56 Days (Black)

56 Days

 

Nicole Hildreth

The characters and events
portrayed in this book are fictitious.  Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

 

Copyright © 2013 - Nicole Hildreth

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

 

 

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Ra, without you, Buster may never have had a bathroom break… and most certainly would have starved to death.

 

Shanny Rhea, thank you for the little things.

 

Christi, for literally lending a hand.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

I turned sideways in the mirror, checking for panty
lines. 
Fuck, these pants are rude.
  The sales girl tried to talk me into going up a size.  That’s when I knew they were perfect.  

My sister was on her way from Indianapolis for the weekend.  I knew
we were most likely staying in; this was Rachel we were talking about.  But, we had to get food.  The guy at Sultan’s was hot.  Hakim?  Haleem?  Ah, whatever his name, he needed to see me in these pants.

The doorbell rang.
  I peered through the peephole.  Chicago was full of “eccentrics.”  The last thing I needed to do was open my door to some old guy whacking off on my stoop.  Rachel stood there, looking fresh-faced and All-American.  I threw the door open and gave her my biggest grin.

“Whoa!  Look at your fuckin
g hair!” I screamed, reaching out to tousle her new pixie cut. 

It looked ridiculously cute.  Rachel hadn’t cut her hair since high school.  It had looked the same for at least fifteen years.  I
figured it had to have something to do with Ryan. 

Rachel’s
husband, Ryan, had died of a heart attack in May.  She had hardly answered her phone the last few months.  I didn’t know what the fuck was going on with her.  I was surprised she had called at all.  But last week, out of nowhere, she did.  And here she was, all short haired and dressed in one of her typical ‘50s housewife frocks, looking shiny and excited. Like a new girl.

I grabbed her bag from her hands and threw it on the couch.

“Let’s move it, woman.  Sultan’s closes at 10 and we need meat pies.”  I tugged at her arm, shutting the door behind us.

We talked on the way to the restaurant
.  She seemed different.  Tranquil, almost. 

When we walked in, Hakim/Haleem was behind the counter.

“Ah, Elsa,” his voice deep and thick. 
God, he was sexy.
  “I’ve missed you.  Where have you been hiding?”

I winked at him.  Rachel rolled her eyes.

“Around.  You know.” 

I
deliberately dropped a quarter out of my bag and bent to pick it up, turning and giving him a full show.

“What’s wrong with you?” Rachel hissed.  “
He’s going to think you want him!”

I laughed aloud.
  “I do want him, Rachel.”


Shhhh!” she whispered.  “Let’s go.”

Rachel looked
edgy on the walk back.  She always looked semi-excitable, but I worried about her now.  She wasn’t like me.  She didn’t bounce back from life like I did.  She linked her arm in mine and told me that she had a lot to tell me.  I tried to sound enthusiastic. 

I assumed it was stuff about Ryan.  I knew she needed someone to
vent to, but I wanted a light, pleasant weekend with my big sister.  I wasn’t looking forward to a sad recap of her life with Mr. Vanilla.

I never thought that Ryan was right for her
, though I would never tell her that.  She was quiet, but fucking hilarious.  He was… boring.  Nice enough, yeah, but
boring
.  He worked in insurance or something.  She was a designer at an architectural firm.  A little stuffy too, sure, but at least her job was
some
form of art.

I knew she
probably thought I was some ridiculous dreamer with my little bakery job, but I had a passion for pastry.  I loved the feel of creating something beautiful with my hands.  I dreamed of going to Paris.  Studying at Le Cordon Bleu.  Sitting on the balcony of my chic little apartment on the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, eating macarons that I had made myself.  Straddling the lap of my hot, French boyfriend… his pants straining from his ridiculous girth. 

Yep, a girl could dream.

I dug in my giant bag and heard the clinking of keys.  When we made it inside, I headed to the kitchen and pulled out some mismatched plates for us, plopping them onto the counter.  I shoved a meat pie on the plate and sloppily cut half of a chicken shawarma with a butter knife.

We settled in and I flipped through Pandora.  I
chose the Interpol station; it was a band we both loved.  When I heard the first notes of “Safe Without,” I closed my eyes for a second, taking a deep breath as the vocals commenced.

“So, what’s up?” 
I cocked an eyebrow at her.

“I’ve been seeing someone.”

What the fuck?

I feigned a choking noise.
  “Uh, say what?”

She rattled on about some guy named Vince and it being some sort of whirlwind romance… blah blah.  All I heard was that my perfect sister was fucking someone exactly
one
minute
after her husband had died.  She had this twisted look on her face. 

It was… love.

“You love him.”

“No,” she whispered, looking guiltily down at her plate. 

“Yes, you love him.” 
Holy shit!
“How is that possible?  Like when did you meet?  It had to be love at first sight because it’s only been like three months, right?”

“Nine weeks
.  We met just before the funeral.”

My eyes
had
to have been bugging out.  “Holy fuck!  Were you together before Ryan died?”

“No
!  God, Elsa!  I met him
because
Ryan died.  They were friends from Northwestern; he came to the funeral.  Do you remember him, maybe?  Tall?  Anyway, he and his brother stayed at my house for almost a week after.  Since then, he’s just spent every weekend back and forth between here and there, basically.”

I didn’t remember him
, oddly enough, or his brother.  Our mother had been especially wrapped up in her own drama bubble that day.  I had spent the majority of it trying to focus on not strangling her.

But Rachel?  A new boyfriend?  This
was insane.  Like literally insane.  Would
I
do that?  Oh, yeah.  But her?  No. Fucking. Way.

“You love this guy, Rach?  Cause that’s what you’re telling me.  I mean, that’s what I’m hearing.  And that’s alright if you do.  I just wish you wouldn’t have waited two fuckin
g months to tell me.”


