Home > Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(23)

Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(23)
Author: Jessica Clare

“Tell me his name and I’ll murder him.”

I pat his knee again, because it’s sweet that he’s so furious. It’s kind of weird, because I’ve avoided talking about this portion of my life to anyone. It feels like ancient history now, ten years gone. I’m a different person now, and I guess I still cringe at the rebellious, loudmouthed teenager I was back then. I love that Knox is automatically taking my side, though. “It’s the distant past, Knox. Don’t get all stressed out.”

“He was isolating you.” His jaw clenches.

“Yeah, he was. I was too stupid to realize it, but Jonas’s thing was control. If he couldn’t control me while he was deployed, he did his best to make sure I felt alone to try and ensure that I’d do what he wanted. He wanted to approve what I wore, who I talked to, even what I read. I had my own ideas, though. I’d let him think whatever he wanted while he was in town, and the moment he was gone, I got a job. I worked so many fast-food jobs back then and didn’t tell him about it. Walked to work and took the bus and grabbed every shift I could. I saved every dollar, and by the time it was close to our one-year anniversary, I took my nest egg and moved in with one of my friends I’d met through one of my jobs. She let me room with her for a while, and between jobs and things, I found yoga.” I shrug. “Like I said, it was a long time ago, though.”

“How many years?” he asks.

“Ten, give or take a few months. Remember I’m an old lady compared to you.” I nudge him with my shoulder and wonder if he notices that I still have my hand on his thigh. I can’t bring myself to remove it, even though I know I should. There’s just something so comforting about touching him. Hell, I’m even finding his protective, growly response to my stupid marriage adorable.

“You’re not old,” Knox tells me, clearly still angry. “And you just need to give me that guy’s name and—”

“Nope,” I say, ending the conversation. “I haven’t talked to him since I filed the divorce, and we both prefer it that way, I think. He was just as miserable as I was. And because he was miserable, he tried to make me fit what he thought a good wife would be. I’m my own girl, though. The more he pushed, the harder I pushed back.” I squeeze his knee again. “I have enough clarity now with some years behind me that I can recognize I’m not good at being someone’s partner. I think some people are just meant to be solo artists. I’m definitely one of those people. So when I say it’s not you, it’s me, I really mean it.”

“Because you think I’m like that douchebag,” Knox says, his tone flat and cold. I can tell I’ve hurt him.

“No, if I thought you were like that, I wouldn’t talk to you at all.” I shrug. “I just have . . . let’s call it an aversion to being trapped. I don’t like people that think they can control me. I don’t think you’re controlling, but I think that people in a marriage have a certain obligation to listen to their partner and try to be a partner, and like I said, I’m not great at that sort of thing.”

“If I’ve ever made you feel trapped or controlled, I’m sorry, Lexi.” The look in his eyes is dark. “I can understand why you’d react badly to me dropping in. I won’t do it again.”

And now I feel a bit like I’ve overreacted. I know Knox is different. Everything he does—even the smallest gestures of letting me pick what to eat on the menu and then letting me eat all his fries—tells me that he’s more than willing to give me enough space. It’s just that I don’t trust myself all that much. I’ve always been very confident in who I am and my life in general . . . except for when it comes to men. There, I always seem to fumble the ball.

I worry Knox is going to be just another fumble. That hurts a lot, surprisingly. We’ve only met a few times, but it feels like I’ve known him always. That we have this deep connection on another level . . . but what if I’m just all wrong again?

“You don’t make me feel trapped, Knox. I’m just really cautious when it comes to relationships, because I’m not very good at them.”

“You don’t have to be good at all relationships,” he tells me. “You just have to be good at one of them.”

The man’s got a point. I can’t help but smile at that. “Well, if I could pick a relationship to be good at, it would be this one. I’m just pretty sure I’ve already fucked things up by getting pregnant and all.”

“Think that depends on who you ask,” Knox drawls, leaning in closer to me. “Because from where I sit, it ain’t fucked up at all. Maybe it’s exactly how it needs to be.”

He’s moved closer to me, and I’m dying for his hand to go back to my neck, for a small touch from him that will close the distance between us. But he only watches me, and I realize that as possessive and protective as he is, he’s going to wait for me to make the first move. For me to tell him with my words and my body that I want this to go forward.

