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Part One: Chapter One.

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*Note: Banter started life as a single short story in my first collection, TRAILS. I liked one particular character so much that I gave her her own story at the end of that same collection called 'WOODLAND PARK.' I spent the next three years writing other stories, and two novels, but could never quite get this character out of my head. I couldn't leave her hanging, so I decided to give her her own novel. I did this by combining the first two stories, then capping them off with a break-neck third act that would be worthy of a woman of her calibre.  

Whether your passion is serial murder or competitive baking, you would do well to remember the following: there will always be someone who does it better than you.

She was sitting with friends at the bar when he walked in. She was nursing a beer and nodding politely as they prattled on about matters that clearly didn't interest her. She had more going on than the hive mind of her so-called peers could even begin to digest, but she didn't need to indulge in vulgar displays of intelligence; her eyes shone with perception. It made her a thousand times more desirable than the vacuous dolls that surrounded her, and what he wanted more than anything at that moment was to take her by the hand and lead her to his bed, but that would be pointless. Seducing women had never been a problem for him. He had learned in his teens that if he dripped just the right amount of sap at just the right time, most women would drink it eagerly. But not this woman. Stroking an already healthy ego was like masturbating beyond the point of climax – painfully futile. He ordered a drink and sat down next to her, accidentally kicking her leg as he did so. Brushing against it wouldn't have garnered the necessary reaction, or made her drop her drink.

'Sorry.'

He called a bartender over and tried to order her one of the boutique brews eighty per cent of the crowd were drinking, knowing that the one he was replacing was at least eight dollars cheaper. She tapped his hand and took over.

'I'll just have a Corona, thanks.'

'Seriously?'

'Imported lighter fluid's still lighter fluid.'

He smiled. 'If you don't like beer, why do you drink it?'

'I like the gradual buzz it gives you because of the low alcohol concentration. Spirits hit you all at once and leave your body just as quickly, so you have to buy more. Twice the price for half the joy.'

He smiled.

'Is this where you tell me you understood the analogy I just made and say something like: I've always been a beer man, myself?'

'Will you throw a drink in my face if I answer that honestly?'

'I think I'll save that for when I catch you sneaking out of my flat at two in the morning.'

He grinned. 'Which part of England are you from?'

'Chelsea.'

'Great football team.'

She raised her beer in mock toast. 'You said football instead of soccer; well done. English ex-girlfriend?'

He shook his head.

'BBC subscription?'

Another no.

'Saw Bend It Like Beckham fifty times?'

He laughed.

'Figures. Keira Knightly's done almost as much for the game worldwide as Beckham. Do you play?'

'I'm more of an armchair footballer.'

She took another swig of beer. 'I wasn't asking about football.'

He grinned.

'So it isn't all observation, then.'

He cocked an eyebrow, took a long, deliberate swig of beer.

'Good.'

'What brought you to the States?'

'Oh dear.'

'What?'

'We were engaging in some lovely banter just then and you went and spoiled it by trying to interview me.'

'I'm curious; would we be having this conversation if I hadn't made you spill your drink?'

'You mean, would you be just as likely to end up fucking me had you dispensed with the trickery, adhered to age old bar room tradition and chatted me up instead of wasting a perfectly adequate beer?'

'Yes.'

She took a swig. 'Yes.'

The cab ride back to her flat was silent, but far from awkward. As far as conquests went, she would have been too much for most men to take on. The epitome of feminine sophistication, she could say the most jaw-dropping things without a hint of vulgarity. She was sharp, assured, and completely unfettered by traditional notions of what was expected of her.

It made what he intended to do to her all the more exciting.

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