Excerpt from The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Opposite of Everyone

by Joshilyn Jackson

The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson X
The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 352 pages

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    Oct 2016, 352 pages

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He'd been in AA for a decade, but it hadn't taken. Not completely, anyway. Two or three times a year he'd drop down a boozy hole, vanishing for days.

I'd learned early to see a binge coming in his body language, in his speech, in the very air vibrating around him. His disappearing acts had never yet blown a case for me, and if they ever did, it would be on me. I knew his limits. I risked hiring him anyway, because when he was sober? No one could touch him. If there was a speck of dirt, Birdwine could find it, and I believed Bryan Skopes was hiding a whole tillable field of loamy sex- grime.

I said, "Climb in here, then. Promise it won't take long."

I rolled up my window and hit the unlock button for the doors. While Birdwine walked around to the passenger side, I tossed my briefcase in the back so he could sit. A blast of winter wind pushed all the heat out of the car, leaving me shivering as Birdwine folded his big body and jammed it in beside me. He started messing with the seat controls, scrolling backward, and his face looked like he was readying himself for a root canal.

I had a file on Skopes tucked in my door's side pocket, and I passed it over to him. His eyebrows puzzled up. He flipped through a couple of pages before turning to me. He had heavy- lidded eyes, large and very dark, the kind that always looked a little sleepy. Now he slow- blinked them, not quite an eye roll, but it spoke volumes.

"This is about a job?"

"Yes," I said. "What else?"

He started chuckling then. "I don't know, Paula. Look at these emails." He shifted his big body forward and fished his phone out of his back pocket. He tapped the screen and scrolled through his trash folder. "Here we go. This one is titled 'Birdwine, we have to meet.' And here is one titled 'I NEED you to call me.' 'Need' is in all caps, by the way."

"Oh. I see what you mean," I said. I hadn't thought about the context when I'd typed those phrases. I'd written the truth, without thinking how it might read to an ex- lover. "You thought I wanted a relationship postmortem?"

"Yeah. What was I supposed to think?" he said.

Ironic, really. He'd ended it because we "couldn't talk," but this week he'd ignored every attempt at contact, thinking I wanted to sit down on floor cushions and light up friendship- scented incense and process our breakup over a cup of organic oolong. This from the guy who played his cards so close that when he'd ditched me, I was caught off guard; I hadn't known we were officially a couple.

I'd thought we were one- stop shopping. We worked together often, and once, after a bad night, we'd fallen into bed together. I liked the way his big hands caught in my long tumble of shaggy black hair, liked his deep rumble of a voice. He was good, rough trade, with a hairline scar cutting through one eyebrow and a long nose that had been broken more than once. I liked its complicated, crooked path.

Once we started, we kept coming back to it. I was built tall and athletic, but his body was huge— a thick- armed, beastly thing. He could toss me to the bed like I was made of air and ribbons. It was unfamiliar and exciting, to be bent and twisted into shapes, lifted, hurled around. The sex was often my favorite kind, blunt and urgent, but then it could turn languorous, too. We'd stretch time until the sex felt almost sleepy, right up until the end. Then it wasn't, and we'd tip each other into animal oblivion.

For months, we wore each other out nearly every afternoon. At his place, mostly. He didn't like my loft. It was all open concept, with a back wall made entirely of windows facing Atlanta's ever- rising skyline. He was the kind of guy who went right to a corner seat at any restaurant. He couldn't eat if his back was to the door. My place felt way too exposed, and the only interior walls were around the two bathrooms and the laundry. My cat had the run of it, and that creeped Birdwine out. He didn't like to look up and see Henry perched on the dresser like a fluffy white ghost, watching us and purring to himself. Birdwine was a dog guy.

So we'd come here. We'd close the door on Looper and have what I thought was convenience sex. Finest kind, yeah, but we didn't snuggle up after for sharing time. We had the broad strokes of each other's histories already anyway, from working together for so long. Our post-sex pillow talk was about the Braves' chances or the angles of a current case or where my bra had gone.

I was surprised when he ended it, then shocked when he also turned down every job I offered. Then he stopped taking my calls altogether. I'd backed off, giving him room to cool down. He hadn't cooled yet, going on six months later. So here we were.

I said, "I'm not a thirteen-year-old girl with a crack in my heart, Birdwine. We had a thing. It stopped working for you. Fine. I still respect the hell out of your work. I still want to hire you. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?" "In your metaphor, this is the baby?" He tapped the Skopes file. I nodded and he said, "I forgot what a hopeless romantic you are." His tone was still light, but one hand came up to scrub at his eyes: another bad sign. "Why didn't you title the email, 'Job for you' or 'Can you find this guy,' or hell, just the guy's DOB and Social."

I was wondering the same damn thing. It wasn't like me; I was fine- tuned for connotation. But I matched his light tone and said only, "Well, next time you avoid me for months, I'll know how to proceed."

He chuckled. "I'm still avoiding you, Paula. There has been no break in my avoidance. You're the one slumming it in my neighborhood." He paused, then added, very drolly, "Hey, look! This is becoming a relationship postmortem, after all. Neat."

"So take the job, and I'll get out of your hair." He didn't answer, but I couldn't let it go. Birdwine wasn't replaceable. Finally I said, "What if I double your rate?"

Excerpted from The Opposite of Everyone by Tom Jackson. Copyright © 2016 by Tom Jackson. Excerpted by permission of William Morrow. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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