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The Birds and the Bees(7)

By:Milly Johnson



Adam MacLean knew what he looked like with his archetypal boxer's nose,  scarred cheek, powerful build and a voice that could vibrate owls out of  trees. He also knew exactly how Jo would suppose him to behave if she  left him for another man. And, likewise, what old Matty Boy (who was  probably enjoying the last days for quite a while when he could maintain  total control over his bowels) would expect from him. So, as he did the  plastering repair, Adam MacLean had been thinking it all calmly and  methodically through. And now he had a plan.





Chapter 7




Kitted out in her new tracksuit bottoms, trainers, snazzy Adidas top and  a very strong bra that totally flattened her generously proportioned  chest so that she didn't give black eyes to either herself or people on  adjacent treadmills, Stevie presented herself at the gym for her  induction hour with Hilary. She was horrified to find that Hilary was in  fact a bloke. Not just an ordinary bloke either but a young, fit, tall,  love-god bloke with a killer smile and a backside that could crack open  Brazil nuts. Then again, she of all people should have known that a  name didn't always guarantee the sex. Midnight Moon had asked her to use  a pseudonym, as ‘Stevie' suggested she might be male, and Midnight Moon  readers were very specific that only women writers were able to tap  into their feminine needs. Their pen-names needed to conjure up softness  and romance and sweetness, which is why her fellow writers Paul Slack  and Alec Sleaford became Paula Sheer and Alexis Tracey, and why she  herself was published under Beatrice Pollen, her darling late granny's  name. It was from Granny Bea that Stevie inherited her creative talents,  her warm, considerate heart and her big, sky-blue eyes.

As if monitoring her whilst she went on the workout machines to  ascertain what she could, or rather couldn't, manage wasn't embarrassing  enough, Hilary weighed her in the office, took her height, blood  pressure and worked out her body mass index, which basically classified  her as a crate of lard. To be fair, the gorgeous Hilary didn't seem all  that horrified by the way she puffed after doing three sit-ups or turned  aubergine on the StairMaster. At least the weighing scales didn't flash  up ‘one fat bird at a time please'.

She paid a huge cheque over for a year's subscription, because that way  Stevie knew she was fully committing herself to her cause, plus she was  seduced by the offers of a free month and a special ‘mystery' gift pack.  Catherine was sitting in Reception when Hilary officially welcomed  Stevie to the club, alas not with a big tonguey snog, but with a  complimentary water container, a gym bag, an introductory booklet of  money-off vouchers for the sun-bed, various massages and treatments, and  a free seven-day pass for a friend of her choice, who at that moment  was eagerly waiting for it, clad in some pretty impressive pink and grey  gear. Stevie wolf-whistled as she approached her.

‘It's our Kate's,' explained Catherine.

‘Must be nice, to be able to fit into your seventeen-year-old daughter's clothes,' said Stevie.

‘It is, until you see me naked and discover that most of my body is made  up of stretchmarks,' exaggerated Catherine who, considering the major  brood she'd had, had managed to stay remarkably slim, give or take a  little rounded tum that she was always moaning about. ‘By the way,  Steve, the hair is fab.'

‘It looked better when I'd had it done this morning, before I had fourteen litres of sweat dampening it down.'

‘Makes you look a hell of a lot younger. No bull.'

‘Really?'

‘Really.'

Stevie beamed. First stage of ‘getting Matthew back' was mission accomplished, then.

The two gym-bunnies had a go on a few machines. Catherine was  surprisingly fit. Then again, she was forever running up and down stairs  and gardens after the kids, plus she took the dogs out walking and she  went to a yoga class every Thursday evening. She liked yoga and did a  lot of fifteen-minute stretches during the day and evening, which helped  her relax in a way that smashing plates against the wall and tearing  her hair out wouldn't. She knew that for definite because she'd tried  those too. Then they went off for a coffee in the very luxurious café  after a slow walk past the spinning class to check out some very nice  male bottoms.

Stevie's stomach suddenly made a noise like a mortally wounded hound as they waited in the queue.

‘Have you eaten?' said Catherine.

‘Not really,' Stevie said.

