5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

"Are you leaving?" Bettina asked as he leaned over her a few minutes later. Her drowsy green eyes lured Ty back down next to her.

"Tim’s on his way."

"Think we got time for round two?" She struggled out of her t-shirt and pressed herself against him.

He smoothed her hair back and thought about it for all of three seconds. Sleeping in that chair with her had been the first decent night’s rest he’d had without medication and nightmares in months. He actually felt good! Free of the knot that had choked him for so long.

He made time.

They’d barely caught their breath when a horn blew outside.

"He’s gonna wake up my neighbors," Bettina drawled, smiling.

"Then I better get," he whispered, reluctant to go. Cupping her chin, Ty leaned down and brushed his lips against hers. Again he struggled against the urge to curl up beside her and go back to sleep. "I’ll call you."

"You better."


* * *


Ty offered up an embarrassed grin as he climbed in the truck and thanked Tim for coming to get him.

"No prob. Have a good time?"

He laughed, his eyes on the dashboard. "Yeah, I did."

"Good. I’m glad it worked out."

"Worked out?" He frowned at his brother out of the corner of his eye and prayed the bottom didn’t fall out of his stomach.

"I just mentioned to Betti that your divorce was final yesterday and you could use some cheering up."

"Oh." ‘Pity Fuck’ were the words that ran through his mind. The knot was suddenly back. He kept his attention outside the window for the rest of the short trip home. The streets of Bluebonnet passed in a blur and gave way to gently rolling countryside as they turned onto the ranch proper.

Being single was a hell of a lot harder than he’d imagined. But then, being married hadn’t been such a picnic either. Mumbling his thanks once they reached Tim’s, Ty climbed out and quickly crossed the yard to his own house. He hit the door running and barely made it to the toilet before dry heaves hit him.

He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t do this. But he had no choice.

His empty stomach had nothing to lose. Ty stripped and climbed in the shower, turning the water as hot as he could stand. He sank down under the burning, needle-sharp spray, shaking and still a little queasy. He knew Bettina had a reputation, but the casualness of it all left a bad taste in his mouth. What had Tim told her to get her to sleep with him? Just how much had he said? No way in hell did Ty want anyone knowing the truth.

Hot water eventually turned cold. He slowly climbed out and toweled off, feeling like an old man.

With shaky hands, he opened the medicine cabinet and stared at the little brown bottle. It reminded him of just how far he’d fallen. He snatched up the bottle of Xanax and angrily twisted the cap off, washing the tiny pill down with a handful of water from the sink.

Next, Ty called his dad and mumbled a lame-ass excuse about being sick. The shower hadn’t helped much, and neither did a nap plagued by the usual grim nightmares involving Rhea.

He awoke late in the afternoon, hung over from the meds and sweaty beneath the twisted comforter. After another shower that failed to clear his head, he dressed and walked down the road to Zack and Jessa’s for dinner.

They were scheduled to play at the dancehall tonight. Banging on his drums had been a way to vent his frustrations. Especially when things had been really bad between him and Rhea. Then everything fell apart, his brother talked him into therapy and, when push came to shove, his wife chose to walk rather than work out their problems. Thirteen years of marriage gone.

For once in his life, he’d have given anything to get out of playing.

As he stepped over the white picket fence surrounding the yard and hopped up the porch, he offered up a silent prayer for his sister-in-law to feed him and not ask questions.

"When do we eat," he called out by way of greeting as he flung open the screen door and pushed all thoughts of Rhea and Bettina out of his head.

"In ten, sugar," Jessa replied, coming out of the kitchen. Tiny and curvy, her earthy personality suited his artistic and slightly forgetful baby brother to a "T" and after only two months of marriage, she was already expecting—just. A frown creased her brow. "Feeling better?"

"I’m fine." He kissed her cheek and smothered the guilt that rose up at the worry in her pale eyes. "Where’s Zack?"


"Dinner?" he asked, maneuvering around her.

"As soon as you set my table." She swatted his denim-clad butt and headed around the corner.

Ty followed her into the sunny yellow kitchen, his mouth watering at the smell of homemade biscuits and her oven fried chicken. "Glad to."

"So," Jessa began, her hands busy removing the chicken from the oven, "how’d it go last night?"

