Home > Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(2)

Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(2)
Author: Jessica Clare

We watch as Gina and Seth leave, and then Gage turns to me, amusement on his face. “You got something against getting laid, Johnny?”

I smirk at him, noticing that he picks up his beer. Just holds it, though. Doesn’t bring it to his lips. “I’m good. She ain’t my type.”

“What is your type?”

Someone less obvious, that’s for damn sure. I just shrug.

“Bro, we got to get you some pussy soon before your dick shrivels up.”

“I ain’t worried about it,” I tell him, and take a swig of my beer, wondering if that’ll compel him to pick up his own can.

It does. He just shakes his head at me and takes a big gulp. A strange expression crosses his face, and then he tosses the thing at me, spitting. “You cocksucker!”

I laugh gleefully and duck his poorly lobbed shot. “What?”

“You know what, dickface.” He rubs his mouth like it’s been wounded, and his gaze falls on Seth’s forgotten beer. Oh, this is too good. I don’t know how I manage to keep a straight face when he picks it up and drinks it . . . and gets a cigarette butt in the mouth. This time, he gets up from the table and puts me in a headlock, then pours my beer on my head while I bray with laughter and try to break free.

Boone and Ivy return a moment later, and a short time after that, Seth returns, too, without Gina. His expression is annoyed. “Wynonna was there by the bathrooms and so they stopped to have girl talk. I tried to be nice and wait, but then we went past the rental place and an ex-boyfriend showed up and said hello. I got the fuck out of there.” He drops down on the bench across from me and scans the table. “Where’s my beer?”

I start laughing, and then Gage does, too.

Gage and Seth are still giving me shit about it when Clay arrives with a cooler and two more girls. One is clearly Natalie, the ladylove of his life and the girl he’s pined after since he was back in high school. She looks cute, her curvy figure shown off by the swimsuit and the waves of her dark hair flowing over her shoulders. Most of all, though, she’s looking at Clay with reluctant adoration, and I like that. Clay’s probably the nicest guy in the world and deserves to get the girl he wants.

Even if he’s paying her to be his girlfriend. But we already had this talk. I told him to be ruthless around her, and about as ruthless as Clay gets is pretty much teddy bear level. Can’t help my brother if he don’t want to help himself, though. And from the dopey look on his face, he’s already beyond hope. Oh well.

I’m more intrigued by the woman walking to Natalie’s side.

For one, she’s not dressed like she’s going river tubing or on a picnic. She’s dressed like she’s going to a funeral. A very . . . goth funeral. She’s wearing a plain black slip dress and black leggings. Instead of sandals, she’s got on Chucks, and her hair, as black as her clothing, is parted down the middle, and it looks as if she’s wearing no makeup. She’s pale and her face looks rather round despite her slim body, and the most discerning feature is her big, dark eyes. For a moment, I think maybe she’s a stranger who got lost and needs directions, but then Natalie says something and the woman replies, a hint of a smile on her face.

This . . . is Natalie’s friend that she brought to the party?

I’m shocked . . . and intrigued. I can usually peg people right away, but I’m not sure what to make of Natalie’s friend. I remain quiet while Clay makes hasty introductions, and it’s clear he’s intent on herding Natalie off for some alone time. The friend’s name is Lexi, and I mentally file that away. Lexi. Lexi.

“Is that short for anything?” Gage asks, giving her his best charming smile.

“Yes,” Lexi says, her voice uninterested and flat. She keeps her arms crossed over her chest and looks around with one eyebrow raised, as if unsure what to do at a picnic. Her gaze sweeps over me and my brothers, and she studies Seth’s camo swim trunks, trashed T-shirt (identical to mine), and trucker cap.

And she still doesn’t answer.

Gage waits, and then glances over at me. A chuckle escapes him. “Short for what?” he prompts.

“Meredith,” Lexi says in that same dry voice, and then walks away.

Gage’s brows go up. Nearby, Seth, Ivy, and Boone look equally confused.

Seth eyes Lexi up and down and looks over at Natalie. “This your friend? She looks weird.”

“Thank you,” Lexi says immediately. Her voice is dry and sarcastic. “So this is society? Fascinating.”

“This is my friend Lexi,” Natalie announces, and I’m not sure if she’s remindin’ us of Lexi’s name or reminding Lexi that she’s supposed to be a friend. “She’s really very sweet once you get to know her.”

“Take that back,” Lexi demands, and saunters ahead to the water’s edge. “I’ll be by the water, frightening children, if anyone needs me.”

It gets real quiet for a moment.

