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Bourbon on the Rocks Teaser

May 8, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 11.43.54 AMIf you don’t already know, you should…Bourbon on the Rocks, a standalone novel in the Bourbon Series, is releasing May 24, 2016.

 

This is not the sequel to A Shot of Bourbon. Instead, it’s a look at other characters during the same summer that Luke and Charli connect. It can be read before or after A Shot of Bourbon as there are no spoilers in either book. However, you’ll want to read this one before A Double Shot of Bourbon comes out this fall.

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If you haven’t picked up your copy of A Shot of Bourbon click HERE to find out more about Luke and Charli and the summer they found each other.

 

 

 

 

 

To read the beginning of Bourbon on the Rocks, about innocent preacher’s daughter, Brittney Ann, and rebel, Barry, check it out below. And ENJOY!

Bourbon on the Rocks

Barry

 

 

Her skin tasted like raw sugar. With one hand, I gripped her hip. The fingers of my free hand splayed across the hood of my classic Charger.

My mind was fuzzy. I couldn’t remember how much whiskey I’d drunk or if I’d finished off that joint. I knew I’d popped three Percocet, but at this point, I wasn’t sure where the tingling buzz was coming from—her or the pills?

She giggled again, and my fingernails dug into the flesh of her side as I pulled her body backward into mine.

Jesus. She was ah-fucking-mazing.

“Barry…” She moaned, the sound making every nerve ending in my body fire at once. My head swam in pure ecstasy. I had never felt anything as good as this high, or this girl, or this night.

She froze, her neck speckled with chills like she was cold or scared. I could assist with either problem. My arms snaked around her middle, and I blew warm air across her flesh.

The sound of a deep male voice clearing his throat made blood rush north toward my big boy brain. Forcing my clenched eyes to open, I faced the man in the tan uniform, a golden star affixed to his chest.

The sheriff fisted my discarded bottle of bourbon in one hand. Her fallen pink thong dangled from his other pinky.

She exhaled. “Hi, Daddy.”

 

 

1

BRITTNEY ANN

 

My brother, Toby, had nicknamed the Plymouth “The Sheep.” I never understood why. The car idled at maximum volume with a steady knock under the hood. It had Duct Taped leather seats, which of course, multicolored stuffing stabbed through. The once-white vehicle now had rust spots speckling the bottom of the driver’s side door and the hood.

But since Toby was a Marine now, the car was all mine. I didn’t care what her name was. When she ran, she transported me away from the farm, where my hair was always tied up and my posture straight.

It was on that farm that I’d spent the first sixteen years of my life, never leaving unless Mom or Daddy or Toby wanted to go. Then one day, I was handed The Sheep’s keys. That was the day I first tasted freedom.

Now I was addicted to it.

My hair blew out the open driver’s side window as I took a gravel curve a little too close to the edge. The back wheels spun, and the car fishtailed into a skid that I pulled out of with a jerk of the wheel. In another thousand feet, I’d be past the white fence that Toby and Daddy had spent a summer putting up just a year before Toby had left for good.

Pushing my bare toes onto the accelerator, I hit the floor. The Sheep grunted in protest. This car had never been pushed to her full potential. I was reminded why as a violent tremble and that knocking under the hood made my stomach twist into knots.

Tucking my long hair behind my back, I lifted my foot off the accelerator. Good thing, too. Not a second later, Mr. Warman’s orange tractor came into sight, and I had to slow down even more.

I cringed, imagining what Mr. Warman would have said to Daddy about me driving like a maniac. Going only a fraction over the speed limit, I made it to the hospital in near-record time.

Lapping twice around the lot, I noticed Ryan’s Daddy’s pickup parked in the back row, and my heart jolted in excitement.

When Mom had come in to the hospital a few months ago to have her cochlear implants checked out, she’d seen a sign looking for young volunteers for a new summer program. Yeah, manual, free labor from underqualified, underage kids.

I popped my neck to the side, working my fingers around the tense spots to loosen up.

If I had to do this, then it was a good thing Ryan was here with me. The thought of his name—just his name—made my tummy tickle with cliché butterflies. I pulled up beside the pickup and let The Sheep idle. Ryan wasn’t sitting on the bench seat waiting for me, which made the butterflies all sigh in sadness before curling back into their cocoons. Gathering my over the shoulder purse, I manually locked the doors before heading toward the hospital entrance.

