Dirty Scoundrel(4)

By: Jessica Clare


I look over at the widow and her boys. She’s herding them out of the building, tears streaking her face. She’s sobbed through the entire ceremony. Loved Eddie to pieces.

And I think of Nat again. Nat, and the way she curled her lip at me the last time I saw her. Nat, and how I wasn’t good enough for her. Nat, who chose her daddy and her family money over me, when I would have given her the moon if I’d have had two nickels to rub together.

Nat, who I still jerk off to because I’m a sick son of a bitch with a massive hang-up.

“Gotta be ruthless,” Knox says. “That’s the only way you’re gonna get what you want.”

Maybe he’s right. Maybe it’s time I nut up and use some of this ridiculous money and be ridiculous with it. I glance over at Boone again. He threw around all kinds of money to push Ivy into dating him. Maybe I need to throw my weight around and act like the big man. Buy my way into the heart of the girl I always wanted but I could never have.

And then, once I’ve bought her heart, I can hold it in my hand and decide if I want to crush it or keep it.

Gotta be ruthless, after all.





Chapter Two



Seven years earlier



Clay

It’s time.

I can’t say I’m not nervous, though. Any guy would be. My palms are sweaty as I shove them into my jeans, but I’m determined. Tonight’s important. High school is over, and that means that it’s time to move on to the next phase in my life. I stand in front of the diner that I’ve agreed to meet Natalie’s father at, and try not to fidget.

I’m dressed up—well, as much as a guy like me can be. There ain’t much money for fancy clothes, but I borrowed one of Dad’s old dress shirts and tucked it into my best, least worn-out jeans. The shirt’s a little big but ain’t much to be done about it now. Nat wouldn’t care, though. She’s never cared that my T-shirts are about to fall apart or that my shoes come from Goodwill. She don’t care that I share a room in my dad’s shitty-ass trailer with my younger brothers. She’s never cared about any of that shit.

That’s why I love her.

That’s why I want to marry her.

A car pulls up to the restaurant I’m currently pacin’ in front of and my heart hammers in my chest. Tonight, me and Nat and her Dad are supposed to be havin’ dinner. I’m gonna meet Mr. Weston and do my best to charm him, and then tomorrow, I’m gonna go over and let him know I wanna propose to his daughter.

That I love Natalie Weston with all my heart, and that I might be poor right now, but I’m determined to give her a good life. That I’ll treat her like fuckin’ gold.

My mouth goes dry when the sedan idles in front of the restaurant and a driver hops out, then races around to the side of the car and opens the door. A moment later, Chap Weston steps out. I recognize the guy. Anyone would. He’s famous in a way that a lot of Hollywood actors will never get. In the fifties and sixties, there were some really big names in Hollywood royalty—Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart . . . and Chap Weston. Even though he’s more’n twice the age he was in those movies, he’s still got that famous smile and tall, strong shoulders. He’s wearing an expensive, fitted suit that makes me feel a little self-conscious in my too-baggy dress shirt and jeans, and his hair is immaculately combed. Shit. I didn’t even think to do somethin’ with my hair. I bet it’s stickin’ up in all kinds of cowlicks like Natalie teases me over. Ain’t nothin’ I can do about it now, though.

I still wither a little inside when Mr. Weston strolls forward and gives me a scrutinizing look. “Are you Clay Price?”

“Yessir.” I stick my hand out, surprised at the booming resonance of his voice. Guy looks damn good for being eighty. Still weird that he’s the dad of my seventeen-year-old girlfriend, but Hollywood’s weird like that. Nat’s told me she’s the daughter of wife number four and he’s on number six right now. “I’m real pleased to meet you—”

“Spare me the pleasantries,” Mr. Weston says in a cold voice. “This won’t take long.” He glances over at his driver and gestures. “Wait in the car.”

The driver nods and shuts the door, then hops back into the driver’s seat.

I try to hide my frown. “Natalie not coming tonight?”

“You’re not going to see Natalie again,” Mr. Weston says, with that polite smile on his face. His teeth are bright white in his tanned face, and perfect.

I can feel my back stiffening. My muscles clench and alarm pounds through me. “Excuse me?”

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