Read Less Than Perfect Online

Authors: Ber Carroll

Less Than Perfect

BOOK: Less Than Perfect
12.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Ber Carroll was born in Blarney, County Cork, and moved to Australia in 1995. Her first novel,
Executive Affair
, was inspired by her initial impressions of Sydney, and her exciting, dynamic work environment at the time. Ber now lives in Sydney's northern beaches with her husband and two children, whose constant interruptions and cries of ‘Mum …
!' are no help at all to the writing process. Still, though, she loves them very much and has dedicated this novel, her fifth, to them both.

Ber's novels have been published in five countries, including Ireland. If you would like to know more about Ber and her novels, you can visit her website at

Other titles by Ber Carroll

Executive Affair
High Potential
Just Business
The Better Woman



First published 2011 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney

Copyright © Ber Carroll 2011

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication data:

Carroll, Ber, 1971–

Less Than Perfect / Ber Carroll.

9781405039796 (pbk.)


The characters and events in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Typeset in 12.5/15.5 pt Granjon by Post Pre-press Group, Brisbane, Queensland
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

These electronic editions published in 2011 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.

Less Than Perfect

Ber Carroll

Adobe eReader format


EPub format


Online format


Macmillan Digital Australia

to read more about all our books and to buy both print and ebooks online. You will also find features, author interviews and news of any author events.

For Conor and Ashling

Part One
Chapter 1

The day I met Josh McKinstry is etched in my mind, its light, texture and sound, each and every fragment and feeling. At any random moment I can close my eyes and instantaneously, magically I'm transported back: 26 July 1997, my eighteenth birthday. My ears fill with the swell of music and voices in the sectioned-off corner of Maggie Maloney's where I had my party. The summery atmosphere washes over me, an atmosphere that is both consistent and convincing even though it's the end of a grey, overcast day in a string of such days that masquerades as the Irish summer.

Josh was not an invited guest at the party – well, at least not invited by me. He came with Liam, my brother, and some other friends. Their arrival was loud and disruptive, their voices amplified by the pints they'd had in the pub across the road. One of them made a beeline to the bar to get a round of drinks
and the others hung their thumbs from their jeans pockets and exuded an air of superiority, making it clear that they'd come for Liam's sake, not mine. They were drunk, but not excessively so, the usual fare for twenty-one-year-old males on a Saturday night out. Nevertheless, my father stared daggers in their direction and his blatant disapproval added an underlying chill to the summery feeling. Liam returned Dad's stare with defiance and a touch of hatred.

My father was, and still is, a professor. He lectures students in ethics – you know, what's right, what's wrong. He's not a tweed-jacket, cigar-smoking kind of professor. He wears jeans and polo shirts. He's suave, youthful and, I suppose, attractive in a serious, straitlaced kind of way. Back then most of his female students were half in love with him. But they didn't know what he was really like. They didn't have to live with him, like Liam and I did, and Maeve, our younger sister.

The tension between Liam and Dad was so conspicuous that it had the potential to sour the whole night. Though they were standing a good distance apart, I felt I had no choice but to intervene, so I sailed across the room to arrive at Liam's shoulder. (I was the short one of the family.)

‘You graced us with your presence.' I grinned.


‘I'm eternally grateful.'

Liam wrenched his gaze away from Dad. His pale blue eyes were the same shade as mine, and we both had red-gold hair. This colouring came from our mother, Paula.

‘You're lookin' well, Caitlin.'

I was pleased. As with most brothers, Liam's compliments
were rare, insults more the norm. I wore a strappy top and capri pants, both in black. My skin was lightly tanned from a brand of fake tan that I'd discovered after much trial and error. My hair, vibrant next to my black clothes, fell thickly past my shoulders. I knew that I looked good, but it was nice to hear it confirmed. I had spent the whole day getting ready for this, my passage into adulthood. I was primed, not just physically but psychologically too. I was now the legal age to vote, to buy cigarettes and alcohol, to apply for a passport or a mortgage or both. I could marry without my parents' consent, and though I had no intention of doing so – I didn't even have a boyfriend – the sheer thought of it was enough to make me giggle. I'd been waiting for this freedom for what had seemed like my whole life.

Liam was temporarily distracted by the return of the friend who had gone to the bar. Lifting his pint of Guinness from the tray, he took a long drink, effortlessly emptying a third of the glass, fortifying himself for this obligatory family event. I sipped my own drink and glanced at Liam's friends. Some of the faces were familiar, some not. Every now and then I encountered Liam with a group of his friends in town, but he never brought them back to the house. He must have felt that he spent enough time at home, that meeting his friends was one of the few valid reasons he had to get out. I also suspect that he got a kick out of there being a part of his life we knew little about, maintaining an air of mystery about where he went and who with. In his own way, he too strove for freedom, and at twenty-one all the legal boxes had been ticked. He was missing just one thing, one core ingredient in what would surely have been a perfect recipe for independence: a job. Liam was unemployed.

