Last Call (Bad Habits Book 3), p.1Staci Hart
Copyright © 2016 Staci Hart
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Cover design by Quirky Bird
Photography by Perrywinkle Photography
Editing by Librum Artis
Extra Last Call Goodies
Hearts and Arrows
Deer in Headlights (Hearts and Arrows 1)
Snake in the Grass (Hearts and Arrows 2)
What the Heart Wants (Hearts and Arrows 2.5 Novella)
Doe Eyes (Hearts and Arrows 3)
Fool’s Gold (Hearts and Arrows 3.5 Novella)
Hearts and Arrows Box Set
Hardcore (Erotic Suspense Serials)
With a Twist
Nailed - Erotic Shorts
Short story on Amazon
Sign up for the newsletter to receive a FREE copy of Deer in Headlights
Flesh and Ink
What Goes Around
Make a Wish
So Much Nope
Go With It
Pins and Needles
Nice and Slow
Fault and Blame
Prince Solves Everything
Once and for All
Things You Can Count On
What Could Have Been
Excerpt from Adriana Locke’s Wherever It Leads
To Kandi and Becca,
For always being my dearest diary
And shitting rainbows all over my storms.
MY BREATH CAME IN BURSTS, heart pounding as Patrick’s long body pressed me into the bed. There wasn’t an inch between us — we were a tangle of arms and legs, lips and hands, and any will I had to stop him was long gone. I didn’t care that I should. I didn’t care about anything, not with his fingers stroking my skin like a match, trailing heat in their wake.
He was even better than I remembered.
I opened my heavy lids when he backed away to pull off his shirt, taking a quick second to catch my breath as I skimmed my fingers down his tattooed chest, my eyes roaming over the art that covered every inch of his skin as he watched. It was his soul laid bare — the good and the bad, the happy and sad, all chronicled in black ink so he could remember. As if he could ever forget.
It was a sight I’d missed more than I’d ever confess.
He bent to kiss me, breathing until his breath was mine and mine was his. It was fevered, frantic — my hand against the sharp angle of his jaw, his lips hard, my eyes pinned shut — erasing everything that had happened between us. As if it had never happened.
Patrick broke away to kiss my neck just as a black cat jumped on the bed, and I glanced over with bleary eyes to meet the cat’s. He meowed, teeth like tiny white needles against the jet black of his fur.
Patrick didn’t stop or seem to notice. His hands slipped up my thighs, tongue brushing my skin, wet lips closing, and my lids fluttered, a sigh slipping out of me as I twisted my fingers in his black hair.
An orange tabby hopped onto the bed and strutted across to sit next to the black one, tail twitching. He blinked at me and meowed.
“What the hell?” I muttered, confusion on my face as another one — this time smoke gray — found its way onto my bed, sat next to the others, looked right at me, and meowed like an absolute bastard.
My face fell as flat as my hope. “I’m fucking dreaming.”
This was the moment when my eyes flew open, and I gasped as I woke unwillingly.
Patrick was gone, and so were the cats. My clothes were sadly in place, the room chilly and dark, and my phone alarm meowed at me from my nightstand.
“Son of a bitch,” I huffed, heart still chugging as I rolled over to swipe blindly at the screen to stop the noise.
The phone was still in my hand as I flopped back in bed, reminding myself again to change the ringer when I could open my eyes. My roommate, Lily, had set it as a joke weeks ago, and I could never remember to change it back. Instead, I considered options for a payback ringer, top of the list being broken glass, crying baby, and angry hen.
I cracked one eye to glance at my screen. It was eight in the morning, an hour that normally didn’t exist in my universe. I’d never been a morning person, which was part of the draw in bartending. Of course, it made adulting kind of hard when you didn’t get up until two, but luckily, I didn’t have to adult very often. Jury duty being an unavoidable, annoying, and despicable exception.
I thought real hard about the two-hundred-fifty dollar fine I’d get nailed with if I didn’t show up.
But it wasn’t worth it. I’d get out of bed for two-hundred-fifty bones. Hell, if you fed me enough tequila and I had on a pretty bra, I’d probably take my shirt off for that kind of money.
I sighed and flipped off my comforter before reaching over to turn on my lamp. My room was always dark thanks to blackout curtains that aided and abetted my reverse sleep habits. The only time they were opened was when Lily wanted to torture me out of bed before lunch.
She was spared a sudden, gruesome death only because she’s my best friend.
I peeled myself out of bed and shuffled into the bathroom in nothing but a Cub Scout T-shirt and panties, rubbing my face as I yawned, trying not to think about how warm my bed had been. Definitely trying not to think about Patrick’s lips — or his hands, or jaw, or tattoos or his —
He dumped you more than seven months ago, Rose. Get over it.
