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Bad habits box set, p.1
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       Bad Habits Box Set, p.1

           Staci Hart
 
Bad Habits Box Set


  Contents

  With A Twist

  1. LIFE GOALS

  2. THIS GUY

  3. BITCHES AND BALLERS

  4. TOE-TO-TOE

  5. OGLING 101

  6. ANTICI....PATION

  7. SPIN OUT

  8. THE WAIT

  9. FLOWERS FIX EVERYTHING

  10. THIS BITCH

  11. WHERE'S THE WHISKEY

  12. JUST SAY NO

  13. BUTTERFLY

  14. SCHEMES

  15. CAVEMAN SAYS "UG"

  16. SWAN DIVE

  17. WRUNG OUT

  18. IF IT'S NOT ONE THING

  19. BAPTISM BY LIQUOR

  20. STARS AND SONNETS

  21. PHILMORE

  22. ALL I WANT

  23. FAITH

  24. DRINK TO THAT

  Epilogue

  Chaser

  1. CHARMING BASTARD

  2. STRINGS

  3. THE LIFE

  4. GROWN-ASS WOMAN

  5. BOSS

  6. HYPNODICK

  7. POSITIONS

  8. MR. M

  9. STARVING

  10. THE SURFACE

  11. TRUTH OR DARE

  12. SORE LOSER

  13. NOT-DATE

  14. THE RULES

  15. FLY

  16. STAY

  17. PIECES OF ME

  18. GRAVITY

  19. GIVE AND TAKE

  20. BORN TO RUN

  21. CHANCES

  22. SPLIT

  23. RASPBERRY CHIP

  24. MEASURES

  25. LIMITLESS

  26. HOME

  27. BREATHE

  28. EPILOGUE - COOPER

  29. EPILOGUE - MAGGIE

  Last Call

  1. MEOW

  2. NO QUESTIONS

  3. FLESH AND INK

  4. SAUSAGE STACK

  5. NEGATIVE SPACE

  6. SAVE ME

  7. WHAT GOES AROUND

  8. DEATH GRIP

  9. WHENEVER

  10. IT'S TRICKY

  11. EVENTUALLY

  12. JOAN JETT

  13. BENCH PRESS

  14. LUCKY SPOT

  15. MAKE A WISH

  16. FLESH PRETZEL

  17. DEAL

  18. SO MUCH NOPE.

  19. DEAL 2.0

  20. GO WITH IT

  21. PINS AND NEEDLES

  22. NICE AND SLOW

  23. CRIMSON ED

  24. STEP ONE

  25. ASS BUST

  26. TICK TOCK

  27. KAMIKAZE

  28. FAULT AND BLAME

  29. PRINCE SOLVES EVERYTHING

  30. ONCE AND FOR ALL

  31. THINGS YOU CAN COUNT ON

  32. WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

  33. ANYTHING

  34. THIS TIME

  Epilogue

  Happily Ever Habits

  Forever And Ever, Amen.

  1. One Rule

  2. Screw It

  3. Like a Virgin

  4. Magic

  No Such Thing

  5. Plan? What Plan?

  6. Sucker Punch

  7. Hold Out

  8. Punsies

  9. Pearls

  About Damn Time

  10. Mercy

  11. Rush

  12. Anywhere But Here

  13. Hello, World

  14. Cheers To That

  Also by Staci Hart

  About the Author

  Copyright © 2015 Staci Hart

  All rights reserved.

  stacihartnovels.com

  No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

  Cover design by Quirky Bird

  Photography by Perrywinkle Photography

  Extra With A Twist Goodies

  Playlist

  Pin Board

  To Becca.

  #TeamBashert

  1

  LIFE GOALS

  Lily

  OH, MY GOD. I CANNOT believe this is actually happening.

  It was the only thought in my brain, and it echoed over and over again as I stared in the studio mirror, gripping the barre as Blane Motherfucking Baker nailed me from behind.

  Maybe I should explain.

  I feel like I should definitely explain.

  See, this isn’t the sort of thing I’d ever do under normal circumstances. I’d been busting my ass for years with the New York City Ballet — a job that left me with precious little social life or opportunity for dating — and even at that, I’d avoided hooking up with another dancer. Everybody else did it, but I’d seen the fallout. Not worth it.

  But for Blane Baker I’d make an exception.

  I still remember the first time I saw him. I was fifteen, far away from home on a scholarship to attend the School of American Ballet, sitting in the lunchroom by myself. He walked in with a tray, laughing with a friend, and my thoughts went something like this:

  1) nvfjrugncpqdhhHNGGGGG.

  2) Please, God, don’t let him be gay.

  3) HOLY SHIT, HE LOOKED RIGHT AT ME.

  Which was the same moment I reached for my phone to cover the fact that I was drooling. My fingers bumped into the plastic cup, sending it flying, and orange juice hit the ground with a slap. The cup skittered across the floor to stop at his feet.

