The Note (Manhattan Nights #5) - Natalie Wrye
SIX WEEKS AGO
Manhattan, New York City
There’s only one thing worse than coming home bloody drunk, and that’s being bloody drunk in an airport.
New York just happens to have one of the worst.
Hell, I’d love to blame the men at the bar paying for the many shots at the hotel but honestly? I’ve been scotch drunk for the past two days.
Ever since I got that phone call.
And I won’t even mention what the hell happened last night…
Not that I remember much, anyway.
As usual, drinks were everywhere and so were women.
The drinks I shared with the blonde at the Fado Bar last night in Sydney are still swimming in my system as I shuffle off the plane, half-pissed, my eyes bleary, head beating as I walk out of the airport terminal, the latest Stephen King book in my clutch.
I swear: I remember New York being noisy, but I sure as hell don’t remember it being deafening.
It’s been months since I’ve touched this soil, and LaGuardia airport is busier than a blue-arsed fly, a practical hailstorm falling around my head the second I exit.
My driver, clad in a dark suit and hat, shoves my heavy luggage into the trunk of a soaked black town car and we head out—or try to—on the freeway, just another set of four wheels amongst a million others.
I check my watch.
October back down under is warm, but in New York?
The weather’s sliding into brutal. The autumn winds pick up as I settle in the backseat, and all I can think of as I stare out the window is I’m going to be late. Late for this “meeting.”
Or at least that’s what I’ve told my employees when they asked why I wasn’t coming straight to the office.
The smell of last night’s root—candy-sweet and lingering—is still on my skin as I bargain with God to slow down time. A battering ram of rain and burnt-orange leaves beats down on the asphalt outside my window, and once again, I have to remind myself that I’m here in this city, in this state, for a really good reason.
As if I didn’t remind myself a million times on the plane.
I only have to stick it out for six days. Six days and I’m back in Australia.
Back where I belong.
I beat this message in my head for the thousandth time, even as I stare back at that cheap watch that, I swear, whispers that I’m already late to my scheduled “meeting.”
It’s my first night back in the city in six months. And if I’m not careful, it could be my last.
The urge to fly back to Sydney was overwhelming from the second my plane hit the runway, but now?
Now I can feel the nagging in my soul, the tug on my feet.
Every part of me, every instinct, wants to leave this fucked up city.
I’m grateful for the break on my brain when my cell phone rings, interrupting the sound of my whining thoughts.
I smile when I see the name in the center of the screen.
“Yes, Mother, I am alive and well. Yes, I’ve wiped front to back as a good boy should. And no, I have not run back to Sydney yet.” Though I’ve thought about it.
My brother Jase laughs, his voice more scoff than sigh. He exhales in my ear.
“Took you long enough to learn that ‘front to back’ bathroom trick. Noticed that you’re still alive, but I’ve never actually thought of you as ‘well’ to begin with. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you tried to escape back to Sydney,” he shoots back on a tiny snort. “I think the New Yorkers have had enough of your ass, anyway. Or maybe that’s just me…”
I grin. “Nothing like a cheeky welcome to make me feel at home again. My favorite part of the city besides the pizza.” I feel the smile spread on my face. “And I should have known that you would set a record, Jay. I haven’t even stepped into the office yet, and already you’ve busted both of my balls.”
He gasps. “You have balls?”
“Okay, I’m hanging up now…”
He catches me before I can end the call.
“Just being a bit of a prick, ya bastard.” I start to interrupt but he cuts me off. “You showed up here, didn’t you? I mean, you actually came. For a minute there, I thought I might never see you in New York again, you jet-setting dick.” He laughs. “The Luxe building? That’s the fourth Manhattan deal you’ve closed in, what, three years?”
“The fifth,” I