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The wave looked sweet and since not too many grommets were angling for it, and Dan, Mitch and Fluke had taken an earlier ride, this one was Ant’s.  He face-planted his board and spun it towards the shore.  This was going to be choice.  All he had to do was wait for it.  All he had to do was—


Ah—stupid little grommet cut in front of him.  “Fuck!”  He either pulled out or ran the kid over.  Running him over was friggin’ appealing.  Teach him to cut in like that—dangerous.  For a moment he and the kid eyeballed each other across the swell.  He knew that grommet.  Little monkey.  Good surfer.  Good on a skateboard too.  But if he kept pushing it like that all his skinny limbs might not keep working right. 

“Grandpa.”  The kid owned the wave and enough skill to flip Ant off as he stood.

“Fuck.”  Ant pulled up, let the wave tunnel underneath his board.  If it wasn’t enough that bitch Bree Robinson had to take the promotion he’d wanted.  No not wanted, deserved, now a twelve year old kid stole his wave, gave him the finger, and rendered him inarticulate. 

This was not his day, not his week.  He should’ve had his wits about him more.  Been on the lookout for the kid, been on his friggin’ guard for Bree.  He’d known from the moment they were hired together as trainee analysts a year ago that she was the one with gold star stamped on her forehead.  She had the pedigree.  She had the smarts.  And as the year progressed and eight trainees became seven analysts, then six, and he’d watched her in action, he’d known she was his rival for the promotion.

But she was not a better analyst than he was.

So how the fuck had she managed to cut in on his wave?

He sat astride his board outside the break point and rolled his stiff neck.  To make life more annoying, there was the extended family lunch he had to show up at, no excuses this time.  If he didn’t show there’d be all kinds of hell to pay from Mum, not to mention Nonna, who was like an iPod stuck on repeat about it being time to find a good Italian girl to settle down with.

As a joke one of the dickhead cousins had shown Nonna how dating websites worked.  Now she was at him to get a profile and send kisses.  What business does a seventy-five year old have thinking about internet dating?  Christ.

It was almost worth taking Toni Pagano out to keep Nonna happy.  And man would it.  The Gambese and Pagano families were as close as proper blood relations and it was no secret a match between him and Toni would be viewed as better than a papal blessing. 

He hadn’t seen Toni for years now.  She’d been working in London.  Pulling beers or making beds, or something minimum wage.  But she was back and she’d be at lunch.  He could barely remember what she looked like without pigtails.  Still in an argument between Toni and RSVP, maybe he could fudge something to keep everyone off his back.  Take her to a movie or a concert, keep everyone happy by letting them think something was going on.

Another wave washed under him and he watched the boys signal from the shore.  What he really needed was a strategy to elbow Bree bitch Robinson so far out of his way she got eyestrain looking for him.  That’s what he needed to be focused on, not Toni Pagano, not electronic kisses, not making Mum and Nonna happy.  They’d be happy enough when he was pulling in the big bucks and then maybe he’d think about a serious girlfriend.  Till then it’s not like it was a drought, and with the rest of the boys paired up he was in the box seat for all the random action.

Jesus.  Hard to believe he was the last man standing.  That’d snuck up on him too, like the grommet, like Bree.  Him and Dan and Mitch and Fluke had been mates since high-school.  Dan, Mitch and Fluke went back to short pants days.  But last year while Ant had his head down, trying to make sure he came out on top at work, everything changed.  And ironically he’d been the one to kick start it. 

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