Home > Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(17)

Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(17)
Author: Jessica Clare

After that, I started to stay with Dad during the week and Mom on weekends. And then the weekends got less frequent, and every time I went over, they were worse and worse. At one point, Mom was living with six other people in a house with no power. Took me a long time before I realized they were just squatting. At any rate, Mom was a mess, even though she loved me in her way.

But I guess I have her to thank for the gut-deep revulsion I have for the word “bastard.” Dunno when I first started hearing it. Probably one of her strung-out friends. They’d laugh and ask Mary—which wasn’t her name—to have her bastard fetch them a drink, or run to the corner store for them. Mom never corrected them. Never told them not to call me that. I didn’t know it was a slur at first. Just noticed that my dad never said it, and never called me or Gage or Seth one, even though we all had different moms. I only heard the word at home . . . or at school, when kids knew that I was one of the Price boys, and not one of the ones that were legitimate. I bloodied a lot of noses over the word “bastard.”

And now here I am, an adult, and my kid’s gonna be a bastard, too. Fuck, I hate that. I’ll do anything to prevent it. I don’t want him—or her—to have an ounce of the agony I went through as a child.

I need to make Lexi see that I’d be good for them. That I can be a great dad. That I can be there for her, too. That we don’t have to be enemies in this, like my parents were in the end. That we need to think about our kid first. And I want her to give me a chance. I loved that night with her.

I want more nights with her. I want all of them.

So I need to come up with a really damn good plan. I rub my chin, thinking as I stare out the window. Lexi’s an odd one. She’s not impressed by money, from what I can tell. She’s got a wry sense of humor. She likes to hide in the bushes and scare children. My mouth twitches with amusement thinking about that. Maybe I need to invite her to something similar ’round here.

I pull up my phone and look for the closest costume store in the area, an idea forming in my mind.

Chapter 10

Knox

Next day, I show up at Lexi’s studio with a bag at my side. She’s teaching a class—a small one, with only two other people on the mats. Her gaze flicks to me as I come in, but I sit down on a chair near the door and wait for her to finish. She ignores me, her hands pressed together between her breasts, and instructs her clients on how to carefully lift one leg and fold it, kinda like a flamingo. I don’t get the whole yoga thing, but I have to admit she looks graceful when she does it. After that pose, they move into another, lying on the floor, legs spread, and I’m half tempted to get down on one of the mats and see if I can’t do that move myself. Probably not. Least, not in jeans.

Eventually, they go to a pose that just looks like lyin’ on your back, and they stay like that for a good ten minutes. Kinda crazy. They pay Lexi for her to tell them to lie on their backs and breathe? Can’t anyone do that? But I guess I ain’t one to point that shit out. If this is how she makes her money, good for her.

But then class ends and the ladies put their shoes on and head out, and then it’s just me and Lexi. A slightly sweaty, disheveled Lexi, who’s wearin’ a sports bra and tight leggings that show off every inch of her taut little body. Now I’m gettin’ the appeal of yoga. She saunters over to me, lightly toweling off her neck and face. “Hello again. Back already?”

“Should I have given up?” I ask, getting to my feet. “Heard you liked a man that’s as difficult as you are.”

A reluctant smile touches her mouth. “You’re not wrong about that kind of thing. But seriously, Knox, you don’t have to do this—”

“Shh, I’m trying to figure out how to romance you.”

One dark eyebrow goes up. “Oh?”

“Yup. Tryin to figure out what makes you tick and all. See, it’s not just about the baby for me. I wanted more time with you before I even found out about that.”

Her mouth curves in a reluctant smile. “Because you couldn’t get enough of my charming personality?” Her voice is deadpan. “My joie de vivre?”

“Somethin’ like that.” I give her a challenging look and gesture at the bag at my side. “So I went home and sat down and tried to figure out what it is that might entice you to spend an evening with me. Thought, what does a girl that hates people want to do? And this is what I came up with.” I pull open the bag and offer it to her.

She pulls out the first item. “Clown masks?”

“Thought we’d stand on a street corner and scare children. I can even climb in a drain if it’ll turn you on.”

“While it does make me wet at the thought of horrifying youngsters like that, I’m also pretty sure it’s illegal, alas.” Lexi hands a mask back reluctantly. “Though I must say, giving people coulrophobia is pretty high on my bucket list.”

