Good Girl Page 58

“Now, princess, got any more of those zip ties?”

A long time later, my wrists are just sore enough to give me pleasant memories of the thoroughly depraved things he did to my body, Noah’s arm is wrapped low on my waist, and the dogs are doing their best to zap all the romance out of the moment, Ranger lying on his back on the other side of Noah, Dolly curled in a tiny ball between our two heads on the pillow.

The moment is perfect.

Almost perfect.

But as I lie there staring at the ceiling, I can’t help but lift my fingers to my lips, wondering why he won’t kiss me.

Wondering if he ever will.


If you’d told me a month ago I’d be taking Jenny Dawson on a date to a swanky Italian restaurant in Baton Rouge, I’d have laughed in your face.

I’d have told you that guys like me don’t date girls like her. I’d have told you that I don’t want to date a girl like her.

Hell, I’m not even sure it is a date.

But as she sits across from me, relentlessly asking the waiter a thousand questions about the wine list, I’m struck not only by the realization that it feels like a date, but by the realization that I want it to be one.

Fuck this girl and her addictive everything.

“Jenny,” I interrupt when she opens her mouth to ask what exactly “smoky” means as it pertains to red wine. “Get the Montepulciano.”

Her nose wrinkles. “The what?”

“Excellent choice, sir,” the server says in relief. “And for you?”

“I’ll have the same.”

She leans forward. “What did you just order me?”

“It’s good. If you don’t like it, you can send it back. But I needed to save that poor waiter from your inquisition.”

Her eyes narrow as she reaches toward the breadbasket. “How do you know so much about wine, anyway?”

“I don’t.” It’s a lie. I know plenty about wine, and she’s obviously caught on to that.

Alarm bells go off in my head.

“You know a lot more than a guy who grew up in a trailer park and spends his days doing carpentry and woodworking is likely to know. And yes, I know I’m stereotyping, but you just ordered for me like I was the little woman, so let’s go with it and say we’re even.”

I lift my water glass and don’t quite meet her eyes. “My father was…uppity.”

She doesn’t even pause in her chewing except to drag the bread through the saucer of seasoned olive oil in the middle of the table. “Go on.”

I hesitate, wondering how much I can tell her without giving myself away. Without revealing that I may have told a not-so-insignificant lie about my identity. Without revealing that I’m Preston Walcott and that I’m her landlord, and oh, by the way, I’ve been lying to you for over a month.

“He was married to someone else when he met my mother,” I say, reaching for a piece of bread, even though talking about my father tends to make me lose my appetite. “She did a part-time stint as a housekeeper. His housekeeper. Couldn’t have been more of a cliché if she was the nanny, although I found out later he slept with the nanny too.”

“Your nanny?”

I snort. “No. I was fourteen before I even knew my dad existed.”

“Oh,” she said quietly. “Your brother’s nanny.”

I nod. “Far as I can tell, Caleb was my dad and Andi’s—that’s my father’s ex—everything. He was some sort of musical prodigy. He got sick when he was in junior high. A rare cancer that just destroyed his body. And my father.”

“When did you come into the picture?” she asks quietly.

I wait until our server sets the wineglasses in front of us before answering. “I was the stand-in.”

She shakes her head, not understanding.

“Other than child support payments, my father only came into my life after Caleb died. The heir was gone, so…” I spread my hands to the side. “The spare.”

“Wow. Wow. That must have been jarring.”

You have no idea.

I pick up my wine. “I got by.”

Jenny rolls her eyes. “I get it. You’re a big tough man. But it had to be an adjustment.”

I take a drink of wine and relent just a little. Hard to deny those big blue eyes anything, especially when she’s wearing a little black dress and fuck-me heels. Even with the ugly orange wig, she’s hot as hell.

“It was jarring,” I admit. “Like I said, my mom and I had a tiny trailer. It was small for the two of us, even smaller when she had a boyfriend, which was mostly always. My dad’s house, by comparison, was huge. Andi was gone by that point—Caleb’s death tore their already shaky marriage apart at the seams.”

She sips her own wine, her eyes never leaving mine. “Wait, so you went from living at your mom’s trailer park to…a mansion?”

“Sort of,” I say with a forced smile. “My father was insistent I attend prep school, and it was the one thing he and my mom ever agreed on. So weekdays were spent with my dad, weekends with my mom. Standard child-of-divorce fare, except…”

“Except your dad was a stranger,” she finishes for me.

I shrug. “Yeah. That.”

“Was it terrible?” she asks.

I smile, this time for real, because I love that she doesn’t beat around the bush, just blurts everything out, honest and earnest. “Not so much. I had a friend back in the trailer park who was there for me no matter what.”

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