Misbehaving, Page 2Abbi Glines
“I should’ve pushed you to go off to college. You could have met someone there and gotten out of this place.” She said it like Sea Breeze was a bad place. I didn’t see it the same way she did. I loved the coastal town I had grown up in.
“I didn’t want to leave,” I reminded her. I had chosen to go to the local community college instead. I didn’t want to leave this town or my momma. We had been a team all my life.
Momma sighed and pushed her chair back and stood up. “I know, sugar. I let you stay because I like having you here. Still don’t make it right. Finding a man to get you out of this life is gonna be hard, and I’ll be damned if you fall into the life I’ve lived.”
I was starting to argue when someone banged on the door. Momma looked toward the front door, fluffed her hair, and pulled the neckline of her silk robe low enough to show her very impressive cleavage. “Go on and get in the shower. I got this, baby girl. Don’t worry ’bout a thing,” she said, slipping into a pair of red heels that only made her long legs longer. Smiling, I hurried to the bathroom and turned on the shower but kept my ear to the door.
“Well, hello, Officer Ben. You know I’m not the kind of girl who takes house calls,” she said in a low, sultry voice I had heard her use a million times.
“Good evening, Starla. I hate to bother you before you, uh . . . ,” He cleared his throat and I rolled my eyes. I already knew good old Officer Ben was a regular at Jugs, the strip club just on the outskirts of Sea Breeze. “. . . go to work. But I got a call about Jess, and I need to check into that. She here?”
“Not sure who called you, Ben,” Momma said, letting his name roll off her tongue as if she were about to strip just for him, “but my baby girl has been here with me all evening. She’s getting a shower now after helping me clean today. You can even check her truck hood—it’s cold. Hasn’t driven it all day long.” Momma paused, and I heard her heels click on the wooden floor as she stepped toward him. “And as much as I like the idea of you walking in on my showers, I don’t feel the same about you interrupting my little girl’s shower,” she said in a suggestive tone.
My momma was good at this.
“Uh, um, yes, I can, uh, understand that. Sorry I bothered you, Starla. Just had to check it out. There was only one person who saw her, and I’ll be sure to check out her truck before I leave, to let them know her alibi is airtight.” He stammered all over himself, and I covered my mouth to keep from laughing. He probably had a really good view of Momma’s boobs at the moment. She used them to get her way with the opposite sex, and it always worked.
He needed to see me so that he could verify I was at home. I jerked my shirt off, grabbed a towel, and wrapped it around me before opening the bathroom door a crack. Ben's eyes moved from their lustful gaze on my momma to me as I stuck my head out.
“Everything okay out there, Momma? I heard voices,” I called out, sounding as innocent as I could.
“Yeah, baby girl. It’s just fine. Just visiting with Officer Ben,” she replied flashing me a smile as she turned to look at me.
I closed the bathroom door just as Officer Ben apologized for bothering Momma again.
“That’s all right, Officer. You’re just doing your job and keeping our little town safe. Makes me sleep easier at night knowing we have brave, dedicated men like you taking care of us. That Martha sure is a lucky woman to have such a hardworking man like you coming home to her at night.”
I had to roll my eyes. The fact that men believed this stuff never ceased to amaze me. Ben had a beer gut and a balding head. Nothing about him was brave, and since I knew how much of his hard-earned money he spent at Jugs several nights a week, seeing my momma and the other women there dancing in nothing but tiny thongs, I didn’t believe Martha was lucky at all. Neither did my momma.
“Yeah, well . . .” He paused, swallowing so hard I could hear it from in here. “I’m glad it helps you rest easy. I do what I can. You, uh, gonna be at work tonight?”
“I’m getting all prettied up right now. You coming to see me? I hope you do. I might just have a special lap dance just for you,” Momma replied.
That made me want to gag. The idea that she could do that without throwing up in their faces blew my mind. She said she had learned a long time ago to turn off that switch in her head and remember that the better she performed, the more money she made.
“I’ll be there,” Officer Ben said. “Missed you last week due to an incident down at the station. Been thinking about that all week.”