  Attempt to look busy: backfire.

  Blane laughed at me, that kind of unabashed laugh that makes a teenage girl consider moving to Iceland. He picked up the cup and brought it back to me, smiling genuinely as he set it back on the table with a wink. “Dropped something.”

  I melted into a steaming puddle of viscous glop on the ground.

  As if that wasn’t bad enough, Nadia Anderson walked in behind him, taking in the scene with a horrible smile on her face. That smile said she wouldn’t forget, and when she hooked her arm in Blane’s and they walked away, the Lily-sized pile of goo turned into acid, and I melted through the floor.

  She sometimes still called me JuicyFruit, even seven years later.

  Whatever. I’m sure that kind of thing happened to him all the time. Blane looked like a freaking god — tall and blond, with blue eyes that I was absolutely certain could see through clothes, a smile so bright that girls literally tripped and fell when they saw it, and an ass that could probably crush a walnut, if it were positioned just so. And he just kept getting hotter with age.

  I found out later that he and Nadia were in their last year at SAB, three years older than me, and had been dating since their first year.

  Here are a few things you need to know about Nadia: she’s a harpy, she’s a remarkable dancer, and she owns Blane Baker. Nadia was the definitive reason why I would never have a chance with Blane — not during our one year together at SAB and not through our years working together in the company. He was always just a step ahead of me in the ranks, which kept us in each other’s eyesight, but we’d never run in the same group of friends.

  Until now.

  The universe had given me three supreme gifts, and there was no way in hell I’d waste them.

  I’d been promoted to principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.

  I’d landed the role of my life as Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.

  Nadia had broken up with Blane’s sweet, sweet ass.

  That same ass was currently flexing like a piston as he pounded me.

  I glanced at my reflection, hoping I’d find myself looking sexy. In my head, I looked so sexy, all parted lips and long lashes, blond hair loose and wav
y, like a bathing suit model in the Barbados. But no. I had the most awkward expression on my face, sort of a mix of surprise and confusion. I wiped it away and replaced it with something I hoped looked more appropriate. It was only marginally better, if not a little porny.

  I gave up. He didn’t seem to be paying attention anyway.

  Blane’s eyes were down, lush bottom lip between his teeth, hands on my hips as he moved faster, giving me a grand total of 6% of his attention, all of which was between my legs. He didn’t bother with the rest of my body at all. And I couldn’t find it in my heart to give one single shit.

  Blane Baker, y’all. Blane Do-Whatever-You-Want-To-Me Baker. Making girls lose their minds since puberty, circa 1996.

  Clearly, I was not immune.

  He finally looked up, though not at me, making a face as he watched himself come with a sort of strangled grunt. I gasped and moaned, hoping I was giving him an appropriate amount of enthusiasm for his effort.

  Blane slowed, trailing a hand down my back with a hum. “That was nice.”

  I pretended to be out of breath. “Right?” I sounded like an idiot. Get your shit together, Lily. A-game.

  “I’ve been thinking about that for a long time, Lily.” He smiled at me in the mirror as he pulled out and took off the condom, righting his pants when he turned for the trash.

  My cheeks were on fire. “Me too.” I adjusted my leotard and shook my head at my reflection, taking a deep breath and smoothing my chiffon skirt to fortify myself. My hair was a wreck, and I tied back the mess as the awkward silence stretched on. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. Ask him out for coffee? No, too desperate. Rehearse? I mean, it wasn’t like that was actually what I expected to happen when he invited me to his ‘private studio.’ At least, I’d hoped that wasn’t what he really wanted to do. I’d shaved and everything.

  I realize how juvenile I sounded, but being around him kicked me straight back to high school. Normally, I was a fairly rational adult, a professional ballet dancer. Responsible. Not a complete idiot. I wondered briefly if proximity to him could actually affect my IQ.

  He turned, and I flashed a smile. Be charming, goddammit. “Rehearsal’s never been so exciting.”

  It might have been the lamest statement of my life.

  Blane laughed, the sound deep and easy as he sauntered back over to me. “Most definitely. I’m happy to rehearse any time.” He slipped a hand around my waist and kissed my hair.

  My mental state deteriorated even further.

  “Seriously,” he said. “I’ll give you tips anytime you want.”

  A laugh bubbled out of me at the joke. “Your tip. That’s funny.” But when I glanced up at him, he looked a little confused. I watched hopefully as it dawned on him.

  “Oh, tips. I get it,” he said with a chuckle.

  At least he’s pretty.

  Just like that, I had a handle on myself again. I kissed him on the cheek and strutted over to my bag. My pointe shoes lay neglected next to my bag — Blane had jumped me before I’d even had a chance to put them on. So I traded my skirt for leggings, slipped on my flats and picked up my bag.

