Badd motherf cker, p.13
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       Badd Motherf*cker, p.13

         Part #1 of Badd Brothers series by Jasinda Wilder
 
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  Brock was the one to follow me; I ignored him for the moment, but of all the present brothers, he was the most level-headed and thus likely to actually get through to me. The only other brother I'd ever really listen to when I was pissed off was Lucian, simply because he was the strong silent type. He rarely spoke more than a handful of syllables at a time, but when he did, he tended to cut to the marrow of things with well-chosen, hard-hitting words.

  My raincoat was gone, which I assumed--hoped--meant Dru had borrowed it and was out there somewhere.

  Fuck it. Just a little rain, not gonna hurt anything.

  I was just going for a walk to cool off, I tried to tell myself. I was not looking for Dru.

  "So, where d'you think she went?" Brock asked.

  "I don't know."

  "You don't know? You don't know where she'd have gone after you pussed out on her?"

  "I just met her, Brock. Literally, the night before last. Nothing to puss out on."

  "And yet you're already this hung up on her?"

  "I'm not hung up on her, asshole." I didn't have to be looking at him to see the quirked eyebrow. "Put that fuckin' eyebrow down before I knock it off your pretty boy face."

  "Super hung up, then."

  "Shut up, Brock."

  "What's her name?"

  "Dru."

  "She pretty?"

  "Stop you in your tracks hot, man."

  He kept pace with me as I stomped up the docks. "And the sex...you said it was the best ever?"

  "I think my heart actually stopped for a second, near the end there."

  "See, you say your heart stopped, but I think you're just out of touch with your feelings. You're mistaking your physical heart stopping for your metaphysical heart reaching out for her."

  I stopped in my tracks and stared at Brock. "Where the fuck do you get this shit?"

  He shrugged. "Books." A sly glance at me. "Tell me I'm wrong, though."

  I knew better than to bullshit this particular brother. "Shut up, Brock."

  He just laughed. "See? Super hung up on a girl you just met last night. A girl who also happens to be able to stop you in your tracks just by existing, gave you the best sex of your life and clawed you all to shit it was so good...and then you bailed on her. And now you're wandering the Ketchikan docks refusing to admit you're looking for her, and I'm guessing you don't have the first clue about what to say even if you actually found her."

  "Shut the fuck UP, Brock!"

  Goddammit, but he was right. I hated it when my brothers were smarter than me...which was most of the time.

  He caught all that, and didn't even know the circumstances about why she was in Ketchikan in the first place. He'd really rip into me if he knew that.

  I shuddered at the thought.

  And, of course, Brock saw me chewing on things. "What aren't you saying?"

  I glared at him. "God fuckin' dammit, Brock, why can't you just leave it alone?"

  "Because you don't want me to. You'd have tossed me back into the bar if you didn't actually want to hear what I have to say."

  He was right, as usual, so I just grunted. "Asshole. When'd you get so fuckin' smart?"

  "Problem isn't your intelligence, Sebastian. It's that you've never had a chance to grow up emotionally."

  I stopped in my tracks and whirled on him. "You'd better explain that shit real fuckin' fast, Brock."

  Despite being three inches shorter, thirty pounds lighter, and four years younger, Brock didn't seem intimidated by my anger. He just clapped me on the back and kept walking along the docks, the water on our left, Ketchikan on our right.

  "You were what, seventeen when Mom died? That messed all of us up in some way, but I think it fucked you up the most. You had to take her place in the bar, yeah, but Dad was so depressed for so long you had to be a surrogate parent to most of us."

  "I didn't do shit," I grumbled, a heavy, uncomfortable feeling rolling through me.

  Brock shot an irritated look at me. "Maybe we have different memories of those years, then. I seem to remember you making lunches for us. Helping us with homework you barely understood yourself--don't hit me! You know it's true and no fault of your own." He held up both hands to fend off my instinctively thrown fist. "You got us up in the morning. Made sure Bax had a ride home from football practice. Got me to flight lessons."

  I tried to find some way of responding, but I had nothing. I had done all that, but it hadn't seemed like I'd had a choice. Dad slept late a lot after Mom died, and I'd just blamed it on having to close the bar every night, being up till three or four. Of course, I'd closed with him and still got up to go to school, and then after I graduated I made sure the rest of the boys did, too. It had to be done, and I was the oldest, which made it my job. Looking back, I saw that Mom's death had decimated Dad worse than I think any of us really realized and, perhaps unfairly, put a lot of pressure on me. More than I probably understood.

