Salty

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6

O L L I E

The room was cast in a caramel colored glow, stemming from the only window within it. The apartment was freezing, just as it always was in the morning. It was one of the faults of living in a building that was over a hundred years old. Even on warm days, the wind coming from Lake Michigan caused the drafty windows to rattle and cool the place down. The brick walls were no help when it came to keeping it warm either, as they lacked proper insulation. When the radiator kicked on, the rattle from the metal vibration caused its sole resident to stir from an exceptionally deep sleep.

The sheets were equally as cold as the apartment and Ollie seemed to be lacking most of them. He shivered, idly using his arm to search for the missing covers. He kept his eyes hooded with a hangover that was already searing through head. When he came up short, he forced just one lid open. There, on the opposite end of the queen-sized bed, was the culprit.

Ollie used his thumb and pointer finger and pressed them hard against his eyelids letting out a pained groan. That explained why he was naked and cold. He brought someone upstairs last night.

While staring at nothing more than the smooth skin of her shoulder—the one peeking out of the covers he was lacking—and a mess of brown hair, he tried to recall the events of the night before. The first memory that hit him was laughter, her laughter mixed with his own. Jesus, he laughed his ass off last night. When was the last time he had laughed until it hurt?

He had worked a full shift and was pissed that there was a band in the bar. It had meant that he wasn’t going to get any sleep and he was about to cuss out Mikah when he saw...

...the grocery store chick.

Ollie rolled to his stomach and dropped his face into his pillow with another groan. Why did he do this to himself again? He always brings home the crazy ones.

Now it was time to wait for that awkward moment when she wakes up and he sees just how well those beer-goggles were working last night. If he recalled the grocery store correctly, this girl was a goddamn catastrophe. She looked batshit crazy. Who marinates their soup?

His head pained again. He needed Aspirin...and possibly whisky.

As Ollie began to slowly exit the bed, searching the dark wood floor of the room for any sort of pants to cover himself, an unfamiliar alarm clock began to sound. It made an annoying chirping noise instead of his normal iPhone tone that he was used to. Immediately, his attention shifted back to the stranger, waiting for her to stir from her state of sleep. And she did.

First, her arm dropped over the side of the bed. This small movement alone had Ollie panicking, wondering where the hell they had shed their clothing last night. Then, she herself let out the smallest groan, clearly feeling the effects of last night’s fun. The woman then sat up, keeping the white sheets clutched to her chest as she sleepily rubbed her eyes with her free hand.

As soon as her groggy eyes met his, it seemed as if memories of the night before were hitting both of them at the same time. Her stunning eyes widened and her sheet dropped to be quickly recovered and pulled up to her chin. His cock twitched at the brief sight of her naked frame, recalling taking her all over his apartment and kissing every inch of skin he could find.

Sloan.

That was the name he called out repeatedly during their marathon of sex last night. He couldn’t even remember falling asleep, but it had to have been just a few hours ago. There were no sounds coming from the bar beneath his feet; so, it couldn’t be ten o’clock yet.

Their sex had been incredible and now he could see he was very wrong about the grocery store girl being a mess. Even with bedhead, smeared eyeliner, and a clear hangover after a night of sexual antics, Sloan was still mouthwateringly hot.

“Hey,” his hand moved swiftly to hide the fact that his morning wood was on display. Hopefully she hadn’t noticed that he clearly became harder when the sheet dropped.

The look of complete shock was still clear on her face as she glanced around the room and back at him with a few rapid blinks. Her mouth—and fuck, that mouth was phenomenal—was partially open, as if wanting to ask a million questions and not knowing where to begin. Ollie began to silently pray that she was not too drunk to remember what had happened last night. He never took drunk girls—wanting them sober for this reason—from downstairs up here, but last night was different. He had no intention of bringing her into this apartment, but fuck, he couldn’t stop himself. They laughed and things got so heated that he had to have her.

“Um, hi,” she responded quietly, with a slight bit of awkwardness shifting the air between them.

She reached for the floor again, bringing him back to reality and remembering that there was a blaring chirping noise sounding from it. While she was turned away, this gave him the opportunity to open door to the bathroom and grab a towel from the bar on the wall to wrap around himself. It did nothing to hide the fact he was hard. He could take a piss to try and rid himself of it, but somehow he knew that it wasn’t going to do the trick and that was going to make this more awkward for her. For now, it would be easier to blame it on morning male anatomy. Fucking the one-night-stand again the next morning—as good as that sounded right now—was not an option and against his rules. They had already broken his no names rule. He didn’t need a clinger on his hands.

“You set an alarm to sneak out?”

Sloan began wrapping the sheet around her, having finally found the off button for the annoying sound.