The smell of new carpet and disinfectant made my nose scrunch. Inhaling deeply, I let the scent mutilate my senses. Better get used to it, sister. You’re in for a long summer.

The woman behind the front desk wore dark purple scrubs. She smiled up and me, and then her focus shifted to the sliding door behind my back. “What the…?” planting her palms flat on the desk for leverage, she leaned forward to get a good look.

It was while I stood there waiting for a Volunteer badge that they burst through the front door like a tornado. There were seven in total. Four of the guys had the fifth one stretched out between them. It looked like he was dead weight in their arms.

Palm cupping over my heart, I sucked in a pained breath. Not him.

I could taste my heartbeat on my tongue as I watched blood pour from his arm and puddle on the linoleum. His friends struggled to keep his head supported.

Oh no. This looked bad.

Just when I assumed the worst, Barry opened his mouth and growled out, “I can walk, you fucking idiots.”

“Shut up, jackass. We’re done letting you make decisions.” Bo’s palm pressed against the invalid’s head, shoving him backward, away from the blood.

Tyler chuckled.

“This is so stupid,” Barry groaned, head lolling from side-to-side as the others fought to keep his weight suspended. “All I need is a Band Aid and a couple beers.”

Or some Duct Tape, I thought, and then bit into my lip to keep from smiling. The fact he was okay and looking…amused shouldn’t have relieved me. I shouldn’t have cared. I really shouldn’t have.

“Beer?” Tyler groaned as he adjusted his stance to support Barry’s weight. “Dude, your fat ass is going on a diet. It’s tequila or nothing.”

Barry smiled. “Fine. I’ll take the tequila.”

“Really twisted his arm there, didn’t ya, Ty?” Gage fought to keep one of Barry’s legs from falling.

The two girls who’d come in with them walked over to the counter where I stood. “He jumped off a cliff,” Charli said.

A cliff! Is he suicidal? My heart raced at the thought. No. Not him. Please not him.

“Don’t say it like that,” Gage snapped. “You make him look crazy.”

My thoughts exactly, though I wasn’t sure I liked sharing thoughts with Gage Adams.

Charli blew her bangs off her forehead. “Lonna? You talk to them.”

Lonna Stuart pushed up to the counter, put her slim hand on my shoulder, holding me in place, and she whispered to the woman on the other side. “We were at the river and the big idiot with the hole in his shoulder jumped off a high cliff. He probably wouldn’t have resurfaced if the other idiots hadn’t dove in after him. So whatever you do, make sure it hurts, and he learns his lesson.”

The woman behind the counter smiled. I did not.

Barry was…sure, a little reckless, but that didn’t mean he deserved to be in pain any more than anyone else.

“Brittney?” Charli finally saw me, and she beamed. “What’re you doing here? Cute dress.”

They always said that. I didn’t know whether to believe them anymore. “Thank you, my…uh, I like it.” Admitting that my mother had picked out the gingham lemon yellow knee-length dress wouldn’t look good. Not after all these times. “So what happened?”

Both girls rolled their eyes. I wondered if they knew they did that. Typical best friend stuff—finishing sentences, picking food based on what the other one was hungry for, popping their hip to the same side and putting their hand against it. Like right now.

Lonna grumbled, “The moron jumped. We all screamed and yelled that it was too high, but nooo.”

Gasping like she’d just had an idea, Charli gripped Lonna’s forearm. “You don’t think it’s because of what happened with you two, do you?”

“What? No, no way. We hooked up…what? Like, weeks ago. Gage is…not over it, but Barry doesn’t care about that kind of stuff. It was just sex. Neither of us—”

“Yeah, but your dad really laid into him.”

Lonna snorted. “My dad is harmless. Plus, Bare gets into trouble all the time. Hence, why we’re here.”

“I know, but Lonna—”

“Char, don’t worry about him. He’s a grown man-child-boy. He’ll be fine.”

Something ached inside my chest. They were friends with Barry. Best friends, as far as I knew. Lonna never would have dismissed an injury to Charli the way she was dismissing Barry.

“You guys think he’ll be okay, right?” I asked.

Both of them nodded. Lonna assuredly—Charli, not so much. Then Lonna patted my arm, complimented my loafers—which were very comfortable—and the two of them left.

