Fresh Meat

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Ant was late getting in Tuesday morning, so it was disconcerting Bree wasn’t at her desk doing active avoidance duty.  He did a subtle cruise of the office.  She wasn’t in the kitchen, the copier room or any of the meeting rooms.  He couldn’t hover outside the ladies but he felt like he should.  Just to see if she was all right.

By 10am, she still hadn’t shown up and her pc was dark.  He hit the staff directory and sat looking at her mobile number on the screen.  Like she’d answer if he used it.  Like she’d not think he was doing some weird stalkerish thing.  Which is precisely what he felt like doing, and he couldn’t summon any disgust for the feeling.

By lunchtime, he found an excuse to wander around to Bree’s workstation and catch Chris’ eye at the same time as making a surprise face at Bree’s turned off pc.  Chris totally bought it. 

“She’s in Melbourne.  Lucky girl.  BHP briefings.  Not back till Monday.  She gets to shop all weekend.”

Monday.  Shit.  There was no bout this weekend to bring her home early and Monday was to the moon and back.  How was he supposed to hold out that long?

“What’s wrong, Ant?”

He shook his head.  “Nothing.”  Lots.  Like not being able to apologise and try to make things right for a whole week.  Like not being able to see her face and make her crabby with him again.  Like living in hope he might one day get to kiss her, have her in his arms, and know that she did like him—even a little bit.

“Geez, you can’t possibly be jealous she got to go?”

“I’m not.”

“I suppose that’s right, if you meant what you said at dinner Friday?”

He pulled out Bree’s chair and sat.  “I meant it.  I’d never thought about it before, but I get it.  It’s about time the ruling class shared their toys.  Not that you chicks are getting any free rides on the slippery dip.”

Chris bristled.  “Not that we’re asking for any.”

He grinned at her.  He wondered if she knew about Kitty Caruso.  He was itching to talk about how amazing Bree was.  When he’d realised it at the bout he’d been speechless.  The gang twigged to what was going on, but they only knew half the story, thinking he was reacting to the surprise his polite, shy colleague was a roller doll who pushed people over on the weekends.

“For an Italian mamma’s boy you’re all right, Ant.”

He laughed.  “For a ball buster, you’re all right.”

Chris grinned back.  “Don’t let her spiny anteater act put you off.”

He feigned confusion.  Chris smacked his arm.  “You know what I mean.  I think you’d be cute together.” 

“Cute, like kittens,” he grimaced.

She giggled.  “Yeah, cute like kitties.” 

He sat forward.  “Kitties?”  Chris knew, he’d bet an arm on it.

She wiggled her head.  “Don’t you tell.  She’s paranoid about it getting out.”

“How did you figure out I knew?”

She laughed.  “You just told me.”

He smacked his forehead.  “Shit!”  This being flipped out about a woman was making him soft in the head.

That night, late, after a run on the beach with Dan and Mitch, he rang Toni.  “Do you know where Bree will be this weekend?”

“Stalker.”

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