“No, well, yes, sort-of. Err...” she bit down on her lip and peered up to him again, this time allowing her eyes to linger on the peak of his towel before clearing her throat. “I have to work. Which is in both of our favors to wrap this up quick and easy. Have you seen my dress?”

He couldn’t stop the grin on his face, seeing her blush and clumsily fumble from the bed. Apparently, she had forgotten that he requested she leave the strap up heels on during their fun. He could feel the spots where they had dug into his chest and he tucked that memory away fondly. As far as one night stands went, this one was now at the top. Those heels, digging into his flesh as he gripped her legs and drove himself into her...the way she played with herself as he did...

“Dear god, why did I wear these?” she began pulling the strings free and cringing as she slowly removed the shoe. Instant relief soothed her features with an exhale. “I’m going to kill Hal.”

She bent over and rubbed her foot soothingly, again allowing the sheet to part slightly and allow a viewing of the space between her legs. His cock was aching for some relief and this wasn’t helping.

“I’ll find it.” He quickly excused himself from the room, using the missing dress as an excuse to stop himself from doing something stupid. Fucking her again was not option and he needed to calm himself down.

The wood floors felt like ice against his feet as he began to scour the apartment. Where all had they screwed last night? She still had it on in the kitchen, it was around her middle as I took her on the couch...

The feel of fabric at his toes stopped him from even exiting the hallway. At his feet, was a little black dress. He smiled as he picked it up by its thin strap using only a finger, now recalling the hallway sex. That position was new and would be added to the regular lineup.

So much for getting rid of morning glory.

“Thank goodness!” Sloan appeared behind him and took the dress from his finger. She looked like Aphrodite, sinfully using his bedsheet as a dress. “I’ll trade you.”

The white sheet dropped from around her and the bundle of fabric was pushed into his face. He got quite the look of her naked body beforehand, knowing no relief was in his future. He saw last night she was fit, had the best legs he had ever seen, but there was something about seeing her now as she quickly pulled the dress over her head that was downright killing him. He didn’t even care that he was clearly ogling her as she adjusted her tits back into the dress.

Sloan didn’t appear to be one for conversation as she moved past him, to the living area, bending over to pick up various items that had fallen from the pockets of the dress last night. His brows heightened with each bend, taking in the show she was giving him. Unfortunately for her, the last stop would be the kitchen where his clothes and her underwear still remained.

It took a few kicks of his clothing before her foot found what she was looking for beside the fridge. When Sloan bent over to retrieve her panties, Ollie’s head cocked to the side, drinking in the sight of her pink slit peaking beneath the short black material.

Fuck, she’s hot.

“You’re being a perv.”

Ollie’s eyes snapped back to hers and he gave her a wicked smile with a nod. He wouldn’t be disagreeing with that statement right now and who could blame him?

“You didn’t seem to mind that last night.”

Seeing her crack her own smile with an eye roll made his smile grow wider. She had just as much fun last night as he did. A sense of pride filled him, knowing that the cranky-ass girl he’d found in the bar would be leaving satisfied.

Sloan pulled her underwear back on, slid her ID, credit card and phone into her pocket and clutched her shoes in her hand before walking towards the door that led to the stairwell. He couldn’t even blame her for not wanting to wear the shoes, she was still cringing as she walked without them. Walking barefoot in downtown Chicago though, bad idea.

“Do you want me to call you a cab?”

“No, I uh, ordered an Uber.”

He nodded, still holding his towel as he watched her unbolt the door. This was always the weird part, the goodbye after a lone night of wild sex. What the hell were you supposed to say? Thanks for the fuck? It’s been fun? It’s not like he was going to see her again.

“Oh, wait!” she slapped her forehead with her palm. “I forgot something!”

He didn’t recall her bringing anything else, but honestly, he wasn’t paying much attention as he stripped her down last night. Shit was flying off of both of them and it wasn’t exactly an opportune time to take inventory.

Ollie watched as she practically limped her way back to the kitchen and opened both doors of his refrigerator. What the hell was she doing? He was quite certain nothing she had brought with her had found its way in there.

Sloan scanned its contents briefly before reaching and muttering an ”aha”.

Now within her grasp was a dark brown bottle. Ollie knew instantly what she was holding and could only shake his head at her as she painfully walked back to his door and opened it. He was watching a petty theft in action and couldn’t even bring himself to stop her.

“Good seeing you, toothpick guy.” Sloan saluted him with the same hand that was currently holding his Worcestershire sauce—her heels in the other—and stepped into the stairwell.

Still shaking his head, Ollie laughed and put his hands on his towel-covered hips, watching last night’s conquest disappear behind the old door.

“Touché, crazy,” he whispered to himself, grinning so hard it hurt.