“Oh, she’s serious,” Natalie says, a rueful smile on her face. “But I promise she’s harmless. She’s mostly going to lurk and look menacing.”

Lurk and look menacing, huh? I jump to my feet to follow. I’m already fascinated. It’s clear she doesn’t want to be here, and she doesn’t appreciate my brother flirting with her.

I might be half in love already.

Lexi barely gives me a look as I move into step next to her. I don’t mind her standoffishness. It’s kind of refreshing, after Gina and her cooing and hair tossing.

“Kinda a warm day for all that black clothing,” I comment, walking alongside her.

“I like to think of it as SPF 1000,” she says in that same caustic, almost monotone voice. It’s clearly meant to be unfriendly . . . or a challenge. I like a challenge, though.

“Effective, if not the breeziest,” I admit. “Next time you might be better off wrapping yourself in duct tape.”

She glances over at me. “Or tinfoil.”

“Nah,” I drawl. “That’ll bake ya like a potato.”

She snorts, but her steps slow, and she glances over at me. “Are you the unofficial host designated to help me enjoy myself at the party? Because I’m good. I meant it when I said I was going to hide in the bushes.”

“Because you don’t want to talk to anyone?” I guess.

She shrugs those incredibly slim shoulders. All of her is slim and long, and I decide I like it. She’s certainly not dressing up to show off her body, which just makes me wonder all the more what’s underneath her dark layers of clothing. Like I said, I like a challenge.

Lexi looks over at me again. “I’m perfectly capable of stringing together words to form a sentence. I’m just getting out of there so I don’t crowd Nat and Loverboy with my Epic Third-Wheelness.” She leans toward me and lowers her voice to a whisper. “It’s called being a ‘friend.’” She uses air quotes. “Or so I’m told. I call it ‘tired of watching you two cast longing looks at each other.’”

She’s so salty when she speaks of affection. I love it. “You really gonna scare kids?”

“I’m going to lurk and be my natural self. If that happens to scare children, I can’t be held responsible for weak parenting.”

A slow smile curves my mouth. I think I like this girl. “Did I mention my name’s Knox?”

“I didn’t ask. It short for anything?”

“Yup,” I say. “Meredith.”

That wins a laugh out of her, and it feels like I just got a goddamn trophy.

* * *

* * *

We don’t hide in the bushes for too long, because it gets too hot and the Texas sun is unrelenting on the riverbank. I think longingly of my beer, but I don’t want to leave Lexi’s company, either. She’s making today more interesting than I imagined, even if there’s very few unsupervised children for her to frighten by the riverbank.

“You want to head back to the others and grab some sunblock and a drink?”

She squints up at me. “If we must.”

“I promise I’ll protect you from anyone who tries to be friendly.” I pretend to flex a muscle. “Though you look scrappy enough to take on anyone.”

Lexi wiggles her eyebrows. “It’s true. I play dirty.” She shrugs. “I suppose we can try to be ‘social’ at this social thing. Otherwise I’m not being a good friend to Nat. I’m trying to give her space, but there’s space, and then there’s ‘your face on the back of a milk carton’ space.”

“I wouldn’t worry about Natalie. I doubt you’re going to see much of her today,” I mention as we turn and start to head back toward the picnic area. I can’t help but put my hand at the small of her back, just because I’m dying to touch her, even in that small way. It’s not often I meet a girl that trips my trigger, but Lexi’s doing it for me. There’s just something about her casual, fuck-you sort of attitude that I appreciate down to my core.

Plus, I kind of like the idea of stripping away that veneer and getting her to lose control. What would she look like all passion-dazed and begging for me to touch her? Would she be bitterly sarcastic even when I’m deep inside her? Just the thought makes me uncomfortably hard in my swim trunks. I do a quick tuck and adjust as she steps ahead of me, heading back to the area my family’s claimed for the picnic.

No one’s at our designated area but Boone and Ivy. My brother flips a burger on the grill as Ivy lays her head against his arm. He turns to the side and presses a kiss to the top of her head, and she rubs her big belly. My mind immediately focuses on that domestic picture, swapping myself out for my brother and Lexi out for Ivy. I imagine her with a very pregnant belly, carrying a child.

My child.

It’s amazing how possessive I can feel over a woman I just met, but damn. I have to bite back a groan before I embarrass myself. Of course, I don’t imagine Lexi dressed as sweetly as Ivy is, or that she’d have such a Madonna-like expression on her face. She’d be in black, Lexi. And the expression on her face would be more challenging.

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