I was directed to Human Resources to watch a video on protocol and hospital etiquette.

Ryan was already sitting in a metal folding chair, waiting for me. He lifted his hand in a meek wave of greeting, and then he smiled. He’d gotten white rubber bands put in, so now it was almost hard to tell he even had braces. As we watched the video about different scenarios we were expressly forbidden from engaging in as volunteers, a different video played through my mind.

He grabs my hand, pulling my fingers toward his leg. Squeezing my fingers, he wraps my hand around his thigh, encouraging me to touch him. He whispers something funny-yet-dirty into my ear.

My arms exploded in chills.

We were alone in this room, though that had nothing to do with my overactive imagination. We really were alone.

I couldn’t think of something that Ryan might say as he whispered because my mind didn’t work that way. I wasn’t witty or dirty. But the thought of him being spontaneous and touching me in any way was a joke. Ryan equaled “safe,” and he definitely didn’t reach through the distance between us.

That probably wasn’t a bad thing. There was something to be said for good guys. Daddy would appreciate the fact that Ryan knew how to keep his hands to himself, even if I found the monotonous pace of this relationship painfully boring.

I leaned back in my metal folding chair and crossed my arms. I was tired of them dangling to the side, waiting for him to get the hint. When the movie was over, we were instructed to find our way back to the front lobby.

“Sorry,” I mumbled as my free-swinging arm—hint-hint Ryan—brushed against his.

“No problem.” He pulled away. We stood in opposite corners inside the elevator. I wondered if he could hear my heart the way I could. Probably not, because he stared at the ceiling whistling what sounded like Frank Sinatra.

Four boys crowded the front lobby. They stood around pulling on T-shirts and smacking each other with towels. “But you do think his mom’s coming, right?” Tyler struggled to slide his foot into the leg hole of his suspiciously narrowed pant legs. I hoped he wasn’t trying to bring back super-skinny skinny jeans on men.

Knowing Tyler’s unfailing persistence, he’d get it done.

“Dude, enough,” Gage groaned, shaking his blond curls out of his eyes. “You don’t even think she’s that hot.”

Tyler’s head snapped up. His jaw dropped. “Are you shitting me? She’s numero uno on my mommy-to-do list.”

Chase stared at him, tilting his head to the side. “You have a list?”

“Yeah, unlike you, you fat homo, I like moms. I think they’re hot. There’s something sexy about breasts being used for sustenance.” He cupped his hands in front of his chest and jiggled them like he was actually holding onto something.

I felt pretty sure he was joking. The fact the guys didn’t dignify him with a response just confirmed it. Tyler was…Tyler. There was no other way to describe him.

“We’re here for assignments,” Ryan mumbled to the woman behind the desk. The tops of his ears, his forehead, and his cheeks were a splotchy red color. I wanted to ask him if he was sick, but his eyes kept darting toward the guys across the way.

“They’re mostly harmless.” I tried to comfort my boyfriend. My teeth nipped into my tongue. I had no reason to defend them. And usually, I had no desire to defend those guys either.

“You know them?” he gasped…well, as much as one can gasp with rubber bands holding back their overbite.

“They go to my school.” My? The school belonged to them way more than me. Seniors. Football royalty. Boy wonders. “Bourbon,” I corrected. “They go to Bourbon with me.”

I might have misinterpreted the meaning when Ryan glanced at Bo and then down at his own arm. Twice more he took Bo in and then shook his head at his own slightly sunken chest. I didn’t know what to say to make him feel better. Bo was weird. The guy had muscles in places no person should have muscles. He was ripped in the chest and large across the shoulders—bigger than all the others.

But, admitting objectively, Ryan was smaller than Tyler. The slimmest, leanest of the bunch. And he didn’t even have Tyler’s sleek blond hair. “They’re jerks,” I said under my breath.

As far as I could tell they hadn’t noticed me, and I wanted to keep it that way. Being a cheerleader, I got my fair share of hazing from football players. That didn’t mean I welcomed the attention.

“Yeah, they look like it,” Ryan agreed. “Meatheads.”

I nodded. Another urge to defend them bubbled to my throat, but I swallowed it down.

 


 

2

BARRY

 

“Barry! Get down!”

My heart was inside my ears. I could barely hear my friends yelling. “You’re going to kill yourself, dude! No one jumps from up there.”

Boom.

Boom.

