Dirty Headlines(6)

Then we went at it again against the sink.

Finally, when I collapsed into the bed, he handed me another bottle of water and said, “I’m leaving at six. Checkout is at ten, and they don’t appreciate tardiness at the Laurent Towers.”

I wanted to tell him to: A, take a hike, and B, that it was a brilliantly bad idea for me to stay the night. But I wasn’t entirely sure I could face my ill dad after all the sex I’d been having, and not with my newly ex-boyfriend. I didn’t have to stare at the mirror to know I looked thoroughly screwed, with cracked, engorged lips, stubble marks covering every inch of my red skin, and three bite marks on my neck—not to mention my eyes were deliriously drunk, and not from the whiskey I’d consumed hours ago.

Reluctantly, I texted Dad that I was crashing at Milton’s and scooted up Célian’s bed, closing my eyes. I felt orphaned in the world. No one knew where I was, and the only person who cared—Dad—couldn’t particularly help me, as he barely left the house anymore.

That’s when I decided I wasn’t even going to tell Robert Humphry about my breakup with Milton Hayes. Dad had put all his Hope chips on my boyfriend, counting on him to take care of me once he was gone. Everybody needed someone, and other than Dad, I had no one.

Célian slid into bed behind me, his swelling cock pressing between the backs of my thighs.

He traced a rough-padded finger over the side of my ribcage, along the tattoo I’d gotten the day I turned eighteen.

If I seem a little strange, that’s because I am.

“So you don’t like The Beatles, but you do like The Smiths.” His breath caressed my shoulder blade.

I grew up with a single dad who was a construction worker in New York. Money was tight, and sitting on the floor listening to his vinyl records had been our favorite pastime. We read books about Johnny Rotten and invented deliberately misleading music trivia games to pass the time.

“Careful, you might get attached if you get to know me,” I said quietly, staring out the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking New York.

He began to drive into me from behind, silent. “I’ll take my fucking chances.”

The position reminded me of the front-row seat I’d had for Milton and Elise’s adulterous performance. My feelings tangled and knotted. My body was elated, but tears gathered in the corner of my eyes. I was glad my one-night stand couldn’t see them, though they were definitely a mixture of happy from all the orgasms and sad at the prospect of going back home tomorrow morning to face reality.

No boyfriend.

No job.

A dying father and a pile of bills I didn’t know how to pay.

After we both finished, he kissed the back of my neck, turned over, and went to sleep. And me? I had a direct view to his dress pants and the outline of his fat wallet, which seemed to glare back at me.

My heart was a lonely hunter.

Tonight, I’d let it feast.

Three Weeks Later.

“How do I look?”

“Nervous. Anxious. Sweet. Pretty. One of those ought to be the right answer, right?” Dad chuckled, rubbing my arms.

I had put on a white pencil dress and my black Chucks. Classy. Understated. Plus, I was going for serious and professional today. My dark blond hair was styled in a loose chignon, and I’d streaked my hazel eyes with a dramatic eyeliner. This wasn’t my usual attire of flannel shirts, skinny jeans, and faux leather jackets. Then again, it was my first day at my new job, so not looking like a Tokio Hotel dropout was a priority.

I stroked Dad’s bald head—forsaken patches of white hair scattered around it like sad dandelions—and kissed his cheek, where his veins stood out through pale, bluish skin.

“You can call me any time,” I reminded him.

“Oh, yes. My favorite Blondie song.” He grinned.

I rolled my eyes at his dorkiness.

“I’m feeling fine, Jude. Are you coming home after this or staying at Milton’s?” He ruffled my hair like I was a kid, and I guess to him I was.

He launched into another coughing fit mid-sentence. Which is why I felt slightly guilty for the lie. He thought Milton and I were still together. My dad had stage three cancer in his lymph nodes. He’d officially stopped attending his chemo sessions two weeks ago. Time was slipping through our fingers like sand.

His doctors had begged him to continue treatments, but he’d said he was too tired. Read: we were broke. It was either refinance our house or give up treatment, and Dad didn’t want to leave me with nothing—no matter how hard I fought against that decision. Now I was guilt-stricken, walking around with my lonely, worry-soaked heart, carrying it like a chest full of gold—so many precious, heavy, useless things inside.

My voice was gruff from yelling at him to just sell the damn apartment. I’d finally stopped when I realized I was just putting him through more unnecessary agony and stress.

“Back here.” I kissed his temple and waltzed to the kitchen, pulling out the meals I’d made him for the day.

“You don’t spend much time with him lately. Everything okay?”

I nodded, pointing at the Tupperware in front of me. “Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. There are fresh blankets on your bed in case it gets cold. Did I mention that you can always call me? Yes. Yes, I did.”

“Stop worrying about your old man.” He mussed my carefully done hair again as I exited the kitchen, walking to the door. “And break a leg.”

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