Perfect for fans of J. S. Scott and Emma Chase, Hendrix introduces the wild and sexy Caldwell boys—three brothers who are living up to their legendary names in Detroit Rock City.
Hendrix Caldwell wants nothing more than to revitalize the family bar—and tear down every last reminder of his no-good father. But business isn’t the only thing on his mind. An explosive encounter with a stranger at a charity masquerade is just the distraction he craves, with no names and no strings attached. For Hendrix, sex is casual, and love is a four-letter word. His commitment is to his brothers, his bar, and his bike. So why can’t he stop thinking about the naughty Cinderella who rocked his world, then left him—and her panties—behind?Olivia Hemmingway knows fairytales are for little girls. Drowning in debt and hiding a shameful secret, she won’t be saved by a knight in tattooed armor, no matter how mind-blowing their one-night stand may have been. Olivia never expects to meet her masked lover again. But when she takes a job at Hendrix Caldwell’s bar, her sexy new boss seems all too familiar. And once the lights go out and the music is turned up, the sparks between them burn hotter than ever.
I walk in the bar on a Friday morning after my run with Floyd along the riverside. We don’t open until noon, but I have to place stock orders for next week.
I start up the coffeepot in the kitchen, then walk out behind the bar. The place looks like hell. It better have been a busy fucking night.
The weekday barmaid, Lola, is getting lazy. I swear to fuck, she spends more time applying that glossy shit to her lips than she does doing the job she is paid for.
Work ethic is sorely lacking nowadays. Everyone wants something for fucking free. What happened to hard work, perseverance, dedication, and determination?
I watched my momma bust her ass for years. Even though I heard a million damn times, “This is my bar,” come out of my old man’s mouth, it was Momma who held those qualities—the ones it takes to run a business—not him.
Sighing, I wipe the sticky mess from last night off the nicked-up old oak bar. One of the four sinks under the bar hasn’t drained completely, so I reach down, pull out the lime wedges plugging it up, and throw them in the trash that I notice wasn’t taken out. The coolers aren’t stocked, the fruit trays are sitting in the melted ice under the soda tap, and I am ready to fucking explode.
When I walk around the bar and look down, I find the fucking floor isn’t swept or mopped, and there are full ashtrays on the pub tables. What’s more, I have at least an hour’s worth of paperwork and orders to place before I can even start the damn cleanup. Orders that have to be placed, or I won’t get a delivery on Monday when the bar is closed, and I will be fucked.
I decide the priority lies on getting the order in, so I head back behind the bar and walk up the steps between the kitchen and the back of the bar to my office.
I walk in, and there is old Lola, bare-assed, lying across my old man’s waist.
“Get the fuck up,” I yell.
She startles and jumps. “Oh, God. Oh, Hendrix—”
“Get the fuck out of my office. You, too, old man.”
“You watch your tone with me, boy.” He glowers at me as he sits up.
“I ain’t gotta watch shit, old man. What the fuck are you doing here? What the fuck are you doing with my employee?”
“I think it’s obvious what I’m doing here, son,” he slurs as he stands.
“Get your pathetic ass out of here.” I point to the door. “Lola, I’m sorry about this—”
“We love each other,” she says and starts crying.
“Is that so?” I force a laugh and shake my head as I look at my pop’s pitiful ass as he buttons up.
“Yes,” she answers and grabs his hand when it is free. “We’ve been in love for a year.”
I look at him, waiting for him to deny this “love.” Hell, as long as I’ve been alive, I have never heard him say that word, to Mom or any of us. The denial never comes, though.
“A year? So Mom was still alive?”
Still no answer, and at that moment, charity ceases to exist.
“Get your shit out of the apartment. And, Lola, you’re fired. You may wanna get yourself checked, too, old girl. His dick is a weapon.”
“How dare you? You can’t do that!” he yells at me.
“It’s done. Now get out.” I don’t yell, don’t fight. This is actually fucking perfect.
He had been under the protection of my mother for all my life and stayed that way through grief’s numbing aftereffects over the last year.
The first step in the grieving process is denial and isolation. My brothers and I hit denial from the word “terminal,” but with only a two-month warning of expiration, there wasn’t time to go hiding out. The next step in the grieving process is anger. I have been stuck on that one for a while now. There are even stages to this particular stage. I get pissed, and then I am numb. Then, before I know it, I’m right back to being pissed again.
