Filthy Rage (Second Chance With My Brother's Best Friend, Book Five)

BOOK: Filthy Rage (Second Chance With My Brother's Best Friend, Book Five)
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Filthy Rage (Second Chance With My Brother's Best Friend, Book Five)
Filthy Rage (Second Chance With My Brother's Best Friend, Book Five)
Paige North
Favor Ford Publishing

© 2016 by Paige North

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.


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Filthy Rage (Second Chance With My Brother's Best Friend, Book Five) by Paige North

andon’s shoulders were stiff
, his hands balled up as he watched my brother stalk out. Matt shook his head, refusing to look back as he stormed away, as if he couldn’t believe what I’d just done to him.

I’d just spilled his secret, the fact that he had cancer, in public. Yelled it at the top of my lungs, essentially.

My heart climbed up my throat but I couldn’t place the emotions swirling in my chest. Regret? Not exactly. I was
of my brothers lies. Of the way he sat back and judged everyone, acted like he was perfect.

But I didn’t want to hurt him, either. I’d lashed out in a moment of frustration.
moment, in front of all these strangers, was the wrong one to choose.

The door swung shut behind him, cutting off the too-sunny skies. And then it was just the rest of us—too many people crammed into this space. There should’ve been a measure of quiet peace, a unity in the grief.

But instead this felt more like war, with no common enemy.

In the near-silence that followed my brother’s departure, the pews in the room creaked. The attention had returned to Landon, a few dozen pairs of eyeballs glued to the scene before them.

I could hear my own heartbeat, hear Landon’s raspy breathing as he tried to rein in his emotions.

“Landon,” his mother called, still standing at the podium.

I’d nearly forgotten her, short as she was, half-hidden behind the speaker’s stand. I wanted to be proud of her, for the way she held her head high, her shoulders square as she faced off with her son.

But there was also an uncertainty to her expression. A plea in her eyes. I wanted to ask her if she believed everything she’d just said about Landon’s father, or if she felt she had to say it. Maybe this eulogy was how she’d convinced herself she hadn’t spent three decades married to a monster.

 “What?” Landan snapped at her. “Are we going to keep this charade going longer? Tell a few more lies?”

 “Hey,” I whispered, gripping his arm.  He turned to me, anger storming in his eyes. “Your mom’s not the enemy.”

 A muscle ticked in his jaw, but he didn’t move. Didn’t speak.

“Why don’t we just get out of here?” he said. “I think we’ve heard enough.”

 He flicked a glance over his shoulder, to where his mom still stood at the podium. Even as he hated everything she was saying, I could see he didn’t want to leave her. His temper and his loyalty battled for space.

“Let’s just go,” I agreed, pushing his arm. I could tell this wasn’t going to get any better by sticking around. The damage had been done.

Landon glanced between me and his mom, as if debating. I knew I had pushed him to do this—to come here and lay his father to rest—but this wasn’t a funeral. It was a charade, and more lies wouldn’t help him heal.

I knew enough of his father to know that Landon’s version was the truth. I’d seen the split lips, the bruises, the back eye. Whatever his mother was saying up there, she might’ve wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t real.

And there was no point in the two of us listening any longer. We were a distraction, anyway—no one could look away from the two of us, standing near the front. If she wanted to keep up this act, if it made her feel better, it would be best if we weren’t here.

He nodded, stepping away from the benches and into the aisle. I followed him toward the door, but he hesitated at the back, his eyes turning cold.

I twisted around, taking in the image of Alexa walking up and putting a hand on his mother’s shoulder. As if to comfort her.

As if she gave a crap about Landon’s mother.

“She’s not worth it,” I said, pushing him toward the door again. Landon cursed under his breath, shaking his head and allowing me to lead him back out into the summer sun. The earlier rainclouds had burned off, leaving the pavement with a dark, wet sheen.

“Well that was a whole lot of bullshit,” he said, loosening his tie the moment we were out the door. “I knew she’d give it all a rose-colored tint, but I had no idea she’d fabricate everything.”

“At least you didn’t proclaim your brother’s cancer diagnosis to a crowded room,” I offered, cringing.

The clouds in his expression shifted, just a little, and a hint of a smile played at his lips. “I admit, I didn’t see that coming.”

“Neither did he.”

