Available for Pre-Order - Out January 1, 2017
I should not be up this early. Not after last night.
But, today is not just the first day of a new year either. It’s Nina’s eighteenth birthday.
I haven’t seen my siblings since I was twelve—half of my life. Tomorrow I will be at child services as soon as the doors open to find out where my sister is.
“Morning,” Kelsey whispers as she comes into the kitchen. She’s smiling, relaxed, and practically glowing. At least somebody is getting some.
I’ve known Kelsey Fry since high school. She lives on the top floor of the house, and she’s dating one of my best friends, Alex Dosek. She and Alex had been split, somewhat, for about a week, until a well-planned and perfectly executed intervention by our friends last night.
I push my glasses up on my head and rub the bridge of my nose.
“You okay?” Kelsey asks.
“Yeah,” I answer right before yawning. Maybe I should go back to bed and try to sleep. Unless Nina suddenly makes a profile on a social media site I won’t have answers until tomorrow anyway. I’ve already checked through all the sites this morning, and she’s not anywhere. Nor is my brother, Noah, or my youngest sister, Jade. I check every day hoping I’ll find them.
Kelsey grabs a mug out of the cupboard and pours a cup of coffee. I’ve already drunk half the pot, so chances are that even if I did go to bed, my brain would be just as wired as it was when I got up. Or worse.
“A few hours.” Though I’m not sure if it was really sleep. More like dozing with constant dreams.
Kelsey stops behind me and starts to lean over. “What are you doing?”
I close the lid on my laptop. After going through the social media sites I worked more on my novel. It’s a piece of crap, but I still keep working on it.
“Reading something naughty,” she teases.
She’s close. Not reading, but writing something very naughty.
Maybe I just need to get laid and then I won’t be so frustrated. The image of Mary Robins flashes in my mind. She is so not for me and way out of my league, but that doesn’t mean I’ve erased the image of her in that towel, fresh from the shower, with beads of water still glistening on her bare shoulders. That’s how she answered the door the day I dropped off dinner for Kelsey when the two still lived together. I don’t think my cock has ever gotten so hard in my life.
Kelsey leans against the large island, the mug in her hands, close to her face. “Okay, since we won’t talk about what you’re reading, let’s talk about Mary.”
I choke and splash coffee on the counter, barely missing my laptop. Grabbing paper towels I quickly wipe up the mess. “Okay…” I hope to God she can’t read minds because my thoughts aren’t exactly clean when they’re about Mary.
“Maybe not so much her, but you.”
“Me?” I take a step back, pretending that I have no clue what Kelsey is talking about. Unfortunately, I’m all too aware of Mary. Perfect legs, that beautiful, infectious smile, and sparkling blue eyes that are all Mary. Perky, happy, and so fucking hot.
“She’s clearly interested. You’d have to be living in a cave, in total darkness, and never look at her, not to know.”
My face heats, though I’m pretty sure Kelsey is exaggerating. Sure, Mary said I was hot when I was cleaning their kitchen, but that doesn’t mean anything.
“So?” Kelsey demands.
“So, what?” I counter.
“Why aren’t you interested?”
Oh, if only she knew. Thank God Kelsey has no clue.
“He’s saving himself,” Alex announces as he comes into the kitchen.
This, I don’t need. It’s bad enough with Kelsey trying to get information. “Sod off.” I unplug my laptop.
“Sod off?” Kelsey laughs.
“Bloody hell,” I mutter as I pick up my computer.
“Novel!” Alex proclaims.
Like I’d be working on anything else the first morning of the New Year. I certainly don’t have food articles to prepare, no current assignments for the various newspapers and magazines that I get freelance work from, and nothing for my food blog.
“He always slips into different dialects when he’s working on a novel,” Alex explains. “If he were writing an article, he’d be all foody. Not that I’ve heard a foodie cuss word, but if anyone knows one, it’s Dylan.”
I do slip into the dialect, which I’m well aware of since that is where my head’s at, which is currently England. Until that last scene I just wrote, the poor chap had been as frustrated as I’ve been lately. “Are you two quite finished?”
“No,” they say in unison.
“What don’t you like about Mary?” Kelsey asks.
“It’s not that I don’t like her.” They just don’t need to know how much.
“So, ask her out,” Kelsey pushes.
“We have nothing in common.” I open the cupboard and grab a skillet. Maybe if I feed them they’ll shut up.
“How do you know until you have a conversation that lasts over five minutes?” Kelsey asks.
I straighten and look at her. Kelsey and I come from similar backgrounds in that we were in the system and ended up at the same high school, Baxter Academy of Arts, so she’s got to get it. “What does her father do?”
“Her dad was killed in Iraq when she was ten.”
Mary lost her dad? Kelsey’s words are like a fist to the gut. It’s one thing to have dicks as parents but totally different when you lose one because they’re fighting the good fight.
That still doesn’t mean we have anything else in common though. And, mine is not dead, he just might as well be. “Her mom?”
“She’s some kind of engineer at Watervliet Arsenal Army Base.”
Both parents, honorable, serving their country, even if one is dead. Mary comes from heroes. I come from selfish, filthy, hoarder slobs who made their living cooking meth in the basement while I raised my younger brother and sisters.
“That doesn’t mean you don’t have anything in common.”
I blow out a sigh and turn to her. “Look, Kels, I know you mean well, but I’m not interested in Mary or any woman.” That’s only a partial lie. I’m not interested in any other woman.
“Dude, why didn’t you tell me you were gay?” Zach cries as he comes into the kitchen. “I have so many friends that would just love to grab that ass.” Zachary Hawk. Another guy I’ve known since high school and who lives in the house. He’s also a drag queen who leaves his four inch stilettos in the middle of the living room after a late night.