Lola is wiping the smudged mascara off her face. I can hear my dad mutter to her, “Guess we were meant to be, you and me.” He puts his hand on her ass as he looks over his shoulder at me, giving me his glare. It is the same glare that once made my mother and us boys cower, but now holds no weight over me.
“It’ll last as long as she stays your meal ticket,” I respond back as Lola shakes her head and continues going about gathering their things.
I head down to get back to work. He has no control over this family any longer.
“Lost another one?” Jagger strolls in and laughs. His assumption is based off the obvious fucking mess of the bar he’s taking in.
“Maybe,” I answer noncommittally.
“Seriously, bro, you need to learn to play nice with others.”
“Look, unless you’re here to take on another night—step it up a bit—I don’t wanna hear shit.”
“I liked Lola,” he says as he sits down on the other side of the bar.
I hold my finger in front of my mouth, keeping him quiet, and point up. “You hear heels clicking up the wooden stairs into the apartment?”
When he looks at me like he has no clue, I raise my eyebrow and shake my head.
“No shit?” he asks when he catches on.
“Just found ’em in my fucking office. Told him a month ago, when I caught him skimming from the till, he was out. Not to step foot in my fucking place again, or he could pack his shit.”
He nods and then shakes his head. Then, his fists ball up as he takes a moment to look down.
“What are you gonna do?” he asks finally.
“He’s packing his shit.”
“You for real, man?” There is a mischievous look in his eyes, making my kid brother look kind of happy. Looks good on him. Ain’t seen it in a long damn while.
“As fucking real as terminal cancer.”
Some people wouldn’t find that the least bit amusing, but they aren’t Caldwells. If we aren’t able to find humor in our misfortunes, we would never laugh a day in our fucking lives.
I look up when the door opens to see my buddy Johnny, the cop. It isn’t unlike him to stop by on a chilly morning and grab a cup of coffee.
Jagger stands to greet him. “Got bail?” my brother asks me.
“You’re fucking joking, right?” I shake my head, then look at his knuckles, and nah, he isn’t joking.
“Jagger, you know I have to take you in.” Johnny is pissed. “You beat the shit out of your landlord.”
“His kid was crying. Heard her through the wall, opened the door, and she’s running down the hall. Fucker came out chasing her with a belt.”
“So you beat him to the ground?” Johnny asks, taking the cup of coffee I slide across the bar. “How about call 911? That’s my job, man. Now she’s so scared she’s not talking and won’t press charges—”
“What do you mean, ‘’!” Jagger’s vein is popping out of his neck. “She had switch marks across her goddamned neck, Johnny. She’s a fucking kid; she needs someone—”
“She’s seventeen. Can’t make her do shit, you hear me?” Johnny states, then points to the door. “Restraining order, so now you got nowhere to live, and when the judge asks where you work, what are you gonna say? ‘I smash people up in abandoned warehouses while others stand around and watch’? It’s fucking illegal.”
“Nah, man, I got a job.” Jagger chuckles. “I’m a motherfucking astronaut. Just got back from the moon last night. Shit looks good up there.”
“Last time, you told the judge you were a fucking OB-GYN apprentice, and that got you a week in county.”
Jagger smirks and looks to me. “Do I have a place to live?”
“Of course you do.” I lean against the bar and cross my arms over my chest.
“I work here, right?” Jagger winks.
“Yeah, man, you do. Call me after your photo shoot and fingerprints. I’ll be down to pick you up.”
With that, I watch them walk out. Only Jag can climb in the back of the squad car like he is getting in a damn taxi. Then, I see the old man and Lola the bar whore walk by with garbage bags from the side alley. They must have taken the back exit. Good riddance.
I feel a weight lift off my shoulders just before the guilt washes over me. I should have booted his ass years ago. Then, maybe Momma would have paid attention to the few symptoms she did have, cramping and shit. She wouldn’t have thought they were just everyday stresses of working too damn hard. The everyday stresses I knew damn well came from dealing with his sorry ass.
I wish I could go back so fucking bad.
You know what the third step to grief is? Bargaining. Right now, that is what I’m doing.
Yeah, that shit is what I’m doing right now. Does it bother me? Hell yes. But, I also embrace this new stage in life.
Bring. It. On.