  I shrugged, and stuffed my hands in my hip pockets. "Did what had to be done. Didn't mean shit."

  "That's where you're wrong, you macho fuckstick. It did mean something. You stepped up. None of us have ever forgotten that. We're all living our dreams, at least partially because you stepped up when Dad couldn't. And none of us hold that against Dad, but it sucked. For all of us, but it put a huge burden on you, especially." He punched my shoulder, and it hurt a lot more than I'd expected it to. "So when I say you never got to grow up emotionally, I just mean that you were so preoccupied with taking care of us, you didn't have a chance to let yourself sort through your own emotions. You're out of touch. You didn't get to mourn Mom, and you sure as hell haven't mourned Dad. You're all sorts of a mess inside, and then some girl comes along and challenges that status quo you've been hanging onto, and it fucks with your carefully insulated emotions, and you don't know how to handle it." He shrugged. "So you bail."

  I sighed, a deep gusting growl. "And then you assholes come along and tell me everything I'm doing wrong."

  "Only because we care."

  "Yeah, yeah, yeah. So much caring going on I'm feeling all mushy inside. Jesus."

  Brock raised his hands and shook them. "Oh no! Feelings! You'd better go punch a wall so you don't turn into a girl."

  "Maybe I'll punch your stupid face instead of a wall. Make you a little uglier. God knows you could use it, pretty boy."

  "You're just jealous."

  "Jealous? Of you? For what?" I stopped walking and glared at him.

  He was baiting me, of course, and I'd just fallen for it. "Oh, I don't know...maybe that I can use three-syllable words and form complete sentences without cursing?"

  I charged at him. "You fuckin' twerp. Let's see you complete sentences after I knock your fuckin' teeth in!"

  He caught my charge and somehow deflected it, redirecting my momentum aside so neatly I nearly toppled off the dock. Zane knew that Judo bullshit too and I'd roughhoused with him enough to learn to expect those dirty tricks and how to deal with them. Case in point? Pretend to be more off balance than I was, and then when he moved in to do some kind of fancy bullshit throw, slug him in the gut. Hard to redirect my chi or whatever the fuck if you can't breathe.

  He took it like a man, though, and came at me with a blazing right hook that took me completely by surprise, mainly due to its complete lack of sophistication, which wasn't much like Brock, for the most part. It clocked me on the jaw, sent stars flashing behind my eyes, and left me dizzy.

  Not dizzy enough that I didn't return the favor in kind, though, and I was satisfied to note my right hook sent Brock to the ground. Of course, I was dumb enough to stay within reach of him while he was on the ground. His legs shot out, scissored around mine, and threw me to the ground so fast I didn't know what hit me until my head was ringing and his legs were clamped around my throat. I rolled toward him, got my hands around his neck...and started squeezing. Now it was just a matter of who could go the longest without breathing before tapping out.

  He tapped me, speakin
g hoarsely past my chokehold. "Wait--wait!" His legs released me, and he pointed down the docks. "Isn't that your raincoat?"

  I let him go and followed his outstretched finger. Sure enough, there was a figure a few hundred feet away wearing an olive green raincoat several sizes too big, standing in front of a seaplane gesticulating somewhat angrily at the pilot.

  Dru.

  It was her.

  And from the looks of it, she was trying to wrangle a ride out of here with my raincoat.

  ...And my heart.

  Or some sappy emotional bullshit like that. All I knew for sure was that the thought of Dru getting on that plane and flying out of Ketchikan never to return felt a lot like wrong and scary and shitty--and something I really needed to prevent.

  Like...now.

  Brock sat up and quirked that damn eyebrow at me. "Well? Go, you macho fuckstick!"

  I went and even managed to be mature enough to ignore the barb he'd sent my way. Well...mostly ignored. Except a middle finger or two flashed at him as I jogged down the dock toward Dru.

  Problem was, Brock had been right earlier when he said I wouldn't have a fuckin' clue what to say if I found Dru. Because I didn't. Not the first damn idea.

  But then, talking wasn't ever really my strong suit, was it? Maybe I should just play to my strengths, and show her what I meant.