“Glad to know I was in that head of yours,” she said sweetly.
“Always are,” Ben replied, and cleared his throat when he realized he was openly flirting with my almost naked Momma on the front doorstep. “I need to be going now and let them know Jess wasn’t involved.”
“You do that, and I’ll see you later,” Momma said, and her heels clicked as she stepped back from the doorway.
“Later,” Ben called out, and the door closed. I heard the latch click into place, and I turned off the shower and opened the door. All the doors in this house opened to the living room.
“Thank you,” I said simply.
Momma shrugged and waved her hand. “Just be glad it was Ben. He’s easy to work. If it had been David or Rooster, I’d have had to show them a lot more than some cleavage and leg to get them off your scent.
I nodded, and the guilt from forcing my momma to flirt with a married cop to get me out of trouble settled in my stomach. “I’m sorry,” I told her.
Momma stopped before walking into her room. “Don’t be. Someone needed to beat that shit’s truck up. I’m glad you did it.” Then she closed her bedroom door.
I stood there, and a smile tugged at my lips. I had never had many girlfriends in my life because no one understood me or wanted to get close to me. But my momma, she really was my best friend.
Two days later, I was still thinking about the truck-bashing blonde. She was something else. Hard to forget. I had her baseball bat standing in the corner of my room, and I was trying to decide what to do with it. I figured right now she didn’t need the evidence on her.
Chuckling, I shook my head. I was helping a girl get away with vandalism. That so wasn’t me. But it made me smile. Guess I needed a little action in my life. I intended to give it a few more days, then go see if I could catch her at home. I needed to give her back that bat, and I wanted to see her again. It was a good excuse.
I walked down the stairs in my brother’s summer house just as the front door opened and Jax and his girlfriend, Sadie, walked in. I had known they were coming down for the weekend, and I’d been expecting them.
Jax looked up at me and grinned. “Crashing your party.”
“You know me, it’s a wild one. Hope you can handle it,” I replied.
Jax shook his head and laughed. “Yeah, is it sad that I wish there was some truth to that.”
Sadie pinched Jax’s arm playfully before walking over to give me a hug. “Ignore him. I think you’re perfect just like you are. No need for wild parties.”
My brother’s girlfriend was beautiful in the head-turning kind of way. She had the kind of body and face you saw plastered on magazine covers. But Sadie was a small-town Sea Breeze girl and wanted nothing to do with the spotlight. She loved Jax and had learned to get over people splashing her face everywhere in the media, but before Jax she didn’t like drawing attention to herself. Which was impossible to avoid. The girl drew attention everywhere she went.
“Thanks, Sadie. You can drop the rock-star life anytime you want and come live the simple, ordinary one with me,” I told her, and winked at Jax, who was now scowling.
“Hands off, bro,” he said, reaching for Sadie’s arm. “Not funny.”
That never ceased to entertain me. Jax had never had insecurities. Even before he became famous, he was the most confident kid I knew. But let a guy look at Sadie, and he went all territorial. It cracked me up.
“Stop it, Jax. You’re being sil
ly,” Sadie said, frowning at him and making him immediately look regretful. That was even funnier.
“Don’t be mad,” he said.
Sadie looked back at me. “You up for some company? I thought we’d have a little get-together tonight. I want to see everyone, and since we’re only here two days, it would be easier if we just had the gang here.” She beamed up at me.
Hell, Sadie wasn’t mine, but she was hard to say no to. I was pretty sure if she smiled at anyone, they’d do whatever it was she was asking. “Sure,” I replied.
Jax rolled his eyes at me, like he wasn’t a complete sucker when it came to her. What did he expect? I was a man. “I’ll go make sure the kitchen staff is prepared for the extra guests,” Jax told Sadie as he pressed a kiss to her cheek and started toward the kitchen.
“I already called and talked to Ms. Mary. She’s prepared,” Sadie called after him. Ms. Mary ran the staff and the kitchen here. Once, Sadie had worked for Ms. Mary, so she knew her well. That was how Jax had met Sadie. She served him dinner one night, and I’m pretty sure he was sunk then. Even though he fought it hard.
