Ainslie Paton romance author

A Scene from Incapable with Underwear and Fish

It wasn’t a date.  It wasn’t.  It was a professional engagement.  A gig.  It was helping out a work mate.  That’s what this was with Damon, collegial.  Collegial with fish giving.  No, God, that can’t be right.  It was not knowing what the heck to wear to this non date with a new colleague who happened to be a famous voice actor and freaking out the fish with her anxiety.

Fluffy hid under her bridge and Georgia stalked around the tiny flat in her underwear.  Her best underwear.  Not the old M&S stuff, new stuff that matched.  Not that it mattered.  Not that anyone was going to see her underwear.  Not that Damon even could see her underwear if he wanted to—not that he’d want to.  Argh!  It’s just that she was going out so she might as well wear the good stuff.

Oh God.  It was a date.

She had a date with Damon Donovan who sang like a street smart fallen angel; one who chugged bourbon, smoked the finest from Havana and rode in on custom made chrome, wearing denim that wrapped those long legs of his in licks of awesome.

She sat, sharing her unease with distressed leather.  It wasn’t a date.  Not even close to the fairytale.  There was no way after the fractured relationship they’d had that Damon liked her enough to want to see her outside of work, so this was work.  As far as he was concerned she was an industry professional, and because she’d worked in theatres, uniquely qualified to help with an experiment in live performance. 

And God!  He’d said he’d pay her so this most definitely wasn’t a date, no matter what her deluded, male attention starved, soft spot for a singer, brain wanted it to be.  So it didn’t matter a decibel what she wore, something practical, dark and fitted so it didn’t catch on staging would do.

Decision made, but stomach still unsettled, she opted for dark blue denim and a black shirt with black ballet flats.  An outfit she’d wear to Avocado on any weekday.  She pinned her hair up so it wouldn’t get in the way.  Her one concession to going out, apart from the underwear, was a sparkly star shaped hairstick she shoved in her messy bun.  Damon wouldn’t know it was there, but it was a touch of whimsy that made her feel like this was a night out instead of another day at work.

She was ready to the touch of pale lipstick an hour before she needed to be.  She sucked at this.  She was sweating though it wasn’t especially warm.  She took her shirt off and sat in her jeans and bra.  It was amazing how much a person could change.  Not that she’d ever been the life of the party, but before Hamish’s injury, she’d been at all the right parties, knew what clothes to wear, how to flirt up a storm, play for laughs and have a good time.

Hamish’s injury, Jeffrey’s violence, took her confidence and mashed it into something small and weak that flickered instead of flamed.  Hamish did the rest all by himself.  He’d just about snuffed her out, made her tentative and fearful with his extreme moods and neediness, when she’d once been outgoing and socially adept.

The idea of helping Damon was jabbing too many sore spots.  The one in her head said getting involved with anyone, straight after leaving Hamish was a stupendously bad idea. 

The one in her body made of muscle tension told her she was freaked out about doing or saying something that showed how socially retarded she’d become, and the one in her gut simply longed to be clear of all that baggage, to be easy with people, to laugh freely again and to have a new friend in Damon.

She went to the fridge and took out the milk, poured herself a glass and drank it.  Cold and smooth, it did nothing to sooth the sore spot in her heart.  The one that loving Hamish had perpetually bruised, and that being with Damon made tender and throbbing all over again. 

She should’ve said no to this.  Damon would have found someone else.  He wasn’t without resources, but she’d muddle it all up.  Though he’d been perfectly clear this was a professional arrangement she’d spun it from want and loneliness into something else entirely. 

She’d knitted a whole fantasy where he was interested in her, where his flirting meant something and he’d touch her with desire, instead of the plain faced curiosity that lead him to ask Lauren questions about her.

She stared at Fluffy for a while and tried to still her thinking, quiet the futile flutter of feeling that was spiking her temperature, making her wish she could call in sick.  Fifteen minutes before he was due to collect her she put her shirt back on, refreshed her lipstick and locked up.  She’d meet him out the front to save him trying to find her second story flat.

He was early.  He was standing in her stairwell.  “Damon.”

“Thank God.  Taxi driver didn’t have a lot of English.  I was hoping he’d put me in the right place.”  He was dressed casually, a white buttoned shirt with jeans, the sleeves rolled up, the collar open, and a couple of buttons undone.  She was infinitely glad he couldn’t tell she was checking him out top to toe.

“Do I look all right?”

Ah!  How did he do that?  “Why do you ask?”

“Because it’s quite possible there’s something off about how I’ve dressed.  I used to share a house with Angus and Jamie, and Jamie used to rearrange my wardrobe so I’d sometimes end up looking like an op shop reject and no one would tell me.”

Georgia laughed before she thought to stop herself.

“Well might you laugh.”  Which is what Damon was doing too.  “I’ve never quite gotten over it.”

“You look.”  What did you say to a man about how he looked?  What did you say to this man, wonderful, delicious, dream inspiring?

“Oh God.”  His hands came up to his chest, by way of brushing the fly of his jeans, to check it was closed she guessed.  “Is it that bad?”

“No.  No.  I was searching for a word.”

“That is bad.”

“You look fine.”

He grunted and tipped his head up to face at the ceiling.  “You had me imaging all kinds of embarrassment.”  He angled his face towards her.  “Let’s get out of here.”

Hello, what are you thinking?

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