Read Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6) Online

Authors: Christie Ridgway

Tags: #contemporary

Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6) (8 page)

BOOK: Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6)
5.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

So much for playing Happy Host, but she didn’t want him around on her lucky night. With other men, she’d had no trouble keeping them far from her inner self. But in the space of a few dark hours during their one-night stand, Brody Maddox had exposed emotions she locked behind high walls, emotions that were too big to manage and too painful to address. Caution advised putting distance between them now because in his arms she became too vulnerable.

“Hostile,” he remarked, his tone mild.

Just then Jim returned to his post and Ashlynn decided the fastest way to get rid of the unwelcome Brody Maddox was to pretend he didn’t exist.

“Excuse me,” she murmured, gathering her dignity as she turned away. “I have responsibilities at the bar.”

Where there wasn’t an empty seat, she was gratified to discover, meaning she wouldn’t have to serve her former one-night-stand. Sure, she could ask Jim to encourage Brody to exit Satan’s altogether, but that was taking things too far, she decided, sneaking a peek in his direction. He’d found his way to one of the open stools alongside the drink-wide ledge lining the side wall.

There was no sense in not taking his money. She was a businesswoman, after all.

One who poured herself a shot of vodka from which she took tiny sips as she worked. It wasn’t a habit, despite what Brody likely thought. When they’d met it had been her third night at the roadhouse after returning to Topanga. She’d gotten drunk, and then egged on by the customers and inspired by the stories about the way Brae ran the place, she’d jumped up on the bar and danced, laughing and smiling each time a man tucked a bill in her boot.

All the while her gaze had been drawn to the dark-haired hunk watching her out of those amazing blue eyes.

Full of false courage and determined to keep ghosts at bay, at the evening’s end she’d propositioned him, expecting all the surface excitement that his male beauty and meaningless sex promised.

Fuck him and forget him
, her sister had whispered in Ashlynn’s head, and she’d done the first very, very well.

Too bad the second continued to elude her.

Even as this lucky Saturday night came to a close, and she realized that unforgettable Brody Maddox had left Satan’s without saying goodbye.

Ridiculous, how that rankled, she thought, shaking her head. Ashlynn being her own worst enemy again.

The cleaners arrived, and she collected her things, waved to the husband-and-wife team, then slipped out the front door. It was the most direct route to the trailer where she’d been staying. The security lights in the parking lot weren’t much help against the darkness, but they revealed the silvery bullets of the drenching rain she could hear pattering on the blacktop. She slung her purse over her chest and shoved her arms in the sleeves of a slicker, cinching the hood around her head.

As she stepped off the porch, a body materialized beside her.

Her shriek lodged in her throat when she realized it was Brody.

“Wha?” she managed to choke out, her pulse still racing.

“I’ll walk you home,” he said.

This time she managed to be more articulate. “Why?”

He better not think she was interested in sleeping with him again.
Though you are
, Brae’s voice was whispering in her head again.

“Maybe it’s just your night, honey.”

The rain pelted the shoulders of her jacket, the cold penetrating if not the wet. Had he said “Maybe it’s just your night?” It was supposed to be her lucky night she remembered, sending his perfect profile an aggrieved sidelong glance.

Apparently she’d been wrong.

 

Brody started off in the direction of the trailer, Ash following behind. Her reluctance was tangible, but he continued onward, resolute.

“Brody, what’s this all about?” she asked, coming to a halt in the middle of the lot.

Cold rain wet his hair and was rolling down his neck beneath the collar of his squall jacket. He turned to look at her, her face a small pale oval within the confines of her hood. Even now she tugged at him, her petite size, the sound of her voice, the obstacles that she confronted as the new owner of the roadhouse.

“Why did you send Ronnie away?” he asked, his breath fogging in the air.

The day before, after learning of her loss, he’d directed one of the construction company’s estimators to look over her job. Rather than making an appointment, he’d instructed the man to drop by that afternoon and ask for Ash, anticipating surprise was the best way to ensure her cooperation.

Brody had needed to do something for her, without examining the why of that too closely. Okay, he knew reason. The combination of those tears, her recent losses, his guilty conscience…

“Look,” Ash said on an audible sigh, “we don’t mean anything to each other.”

