Home > Last Call (Bad Habits #3)

Last Call (Bad Habits #3)
Staci Hart

MEOW

Rose

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.

Real hard.

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 needed to at least look presentable, wear something professional-ish, which was a problem since ripped up jeans and combat boots made up a large sum of my wardrobe. So I sighed heavily and made my way into Lily’s room to find something ‘normal’ to wear. She was the light to my dark, the optimist to my cynic. The ‘normal’ to my ‘not.’

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?”

“Sleeping.”

“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.”

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