Home > Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(11)

Show Me the Way (Fight for Me #1)(11)
Author: A.L. Jackson

Tense and tight and hot.

It was a bitch knowing its origin and not being able to do a goddamned thing about it.

I barely cut my gaze to the side and peered through the dimmed lights. A smoky glow hugged the room, and my eyes climbed right back to the spot they shouldn’t. I was nothing but a glutton for punishment, because there I was, desperate for a glimpse.

Still, I was unprepared. Unprepared for the way my skin itched when I caught her stealing a glance at me at the same time I was stealing one of her.

Quick and furtive.

Like she’d just realized I was there.

“Kid really is so damned adorable, don’t know how you stand it.” Kale was rambling, musing about the sweetness of my daughter and how my life had turned out totally different from what I’d ever expected it to. I sat there, shifting uneasily in my seat like a fool, letting myself feel something that had no reason to be there.

Lust for a woman I didn’t even know.

Kale was bringing his glass to his lips when he suddenly let it drop a fraction, studying me from over the top. “What the hell is going on with you, man?”

“Nothin’.”

“You seem . . . anxious.” One quirk of a knowing brow. That was the pitfalls of having friends for life. Sometimes they knew you better than you wanted them to.

Because this was obviously not about the anniversary.

Still, I shrugged. “Nothing at all.”

Doubt billowed through his expression, and another rush of disquiet had me shifting again. His eyes flicked off to my side before he looked back at me like he’d hit a bull’s-eye. “Nothing, huh? Then why do you keep glaring at Lillith and Nikki like they’ve all of a sudden grown horns? I mean, it’s no secret you’ve up and decided women are the devil, but those two you at least seem to tolerate. What happened?”

I pasted what I hoped appeared to be a look of indifference on my face. “Don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing happened.”

His brow drew tight, and he peered in their direction again, studying what had changed. Then he was cocking his head to the side with a knowing grin. “Who’s the hot new chic? Doesn’t look like she’s from around here.”

Another shrug. “Dunno.”

Apparently, that shrug was the indicator of a lie, because Kale laughed. Far too loud and at my expense. “Oh, I see what’s happening here. Seems someone actually is still in the possession of his dick.”

“Don’t.” The warning came out hard. Nothing playful about it.

He knew better.

He shook his head. “That bitch sure as hell did a number on you, didn’t she? You think it’s a good thing for Frankie to grow up with you hating every woman who crosses your path? That shit’s not healthy, man. You need to figure out your issues before you mess up your daughter’s head with that chip you love to wear on your shoulder.”

Yeah. That stung. My hand clenched around my beer bottle. “You’re really going to sit over there and tell me I’m raising my kid wrong?”

He scowled. “Isn’t that what friends are for? To call you out when you aren’t seeing straight? Because it’s time you realized your vision is completely skewed. It’s been three years. And fuck, man, you know you’re a great dad, but don’t sit over there and act like there’s not something missing.”

He rocked back in his chair, arms going across his chest, like he was offering up a dare. “When’s the last time you got laid?”

Ollie took that opportune time to show up at our table with a fresh round of drinks. He placed the rocks glass down in front of Kale before he slid an icy bottle my direction.

Ollie forced a smile, dude wearing his own special kind of veneer, shoving all the bullshit down, locked up and contained. “Pretty sure this one’s cock has shriveled up and died. It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.”

My brow rose. “Thanks, man,” I said, totally dry.

“Hey, just keeping it real,” he said, giving me a clap to the back.

Taking a swig of my beer, I shook my head. “Why don’t you keep it ‘real’ with someone else?”

A smirk pulled beneath his beard. “Now, what would be the fun in that?”

Kale leaned forward. “Seriously, man. Think about what you’re doing. The vibe you’re feeding and how that affects not just Frankie but you, too. You can sit there and pretend all you want, but I know you’re lonely.”

I swallowed around the lump, doing my best not to look Rynna’s direction.

Call me a failure.

Because my gaze was slanting that way, drinking her in.

Fuck, I was a fool.

The way I welcomed the bolt of need that slammed me.

It was so goddamned wrong. But this unwanted feeling bubbled up inside me, latching on to the sight of her laughing from across the room. The way her chin lifted and her mouth curved. Something so free.

A quality that didn’t belong to me.

In discomfort, I looked back at Kale. “Believe me. Frankie’s the only girl I need.”

My everything.

The one I lived for.

The one I’d gladly die for.

And I’d never give anyone the chance to threaten that.

7

Rynna

“Who do you keep looking at?” Nikki swiveled on her stool, straining to look behind her. Muted light cast a shimmery drape of warmth over the bar, tossing it with shadows and mystery.

But one man stood out amid it all. And he was looking right back at us.

I smacked her leg, my voice a panicked whisper. “What are you doing?”

She had no shame.

She looked at me as if I were crazy. “Um . . . trying to figure out which lucky bastard has already snagged my new friend’s eye. That’s my job, you know. I’m head matchmaker, right, Lily Pad?”

She smirked in Lillith’s direction.

Lillith just wagged her ring finger adorned with the huge rock as proof while she took a sip of her wine.

“No one’s caught my eye,” I said.

Honestly, it was a useless defense. Not with the way I couldn’t stop from stealing another glance at the man who was beginning to consume my every thought. I wasn’t one prone to obsessions. Or stalking. Or spying.

But there was something about him that wouldn’t let me go.

Something that fascinated and enthralled.

Maybe it was his adorable daughter.

It had to be. It was the only explanation.

Nikki followed my gaze. She froze for a beat before her head whipped back in my direction. Her mouth hung open in blatant shock. “Oh my God! Tell me Rex Gunner isn’t the one who has you all spun up over there?”

Before I could give her another futile excuse, awareness dawned on her face. “Holy shit. He lives right across from you.” She rapidly snapped her fingers in front of my face as if she were on to something. “Oh, and his company has the contract for the hotel that’s on Fairview . . . right across from Pepper’s Pies.”

My shoulder lifted as if I didn’t care at all. As if he didn’t actually have me so spun up I could feel the knots lining my stomach. “I went over and introduced myself to him the other day. That’s it.”

I conveniently left out the part where he’d slammed his door in my face. I figured guilt was found in the small details.

The ironic laughter dripping from Lillith’s tongue sounded like a warning. “You should probably leave it at that. The only women Rex Gunner likes are his daughter and his momma. Otherwise, watch out. That boy is as cynical as they come.”

I glanced his way again, snared by the way his throat was exposed when he tipped back his beer, the way the thick muscles rolled as he swallowed, that short, trimmed beard little more than a five o’clock shadow.

God, he was gorgeous in an earth-shattering way. As if I could feel the vibrations coming from him rippling under my feet.

I edged forward, my voice quieted to a whisper, way too eager for my own good. “What happened to him?”

Lillith and Nikki shared a look.

Nikki leaned forward, dropping her tone to match mine. “His wife just . . . disappeared. No one knows for sure what happened to her.”

Was it fear that flashed through my blood? The man screamed danger and peril and risk. But my heart told me for an entirely different reason than the flicker of morbid intrigue that tickled my consciousness. Still, my eyes were round as I leaned even closer to her. “Like . . . do people think she’s . . . dead?”

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