Fuck. There’s where she was wrong. “You need work done. I—our company—can help, and I guarantee we’ll give you a fair price.”

Instead of replying, she began to walk, passing him up so that he was trailing her now. The soles of their shoes clipped against the asphalt and then on the cement stepping stones as they moved onto path that would take them through the trees to the single-wide.

“So I’ll ask again, why did you tell Ronnie—he said you were nice about it, but firm—to take off?”

Instead of answering right away, she stopped and turned to face him once more, as if unaware of the rain running in rivulets down her cheeks like those damn fucking tears.

“Why did you show up at nearly midnight to ask that question?”

Brody cleared his throat. “I didn’t check my voice mail any earlier. After I listened to it I drove up here.”

As explanations, it had logic holes he realized he couldn’t fill. Why not wait until the next day? Another day? Use the phone and call the roadhouse’s number? Fuck.

“I was out,” he added. “Busy.” His right boot splashed in a puddle as he stepped closer to her.

“Busy with your Rachel?”

The truth kept him a foot away. Yeah, he’d been on a date. After dinner they’d gone for drinks, and when she’d visited the ladies room he’d checked his phone.

“She had to make it an early night.”

That was true. It’s not as if he’d dumped her to rush up to Satan’s.

He cleared his throat. “The teachers at her school are running a 5K in the morning to benefit autism research.”

“That’s a good cause. She seems like a good woman.”

Perfect for him, he’d thought. Stable—emotionally and otherwise. After lovemaking, her tears wouldn’t bust open his sternum and leak like acid over his exposed heart.

“You shouldn’t flirt with all those men at the bar,” he said now, apropos of nothing.


What?

He was a bonehead, an asshole, a jealous-sounding jerk who had no right to tell her anything.

“They all think they’re going to get in your pants,” he muttered, even as he knew that would make it worse.

There was an audible gasp. “You mean like you did?” she asked then, her tone snide.

“Hey, I wasn’t the one who came on to you, sister.”

Without another word, she spun and started marching for the trailer again.

He squeezed shut his eyes and wondered why this one woman could ignite his temper as quickly as his lust. But two hours ago he’d watched her on the other side of the bar, dispensing booze and smiles. Every man had checked out her cleavage and her legs and her beautiful face. His mood had been on a slow smolder, and by the time he’d finished nursing his beer he’d barely resisted throwing the bottle against the nearest wall.

The kind of behavior that he’d learned at his daddy’s knee and witnessed in his daddy’s band’s compound. The kind of behavior he’d sworn never to replicate. The kind of behavior that stemmed from emotional excess and volatility of temperament that he’d escaped…and never wanted to see in himself.

But his hot-blooded reaction wasn’t something he should take out on her. “Look, Ash—”

“Goodbye, Brody,” she called over her shoulder. “And please don’t come back.”

He gritted his teeth. That wasn’t how this was going to work. Walking away wasn’t going to get her out of his head any more than staying away had.

“Look,” he began again, taking long strides to catch up with her. “Let us help you with the repairs and renovation. You won’t have to see me. I’ll just feel…better if I can do this for you.”

Hearing her say yes would soothe his current vicious mood and, he hoped, give him a fighting chance of forgetting her in the future.

She came to an abrupt stop, so abrupt he had to grab her shoulders to prevent himself from plowing over her.

“What the…” He took in the sight in front of him, and rage flared in his belly. “…
hell
?”

The trailer—which had been dilapidated to begin with—was now trash. Trashed, actually. In the meager light spread by the spared bulb by the front door, he could see that windows were shattered, the door had been kicked in, and broken crockery littered the steps. What looked like her bed linens had been thrown outside where they sat in the muddy clearing, a sad, sodden pile.

That earlier urge to toss a beer bottle was nothing compared to this fiery need to uproot the nearest tree and heave it over his head in The Incredible Hulk-like style.

“You stay here,” Brody ordered Ash, and was unsurprised when she didn’t follow his command. He shot her a look. “If you want to do something, call 911.”

Instead of complying with that one, either, she stayed at his heels as he leaped up the steps and crossed the trailer’s threshold, his phone’s flashlight beam providing illumination. If he’d thought anyone was still around he would have bodily carried her away from the scene of the crime. But it was apparent the perpetrators were gone, leaving in their wake petty destruction.

