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Authors: Kat French

The Piano Man Project

BOOK: The Piano Man Project
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Copyright

AVON

HarperCollins
Publishers
Ltd

1 London Bridge Street

London SE1 9GF

www.harpercollins.co.uk

First published in Great Britain by HarperCollins
Publishers
2015

Copyright © Kat French 2015

Cover © Lisa Horton 2015

Kat French asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins.

Source ISBN: 978-0-00-757760-6

Ebook Edition © July 2015 ISBN: 978-0-00-757761-3

Version: 2015-07-10

Dedication

For James, with love. Grouchy is the new sexy, right? You just need to get that cooking thing down … x

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Twenty

Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter Twenty-Two

Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Four

Chapter Twenty-Five

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Chapter Twenty-Nine

Chapter Thirty

Chapter Thirty-One

Chapter Thirty-Two

Chapter Thirty-Three

Chapter Thirty-Four

Chapter Thirty-Five

Chapter Thirty-Six

Chapter Thirty-Seven

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter Thirty-Nine

Chapter Forty

Acknowledgements

About the Author

Other Books by Kat French

About the Publisher

CHAPTER ONE

‘Don’t you think there’s something sad about buying yourself a new vibrator for Valentine’s Day?’ Honey picked up a lurid pink model and eyed it with distaste.

‘Why?’ Tash laughed. ‘My last one was the best boyfriend I’ve ever had. When it gave out I buried it in the back garden and planted a phallic cactus over it as a tribute.’

‘How the hell did you break it, anyway?’ Honey frowned at the hunk of neon plastic in her hand. It looked pretty indestructible.

‘Overuse, probably,’ Nell chimed in on her other side. With her big brown doe eyes and smooth chignon, she was a study of tidy perfection.

‘We can’t all lead cookie-cutter lives, Nellie,’ Tash chided.

Nell sniffed. ‘I don’t hear you complaining when those cookies end up in your kitchen cupboard.’

‘True,’ Tash laughed. ‘Just don’t go looking for your next cutter in here. Although actually, maybe you should. I’d pay good money to see your mother-in-law dunking cock-shaped shortbread in her tea.’

Nell shot her a sarcastic smile, privately needled by Tash’s good-natured teasing.
Had her life become too cookie cutter?
Looking at the alien things on the shelves around her, there was every chance it had. A frown of concentration crumpled her forehead. She’d read enough magazines and books to know that a stale marriage was a step away from disaster.

In both looks and life, Nell and Tash were polar opposites, and Honey knew that her place in the world was somewhere between them. If they were traffic lights, Tash would be green; all flashing emerald eyes and come-hither grins that had men falling at her feet. Nell would be red: stop; don’t cross; clear and direct. For Honey, the amber light. Warm, never quite sure, approach with caution. Or perhaps it was closer to ‘don’t approach at all’, if the lack of decent men in her life was anything to go by.

‘It went rusty.’ Tash scanned the shelves with an expert eye, her riotous red waves swishing around her shoulders. ‘Don’t ask. Oh thank God, a waterproof one.’ She grabbed a gleaming turquoise vibrator and kissed the box. ‘Hey there, handsome. I need you in my life.’ She dropped it in her basket with a grin.

‘How ’bout you, Honeysuckle? Something for the weekend?’ Tash waved towards the army of vibrators lined up on the shelf like a platoon of soldiers ready to spring into action.

‘Not for me.’ Honey slid the pink vibrator back into place on the display.

‘There’s no need to be so sniffy,’ Tash said. ‘I mean, it’s been quite a while since your last, er …’

‘Not that long, thank you,’ Honey snapped. It had been more than twelve months ago since she’d split from her last boyfriend – not that Mark had ever really qualified for the title. She seemed to have a knack of attracting the wrong kind of men, men who were more interested in football and beer than romance or flowers. Or orgasms for that matter, besides their own.

Her only long-term boyfriend of note had been Sean at uni, a biology student who’d treated her body like an extension of his textbooks, something to study for cause and effect. It was little wonder that her body had refused to perform under such intense scrutiny. She’d eventually given him the push when he’d pulled a magnifying glass out of his bedside drawer before unbuttoning her jeans.

‘Honey?’ Nell said, and she realised that both she and Tash were looking at her and waiting for an answer.

‘I don’t know. A year or so, maybe?’ She shrugged and looked away from her friend’s raised eyebrows.

‘Fuck! A whole year without sex?’ Tash threw a second vibrator into her basket. ‘I’m buying you this. It’s a gift. You need it more than I do.’

