Home > Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(18)

Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(18)
Author: Jessica Clare

But it’s not Knox. The person that strolls in is tall and clean-shaven, and wearing a black shirt emblazoned with LUKA FIRE DEPT over the breast.

Fuck. It’s Keith. I immediately freeze, the smile on my face disappearing. “What do you want?”

“Well, for starters, I’d like to know who that guy is that just left.”

I try to think of something, but nothing comes to mind. “Investor,” I say after a long moment, hating how stupid of a response it is. “He’s thinking about opening a chain and wanted to see if I’d sell out to him.” I kneel to the floor and start to roll up one of the colorful mats on the ground. “Don’t see why it’s any of your business, though.”

Keith strolls forward, his heavy work boots clomping on my polished wooden floors. “Everything you do is my business, Lexi.”

That makes me angry. I sit back on my haunches and glare up at him. “No, it isn’t. We’re not dating. I don’t work with you. We’re not partners. We—”

“Everything,” he snarls, and I go silent at the fury in his tone. My stomach turns over. “I’m being patient with you, Lexi, because I know you like to have your way, but I’m making it very clear right now. You belong to me. Understand? So if you’re fucking around with that guy, you need to think carefully about how you want to proceed.”

I stare at him, horrified. Is . . . is that a threat? “I don’t belong to you—”

“Don’t test me, Lexi. You wouldn’t like it if I was angry.” His expression is furious, and it sends a cold chill through me. “I don’t care if that guy’s a business partner or not. I saw the way you were looking at him.”

“You were spying on me?”

He ignores that question, moving toward my checkout counter and picks up the small stone Buddha I have sitting at the end of the counter. “I watch over you because you’re mine,” he says in that same presumptuous tone. “And I don’t like what I’m seeing, frankly. I think you’re leading me on, and you’re making that guy think that you’re interested in him when all you want is his wallet so he can put some money into this shitty little dance studio of yours. Am I right?”

“No,” I say flatly. “All of it’s wrong, dickface. I don’t like him.”

“I saw you smile at him.” His jaw clenches.

“It’s called being friendly to a stranger. You should try it sometime. I hear it’s effective.”

He flings the stone Buddha against the wall, and it crashes into the drywall, punching a hole and making a sound like a gunshot. I instinctively flinch, my arms going around my head. “Don’t you fucking lie to me, Lexi! I know you went to lunch with him.”

My mouth goes dry and I remain perfectly still, trying not to imagine what he’d do if he grabbed my arm right about now. “I’m not lying,” I say slowly. Thanks for selling me out, Laura. “And your temper is terrible. You need to calm the fuck down.”

I can’t show him how scared I am. How I’m about to break down in tears because he’s freaking me out.

“Am I? Because I thought I was just a guy looking after his woman. You tell that other man he needs to fuck off, or he’s going to drive me to do something drastic. Understand?”

“Don’t you have a fire somewhere you can put out?” I ask, keeping my tone dry and unafraid. “Or a kitten to rescue from a tree? Or a donut you should be eating?” Okay, that’s more for cops, but whatever. I just want him gone. Please, please leave.

Keith stares at me for a long moment, the crazed look in his eyes pinning me to my spot on the floor, the half-rolled mat in my arms. He exhales slowly. “Look what your flirting drove me to.” He shakes his head, and a half chuckle escapes him. “You’re just working my temper, aren’t you?”

“I’m really not—”

“You must get turned on when a guy gets all possessive,” Keith continues, smiling.

“Still no—”

But it looks like the rage explosion has come and gone. He moves over to the wall, where a fist-size hole has been punched in the Sheetrock and my poor Buddha lies in two pieces on the ground. He picks it up and tries to put the head back on. “I’ll come by and fix your wall tomorrow.”

“I’d prefer that you not,” I tell him, and clutch the mat against my chest so hard I worry it’s going to leave a waffle print on my skin. “Just leave me alone, Keith.”

“This is what happens when you tease a man,” he says with a little shake of his head. He pockets the Buddha head and holds on to the rest of it. “I’ll glue this back together for you, too, Lexi.”

“Keith, please. Just go away.”