‘What's that supposed to mean? You either have or you haven't.'

‘Er … no, then.'

‘You won't lose weight by not eating.'                       
       
           



       

‘Try telling that to people on hunger strike.'

‘You know what I mean,' said Catherine, who was suddenly concerned. She  had been waiting for Stevie to start cracking up. Her friend was far too  composed for it to last. Not eating sounded suspiciously like the start  of it. Again.

‘I'm not deliberately not eating,' said Stevie. ‘I just haven't felt hungry.'

‘Right, well, you're having something now. You go and get those seats over there and I'll be with you in a minute.'

It was no good protesting with Catherine. It was never any good  protesting with Catherine. Eddie had tried that one quite a few times  and had been beaten back into a perpetual state of ‘give in', so Stevie  retired to the small metal table by the window as instructed. She did  feel a bit shaky, all that exercise and hairdo-ing with nothing in her  stomach but cappuccinos and half a slice of unbuttered toast – well, since  Madman MacLean came around smashing up her life anyway.

Catherine brought over big frothy coffees in pseudo-soup bowls, two flat  toasted panini sandwiches, the length of Stevie's leg, filled with ham  and Brie, and two enormous chocolate-covered slabs that smelt  suspiciously of peanut butter.

‘Do they sell this sort of stuff here?' said Stevie open-mouthed. She  had been expecting two lettuce leaves and a spring onion on something  brown and inedible.

‘Course they do, it's not Stalag 17. Some people just come in for lunch,  not to exercise.' Catherine stuck the sandwich in her mouth and pulled  it out quickly. ‘Ow, ow, ow – watch it, that cheese is molten.' Then her  face froze and she gave Stevie a sharp nudge. ‘Braveheart alert at three  o'clock,' she said through one side of her barely moving mouth, like  ventriloquist Roger De Courcey with Nookie Bear.

‘What?'

Stevie twisted around to see the unmistakable figure of him, resplendent  in black tracksuit bottoms and a black T-shirt, with his luxuriant red  hair flowing behind him. He looked like a muscular Duracell battery.

‘Oh bloody hell, he's seen me,' said Stevie, as the big man's eyes  locked onto hers and he started to come over. In slow motion – like the  Terminator.

‘Want a minute to yourselves?' said Catherine. ‘You are in this together, after all.'

‘Don't you dare leave me with that … that caber tosser without an armed escort!' said Stevie.

‘Don't be daft, Steve. He's not going to do anything to you here – the  place is packed. Anyway, I really do need the loo and he looks as if he  wants to talk to you.' Catherine got up, just as Adam MacLean reached  the table and nodded her a stiff hello as they crossed paths.

‘I didnae know you were a member of ma gym,' he said, looking down at Stevie.

His gym? Crikey, he was possessive!

‘Well, I am,' said Stevie, taking a diversionary sip of coffee, which  burnt her lip, and then she accidentally bit it as well in an  unfortunate reflex action.

‘Can I sit down forrr a wee minute, please?' he said. Civilized for him,  thought Stevie, who glared at him but didn't say no, which he obviously  took to mean yes, because he dropped his big-honed body into the chair  that Catherine had vacated.

‘Have you hearrrd anything?' he asked, his eyes compulsively drawn to her swelling split lip.

‘No,' Stevie lied. ‘Have you?'

‘No. Jo left her mobile behind too, funnily enough. Probably so I  couldn't ring her. The number she left for the health farm doesn't  exist, of course. No doubt she'll tell me she wrote it down wrang.'

‘Oh.' Stevie felt a little guilty about fibbing then after he had been  so candid, but she didn't want to give him any details that might  trigger him to go off and kill Matthew. She had one dead lover, she  didn't want another, she thought with black amusement. It was, however, a  thought that quickly soured in her head and made her feel slightly  sick.

‘I have a plan to stop aw this nonsense,' he said.

‘So have I,' said Stevie stiffly. She suspected her plan of hair-dos and  gentle body toning might be slightly different from his, which would  involve hi-jacking a plane and forcing Matthew to jump out of it above  the bit of sea with the most sharks in it.

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