Read Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6) Online

Authors: Christie Ridgway

Tags: #contemporary

Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6) (19 page)

BOOK: Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6)
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“She must always be the perfect doll.”

His brows shot up.
Hmm.
“Bing and I joke about being the bad twin and the good twin…”

“It was no joke in our case,” Ash said, still fiddling with her likeness. “We were always opposites. The fun and the serious, the tomboy and the girly girl, the twin Daddy loved and the twin who had Mother’s approval.”

Okay. He breathed out a long, silent breath. There was a minefield in front of him, and he must pick his way through carefully.

With a soothing hand, he stroked her silky hair. “It had to be difficult to be apart.” He remembered her saying she’d gone north with her mother while Brae had stayed with her dad in Topanga. “Not just to be separated from a parent, but especially to be separated from your twin sister.”

Ash looked at him then a frown formed between her brows. “You probably have the wrong idea.”

Something in her voice sent a premonition ghosting down his back.
Agree then get on your way!

But that sweet and battered face had a powerful hold over him. “Wrong idea?”

After a half second’s hesitation, she exited the kitchen and crossed the living room toward the area that had been the master bedroom before the removal of walls. One of the doors there led to the bathroom, he knew. The other opened onto a closet, and she delved inside to drag out a big suitcase.

“Come here,” she said, beckoning him over with one hand.

By the time he reached her side, she’d unzipped the bag and flung back the top. Brody blinked. Neat stacks of clothes filled the space, fine-gauge knit sweaters in ivory and shell pink, pants in black and brown and winter white. A pair of long black boots in smooth leather snuggled up to a similar pair in rich brown. All of the items appeared in pristine condition and very expensive…and quite unlike what he was accustomed to seeing on Ash.

Frowning, he glanced up. “You’re going on a business trip? Maybe an extended visit to the IRS or to the Federal Reserve Board?”

She laughed, and it eased the heaviness around his heart. But then her expression sobered, and she waved her hand, gesturing to garments at their feet.

“Those are the clothes I brought with me. Those clothes
are
me.”

Then she stepped over the piece of luggage and disappeared into the closet only to come out with an armful of silk, lace, velvet, and leather. She dumped the items—a red blouse, a purple skirt, an emerald scarf with long fringe, and a pair of suede jeans in cobalt blue—onto the couch.

“And
those
are Brae.”

He studied the items.

“They’re the ones you’ve been wearing at the roadhouse,” he guessed.

No, he knew. The night they’d run into each other at the music club on Sunset, she’d been in that low-cut top that now reposed over the arm of the sofa.

“I’m trying to be her…like her,” she corrected. “I always wanted to be more like Brae.”

Brody swallowed, desperate to touch Ash again, but there was that breakable air about her that made him afraid he’d put more bruises on her.

“I’m sure there are qualities about you that she admired, too.”

“Oh, no,” Ash said quickly, eyes big and serious. “The only thing I did better than her is please our mother—an ambition that my sister was too smart to hold.”

He thought of Bing, how they were both each other’s most strident critic…and biggest supporter. “How often did you see her?”

“For two weeks in the summer, here in Topanga, until I turned eighteen. Brae was supposed to come to us at Christmas, but that idea was abandoned when she was twelve and ran away instead of getting on the airplane.”

Through the windows behind her, Brody saw that it had started to rain, great sheets of the stuff the same silvery color as Ash’s eyes. “But you enjoyed your visits here?”

“I counted down the days.”

She glanced around, as if the sound of the storm had snagged her attention. “Uh-oh. You’d better leave now. It’s only forecast to get worse.”

Crossing the room, she picked up the jacket he’d tossed over a chair upon his arrival the night before and held it out.

“Yeah, good idea. I should go.”

Shouldn’t he? How many times had Ash mentioned it now? Clearly a signal that she desired to be alone. Last night, she’d invited him to share her sofa, not even her bed, so it should be no surprise there were parts of herself she wanted to still keep hidden from him.

He hadn’t suggested anything beyond being a mindless-fuck buddy, anyway.

He didn’t
want
to be more than that, right? Because he knew damn well that way could lead to calamity.