Boom.

My fingernails scrapped into the rocks as I climbed just a little bit higher. “Don’t be an idiot. You’re gonna fall.” That was the plan. The toe of my shoe slipped, and my heart dropped as I thought, I could die from this height. Every nerve ending inside my body fired at the same time. This was the kind of high I usually had to purchase.

I liked getting up to get down.

I kicked off the rock and back flipped through the air.

Boom.

Boom.

Boom.

Adrenaline was one of the best fucking drugs in the world. I didn’t even feel it when my shoulder clipped the edge of the cliff. “Barry!” one of the girls yelled.

“Fuck!” one of my friends added. Then I splashed face first into the water. My cheek connected with a boulder. I could taste blood as my teeth tore into my lips.

But God, I felt nothing. I felt no pain. Nothing but sheer adrenaline.

Then the lights went out.

š

There was a steady beeping sound.

I was at the hospital. I’d landed myself here a few times before so I knew what it sounded like. I vaguely remembered being dragged out of the river and something about lying across Charli’s lap in the backseat of Bo’s car. There was something else. It was hazier. Just a picture: Hair. Strawberry blonde hair. With the image came the smell of strawberries, but I was pretty sure it was only because I thought that hair should smell that way.

“Am I alive?” I mumbled. It came out, “mlive?”

No one understood.

I could hear them, though, so I knew they hadn’t left me. My best friends; my non-blood brothers. Bo said, “Dude, you were supposed to keep an eye on him. You know how he gets.”

Tyler snorted. “Did he die?”

“That’s always your defense,” Gage laughed.

Bo huffed, and I could imagine him scrubbing over his face with his palms, or maybe tearing through his hair with his fingers. He was a worrier. “You’re gonna let the idiot kill himself.”

“Mlive,” I mumbled again.

A hand smacked over my forehead, keeping me flat against the bed. Bo. Had to be. “Shut up, moron. There’s a gauze wrap around your face, and we can’t understand you. Ty, go get that hot nurse. Tell her he’s awake.”

Tyler groaned. “Why do I have to? I’m hanging out here for Bare’s mom to show up. Make Gage go.”

I smiled.

Bo’s fingers twitched against my head. “Because you’re the fucktard that let him climb up there. There’s a reason we watch him. He’s too stupid to take care of himself.”

Ouch. Thanks brother.

There was a squeaking sound as a cart was rolled into the room. I opened my eyes just enough to see the tall, slim angel walk through the door. Light beams burst from the ends of her strawberry blonde hair. Whoa. A halo glowed around her head. Holy shit. She had wings made of pure, unending white light. The wings rose out of her bony shoulders and spread toward the fluorescent bulbs.

I blinked a couple times. Swatting Bo’s hand off my face, I leaned up to get a really good look at the beautiful creature who’d come to take me home.

Everything came into sharp focus as a sterile smell stung my nostrils. I’m. An. Idiot.

The halo and light beams all dissipated as my vision adjusted. Falling back against the bed, I exhaled my disappointment.

Not-an-angel stood in the doorway. Her mouth hung slack as she stared at my shoulder. Brittney Ann Wilson. The preacher’s daughter.

“Goodness, are you alright?”

Goodness. Gage tried to cover his laugh with a cough.

“Fine.”

She refilled my water and then fluffed at the blankets at my feet. “Is there anything I can get you, Barry? A warm blanket? Anything?”

The faint smell of strawberries hit my nose as I reached up and caught a piece of her hair between my thumb and forefinger. A part of me was very aware of Tyler and Bo struggling to keep their shit together. Gage and Chase didn’t even try. They were laughing to the point of burying their faces in their hands—not to hide their laughter, obviously, but to keep anyone from seeing how red they were turning.

Overly helpful Brittney Ann with her strawberry smelling strawberry hair. Why in the hell would I think about her hair when I was unconscious? Her hazel eyes found me. She was hesitant at first, and then her expression pleaded with me. I wanted to know what she wanted, but at the same time I wanted not to care.

Bo cleared his throat, breaking the trance she’d put me under. “Can I get a warm blanket?” He teased her with a wink.

“Bo!” I hissed. My head fell painfully back against the bed. There was a steady throbbing below my left temple. I barely noticed the way Brittney looked between all of us, her lower lip flapping, as if she were waiting for the punchline to some joke.

