Home > Dirty Scoundrel (Roughneck Billionaires #2)

Dirty Scoundrel (Roughneck Billionaires #2)
Author: Jessica Clare

Chapter One


My brother Boone doesn’t even give me a decent greeting when I knock on his door. Normally I’d comment about how the heavy wood double doors to his new ranch mansion are bigger than my trailer, but I don’t feel much like laughing today.

Instead, I’ve got a cold knot in my gut that’s been there for days and feels like it’s growing larger by the moment. If it grows any bigger and I’m gonna start looking like delicate Ivy, all ponytail and belly. Well, ’cept for the ponytail, I guess.

Boone just eyes me as he opens the door. He’s silent, too. My brother usually has something to say about everything, but maybe he’s got the same knot in his gut I do. He eyes my clothing, noting my best jeans and the only long-sleeved white shirt I own, which has also sat in the back of my closet since the last funeral I went to. It’s tight around the chest and neck, but fuck it. Ain’t nobody gonna give a shit today. I glance down at my boots, but the heavy rain today is washing away any dirt I have on them. I’m mostly presentable. Mostly.

My brother isn’t happy, though. He just shakes his head. “No jacket?”

Another smart-ass comment rises to my mind but I bite it back, too. Doesn’t seem right to joke, even if that’s my natural instinct. Not today. “Nah. Don’t have one.”

He grunts. “Seems like none of my brothers do. But Ivy wants everyone in jackets, so come in. You can borrow one of mine.”

My brother’s been married for almost a year now, and his new wife has pretty much turned him upside down. New house, new clothes, looking at investments, you name it. What Ivy wants, Ivy gets. It’s a good thing Ivy’s the sweetest girl and doesn’t have a gold-digging bone in her body, because Boone’s absolutely batshit crazy for her and would give her his fortune if it’d make her smile. It’s kinda cute, in a henpecked sort of way.

“Ivy dressing everyone?”

My brother just arches an eyebrow at me.

I ain’t wrong, I bet to myself as I shake off the rain in the echoing foyer. When I don’t drip on the marble flooring, I step forward and follow Boone into the downstairs living area. Sure enough, Ivy’s there, running a lint brush over Seth’s borrowed jacket. Gage is seated on a nearby chair dressed to the nines in some Gucci or Armani shit, but he’s the only one out of all of us. Knox is nearby wearing another one of Boone’s jackets, but the way he’s adjusting the collar, I imagine he’s deciding whether or not to five-finger it home. Doesn’t matter that Knox is as rich as the rest of us—he likes to lift things. Dunno why. No one knows what’s going on in Knox’s head.

Ivy takes one look at me and hurries over with her lint brush. “Clay, you’re not dressed.” Her brow wrinkles and she looks unhappy, studying my appearance. “We’ll have to get you one of Boone’s jackets.”

“Eddie wouldn’t care,” I tell her, trying to smile. “He’s an old roughneck, through and through. I doubt he even owned a dress shirt. Wouldn’t expect me to own one.”

“I care,” Ivy says, ignoring everything I say. “And his widow will care. And his children will care. It’s important, Clay.” She speaks to me like I’m a child but it just rolls off my back. Ivy is a little fussy about appearances but she means well, and she wants us to look right for this.

And even though every one of us Price brothers knows Eddie Murteen wouldn’t give two shits what we wore to his funeral, it’s important to Ivy that we are respectable when we pay our last respects.

So I shrug and put my arms out. “Come dress your Ken Doll, Barbie.” She thwacks me with the lint brush as I grin. Guess I got a bit of spark left in me, after all.

I jacket up, and Ivy fusses with my hair, removing my favorite baseball cap and wetting and combing down my flyaways like I’m a kid. I just let her fuss. Ivy’s the only female in our lives, so I figure she knows more about this sorta thing than we do. I glance down at her big belly and the tented black dress she’s wearing. “Junior’s getting big.”

“His name won’t be Junior.”

“Mason, then. That’s a good name.”

“Like the jar? No thanks.”

Boone just grins behind her like a big dumb loon. Never thought I’d see the day that my mule-stubborn brother would let a little blonde waltz all over him, but he does. I bet this baby’s gonna have some trendy, crappy name like Juniper or Pastel or some shit.

“Ford?” I suggest.

“Like the car?”

“Good, solid car.”

“No. Absolutely not.” Ivy finishes messin’ with my hair and then runs the lint brush over my jacket. “All right. You look good. Are the wreaths in the cars? Everyone have umbrellas?”

“We have hats,” Seth says, a bit of sulk in my youngest brother’s tone.