At the entryway, he paused. Then he turned. “Ash…”

Her body appeared tense, and she clasped her hands at her waist, her knuckles white. He saw her swallow.

“Really. You should leave.” Her tone sounded anxious. “Before it gets bad.”

His eyes narrowed. Before
what
got bad? The woman looked as if she was holding on by a thread. “What’s the matter, sweetheart?

“I…I have things to do.”

Another brush-off. Feeling stupid, he gave himself a mental ass-kick and reached for the door knob. As it swung open, the damp outside air slapped at him, cold and fresh. He stared out at the rain, still silvering the atmosphere, wetting the bushes and trees surrounding the clearing so that their verdant green glowed. Beneath the charming footbridge that separated him from his car, the creek splashed and gurgled. It was a secluded winter Eden, its beauty shared only by two.

“Breathtaking,” he murmured.

“For fifty weeks of the year, I’d remember it so,” Ash said from behind him. “Each time I arrived I believed I would finally get it right. That my dad would show an interest in my perfect report cards and the details of my field hockey team’s winning season.”

Oh, Ash.
He knew how that was, to be invisible to a parent or to have that parent be invisible to you.

“I would think every July that this would be the visit during which I bonded with my twin. That she wouldn’t roll her eyes when I cautioned against something unsafe—as I couldn’t stop myself from doing six or seven times a day. That she wouldn’t ditch me to run off with the friends she found infinitely more interesting and more entertaining than me.”

His chest filled, becoming uncomfortably heavy again. He turned to face her. Her eyes, the same shade as that drenching rain, were staring outward, but he thought they were actually focused on things only she could see.

Her voice lowered as if she was speaking to herself. “Every year I thought I could finally make them love me.”

Oh, hell.
He tried taking in air, but there didn’t seem to be enough of it to animate his body. Though he was supposed to be getting moving, getting away, leaving her as she’d asked, action was impossible.

Only feeling remained. Along with that sense of impending disaster that made his heart thump in a fierce and unsteady rhythm.

It was killing him. She should be a creature surrounded by security, wallowing in happiness, always wreathed in smiles. Trouble shouldn’t touch her.

Trouble touched them all, God, he knew that well, but he wanted to be the warm arms that could hold her up when the going got tough. His futile, fatal flaw.

A gust of wet wind blew through the door, sending her hair flying over her shoulders and misting her face. In an absent gesture, she wiped it from her cheeks.

“Now that I’m back,” she said, “half the time I don’t want to be here, but I can’t make myself walk away.”

His heart froze.

Her gaze lifted to his face. “Does that make any sense?”

All the fucking sense in the universe, because there was no way in the world he could walk away from her and this sudden certainty. This knowledge that…

Oh, hell. Calamity had arrived, right on cue. He was in love. He was in love with Ashlynn Childe.

The tattoo on the inside of his hip began to throb like it had when he’d been in the chair, under the needle. That carpenter’s level inked into his skin knew as well as he did that balance had become impossible now.

With his foot, he kicked out to slam shut the door. Ash jerked and her brow pleated, but that didn’t stop him from lifting her into his arms.

“We’re not done,” he ground out.

They’d never be done…at least on his side. Despite his intentions and his experiences, he’d fallen all the way. Christ.


Brody
?”

Ignoring the questioning note, he strode toward the sofa where he dropped her on top of the garments the roadhouse owner slipped on every day and beside the suitcase filled with those of the woman she had once been.

Now she was something in between, someone else…his.

The thought coursed through his bloodstream, hot and euphoric. And even that addicting sensation didn’t check him, though he knew of illegal substances that provided the same kind of high—before plunging the user into the darkest and dankest of lows.

Everything he’d never wanted felt sweet and necessary, and the best of what life had to offer when he took Ash once again into his arms.

Chapter 10

 

“Sozit a troll or a princess who lives in this funky place?”

Doug “Dozer” McDonald asked from the kitchen chair he’d dragged into the living area. Both his splayed posture and his half-closed eyes gave testament to the source of his nickname. He’d either had a late Saturday night or smoked weed instead of sitting in church first thing Sunday morning.

“It’s gotta be someone magical.”