Tyler, for once, kept his trap shut. It surprised me, and he rarely did anything to surprise me anymore. Tyler and I had been raising hell together since kindergarten Sunday school.

I got it, though. We’d gotten our asses chewed out the last time we fucked with Brittney because the brat told on us. So I wasn’t aching to go through that. Like, my mom probably wouldn’t speak to me if I messed with her. Again.

“If you’d like,” she shot Bo a sugar-sweet smile before she backed the squeaking cart out of the room.

I sighed. “My mom will be pissed if you guys harass her. She looks like a tattletale bitch who’ll run to her daddy with anything you say.” She more than looked it.

They all burst out laughing. Not enough pain killers in the hospital could help me tolerate their good moods right now. Not that I wasn’t willing to try a few more opioids, or opiates or, hell, even barbitals.

I tried to find something to throw at them, to make them stop chuckling. My fingers closed around the water she’d just filled. I launched it at Bo and Gage. The water cup smacked into the brick wall behind them with a loud splat. My aim had been off since I’d thrown left handed, and I was a righty. The cup was supposed to nail Gage in the temple. Damn.

“Dude!” Gage wiped at the shoulder of his Lacoste Polo. “This is new.”

“It looks like all your other ones,” Tyler said. Clapping his hands and rubbing them together, his eyebrows wiggled. “I’m more interested to hear about Barry’s mom. When she’s pissed, do you get spanked? If so, can we trade places?”

I wished I had something to throw at him.

“Aw, don’t be a crybaby, Bare.”  Bo tried to rub my arm and didn’t even notice when I flinched. That arm was still bleeding. It wasn’t like I was a wuss or nothing. I wasn’t.

Bo continued, still oblivious to my agony. “Ty can’t help it his mom’s a fatass.”

“She’s not fat!”

“She’s fat,” Gage agreed.

“At least she doesn’t look like a horse.” Tyler neighed at Gage.

“My mom’s not a horse.”

“I said she looked like a horse. But now that you mention it—”

“Fuck you, bro.” Gage punched Tyler’s arm.

Rubbing my forefingers against my throbbing temples, I swallowed the lump in my throat. “Guys, seriously, my head is spinning. Can we play this game of witty bullshit banter later?”

“Yeah sure, dude.” Tyler hit my arm playfully. I heard the concern in his voice, but he had to add, “I still wanna tap your mom, though.”

I swatted, trying to hit him but closing my fist around air instead.

Brittney Ann returned with a warm blanket for Bo. Fluffing it into the air she held it out to him. “Or would you like me to wrap it around you?” she asked, blinking innocently.

Bo glanced at each of us, his jaw loose. “Uh, no, this is great.”

“Good.” Then she dropped the blanket on the ground, grinding it beneath her flats. Whipping her hair behind her like a long strawberry lasso, she stomped toward the door. “These walls are thin, just so you know. And I’m not a bitch, or a tattletale. I’d appreciate if you watched your mouths. My boyfriend was just in the other room, and the nurse in there heard you as well.”

My jaw dropped.

“Dude,” Tyler whispered. “Did Brittney Ann Wilson just say ‘bitch’?”

Bo cracked first, a deep chuckle echoing off the thin walls. “Oh God, I know you’re hurt, Bare, but this is probably the highlight of my summer. We just got that uppity Christian to cuss us out.”

“She didn’t cuss us out,” Chase corrected. He leaned back against the wall with his arms folded. He really didn’t like hospitals. I’d almost forgotten he was here. Of all of my friends, I’d have cared the least if he wasn’t here.

“She wasn’t very censored though. It kinda made me hot.” Ty palmed and adjusted his crotch because…well, Tyler. “You guys get a look at that cheesedick she called her boyfriend?” He couldn’t contain his laughter. As much as I wanted to hear about Brittney’s piss-poor taste in dudes, I couldn’t make myself give a shit. Oh, wait, I never would have cared about that—injured or not.

“He had a whitehead on his neck.” Gage cringed.

“A big one.” Ty snorted a laugh into his fisted palm. “That chick doesn’t even get how hot she is. If she’d just ask nicely, I’d do her the honors of letting her bounce on my—”

Bo slapped his shoulder. “Honors?”

“Right, yeah, well it would be an honor, but she doesn’t have to ask all that nicely. What’d’ya think, princess?” Tyler arched his brows at me.

