Home > Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(12)

Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(12)
Author: Jessica Clare

Gage just glares at me and storms back down the hall, shaking his head. That didn’t go well. Figured it wouldn’t, but also figured I needed to say something anyhow. Ah well. I enter my own hotel room and toss my jacket off, then unclip my tie. Someday I’ll learn how to use a real one, but for now, the clip does all right. I move to the minibar and see what’s inside. I’ve been fuckin’ with the maids a bit, pullin’ stuff out of the minibar and stashing it in random spots around the room to see how they’d react. Interestingly enough, they refilled it with new snacks and left the extras on top of the dresser. Guess I shoulda seen that coming. Probably billed me for ’em, too. Doesn’t matter. I reach in and grab a soda, twist off the cap, and consider putting it back in after one sip. Not because I’m cheap. Just because I like fuckin’ with people. Seein’ if they pay attention.

But nah. The joy’s gone out of a lot of it since Seth died. Now, kinda feels like it doesn’t matter anymore. All of my pranks and nudging are half-assed at best. Ain’t got the heart.

My phone buzzes, dragging me out of my depressin’ thoughts. That’d be Boone, callin’ to check on our sorry asses. He’s not gonna be happy with the waste of time, but ain’t much I can do about that. I answer. “Before you ask, it was a bust.”

Boone curses under his breath. “Knew it. He was just shakin’ you down for information, wasn’t he? There was something cagey about the way he was actin’. That asshole.”

“Yeah, I don’t get the impression he wanted to sell at all. Or if he did, it was for a hell of a lot more than his land was worth. Either way, it’s a dead end.”

“All right. Anything else going on? How’s Gage?” I can hear the worry under his casual tone. “He handle it well?”

“Well enough,” I drawl. “Drank like a fish and he’s down at the bar drinkin’ some more.”

“Goddamn it. I don’t want to bury his ass, too. You’re supposed to be watchin’ him.”

“Watchin’ him pickle his liver? He’s a grown man, Boone. He wants to drink, I can’t stop him.” But I feel the same way he does. Ever since Seth’s funeral, Gage has been a mess. We’ve all handled it badly, but Clay and Boone had their women to lean on. I just bottled it up, like I do with everything. Gage always leaned on Seth, and he’s lost without him. He’s been drinkin’ far too much for any human to handle. I get it. I want to drink away my thoughts sometimes, too, but that won’t bring Seth back. Ain’t gonna find him at the bottom of a bottle.

“Just fuckin’ go down there and drag his ass outta the bar,” Boone snarls, and then hangs up.

I pocket my phone and change clothes instead, stalling before I have to go retrieve my younger brother like a nagging wife. I’ll give him time to down a drink or two first. That’ll make him easier to manipulate. Of course, there ain’t nothing gonna stop him from going back to the bar after I drag him away, but I’ll do my brotherly duty.

Once I’m in a T-shirt and jeans, I feel more like myself. I don’t mind the pretendin’, but suits and ties are more Gage’s thing. He loves to be pretty because the ladies love it, too. Me, I’d rather be comfortable. I put on my favorite scuffed boots and head out into the hall and downstairs, toward the bar. The place isn’t crowded, but it also ain’t hard to find my brother. He’s there at the bar, three ladies clustered around him. Even shit-ass drunk, Gage is irresistible to women.

I take the closest empty seat, which puts me next to one of the women. She glances over at me, and then gives me a sultry smile when she realizes I look like Gage. “Why, hello there. You the brother?”

“Poor cousin,” I drawl. “No money. Name’s Jack.”

Her smile stiffens and she glances down at my clothing—the ragged T-shirt and faded jeans—and says, “Not interested.” She immediately turns back to Gage.

At this point, though, Gage has noticed me. He nods in my direction and sucks down another whiskey, then points for the bartender to fill it up again. One of the women touches his hand and I see her sliding her room key into his sleeve. If I don’t step in, I imagine Gage is gonna get all their room keys. Then again, this might be their thing. Or they might be call girls just looking for a rich john.

“All right, ladies,” I say, raising my voice. “Gage is packing up for the night.”

“I am?” Gage asks, and looks up at me with red, slitted eyes. “Thought I was jus’ gettin’ started.”

“Nope. You’re cut off.” I hold my credit card up to the bartender. “Cash him out. He’s done.”

“Goddamn it, Knox. Just because you’re my brother doesn’t mean you’re my keeper.” Gage scowls at me from down the bar.

“That’s exactly what it means,” I say as the bartender takes my card.

The woman next to me gives me a speculative look. “I thought you said you weren’t the brother.”

