Caught them
reenacting a Star Wars episode where Leia gets humped by the wookie.”

She
set off again and I followed her into the house, bemused. “Didn’t see that
episode.”

“Anyway,
I caught it on film. If he tries to claim half my house, I’ll put the bastard
and his bitch girlfriend on
YouTube
. It wasn’t pretty.”

I
liked her enterprise, but I couldn’t see how that would work as an injunction.
I stopped her in the kitchen. “Would anyone recognize him with a furry head?”

She
raised an eyebrow. “He wasn’t the wookie.”

“Oh!”
That created a whole different mind-picture—one I wanted to scrub out of my
brain.

“Coffee
or whisky?” She pushed me onto one of her mismatched kitchen chairs.

It
was 9 am.

“Whisky,”
I said, and “So where did they do it?” Fritha’s cleaning skills weren’t
spectacular. I didn’t want to sit on something that had been the site of an
illicit cosplay coupling.

“I
burned the lounge.” She nodded toward the next room while she was pulling down
cracked teacups.

I
leant out of my chair sideways to scope out her lounge room and my mouth fell
open. The timber floor was completely burned out in one section, and the
corresponding wall and ceiling blackened.

Fuck.

“You
were angry.”

“He
left with the clothes on his back and his slut in tow.”

I
whistled. “Hope she was worth it.”

“Short-ass
wookie.” Fritha sniffed.

“Shiny
hair. Big brown eyes. Younger than you?”

She
looked up from pouring whisky into the teacups and said, “Men. They always go
younger.”

I
nodded sagely, and when she was seated across from me, I raised my teacup. “To
sluts, absent and present
.

Fritha
shook her head, her long red hair in its careless coils sliding over the table.
“I should have seen it coming.”

“No
baby.” I put my hand over hers. “No one sees wookie sex coming. You’re not to
blame for this.”

“I’m
glad he’s gone. He was a ready, reliable fuck, but he cost too much to keep.”
She slumped onto her elbows, and I suddenly noticed how tired she looked. “Now
all I can think about is him trying to get half my stuff.” She waved a hand
around her house. “The Turk cost me an arm and a leg to get rid of. If I have
to take out another mortgage...”

My
problems seemed suddenly inconsequential.

She
shook her head and took another slug of the whisky. “Let’s stop talking about
this. It’s too ugly. Tell me what’s happening with you?”

I
had a moment of
what could be worse than your partner dressed as Princess
Leia being boned by a wookie
Maybe I was melodramatizing the whole ‘keep it
a secret’ thing. So long as I didn’t reveal Brittany’s secret, it was okay, and
Fritha wouldn’t judge me. She’d been queen of the one night stand before she’d
started settling down with losers.

Anyway,
you can’t hide things from girlfriends forever. They find out eventually, and
then you’re in deep shit for lying. So I sighed and said, “Well, I slept with a
married man and his wife came back so he threw me out.” I glanced at my watch.
“About five hours ago.”

Fritha
smiled widely. “Fifty Hail Mary’s for you, my girl!”

“Sinner,”
I agreed, then sketched out my husband sitting scheme, pretending I was saving
for a house while having adventures.

She
looked totally impressed with my business acumen, because that
would
be
a surprise, considering my track record with money. “So has this Finn rung
you?” she asked at the end of my elaborate tale.

“No.
I dunno. I think it’s on silent.”

She
held out her hand. “Gimme.”

I
ratted in my handbag and found my phone. She leant across and snatched it from
me. “Fifteen missed calls and four texts.”

“Wow.”
A treacherous part of me wanted to think he really liked me, but he was
probably just feeling guilty, making sure I was okay. Perhaps ever remembering,
belatedly, that I’d been there in a professional capacity and he’d treated me
shabbily.

Frith
was already dialing my message bank and putting it on speakerphone.


Myshka?
This is your employer, Katinka. Firstly, thank you for keeping my Finnie amused
for five days. But I pay you for thirty, so you need to refund me other
twenty-five
.”

My
mouth fell open and Frith and I looked at each other wordlessly as my Russian
‘employer’ prattled on.


I
round it down. You owe me thirty-three thousand dollar. You keep seven
thousand. Not bad for five days of lying by pool and drinking wine. Refund
pronto and we have no problem, eh
?”

I
shook my head. “No fucking way.” I’d already spent that money. The thought that
I might have to pay it back sent my stomach into a spiral.

“Petrol.
Expenses,” Frith agreed. “Sounds like she doesn’t know you fucked him.”

The
second message came on then. It was Finn.