“I thought something like that might be. All right, then. Not clowns.” I pretend to consider for a moment. “What if I booked up all the slots for your studio for the rest of the day? It would be just me and you.”

“Mm-hmm. And how exactly am I supposed to grow my business if you buy up all my slots?”

“Are you trying to grow your business?”

She pinches her forefinger and her thumb together. “Teeny bit. I mean, you don’t see anyone trying to beat my door down to get in class right now, do you?”

I don’t. In fact, both times I’ve came by, her studio has been pretty empty. I kind of wondered why someone like Lexi—who isn’t a big fan of socializing—would be something as people-oriented as a teacher, but maybe there’s something about it I’m not getting. “Okay, so buying classes is a no.”

“It’s a no,” she agrees.

“What if I buy advertising for your business?”

“Then I’m a kept woman?”

And that’s a bad thing? I want to ask, but I can tell from her expression that she needs more than just a few dollars waved in her face to get her attention. I like that about her. If she were easy to bribe, I’d just buy her some shiny jewelry . . . but then again, if she were easy to bribe, she wouldn’t be my kinda girl anyhow.

“You’re forcing me to pull out the big guns,” I tell her, because I anticipated that she might be hard to please. I’ve thought a step ahead.

“Oh?” She crosses her arms over her chest. “Do go on.”

I can tell she’s curious. It’s evident in the gleam in her eye. So I carefully take out my wallet and make a great show of unfolding a piece of paper and then hold it out to her.

“What’s this?” She takes the paper and scans it, glancing up at me.

“Tickets to a haunted house.”

Her face lights up, and the sight of the pleasure in her eyes is like a gut punch, it’s so powerful. I’m not sure what it’ll take to get her to look at me like that every day, but I’ll do it. There’s nothing more beautiful than Lexi Brandon when she’s really, truly happy.

“A haunted house? A real one?”

Then I realize I fucked up. Shit. “One of those ones they do for Halloween,” I say, not wanting to lie. I can already tell that’s the wrong answer.

“Oh.” The excitement goes out of her eyes and she folds the paper up again. “Are they at least devoted to their chain saw action? If someone’s going to piss themselves on the hayride because they’re so scared, I might be down.”

But I’m learnin’ her, and I know this isn’t quite what she had in mind. “You want to go to a real one?”

Lexi’s expression grows a little more guarded. “Can’t give away all my secrets, youngster.” She hands the folded paper back to me and then saunters away, her ass giving the cutest little shake as she does. She moves to a yoga mat at the front of the studio and begins to do stretches, like I’m not there. ’Cept I know that she’s well aware that I’m here, because those stretches are takin’ on a decidedly sexual nature. As I watch, she puts her back to me, leans forward, and then places her palms on the floor next to her feet. It puts that gorgeous ass up in the air, just taunting me.

Now she’s not playin’ fair. All right, then. If she wants to play like that, game on.

With a grin, I take one last salivating look at her butt and then head out to form my new plan.

Lexi

I wait until Knox is gone before I finish my stretches. My entire body is throbbing with awareness of his presence, even after his truck pulls out of the parking lot. He wants to date me. Doesn’t want to just throw money my way because of the baby. He is interested in me.

I’m torn. Part of me is thrilled deep down in my belly that he’s pursuing me, and that he’s thinking hard about what I like. I’m not used to that. Most guys that I’ve dated in the past thought they’d try to change me or make me more to their liking. I can’t count how many men I’ve dated who asked if I’d wear something a little “brighter” on a future date, or if I’d smile more. Either comment ended the relationship right away.

Knox is something different, though, and part of me is worried that no good will come of this. I’m not good with relationships. I’m shit at picking out men. Look at Keith. Look at my ex Jonas. Whatever it is that’s wrong with those men, I somehow call it to me. I worry that there’s going to be a hidden awfulness somewhere inside of Knox and I just haven’t uncovered it yet. So far he just seems to be exactly what he is . . . a watchful, sharp-eyed man who has the same wicked sense of humor that I do.

Oh god, please let that be all that he is. I touch my stomach as I straighten. Let my baby have a good dad. Let me have a chance with a guy that’s wonderfully, achingly fantastic and not a crazy, overpossessive lunatic.

The door to the studio clangs open, and I whip around with a coy little smile on my face, ready to give Knox a little hell for returning so quickly. Could he just not stay away? Is he coming back to offer something new? I have to admit, I’m looking forward to seeing where his mind goes next.

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