Authors: M. S. Parker,Shiloh Walker
A Stand-Alone Bad Boy Romance
By Shiloh Walker and M.S. Parker
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locales or organizations is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 Belmonte Publishing LLC & Shiloh Walker Inc
Published by Belmonte Publishing LLC.
There’re few things in my life that are certain.
I need coffee to wake up my brain.
At some point in the month, I'll pay at least one bill late. Most likely two.
I’ll freeze my ass off through the winter, and roast all summer. The heater in my place isn't worth shit, and I can't afford to pay the bill for the A/C so I never turn it on.
And at some point during the year, I’ll be let go from my job.
You see…my luck just isn't that great.
I’d held my current job going on two months, and that was a record, but I had a feeling that streak was about to come to an end.
It wasn't that I couldn't do the job. I was a damn good mechanic, and a damn sight better than the slack-jawed moron standing across from me. But that slack-jawed moron had a wrench in his hand, and if he lifted it in my direction, I was going to shove it up his ass.
In fact, I’d just pointed that promise out to him.
He stared at the wrench for a moment before grinning at me. “Seems to me that a guy like you would probably enjoy it, Bobby. But maybe you should let me do the shoving.”
The joke wasn’t a new one, and it hadn't been worth getting myself in trouble the first time I'd heard it.
The girl cowering in the corner darted a look at me, and then at him. “Candy.” I waited until she looked at me again, although I didn’t take my eyes away from Frank Hodges. “Why don’t you call your brother to come pick you up?”
Candy helped out up front from time to time, but today wasn’t an ideal day to have her name on the schedule.
Frank pointed at me with the wrench and it took an extra burst of self-control not to make good on my threat right then. “Boy, you ain’t got no place telling the employees when they can leave and when they can’t. You just one yourself.”
His brows scrunched down low over his eyes and I could see him trying to figure it out.
Helpfully, I said, “You’re saying it wrong, Frank.” I pointed at him. “Now see, I really
from the backwoods of Kentucky, but when you talk like that, you make us
look bad. The proper way to say it would be…
you are just one yourself
His face turned an even uglier shade of red, and he took a step toward me.
I sighed. Shit. He really wasn't going to let it go.
“You really want to do this?” I cracked my neck and gestured at him. “All you had to do was leave Candy alone. Stop breathing down her neck and staring at her chest. Treat her like a person, and this would all be done, but you had to go and act like an asshole. Now I’m asking you again...do you really want to do this?”
“You’re the one who oughta be asking.” Frank hitched the wrench up and propped it on his shoulder. He grinned at me, baring teeth stained yellow and brown. “All you gotta do is get in trouble one time, Bobby boy, and you know what happens to you.”
I shrugged. “True.” Then I smiled. “But I doubt that'll be much comfort to you when you’re picking metal shavings out of your ass for the next six months.”
I took a step toward him.
His eyelids flickered.
The door in the back opened in that moment, and the garage owner stepped inside. Peter Brewster studied me, studied Frank and the wrench, and then crossed his arms over his chest. “Why did Candy’s brother just call me?”
Frank’s face underwent a total transformation. “Beats the hell out of me, boss. This ex-con you hired...” He shrugged and jutted his chin in my direction. “He’s always bossing her around, telling her what to do.”
I heard a faint sniff from the doorway, but I didn’t look back.
“That the truth of it, Bobby?”
Running my tongue across my teeth, I studied Peter. He’d been a pretty decent boss, hadn’t made a big issue out of my past, just told me to keep my nose clean. I appreciated the chance, but I wasn’t sure I could keep my nose clean if I had to keep working around Frank. He was going to hurt somebody – a girl like Candy probably. I may be an ex-con, but he was a perverted bastard.
“It’s not true.”
She was the first one to speak, and she peaked around the corner, glanced at me, then at Pete. Not once did she look at Frank. His face bled back to that ugly red, and I subtly shifted, staying between them in case I needed to move.
There wasn’t any need, though, because Peter was doing the same. He’d had his eye on Candy for a while. More evidence that Frank was a dumbass.
She swallowed and in a halting voice, started to talk.
Frank ended up getting his teeth knocked down his throat that night.
But it wasn’t me who did it.
Pete was a solid guy, built like a football player who’d let himself go just a little. A little. Not a lot. Under that first layer of semi-soft fat, there was a hell of a lot of hard muscle, and although Frank had come at him after Pete told him to clean out his locker, Pete hadn’t so much as budged.
And then Pete had swung out with one big, rawboned fist, and the dumbass had gone down like a felled tree.
I’d been happy to help haul his ass out.
I was less happy now though.
