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Jude’s a master of running from things: his best friend, his memories, his nefarious dealer. Billy is determined to stop his marathon once and for all.
Judas Stirlying enjoys being a troublemaker. That way, he can skip the middle man and run off people who might care about him before they have the chance to leave on their own. Life is safer that way.
Billy Walker knows the real Jude. Oh, not the strung out jerk he wants the world to see, but the man with hidden depths that forever earned him Billy’s loyalty—whether Jude wants it or not. With the help of Jude’s best friend (the one that never falls for Jude’s “get lost” vibe) and a mysterious note at a New Year’s Eve celebration, Billy will do whatever it takes to show Jude that maybe, if he changes his path, there really would be something to celebrate.
Billy plans to prove to Jude that his life hasn’t been a waste—and prove to the rest of the world that Jude is worth a damn—before the dangers of Jude’s past catch up to them all.
Snippet #2 (from chapter 2):
Holding his tender midsection, Jude hobbled to the couch with his can of beer. His broken body objected to the abuse of resting on the battered piece of furniture, but it held more padding than his futon mattress ever did.
His boss, Dr. Haims, assured him nothing appeared severe—without proper x-rays, which Jude wouldn't consent to, Doc could only do so much. Funny how bruised and bloody over broken didn't make Jude feel a whole hell of a lot better. Thank God Doc didn't ask any questions, even though the sad, patronizing look he gave actually hurt something inside Jude. Examining his feelings never appealed to Jude, so he just let them go. He'd learned a long time ago, when people weren't impressed or happy with him, the best thing to do was just to let it go. It had been a very long time since someone entertained those emotions for him anyway.
He placed the can on the coffee table next to his wallet and the sample packs of pain meds Dr. Haims gave him. One legal perk to his job, free doc visits. The fact that Dr. Haims knew him well enough to not even bother with a script and just dole out some freebie drugs was nice too; a pleasant change to palming them behind the white coat's back. It almost made him feel guilty for his side actions on the job, but to feel guilty, he had to have a conscience, a soul.
He punched out two of the white pills from their plastic and foil wrap and popped them in his mouth, letting the beer flow from the can to chase them down his throat. All he needed was a couple days of rest and he'd be fine. The time off work—though a necessity to his health—would put a major hurt on his finances. Jude foresaw months of 'extras' to get back to his pre-damaged state of affairs. This whole situation screamed bogus in his book.
Life sucked. Simple as that.
He reached for his wallet and slipped out the black and white photo of his dad that he kept hidden behind his license. He didn't take the photo out all that often, but today felt like a time of need. He preferred staring at his father's picture wondering what might have been than admitting his lonely state of mind and calling Wally. God knew he didn't need Wally to witness him in this condition.
The picture was safely encased in plastic, thanks to his forethought in his younger days to laminate the one thing that he held onto from his family life. His father was a handsome man. Huge grin with lots of teeth showing, windblown tousled brown hair that never met a comb that could control it and a dimple set smack dab in the center of his squared away chin. You only saw that dimple when he smiled, which meant you never missed it.
Jude used to think his father was magical. Even the grumpiest of people would smile when Jack Stirlyng came around. Too bad that particular trait hadn't passed down through generations. No one but Wally had shared a smile with Jude since his father passed away, well, not a real smile at least.
No one except maybe Nick.
Jude stretched across the table until the tips of his fingers touched his keys. He wiggled them a bit, forcing the keys to slide on the smooth surface just enough so he could hook his blunt nail on the ring and collect them in his hand. He grunted from the pain the stretch caused him, lifting the keys in front of his face so the makeshift leather strap dangled at eye level.
After he emptied his can of beer, he unhooked the leather from the keys and wrapped it around his wrist. He knew it was too small, just like the dozens of times before that he'd attempted to wear it.
His father died when he was only eight, leaving him alone with a mother who didn't want to be a parent, and a year later, a stepdad that had no interest in children either. Nick left him after he had protected him from the bullies, no longer in need of a loser's friendship. Wally would finally wise up and walk also. Jude spent wasted opportunities waiting for that time to come.
Jude shook the empty can, to make absolutely sure there wasn't a sip hiding in there. Satisfied he had exhausted the contents, he tossed it to the floor with the half a dozen or so other cans and stood very slowly. He grimaced from the aches, deciding he should bring in more than one beer at a time if he intended to continue drinking.
He hobbled into the kitchen again, holding his midsection as if that would stop the hurt shooting through him. After retrieving the last two cans in the fridge, he started the short walk back to the couch. On his way, his cordless phone rang. Picking it up off the counter, he dropped it in the tub of old water in the kitchen sink and continued on.
He'd almost finished a can by the time he took his seat again. Between the spice he had managed to painstakingly pick out of the carpet fibers and smoke earlier—and he was pretty sure he smoked some of those fibers with it—the double dose of pain meds he had swallowed, and nearly a twelve pack of beer, he finally felt like he might get a decent night's sleep. Something he desperately needed considering he'd tossed and turned for the previous two nights. Between his aching body and his still throbbing lips from that damn kiss Billy gave him, sleep had proved elusive.
Another can tossed to the ground and the pop of the last one opening, Jude leaned on the cushions piled behind him. Yeah, maybe more than a couple hours of sleep were in order.
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