Stupid asshole dreams.
Let me give you some relationship advice. Don’t date the guy down the hall, because when he dumps you, you can’t get away. Definitely don’t date a guy in your group of super tight-knit friends, because then you really fuck yourself. Especially if he was your best friend, and especially if he never stopped looking at you like he’d devour you if you’d say the word, even months after he dropped you like a bad habit. Really makes it hard to stick to your guns.
But stick to my guns I did. Patrick and I were an unwieldy, knotted up mess, so when it ended for good, that was it. I didn’t even know how to approach fixing it because it was fucked up beyond all repair, so I threw up the wall. And once the wall is up, there’s no scaling it. It’s like nuclear lockdown — gates don’t open for two-hundred years, so go get yourself a Snickers and pull up a chair because we’re going to be here for a while.
I glanced in the mirror and yawned again, hazel eyes watering as I twisted my long, shaggy black hair into a rope and tossed it over my shoulder, feeling grumbly as I washed my face and hands. I
I stopped dead when I stepped into her room.
A body shaped lump was stretched out in Lily’s bed under her covers.
The problem: Lily hadn’t slept at home in months.
My pulse exploded in a burst as I tried to figure out who it was because that lump was too big to be Lily. Obviously the logical leap was that a homeless guy wandered in and crashed in her bed. Or maybe it was a tired burglar. A lost little old man? Maybe the nursing home was looking for him. Or the police. Or his kids, looking for their inheritance.
I stood frozen next to the bed with my brain tripping over what to do. Call the cops. Scream. Run. Fight. I blinked and looked around for a weapon, eyes lighting when I landed on Lily’s nightstand.
My lips pursed, eyes on the lump as I opened the drawer silently and grabbed Philmore Dix.
I stepped closer to the pile of bedding, breath frozen in my lungs as I extended it slowly to poke the lump in what I thought might be its shoulder.
The covers flew up with a yelp of the man underneath, and I screamed as the lump rolled off the bed and hit the floor.
Patrick was wild-eyed, black hair a mess, tattooed chest heaving as he blinked up at me. My heart kickstarted with a thud, and all the blood rushed to my cheeks and ears.
“Tricky! What the fuck?” I yelled as I threw the hot pink vibrator at him.
He put up his hand to stop Phil from hitting him in the chest. “Fuck, Rose. You scared the shit out of me.”
I gaped. “I scared you? What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Obviously,” I shot as I hung a hand on my hip, trying to keep my eyes on his instead of his body. I wondered briefly if he was naked. My heartbeat ticked up a notch. “Why are you sleeping here?”
He sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair, putting it in place elegantly. “Ever since Lily started sleeping over, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep. Three in the morning, every morning, like clockwork. First the moaning. Then the headboard banging. I’ve tried everything, Rose. You’ve gotta know this was the last resort. I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t desperate for sleep.”
I regretted the fact that he had a key to our place, along with regretting a hundred other things as I glared at that beautiful asshole, sitting on the floor of Lily’s room, wrapped in pretty, frilly bedding as he stared up at me with sad, intense eyes, eyes that begged me to understand. The pissed me off the most was that I did understand.
I felt that pull to him, in the moment. His eyes always did that to me — I swear if he looked hard enough, he could see straight through me.
I shoved my feelings on the matter back down into that dark corner of my heart and kicked its door closed.
My eyes narrowed, teeth clenching once. “How long have you been sleeping here?”
His face tightened in the smallest increment, but I saw it just the same. “Over a month.”
I ran a hand through my hair, not even sure what to say. “Jesus Christ, Tricky. You should have asked me.”
“Lily suggested it. I told her we should ask you, but she said you’d flip out.” He smirked a little, since she was right and all.
“That bitch,” I breathed, only like forty-two percent serious, but that forty-two percent was really serious.
He was still smirking just a little, that dick, even though he had those eyes of his on me like sexy lasers. “Come on, Rose. I mean, I’ve been here for a month and you didn’t even know. I’ll stay out of your way, I swear.”
My jaw was set, but I was torn. Everything pointed to picking him up my his scruff — naked or not — and tossing him out. I just wasn’t sure how much of that was irrational. So I put on my hardass, scowling a little for effect. “It’s way too early to have this discussion. I need coffee, or whiskey. Or both. You work today?”
“Yeah, until six.”
“I have jury duty, but meet me here after and give me the day to think about it.”
“Fair enough.” The shadow smirk bloomed into a full blown crooked smile. He picked up Philmore, turning it over to inspect it as his brow climbed. “You were going to assault me with a pink vibe?”
I shrugged. “It was the closest blunt object.”
He snuck a glance down at my legs. I’d forgotten I was nearly naked, and another little burst of adrenaline shot through me as I watched him look me over.
