Home > Dirty Scoundrel (Roughneck Billionaires #2)(7)

Dirty Scoundrel (Roughneck Billionaires #2)(7)
Author: Jessica Clare

And I remember how much she liked kissin’.

Somehow if I’d have seen her with two kids hanging off her skirts and as the trophy wife of some small-town lawyer, that’d been all right by me. I could have offered my shitty deal and been done with her. If she’d have accepted it, I’d have known right then that she wasn’t the person I remembered. And if she didn’t, well, it’d be done one way or another.

Maybe that’s why I didn’t say anything.

Because I’m not ready to give up on my dream of Natalie Weston. She shouldn’t say yes to the deal I’m going to offer. If she does, I’ll know Nat’s changed and I can use her and get her out of my head.

That’s what being ruthless is all about: using someone until I’m done with them.

It’s what she did to me seven years ago, after all. She was fine with me as a boyfriend until Stanford came on the scene, and then she decided she was too good for me.

Who’s too good for who now, I wonder?


I stare after his wide shoulders as he leaves, and it’s not until the doorbell jingles to signify that someone’s left that I race to one of the windows and peer out, watching as he exits. He’s casually talking to his brother, and as I watch, they get into a waiting limo.

A limo. Holy shit. Where did that come from?

What did he mean by a proposal for me?

Like . . . a wedding proposal? My heart thumps wildly. Surely not. He must have meant something else. If it was a wedding proposal, would he have acted so weird about it? Maybe it was business . . . but what could Clay want with my dad’s museum?

“Jenny!” my father bellows from upstairs.

Shit. I reach under the counter and pull out the sign I have made for such occasions, setting it on the counter. Be right back—we’re on the honor system! If you purchase something, please leave your cash in the jar. Not that anyone ever does, but I still have hope for humanity. It’s not ideal, but there’s no one that can watch the store but me. And there’s no one that can take care of dad but me. Since I can’t be in two places at once . . . it’ll have to do.

That done, I race to the back stairs and head up them as fast as my wobbling legs will carry me—

—Right into another warm puddle on the floor. My dad stands in the upstairs hallway, the back of his robe soaked. “Jenny?” he asks again. “Where’s that damn cat?”

* * *

My father has a pretty rotten day. His dementia is worse today than usual, and when he gets done looking for the cat, he spends a few hours crying over the loss of my mother, Janelle. It’s heartbreaking to hear his sobs, because sometimes his memories resurface and feel fresh and new. He’s crying like she just died yesterday instead of twenty years ago, and it rips me apart. I’m torn between staying at his bedside and racing downstairs to watch over the gift shop. It’s a harrowing day, but I can eventually flip the CLOSED sign and turn the lights off. By that time, Dad’s asleep, I’m mentally worn to shreds, and I’m too tired to fix myself dinner. Instead, I just snag a couple of the oatmeal-walnut cookies that didn’t sell and head upstairs to my room, my phone in hand.

I’m still reeling from Clay’s reappearance and what this means. I have to bounce this off of someone. I immediately pull up my best friend’s number and text her. Lexi’s the only one I still keep tabs with—we became friends a few years ago when she moved here and visited the museum. I think she’s the only person this small town finds weirder than me.

NAT: You are not going to believe this.

LEXI: Elvis stopped by the museum?

NAT: Almost. It was Clay Price.

LEXI: . . .

LEXI: I am shrieking at my phone over here. No Namaste on this end.

NAT: Ooops, did I call during class?

LEXI: It’s okay. I’ve lost my Zen . . . and my night appts canceled on me. Give me deets!

I feel a twinge of guilt—Lexi’s as permanently broke as I am because she has a small yoga studio, and because it’s such a small town, she doesn’t get that many clients. I shouldn’t interrupt her when she’s working, but I’m rattled enough to be relieved that she answered anyhow.

NAT: He showed up here at the museum. I looked up and there he was. He overheard a customer call me ‘fat bitch’ too. As if my day wasn’t bad enough.

LEXI: omg

LEXI: Did you punch that woman?

NAT: I let it go. People are dicks. It makes me more upset that he heard her tho!

NAT: I need to know of a way to lose weight overnight because he’s coming back tomorrow.

LEXI: !!!

LEXI: I am missing so many details here! Start over!

LEXI: Clay Price showed up. He say why?

NAT: No. Just boom. I nearly fell over. One of his brothers was with him, I think.

NAT: He didn’t say much. Just asked me if this place was a museum. And then he said he was going to be back tomorrow with a proposal for me.

