Home > Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(27)

Dirty Bastard (Roughneck Billionaires #3)(27)
Author: Jessica Clare

“Enjoy the root beer,” I needle him.

“Go fuck yourself,” he tells me in the same singsong voice. “Did you want my help or nah?”

“I’m listenin’.” Mostly because I’m worried about him. Well, and I wouldn’t mind some perspective on Lexi from another point of view.

“You’re showin’ your hand far too soon. Best way to get a girl after you is to let her know you’re interested, but just a little. You’re comin’ on far too strong. See, she texted you, right?”

“Right.”

“And it wasn’t much? Just a hey, what’s up?”

“Right.”

“What did you send back?”

I shrug my shoulders even as I answer. “Just asked her how her day was going and if she was busy.”

“And what did she say?”

“She said she was busy and I haven’t texted her since.”

Gage makes a pained sound. “Bro, she is using my playbook on you. She flipped the script. She let you know she was interested, but just a little. Now she’s waiting for you to chase again.”

Kinda hard not to, seeing as how she’s got my baby in her. “Mmmhmm.”

“You need to turn this around, Knox, or you’re gonna be jerkin’ it on your couch for the rest of your life.”

I scratch my beard. Is he wrong? I don’t know that he is. Lexi has shown she feels she’s just fine without me. She doesn’t want my money despite being broke as fuck. She doesn’t want my help despite being pregnant with my kid. If I fell off the planet tomorrow, I’m not sure it would affect her in the slightest. That . . . bothers me at a really deep level. I mean, damn.

I know I’m gutted every time she doesn’t answer me right away. Am I coming on too strong? Would it be smarter to play a little harder, then? “So what do I do?”

“You make her thirsty,” Gage tells me. “That’s your problem. She ain’t thirsty.” He sounds a little too confident as he repeats his advice. “Thirst is how you win a girl.”

I don’t think he’s wrong, but I’m not sure how I make Lexi “thirsty” when she’s carrying my baby and doesn’t need me. Somehow I’ve got to figure out how to make her want me and want me hard.

Chapter 13

Lexi

To say that business has been slow since I got back has been an understatement. I mean, I was gone for two days and had to cancel two private sessions, but that doesn’t explain why my studio has been completely empty for the past three additional days. No one’s showed up for classes despite being signed up. My private sessions have had all kinds of excuses why they couldn’t come in.

It’s like everyone in town has decided to bail out on me.

It’s a little worrisome, of course. Business has never been brisk, but I’m also kind of a prickly asshole at best, and this is a small, conservative town. They don’t know what to make of someone like me, who has no kids, doesn’t go to church, wears black, and never attends bingo night. I’ve always been an oddity, and it’s never bothered me that much. I figured business would build with word of mouth and happy clients, and even if it was never booming, I could make enough to be my own boss and be happy.

But a deserted yoga studio three days in a row has me worried. It’s like I came back after being away for a short period and all my business up and left. I’d blame Keith, but he’s been awfully silent lately, which makes me hope that he’s found someone new to stalk and harass.

It’s all very strange.

I check my schedule for next week, and I have a nagging suspicion that the people that canceled on me today are going to cancel on me again next week, too. Did I say something that somehow got around town and that’s why I’m being ignored?

I call up Mrs. Bateman. She’s not scheduled for another two days, but I don’t care. She picks up after the first ring and doesn’t sound thrilled to hear from me. “I’m glad you called, Lexi. I need to cancel the rest of my appointments.”

“You do?” Not just this week, but forever? “Can I ask why, Mrs. Bateman? I thought you liked coming to my studio.”

“Well, I do. And I know my doctor said it’s good for my posture, but I’m not a fan of the little problems you’ve been having.” Her tone is very matter-of-fact. “You’re a very nice girl, but that sort of thing is just disgusting.”

Problems? She wasn’t even one of the clients I canceled on. What is she talking about? “When you say ‘problems,’ I assume you don’t mean my avant-garde personality?”

She snorts. “I mean your bedbugs, young lady. That’s something you should really disclose to your clients, seeing as how we have to take off our shoes and lie on your mats for class. What if we picked them up? It’s horrifying to think about.”

What? “Bedbugs? I don’t have bedbugs.”

“Isn’t that why you shut down this last weekend? So you could fumigate? That’s all everyone at the diner can talk about: your filthy little studio.” There’s pure revulsion in her voice. “This is a small town. Did you think it wouldn’t get out?”

