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       The Varlet and the Voyeur, p.1

           L.H. Cosway
 
The Varlet and the Voyeur


  The Varlet and the Voyeur

  by L.H. Cosway

  www.lhcoswayauthor.com

  & Penny Reid

  www.pennyreid.ninja

  Caped Publishing

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, rants, facts, contrivances, and incidents are either the product of the author’s questionable imagination or are used factitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or undead, events, locales is entirely coincidental if not somewhat disturbing/concerning.

  Copyright © 2018 by Penny Reid; All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, photographed, instagrammed, tweeted, twittered, twatted, tumbled, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without explicit written permission from the author.

  * * *

  Caped Publishing

  * * *

  Made in the United States of America

  * * *

  eBook Edition

  ISBN: 978-1-942874-40-9

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Epilogue

  About the Authors

  Please, write a review!

  Sneak Peek: Fauxmance, Showmance #2

  Other Books by L.H. Cosway

  Sneak Peek: Dr. Strange Beard, Winston Brothers #5

  Other books by Penny Reid

  One

  @JoseyInHeels: First world problems—when you’re thinking about eating your restaurant leftovers all day and you come home and your mam had them for lunch. ☹

  @THEBryanLeech to @JoseyInHeels: Maybe. . . don’t live with your mam?

  JOSEY

  “We have something we need to tell you, Josey.”

  I glanced up from my textbook, finding my mam and dad standing just inside the living room. My father’s hands were clasped together in front of him and he wore his favorite green and red striped jumper, his balding gray hair a pile of haphazard fluff atop his head.

  It reminded me of the Forgotten Old Word of the Day I had for him: pilgarlic, which was what they termed a bald head in the sixteenth century, because it resembled peeled garlic. We were both obsessed with historical English words nobody used anymore, and created our tradition of Forgotten Old Word of the Day a couple of years ago to celebrate our shared appreciation.

  I set my pen down. “Oh, are you two finally going on that trip to Machu Picchu? Because you definitely deserve a break.”

  “No, love,” Mam said, glancing at Dad in a way that appeared nervous. “We aren’t. In fact, none of us will be going on any trips for quite some time.”

  I frowned. “What on earth are you talking about?”

  “We’re broke,” Dad blurted. I’d never seen him look so ashamed. My heart clenched.

  “Broke? But how?”

  Neither of my parents had what you’d call proper jobs. My dad wrote books about Medieval history, hence his obsession with old words, and my mam taught art classes to the elderly part-time. They both, however, had a large inheritance from my grandparents on both sides. We Kavanaghs came from money, but my parents weren’t snobbish, the exact opposite. Compared to most of my relatives, we lived downright humble lives. We didn’t flash our cash around, which was why none of this made any sense.

  “Your father and I decided to invest our savings in some shares, and well, the company went out of business. We lost everything, which means we’re going to have to downsize.”

  I gaped at them. “You’re selling the house?”

  “With the way prices are going up and up, especially in this neighborhood, it’s a good time to sell,” Dad put in. “We could buy a small two-bedroom apartment, then keep the rest of the money to live off until I’m finished my next book.”

  My worries died down slightly. This wasn’t so bad. When you thought about it, we were simply downsizing from a house to an apartment. No big deal.

  I exhaled a heavy breath. “Okay, well, I guess it’s not the end of the world. This house is too big for the three of us anyway. A two-bedroom will be cozy, and of course I’ll take the smaller room.”

  “Josey,” Mam said. She looked like she was steeling herself to continue. “You won’t be coming to live with us.”

  I stared at her. “What do you mean?”

  “You’re almost twenty-six years old, darling,” Dad said. “We both feel it’s time you branched out on your own.”

  As soon as he said it, tears welled in my eyes. “But…but…we’re the fearsome threesome,” I sputtered. “We stick together. Always.” It was a silly little skit we used to do, but I still loved it. It broke my heart to think they wanted rid of me.

  Mam’s eyes turned sad. “Yes, and we always will be, but you’re not a little girl anymore, Josey, and if you don’t try going it alone now, you never will.”

  “We don’t want you to be forty and regret spending your entire life with us two old fogeys,” said Dad. “Your mam and I have discussed it, and we think this is a good thing. We realize we’ve been holding you back from living a full life. We want you to enjoy being young.”

  “I am enjoying being young,” I protested, but in the back of my mind I knew it was a lie. I spent most nights sitting in with my parents, watching TV before hitting the hay at the reasonable hour of 9:15 p.m. Maybe that wasn’t what most twentysomethings considered living it up, but I was happy.

  Wasn’t I?

  I frowned, feeling sad. Maybe I wasn’t living life to the fullest… but on the other hand, sleep was key to good health.

  Dad cleared his throat. “Also, we’re not going to be able to pay your college fees next term.”

  Like the flick of a switch, my sadness turned to worry and I jumped to my feet. Not pay my fees? The veterinary program was literally all I had going for me right now. If they took away their support, I’d be aimless again. I couldn’t go back to that.