Jax stopped and turned around to give her the smile that magazines everywhere labeled as lethally sexy. “Then why don’t you help me to my room to unpack?”
I saw Sadie’s cheeks turn red, and she pressed her lips together to keep from smiling. “Okay, if you need help.”
Jax walked back over to her. “Lots of help. You have no idea how much help I need.”
“Either you two go to your room, or I’m going to throw ice water on you both,” I told them.
Sadie ducked her head, and Jax just grinned at me. “See you later,” he said as he held Sadie’s hand and led her up the stairs.
I decided going out to the beach and out of this house for a while was the best idea. Not sure how much “unpacking” those two planned on doing.
* * *
Five hours later, voices were getting louder downstairs as I stood in my bedroom, looking out over the front yard. I knew I needed to go downstairs. Jax would want me there. But those weren’t my friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them—I did. I just didn’t really know them. Then there was the matter of Preston Drake.
The dude was not a fan of mine. I had tried my hardest to get Amanda Hardy’s attention, only to lose her to Preston in the end. It’s hard to compete with bad boys with blond surfer hair. It wasn’t like I was in love with Amanda. Love wasn’t something I was looking for. Ever. She was just pretty and sweet. I liked that. It was easy with her.
A knock on my door brought me out of my thoughts, and I turned to see my brother standing there with his hands in the front pockets of his jeans. “You planning on hiding up here all night?”
I had considered it. I wasn’t great with people I didn’t know. I was on the quieter side. Jax was the personality in the family. “I was coming down in a minute.”
Jax cocked an eyebrow. “You look like you’d rather be anywhere else.”
I shrugged. “Not crazy about hanging out with people I don’t know that well. But I’m going to do it for Sadie.”
Jax walked into the room. “If you’re worried about Preston, don’t be. He’s really an easygoing guy.”
I chuckled. He hadn’t seen the side of Preston I had. “Trust me, he isn’t very easygoing when it comes to Amanda.”
“Maybe not. But he’s got her. They’ve been together long enough now that he feels secure. You were dating the woman he was in love with. I can understand his moment of insanity.”
Jax would. He had dealt with the same thing with Marcus Hardy. They were friends now. Because Marcus was married and had a kid, he no longer posed a threat to Jax. Amanda and Marcus are brother and sister, and Marcus worked at the house the same summer Sadie did.
“I’m coming down there,” I told him. “I swear. Besides, I’m hungry.”
“Good, because I suspect Sadie will be up here in the next five minutes if you don’t get down there. She’s worried about you feeling left out.”
I reminded myself that I was doing this for Sadie. “Let’s go,” I told him.
I followed Jax to the stairs and took in the crowd gathering in the foyer as Sadie opened the door again to let in more of her friends.
When I had been with Amanda at Marcus and Willow’s wedding, I had met several of them. They all seemed really nice, but Preston was one of theirs. I wasn’t sure just how well they would accept me. I left Sea Breeze on good terms with everyone after the wedding. It was easy to see who it was Amanda wanted. I didn’t even try to win her over. The girl’s heart was obviously owned by Preston.
Marcus Hardy walked in, holding a baby in a red-and-white blanket that looked like it had an elephant on it. Sadie squealed in delight and hugged Marcus’s wife, Willow, and then reached out to take the baby from Marcus. Two years ago that scene wasn’t something any of them would have imagined. Marcus had been determined to get Sadie’s attention, but he couldn’t compete with Jax. But then, no one ever could compete with my brother. I never dared to.
“I get him after Sadie,” Amanda’s voice called out just as I saw her walking into the room.
“You get him all the time,” Sadie told her, smiling down at the baby.
“He loves his aunt Manda,” Amanda cooed over the baby. I hadn’t seen Amanda since Marcus and Willow’s wedding. Her long blond hair was hanging loose down her back, and she was wearing a skirt that showed off her tanned legs. Preston walked up behind her and placed his hand possessively on her hip, and I froze. This might be a bad idea.
“I swear to you he’s over it,” Jax whispered beside me.