Brody glanced over, deciding the guy had definitely lit up upon rolling out of bed. “It’s a person. A client.”

Not that Ash was paying for the job. This one, like the others he’d taken on at her house, was on him. As a matter of fact, she didn’t know what was happening at her home today because she’d gone in to the roadhouse early.

He’d never made it to his place the day before, and they’d spent another night on her couch. This morning, once Ash had left, he’d phoned his brother to bring him some fresh clothes.

To his relief, so far he hadn’t taken any shit about it.

“Nah, it’s a chick,” Dozer decided on a nod. “Has to be a chick, or else you wouldn’t be willing to pay overtime for a weekend work crew.”

“You’re getting paid, Doze?” Ren Colson frowned, then looked around at the other men—Bing, Payne, Reed, and Walsh, all Rock Royalty—whom Brody had rounded up to install a hidden beam in the Topanga house in place of the loadbearing wall that had been removed. Ash was lucky the second floor hadn’t pancaked onto the first before now. “I was only promised beer and all the wings I can eat.”

“Because they only want you for brawn,” Dozer said. “To shoulder that beam into place. I got real talent, though. That costs something.”

Brody ordered the guys on one end of the heavy wooden piece to edge it up another few inches. There were more elegant ways to perform the procedure, but with this group available, he’d decided to construct a couple of temporary walls and then use brute strength, ladders, and some concrete bricks to get the job done.

Then Dozer would begin the cosmetic work of patching the hole cut in the ceiling drywall. No lie, the dude was an artist. When he was finished, not a single blemish would give away that there’d been reconstructive surgery.

Bing jerked his chin to indicate another lift, and Brody applied breath and muscle. Then he stepped back, using his forearm to blot the bead of sweat on his brow.

He welcomed the exertion. When he was putting his energy into something, whether to drive into the tight sheath of Ash’s body, or to find new ways to please her with his mouth and fingers, his brain didn’t dwell on the chilling conclusion it had come to the day before.

In love? Surely he’d been wrong about that.

Doze lifted his head, his nose twitching. “This chick smells good. Can I meet her?”

“No,” Brody spit out. “And stop that sniffing.”

Dozer’s eyes widened. “Whoa. Crap mood. Dry spell for tail?”

“Yeah,” Walsh chimed in. “Dry spell for tail?”

“I’m somehow doubting that, since Bro needed me to bring him a change of clothes today,” his twin said. “To this very address.”

“Here?” Doze asked.

“Here,” Bing confirmed, betraying everything brotherly.

Brody’s eyes shot daggers at him. “Maybe I stayed the night because she…she doesn’t like silverfish.”

Okay, lame, but he hadn’t been prepared for the grilling.

“Awww.” Pretty-boy Payne smirked. “I don’t like insects, either. Will you have a sleepover with me?”

“Fuck you,” Brody muttered. “Now everybody get back to work.”

But that didn’t shut down the topic of women. It was well-known amongst the trades that drywallers and mudders were the biggest gossips in the business. Even stoned, Dozer managed to fill them in on the romantic/pornographic escapades of several people they knew, and several more they didn’t, as the new beam installation was completed.

When the piece was in place and secured, the drywaller crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s a beautiful world, no?” he said. “Love is everywhere.

Yeah. Absolutely stoned. Brody tossed bottles of water to the crew.

“Dozer, you just told us about your buddy who managed to screw all the bridesmaids of a wedding party. At the same time. In the back of the limo while leaving the church. To anyone here but Payne, maybe, that doesn’t seem to be the height of romance.”

Payne scowled. “Hey—”

“Love is everywhere,” Doze repeated in a stubborn tone.

Brody rolled his eyes, then rolled them back when he felt the eerie sensation of someone staring at him. Someones. His brother and his brothers-in-arms were all watching him with expressions ranging from interested to amused.

“You shouldn’t fight it, Brody,” Walsh counseled.

What? Could the whole world read his mind? He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well—”

“Break time.” Alone, Brody stalked out of the house and onto the front porch. He sank to the second step, water bottle in hand, and stared into the afternoon gloom of another day on the verge of rain.
Don’t fight it.

Well, shit, of course he was going to fight it.

BOOK: Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6)
3.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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