He found and flipped a switch in the kitchen. The new light illuminated food strewn over the floor. In the living area he noted that the small loveseat had been upended and the floor lamp beside it broken.

He heard Ash sniff. “I think they peed in here.”

His hands fisted, but he clamped down on his anger.

“I think you’re right.”

A quick perusal showed that the tiny bathroom had not been passed over. The towel bar was wrenched from the wall and “BITCH” was written on the mirror with red lipstick. Before Ash could see that, he steered her out of the hallway and back toward the living room.

“I’m guessing it was those delinquents who tried getting into Satan’s tonight. We need to get someone from the Sheriff’s Department out here.”

Ash’s shoulders slumped.

“Can it wait?” She stood near the urine-soaked sofa and, in a weary gesture, pushed her hood off her head. Her gilt-blonde hair glowed phantom-like in the meager light. “Can’t I take care of that tomorrow?”

Brody hesitated.

“Maybe,” he said, fiddling with the door to see if it would shut. The jamb had been damaged. “But—”

“I’m just so tired,” she said in a worn-out voice. “There’s nothing in here I care about. It was only a place to sleep, close to the roadhouse.”

Christ.

He took in her blank expression and the odd detached air about her. The woman had clearly hit her exhaustion point. It stoked the fire inside him, causing it to roar higher, triggering another violent urge to break heads and punch walls. The compulsion warred with an equal need to heed the protective instinct clamoring inside him that advocated gently wrapping her in softness and then whisking her away to someplace trouble-free.

Fuck, she was so bad for him, the man who knew that peace and salvation lay in moderation.

The way she fueled his passions—across the spectrum—was the last thing Mad Dog Maddox’s son needed. Wished for his life.

He knew to what ugly and tragic ends such appetites could lead.

Not that he was any good for Ashlynn, either. That stupid jealousy. The obvious way he put up her hackles. The fact that the last orgasm he’d given her had made her cry.

He scrubbed his face with his hands.
What to do?

“Alexa,” he said out loud.

“Is that another one of your girlfriends?”

If she meant it to come out sharp, she failed. The barb was as dull as her voice.

He couldn’t stop himself from stepping closer to cup her cheek in his palm. Her skin was cold, and she trembled at his touch.

“We need to warm you up.”

“I’m fine.”

Stripping out of his jacket he draped it over her shoulders. Then he brushed her hair off her forehead.

“Alexa’s my brother’s fiancée. I’ll take you to her. She’ll rustle up some clothes, we’ll figure out a place for you to stay—”

“I have clothes. I have a place to stay.”

“You’re not spending the night here,” he said, firm on that.

“A different place. My…house. Where I grew up.”

Brody narrowed his eyes.

“I’m serious,” she said, annoyance giving a little life to her. “It’s not far.”

“Show me,” he said.

Her put-upon sigh but lack of further argument told him she recognized she couldn’t move him on this. So after they locked up the trailer as best they could, he trailed her back to the roadhouse’s parking lot. There, in the darkest corner, she had a sweet little silver Mercedes coupe. He watched her slip inside and then he had to hoof it to his SUV in order to follow her onto the narrow road that led back to Topanga Canyon Boulevard. But she took a turn not far from the roadhouse, bouncing over a skinny rut-and-gravel lane that led through lush, overgrown foliage.

She slowed as she came to a small clearing, and her car’s headlights illuminated a structure that looked like something he and Bing would have dreamed up when they were boys building fanciful forts in the canyon’s fissures behind the compound. He’d bet his business’s framed first dollar that the three-story whimsical residence was constructed of scavenged timber and architectural salvage. The trunk of a tree thrust through the second story deck. Many of the windows were stained glass. The siding was weathered and the front door painted a deep turquoise. As he climbed from his car, he realized that it was surrounded, almost like a moat, by forked arms of a burbling creek. Over one, a footbridge crossed the chattering water and led to the front entry.

BOOK: Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6)
5.53Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Sugar Rush by Rachel Astor
Davin's Quest by D'Arc, Bianca
The Indian School by Gloria Whelan
Outlaw Carson by Janzen, Tara
The House That Jack Built by Graham Masterton