***

“You know,” Mikah’s annoying voice followed Ollie as he made a beeline to the kitchen of Mulligan’s, “you really don’t get to be late for work when you live above the damn place.”

The freshly showered man ignored Mikah and pushed the brass-covered swinging door open to his happy place. He flipped the light switches to on, illuminating the kitchen with fluorescent lights. The Aspirin hadn’t kicked in quite yet and it caused him to grimace at the change of light. As he did every morning, he scanned the counters and floors to make sure the staff had cleaned to his liking before turning on the ovens.

It appeared that Mikah had fucked up the poultry order—which was not a surprise—and sitting on the counter was the invoice for double the amount of chicken thighs. Ollie could not understand how one simple task could be messed up so easily. After retrieving a tray from the cooler, he found himself staring at it, knowing the special today was going to have to be chicken. That pissed him off, because that was the special yesterday.

“Did you hear me?” the door of the kitchen swung open. Mikah entered, unenthused with Ollie’s tardiness. Mikah was perfectly aware that Ollie hated him being in here, but he pulled this almost daily.

“Need I remind you, you are not my boss.” Ollie refused to look at the man who was purposely in his way. Instead, he moved around him. Mikah, being unfamiliar with how a kitchen operates, didn’t understand that Ollie was a pro at dodging people in his path. “The surname on the building is a shared one, Mikah. I own just as much as you do.”

Which is a complete crock of shit, he wanted to add but again, bit his tongue.

He knew he was being stared down as he pulled ingredients. At first Ollie thought he would do some type of blackened chicken salad, pulling his favorite Cajun seasoning from the ingredient closet, but thought of the woman who had just left his apartment. He placed the spice back on the shelf and moved to the fridge, retrieving a bottle of Worcestershire. The sound of the door swishing back and forth informed him that his brother had left the room and he could prep in peace.

What else was in her cart that day? Ollie wandered his ingredient options, trying to recall their first encounter. He retrieved a lemon, knowing he would need it to tame the amount of sodium she seemed so keen on drowning her food in, soy sauce, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic powder, pepper, and fresh parsley for some color. He took his time, slowly adding each ingredient and thinking about how their flavors would compliment each other. It was a simple marinade that didn’t take long to blend. When it was well mixed, he dipped the tip of his spoon into the blender for a taste.

The result was pleasantly savory. He leaned against the counter, staring at Sloan’s marinade, and chuckled to himself. She impressed him, something that many people would agree was a very hard thing to do. It was definitely too salty for chicken noodle soup because of the broth. He could tame it down with a little sugar, but now he wanted to focus on the savory part of it. A potato soup with this on the chicken would be perfect. He would figure out how to dress it up later, but needed to get the chicken marinating in time for the dinner rush.

“Mikah!” he called out, receiving no answer. No surprise, he was likely now being ignored.

Ollie left the kitchen to enter the bar area, finding Mikah replenishing glasses and bottles of alcohol. Using a blue chalk pen, Ollie wrote the potato soup as the day’s special and capped it, tossing it to the bar to get his brother’s attention.

“I thought we were going to talk about these live bands. We never agreed to it. How many more do you have scheduled?”

“They bring in money,” Mikah shrugged.

“It’s a restaurant with a bar!” Ollie argued. “And has been for fifty years. People don’t want to listen to dudes in womens’ pants screeching their way through a song while eating. If you are going to continuously go behind my back to schedule them, have them start later. The younger crowd will be too drunk to notice how terrible they are.”

“Fine.” Mikah turned away and angrily began slamming more bottles to the shelves behind the bar. Ollie knew he had hit Mikah’s soft spot for music and did it purposely.

This was the only way they could run the business together anymore. It was a constant battle of arguments, eye rolls, and slamming doors. Every single decision they made was accomplished in this manner, but there was no other way to speak to each other. Whoever said you had to love family was a liar, because Ollie couldn’t honestly say he held no love for his younger brother anymore. Working with him was absolute torture.

Knowing that going behind the bar was going to piss Mikah off, Ollie swung the partition up and allowed the wood to slam back down. The heat from Mikah’s glare burned on his skin as he retrieved a small skewer used for the mixed drinks and placed it between his lips. It was already obvious that it was going to be a long day.

“Those cost money, you know?”

“Good thing your shit bands are bringing in money then.” Ollie smirked, unenthusiastically.

Before Mikah could retort, a banging noise from the main door of the restaurant caught both of their attention. Ollie peered at his watch, seeing that lunch opening wasn’t for another hour and a half.

“Open it, asshole! Where is she?” a female’s voice firmly echoed through the door, followed by more banging.