“You’ve figured me out,” I say drily. “It was my secret plan to infest the good people of this town with bedbugs and now I’ve been foiled.” My tone is mocking to cover up the hurt I’m feeling. “So, who told you?”

“Well, Agnes said she heard it from one of the firefighters that saw the truck pull up in front of your building and stay there all night. Like I said, this is a small town.”

There’s a knot in my gut that seems to swell the moment I hear “firefighters.” “The smallest of towns,” I agree with her, and hang the phone up. No sense in talking anymore. I know exactly where this rumor came from.

Keith Lawrence.

I should have known. I’m filled with blistering rage at the realization that he’s sabotaging me, and it’s quickly followed up with helpless frustration. What can I do? No one will ever believe me over Keith. Everyone adores him. They think he’s perfect, and if he’s a little too single-minded in his pursuit of me, I must be the problem and not him. He’s handsome and strong and helps old ladies across the street . . .

And he’s completely, utterly psycho. But, hey, I’m the problem obviously.

I stare out at my empty studio, all the mats rolled up in the corner, waiting to be used. I have no doubt in my mind that Keith started the rumor of the bedbugs. Heck, it might not even be a rumor. All he had to do was pay a pest control guy to park his truck in front of my studio all night and let the story write itself. For all I know, the town thinks I have any number of creepy crawlies—roaches, bedbugs . . . lice. Or Laura blabbed about Knox’s offhand comment at lunch. I don’t think it’s her, though. I don’t put it past Keith to completely destroy my business to punish me and make me needy and vulnerable. I have no one here that will take my side.

He’s trying to corner me.

Except . . . I don’t have to be cornered. Natalie’s given me an out. I can give up here and run away, start over with a new place to live. I can give up on my business. I can get hours away from Keith.

I can move closer to Knox.

Just thinking about him gives me warm, fuzzy feelings. I haven’t been the greatest girlfriend to him in the last few days, since I’ve been preoccupied with the mystery of my failing business. Being closer to Knox means I can see him regularly. It means I can see his laugh in person and touch him, and let him put his arms around me. I can breathe in his scent and touch his ticklish beard, and we can have all the nasty sex we want to. We can go on more dates.

He can be at my side when I have more doctor’s appointments for the baby.

Really, if it weren’t for Knox, I’d turn Natalie down flat. I love her, but I’m stubborn and don’t like to give up. In fact, the idea of abandoning my studio here makes me crazy. But there’s Knox to think about, and the baby. I’m not just thinking about what’s best for me at this point, but what’s best for all of us and the future. Maybe it is better to move closer to him. It doesn’t have to be moving in with him, not yet. But maybe in a few months we can see where we’re at.

Maybe . . .

It’s a little frightening to be thinking about a future with him. All of my future plans have only included me. Then again, none of my future plans ever included a baby, either, and I’m having to wrap my brain around the concept. I touch my stomach, thinking hard.

Do I do what’s best for me, or do I think about the baby and Knox and the future we could possibly have together?

As if he can sense my troubled thoughts, Knox pings my phone with a text.

KNOX: Let’s say I was missing my girl and thinking about her. Haven’t seen her in almost a week and keep thinking about the taste of her pussy. How would I get her to go out with me again so I can lick her until she’s screaming?

KNOX: Asking for a friend, of course.

I can’t help but smile at his text. I know how much he hates texting, but since I asked him to do that instead of call, he’s been great about it. Every day, I get weird pictures from him, little notes, and the most exacting, precisely spelled and punctuated texts that make me laugh inside. It’s like he’s trying so very hard to do texting correctly, just to please me. Doesn’t take much to give me the warm fuzzies when it comes to this guy.

Would it be so terrible to move closer to him and far, far away from Keith? I look around my little studio, wishing that I felt more compelled to stay. That I could feel a bone-deep sense of pride in what I’ve created here and tell Keith to fuck off and stand up for myself. That I could regroup and win my customers back. It’d take hard work and a lot of hustle, but I’m sure I can do it.

Instead, I’m just tired. The thought of doing open classes and recruiting and flyers and convincing people like Mrs. Bateman that she needs my classes . . . all of that makes me want to take a nap. Even if I managed to right my sinking ship, that doesn’t solve the problem of the baby and what I’m going to do once it gets here. Knox deserves to be in the baby’s life, but if he’s a few hours away, that means we’re going to have to hustle twice as hard to make things work.

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