Landon held my door open, and I slipped into the car, sinking back into the seat in relief. The church had been so charged with emotion, I wasn’t sure I could’ve handled much more even without Landon’s outburst. Funerals were supposed to be… somber. Maybe a little bit of peace and quiet as people come to terms with their loss.

“So what do we do now?” I ask, as Landon fired up the car.

Landon glanced at his phone, then flipped it onto silent. “I have a clear schedule, and I could use a drink.”

“Sounds good to me,” I said.

We crossed town, and while I expected Landon to pull in at the martini lounge where he’d celebrated the launch of Prestige, instead we stopped outside a hole in the wall Tavern with a faux hitching post out front. The paint was peeling, and the windows looked dark.

I raised a brow, staring at him.

“What? Sometimes a man just needs a PBR.”

I snorted. “There’s no way you’re ordering a PBR.” Maybe as a teenager he would’ve, but I could no longer picture him drinking from a cheap can. His tastes had… grown since those years.

We climbed out of the car, and he stared at me over the roofline. “You’re right. Believe it or not they have a ton of microbrew on draft, and the taps are covered in ice. That sign’s not lying.”

I followed his pointed finger, to a fading vinyl banner proclaiming
coldest beer in town.

He led me to through the front door, into a dimly lit bar. The phrase
dive bar
pretty much fit this place to a T. I figured any second Guy Fieri was going to pop out from behind the counter and ask how we felt about the pork sliders.

Old tin signs were nailed to the walls, and barely functioning neon signs hung in the windows. Two pool tables with faded green felt took up the back half of the room. The counter was chipped and the seats cracked. But the bar back was old carved wood, with a not-quite-clean mirror behind towers of bottles and glasses.

We sat at the end of the bar, where a series of tap handles were coated in ice.

“How does that work?” I asked, nodding at the taps. “Why doesn’t it just melt?”

“I don’t know,” he said, staring at them. “Magic. I don’t question the deliciousness of an icy cold the beer.”

I snorted. “And to think you own a multi-billion-dollar company.”

He turned, taking me in. “Sports medicine I understand. You’re the chemist, you ought to know how they get the ice to grow like that.”

“You say grow like it’s a plant.”

He stared me down, challenging me to come up with a better answer.

“The actual tap is probably a tube, right? So the reason this is so big,” I said, pointing to the taps, “Is that they surround the tubing with something else. Probably ethanol glycol.”

“See, told you you’d know.”

I elbowed him in the ribs. “I’m going to go use the restroom. Order me whatever you’re having.”

I left him at the bar, navigating a tangled path of stools and tables and ducking into a bathroom at the back.

Inside, I stared at my reflection. My swept back hair and cardigan were too much outside a funeral. I slipped off the sweater and then pulled my hair out of the French-twist, letting it tumble down my shoulders and fluffing it up a bit. I stepped back, taking in the tight curves of the dress, and had to admit that it looked pretty good on me.

I might not have looked as good as Alexa had, but I dressed up okay.

Besides, he didn’t want her. She was nothing more than a roadblock—still his
—but I was now confident he held no feelings for her.

I still wasn’t sure what was supposed to happen now that the funeral was over. Would I go back to Texas? The thought made my heart twist. I was glad it was Saturday—I could always take a red eye back on Sunday night, if it came to that.

I washed my hands and then headed back into the bar. A glass was sitting on a paper coaster at the bar in front of where I’d been sitting, a thin layer of slushy ice floating on top.

“Hope you like IPA,” Landon said, taking a swig.

I followed suit, the liquid almost cold enough to give me brain freeze.

“Dang,” I said. “That’s good.”

He clinked his glass to mine. “To building a future and forgetting about the past.”

“To the future,” I repeated, not quite sure what he was getting at. Was it our past, he meant, or Landon’s past with his father? I didn’t want to think about him trying to forget me.

More importantly, what future did he even picture for himself? Was I beside him?

I wanted to ask. I wanted to push. But Landon was lighter now than he’d been at the funeral. He was relaxed on his bar stool, as if relieved it was all over. It wasn’t the right time to push for answers.

“You okay now?”

He nodded. “I acted out of line back there. I’ll have to talk to my mother at some point and let her know. I won’t apologize for speaking the truth, but I shouldn’t have embarrassed her that way. I probably shouldn’t have gone.”

“I pushed you to.”