Why the hell is everybody up so early? We got back from the bar like only five hours ago. It’s a fucking holiday meant for sleeping in. “I’m not gay.”
“Prude?” Alex asks and then his eyes go wide. “You’re a fucking virgin. That’s it!” He rushes forward and pats me on the shoulder. “It’s okay, really, and explains why you’ve never had a girl up to that pristine room of yours, or at any time since we left Baxter.”
That’s because I kept any girl I was seeing away from them. Well, except Patty. But that’s a female I’d like to forget.
“Do you think if he got some he’d loosen up?” Zach asks with a laugh. “No wonder he spends so much time scrubbing and cleaning shit. He’s frustrated because his dick’s not getting the attention it deserves.”
Kelsey grins. “Mary would be more than happy to give it all kinds of attention.”
I’d be more than happy to let her, if things were different.
“I’ll caution her to be gentle,” Alex adds with concern.
The three of them laugh and something inside me snaps. “I’m not a fucking virgin. I am not a prude. I am not gay. She’s just not the girl for me.”
With that I head out of the kitchen with my laptop. “Fix your own fucking breakfast.”
“What the hell?” I push the blankets away and look at my clock, then groan. It’s only like noon and I’ve gotten a total of two hours sleep.
Laughter bleeds through my bedroom door right before someone starts pounding on the wall.
I grab my robe and storm out. There are a ton of boxes in the living room and I can barely get around them. Where the hell did they come from? They weren’t here when I got home from the hospital this morning.
Shelby and Tiffany are in Kelsey’s old room with who I guess is our new roommate. She’s hammering nails into the wall.
“Oh, hi, Mary,” Shelby greets me with a sugary sweet smile. “This is Brit. She’s moving in.” Her grin gets bigger, but there’s a glint of cold calculation in her baby blue eyes. “Britney and I have been friends since high school. Isn’t it great that she’s living here now?”
“Great.” I’m pretty sure my dry tone is missed on them, or maybe not. “Can you be a little quieter please? I worked all night and need to be in at eleven tonight.”
Tiffany over-exaggerates a pout. “Poor thing.”
“Your friend, Kelsey, wasn’t exactly quiet when she moved out,” Shelby reminds me.
“Don’t punish me if she pissed you off.”
With that, I leave them and return to my room, pull the covers over my head and two pillows, but it doesn’t drown out the sound of the drill. A damn drill. This place has been taken over.
Blowing out a sigh, I grab my noise canceling headphones. I bought them when I needed to study in the dorm, so I hope they work now.
Silence. Well, almost silence, but it’s better than before. Until something bangs against the wall knocking my favorite piece of art, a reproduction of Renoir’s Woman in a Landscape, from the wall. It hits the night stand and the glass shatters. Does Brit have a bulldozer in there I missed?
Grabbing my pillows and blankets I head to the closet. At least it’s on the opposite side of the room and doesn’t share a wall with anything but the living room.
After closing the door, I switch off the light and burrow into a nest of clothing on the floor. It’s certainly softer than the hard floor.
I hope to hell this doesn’t keep up, but now that Brit is here, and she’s Shelby’s BFF, it’s not going to be an easy semester.
Wait, Kelsey is looking for a new place to live. If we combined our funds maybe we could get a place together. I’ll still be stuck with the rent here, but if this shit continues I might commit murder. I didn’t spend the last four years working on a degree to become a nurse at the nearest penitentiary.
Grabbing my phone I send her a text.
Me: Are you still looking for an apartment?
Kelsey: No. Why.
Me: New roommate, Shelby’s bff from high school
Me: Why aren’t you looking anymore?
My guess is that she and Alex finally made up, as they should, but I don’t want to assume anything either. The other guys in the house may have just insisted she stay.
Kelsey: Alex is back.
Me: Happy for you. Sucks for me
I am happy for her, but it puts me back at square one. I know Kelsey didn’t have any luck finding a place on a budget when she was looking so I doubt I will either. Besides, school will also start back up on Tuesday and we’ll all be on a normal schedule again.
At least I hope everything goes back to normal
Today they are probably just pushing my buttons because it’s Brit’s first day. I can play this game until we are back in classes. If my feathers don’t get ruffled, they’ll get bored.
Mama always said to pick your battles, and I’m too tired to pick this one. Plus, I don’t want them to think they succeeded in pissing me off on day one.
Me: Getting a hotel room
Me: They’re playing Adele
Kelsey: You like Adele
Me: Not when I’m trying to sleep and it’s loud enough to make my ears bleed
Kelsey: It’s like noon
Me: Worked 11 to 9. Got 2 hrs sleep. Gotta go in tonight
Kelsey: Come here
Me: And sleep where?
Then again, if Dylan offered his bed… maybe sleep wouldn’t be so important.
Kelsey: my bed.
More music blares from a different part of the apartment.
I only have two more nights of thirds and then my sleep schedule will be the same as theirs. I just need to remember that and not react. Getting pissed will only encourage Shelby and that’s the last thing I want to do.
Me: Heading over.
I quickly dress, throw some stuff in a bag and head out of my room.
“What’s wrong? Couldn’t sleep?” Shelby asks with mock sympathy.
“What?” I ask as if confused. “No. I’ve got to be some place. Thank God you woke me or I might have overslept.”
I finally allow myself to smile at Shelby and Tiffany’s shock once I’m out in the hall. They were so counting on pissing me off, and I just took it away from them. Well, not totally. They did piss me off, but I’ll be damned if I let them know it.