Home > Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(14)

Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(14)
Author: Jessica Clare

Then again, none of this is how I pictured it going.

My mind is so lost in a whirling dervish of stressed thoughts that I’m not enjoying the savasana. I can’t relax. I can’t clear my damn head. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to clear it again. There’s too much baby in there, and I wonder if Knox got my note. Does he even remember who I am or was I just another hookup to him? For some reason, I feel like I should matter to him. I hope I do. It’s silly, because I’m the one that ghosted him, but I don’t want him to resent me. I want him to think of our night together fondly. I know I’m still thinking about it, after all.

The door chimes, signaling that someone’s entering, and I open my eyes and glance over from my spot on the mat.

Holy shit.

I jerk upright, forgetting all about corpse pose. I jump to my feet and rush forward, padding across the floor of my studio toward Knox Price, who’s just shown up looking like a gorgeous daydream. Did I forget how incredible he looks in person? Because my brain is frying at the sight of him. That big, scruffy beard. The slightly too-long hair that curls over his brow and begs to be pushed off his forehead. The dark eyes and broad shoulders and tanned skin. Oh my god. I’m practically getting wet just looking at him.

I’m going to blame it on pregnancy hormones, because I’m freaking out even as I’m aroused at the sight of him. “What are you doing here?” I ask, trying to keep my voice down to not disturb Mrs. Bateman. Savasana works best when you have several long minutes to clear your mind, and she needs more time. Plus, she still has another twenty minutes of class booked with me.

He devours me with a look, saying nothing. My entire body tingles in awareness, and I feel his gaze skating down my body, outlined by the formfitting sports bra and leggings I’m wearing. My hair’s pulled up in a tight bun, and I kind of wish it was down so I could look like the girl he remembered from that night. Why that matters, I don’t know. I’m going to blame that on pregnancy hormones, too.

“We need to talk,” he tells me in a low voice, glancing over at Mrs. Bateman over on the mat. “Cancel your appointments.”

I start to bristle at that, because who comes in and demands that I clear my schedule like that? Clearly someone with no money problems, that’s who. “You’ve never run a small business, have you? If I cancel on my clients, they get offended. Not just for today, but for future bookings, and I don’t think—”

“Just cancel them,” Knox says, tone gentle. He leans in even more, as if he wants to touch me but can’t. “You know as well as I do that we have things to discuss.”

My pulse is fluttering, and I’m acutely aware of how close he’s standing and the soap he uses. The way that the T-shirt he’s wearing is so worn the screen-printed logo on the breast is cracked and there’s a tiny hole at the collar and he doesn’t care. That there are little curls of his hair sticking out from under his trucker cap, just begging for my fingers to reach up and tuck them back under. Why do I find this man so ultimately touchable? What is wrong with me?

Hormones, I remind myself again. It all goes back to hormones. “I can’t just cancel on my clients—”

“I’m done,” Mrs. Bateman calls out from behind me. “I’m finished corpsing and I need to go. I’m getting my hair done for bingo tonight.”

Now she’s working against me, too. I turn to Mrs. Bateman and give her my sweetest smile. “All right, then. Did you want to discuss payment for this week?”

She moves to the cubby where she has her things and pulls out her wallet. “I’m only going to pay you for two-thirds of a session today, since your boyfriend is here and that corpse pose shit doesn’t count as yoga. If I wanted to lie down all afternoon I’d do that at home. Next time try teaching me some damn yoga like I pay you to.”

Such a salty woman. I adore her. “Pay me what you think is appropriate,” I tell her, just because I’m fond of the old bitch. “And let’s schedule your next few sessions.”

Mrs. Bateman gives me a crisp five-dollar bill and allows me to schedule her for twice more in the upcoming week. “Let’s not cut those short because you need to spend time with your boyfriend.” She gives me a prim look.

“Why do you think he’s my boyfriend?” I ask, curious. I glance over at Knox, who’s still by the doorway, gazing at my yoga pose posters and a flow chart of aligning chakras and some other karmic bullshit I hung on the walls so they’d look appropriately yoga-ey.

“Honey,” she says with a shake of her head. “I am old but I am not senile. I have eyes. He looks at you like he wants to tap that.”

And now I’m really fighting back a laugh, because hearing something like that out of wizened Mrs. Bateman is probably the greatest thing ever. “Gotcha.”

“I’ll see you Wednesday,” she tells me, and gets her things, sliding on her shoes and then heading out the front door. She giggles as Knox holds the door open for her and waves.