LEXI: Like . . . a romantic proposal?

NAT: I don’t think so? He said it just like that—‘a proposal for you’. Maybe business?

LEXI: Er okay. He a big fan of ur dad or something?

NAT: I don’t think so? I think he kinda hates Dad.

LEXI: Weird!!!

NAT: I’ve never talked to him since he left. Never even Googled him.

LEXI: Omg never?!?

LEXI: Facebook? Anything?

NAT: No. I didn’t want to know what happened to him. If I went on his Facebook and there were pics of him with the wife and kids, I think I’d die inside.

LEXI: Ur still in love with him, aren’t u?

NAT: I don’t have any right to be. I was the one that drove him off . . .

LEXI: Don’t beat urself up. He didn’t want u to go to college remember?

NAT: But I said the shittiest things.

LEXI: U were hurt.

NAT: I guess. I still should have texted him to talk, and I never did.

LEXI: U were occupied w/ ur dad. Stop beating urself up!

NAT: Easy for you to say—he didn’t spend 7 years hating you!

LEXI: U don’t know he hates u either.

NAT: True.

LEXI: Well I Googled him & it won’t make u feel better, so probably good u didn’t . . .

A sick feeling crawls into my gut. He’s got to be married. I put my phone down, feeling suddenly light-headed at the thought. Clay Price, married. Clay Price, unavailable forever.

I had my chance with him and I threw it away. He wanted to marry me and I laughed in his face.

Oh god.

I lie back on my bed and press my hands to my face, determined not to cry.

Try as I might to forget, I know the exact moment my life turned to shit. It was that night that Clay Price and I broke up.

Not that my life has ever been perfect or even normal. The fact that my father was sixty-two years old when I was born starts things off on a weird foot, and my mom died when I was five. After that, my father married wife number five and she proceeded to spend my father’s fortune, give me a complex about how much I eat, and basically made me and my father miserable. She left when I was sixteen and my father decided he’d had enough of Hollywood, so he took me and the new girlfriend (who was only four years older than me) to Luka, Texas, to restore the ranch he’d bought so many years ago after making his first movie. I hadn’t known anyone, and everyone at school hated me. They thought I was a rich Hollywood snob. No one talked to me. No one was my friend.

No one except Clay Price, a football player and a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Everyone loved Clay almost as much as they hated me.

It felt like fate bringing us together. The moment we met, we were hot and heavy. At least, he was. I thought he was teasing me by showing interest, and so I pushed him away for an entire semester before he was able to make his move. One night I was at a party with a bunch of popular kids, seated on a couch in the corner and wishing I was far away. A guy had come up and started harassing me, and Clay moved in and put his arm around my shoulders, and that was that.

By the end of the evening, we were necking.

By the end of the week, I was his girlfriend.

For the next year and a half of school, we were inseparable. I was Clay’s girlfriend, and he made me so incredibly happy. I didn’t care that he drove an absolute beater of a car. I didn’t care that his family lived in a trailer or that his four brothers were all from different mothers. Who was I to judge? My dad was old enough to be my grandfather, Hollywood weird, and wife number six was barely older than me. I kept Clay and my dad separated, though, because I knew my dad wouldn’t understand him. Chap Weston had been in Hollywood for so long that he was a snob. Didn’t matter that we were living in the middle of nowhere, Texas. He still had champagne taste, and that extended to people.

Things came to a head after graduation.

I still think of that night with a sick knot in my stomach. At the time, I was madly in love with Clay Price, and I’d intended on giving up my virginity to him very soon. We’d fooled around for months—lots and lots of fooling around—but had always kept it above the belt. I needed to be sure of everything before I went further, I’d told him, and he’d been content to wait, though it’d been more difficult for both of us lately. Our phone calls had gotten dirty, and our kissing had taken on a new intensity that both scared and excited me.

It all went to hell that night. I watched the light die in his eyes and he turned his back on me.

Even now, seven years later, I feel like puking just thinking about it. That had been the worst moment in my life. And I knew it was a mistake and I still did it.

I haven’t loved anyone since then. I’ve been alone and lonely and missing Clay. It’s been seven years of misery without him, and I’d give anything to go turn back time. To send a text the next morning and tell him we need to talk, no matter how crazy my life was with my father’s stroke. To go even further back and stop the awful, stupid argument we had before it ever started.

But I can’t go back. And since I can’t, I don’t want to go forward, either. It’s why I’ve never looked Clay up online, never decided to hunt him down and apologize. I’m ashamed of how we split, and I don’t want to see what he’s been up to.

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