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Robin Wasserman

Sloth

The fifth book in the Seven Deadly Sins series, 2006

For Aunt Sherry and Uncle Jim,

and for Brandon,

who likes to sleep

How heavy do I journey on the way

When what I seek, my weary travel’s end,

Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,

“Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend.”

– William Shakespeare, “Sonnet 50”

Nothing to do

Nowhere to go

I wanna be sedated

– The Ramones, “I Wanna Be Sedated”

Chapter 1

“I’m in heaven,” Harper moaned as the masseur kneaded his supple fingers into the small of her back. “You were right, this is exactly what we needed.”

Kaia shooed away her own masseur and turned over onto her back, almost purring with pleasure as the sun warmed her face. “I’m always right.”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Harper snarked, but there was no venom in her tone. The afternoon sun had leached away most of her will to wound-and a half hour under Henri’s magic fingers had taken care of the rest. “Mmmmm, could life get any better?”

“Zhoo are steeel verreee tense,” Henri told her in his heavy French accent.

“And zhoo are steeel verreee sexeeeee,” Kaia murmured, in an impeccable accent of her own. The girls exchanged a glance as the hunky but clueless Henri smoothed a palmful of warm lotion across Harper’s back.

“This weeel help you reeelax,” he assured her. As if anyone could relax with a voice like that purring in her ear. “I leave you ladies now. Au revoir, mes cheries.”

”Arrivederci, Henri!” Harper cried, giggling at the rhyme.

“That’s Italian,” Kaia sneered. “Idiot.”

“Who cares?” Harper countered. “Snob.”

“Loser.”

“Bitch.” Harper narrowly held back a grin.

“Slut.” Kaia’s eyes twinkled.

“Damn right!” Harper pulled herself upright and raised her mojito in the air. Kaia did the same, and they clinked the plastic cocktail glasses together. “To us. Good thing we found each other-”

“-since no one else could stand us,” Kaia finished, and they burst into laughter.

It was the kind of day where the clouds look painted onto the sky. The scene was straight out of a travel brochure-five star all the way, of course. Storybook blue sky, turquoise ocean lapping away at the nearby shore, gleaming white sand beach, and a warm tropical breeze rustling through their hair, carrying the distant strains of a reggae band. The girls stretched out along on their deck chairs, their every need attended to by a flotilla of servants.

“I could stay here forever.” Harper sighed. She let her leg slip off the chair and dug her bare toe into the sand, burrowing it deeper and deeper into the cool, dark ground. “I wish we never had to go back.”

“I don’t know about you,” Kaia drawled, “but I don’t have to do anything.”

“Right,” Harper snorted. “The great and powerful Kaia Sellers, with the world at her fingertips. As if you can ditch real life and just stay here in paradise.”

“I can do anything I want. Haven’t you figured that out yet?”

Harper rolled her eyes.

“Why not?” Kaia continued. “What do I have to go back for? What do you? Isn’t that why we came out here in the first place, to leave all that shit behind?”

Harper sighed. “You’re right. And it worked. I can barely even remember what we were escaping from, and-” Her eyes widened. “You’re bleeding.” A small trail of blood trickled down Kaia’s temple; Harper raised her hand to her own face, as if expecting to feel a similar wound.

Kaia frowned for a moment, dabbing her head with a napkin. “Just a mosquito bite,” she said with a shrug. She took a closer look at Harper, whose face had gone pale. “You were totally freaked, weren’t you?”

“No,” Harper lied. “It’s just gross. All these bugs…” She swatted at a mosquito that had just landed on her bare leg, then another whizzing past her nose. “They’re everywhere.”

“Easy way to fix that.” Kaia stood up, her bronze Dolce bikini blending seamlessly into her deep tan. “Come on.” Without waiting to see if her orders were followed-after all, they always were-she bounded toward the shoreline, kicking up a spray of sand in her wake.

Harper raced after her, and they reached the ocean’s edge at the same moment. Harper stopped short as a wave of icy water splashed against her ankles, but Kaia didn’t even hesitate. She waded out, the water rising above her calves, her knees, her thighs, and then, submerged to her waist, she turned and flashed Harper a smile. It was the eager, mischievous grin of a little kid sneaking into the deep end even though she’s not quite sure how to swim. Harper waved, frozen in place, unable to force herself to go any deeper into the churning water, unwilling to go back.

Kaia took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and dove under the surface, her arms slicing through the water, pulling her into the deep. She resurfaced, gasping for air, and leaned back into an easy float, the salt water buoying her body, the gentle waves bouncing her up and down. Harper’s shouts, dim and incoherent, blew past with the wind, but Kaia dipped her head back and the roaring water in her ears drowned out the noise.

Harper stood in the same spot, the tide carving deep rivulets around her feet as the waves washed in and back out again. The wind picked up, but the sky remained clear and blue. Harper stood, and Harper watched, and Kaia floated farther and farther out to sea-

And then she woke up.

She’d hoped the dreams would stop once she weaned herself off the Percodan. They hadn’t. Just like the phantom pains that still tore through her legs when she tried to sleep, they’d outstayed their welcome.

For a long time, the pain had kept her awake.

Ambien had helped with that, the little pink pills that carried her mind away. But when sleep came, so did the dreams. They weren’t always nightmares. Sometimes they were nice, carrying her away to somewhere warm and safe. Those were the worst. Because always, in the end, she woke up.

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