I haven’t been with him the whole time, El.  This is new.”

“You just told me that you met him nine weeks ago.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t fuck him on the night of the funeral.  Fuck you, Elsa.”

Oh
, boy.
  She never told me to go fuck myself.  This was bad.  She had it bad for this guy.  She was pissed, storming off with her pack of cigarettes, heading for the porch.  I gave her a few minutes alone.  Then, dragging my feet, I joined her with an apology.  She cried, worried that no one would understand.  Honestly, I felt bad for her.

She told me that she had to talk to some Jack guy.  Apparently, he was Vince’s brother.  He lived in Edgewater
which, in my opinion, was way too fucking far… but, she wanted to see him.

So, that’s what we did.  We hopped a cab and headed north.

*****

Jesus, what does this guy
do

Jack
was sitting on the large stoop of his brownstone, his hand resting on the back of a giant Golden Retriever.  I loved dogs, but my landlord was a prick.

I vaguely remembered seeing him at the funeral, but I really must have been off of my game that day.
  He was definitely a guy that girls would notice.

It was
pretty dark outside, but even in dim light, I could tell that he was built like some kind of fucking MMA fighter or something.  I mean, you could bounce a bowling ball off of his six-pack.  Not my type, generally, but his voice was deep and guttural with a slight Chicago accent; he was from here.  Dark super-short hair, nice teeth, great smile, fashionable semi-nerdy glasses. 
Definitely
hot.

“Jack, this is my sister, Elsa Black.”

He took my hand in his, his calloused long fingers wrapped around mine.  Construction, maybe?

“H
ey, Elsa.  We met for a minute at the funeral.  Nice to see you again.”

“Yeah.” 

Yeah?
  Ugh.  Dumb.

He and Rachel talked for a minute while I
scratched his dog’s back (Jack introduced him as Buster).  We made our way into the house.  If this guy was in construction, he had to own the company.  His living area was uncluttered and clean, not like a single man in his 30s.  Maybe even late 20s; it was hard to tell.

His furniture was simple and beau
tiful, all wood in the same espresso shade with lots of burls throughout.  His flooring matched, a dull shine covering the wide planks.  Maybe he was married?  Rachel didn’t mention a wife, but there was no
way
this guy furnished this alone.

Jack offered us drinks and headed into the kitchen.  Just then, another guy came out of a side room.  A hot
, practically naked guy; a literal work of art, colorfully tattooed from shoulders to wrists.  Gay couple?

Eh, go figure.

He picked my sister up and swung her around like a rag doll.  Did she know him?  She looked decidedly uncomfortable.

“This is my sister, Elsa.  This is Jeremy.”

I gave him my sexiest grin.  If this guy wasn’t
gay, I was totally going to nail that shut. 

“Hi,” I breathed, giving him everything I had in one word.

“Drinks all around for the hot sisters.” 

British accent
.  He better not be gay.

We
sat around a huge, heavy table and sipped our beers.  Jack did most of the talking, telling us about his divorce settlement.

Her name was Lana.  She had apparently cheated on him and then
got pregnant with some other guy’s kid.  When Jack told this condensed tale, he peeled at the paper label on his bottle, making eye contact with no one.

Some
time during the story, a bottle came out:  shots. 

Lord help me.
 

I
was always disastrous with hard alcohol, but I needed a night out.  My ex-boyfriend, Dave, had shattered any chance I had at a happy life with him when he decided to go back to his wife, Charlotte.  He initially told me that he had an “ex-wife,” but she found out about me.  She showed up at the bakery.  Apparently, they were still
very
married.  We had been broken up for a few months now, but he still called me every day.

Hot boys were a good distraction.  Alcohol, an even bigger one.

Three shots of Jagermeister.  Or was it four?  This, combined with a couple of beers, was heading into dangerous territory.  As soon as I set my shot glass down, Rachel and Jack excused themselves to go outside for a minute.

Then it was just this British guy… and me.

“Shall we have another?”

Jeremy
pushed the heavy green bottle in my direction and shook his empty glass at me.

My eyes fogged over.

“I’m done, I think,” I said, followed by a hiccup.

He stood.
  “Come here,” he breathed.  “I want to show you something.”

Yeah, right.
  Guys always wanted to ‘show’ me
something.

But
… he didn’t remind me of Dave.  He was a shiny, new toy.  So, I got up and walked around the table.  He put his hands on my shoulders and pressed a kiss to my lips.  I was drunk, yeah, but he was sloppy (and wet) and not in a good way. 

Ew.

“You taste like cherries,” he said, gripping the side of my neck with his long fingers.

I knew he was bad for me. 
This
was bad for me.  I didn’t need to be kissing boys, especially after drinking as much as I had.  But, the room was hazy and it had been a while since anyone had kissed me.  He was a little on the aggressive side, but I wasn’t feeling much pain, so I let him touch me.

He turned me around and pushed me against the wall near his bedroom.  He latched his mouth to my neck and bit hard. 

Fuck, that hurt! 

“Hey,” I breathed, “don’t do that.”

He licked the bottom of my earlobe, sucking my hoop earring into his mouth and tugging on it with his teeth. 

“Hey,” I repeated.  “Too rough.”

“Come on,” he panted, harshly clutching my back with both hands.  “You’ve been eye-fucking me all night, honey.”

I pushed at his chest.  I needed him to get off of me.  Should I scream?  My sister was t
hirty feet away.  My stomach soured, churning.  Just then, Rachel was back.  She darted towards me in seconds.

“Get your hands off of my fucking sister,” she hissed, grabbing my arm. 

I forced a giggle, trying to laugh it off.  Truthfully, I was relieved for the interruption.  I didn’t want her to make a big deal out of it.  I just wanted away from him.  Mission accomplished.

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