  “See you tomorrow, Blane.” I smiled and gave him the smolder eyes over my shoulder as I walked to the door. I hoped they smoldered, at least. After seeing what I looked like earlier, I couldn’t be sure. When he smiled back, my stomach did a flipflop, and I twiddled my fingers at him before I left the studio.

  And by leave, I mean skipped.

  I had to tell Rose.

  West

  My wooden office chair squeaked as I leaned back, squinting at the paper in my hand, not realizing how dark it had gotten, my eyes on the words as I spun the chair around and clicked on the lamp switch. The words jumped into focus, and I scratched at my beard absently, willing my brain to pay attention to the essay I was grading.

  Being a Literature TA for the illustrious Dr. Blackwell at Columbia wasn’t without its merits. The experience would be résumé gold, and the connections I’d made would help me get into the doctoral program, I hoped. The application was in, the proposal made, and soon I’d know if I’d been accepted.

  That didn’t make my task of grading essays any more tolerable. Some were the kind of papers that only overeducated intellectuals can produce, sprinkled with regurgitations of things they’d heard professors — or worse, other intellectuals — say. Others were obviously a last minute noodle-toss of half-baked ideas. But then there were the gems: the inspired, collected thoughts of someone with original ideas and a brain between their ears.

  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the variety I was currently reading.

  I sighed and laid the paper on my desk, glancing between the stack of graded versus ungraded essays, mourning the lack of progress and looking forward to the day when I’d have my own classroom and a TA to do this kind of thing for me.

  I pulled the rubber band out of my hair, twisting it up into a fresh knot in the hopes it would somehow reset me, give me the kickstart I needed to keep slogging through these papers. So I picked up the essay and read the same paragraph I’d read three times. It didn’t make any more sense to me.

  My phone buzzed on my desk, and I thanked the universe for giving me a break. A picture of my sister that I’d taken when I went back home for Christmas popped up on my screen. She was standing in front of the tree in what had to be the ugliest sweater I’d ever seen: fire engine red with a lace collar and a gigantic felt Santa Clause on the front. She might have been twenty-three, but to me she’d always be three years old in overalls, her curly blond hair a mess.

  Once, my buddy Cooper called her a knockout. I almost knocked him out.

  I hit accept and pressed the phone to my ear. “Hey, Mags.”

  “Hey. Busy?” Her Mississippi drawl was so pronounced that I immediately slipped back into it myself, something that only happened when I went home or talked to any given member of my family.

  “Nah. How’s it going? You done packin’ yet?” I smiled and spun my chair again to face my room.

  She sighed. “Almost. Daddy keeps makin’ fun of me, says there’s no way I’ll have anywhere to put my vintage Barbie collection in my big-city shoebox apartment.”

  “Well, he’s right, you know. Pretty sure there’s zero room in Lily’s apartment for twenty Barbie dolls in original packaging.”

  Maggie huffed. “I’m not actually bringing them, West. I’ll leave them in my room, which I’m sure Mom will turn into a museum once I’m gone for good.”

  “Or a place to put her Stairmaster like she did mine.”

  “Different. I’m the baby, and a girl at that. Even Daddy gets all misty when I talk about leaving Jackson.”

  “I’m pretty sure Dad passed out cigars when I moved to out.”

  She snorted. “Yeah, because you were going to Columbia. Me leaving Jackson is harder on all of us, I think. No one expected you to stay once you graduated, but I’d made a life here. I hadn’t ever planned on leaving. And now I’m back home in my old room, but I’m not the same as I was when I was last here. And I’ve got to get out of here, even though it hasn’t been all that long since …”

  She trailed off, but I didn’t press her. It hadn’t been all that long since Jimmy, was the rest of that sentence. Her getting left at the altar was still a sore subject for everybody, and the number one reason for her move. I shifted the conversation so she wouldn’t have to talk about it.

  “Nervous about New York?”

  She sighed. “Of course I’m nervous. I’m flat-out petrified. How the hell am I going to figure out the subway? What if I get mugged? What if Lily and Rose end up hating me? But I’m doin’ it anyway, and it’s gonna be awesome.”

  “It is gonna be awesome. And Lily and Rose could never hate you. Y’all stayed together over the summer and got along just fine.”

  “Having a houseguest for a week and permanently sharing a bathroom with somebody are two different things all together.”

  I chuckled and switched the p
hone to my other ear. “Lily’s gone so much with work that you’ll barely see her, and as long as you don’t interrupt Rose’s sleep, you’ll survive. She’s more dangerous before noon than a starving honey badger.”

  Maggie laughed. “Noted.”

  “They’re glad you’re comin’ and that they can help.”

  “Well,” she perked up a little, “I have plenty of time to get settled in before I start teaching full time in the fall. I can sub here and there, use my little nest egg to lie around and take it easy. Start over.”

  My chest ached for her. “Everything’s gonna be fine, Mags.”

 
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