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Hands On

Written by Clare Connelly

Chapter Thirteen

I DON’T EVEN KNOW why this is bad. I know only that it is.


I reach for the decanter of scotch and pour it halfway up the tumbler, then throw it back, wincing as my throat burns with the now familiar sting of strong, top-quality alcohol.

I close my eyes and see only Gemma’s face.

And the accusation in her eyes.

The…what? What was it that ghosted across her features before she pulled that infuriating mask of cold unconcern back into place?

I look around my room—it is a mess. A sign of the way I’ve spent the night.

I’d been drunk earlier, when Gemma had come; I have no idea what I am now.

My eyes are bleary as they search out the clock. It’s almost midnight.

Surely she’ll be gone by now. My cold-as-ice Gemma.




I throw back the rest of the scotch and drop the glass carelessly onto the carpeted floor at my feet, then move through the house. Halfway to her office, I press my palm to the wall for balance.

I expect to see the papers on her desk. I tell myself that I hope she will be gone. Yet when I see her staring at her computer screen, it is only gladness I feel inside of my chest.

“Oh, Jack,” she murmurs, all professionalism. Her smile is tight. It is only that her eyes shy away from my gaze that gives her away. “The papers are over there.” She waves to the corner of her desk and returns her attention to her screen.

“What are you still doing here?” The words are a little slurred, but I don’t apologise. I cross my arms defensively over my chest, confused by the burst of anger that’s spreading through me.

“Working,” she says with a shrug.

“It’s almost midnight.”

“I’m often here this late.”

Silence falls.

It is heavy with accusation.

“Look,” I say, trying to focus my brain, to steady my thoughts. “About before…”

“It’s fine,” she cuts me off. And that angers me more.

“I know it’s fine,” I say, forgetting that I’d been about to apologise. “You just seemed kind of weird about it.”

She’s very still. Her eyes blink, but otherwise, she doesn’t move.

“I wasn’t weird.”

“Yeah, you were.”

Then she turns slowly. “I just didn’t expect to find you in bed with someone, that’s all.”

“We weren’t in bed,” I point out. Unhelpfully. I’m pretty sure she remembers all the details of that little scene.

“It doesn’t matter.” Her smile now is careless. Dismissive. Impatient.

I’m too drunk to be decoding her. I’m too drunk to be having this conversation.

“Sign the papers,” she says efficiently. “So I can send them off.”

I nod, but don’t move.

“It wasn’t… She didn’t… It’s not what you think.”

“I don’t think anything.” She shrugs. “Except that it’s late and I want to go home. Sign the papers, Jack.”

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Clare Connelly

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