“I make my own decisions. You know that. I don’t do things I don’t want to do.”

I think he meant to absolve me of any responsibility in what had just happened, but somehow his words got under my skin. Landon was decisive and strong-willed, and hard to sway. My ability to convince him to attend his father’s wake—and subsequent funeral—had meant something to me. Because I wanted to make him better.

I wanted to be his confidant, and to have him listen to me. But what if that wish was impossible?

I twisted in my stool, so that my knees were between his legs, and we were facing one another. “So maybe you should’ve been a little more tactful.”

“I barged around like a bull.”

I snorted. “That’s true. But it’s not the end of the world. She’ll forgive you.”

“I think I’m going to buy her a house,” he said, abruptly.

“Uh,” I replied, “I mean I don’t think it would take a house to get her forgiveness.”

He shook his head. “No, not to buy her forgiveness. I tried to get her a house last year. The one she’s living in needs a new roof, new wiring. My dad didn’t keep up with any of the maintenance. So I found a nice two bed room, in walking distance to her best friend. It was in escrow and everything. But when my dad found out, he called me in a rage. Said he had provided for her for thirty years, he could do it for thirty more.”


“Yeah. I can’t imagine she’ll want to stay in that place without him. Too many memories. I called my realtor yesterday, she emailed me some listings.”

“Anything good?”

“A few. One I’m confident she’ll like.”

“What will you do with the old house?”

He sipped at his beer. “Fix it up. Turn it into a rental, so my mom will have some income of her own.”

I drew a squiggly line on the condensation on my glass. “So you’ve thought of everything.”

He sighed, setting his glass down. “She deserved better than what I did today. A house is the least I can do.”

“It’s a start.”

“You’re not going back, are you?” he asked.

I crinkled my brow. “To the funeral?”

“Dallas,” he said, his eyes piercing into mine. As if he didn’t trust the answer unless he could see it there, in the depths of my gaze.

“Oh.” I licked my lips, not sure what to say. “I mean, I think so.”

He rested a hand on my knee. “You can still work for Prestige. The team would be lucky to have you.”

I frowned. “It feels like a short cut, somehow. You of all people surely understand how it feels to want to prove yourself.”

“It’s not a shortcut. You’d have to go back to school, maintain a high GPA. No one at Prestige has to know about us.”

What was there to know, anyway? The fact that I was sleeping with their boss?

That I was in love with him?

I stared down at his hand on my knee, wishing that was true. “Secrets never stay hidden, Landon. People would know. And then every day when I walked through those doors, I’d be that girl who slept her way to the top.”

“I will
anyone who dares say that about you.”

The emotion ins his voice caught me off guard. The protectiveness of it, vehemence.

I tore my gaze away from his hand, looking him dead in the eye again. “They won’t say it. They’ll think it. Surely you know what it means to earn someone’s respect. To deserve it.”

“Tell me how to make you stay,” he said. “Tell me what to do, what to say to you to keep you here.”

“See, that’s the thing,” I said, sipping at my beer. “I want you to just know without me having to tell you.”

“Maybe that’s because you don’t know what you want,” he offered.

I smiled and shook my head. “It’s not that easy, Landon.”

His thumb brushed back and forth against my bare skin.

“I won’t let you go,” he said.

I shook my head, a smile playing at the edges of my lips. “You hate it when you can’t control something, don’t you?”

“I’m used to getting what I want. And I want you. In town.”

“I’ll think about it.”

His eyes searched mine, as if there was more to the answer, more words hidden in their depths. But I was telling the truth—I didn’t know what I was going to do about the internship.

If I turned my back on it now, there wouldn’t be a third chance. And Professor Valdez wouldn’t vouch for me again.

He probably wouldn’t even let me back into the chemistry department.

“Can I ask you a question?” Landon asked.


“Why chemistry? Little girls don’t grow up saying they want to be chemists. I remember you saying you wanted to be a teacher. When did you turn to chemistry?”

I picked up an errant paper coaster, peeling it open to avoid looking at him. “I’ve always been more logic based. I liked math over English. Chemistry over poetry. When my mom got sick, everything was so confusing and out of my control, you know? The world didn’t make sense any more. So I focused on anything I could control.”

BOOK: Filthy Rage (Second Chance With My Brother's Best Friend, Book Five)
4.58Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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