“I really don’t give a shit.”

“Oh, come on. You know she’s banging. You were all about getting with that before big bro beat you down.”

I recoiled. This time not because of the pain in my head and arm. Tyler’s memory was lacking. Toby had kicked my ass, yes. Twice, actually. But only the second time had it been partially because of her.

Little did she know, I might have actually been serious when I’d asked her out if Toby hadn’t broken my nose several weeks before. Brittney had been in the wrong place when I was looking for revenge.

Rubbing my palms in circles over my eyes I tried to scrub away the memory of Toby Wilson’s fist flying at my face. When I glanced up at Tyler, he was smiling down at me. Of-fucking-course he was. “Can you, like, not talk for five seconds?”

He shook his head, held up his fingers, and counted off four of them. “Okay, so I’m starving. I could literally eat a skunk’s asshole I’m so hungry.”

That was it. He said it, and my stomach twisted into angry knots. The ball of vomit hit the back of my throat, and I barely got my fingers around the pink plastic pan fast enough. “Fucker,” I snapped a second before I hurled into the basin.

They were all laughing. God, why are they laughing? My friends were such dicks. Dammit, I loved them.

š

In addition to a minor concussion, I needed stitches on my shoulder, and my lip would be fat for a few days. I licked my swollen, strange-feeling mouth. Yeah, I’d probably bite the shit out of that. The doctor gave me a handful of painkillers, which almost made getting stuck with an IV needle worth the trip.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to get any other shots, because I was up to date on tetanus and all the good ones. So I was on cloud nine when the doctor said I was good to go.

The guys all waited outside while I slid back into trunks and my Van Morrison T-shirt. It was vintage and one of my favorites. The guys must have known since they’d grabbed it off the riverbank before dragging me into the hospital.

My fingers fumbled over the cotton as I tried to imagine which friend had stopped to pick up my shirt. Tyler, maybe. Except Tyler tended to lose his shit when I was hurt. I could see him pacing back and forth not knowing what the hell to do.

Gage and Chase wouldn’t care about my clothes. They’d have left it for sure.

Which left Bo. Of course it was Bo. He was our biggest brother. He kept his head when shit went south. I made a mental note to thank him when no one else was around.

Finding the four of them in the hall outside my room, I noticed what was missing in our posse. “Where’re the girls?”

Gage scowled down at his toe as he kicked a scuff off the linoleum. “Lonna took Charli home. Not that it’s any of your damn business.”

Ouch.

Someone was not letting it go.

I stared at his corkscrew blond hair, waiting for him to say something, or, I don’t know, maybe throw another cheap shot at me. “It’s been weeks, man. You guys all beat the shit out of me—”

His head snapped up. “You fucked my girl.”

I threw my arms out, wincing at the pain that tore through my shoulder. Tyler caught my hands pulling them down. “Dude,” he hissed. “Stop overreacting.”

“He can’t let it go?”

Tyler’s eyes widened as he emphasized, “You did screw Lonna.”

“Weeks ago, and you guys kicked my ass, and she’s not his girlfriend.”

“But she’s mine.” Gage pointed sharply at himself, stabbing one of his fingers into his torso. “She’s always been mine.”

“Noted. Not your girlfriend, but yours. Whatever the fuck that means.”

“Bare…” Bo shook his head. “You know she’s off limits.”

I threw my hands up again and instantly regretted it. “Ow, dammit, whatever. Dropping it. She’s off-limits. She wasn’t even that great, anyway.” I scowled at the top of Gage’s curls, not bothering meeting his gaze. If he wanted to hit me for saying that, I was almost buzzed enough to have that fight.

He shrugged. “I could have told you that.” Yeah, right. One of the only reasons I’d gone through with it was because of how awesome he said she was. To Gage, the sun shined out of that girl’s ass.

Lonna had this sexy, blonde Barbie Doll thing going for her, and I had always wanted a piece of her, even before she’d made it abundantly clear that she wasn’t drunk and I was allowed to peel that pink, lace thong off her.

After a handful of nice words, she’d let me bend her over the hood of my car. It was a fast lay—nothing sweet or adventurous. She went from being the mysterious Lonna Marie Stuart to just Lonna—another girl who blurred in with all the others.

And now I was the dick who’d fucked-over my friend.