An hour later, I was sitting in the office, staring blankly at the wall.
Pete had just given me my final check, along with a bonus that added up to two weeks of pay as a nice
it’s been good knowing ya
gift. Even though I hadn't done anything wrong, he was letting me go.
I should've just shoved the wrench up Frank's ass. I still would've lost my job, but I might've felt better about it.
Pete continued, “I don’t like it, Bobby. You’re a good worker and if I could ride it out, I would. But–”
I shook my head and stood. “You’ve got your own to look after, Pete. I understand.”
I did, too. Mostly. One of his regulars, a stuck-up, tight-ass named Jamie Rice, had thought I looked familiar. Once she’d figured it out, she'd started going around plastering my image on telephone poles and anything else she could find.
GUILTY. WE DON’T NEED HIS KIND HERE.
She claimed it was her
duty that had her speaking up.
Candy had, surprisingly, been the one to get in Mrs. Rice's face about it. “I’m pretty sure Jesus had thieves and liars and adulterers among his followers. Besides, what was that saying about stones, Mrs. Rice?”
I could have hugged her for it, but I hadn't wanted to freak her out. She was one of the jumpiest people I knew. After Mrs. Rice had stormed out, Candy had told me, in her shy, nervous voice it would all blow over.
But it wouldn’t.
No surprise there. Things didn't work like that for me.
The past two weeks, business had been slow and today, one of Pete’s regular contracts had called to say he was taking his business elsewhere. He said he had...concerns.
Didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what that meant.
I held up the bonus check. “Can you afford this?”
“Sure.” He grinned widely. “Pete didn’t get any severance.”
I laughed, and while there was some humor in it, it was tired too.
Pete rose, and after a moment, he held out his hand. “Bobby, you’re a good kid. Something will change for you.”
“Yeah.” I accepted his hand and tried not to think about how wrong he was.
didn’t make the mistakes I’d made.
Blindly, I gathered up my gear and started out the front. I couldn’t go out the back – there was a deadbolt that had to be locked each time and I’d left my keys in the back.
Candy was standing in the front talking to her brother when she saw me. She gave me a nervous smile. I just nodded back. She started to say something, but she saw my bag and her mouth fell open as she realized what happened.
“It’s because of
?” Her eyes narrowed.
I shrugged. Mrs. Rice may not be the nicest person in the world, but I wasn't going to put the blame anywhere other than where it needed to be. “It’s because of me. She’s just letting people know.”
I looked at Candy's brother and gave him a short nod. Noise blared from the TV, and instead of getting into a conversation I didn't want, I watched the screen as I pulled on my miserable excuse for a jacket.
The caption across the bottom read: The Princess Is In Town!
Below that, the words: Derby Parade Grand Marshal!
The screen flashed to a woman. Blonde, built and beautiful. “I thought the princess had brown hair,” I said, latching onto the distraction with both hands.
princess,” Candy said, laughing a little. “That’s–”
A familiar set of lights reflected in the windows across the street and I craned my neck. “Aw, hell. My bus.”
I shoved outside, but I was already too late. The bus was already lumbering up Broadway before I'd gotten two steps. I cursed as I watched it go.
“You need a ride?”
Candy’s brother stood in the door with her peering around him. I blew out a breath and then shook my head. I wasn’t about to have him hauling her down to the area where I lived. I doubted he’d be comfortable with it either. He was a nice guy. A
“I’m good.” I forced a smile, then turned around, walking away from the garage for the last time.
It was a six-mile walk, but it wouldn’t kill me.
Maybe I’d luck out and see a
sign along the way.
I had a bit of extra money stashed. Not even close to a lot, but it would let me pay for the rent on time, which meant I wouldn’t have to worry about being out on my ass just yet, and for a few weeks, I didn’t have to worry about going to bed hungry while I searched for a job.
I’d be okay, for a while. If I was careful.
The big problem was going to be telling my parole officer. That had me grimacing and craving a drink.
Striding down West Muhammed Ali, I cut through the crush that was already forming around the so-called
that was Fourth Street Live. It was cold. Louisville, Kentucky is one of the weirdest places on earth, as far as the climate went. Last week, it'd been almost eighty, hot enough that I’d been dripping with sweat as I worked in the garage, but now it was in the low thirties, and people were gearing up for all the stuff the city did for the Derby. Two minutes of horses racing around a track, and the city treats the whole month of April like a party.
Right now, the area around Fourth Street was packed, a stage set up in the middle, cold weather be damned. Girls were tottering around in heels, their skirts barely wider than the palm of my hand. Their shirts, if they could be called that, bared arms and flat, toned bellies, backs, tattoos and pierced navels flashing.