Curve Ball
Chapter One
    The trouble with this holiday is the heat. I just didn’t think of the heat. It’s unrelenting and raw, turning everything a blinding white while it roasts me to an embarrassing shade of red. I step out in it for two seconds and my shoulders lose a layer of skin. I can’t lie out on the slippery surface of my brother’s yacht, because the heat tries to eat me. But I can’t go below deck either, because down there it’s a suffocating, stifling cave.
    Even at night, I have the urge to lie on top of the covers, stark naked. Only I can’t, I can’t, because of the other trouble with this terrible holiday: Steven bloody Stark, and the fact that his door is three feet from my bed. He could open it at any time and find me like a great unclothed wedge of flesh, sprawled out on top of my duvet. He wouldn’t even have to go through another door to stumble across me, seeing as how my room doesn’t have one.
    I don’t actually have a room, at all. I just have this open space between the kitchenette and my brother’s boudoir, and when I’m done sleeping my bed turns into a table. My wardrobe is more typically known as a suitcase, and every night I doze off to the scent of whatever we cooked three hours prior, for dinner.
    I really don’t need to be told that this was the worst idea in the history of the world.
    Though, in my defence, it sounded nice when my brother and his wife invited me. They didn’t even turn it into one of Jason’s patronising “so you won’t be alone” sorts of sermons. He’d made it sound, instead, like something that would take my mind off things – help me get over yet another failed relationship.
    And in all fairness, it has achieved this. I’m no longer thinking about Frank, at all. I can barely remember his face, in fact – though I’ll admit that probably has more to do with the Mediterranean heat and its ability to melt my brain, than anything else.
    Not to mention the effect of Steven Stark, and his ability to be absolutely everywhere, all at once. I turn around and he’s right there, like the Incredible Hulk. Only bigger. Oh God, he’s so big that his presence everywhere is practically a law of physics. He has to be in ten places at once, just to cram in his massive pecs.
    Because honestly, I’ve never seen pecs like his in all my days. I almost asked my brother about it, once – after we’d had that pool party and Steven had turned up wearing a T-shirt so tight it almost qualified as a secondary layer of skin. But of course, I’d chickened out at the last minute. What sort of person asks their brother about his best friend’s manboobs? Not a normal person, that’s for sure.
    And besides … What did I really think he was going to say? “Ah well, he developed those rock hard bosoms with a strict regimen of daily squeezings?” That’s just me, hoping for something daft, in my head. When really it’s something awesome and sweaty and sexy, like 17,000 push-ups using just one hand.
    He probably does them half-naked. He probably does them half-naked, while covered in baby oil. And then when he’s done, he goes out to a nightclub and laughs at girls like me, for being so fat and awful and useless – because that’s the other problem with being in close proximity to Steven Stark. It’s not just his size, or his fast-talking-always-moving mouth. It’s not just his face, which tends to haunt my dreams a bit.
    It’s his ability to make me feel like nothing. Like less than nothing.
    And he just does it so effortlessly too. I’m there, busy minding my own business, book in hand. I’m not even paying attention to the conversation going on next to me, in all honesty. I’m still mad at my brother for springing a surprise Steven on me, for reasons I really don’t want him to go into.
    So I’m doing my best to keep to myself. I’ve reduced my presence down to almost nothing, in fact. You’d barely know I was there, if it were not for the half-eaten slice of

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