Oh, and her dad had busted us together.

I cringed, remembering the sound of her daddy’s deep voice when he’d yelled at me that night. His fingers had occasionally twitched toward the gun holstered on his hip. My life kept flashing before my eyes. He’d arrested me for the alcohol. I got my first MIP—minor in possession of a fifth of bourbon and his drunk daughter—and almost got slammed with a DWI as an added screw you.

Thankfully, the man was so frazzled by the sight of his naked daughter that he didn’t do a good job searching my car. Pretty sure having prescription drugs under the seat was worth more than a slap on the wrist.

When the prescription wasn’t in my name.

Instead of seriously being in trouble, my dad got to pay a steep fine, and I would be spending the majority of my summer doing community service.

Talk about losing interest in a chick.

The doors to the waiting room opened and the guys walked in front of me like my own personal body guards. “Dude.” Tyler nudged Bo in the arm. “There she is.”

I hobbled to catch up. They’d already started into the lobby, where both my parents were standing. “Mom?” I pushed past everyone just to get a good look at her.

She glared at the tall blonde lingering beside Dad. “I still can’t believe you brought her, Duncan.”

“She’s my girlfriend, and she’s rightfully worried about our son.” His arm wrapped around the girl’s middle. Ashleigh annoyed me in every possible way. Starting with the obnoxious spelling of her should-be-simple name.

“I take it all back,” Tyler said, his eyes raking over the skinny blonde.

My elbow slammed into his ribcage. “Don’t.”

“What?” he chuckled. “I’m backing off your mom. I’ll take your step—”

I punched him in the shoulder, cutting off the crap about to fall out of his mouth. “She’s not my step-anything.” That bitch was not part of my family.

“Barry!” Ashleigh flew across the room and threw her arms around my neck. She smelled like Peachtree. Is she even old enough to drink? I figured she probably was, and if there was any alcohol perfect for this young bimbette, it was peach schnapps.

“Get’er off me!”

“Oh, Barry, we were so worried.”

I planted both hands on her slim hips and tried to force her backward without her tearing my neck off. “Don’t touch me,” I growled. Then, because I knew Dad would be pissed about the way I’d spoken to his precious young piece of ass, I bit out, “I’m hurt.”

“Oh, oh, Barry, I’m so sorry.” Her fingers steepled around her mouth, and tears filled her eyes.

Glaring at her, Mom caught my good shoulder and pulled me away. “Come here, son.”

Willingly, I stepped around several of the chairs so we were out of earshot of the others. Tyler, of course, lingered nearby. “Go away,” I growled, slapping at the air. He took several side-steps, only just far enough away that he couldn’t listen, but still close enough that if I passed out, he’d catch me.

I smiled at the back of my friend’s head.

“You okay?” Mom whispered.

Her breath was sweet. Not like any alcohol I recognized, something richer. That was Mom, though; she had class. I caught her cheeks in my hands, pulling her forehead to rest against mine. She must have been at dinner with a glass of sweet red wine when they’d called about me. I imagined her sitting there all alone and a pang of sadness stabbed into my chest.

“I’m fine.”

She had a throaty laugh. “Oh, my sweet baby boy.”

“I want to go with you,” I whispered.

“Not tonight,” she answered. Her eyes cut back toward Dad, and her expression deadpanned.

“Want me to say something to him?”

“No, sweetheart,” she said, laying her hand against my cheek and taking a step backward. She blinked at me a few times, all emotion leaving her face. My fists clenched reflexively. For some reason, when my parents were in the same room, I had the strangest urge to beat the ever loving shit out of my dad. Mom pleaded, “You’re hurt. Go home and get some sleep. I’ll see you in a couple weeks.”

Weeks?

She must have gotten from my expression how much that bugged me. “They’re going on vacation, right? Middle of June?”

“No, they leave next week, Mom.” I took a step toward her, and she took another one back. “I’m…I could come stay with you.”

Once again, she glanced back at Dad and scowled. “We’ll talk about it later. Don’t want to upset anyone.”

What about me? Didn’t she want to keep me from being upset? I fucking hated living with him and that whore.

After Mom let go, Dad clapped hard on my uninjured shoulder. “Second time in two months, Barry. My insurance doesn’t like this behavior.” That’s what he had to say to me?

Staring down at my fists, I somehow convinced myself not to hit the man.

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