Good Girl Page 8

The truth is, I didn’t tell her my name because for a crushing moment I didn’t want to be Preston Walcott Jr., heir to this, that, and the other thing.

I wanted to go back.

Back to a simpler time when I knew myself only as Noah Maxwell. Back when I believed my mother’s quiet claims that my father was dead. Back before he’d shown up on my fourteenth birthday, informed me that the brother I didn’t know I had was dead and that his wife had left him, and asked if I wanted to come live with him, though it wasn’t optional.

I hadn’t wanted anything to do with him or the life he offered.

But then the bastard had dangled the one carrot in front of my mother that she hadn’t been able to say no to: education.

I’d been enrolled at the Academy the very next day, and by the time I graduated and headed to LSU, my only connection to that former life was Finn and a fragile, strained relationship with my mother.

“I called off the wedding,” I say quickly, quietly, as Jenny and her dumb dog start making their way back toward us, her steps careful as she tries to navigate the uneven ground with those ridiculous shoes.

“Come again?” Vaughn says.

Finn swears and rubs a hand over his hand. “Shit, man.”

“Why?” Vaughn asks. “Yvonne Damascus is perfect.”

“For someone like you, maybe,” Finn mutters, earning a middle finger from Vaughn.

“Can we not?” I say wearily. “I don’t want to talk about it. I just…I need some time. Away.”

“So book a trip to the Bahamas. Don’t stay here,” Vaughn says, looking around in horror as he smooths a hand over the shitty purple tie.

Finn reaches for his cigarettes. “Country Club’s right. You’ve got money, man. Use it.”

I do have money. More than I know what to do with.

Jenny Dawson is back in hearing range, and as I find myself checking out those long legs, I wonder if Finn and Vaughn are right. If I need to escape, spending time with this diva is not the way to do it.

But here’s the douchebag part of all this, where I tell you I feel some weird connection to this place I haven’t ever been to before today—a place I didn’t even know existed until a few days ago.

My dad left me a shit-ton of property, more fancy cars than I know what to do with, and enough money to employ an entire fleet to take care of both. This is the one thing to my name that feels like it can be mine. Already my mind is racing with the sheer number of projects around here to keep my hands busy. To keep my thoughts off…things.

“I’m staying,” I say out of the corner of my mouth. “And not a word to the pop princess here about my real name.”

“She’s a country singer,” Finn says.

I snort. “Barely.”

“Heard that,” Jenny says sweetly with a smile that doesn’t even pretend to be real.

She teeters over to her car in her sexy shoes, setting Dolly in the backseat before she rummages around for something in the front passenger seat, giving all three of us a rather prime view of her backside.

Ranger’s no longer the only one whose tongue is lolling out of his mouth.

“Here we go,” she says, emerging a moment later with some paper and a pen.

“What’s this?” Finn asks as she flutters a piece of paper in his direction.

“An NDA.”

“A what?” Finn asks.

“Nondisclosure agreement,” Vaughn supplies.

There’s no mockery in Vaughn’s tone for once, but I sense Finn stiffen anyway. The man doesn’t have a lot of soft spots, but feeling dumb is one of them. Especially when compared to Vaughn.

“Mr. Walcott here’s already signed one,” she says, gesturing at Vaughn, who’s signed no such thing.

I, of course, have already signed it, but I sign this one as well, as Noah Maxwell.

“Sign it,” I snap at Finn. “It just says that you can’t tell anyone you saw her here.”

“Well, that sucks,” he mutters as he scribbles his name across the bottom of the paper.

“Perfect,” she says with a little wink for Finn. “You never saw me. Got it?”

Finn shrugs. “Sure.”

She gives me an expectant look, and I glare at her. “I’m stuck here with you, princess. Who’m I gonna tell, the mosquitos?”

“Well, you’ll have to leave the property at some point,” she says pragmatically. “Surely you get a day off. How do I know you won’t tell people at the local Piggly Wiggly or whatever?”

I glance at Vaughn. “Boss? Do I get time off?”

“Sure. Whatever. Two days off,” Vaughn says impatiently, obviously tiring of the game.

Time to wrap this up.

“I’ll need to go get some food,” I say. “You’re a day early, and we weren’t prepared.”

“I’m sorry about that,” she says, sounding genuinely contrite. “I emailed and then tried to call, asking if it was okay, but the call went straight to voicemail.”

“No service out here.”

I say that with no small amount of glee, expecting her to freak out, but she sighs in relief. “Perfect. That’s perfect. And I stopped at the store on the way. Plenty for both of us. I‘m assuming you‘re living in that little cottage? The one where the Eddingtons lived.”

That little cottage.

As in the caretaker’s cottage that I didn’t know existed, much less where it’s actually located.

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