Home > 72 Hours

72 Hours
Author: Bella Jewel

PROLOGUE

Soft hazy rain falls around me, soaking my skin. My fingers glide through the damp sludge below, leaving tracks in the mud. The earth smells fresh, flowers blooming, trees relishing the shower Mother Nature has provided them for the first time in months. But for me the rain is horrible. Like a cold chill that seeps down to my very bones, soaking in and becoming a permanent fixture.

The breathing beside me is soft. It’s the first time he has slept in days, I’m sure. I don’t dare look, because looking means what I’m about to do will be even more cowardly. I can’t bear to be a deserter, but I know that I am. I’m just not strong enough. I’m not like him. A bird chirps happily in the high trees above and I lift my head, staring through the drizzle to see it fluttering from tree to tree. If I were free, like that bird, I certainly wouldn’t be flying around in this forest.

Death.

I can smell it, on my skin, on his, everywhere around me. It’s consuming me. A shiver runs through my body as memories flood my mind. Memories I’d do best to forget; yet I know they’ll never leave. There won’t be a single second of my life when I won’t see his face. When I won’t hear that sound. I look back down to the earth beneath my fingers, and I curl my hand around the makeshift blade I’ve been holding for the last hour. It’s covered in mud, but it won’t matter.

It won’t take long. Just a second.

A single second to escape this nightmare.

A strange sound fills my ears, and I realize it’s my hysterical panting. I rub a thumb over the knife-edge, and bile rises in my throat. How did I become this? This wet, broken, cold creature on the ground, knife in hand, ready to escape the terror instead of face it? Oh, that’s right. It was when my life got ripped from my hands and I was given a time frame.

Seventy-two hours to live or die.

Turns out, you can achieve a lot in seventy-two hours. Doesn’t seem like much—after all, it’s only three days—but when you’re counting on keeping every single future beat of your heart and every breath that graces your lungs, it suddenly becomes everything you have. I wish I could say I fought for my God-given right to be on this earth, but fear has a way of making things different. Of changing who you are.

A low rumble can be heard in the distance, an alarm bell, if you will. I know what happens when it gets closer, when he nears. A tear trickles down my cheek as I raise the knife, glancing at a deep gash in my arm that’s slowly becoming infected. It won’t matter. Not now. My eyes avoid the man sleeping beside me, because, once again, I can’t bear for him to see me as a coward.

The sound gets closer.

“I’m so sorry,” I whisper to the sky, or maybe to myself, probably to him.

I don’t know.

I just know I’m sorry.

So incredibly sorry for what I’m about to do.

 

 

ONE

“So, I’ve been dating a new guy.”

I blink at my best friend, Rachel, and then shake my head. “And you didn’t tell me?”

She flushes. “Well, it’s only one date, but he seems really sweet. He’s so cute, too.”

“Details.” I grin, shifting on my bar stool and sipping my drink.

“Well, he’s an environmentalist.”

My brows shoot up. “Like he looks after trees and stuff?”

She giggles. “I think so. Anyway, it was kind of weird because we just sort of bumped into each other and he started talking to me. He was so charming. Next thing I knew I was going out with him. He was so interested in my life, you know? Asking me about my family and friends. It was nice to be heard.”

“He sounds like a keeper.” I smile. “When do you see him again?”

“Soon, I hope. I didn’t get his number, but he said he’d call me.”

“He’ll totally call you. How could he not, you’re smoking!”

She laughs, but something over my shoulder catches her eye.

“Don’t look now, Lara.”

I glance at my best friend, who is staring over my shoulder with a tight expression on her face. I begin turning only to have her hand lash out and catch my shoulder, spinning me back around. I scowl at her, narrowing my eyes with confusion. She can be so dramatic at times.

“Seriously,” she says. “Don’t look. It’ll only make you mad.”

“What’re you talking about?” I ask, pulling my shoulder free from her grip.

“Noah just walked in.”

I freeze midturn, and my heart pounds so loud I can feel it in my ears. Noah. A man I haven’t seen in three months, a man who has tortured my mind and owned my heart for so many years. A man who broke my heart. The very idea that I’m about to see him again sends blind terror coursing through my body. I’m not ready. Not even close.

“I didn’t know he was back in town,” I whisper, my voice shaky. “Where? I can’t see him, Rach!”

“He is and he’s not alone,” Rachel says, her face sympathetic.

“What?”

It comes out as a squeak, a broken, pathetic squeak. He’s not alone? He’s moved on already? That hurts, more than I’m willing to admit. We didn’t part on good terms, sure, but he loved me. At least, he said he did. I know I haven’t been able to talk to him yet, but how could he move on so quickly? Pain explodes in my chest, and I lift my drink and take a long sip to cover it from my best friend, who is glaring in his general direction.

Deep down, I know the answer to my question. Ladies’ man. That’s what my friends told me when I started dating him. Not to be trusted. I should have listened.

“Do you want to go?” she asks, turning back to me. “Or do you want to talk to him?”

I glare at her.

She puts her hands up. “Sorry, I just think maybe if you two talked then things will clear up and—”

“Why should I to talk to him? How would that help?” I whisper, hurt.

Her eyes get soft. “Because I love you and you’re hurting. It’s been months now. I think if you talk to him, you’ll be able to move on.”

“He hurt me.”

“I know. But you—”

“I just want to go, okay?”

She smiles sadly, accepting my decision. “Okay.”

I finish my drink and start toward the back exit with Rachel by my side.

“Lara?”

I jerk at the sound of his deep, masculine voice. God, I’ve missed his voice, almost as much as I’ve missed him. I swallow the lump forming in my throat and slowly turn to see Noah standing behind me, looking down, eyes locking on mine. I shiver at the intensity in his gaze. He always had that power over me. He was the dark to my light, the hard to my soft. I might have been different when we first met, but he had this way about him that could control me like a puppet with just one look. And he’s giving me that look right now.

“Noah,” I say, my voice small.

His eyes flicker over my face before settling back on mine. “It’s been a while.”

Three months, two days, to be exact. Not like I was counting.

“Yeah.”

He tilts his head to the side and studies me again. I shift uncomfortably, avoiding his eyes. He looks amazing tonight, not that I’m surprised by that. He’s always towered over my tiny five-foot frame. His big body is easily six feet tall, and he’s built like a statue. Muscles on every part of his perfect body. His eyes are as intense as they always were, a steel gray that pierces straight into my soul. His hair is longer than I remember, but the dark-brown locks seem even more rebellious now as they fall over his face.

Hot Books
» Buy Me Sir
» Daddy's Pretty Baby
» The Dom's Virgin: A Dark Billionaire Romanc
» Wet
» Mastered (The Enforcers #1)
» The Greek's Forgotten Wife (The Boarding Sc
» If You Were Mine
» His Erotic Obsession (The Jamison Sisters #
» Dominated (The Enforcers #2)
» The Sheik’s Sensuous Trap
» Kept (The Enforcers #3)
» Fallen Crest High (Fallen Crest High #1)
» The Billionaire Takes All (The Sinclairs #5
» Pregnant with the Sheik's Baby (The Samara
» Dragon's Storm (Legion Of Angels #4)