Read Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6) Online

Authors: Christie Ridgway

Tags: #contemporary

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

BOOK: Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6)
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What?

“I’m going to stay here in the canyon and run the roadhouse.” She swallowed. “Permanently.”

“Have you been drinking?” Carol sounded stupefied.

More than once since her arrival, but at the moment Ashlynn was stone cold sober.

“I’m staying here. That’s my decision.”

“There was never a question!”

“It was left to me, and making a go of it is what I plan to do.”

“But…but…” Carol sputtered, clearly appalled that her daughter was showing some backbone for once. “How will this work?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Ashlynn admitted, “but I’m going to give it my best shot.”

A long silence passed, then she heard her mother suck in a long, deliberate breath.

“I’m planning a party,” she said, her tone firm. “Because you’ll be back by your birthday.”

Her assurance struck Ashlynn’s heart like a mallet.

Still, she squared her shoulders.

“Not a chance,” she replied, mustering her resolve to take charge of her life.

She’d made a stand and she meant to follow through. Now that she’d declared she was going to run the family business, the last thing she wanted was to fail and be forced back to the Bay Area with her tail between her legs.

Her mother would
tsk-tsk
and assert yet again—as she had seventeen years before—that Ashlynn was never meant for life in Topanga.

This time things would be different.
She
would be different.

 

A truck idled at the curb outside B&B Construction’s latest Malibu project. Brody looked over from his place on the home’s front porch to see his brother in the driver’s seat, beckoning.

“Lunch,” Bing called through the open window.

It was mid-afternoon, the weather cool and partly cloudy.

“I’d planned to skip it.” Then maybe head home early to slump in front of the TV until sleep overtook him.

If sleep would overtake him.

“Get in,” Bing urged. “You look like shit. A meal will do you good.”

Yeah, he was probably right. Brody hadn’t eaten much in the last couple of days, either. He climbed into the passenger seat. They usually took Friday lunch together to hash over business concerns before the weekend, but he’d thought his twin was otherwise occupied today.

“Don’t you have a meeting with that plumbing parts supplier?”

“He had to cancel. So I drove out here to get you.”

“Okay.” Brody relaxed into the bucket seat and leaned his head against the rest as his brother drove along the Pacific Coast Highway. The traffic kept their pace to a medium-crawl, and the partial sun coming in the windshield warmed his body. A pleasant drowsiness began to fog his mind, and he closed his eyes to allow them a brief rest.

“Where’re we going to eat?” he mumbled.

If his brother answered, he didn’t hear the words. Instead, the next thing Brody became aware of was Bing jostling his shoulder.

“Wake up, Sleeping Beauty.”

Brody straightened, blinking. The truck had come to a stop in a parking lot, its nose facing lush greenery. They could have driven for fifteen minutes or fifteen hours. Forehead pleating, he glanced around, then saw the building over his shoulder.

Shit.
He scrubbed both hands over his face, trying to come fully alert. “What the hell are we doing at Satan’s Roadhouse?”

“I figured you must know the place,” Bing said, “when some dude named Gus caught up to me when I was leaving Cami’s performance the other night.”

“I know the place,” Brody agreed. “That doesn’t explain why we’re here.”

His brother shrugged. “He didn’t get there are two of us. Wanted to encourage me—well, you—not to delay dropping by to assess their reno needs as you seemed to have promised. I have his card, but I thought we could just stop in since we weren’t far and we need to eat.”

Brody clunked his skull against the leather of the headrest. He’d never intended on following through with that offer…especially not after kissing Ashlynn again—most especially not when he’d kissed her even as the perfect woman for him was just a few feet away, waiting with all her kindergarten-teacher earnestness in his car.

Christ
, he thought, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Self-sabotage must be my middle name.

“What’s the matter?” his brother asked.

“I—”

He stopped, thinking better of giving an explanation. It was none of his brother’s business whom he fucked. And ever since Bing had gone all-in with Alexa, he was annoyingly nosy about his brother’s personal life. Yeah, he got that his twin had been worried about Brody’s benders, but he didn’t need a babysitter, and he didn’t want to try to explain why Ash had gotten so far beneath his skin over the course of one single night.