“Umbrellas,” Ivy repeats firmly. “This is a funeral, not a bowling alley.” She fusses with the string of pearls at her neck, looking worried. “I want you to look the part. Everyone’s going to be focused on the fact that the Price family is showing up—”

“We look good, baby girl,” Boone says, moving to press a kiss to his wife’s cheek. “They’re just giving you shit. It’s going to be fine, I promise.”

Ivy gives him a smile, reassured by his calm words.

I wish I was so easily placated. The knot’s back in my stomach and growing. Ain’t no avoiding this. Eddie deserves a good send-off, and we’ll be there. I just wish . . .

Fuck, I don’t know what I wish.

* * *

The funeral’s a good one, I guess. I’ve only been to two, but compared to my father’s funeral, this one’s done right. Eddie’s in the most expensive coffin that Price money can buy, since he died working on one of our rigs. There are flowers and wreaths all over the small chapel, and a shit-ton more at the graveside. The service is nice and decently attended, and I try not to look at Eddie’s widow and the three little boys she has sitting on the pew next to her. If I do, that knot in my stomach just grows and grows.

Eddie was too old to be roughnecking. Well, not too old. Too broken and too slow. It’s a young man’s job, and Eddie was pushing forty-five. He just didn’t have the moves he used to, and when equipment snaps—like it did this last week—you have to move fast. The good news is that when the pipe tripped and hit him, it hit him in the head. Never felt a thing. Just snapped his neck like a potato chip and boom, no more Eddie. I guess if you have to go, that’s a good way to go.

I wiggle my foot in my shoe, feeling the gap where my two missing toes are. When I lost them on a rig accident, it fucking hurt like hell and I bled like a stuck pig. But Eddie would have gone instantly. One minute there, the next, gone. The world is minus one Eddie Murteen in the blink of an eye.

I worshipped Eddie as a teen. He was a great guy. Worked with me when I started on my first rig, just a shitty kid with a chip on his shoulder and a broken heart. Bought me a beer when my dad died and I couldn’t sack up enough to stop crying, even on the job. He was mentor and friend to both me and Boone, and when Price Brothers Oil hit it big, we gave him work. He’s not great at what he does, but he’s loyal as hell. That counts for a lot.

Guess that should be past tense now.

My gut churns again.

I glance over and Ivy’s rubbing the widow’s back while Boone talks. I know what he’s telling her. PBO is gonna cover the funeral expenses and make sure she has a pension. The good thing about being rich is you can throw money at people and it makes it seem like everything’s gonna be okay. Except it doesn’t feel like it’s okay. It just feels shitty and this knot in my stomach won’t go away.

Someone sits down next to me. Even though most of the family and friends are getting up to go to the wake, I can’t quite pull myself out of my seat. I’m staring up at the altar, at the front of the church where the coffin was a short time ago. Eddie’s gone, six feet under. Shit, that’s a mindfuck.

I rub my mouth and look over at the person next to me—it’s Knox, my younger brother. “What do you want?”

“You look like you’re gonna puke,” Knox comments, picking up a Bible from the back of one of the pews and flipping through it.

I snatch it out of his hand and put it back. Funny how Knox can read me—most of the time no one can tell what I’m thinkin’. Must not be that good at my poker face today.

“I wasn’t gonna take it,” he says, but it’s clear he’s amused by my actions. “And you still look like you’re about to upchuck. What gives?”

He’s a jerk, my little bro, but he’s a jerk with good instincts. I cross my arms and shrug, sliding down in my seat like I’m a little kid instead of a grown-ass man. “Just . . . fuck. Reminds me of Dad’s funeral from back in the day. Don’t it to you?”

Knox considers, then shakes his head slowly. “Nah.” He gestures at the front. “Lots of flowers. Dad didn’t have none.” He indicates the widow and her kids with another sweep of his hand. “Got family here that grieve him. Dad just had us. All his lady-friends didn’t show up.” He glances over at me. “And the company men are paying the expenses. So no, it ain’t much like Dad’s funeral.”

I hate that he’s right. I hate that our dad got buried in a cheap-ass coffin at an empty funeral. I hate that he didn’t matter to no one but us. Even after all this time, it still burns in my belly.

“Dad was a piece of shit, though,” Knox says. “I know what you’re thinking. That when you pass, you should be surrounded by loved ones, but Dad was a user. I mean, look at me and Gage.” He smiles thinly.

Yeah, I know what he means. Knox and Gage were born two months apart, two completely different moms. Dad was married to my mom at the time. He wasn’t a good guy, but damn. We all deserve someone that’s gonna love us until the end, don’t we? “I guess I’m just thinkin’ life is short, you know? Eddie was in his forties. Should have had a lot of good years ahead of him.” I nod at the three boys at the front. “See them graduate from college and all.”

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