I nodded and started down the stairs toward the group. It wasn’t that I was scared of Preston—I just didn’t want to spend my night feeling like the unwanted guest. I was fine with not showing up to this thing.
“Cage and Eva are coming. They’re still getting used to life with a baby,” Willow told Sadie.
“I can’t wait to see Bliss,” Sadie said with a happy sigh.
Another baby? Damn, this group was multiplying like rabbits.
“She’s gorgeous,” Willow said. “I’m not kidding you. Like, stop-in-your-tracks gorgeous. Her little cheeks are so chubby, and her eyes are Cage’s. Eva can’t take her anywhere without being stopped by a million people to ooh and aah over her.” She smiled happily.
We reached the bottom step, and Sadie noticed us. She beamed brightly. I didn’t make eye contact with Amanda or even look in Preston’s direction. Instead I walked over to shake Marcus’s hand and congratulate him on the kid.
“Good to see you,” Marcus said, grinning at me.
“You too. Looks like you added another member to the family,” I replied. “Congrats.”
“Thanks. He’s keeping me up at night, but I’m okay with it. It’s a good time to talk football. Teaching him early.”
I laughed and turned to Sadie, who was holding the little guy out for me to see him. “Jason, meet Eli Hardy,” she said in a soft voice reserved for babies.
“Nice to meet you, Eli,” I replied. The kid smiled and stuck his hand in his mouth. The little fluff of hair on his head was as red as his mother’s, but the kid reminded me of Marcus. Maybe it was his eyes.
“I’m hungry. We gonna stand around and look at babies all night, or is there food here?” a new voice said, drawing my attention from the baby. I recognized him, but I couldn’t remember his name. He had his dreadlocks pulled back in a ponytail. Tattoos decorated most of his arms, and he even had one coming up his neck. I didn’t stare long enough to figure out what it was. His lip was pierced, and when he talked you could see the metal in his mouth.
“We have plenty of food, Dewayne,” Sadie replied, smiling at him like he wasn’t a scary-ass dude.
“Good,” he said, walking over and stopping to kiss Eli’s head, which was not what I was expecting him to do. “Damn, that kid’s cute. But then, he looks like his momma.”
Marcus just chuckled.
ooked over at me and stopped. His gaze shifted from me to where I knew Amanda and Preston stood behind me. A slow grin stretched across his face. “Hell yeah. This should be a shit ton of fun. Preston, you gonna play nice with Jason?”
Sadie’s eyes went wide, and everyone went quiet. I decided now was a good time to turn and address them and get this over with.
Amanda was glaring at Dewayne like she was about to take a swing at him, but Preston had an amused grin on his face. “I always play nice,” Preston said with a lazy drawl that went well with his surfer-boy appearance. “I got no problem with Jason. At least not anymore.” He dropped his arm from around Amanda’s waist, stepped forward, and held out his hand to me. “No hard feelings,” he said.
The guy was hard to dislike. I shook his hand. “Not at all,” I replied.
“Good,” he said, stepping back to put his hand back on Amanda. “See, dickhead? We’re all good,” Preston said to Dewayne.
Dewayne just chuckled and shook his head. “Sure you are.”
“Okay, Dewayne, don’t go getting everyone all stirred up. We’re at the Stones’ house,” Marcus said, trying to sound diplomatic.
Dewayne shrugged and glanced back at Marcus. “Just having some fun.”
The doorway was filled again, this time with the massive brick wall that was Rock. A little girl with a head full of curls ran around his legs, squealing Preston’s name. I turned to see Preston reach down and grab her just as she flung herself into his arms. Rock and his wife, Trisha, had adopted Preston’s little sister and brothers when their mother passed away, making this group of friends even tighter.
“I missed you,” the little girl said, planting a loud, smacking kiss on Preston’s cheek.
“I missed you, too,” he said.
“Sorry we’re late,” Rock said. “Trisha is bringing the boys after football practice. I had to go get Daisy. Jess was watching her at the house while we were at the boys’ practice.
My head snapped around at the name Jess. The name of the girl I’d rescued the other night.