He didn’t know the reason himself.

An image of them crystallized in his mind. Her skin glowing in the soft, apricot-colored light from the small lamp beside the bed. The glimmer of dawn coming through a narrow window adding more illumination to reveal her pale hair spread on the pillow, her sooty lashes against her cheeks. His big body hovering over her much more delicate frame, his cock still buried inside her. Tiny pulses of her inner muscles continued to caress him as she calmed from her latest orgasm.

Her flushed face had been so appealing that even though his breath had been rocky, his pulse still thundering, he’d dropped his head to feather his lips to her ear. He’d tongued her there, then whispered, “Delicious,” and kissed her cheek.

He’d shifted to the other side of her face, where he’d dropped a second kiss. “Sweet.”

Then he’d pressed his lips to her soft, swollen mouth.

“Wild,” he’d whispered.

When he’d lifted his head, he’d realized she’d begun to cry. An ache had spread through his chest, radiating pain as he stared down at her. Though he’d wanted to lick away those glistening drops rolling along her perfect skin to her temples, some superstition had stopped him—some idea rooted in fairy tales or who-knew-where that if he tasted the tears of this beautiful, fantastical creature that he’d be cursed or enslaved or both.

For life.

So he’d rolled off her and gathered her into his arms, letting her continue to weep, her sadness a searing, wet brand upon his skin. Until she fallen asleep, he’d held her in silence.

As he was silent now, because he didn’t want to tell his brother that following the best sex of his life the woman he’d been buried inside had looked up at him with drenched eyes filled with abject accusation. As if he’d killed her brand new kitten.

Or broken her heart.

Stupid thought. Stupid, stupid thought.

He kicked it out of his head now, knowing it was those tears that had gnawed at him every day and every night since they’d been together. They were what had kept her in his mind and made him feel…feel…under some sort of obligation to her.

But hell, he didn’t owe her. Yeah, he hadn’t asked her why she’d cried, but he also hadn’t inquired why she’d picked him out of the crowd that night. They didn’t owe each other secrets or explanations or any single damn thing.

“Are we going in, or what?” Bing asked, a dark brow winging up.

“Sure.”

Not that he was going to get involved with the blonde again by doing business with her, but he could have some goddamn lunch and keep his brother’s suspicions at bay at the same time. Refusing now would seem fishy to his meddlesome twin.

After all, Ash probably wouldn’t be inside the place.

And she wasn’t.

That loosened the knot of muscle between Brody’s shoulders as he took a seat at one of the many wooden four-tops. The building wasn’t much to look at on the outside, and inside it was no-frills too. A scarred, L-shaped bar and a lot of battered tables and chairs. The menus were laminated. Several were stacked beneath a silver napkins-holder by his elbow.

It popularity wasn’t due to its sumptuous design scheme. But the seediness was part of its allure, he supposed, along with a long and wide selection of craft beers and generous pours from the bartender. Then there was the music. It came from a custom jukebox that was connected to the house speakers. It was quiet now, but for a couple of quarters patrons could queue up a song from an eclectic selection of new and old music—blues, country, and rock.

A girl showed up with pebbled plastic cups of ice water and a friendly smile. Her jeans were topped by a fitted red T-shirt that said “Satan’s Roadhouse” in black lettering above a drawing of a devil riding a motorcycle with ape-hanger handlebars.

His fingertips remembered the sleek heat of Ash’s belly as he drew up the hem of a similar top she’d worn that night, though hers had been white and the writing and illustration a glittery silver. Beneath it—

Shit.

He forcefully tuned back in to the present to hear his brother order iced tea and a cheeseburger with the works.

“I’ll have the same,” Brody said.

As the server ambled off, Bing leaned back in his chair, looked around. “Well…”

“The roof looks like it’s about to go, those windows are a million years old, and I took a leak in the bathroom the last time I was here. It was a disaster, too.”

“Definitely needs some reno.”

“Yeah, but we don’t need the work.”

“I don’t know.” Bing had flipped his menu to the back page which showed a black-and-white photo and several single-spaced paragraphs. “This place has an interesting past. You’re always complaining about those tear-downs we do. Clearing out the old for the too big and too shiny.”