I
just overheard Kat. Ignore that. I’ll put the money in her account. She won’t
know it’s me. I’m—”

The
call cut out. He’d been going to say something, and a stupid
unprofessional
part of me ached to know what it was.

There
were a lot of hang-up messages after that. Then the next two recorded messages
were only an hour old.

Finn.

I know you’re angry at me, Jill. Probably angry at Kat too. Just don’t be
angry with yourself. You did everything that was asked of you. More. You were
fabulous. I’m just...Okay. Goodbye
.”

Fritha
looked up from the phone. “He likes you.”

I
shook my head. “He liked fucking me. Men like novelty. I was the new shiny
thing. He’ll have forgotten me by next week.”

I
hoped Katinka wouldn’t forget. I hoped she’d appreciate him more now that she’d
had the chance to get jealous. He certainly deserved a better wife than she’d
been to him. “It was probably for the best that things ended between us
quickly.” But even as I said that, I felt an ache high up inside my rib cage as
I wished vainly that it could have gone on. My stupid crush was back.

Another
message started. Finn again. “
I won’t bother you anymore. I just want to let
you know that I’m here. Not for sex. I’ve never...I’m not good with infidelity.
But as a friend. If you need one. If you’re ever stuck. I know I’m probably the
last person on earth you’d call. But just remember. The offer is there. I won’t
let you down
.”

I
could feel myself softening, just listening to the slightly-rough tone of his
voice, the obvious regret. But I pushed past that to say, “I’m not sure his
wife would approve
.

It
was the end of the messages so Fritha disconnected the call and glanced up at
me again. “I can tell you really like him. I’m not an idiot.”

This
is why you go to a girlfriend. They know you.

I
shrugged, embarrassed. “Okay. You’re right. It felt good, and I didn’t want it
to end.”

She
smiled a sad smile. “Some novelty there for you too?”

I
dredged up an answering smile. “After ten years with Mr. Twelve Minutes?
Absolutely.”

She
patted my hand. “You’ll get this restlessness out of your system and be looking
for Mr. Reliable again one day. Don’t discount Doug. He’s a good guy.”

I
wanted to sigh at her relentless matchmaking. “I’m never going back to Doug.”

“Well,
someone nice.”

Finn
had been nice. More than nice in fact. When I remembered his patience with my
drunken bumbling and how thoughtful he’d been, from cooking dinners to sourcing
movies I’d like, I knew I was going to miss him, a lot. Maybe forever. But I
had to put that out of my head.

Luckily
Fritha cut into my depressing train of thought. She was looking down at my
phone in her hands, shaking her head. “Wow.”

“What?”
I reached for it, but she held it away.

“Text
message. He says, and I quote,
My only regret is that I never got to go down
on you
.”

Something
even more treacherous melted inside me but I shook my head, wanting to block
that out, to push Finn from my mind. Unfortunately my body was waking up,
remembering his hands on my breasts, my clit, while he’d pounded into me from
behind. Remembering that once-in-a-lifetime orgasm. Wondering if his mouth
would have made me scream.

Fritha
looked up. “That’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard.”

“That’s
not romance. It’s smut.” But I
was
impressed. And turned on. “He’s a
married man, remember?”

Frith
grinned. “You want him to lust after you. That makes you
the one that got
away.
No wonder he wants you to keep in touch.”

“I’m
not fucking him again,” I said categorically.

“Because
he’d spoil you for anyone else?”

“He
already has.” I tossed down the last of my whisky and held out my teacup for a
refill, fighting that damned ache that was back in my chest.

Frith
obliged, then went back to pressing buttons on my phone. “You probably don’t
want to see the rest of his messages.”

 “Absolutely
not.” The last thing I wanted was to be mooning over him, re-reading his words
and imagining some pathetic romance with a man who was cheating on his wife.
Ew
.

“Good
idea,” she said and pressed buttons for a couple of seconds before she looked
up. “I left the one about going down on you. That’s a nice memory.”

“So
the others weren’t nice?”

Damn.
I should have just taken the phone off her. I could have deleted them after I’d
read them. I reached out and she handed it over. Yep, only one message left
from Finn. Well, they were gone now, and that was probably for the best, so I
said, “I’m not sure I should even keep this one.”

”Consider
it a testimonial. You are a businesswoman after all.”

That
made me smirk as I dropped the phone into my handbag.

“And
don’t delete his number,” Fritha added. “You never know when you’ll need some
muscle, especially in your line of work.”

BOOK: Husband Sit (Husband #1)
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