‘Ha-ha.’ Honey took it back out of the basket. ‘Thanks, but don’t waste your money. They don’t work for me.’

‘They work for everybody, Honey.’

‘Not me.’

‘Have you ever tried?’ Tash asked.

‘I don’t need to, okay?’ Honey turned away, uncomfortable with the turn the conversation had taken. ‘I just don’t … well, you know.’

Tash and Nell grasped an elbow each and turned her back around to face them.

‘You don’t what?’ A frown rumpled Nell’s smooth brow. ‘Orgasm?’ She whispered the question.

‘Don’t stare at me like I’m a criminal,’ Honey muttered. A sex shop was so not the place to discuss this. She felt like an atheist in St Paul’s cathedral.

‘I’m no prude, I like sex. I just never have an orgasm. It’s no big deal.’

Tash stared at Honey as if she’d grown an extra head. ‘No big deal? It’s friggin’ huge! I’d die if I didn’t come at least once a day.’

‘Even when you’re between men?’ Nell asked. Her diamond wedding band glinted as she fiddled with the buttons on her polka dot silk blouse, which came straight from the ‘glamorous teacher all the dads fancy’ pages of the Boden catalogue.

Tash tapped the package in her basket. ‘Meet my new boyfriend.’

Honey glanced away. Glittery red hearts dangled throughout the store like a love grotto, although the dummies clad in crotchless knickers and peephole bras made it more ‘sex den’ than ‘romantic arbour’.

‘What is all this stuff?’ Nell murmured, wide eyed as they passed through a heavy velvet curtain. She picked up a dark string of beads and wrapped them around her wrist. ‘I didn’t know they did jewellery.’ She twisted her arm to admire them. ‘These would be perfect with my new purple dress.’

Tash laughed. ‘Yes. How thoughtful of them to make their bum beads multi-purpose.’

Nell yanked them off, her cheeks a good match with the violet beads as she tossed them down. ‘That’s revolting.’

‘Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, girlfriend.’ Tash raised a knowing brow.

Nell sat down and crossed her ankles, the image of a prim school marm. ‘I think I’ll wait for you here.’

‘’Kay. But just so you know, you’re sitting on a sex couch,’ Tash winked.

‘Christ!’ Jumping up, Nell smoothed her hands down her navy pencil skirt. ‘Is nothing normal in this place?’

‘This
is
normal, Nell. Simon would probably love to see you in crotchless knickers.’

‘He most certainly would not. He’d tell me to return them because there was a bit missing.’

Tash shook her head and huffed. ‘You know, I think he probably would.’

Honey slid the handcuffs she’d been examining off her wrists and grinned. Simon and Nell were the perfect couple. Childhood sweethearts. Mr & Mrs Vanilla. He’d probably have a heart attack if Nell wore anything more risqué than M&S white cotton. ‘Come on, Nell, let’s get you out of here. Tash, we’ll meet you next door in five.’

‘So, Honey. About the orgasm thing,’ Tash said as she slid into the booth in the crowded bar ten minutes later. Honey sighed.

‘Jesus, Tash. Don’t start. I really don’t need to talk about this.’

‘Okay, okay, you’re right,’ Nell soothed. ‘But … when you said you don’t, you didn’t mean you never have … did you?’

Honey reached for her wine in resignation. ‘It really doesn’t bother me.’

‘Well, it should. It’s bad for your health, if nothing else.’

‘No, Tash. It would be bad for
your
health. I don’t miss what I’ve never had.’

‘Are you one hundred per cent bona fide certain that you never have?’ Nell asked.

‘Jesus, Nell. If she had one and missed it then there really is something wrong with her.’

Honey cleared her throat.

‘Err, I’m still here, remember?’

‘I just don’t get how you can’t once you’re in the heat of the moment, to be honest,’ Tash said, looking genuinely perplexed. ‘You must have been sleeping with the wrong men, Honey.’

‘It’s no one’s fault,’ Honey shrugged.

‘Do you think you’re getting too wound up about it and then that makes it impossible to relax enough for it to happen?’ Nell frowned.

Honey shook her head. ‘Please … just stop? I’m not wound up, and I’m perfectly relaxed. I don’t expect it to happen, and it doesn’t happen, so let’s just move on, okay?’

‘I can’t believe we’ve been friends for ten years and you’ve never mentioned this.’

‘That’s because it’s honestly no big deal.’

Nell and Tash reached for their own glasses with something dangerously close to pity on their faces.

BOOK: The Piano Man Project
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