I was all of a sudden very glad I’d done laundry a couple of days ago and had my top-shelf undies on instead of the days of the week panties I reserved for periods and trips to the laundromat.
I turned for Lily’s dresser to rummage through her clothes with clumsy hands, hiding behind my dark hair to cover the flush in my cheeks. When I turned around, business casual in hand, he was still staring at my body. I ignored the shot of heat that ran through me and made a face somewhere between a scowl and a glare.
He looked up at me without the least bit of remorse.
The light streamed in through a crack between the curtains, a slice of sunshine across his angular face and curves of his shoulders, illuminating his blue eyes as tiny specks of dust danced in and out of the beam.
I realized I wasn’t breathing and clutched the clothes in my hands with sweaty palms, needing to get out of that room before I suffocated. “All right … well, I’ll see you tonight, Tricky.”
“Sure.” His voice was tight, the smile somehow gone from his face without me realizing when it had left.
I wondered if he was as affected by me as I was by him, just before walked away from him with only one other thought.
This cannot be good.
I STARED AT ROSE’S ASS shamelessly as she blew out of the room, breathing a sigh when she was out of sight.
It could have gone worse than dagger eyes and vibrator assault. She didn’t say no when I asked to stay, and I counted that for something.
I gathered up Lily’s comforter and climbed back into bed, slipping a hand behind my head as I listened to Rose swear her way through the apartment. Best to stay out of her way — it was too early to press my luck any more than I already had.
As I waited in the otherwise quiet room, I replayed the encounter in my mind, pictured her standing over me. Even barely awake, she looked like something out of a dream. The light shone in, illuminating her dark hair to look red, glowing like embers. The small, tight tee hitched over her hip on one side, the Cub Scout logo stretched across her breasts. Her long legs, the tattoo on her hip and thigh that I’d done myself, a mark I’d made on her that could never be erased.
Outside, she was cool and confident. Inside, she was on fire.
Nothing had been easy between the two of us since we’d broken up. I shouldered the blame for that, and it wasn’t something Rose would let go.
We’d been friends first, good friends, and for years. There was a night, a moment when I knew I felt more for her. No, it wasn’t even that — I’d had a thing for her ever since I’d met her. It was that I realized that she felt the same. Something in her eyes asked me for more, and when I kissed her, her body told me it was true.
We made a deal: We’d take it one day at a time, and if it ever became too much for either of us, we’d say the word and end it, no questions asked.
And that’s how the happiest months of my life began.
I’d been alone for most of my life, no room in my heart for anything serious. But Rose and I were easy. We slipped into a pattern of togetherness, every day, every night. I remembered coming to this apartment under much different circumstances, sleeping across the hall in her bed, spending every moment with her that I could, all under the umbrella of a bullshit,
It seemed so simple, at the time. A way to lower expectations and pressure. An easy way out wherein we could retain our friendship and respect for each other. We thought, at least. At the end of the day, it made no difference.
Sometimes, you have the whole world in your hands, and you don’t realize it until it’s shattered, left crumbled and sparkling in your palms. That you don’t know that you’ve lived your best days, not until they’re gone. Not until you look back. That day — the day I walked away — was one of my greatest mistakes, and I’ve made more than my share. It’s the only one I counted as a regret.
It wasn’t her fault that I was afraid, that the days and nights and togetherness I’d come to want and need all of a sudden seemed big and serious and terrifying. It wasn’t her fault that I realized I loved her, that I’d let her in deep enough that if she left me, I could never repair the hole it would leave.
So I ended it. And when I sat her down, when I told her simply that I wanted out, she accepted it just as simply. No questions asked.
I mistook her acceptance for apathy, and that apathy nearly killed me. She didn’t care, I convinced myself, then convinced myself that I didn’t care either. Repeated it in my head as I asked Veronica — another tattoo artist where I worked, one who’d been signaling her interest to me for months — if she wanted to go on a date. To Habits, the bar where we all hung out. The same bar where Rose bartended.
Like I said. Regrets.
The look on Rose’s face when I walked in with Veronica wasn’t one I’d ever forget. I think she was too shocked to hide her hurt, her anger, and that’s when I knew she’d been fronting, giving me what she thought I wanted, just as I presumed to know her feelings.
That night was a long one. It wasn’t long before it was too much to bear — the tears she blinked back, her body tight, the way she avoided looking at me, like if she did, she’d turn into a pillar of salt. I ushered Veronica out and apologized, an apology that earned me a verbal lashing, one I accepted and deserved, then watched her storm off. It was weeks before she’d even really speak to me again, and the first words she spoke were a joke at my expense, a good-natured joke that served as an olive branch.
Last Call (Bad Habits Book 3) by Staci Hart / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes