Romance: North: (Hot New Adult Bad Boy Romance, Alpha Male Rock Star Rebel Romance) (Contemporary Mystery and Romantic Suspense Short Stories), страница 1
Copyright © 2015 by Jade Allen
All rights reserved. No parts of this book may be used or reproduced in any form without written permission from the authors, with the exception of brief quoted passages left in an online review. This book is a fictional story. All characters, names, and situations are of the authors’ creation. Any resemblances to actual situations or to persons who are alive or dead are purely coincidental.
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This book is intended for readers age 18 and over. It contains mature situations and language that may be objectionable to some readers.
MY GIFT TO YOU
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My head was throbbing; my mouth tasted as though I’d licked a sewer grate. As I woke up for the third morning of my detox, I realized I was actually sweating because the air conditioning in the building had frozen up—instead of the reasons I’d awakened sweating the two mornings before, which had been due to withdrawals and the hulking, slinking presence of nightmares dancing through my head.
“Fuck,” I muttered into my pillow, throwing the sheets away from my body. I scrubbed at my face, closing my eyes to the fact that it was daylight; that one of the counselors would almost certainly show up in the next two minutes to tell me and my roommate that we’d better go ahead and eat breakfast because we had a "busy, busy day" ahead of us.
“Fuck, man,” the guy in the other bed said to me. “Ever think this was a huge mistake?” I laughed.
“Every damn morning I’ve been here,” I replied, flopping over onto my back.
“Clean and healthy, right?”
I looked over at Gerard, my roommate, and held up a fist in solidarity.
A few minutes later, as I had expected, one of the counselors knocked at the door and then opened it. “Up and at ‘em, guys,” she said, smiling brightly. “Breakfast is served and if you hang around in bed you won’t get any before group.” I sat up and fought down the wave of nausea that rose with my body.
“Yeah, we’re coming,” Gerard said. I raised a hand silently to acknowledge the counselor’s message and heard the door close as I stared at the floor, trying to get up the energy to move.
I shuffled into the cafeteria behind Gerard and a few other people in the program, barely keeping my eyes open. “At least the food is fucking decent, even if I can’t keep it down,” one of the women in front of me said. I snorted to myself, as quietly as possible; in a group of addicts and head cases, there was no telling what might set someone off.
I scooped eggs onto my plate with some sausage and bacon, and a couple of slices of toast. I grabbed coffee and a carton of juice and found a table.
“How was your night, Alex?” I looked up blearily from my breakfast and found another one of the counselors standing a few feet away. I bit back the urge to glare at her; of all the counselors at Recovery Now, Mary K. was the only one I could stand.
“Shitty,” I said, bringing a forkful of eggs to my mouth and reaching out for my coffee. “The air conditioning’s out again on my hall.”
Mary cringed. “Sorry, I know maintenance is on it, but that’s probably not much help to you right now.” She sat down, glancing around the room at the other inmates. “How are you otherwise?” I smiled slightly.
“Same as before,” I said, looking down at my hands.
“Ready for another thrilling discussion of ‘how we all got here’?” I looked up at Mary again and saw she was grinning.
“I can’t even tell you how ready I am,” I told her. “So thrilling. So fascinating. Gerard’s losing custody of his kids, Mabel lost her entire retirement paying for pills, Jessie’s parents won’t contribute to her trust fund unless she gets clean…” I pointed out the different inmates scattered around the room.
“And you? I don’t think we’ve ever actually gotten you to speak up about it,” Mary said, raising an eyebrow. The coffee was starting to work its magic in my system and I took a moment to actually take her in. Unlike the other counselors, who tried to look official by wearing scrubs, Mary had—for the three days I’d been in detox so far, at least—made the decision to blend in as much as possible. Her dark hair was pulled back in a bun, and she’d had time to put on a little makeup, but she was wearing jeans that fit her like a glove and a plain tee shirt. Her thick-framed glasses framed big, dark, sharp-looking eyes. I tried not to let my eyes wander but they went on their way against my will, taking in the swell of her tits just barely pushing at the fabric of her shirt, the neat waist that I thought I could wrap one arm around easily. The table obscured the rest of her, but I knew that below that waist was a flare of hip and long, toned legs that you wouldn’t expect from her short stature.
“My band mates sent me. And the label.” I held her gaze for a long moment.
“That’s not really an answer, you know,” Mary countered, and I broke away from looking at her; I couldn’t quite meet that level, knowing gaze. If she ever took her glasses off I’d fry inside my skin.
“It’s the only answer I feel like giving right now,” I said, peering down at my hands once more. I smirked at myself at the sight of the ink staining my fingers, my arms; memories of better days, that this place couldn’t take away from me even if they did manage to wash everything else out of my system.
“You know, you always look at your art when someone challenges you,” Mary observed. I glanced up quickly; she was still watching me with that attentive, all-absorbing stare. I picked up my fork; we only had about thirty minutes to eat before the schedule of daily activities started. “If I was a shrink, I’d think that you look at the tats as a shield to keep from looking at your actual self.” I glanced up again as I took a bite of toast, to see the slight curve to Mary’s lips, the twitch of one corner.
“You are a shrink,” I pointed out, gesturing to her with my fork. “So why not just say it outright?” Mary’s smile grew broader.
“Counselor, not shrink,” she corrected me. “There’s years of education between me and a shrink. I can’t tell you what’s going on in your head; I can only tell you what it looks like to me.” She rose and I breathed a sigh of relief, turning my attention back to my food. “If you’re not ready to talk, I don’t know what you expect to get out of this,” she told me, walking away from the table to continue her rounds. I was glad she was gone—and I glanced in Mary’s direction to watch her go. Definitely glad to watch you leave. I wondered if she had any tattoos of her own and smirked down at my bacon and sausage. Probably would only get them to be able to empathize with lowlifes like me. I drank some juice and turned my thoughts to the upcoming and deeply thrilling group session that was alw
I groaned as I rolled out of bed on the first day of week two of my little stint in hell. Why are we all here? What was your personal moment of revelation? The words had become like a fucking rite in church; every morning, first thing, we talked about what had brought us to this particular slice of purgatory. I had finally convinced them at the end of the previous week to take me off of the fucking benzos they put me on at admission. They had been concerned, they told me, with the need to support me through withdrawals. I needed something in my system to cushion the shock. “Well if you just switch me from one cocktail of drugs to another what the hell am I supposed to do when I get out?”
For a wonder, Mary had backed me. “He’s out of the withdrawal period. He hasn’t been on the benzos long enough to have formed a habit. Cut him down and then take him off, before he does.” The shrink in charge of the operation had hemmed and hawed, but as I watched, Mary transformed into a little flirt, smiling at the old man and saying that she respected his opinion so much, but she had read a recent study by one of his rivals that suggested that long-term treatment of addiction with benzos only led to transference of addition—not resolution of it.
I decided to skip breakfast and headed directly to the group room, throwing myself onto the couch. As if my very thoughts had been a summons, Mary walked into the room a minute later, looking flustered and irritable. Oh goody, I thought with a little rush of guilty pleasure. Something had gotten under the poor girl’s skin. “Having a bad Monday?” I asked, wearing my best shit-eating grin.
“Alex, if you don’t keep your mouth shut right now, I’m going to slap it off your face,” Mary said, opening a file cabinet. She grabbed something out of it and slammed it shut, rattling the whole cabinet in the process.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I asked her, unable to help the smile tugging at the corners of my lips. It was something; to feel like I had a little smidgen of power, lounging on a couch in my jeans and tee shirt, the same jeans and tee shirt I’d worn the day before. Mary turned on her heel and stared at me, and if looks could kill I wouldn’t have lasted a second. Her hands clenched and unclenched, and I saw her nostrils flare as she took a big, deep breath.
“Okay,” she said, her voice carefully level. “Okay, you want to hear from me about this? You want to know what’s wrong?” She rushed across the room, the papers in her hands rustling from the force of her grip. “My mother just had another relapse. Yes, that’s right, another one. This makes four. She landed herself in the hospital with alcohol poisoning because the dumb bitch couldn’t do herself the favor of buying wine to slake her stupid thirst, and instead went straight to the liquor store and bought herself a handle of vodka which she finished in six hours.”
I stared at Mary; I had known she had to have some kind of connection to an addict. Most people didn’t become counselors unless they either had overcome addiction themselves or were close to someone who had. But as much as I wanted to take pleasure in what she admitted, I felt a little stab of pain at the barely-controlled rage in her voice. “So right now I’m not sure if she’s even going to manage to stay alive long enough to get clean again. Yes, I am having a shitty Monday. That’s exactly how I feel right now.”
“That sucks,” I said, since I knew I had to say something. What I really wanted to say was that it wasn’t her fault; what I really wanted to say was that she’d probably be better off in the long run if her mom didn’t live long enough to get clean again. “Your mom ever go here?” Mary closed her eyes and took another breath.
“No,” she said slowly. “She never went here. Obviously I couldn’t act as a counselor to her.” It was as if her rage left her all at once; she sank down into one of the folding chairs, bringing her hands up to her face. “So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m not in the best mood today. I’m preoccupied.” I sat up on the couch and worried at my bottom lip; there was a little patch of scar tissue just below my lip, from where I’d had a piercing, and it soothed me just a little bit to work it between my teeth.
“Want to know why I’m here?” I asked, finally. Mary looked up from her lap, frowning at me.
“Seriously? This is when you decide to open up?”
I smiled weakly. “Hey, you shared. Can I help it if I’m not into one-sided sharing? Just take the gift.” Mary licked her lips and sat up, crossing her arms over her chest. I tried not to look at the way that her posture pressed her gorgeous tits up, making them strain at the fabric of her tee shirt even more.
“Fine,” she said. “Tell me about it.” I scrubbed at my face with my hands, rubbing at my stubble-rough cheeks.
“I’m not here to actually get treatment,” I said, looking down at my hands. The words FREE and BORN looked up at me from the backs of my fingers, along with a sparrow in full color on my right hand. “I mean, the band and the label both thought it would be good for me to get clean, but that was kind of secondary.”
“So if you’re not here to get treatment, then why are you here?”
I looked up at Mary. “I’m in trouble with some people. The label and my band figured this would be the safest place for me to cool off.” Mary’s eyes widened slightly as she absorbed what I said.
“So you’re not interested in getting sober,” she said, making it not quite a question.
“Yes and no,” I admitted with a shrug. “Obviously anyone who’s getting in trouble with their dealer could probably use a break from the grind.” I laughed. “Mostly I’m just here to keep from being killed.” Mary rolled her eyes.
“You know, I kind of hate people like you,” she said, shifting in her chair. “People are here to get help, because they can recognize that they’ve fucked up their lives beyond repair.”
“And you think I don’t realize the same thing?” I raised an eyebrow. “Fuck, Mary, I just told you my dealer wants me dead—how much more fucked up can my life be when I’m stuck here to keep from ending up on the news tomorrow: ‘Molly Riot Front Man Alex North Found Dead, Shot Twelve Times on Brickell Ave.’” I shook my head.
“What’s the issue with the dealer?” Mary asked, uncrossing her arms and folding her hands on her lap. I tried not to think about her thighs underneath the jeans she was wearing, about the spot between her legs just inches away from where her hands rested.
“He thinks I stole half his product,” I said with a shrug. Mary raised an eyebrow. “I didn’t,” I added. “I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Mary continued to stare at me in silence for a moment.
“So you’re just killing time until what—he gets arrested?” she glanced at the door; the rest of the inmates would be filing in soon, ready for their daily dose of affirmation and the sharing of the tales of woe.
“Arrested, killed, or finds out who actually stole his stash, I don’t fucking care as long as he’s not on my back anymore,” I said, shrugging again.
“Have you considered the fact that if you weren’t involved with him in the first place, you wouldn’t be here? And that probably you’ve been in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ a bit frequently for a guy who claims to have no problem?”
I clenched my teeth. “The drugs themselves are not the problem,” I said slowly. “I like to have a bit of fun, take some E on the weekends, smoke some pot during the week. It gets the creative juices flowing.”
“You were detoxing from coke, Alex,” Mary said sharply.
“Before I landed here I was playing five shows a week; you want to tell me you wouldn’t take some fucking recreational chemical help for that yourself?” I glared at her. “I did some coke. I did some E. I smoked pot. I drank. Yes, I’m a filthy, disgusting wreck of a human being.”
“Never said that,” Mary said with a little, wry smile. “Just wanted to point out that pretty clearly you don’t have your shit as under control as you think.”
“I know that,” I told her, looking down at my hands. The “Free” inked on my fingers was mocking me; I was
“We’ll talk more later,” Mary told me quickly. “I’m not finished with you yet, and that’s a fucking promise, Alex.” I made myself smile; there was something so cute about the glare at the back of her dark eyes, even though I knew for a fact that I would probably stop smiling the minute she got me alone again. Mary turned to the new arrivals and I watched her assemble her trademark sardonic grin, the welcome beacon that had brought so many of us addicts over to her side, confiding everything. Hell, I just confided in her. She’s fucking converted me, even. I decided that no matter what anyone said or did for the two hour group session, I was keeping my mouth shut until lunch. My stomach lurched inside of me, reminding me how shit-stupid I was for skipping breakfast when we’d probably have to hear all about Ben’s issues with his mom, or how Claire’s dad never really loved her in spite of the fact that he’d put her through school and grad school and bought her not one, but two Mercedes-Benz SUVs in the last three years. I moved to give Gerard the spot next to me on the couch, and when Mary’s gaze fell on me I tried not to react at the rush of cold and then hot that flowed through me, the promise in her stare. I knew she wouldn’t forget her threat; I could only wait for her to spring the trap on me.
A few hours later, before Mary could waylay me or get me alone, it was visiting hours; since I’d managed to last my first week, I was actually allowed to have visitors—not my parents, who’d retired to the Gulf Coast and who didn’t want to dirty their hands in my life, but my band mates. “North!” one of the orderlies behind the front desk called out. “You got some folks here for you.”