The Rebel

By: Victoria Purman



She crossed her arms. ‘Only stubborn ones who take stupid risks and ignore their doctor’s advice. Last I heard you were supposed to stay off that knee.’

Cooper stepped gingerly inside. His awkward gait meant he stopped a little closer to Maggie than he thought. His thigh grazed hers and he was worried if he tried to take a step backward it would hurt so he didn’t. ‘Last I heard you weren’t my wife.’

Maggie’s eyes narrowed. ‘What’s that supposed to mean?’

He stared hard at her brown eyes and lowered his voice. ‘You don’t get to nag me.’

She chuckled. ‘You got that all wrong, buddy. Friends? We get to nag. A whole hell of a lot. We get to tell you you’re full of shit and you have to suck it up precisely because we’re friends. The only difference with friends is that once the nagging is done, we don’t withhold sex to punish you.’ Maggie’s eyes were hidden by her RayBans and she propped her hands on her hips. He raised his and lifted her glasses from her face.

‘I’m stubborn, huh?’

Her eyes were dark and serious and her pretty lips were pulled together tightly. ‘You were back home two days. Two days! And you hurt yourself. I call that stubborn. In fact, you are about the most infuriating man I know. But that shouldn’t be news to you, Cooper. I’ve only told you so, like, a hundred times.’

‘Not that I’m counting, MacLean, but we’re probably up to a couple thousand by now.’

She huffed. ‘You should still be in the hospital. I don’t know how on earth you convinced Dr Alvarez to discharge you.’

He threw her a wink to take the heat out of her anger. ‘It was my Aussie charm.’

Maggie harrumphed. ‘In your dreams.’

‘Listen. There’s nothing I could do there that I can’t do here. I’ll be fine, Maggie. Trust me.’

She took a deep breath. ‘Don’t pull that one on me. No bullshit and no excuses, remember?’

He slipped her glasses back on to her nose, threading the arms through her long hair, glad of the dark lenses. The last thing he wanted to see right now was the truth in her eyes.

‘I remember.’

‘Mommy!’

Maggie slid out from the narrow space between him and the door. ‘Coming.’





Chapter Three







Maggie watched Cooper hobble through his living room. His large frame was lopsided and tentative as he walked, one reluctant step at a time, and he braced himself on the wall as he made his way down the hallway and to the left, to his bedroom. She’d always liked his house and had, in fact, always been envious of it because it was more than double the size of her little place. What she loved most was its modern feel, with its open-plan living and four bedrooms. It was a man’s house too; leather and polished floors, Spanish-style rugs and surfing pictures on the walls. Maggie had picked out most of the furnishings for Cooper four years before, as he’d been about to head off to Fiji almost as soon as he’d bought the place, and she thought she’d chosen well. To Maggie’s great surprise, he hadn’t changed a single thing in the years since, not a picture on the wall or a plate in the kitchen.

The house itself was positioned high above the town, so a number of the rooms had beautiful views of the San Clemente Pier and the ocean, all blue sky and palm trees, and it featured a large backyard with a pool. Pity it was wasted on Cooper. Evan loved it, of course, but Cooper wasn’t home very much to swim in it and, when he did come back to San Clemente, he was usually surfing at Trestles. With his winnings, his investments and his income from the myriad endorsements he did—many back home in Australia—he could have bought a much grander house in San Clemente—even one of the historic Ole Hanson homes if he’d wanted—but he hadn’t.

‘It’s close to you,’ Cooper had told her when he’d shown it to her that very first time. She remembered that Evan had been just six months old and he’d been nestled against her chest in a baby sling. ‘And San Diego Airport, which means it’s a plane ride from everywhere,’ he’d said as she admired all the rooms.

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