Liam's friends were a motley group: different heights, physiques and looks, age the only thing they had in common. Now that they each had a prop, a drink, they'd taken their hands out of their pockets and there was a bit of friendly pushing going on as they took the mick out of each other. But one of them was quieter than the others, more reserved, and maybe for this reason my eyes were drawn to him. He was tall and there was something rather elegant about the way he held his head. His hair was dark and his eyes seemed like they would be too, though I couldn't see their exact colour from where I stood. He caught me looking at him and smiled at me, making my cheeks burn. Disconcerted, I looked away and sipped some of my drink.

‘Maeve's sneaking back the hard stuff, I see,' Liam commented wryly, his eyes finding our sister.

Maeve was in a far corner, screened from my parents by her friends and swigging from a bottle of cider. At sixteen she was two years younger than me and impatient to be at my stage – on the cusp of leaving home and starting university.

I rolled my eyes. ‘Dad better not see her!'

My father had rules for everything: no going into town alone until fifteen, no boyfriends or girlfriends until seventeen, no alcohol until eighteen or preferably never. Such rigidity had been frustrating for Liam and me, and we were both sympathetic to Maeve's predicament.

Furtively, I redirected my gaze from my sister to Liam's friend. By now he stood a little apart, evidently not participating in any of the conversations around him. He wore a grey T-shirt and dark-blue jeans that sat nicely on his narrow hips. His body was slim but there was strength across his shoulders and in the curve
of his upper arms. How did Liam know him? From school? From the tech?

‘Liam …' I began, my mouth suddenly dry. I'd never had this sort of conversation with my brother before now. He was far too private about his friends for me to even get the chance. ‘Liam, who is –' I stopped mid-sentence as I noticed the subject of my query coming towards us.

Liam looked at me quizzically. ‘What?'

‘Never mind,' I said hastily.

In a matter of moments he was next to me, so close that one arm, both slender and muscular, was almost touching mine, his dark eyes looking expectantly at Liam as he waited to be introduced.

Liam was slow to take the hint. I urged him on with a stare of my own. ‘Caitlin, this is Josh McKinstry,' he said eventually.

In those first few moments I was struck by two things. The first was that Josh was Protestant. I could tell this from his name alone. I noted his religion like a reflex but I wasn't put off by it: Clonmegan was one of the few towns in Northern Ireland where Catholics and Protestants got on well together.

The second thing I registered was the intense manner in which his eyes focused on my face. I sensed his concentration, his anticipation of whatever words would come out of my mouth. His intentness was so extreme that I became tongue-tied and didn't say anything at all. He filled the awkward moment with a smile, a beautiful, unfaltering smile, which made the hesitation in his speech all the more evident.

‘Hello, Caitlin.'

His voice was so indistinct that I hardly understood what he'd
said. I immediately thought he must be drunk,
drunk, the kind of drunk when one can't even manage to speak coherently, and I felt totally deflated.

‘Hi, Josh,' I returned in an unimpressed tone.

I became aware that Liam was looking at me, his eyes strangely watchful. I knew that look. Liam would use it as he waited for me to get the punchline to one of his jokes, or to realise that he had the winning hand of cards. Now he was waiting for me to realise something about Josh McKinstry.

‘Josh is deaf,' he supplied when it became evident I wasn't going to work it out of my own accord.

I didn't know what to say in response. None of us knew what to say. I gulped the last of my drink and noticed Liam doing the same with his. As the silence stretched out, I found myself wondering what it would be like to be enclosed in such never-ending quiet, what it would be like to have nothing at all to listen to, nothing but your own thoughts.

‘How do you know each other?' I eventually asked Liam in a polite voice that was nothing like the cocky tones I would ordinarily use with him. Too late, I berated myself for not speaking more slowly, for not turning my head so Josh could have a clear view of my lips.

‘From football.'

That made sense. The soccer team had every religious denomination: Catholic, Protestant, Methodist, Presbyterian, all united as they chased after a leather ball and endeavoured to embed it in the other team's net. Liam was sports mad. He played Gaelic football and hurling as well as soccer and rugby – anything with a ball, anything to fill the long days.

BOOK: Less Than Perfect
12.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

The Second Wave by Leska Beikircher
In The Face Of Death by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Errantry: Strange Stories by Elizabeth Hand
Latimer's Law by Mel Sterling
Invincible by Dawn Metcalf
Of Wolves and Men by G. A. Hauser