“That’s Alexa.”

“You say it as well.” His brother tapped the menu with a fingertip. “We could help preserve some real Southern California history, Bro.”

Only a little curious, Brody flipped his menu over and skimmed the paragraphs. These four walls had started out as a café in the 1920s when Hollywood stars built cottages in the canyon for weekend getaways. The arrival of Prohibition meant illegal hooch was dropped off on the Malibu beaches then smuggled into the canyon. That was when the establishment took the name Satan’s Roadhouse and found a next life as a speakeasy.

When booze was no longer illegal, it had gone from an illicit saloon to a popular nightclub featuring performers of blues and jazz. By the 1960s it was a hangout for the folk rock set and then…

Brody looked up at his brother. “So Jim Morrison was supposed to have written ‘Roadhouse Blues’ about this place.”

“And later,” Bing said, running his finger along the printed lines, “it says the Lemons played here, too. Just another reason to do our part to keep it in good working order.”

With a snort, Brody shook his head. “Or torch it. I sometimes wonder why we don’t take a match to the Laurel Canyon compound.”

“Not that easy to get rid of memories.”

“Yeah.” Truer words and all that.

Bing narrowed his eyes. “I’ll ask it again—what’s going on with you?”

Clearing his expression, Brody put his menu aside. “Not a thing.”

The drinks arrived, and he hoped that distraction would provide a reprieve. But when the server walked away, his brother nudged Brody’s work boot with his own steel toe.

“What are you thinking about? Lynn?”

Ashlynn.
It didn’t get past Brody that her name and that other were so very close. “Leave it be.”

“You don’t,” his twin said. “Are you still visiting her mother? Tightening table legs and reminding her how to use her TV remote control?”

“Yeah.” Their late friend’s mom lived alone and looked forward to his visits. “It’s the least I can do.”

That
was
a legitimate debt that hung around his neck.

“You’re right. Shit.” Bing ran a hand over his face. “I sounded like an ass. We should…we should go there together sometime.”

Brody’s brows lifted. “Really?”

He nodded. “Really. If you think…”

“She’d welcome you,” Brody assured him, then studied the face so like his own. “Lex is softening you up.”

His brother kicked him. “Not in the slightest. That woman—”

“No.” Brody put up his hands. “I don’t want to hear about your sex life.”

“Jealous?”

Nuh-uh. I don’t imagine anything could be as good as that night—

Thank God, their burgers came, interrupting that runaway train of thought.

The food was good. Hot. The fries crisp. There was a relish between the crispy-edged buns and the juicy patty that the server shared was an old family recipe made from zucchinis grown on the property.

Only in Topanga.

“We could stipulate we get paid partly in food,” Bing said. “This is damn good.”

Brody kept his voice calm. Assured. “This isn’t the project for us.”

“Why not? We get a toehold in this canyon, and you know more business in the area will follow.”

“We don’t need more business.”

Bing rolled his eyes. “We work for ourselves. We always need more business. We
like
more business.”

Brody sighed, knowing his twin was right. Money was not the issue. They didn’t need money. They had money. But they liked this kind of work, the challenge, the creativity involved in their projects. It had been that way ever since they were little kids making forts on the hills and in the ravines behind the compound where they grew up.

No doubt a shrink would say their childhood pastime that had become their adult profession gave them security—the sense that they had control over their world and that permanence existed within it. If they made a shelter, it remained, unlike their mother who’d left them, their friend who’d died too soon, Mad Dog Maddox who hadn’t been a reliable adult in their lives, let alone anything close to a father figure.

“You’re here!” a voice boomed out.

Brody glanced over his shoulder and saw Gus, the man he’d seen with Ash the other night, approaching their table. Early thirties, he had a bushy beard already graying. Worn jeans and a flannel shirt covered his hefty body.

His feet stuttered to a stop as he did a classic double-take.

“Yeah,” he said, then thumped his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Twins. I’d forgotten.”

“Bing,” his brother said, rising to his feet to grip the man’s hand.

BOOK: Wild Child (Rock Royalty #6)
7.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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