  11

  Dru

  "Sorry, honey. No can do," the pilot repeated. "I told you, I'm gonna have a full load as it is, no space for passengers. And even if I did have the room, I couldn't possibly cart you wherever it is you wanna go without full payment up front. Get me the cash now, I could maybe wrangle something. But I'm leavin' in ten minutes, so you'd best hustle."

  "And I told you I could get you more cash as soon as we land." I held up my cell phone. "One phone call, and I could have cash in hand the second we touch down. But there aren't any banks around here that'll let me withdraw from my savings account. Please, please...six hundred bucks for a one-way ride to Seattle? How much more do you want? Hell, even just get me close to Seattle! You'll get paid, you have my word."

  "Words don't pay the fuel bill, sweetheart." He started flipping switches, and then the engines chugged, burped exhaust, and the props started spinning, ramping up to a deafening roar within seconds. He closed his door and leaned out the open window. "Try Bruce! Couple slips down!"

  And then the seaplane was reversing out into the bay, and my last hope for getting the fuck out of here on my own was gone.

  I glanced down the dock at the only other seaplane within sight. Single engine, tiny, with duct tape on the floats, visible rust in places and dirty streaks in others...the aircraft was obviously ancient, and well past its prime. And the pilot, sitting on the float with a fishing pole in hand...he looked like he was older than actual dirt, and as timeworn as his plane. Um...probably not. If I got drunk and desperate enough, maybe, but I didn't rate my chances very high of reaching Seattle alive. Thanks but no thanks, Bruce.

  Shit. SHIT!

  I was just gonna have to call Dad, I decided. I didn't want to, though. It felt too much like giving up, calling Daddy to come rescue me. I'd gotten myself into this mess, and the hell if I'd beg him to come pluck me out of it.

  I stood on the edge of the dock, scrubbing my face and trying not to cry. I just wanted to go home and pretend none of this had ever happened. Drink a few dozen bottles of wine and eat a few dozen cartons of ice cream, and binge on Real Housewives.

  Of course, my lease on home was expiring soon, which meant house hunting, or moving in with Dad. I knew for a fact my unit had been leased to someone else already, so I had no leeway there, and there weren't any units left in the building, since it happened to be a prime building in a desirable part of Seattle....which I'd given up for Michael.

  A thought occurred to me, apropos of nothing. Michael had been in possession of the airline tickets for our honeymoon. And the all-inclusive resort reservation had been in his name, too. I checked the time on my phone: eleven-fourteen in the morning; our flight was scheduled to leave at eleven-forty. So I should be boarding right now. Obviously that wasn't happening, but maybe I could change my ticket in such a way to get me out of here...

  I scrolled through my emails to the flight checkin notification, which I'd never gotten around to actually doing. Found a phone number, and after a few transfers got hold of an actual person.

  "Delta Airlines, this is Felicia speaking, how can I help you?" a flat female voice said.

  "Yeah, hi, my name is Dru Connolly. I have tickets for a flight leaving from Seattle-Tacoma in about twenty minutes, but I--"

  "Flight number?" she interrupted. I read the flight number off to her, and I heard the sound of fingers on a keyboard, then she spoke again. "Yeah, I show that you're already checked in and on board."

  "But I'm not, which is why I'm calling--"

  "You'll have to ask the gate attendant. All I have is what my computer tells me." She rattled off a phone number and then promptly clicked off.

  Nice. Customer service at its finest.

  I dialed the number I'd been given, and after a few rings an exuberant male voice answered. "Delta Airlines, gate C20, this Kevin, how can I help you?"

  "Has flight DL 743 left yet?"

  "It's fully boarded, but it hasn't left yet, no. What can do I for you, ma'am?"

  I struggled to find an explanation. "I have a ticket for that flight, but another Delta rep tells me someone's taken my seat. I'm wondering if you could help me figure this out."

  "What's your seat number?"

  "Three-C."

  A few seconds of tapping, and then he hummed. "Oh, hmm. Interesting. What's your name, ma'am?"

  "Dru Connolly."

  "Ah, yes. Well, it seems the ticket was changed early this morning. The ticket holder is now one...Tawny Howard."

  "Fuck!" I shouted, then immediately quieted. "Sorry, Kevin. I just--thanks. That's all I needed."

  "Is there anything else I can do for you?"

  "Unless you can make my ex-fiance less of a cheating dickbag, then no, probably not. But thanks anyway."

  "Men are pigs," he said, clearly commiserating.