"What do you mean?" Ty kept his voice calm and his eyes on the job at hand. Digging out silverware from a nearby drawer to set the table with.

"I mean, you left with a very tall, pretty blond and got home at the crack of dawn, mister."

"Jessa, leave that poor boy be," Zack scolded, entering the kitchen in worn jeans and a paint-splattered t-shirt.

"Well I don’t want him runnin’ off with just any old hussy! She’s gotta have my seal of approval." She shook her tongs at Zack, a frown on her face. Then she winked at Ty, who laughed. Hand on her hip, she continued to wait for his response.

"It wasn’t anything...you know." He shrugged and cursed the heat flooding his face. For all her easy-going ways, he wasn’t going to discuss his sex life with Jessa. Not that he’d ever really had a sex life to discuss before but....

"Leave him be," Zack warned.

"Oh, fine! You gonna finish setting the table or stand there daydreaming about nothing?"

"I’m not daydreaming." Ty grabbed plates from the cabinet.

She paused, platter of chicken in her hands. "Ty, there’s only three of us, honey."

He looked down and counted seven plates in his hand. "I know that."

Chapter Three


After morning sex with Ty—my all-time favorite kind—I overslept. I’d be late for my first appointment. And I had a crick in my neck from sleeping in the chair.

Damn, Rule Number Seven, anyway
: If You Can’t Go To His Place, Don’t Let Him Sleep In Your Bed.

I’d had some bad experiences with that one, so a cricked neck was a small price to pay. Especially after last night and this morning, which had been mind-blowingly fantastic.

I showered, dressed, and hustled through my makeup. Mooning around my bedroom and grinning in the bathroom mirror as I replayed my encounter with Ty a couple dozen times didn’t help me get there any faster. I couldn’t wait to get to work and tell Cassi.

 Lucky for me, my eight-thirty appointment was a long-standing regular, but being behind on her would make me run late all day.

I hadn’t aspired to be a hairdresser. My junior and senior year in high school I applied for and received scholarship offers from four or five prestigious colleges. I wanted an MBA and accepted an offer from the University of North Carolina—my dream school—with childish hopes of coming back to Bluebonnet someday and thumbing my nose at everyone who’d ever looked down theirs at me. Freedom was at my fingertips.

Or so I thought.

Two weeks after graduation, Ty Boudreaux married Rhea Carmichael...and Mom went and died on me. Literally drank herself into an early grave. If I hadn’t know better, I’d swear she’d done it deliberately. Someone had to raise Angelina who’d only been ten at the time. Of course, none of the other 4,998 citizens of my home town offered to help. They were too busy celebrating the wedding of the century.

So I’d just helped myself. After the funeral, I hunted down dear old Dad and struck a bargain with the devil. He’d continue to pay child support, send me to beauty school and give me seed money for my own business. In exchange, we’d pretend he didn’t exist. Mr. Successful agreed, nervous, sweating and angry in his plush, high-rise Houston office. He was more than happy with the arrangement that left his new life, new wife and two-point-five children intact.

Who cared if my dream was permanently shelved?

Or that I had to stay in the last place I wanted to be. I hated Bluebonnet, Texas, more every day, but staying was a part of the devil’s bargain I’d made. A bargain I’d more than satisfied. With Angi in college now, I’d put the house on the market. And as soon as it sold, I was so gone!

Six months after graduating from Cosmetology school, I’d opened my own salon with Daddy’s Dirty Money. Oh, not in Bluebonnet. The good folks of Bluebonnet would just have to make do with their little Curl Up And Dye.

But located twenty minutes, and a world away, from my hometown was one of the hottest, trendiest hair salons in San Antonio—The Blue Moon—where everyone, who was anyone, got their hair done.

And it belongs to me, "Bad Betti."

"Morning, Tara." My heels left a loud tattoo in my wake, and I didn’t stop until I reached the back and dumped my purse in an unused hydraulic chair, knowing she’d follow me.

Each time I stepped through the doors I got a little thrill, wondering what dear old Dad and the good folks of Bluebonnet would think of my classy little cash cow. The salon, done up in shades of blue with a mosaic floor, was divided into eight rooms, each capable of housing two stylists. Right now, we were at maximum capacity, including a massage therapist and two manicurists. Everyone leased and no one ever paid late. Recently, I’ve even been contemplating another expansion.