I can kill this right here and now, if I want to. I can leave things as they are and we can part from this night as friends. Buddies. We can probably even co-parent in a friendly sort of way without taking things any deeper. That’s the safest route: friendship.

I study his face, devouring his features. Wondering what it’d be like to shake hands after tonight and then never see each other again, like Jonas. I’m surprised at the sense of loss that fills me with. I don’t know why it does. Friendship is safest.

Isn’t that what I want? To have things easy to handle? To make sure I never lose control of the situation? With Knox, I never seem to have control of the situation in the slightest.

But it doesn’t feel . . . unpleasant like it did with Jonas. It feels like there’s something exciting to look forward to for once. Like I have more to anticipate than just another round of past-due bills showing up in the mail or Keith heading over to be his usual dickweed self at my studio.

I think for a moment . . . and then I sit up and turn my body so I’m facing him. We’re no longer sitting side by side, but face-to-face. If I move any closer, I’ll be in his lap. For a brief second, I feel another flash of fear. Am I making a mistake? Knox is younger than me, practically a stranger, and rich. I’m not what he needs. He’s going to have the upper hand easily if I let him. Is this what I want? But I look into his dark eyes and study his sinfully handsome face.

“Like I said earlier, I’m not very good at relationships,” I tell him in a low voice.

“Me either,” he says, voice low and husky. He leans in, a hint of a smile on his face. “Last one I tried, I got the girl pregnant.”

For a moment, I’m shocked . . . and then I realize he’s talking about me. Oh. “Did you . . . did you think that night was a relationship?”

“Kinda hoped it’d be the start of one.” He’s so watchful, so very intent and full of tension, like a coiled spring. He’s waiting for me.

“And if it’s nothing?” I whisper.

“It’ll be the best nothing I ever had.”

That makes me ache, it’s so sweet. “And then you’ll move on with your life?”

“I dunno about that.”


He shrugs and leans forward, just a little. That small motion makes me realize that I’m leaning forward, too. Any closer and we’ll practically be kissing. “How do you move on from your arm? Or your leg? Or half your heart? You can’t. You just do the best you can with the pieces you got left.”

Oh my god.

I fling myself into his arms, pressing him back against the mattress. I crawl over his lap and press my mouth to his, swooping into a kiss. I don’t even have time to think about the consequences before his mouth is on mine and we’re making out like teenagers in the back seat of a car. His lips move against mine, tongue thrusting into my mouth with all the possessiveness I can tell he’s been holding back. He’s been waiting for the okay from me all this time, to let him know that I’m all right with the claim he wants to stake. Now that I’ve broken the distance between us, he’s like a wild man, tearing at my shirt and running his hands down my backside before dragging me down against his hips and rocking up against my core.

I whimper when his cock rubs me right against the heat of my pussy. The yoga pants I’m wearing seem far too thin, because I can feel all of that hardness. At the same time, it’s far too much material between us. I’m wet already, and as his mouth slants over mine, claiming me with rough, frantic kisses, I start to rock up against him. I’m so wet, so full of need. I have been this entire night. Just a word from him, a look is all it takes and it’s like I want to fling my panties across the room. “God, I have been so turned on all night.”

His chuckle brushes against my lips, and even that’s so sexy I can hardly stand it. “Never met a girl that got turned on by spider webs and dark shadows.”

“Well, now you know what it takes to make me want to ride you like a bronco,” I say, breathless. I slide my hands under his shirt and feel his hard chest. It’s smooth and warm and rippled with muscle. Yummy.

“Then you’ll go out with me again?” he asks between nipping kisses.

“If you keep asking me like this, fuck yes.”

“I can do that,” he whispers, and his tongue flicks against my mouth in the most obscene, sexy little gesture. “Tell me what haunted house you want to visit next and it’s all yours.”

“Don’t care about the ghosts,” I tell him, panting. I’ve forgotten we’re supposed to be ghost hunting. I’ve forgotten everything but him. “Fuck the ghosts.”

“They ain’t my type. I prefer someone warm and touchable, who likes to scare children with her personality.”

I can’t help but laugh at that, and then tug at the hem of his shirt. I want it off. Now. “If there’s any spirits here, they’re welcome to pull up a chair and watch me touch you.”

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