  "That they are." I sighed. "Well, thanks for checking."

  "My pleasure, ma'am. Have a nice day."

  I laughed bitterly. "Yeah, not so far." I hung up before subjecting the poor gate attendant to any more self-pitying awkwardness.

  The bastard! He was taking HER on MY honeymoon? Motherfucker!

  I wanted to throw my phone into the ocean, but that wouldn't actually help anything, so I didn't.

  Instead, I cried.

  Because apparently that was just what I did these days.

  But then, being cheated on and then rejected within forty-eight hours will do that to you, I guess.

  I didn't hear the footsteps, didn't feel his approach, because I was bawling my eyes out.

  He was just there, wrapping his arms around me, enveloping me with his heat, his strength, and I was so upset I didn't even question it at first.

  Then it hit me.

  And I shoved him away from me as hard as I could. "NO! Keep your damn hands off me, Sebastian!"

  He recovered his balance and came back to stand in front of me, reaching for me but not quite touching me. "Dru, listen--"

  "No, you bastard. You had your chance. It doesn't work that way. Not with me, not after everything I've been though. Hell, everything I'm still going through."

  He was soaked, because even though the rain had slacked off, it was still coming down hard enough to soak you to the bone within a few minutes. And I had his raincoat.

  Do NOT feel bad for him, I ordered myself. He was wet, not injured. He'd dry.

  But he did have a shadow on his jaw, as if somebody had slugged him hard enough to bruise even his craggy jaw. And he did look suitably upset. He should, though, the asshole. He deserved it.

  "Dru, please. Just listen to me for like ten fuckin' seconds."

  "Why s
hould I?" I demanded.

  He shifted from foot to foot, struggling for an answer, and he kept looking at me as if I'd take pity on him and explain his actions for him. Not likely, buddy.

  "Look, this shit isn't easy for me, okay? I'm tryin' here."

  I couldn't help a laugh. "What isn't easy, Sebastian? Talking to a woman? I'm sure you've had plenty of practice. Figure it out."

  He growled, because that seemed to be the largest part of his vocabulary. "Yeah, I've talked to plenty. But this is different."

  I kept my expression blank, even though hope was starting to germinate inside me. "Why?"

  "Because--" He sighed, scrubbed his hands through his hair, flinging droplets of rain everywhere and making him look even sexier than he already did, what with the rain plastering his white T-shirt to his muscular body, highlighting his bulk and his ink and his everything being fucking stupid sexy...

  No. NOPE. Do not go there, Dru. He's a troll. He's ugly. He's stupid. He's a man, and men are pigs.

  Yeah, argued some other, stupider part of me, but he's not Michael. Don't punish him for that. And he IS sexy as fuck.

  But he's still an asshole.

  Granted.

  Now that both parts of me were in agreement--sort of--I waited for Sebastian to come up with whatever it was he was trying to say.

  "Because...?" I prompted.

  "Because I feel things," he concluded, somewhat lamely, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand.

  I rolled my eyes at him. "Wow. That was deep, Sebastian. You feel things? Could you maybe be just a little more specific?"

  He growled again, turned away to glare at another man standing a hundred or so yards away, then back to me. "Tryin' here, sweet thing, but this shit don't come naturally." He let out another breath. "I feel things for you, Dru. I shouldn't've let you leave like that. I should've...I dunno. Done a lot of shit differently."

  I sighed and shook my head. "As far as proclamations of love go, this one is rather...unique."

  He didn't like that. "Maybe I don't know a bunch of fancy twenty-dollar words. You want that shit, go talk to Brock back there, he's full of 'em. All I got is what I got." He stepped closer, and I couldn't back away or I'd be swimming. I could only hold my ground and stare up at him, and god, even his scowl was sexy. Scary, but sexy. "And it's not a proclamation of love, because we just fuckin' met. I'm just sayin'...I feel shit for you, and maybe if we were to play this out, it could be. Meaning, I could feel that way for you. I know that's not some fairy tale poetry about my feelings or whatever, but it's the best I can do. It wasn't just fuckin', what we had earlier. I see that. I know that. I know you do too, and...I'd really like to see what that's like, long-term. I'm not promising I'd be any better at this feelings bullshit than I am now, because I haven't really had much practice with listenin' to what my heart has to say or however you wanna put it, but...I'd try. That's what I could promise you."

 
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