He turns to look at me and then begins to stride my way. I lock every muscle in my body, my shoulders stiff, afraid that I’m going to start screaming bloody murder if he touches me. Please, god, please don’t—

But he only squats on his haunches next to where I’m sitting. “Lexi, I’m sorry I lost my temper. You know I have feelings for you. I just get jealous. Do you forgive me?”

“No.”

He chuckles and reaches out to touch my hair. “Tease. We both know that you’re just saying that.” When I jerk away, his smile grows a little tight and he gets to his feet and strolls away, whistling. He moves to the door, and then holds the Buddha up again. “I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon to fix this. Then we should talk about you and me and where this is going.”

“This isn’t going anywhere,” I call out in a shaky voice, but it’s too late. He’s slipping out the door and into the parking lot.

I gaze at the hole in my wall and try not to tremble. I fail miserably, too. That’s the most violent Keith has ever gotten. Normally he’s just pushy and watches me far too much. This time . . . this time he’s really scared me.

I wait several minutes to make sure that he’s gone, then I get up and grab my keys and purse from my counter. I head out of the studio and flip the BACK SOON sign on the door. I get in my car and drive two blocks over to the police station.

Clutching my purse, I take a deep breath and approach the counter, where an elderly man is seated. “How can I help you, ma’am?”

“I need to file a harassment report,” I tell him. “And property damage.”

The man’s bushy gray brows go up. “That so?”

I nod, doing my best not to break down and cry. I hate crying. Hate it so much. It’s a sign of weakness, and I refuse to be weak. But the tears are threatening, just behind my eyes, and waiting for the right moment to emerge and make me lose my shit. “Yes. A guy I know came into my studio and knocked a hole in the wall and threatened me. I want to get a restraining order, too, if possible.”

He picks up a pen and glances at me again. “Name?”

“Keith Lawrence.”

The man immediately sets down the pen and gives me an impatient look. “You’re Keith’s girlfriend, aren’t you? The weird one with the dance studio?”

“Actually it’s yoga, and I’m not his girlfriend.”

“He was just by here earlier today, actually. Bragging about you.” His eyes narrow at me. “You sure this isn’t just a lovers’ quarrel?”

Why is it that every time I get to the police station to ask them to do something about Keith, I get the feeling he’s already been by and talked to people? I hate that this town is small enough that all the firefighters and police are friends, because they all take his side and not mine. “We’re not dating. It’s not a lovers’ quarrel. He’s harassing me.”

His gaze flicks over my sports bra and leggings. “You think maybe you’re leading him on with the way you dress?”

Oh my god, I give up. Every time I come to the police station, I get stonewalled and insulted. I clench my keys in my hand and shove my way back out of the station, angry and frustrated and scared. This time, when I get in my car, I can’t stop the tears.

I don’t know what to do. Get up and leave everything I’ve built here? Move across the country again? I don’t have the money.

But how can I stay here? No one will help me against Keith. No one will protect me.

Except Knox, of course. I know he’d step in and try to help me against Keith . . . but I worry that something bad would happen if he did. It’s not exactly fair when the entire police force is on the wrong guy’s side.

I feel helpless and alone.

Knox

I show up the next day at the same time, ready to enact my battle plan.

I have flowers in one hand—black roses, because I know Lexi likes black—and an envelope with a printed hotel reservation in the other. I’m wearing a black T-shirt and unripped jeans, and I even trimmed my beard a bit. As other guys would fancy up for a date, it ain’t much, but for me, it’s a lot. I’m here to impress Lexi, though. Not with the money I’m throwin’ around, but with my thoughtfulness. I think this time I hit the nail on the head in regards to what she wants. If I didn’t, well, I’ll just try again. I ain’t givin’ up on her or on the idea that she’s mine.

I’m just gonna have to work a little harder to make her see it.

When I enter the small yoga studio, though, something feels off. It’s hard not to miss the fact that there’s a fist-size hole punched in one wall. The studio’s empty, too, and the weird, supposed-to-be-soothing music seems to echo more than relax. There’s a distinctly weird vibe to the place today, and it’s even more apparent when I approach the front desk and see Lexi wearing a long black T-shirt over baggy track pants instead of her usual figure-hugging workout wear. She pays no attention to me as I approach, seated on a stool behind the counter and flipping through an athletic-wear catalog.

I hold out the flowers. “Hello again.”

She barely glances up. “Black roses. Much original. So wow.”

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