  “This is unbelievable,” I breathed out.

  “Darling, we don’t even know if you’ll see the course through, and we can’t take the chance of spending thousands on fees when next month you might decide you want to become a hairdresser instead.”

  I scowled at my mother, hurt by her bringing up the fact that I’d switched courses three times already. But I knew becoming a vet was my calling. In my gut, it felt right. “Fine. I’ll—I’ll manage. And I’ll be out of your hair within the hour.”

  With that I grabbed my textbook and stomped out of the room.

  “Oh Josey, don’t be so melodramatic,” Mam called as I climbed the stairs to my room. “We just want what’s best for you.”

  I opened my wardrobe and pulled out my suitcase, then started shoving clothes inside. Rocky, my dog, hopped up onto my bed, stole a pair of socks from the pile, then scarpered. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time for a game of chase today.

  When I looked up, both my parents stood in the doorway, arms folded, expressions grim. Rocky returned with his mouthful of socks, expression all why you not chasing me, lady?

  “We didn’t mean you had to move out right this minute,” Dad said.

  “Yes, take a few weeks to find a place,” Mam added. “Perhaps there’s some student accommodation you could
avail of.”

  I shook my head. “You want me gone, so I’ll go. I wouldn’t want to hang around, ruining your plans to reinvigorate your sex lives once you’re free of the third wheel.”

  “Josey!” Mam gasped, while Dad’s mouth twitched in amusement. That twitch irritated me to no end.

  “We can take care of Rocky until you find an apartment,” Dad said, and I scowled like I’d never scowled before.

  “Oh, you’d just love that, wouldn’t you? No way am I leaving Rocky here. He’s my dog. You just want to keep him for yourselves.”

  “We’re only trying to make things easier for you.”

  “Easier? Yeah, right. Well, don’t bother. You might have the power to kick me out, but you’ll never take Rocky.” With that I zipped my suitcase shut. “I’ll be back for the rest of my things tomorrow.”

  “How are you today, Miss?” asked the handsome chugger.

  I struggled down the busy, crowded street with my giant wheelie suitcase in one hand and doggie carrier bag under my arm, the very definition of frazzled.

  Charity worker + mugger = chugger.

  That’s what we called those people in high-vis jackets, who stopped you on the street and asked for your bank details. They were always intimidatingly good looking, as if that might lure plain Janes like me to stop and hand over my well-earned cash. Normally, I’d brush them off, say I was in a hurry and be on my way. But not today. Today I was in the mood to TALK. I stopped walking, leaned my weight on the handle of my suitcase and emitted a long, woe-is-me sigh. Rocky, my trusted min pin Pin companion, sat dutifully in his carrier.

  “Do you know what? I’m doing horribly. In fact, I’ve had a terrible day.”

  The chugger frowned a perfectly empathetic frown. “I’m sorry to hear that, but if you could spare a moment, I’d like to tell you about the starving children in—”

  “My parents are broke and have to sell their house,” I continued. “The very same house I grew up in and still live in, by the way. They’ve known this for months and have only taken it upon themselves to tell me today. Today. I mean, I should’ve been told as soon as it was decided. And to make matters worse, I’m going to have to drop out of the veterinary program I just started, because they can’t afford to help me out with the fees and it’s a private college so—”

  “That’s awful,” the chugger interrupted, “but I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end. Now—”

  “No, that’s the problem, you see, it won’t. Have you any idea how high rent is in Dublin these days? I’ll have to pay almost two grand a month for an apartment, and that’s if I can even get one with all the competition out there. Did you see that documentary last week about the immigrants paying to live in death trap houses? My goodness, there were ten people in each bedroom, sleeping in bunk beds with only one bathroom between over thirty people. It’s just not sanitary. Oh my God, do you think that’s where I’ll end up? I might not have a choice…”

  “Well, it could be worse. Did you know there are almost seven million children suffering from malnutrition in East Africa, including over one million who are severely malnourished and risk dying by the end of the year—”

  “Yes, but the problem is, I need my space. I’m not picky, but I simply can’t function without at least having my own bedroom. I could try a house share, but what if there’s some nut job living there who tries to Single White Female my life? I couldn’t be having that. Some girl going around with the same hairdo as me, or turning up wearing the same jacket I bought on sale at M&S. No, that just won’t do.”

  “Miss, if I could just…”

  “Or worse yet, they could be a serial killer. Or one of those cannibals who get into people’s heads and convince them to let them fry up their private parts with some garlic and onions for dinner. Oh! Can you imagine?” I laughed. “Joke’s on them, though. My privates are covered in cobwebs.”

  “I think I’m going to go now.” The chugger turned away.

  I realized how self-centered I was being and reached out to catch his arm. “Wait. I’m sorry. Here I am, rambling on about myself and I haven’t even asked how your day has been.”

