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For 100 Days

By:Lara Adrian

Chapter 1



Cold afternoon rain needles my cheeks as I emerge from Grand Central Station with the rest of the crowd fresh off the subway. I wince and tug the hood of my jacket a little farther over my face as I push forward in the drizzle and try to ignore the chilly, late April gust that sweeps through the city’s skyscraper canyons on a low, banshee howl.

I swear, it seems like New York has been trying to spit me out and blow me back home to Pennsylvania almost since the day I arrived.

By now, I should be used to sudden shitty turns in the weather, and I curse myself for not taking the time to zip the winter liner back into my jacket before I left my apartment in Brooklyn. I’d been too preoccupied and anxious as I got ready for work, feelings I’m still carrying with me now as I head away from the station.

The restaurant where I tend bar six nights a week is up on Madison Avenue, several blocks away. Shivering as the rain starts to soak me, I walk briskly toward my destination, eyeing the other people around me with envy as they huddle under the shelter of their umbrellas. I should have brought mine too. Maybe I would have if half of its spines weren’t mangled from battling other storms. Maybe someday I’ll get around to replacing it.

Right. I practically snort at the idea. Considering the nasty-gram my landlord left taped to my door earlier this week, broken umbrellas are the least of my worries.

Unprepared and underfunded. The definition of my entire existence lately.

More than once in the past year and a half, I’ve been tempted to lie down and let this damn city win.

But not today.

Today, I have something I haven’t had in a long time.

Hope.

It surges through me, sharp and bright and warm, as I reach the smoked-glass double doors of Vendange and my phone rings in my jacket pocket. I’ve been waiting for this call all day—ever since I got the voicemail from my friend, Margot, that she had news for me and didn’t want to leave the details in a message.

Patience has never been my strong suit. Especially not when everything I have is riding on the outcome. I’d called Margot back immediately, but her assistant informed me she was tied up in gallery meetings at Dominion and couldn’t be interrupted.

That was hours ago.

In the time since, I’d gone back and played her message at least a dozen times, trying to read clues in her voice, but there was only measured control and professionalism in her tone. And why not? She and I are friends, but I’m also her client—albeit, not a very profitable one. I can only wish that’s about to change tonight. Hell, I’m praying for it.

I can hardly breathe from anticipation as I slip into the restaurant to get out of the wet and cold, my heart racing, chilled fingers fumbling inside my pocket to retrieve my ringing phone.

Although it’s early in the evening, Vendange is packed with corporate and creative types from the surrounding area. Dark suits mingle with high fashion and Boho chic at the tight clusters of tables in the dining area. At the long, sleek bar, one of my coworkers, Tasha Lopez, is pouring drinks and flirting shamelessly with a group of male patrons who have no idea the curvy spitfire is a happily married woman with a young family at home.

Tasha spots me coming in the door and sends me a nod in greeting as I bypass the new girl at the hostess stand and the line of customers that’s already starting to form at the front of the house. I’ve got a few minutes before I have to clock in for my shift, so I hurry for the employee coatroom to answer the call.

When I finally have my phone in hand, my heart sinks. On the display, the area code reads 570, not 212. Pennsylvania, not New York.

“Shit.” The word leaks out of me on a quiet sigh.

This isn’t the call I’m waiting for, and even though conversations with my mom never last more than fifteen minutes, I tell myself I can’t afford to tie up the line even that long as I mute the ringer and decline her call.

The truth is, I can’t deal with talking to her right now. Not today. And not here, where I have to put on a cheerful smile, make conversation all night with strangers as I serve them overpriced cocktails and pretend the rest of my world isn’t the train wreck I know it to be.

None of that lessens the guilt that pricks me when I think of her disappointment on the other end. Keeping in touch is important to my mother, I know. It broke her heart when I moved so far away. She didn’t make a secret of that, but I think she understands that I had to do it. Finally, I had to do something for me.

With a frown and a deep exhalation I can’t hold back, I set my phone to vibrate mode and slide it into the back pocket of my black jeans. Employees aren’t supposed to carry their phones while they’re working, but I hope the hem of my untucked black shirt will hide it during my shift. It’s not like I’ll be able to concentrate on anything unless I keep it close tonight anyway.

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