Roll on, January.
As soon as I hit that magic one-eight number, I’m hightailing it home.
“Bottoms up!” Jill clinks her shot glass against mine before tipping her head back and downing it like a champ. I lick the salt from my hand and swallow the tequila in one well-practiced move. It settles like sour milk in my empty gut. Ugh, that stuff never gets any easier to stomach.
Luke burps, and Jill falls off the sofa laughing.
“Damn, that’s some good stuff. Top me up.” He holds out his glass, and I duly oblige.
I’m tempted to guzzle straight from the bottle. To drown my sorrows in the hope that when I wake I’ll discover this has all been a complete misunderstanding, not the actual embodiment of a living nightmare. But, unfortunately, I’m not the delusional type, and that sort of thinking will only get me so far.
“Maybe it won’t be that bad, ya know?” Rachel says, fisting a hand in Jill’s shirt and hauling her back up onto the sofa. “How many sons did you say this Kennedy bloke has?”
“Seven.” I eye the neck of the tequila with longing just as Luke whips the bottle right out of my hands. “Hey!” I stretch over the arm of the sofa and make a grab for it. He lifts it out of my reach, and I slap his chest. “That’s mine. Give it here.”
“Only if you promise not to drink out of the bottle. You don’t want to be sick on the flight.”
“Maybe I want to get so drunk that I’ll puke all over my new guardian and he’ll have second thoughts about taking me in.” I lunge for the bottle again, but he holds it out of arm’s reach. Scowling, I crawl over the sofa onto his chair, making a last-ditch attempt to snatch back my bottle of tequila. My fingers grasp the cold, clear glass the same time Luke’s opportunistic hand snakes around my waist. He pulls me down onto his lap so that I’m straddling him. Burying his head in my neck, he murmurs, “You smell divine, Faye.”
“Knock it off, Luke. You’re not getting in my knickers.” I try to wriggle out of his lap, but his grip is tight.
“How about one last night together for old time’s sake?” His intense green eyes darken with lust.
There was a time when I thought the sun, moon, and stars shone out of Luke’s arse.
But that ship sailed six months ago.
We had two good years together before our relationship ran out of steam. I know he was hurt when I ended things, but it was for the best. The chemistry wasn’t there anymore, and there was no point kidding myself otherwise.
I’m not one to hang about once I’ve made up my mind about something.
Although, that hasn’t stopped Luke from chancing his arm with me every so often.
Like right now.
Reaching behind me, I yank his hand off my ass and pin him with a stern look. “Not happening, Luke. Now let go.”
Luke lets out a pissed-off sigh, and I send him a pleading look. Irrespective of how we ended, I still care about him, and I don’t want to leave the country on bad terms. He was an important part of my life for a while, and he helped me get through some difficult stuff.
I won’t ever forget that.
Reluctantly, he releases me, and I scoot back over to my side of the sofa.
“You hava send piczures,” Rachel slurs, and I chuckle. That girl can’t even look at alcohol without getting pissed, but she doesn’t let that stop her. “Of your fit cousssins,” she adds when she spots my puzzled frown.
“How do you know they’re fit?” I quirk a brow at my best friend.
“’Cause all rich Americans are good-looking.”
“That is the stupidest thing that’s ever come out of your mouth,” Luke scoffs.
She momentarily lifts her head off the sofa to send him a filthy glare. “Izz not! I’ve watched Gossip Girl, and those boys are fit and stinking rich.”
“Wow! You’ve seen it on a tacky TV show, so it must be true.” Derision drips off his tongue. “That’s even stupider.” He rolls his eyes to the ceiling.
“Stupider isn’t actually a word,” Jill pipes up, sounding remarkably sober for someone who looks like she’s on the verge of passing out.
“Is too. Google it.” Luke flips her the bird before knocking back another shot. “You’d know that if you hadn’t nuked all your brain cells with tequila.”
Rachel opens her mouth to retaliate, but I zone out of the conversation. Jumping up, I snatch my mobile phone off the side table and plug it into the docking station. I turn the volume up to the max, drowning out the voices of my friends. Booming music blasts throughout the room, and Jill emits a loud holler. My body sways to the beat of the music as she hops up to join me.
The rest of the night becomes one giant messy blur. I vaguely remember others arriving, packing our small sitting room like sardines. Visions of Rachel and Jill escorting me to the bathroom are hazy.
Even hazier are the events leading up to this moment.
My head throbs painfully as I slowly start to regain consciousness. It’s as if someone has taken a jackhammer to my skull and they’re pounding to their own rhythm. A moan slips out through my lips. My tongue is plastered to the roof of my mouth, and the rancid taste of tequila and salt coats my mouth in a disgusting layer of slime. I moisten my dry lips as I attempt to open my eyes.
The sheets are stained a bright red color, and I blink profusely in total confusion.
Tangled strands of red hair cover my face as I fight a bout of nausea. What the …?
Pushing up on my elbows is a tremendous feat in itself. On shaky limbs, I brush the knotty red hair back out of my eyes and stare at the abundance of red dye coating the white sheets of my bed.
I grunt. Bloody hell. What did I do? Rubbing a lock of my hair between my hands, I groan as it starts to come back to me. At some point during the night, I’d had the bright idea that a makeover was in order, and we’d raided the bathroom press.