  “My day would be a lot better if you’d let me talk to you for a moment about the starving children in East Africa,” he said kindly. The man obviously had an endless supply of patience.

  “Right. Yes. Starving children. Hit me with it.”

  Ten minutes later, I walked away having filled out a form agreeing to donate five euros a month to the hungry babies. I might be broke and homeless, but they needed the money more than I did. One less latte for me meant 40 children could go to school and drink clean water, how could I say no?

  My mind wandered back to earlier, when I’d arrived home from a long day of lectures. I had a happy, carefree smile on my face when my parents had found me in the living room, taking me by surprise. How naïve I’d been.

  I was lost in my thoughts all through the tram ride and walk to my best friend, Eilish’s house. She and I went through a bit of a rough patch a while back, but we’d since made up. She also had a spare bedroom, so I knew she wouldn’t mind if I stayed a few nights. Just until I figured things out. Plus, her little boy loved Rocky, and my dog was fully house-trained, so at least I knew he wouldn’t be leaving any unexpected surprises for my hosts.

  I lifted my hand and pressed the doorbell. A minute later, I was greeted by Eilish’s smiling face.

  “Josey! What a nice surprise.” Her smile fell when she saw the suitcase and dog carrier. Maybe she wouldn’t be so happy to have me as a houseguest after all.

  “Hey, uh, you don’t happen to mind if Rocky and I stay here for a few nights, do you?”

  Her frown transformed into a look of concern as she ushered me inside. “Not at all. What happened?”

  “It’s a long story.”

  Eilish nodded. “I’ll put the kettle on.”

  Two

  @FinleyIRE to @WillthebrickhouseMoore: I think you broke my nose during drills today.

  @SeanCassinova to @FinleyIRE and @WillthebrickhouseMoore: Yeah, but did you die?

  WILL

  Bryan looked at me. He took a deep breath, like he wanted to say something, ask a question probably. Instead, he breathed out and shook his head, seeming confused. But also like he thought something was funny.

  I understood his amusement. From the outside, I could see how my situation was funny, in a way.

  This was the first time I’d been called into the administrative offices for negative reasons. Usually, they pulled me in here when they needed to remind folks that the team still had good guys on it. They’d send me out, dressed in a suit that was too tight, to shake hands and smile all polite. In their defense, I’d never met a suit that fit. They were all too tight.

  Bryan made a sound, kinda like a laugh.

  I scratched my jaw. “Just say it.”

  He shrugged, smiling a little. “I have no idea what to say. I’m . . .” He shrugged, laughing again. “I’m shocked. There”—he lifted his hands, like he surrendered—“I admit it. Of all the blokes I know, you were the last one I’d peg for a—” Bryan snapped his mouth shut and dropped his eyes to the conference table between us. I watched him swallow, waiting for him to finish.

  He didn’t, so I supplied easily, “A pervert?” I wasn’t afraid of the word.

  “No,” he said, now grinning uncomfortably. “Not a pervert.”

  “You think I’m a pervert.”

  His smile dropped. He frowned. His eyes cut to mine. “Will, you’re not a pervert.”

  Now I shrugged. “I know what I am,” I responded flatly.

  He was right. Rationally, I knew I wasn’t a pervert. I didn’t need him, or anyone else, to tell me that. Nevertheless, I used to think of myself that way, especially in my youth, when I’d watched for the first time.

  Bryan glared at me, but didn’t get a chance to speak because we were interrupted by the entrance of Ronan Fitzpatrick—our team captain—and Brian O’M
ahony, head coach. I’d expected more people: lawyers, representatives from human resources, folks from marketing and media services maybe.

  Shutting the door as soon as they entered, both men looked grim as they took their seats at the conference table.

  “Will. Bryan.” Ronan nodded his head at each of us, not quite meeting my eyes. But then I hadn’t expected him to. “Thanks for coming.”

  “To get straight to the point”—Coach leaned back in his seat, and glared at me—“this situation has put us in a real bind, Will. As stated in your contract, your personal life is your own, except where it reflects poorly on the Club, or undermines your image and credibility.”

  I nodded, ready to accept the consequences of my choices. “I’m ready to step aside.”

  Ronan and Coach swapped a quick look of confusion, with Ronan asking, “Step aside? You mean, leave the team?”

  I nodded again.

  “No!” Ronan was looking at me now. “No. Absolutely not. Not an option. With bloody Sean retiring this year, we need you.”

  I ground my teeth, a flare of guilt burning my esophagus. He was right. They needed me. My actions had brought shame to the team and now they were trapped, stuck with me. I didn’t like that.

  I felt Coach’s stare and met his searching expression. “Will, nobody is talking about cutting you loose. It’s damn awkward, but not career ending. Obviously, this isn’t the first time one of our players has had an image problem,” his eyes flickered to Ronan and Bryan, and then came back to me, turning thoughtful. “Still, I’ve never seen a frenzy like this before. They’re out for blood.”

 
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