He waits until she’s in her car and then strides forward, toward where I’m hiding behind the checkout counter of my studio. “Did she just pay you five dollars? How much do you charge for a class?”

“Twenty for a one-on-one session, but Mrs. Bateman likes to haggle. She’s fun.” I slide the five into my nearly empty till. “I can only imagine the hell she’ll give them at the nursing home when she deigns to go.”

Knox just shakes his head. “How are you supposed to run a business if your customers ain’t payin’ you properly?”

I can’t decide if that’s sweet of him to be concerned, or intrusive. “I’m just waiting for a life-threatening injury so I can spend my days lounging on worker’s comp and living the good life,” I tell him drily. “Maybe if I get lucky, I’ll rupture something vital and then the big bucks roll in. Ka-ching.”

He snorts. “I’m just sayin’, she’s using you.”

“Yeah, but I love her sour ass, so it’s all good. I consider it an entertainment discount. My favorite part’s when she cusses at me for making her stretch.” I mock-shiver. “I learn new words every time.”

“Can you break for lunch?” he asks.

“It’s four.”

“Yeah, but don’t pregnant ladies wanna eat all the time?”

I just eye him. He’s not wrong, though. I’m starving. “There’s a diner next door. But you have to promise not to talk very loud. This is a small town and I’d prefer not to be the town pariah because I’m unmarried and pregnant. I like to be the town pariah because I’m weird, and that would ruin my cred.”

“Whatever you want. I have my truck. We can go someplace else if you’d like. Just tell me where.”

I glance down at my planner. “I can’t go anywhere for long. I have a five thirty.” I’m totally fucking lying, because my five thirty permanently canceled on me a month ago and I just haven’t updated my books. Truth is, I’m a little wary of going somewhere else with him. If we’re local and someplace small, he can’t yell at me. At least, that’s my theory.

“Next door it is, then. But you’re lettin’ me buy.”

I shrug. “That’s fine.” I grab my cell phone and slide on a pair of flip-flops, then lead the way out. My heart is hammering as he exits my studio and I flip the BACK SOON sign on the door. I’m not expecting drop-ins, but going out in public with Knox like this makes me worry that Keith is going to see me with him and flip his lid. Maybe we should leave town after all.

Then again, it might be worse if Keith sees me in Knox’s truck than if he sees me sitting publicly in the diner with him. Jesus, I can’t win for losing. I debate this for a moment and then decide it’s safest in town. It’ll show I have nothing to hide, whereas if I drive off with a stranger and it gets back to him, he’s sure to go nuts about it.

We head down the little strip mall into the Luka Diner, and I keep my steps brisk so he can’t put a hand on my shoulder or my back or anything like that. Much as I’d love that small touch, it’s not a good idea. The moment we enter the diner, Laura looks up from her spot behind the counter. We’re the only customers in the tiny diner. Of course we are. It’s early for the dinner rush. The place is a bit dated and cheap, as far as eateries go. There’s still wood paneling from the seventies on the walls, and popcorn ceilings. The chairs are orange molded plastic, and the tables are tiny laminate squares that manage to always be a little bit dirty from the last customers that sat there. But the place has great coffee and it’s close by, so it gets a lot of traffic from the locals.

“Hey, Laura,” I call out, doing my best to be cheerful and act like nothing about this is weird.

She just looks at me as if I’ve grown another head. Okay, maybe that’s a little overly chirpy for me, since I normally get coffee from the diner in the morning with a few monosyllabic grunts. Well, whatever. I pick a table close to the door and sit down, grabbing a sticky menu before Knox can do something gallant like pull my chair out.

He sits across from me as Laura hustles over. “New boyfriend, honey?” She drawls her words and gives me a curious look.

“Please,” I say drily. “You know I’m a lesbian and holding my heart out for you.”

Her expression puckers and her mouth presses in a thin line. I figured that’d shut her up. They’re not fond of alternative lifestyles in this backward little town.

Knox just gives me an amused look. “Coffee, please,” he says to Laura.

“Me too,” I say immediately, and then pause. I shouldn’t drink caffeine. But if I don’t, she might wonder what’s up. I guess I’ll order it and just hold my mug. “And a water, too. Super, super thirsty.”

Laura scribbles a note down on her order pad and studies Knox a moment longer before turning back to me. “I’ll give y’all a moment to look over the menu and I’ll be back with your drinks.”

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