Not bad for the girl voted most likely to end up barefoot and pregnant.

Tara, my salon coordinator and right hand woman, was a twenty-year-old pre-law student, but her mother and grandmother had been hairdressers. She knew the ins and outs of salon life almost better than I did and regularly showed up to work with the most outrageously colored hair. This week’s selection was a raspberry red with powder-pink highlights.

"You’ve been letting your grandmother do your hair again, haven’t you?" I set my coffee cup on the washer and reached for tubes and bottles from the storage cabinet beside it.

"She begged." Tara shrugged and gathered up my stuff. "She just got back from a new class and wanted to give it a whirl. Oh, and I called Don Jacobs and he’ll be here at nine-thirty instead of eleven for his haircut. That should help you get back on track."

"You’re a gem!" Blow dryers buzzed and the pungent odor of a perm tickled my nose. The sounds and smells of success—mine and theirs. "Where’s Patricia?"

"Relax, she’s fine. I got her coffee, and she’s in chatting with Deni," Tara said, referring to one of the other stylists.

After throwing a smock over my blouse, I quickly mixed up Patricia’s color from memory. Grabbing up the bowl of color in one hand and the cup of coffee with my other, I headed to work.


* * *


Thanks to Tara’s quick thinking, most of the day was hectic yet anti-climactic. We closed at six and I’d managed to squeeze out two retouches, a highlight and umpteen haircuts.

Exhausted, I left Tara to clean up. Not my usual MO but I could barely see straight.

My car felt like an oven and I left the door propped open as I kicked off my shoes and stuck the key in the ignition.
Who cares if driving barefoot in Texas is illegal.
My feet hurt so badly, I’d risk the ticket. I shut the door and let myself decompress as the air conditioner worked to cool the car down, and the tension eased from my tired shoulders.

I hadn’t even stopped long enough to think about Ty, except over a quick lunch with Cassi, but the drive home would take me past the dancehall—sort of. I debated whether to stop or not all the way down I-10. But the dancehall’s neon sign acted like some sort of homing beacon. I took the exit too fast, slammed on my breaks, downshifted and whipped around the corner into the parking lot. One little fix. Five minutes was all I wanted.

At the same time, I scolded myself.
Acting like a lovesick fourteen-year-old will get you nothing but trouble.

"Five minutes," the little devil on my shoulder whispered as I parked. Then I’d go home like a good girl and die from exhaustion. I was getting too old for all-nighters.

Inside, the band was warming up and I grabbed a gin and tonic from the bar, pausing to study Tim’s woman. A very exotic looking and distant brunette, she didn’t seem at all like his usual type, but as long as he was happy, I was happy for him.

I settled in at a corner table, ignoring the speculative stares. As the band announced a break, one of my sister’s friends strolled over, claiming the empty chair on my left.

"When’s Angelina coming home?"

"She’ll be here between the summer and fall semesters." Workaholism apparently ran in our family, and Angelina was currently enrolled in Texas A & M’s Pre-Veterinary program down in College Station. I missed her terribly.

Tiffany wrinkled her nose.

"I know." I shrugged in sympathy while quickly scanning the half-empty bar for Ty. He walked by but didn’t even glance in my direction. And he looked as tired as I felt.

"He’s sooooo cute." Tiffany smiled.

"Yeah, he is," I replied, scrabbling in my purse for a pen.

"I heard his ex is shacking up with Melyn Cooley and Billy Green."

"Eww." I made a face and she giggled in agreement. I jotted down Angelina’s school email address on a napkin, slid it across the table at her and hurriedly excused myself.

I tracked Ty down in the beer garden out back. "Ty?"

"What?" he growled, his back to me.

I swallowed hard in surprise, my eyes glued to the logo on his ball cap and the longish blonde hairs that tickled his neckline. I walked up behind him and rubbed his back, unable to miss the knots of tension through his worn t-shirt. "How are you?"


This wasn’t the same man who’d kissed me good-bye and promised to call me this morning. The uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach slowly seeped into my knees, leaving me wobbly. When I crossed over in front of him, he looked everywhere but at me.

5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

His Seduction Game Plan by Katherine Garbera
Kindertransport by Olga Levy Drucker
Seize the Fire by Laura Kinsale
When You Were Older by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Running Dark by Joseph Heywood
Chickamauga by Shelby Foote