Mikah and Ollie shared a confused look, hesitating to open the door. When the banging intensified, Ollie pushed himself up over the bartop, spun his ass around and dropped his feet to the other side of the bar. He figured he better open it or he might be purchasing a new door tomorrow.

“I’ll kill you!”

Ollie unlocked and swung the door open, finding a petite blonde ready to beat his ass to next Tuesday as she took purposeful steps forward and fisted the material of his dress shirt.

“What the fuck?” he attempted to back up until he hit the coat rack behind him, almost topping him over.

“Where is she? Her bed was still made and she’s not home! I left her with you!”

His eyes widened, now remembering this girl from last night. The sexy blue dress she was wearing was long gone and now replaced with a scrubs in a hideous shade of green. They reminded him of pea soup. Her curly hair was now pinned to the top of her head, but last night’s makeup was still crusted to the corners of her eyes. This was the chick who left Sloan for her own hookup with a stranger.

“Where is she?” she pushed Ollie again. “I will stab your dick with one of your goddamn toothpicks if you don’t tell me!”

Ollie held his hands up, as if showing her with empty palms that Sloan wasn’t here. Her feistiness had him trying to hold back a laugh. “She left over an hour ago. Said something about having to work.”

Her hands dropped instantly and she took a step back. Instead of looking happy that her friend was indeed alive and well, Sloan’s friend seemed quite the opposite. She appeared as if Ollie had just told her he dropped her off at the morgue.

“She slept with you and stayed the night?” she covered her mouth with her hand in shock. “Was she okay when she left? Was she upset?”

“Uhh,” Ollie chuckled awkwardly and smoothed his shirt. His toothpick rolled to the other side of his mouth and he clamped his teeth down on it. He didn’t plan to rehash details of last night to a stranger. “No? Other than she stole my damn Worcestershire, she left and appeared...satisfied. She begged for it, just as I said.”

The blonde’s eyes closed tightly and then whispered ”Shit.”

Before he could ask why that was a problem, she was back out the door and disappearing into a busy Chicago sidewalk. Now he let go of the laugh he was holding back. Wow.

“You really need to stop fucking the crazies.”

Mikah telling him who and who he should not sleep with was fucking laughable. Ollie slammed the door shut and locked it again, not caring where the chick had run off to. Sloan was another one-and-done encounter that was over.

“She was too hot to be sane.”

His brother was trying to get him riled up and he knew it. He should know better though, Ollie knew how to give subtle jabs right back that would have Mikah sour all day.

“Sane or not, she was the best fuck I’ve ever had. Worth it.”

A smile was not the expression that Ollie was expecting and knew instantly he had made some sort of mistake.

"Classy, Ollie.”

The cold female voice behind him made his chest ache. He inhaled a deep breath, wishing he could take the comment back, even if it was true. The toothpick between his lips snapped in half and he pulled the two separate pieces free and squeezed them in his fist.

He should have known Shelby would be here to do payroll. He was in such a daze from last night that he had strolled right past her and Mikah knew it. She always made herself comfortable in one of the booths while she worked. Props to his brother for taking advantage of that scenario.

“Yeah,” Ollie sighed, exhaling the breath. “I sure know how to pick ’em.”

Without turning around, not wanting to see the if the insult had any affect on her or Mikah, he returned to the kitchen, pushing the door so hard that it kept swinging long after he was in the room. The splintered wood in his palm was tossed to the countertop and Ollie hoisted himself to the same counter. He knelt on it as he blindly searched the top shelf with his hand, soon coming in contact with the small paper box.

Ollie sighed, thankful for this small bit of luck for the day. He pulled the box down, smacked it a few times against his palm and then shook it until a cigarette shimmied out of it. He placed it between his lips, already feeling relief from the sweet smell of the tobacco. His feet hit the ground and he placed his face close to the stovetop beside him, turning on the flame just long enough to light it.

Knowing Mikah and Shelby would both give him a hard time for seeing him smoke again, he took the cigarette with him out the back door of the kitchen and into the alleyway behind Mulligan’s. It was only used for various business’ dumpsters and was also where he kept his motorcycle parked. It smelled like disgusting downtown Chicago, garbage, and a hint of piss, but he would be left alone.

Ollie leaned against the wall, taking a long drag from the lit rolled paper and savoring it. He had made it two months that time. Somehow, it was always a similar scenario that had him back to needing the fix. He flicked the ash away and dropped his head back hard against the dirty brick, pushing a cloud of smoke out from between his lips. He needed something else to fill the void of cigarettes because the toothpicks weren’t cutting it.

If he was being really honest with himself, it wasn’t the void of the cigarettes that needed the fill. The cigarettes were just filling the void of someone else.

That someone else was on the other side of the wall.

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