“I thought you said you weren’t interested.” My tone is brusque, and she stiffens at hearing it. I don’t care. I ain’t interested in her. I drum my fingers as the bartender rings up the bill, pretending I don’t see Gage sucking down the drink of one of his lady friends before I haul him away. By the time I take my card back from the bartender, Gage staggers to his feet and I haul his arm around my shoulders.

“I’m fine,” he tells me, weaving. “Don’t need a babysitter.”

“You do what you like,” I tell him. “But when I feel like you’re in trouble, I’m gonna come bail your ass out.”

He just chuckles at that. Gage is quiet as we cross the hotel lobby back to the elevator, then make our way up to our floor. He’s fumbling too hard to open his door, so I take his key from him and use it, then haul him toward the bed and let him flop there. I take his shoes off for him as he groans, facedown on the blankets. “Were those girls hot? Wonderin’ if I should tell one of them to come up.”

I shrug. “Didn’t really pay attention.”

“All I remember are tits,” Gage says. “Big, bouncy tits.” He flops over in the bed. “You pretty much told ’em to fuck off. Dunno why. You coulda gotten your dick wet.”

“They’re fake,” I tell him flatly. “I ain’t interested in fake.”

“Easiest way to forget how shit life can be is to bury yourself in a hot girl. Doesn’t matter if she’s fake.”

“Does to me. All they want is a wallet and a guy to buy them shit. They don’t know anything about you.”

He narrows his eyes at me. “You ever met a girl that doesn’t give a shit about the wallet? I haven’t.”

“Yeah.” I think of Lexi, with her lithe body and her weird sense of humor. She’s not traditionally sexy like Gage thinks of it, but just the thought of her dark hair and little smirk makes me ache inside. “Yeah, I met a girl like that once.”

I must be obvious, because Gage points at me and laughs. “That weirdo goth, right?”

“That’s the one.”

“Damn, Knox. How come you didn’t hit that?”

I go silent. It’s none of Gage’s business if I slept with Lexi or not. He’s my brother, but he’s also a drunk lately and can’t hold a secret to save his life. “Shit happened.”

“You mean Seth died.” Instead of turning sad or angry, Gage just laughs. “Shithead’s cockblocking you from the grave. That’s just like him.” He puts a hand to his forehead. “Ah, fuck, I miss him.”

“Me too.” I’m not as hollowed as Gage is, though, and I feel guilty for that. Maybe because I’ve always been a bit more remote than my brothers. I didn’t have that closeness that Gage did with Seth. He was my brother and I loved him, but Gage is shattered by his death. Maybe I’m fucked up because I only feel like my heart’s been cored like an apple. I’ll recover, eventually. I don’t know if Gage ever will. I slap his leg. “Get some sleep. I’ll come get you in the morning.”

He mumbles something and rolls back over in bed, grabbing a pillow and hugging it to his face. I leave his room and shut the door behind me. I don’t go back to my room immediately, though. I lean against the wall for a few minutes, waitin’ to see if he’s gonna try to sneak back down to the bar again or if he’s really gonna sleep.

My phone buzzes with a text message.

I glance back at Gage’s door, but it seems like he’s stayin’ put. Good. I head toward my room, enter, and check my phone. It’s Boone again. For a moment, I think he’s gonna rag on me for Gage or the meeting that went to shit. So I’m a little surprised when I see the message I get.

BOONE: You need to tell me something?

He attaches a picture of flowers in a vase. I . . . don’t get it. Why flowers? Is there some secret message I’m missing?

KNOX: If you’re asking if I sent flowers, you ain’t my type. I like ’em less hairy.

BOONE: You got the flowers, dumbass. They were sent to PBO office. There’s a card, too.

KNOX: Wasn’t expecting anything. Who are they from?

BOONE: Dunno. Ok to open the card?

KNOX: Knock yourself out.

There’s a long pause. Minutes long. I watch the three little dots on my phone, waiting for Boone’s response, but nothing’s coming through. Wonder what that means. Who the hell sent me flowers? It’s probably another person sending sympathy notes for Seth’s death. Like I want flowers. I’d rather just have my little bro back.

Oddly enough, I think of Lexi. Maybe I’m not as fucked up over Seth’s death as I should be because I’m obsessing over her. Don’t matter that she ghosted me after our night together. Left me a note and told me she’d call and then never did. Won’t answer my texts, so I figure I pissed her off somehow. I can’t stop thinking about her, though. Never met anyone that felt so fuckin’ perfect to me. Her smile, her body, her mind. I met her and it felt like I’d finally met my other half.

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