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Instructing the Novice (Brides of the Kindred #22.8)
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A successful older woman determined to forgo love
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Lizabeth Paige was mortified.
“Mortified,” she muttered aloud to herself. “To be caused extreme embarrassment, humiliation, shame, discomfort, and distress.” Never had a definition fit better.
“Now plant your feet, arch your back and rise up into downward dog,” murmured the soothing voice from the little pink cube sitting on the far right corner of her yoga mat. Above it, a holo of a girl who was probably all of twenty was projected, lifting herself gracefully into the required position.
Lizabeth gritted her teeth. She’d been certain she had turned the holo function of her exer-cube to the off position. She’d been doing yoga for years for stress relief because of her career as a highly placed corporate attorney. She didn’t need any skinny-minny twenty-year-old showing her how to get into the old, familiar positions and reminding her that she was plus-sized into the bargain.
Of course, now that she was no longer living on Earth, the only corporation Lizabeth worked for were the Kindred—the large, male, alien warriors who had saved the planet from the threat of the Scourge, another alien race that had been intent on destroying everything in their path. That had been years ago but the Kindred were still here, their Mother Ship in orbit around the moon—mainly because a genetic anomaly ensured that 99% of their children were male. Which meant they were always chronically short of females and needed to call brides from Earth.
The Kindred were good clients, she had found—always fair and never sexist. Lizabeth liked that—she’d dealt with her fair share of sexism. Even after breaking the glass ceiling, she still heard male colleagues—human males anyway—mutter that she was a ball-busting bitch. But her assertiveness and aggressiveness in the court room were qualities the Kindred admired—which meant she ought to be having less stress in this job than in her previous career down on Earth.
“If that’s true then why am I having more stress than I ever have in my life?” Lizabeth muttered to herself. Why was she mortified and trying to do yoga to get her mind off the reason for her mortification instead of studying the Yonnie Six documents she needed to decipher in order to prepare for her next case—Kindred Vs the Proprietors of BleakHall Penitentiary?
“Now lower yourself into plank,” the soothing voice of the exer-cube instructed and the twenty-something skinny-minny holo complied, taking a firm, perfect plank position she could probably hold all day.
Grimly, Lizabeth got into plank and tried not to think about the reason for her mortification—the reason she couldn’t look her assistant, Stands Alone, in the eye anymore.
No, no—don’t think about Lone!
Her long, dark hair fell over one shoulder as she held the pose and she thought instead about getting it cut.
Some people thought a woman ought to have short hair after she turned forty-five, as Lizabeth had on her last birthday. Her ex-husband certainly had.
“Why don’t you cut that?” he’d said, on one of their last meetings to finalize the divorce. “You look ridiculous, you know—trying to pretend you’re still a girl in your twenties.”
“You mean the kind you left me for?” Lizabeth had demanded, sweeping her hair over one shoulder protectively. “The little assistant who’s still in college? Look at yourself, Bernard! You’re fifty-five—she’s young enough to be your daughter.”
“She might be—if you’d ever given me any children.” There was bitterness in her ex’s voice although the fact that Lizabeth had picked career advancement over being a mom had never been a problem until he was looking for a reason to divorce her. But suddenly, when she’d caught him cheating with a much, much younger woman, Bernard has trotted it out, as though she’d denied him something precious he’d been longing for, for years.
In fact, it had been Lizabeth who had wanted children when they first got married. She’d been in her early thirties then and had felt her biological clock ticking. But when Bernard showed no interest, she reluctantly gave up on the idea and threw herself into her work instead. Her ex-husband had been married to his career as an executive in the banking industry and she had no wish to be a single parent. Bernard would have made a lousy father anyway—was probably one now since apparently he and his new little wifey, who was half Lizabeth’s age and supposedly extremely fertile—were trying to get pregnant.
Lizabeth sighed and tried to push the bad memory away. Let Bernard have his silly little assistant—it wasn’t like their marriage hadn’t already been dead by the time he started cheating. They had both been too focused on their careers and had gradually grown apart. And after their divorce, she’d sworn off men for good.
All men but one, anyway, whispered a little voice in her head.
“No—oh, no,” Lizabeth told herself grimly, panting a little as she held her plank. “I’m not going there—not going to think of him.”