Unbroken: Virgin and Bad Boy Second Chance Romance, page 1
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Unlearned (3 Chapter Preview)
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Coming Soon from Haley Pierce
Virgin and Bad Boy Second Chance Romance
Unlearned (3 Chapter Preview)
Coming Soon from Haley Pierce
Get a Free Book by Haley Pierce Today
If I get my ass pinched one more time, there’s going to be hell to pay.
I shovel my latest tip off the plastic checkerboard tablecloth and scowl. Three dollars on a ninety-dollar tab? Fantastic.
I scan the bar as I pocket the crumpled dollars in my apron. It’s Sunday afternoon, and as usual on a game day, Billy’s is hopping. The air is thick with smoke and bodies are wadded, tight, around the bar, so breathing’s a problem. Abby, my best friend since birth, is prancing through whatever openings she can find, arms loaded with French fries and ribs, looking like she actually enjoys the attention of these beer-guzzling, football-addicted slobs. She tosses her blonde ponytail every time someone tugs on it, looking oddly satisfied with her life, and all I can think is that she’d once had so much higher aspirations than this. Everyone is so damn happy, because this is Western Pennsylvania, and the Steelers are up by 21 in the third.
I fucking hate the Steelers.
Abby sidles past me, depositing Billy’s Blastin’ Onion Ring Tower in front of two obese men with plumber’s cracks. I watch them dig in ravenously, juice dripping down their chins, belching on their cheap Rolling Rocks, not sure why I’m disgusted because this is Bradys Bend, where I grew up, and men like that are par for the course, here. Men who squeeze butts and don’t shower and expect women to swoon all over them despite the fact that they’re flat-out nauseating. Abby clearly doesn’t mind. Her cheeks are rosy and she looks just about as exhilarated as everyone else in this place. “You okay, darlin’?”
“You were born in this shithole town, well north of the Mason Dixon line, Ab. Stop with the southern accent,” I grumble.
“I think it gets me better tips.” She bats her eyelashes and tightens the knot in her t-shirt, right at her breastbone.
“Oh, you think that’s what is getting the tips?” I say, scanning her from head to toe. Like the hoochie daisy dukes and baby t-shirts, strategically altered to expose as much skin as possible, have nothing to do with it.
She shrugs unapologetically, and I guess she does have a point. After all, she probably doesn’t have to worry about three-dollar tips. “You could probably do with a makeover.”
I look down at my oversized flannel, ripped-knee jeans, and sneakers, and frown. Nothing on the pockets of my boy-cut Levi’s says “Pinch Me”, and yet, here I am, ass so bruised I probably won’t be able to sit down when my shift ends at eight. “No thanks. This isn’t Hooters.”
“Well, at least make over your attitude, Geni,” she says, looking over her shoulder, to where Billy is bartending. He’s a big, buzz-cut-sporting teddy bear, usually, but now, he’s giving us eye-daggers from behind the bar.
Well, not us, actually. Me. I reach for a wet rag and run it over an empty table to make it look like I’m doing something constructive and say, “I have a great attitude.”
She rolls her eyes. “Porcupines are less prickly, girl.”
“What do you mean?” I say with mock horror, affecting that sugary Southern accent to mimic her. “I’m as sweet as pecan pie, sugar.”
“Right. It’s been a stellar day for you. I only heard one complaint about you today.”
I cross my arms indignantly. “That old lady was being a pain!”
She stares at me in horror. “All she wanted was a glass of water. It shouldn’t have taken you twenty minutes to bring it. She nearly choked to death.”
I wave her away. “Hello, they’re called ‘hot wings’ on the menu for a reason! If she couldn’t stand the heat . . .”
She clenches her teeth and shakes her head sadly at me. Then she drops some napkins over at a table behind me and mumbles, “Has he given you a talking to again?”
“All Billy ever does is give me talkings to,” I groan. “He doesn’t say ‘hello’ to me when I walk in anymore. He says, ‘We need to talk.’ I’m sorry if I’m not a ray of sunshine, but that’s just how I am.”
She winces. Abby and I are so close that I think she actually does feel my pain. “Maybe this is your wake-up call. You’re not the customer service type. Why don’t you go and look for something else, Geni? Something where you don’t have to wait on customers?”
“What, are you trying to get rid of me?” I tease.
“No. But you’re miserable, honey. Anyone can see that.”
I shake my head. She’s suggested that to me before. But if the Universe meant this to be my wake-up call, it wouldn’t have left only twenty-three bucks in my checking account, and a rent bill and my father’s hospital payment, which are both two months past due. To think, growing up, everyone in town used to envy me because my parents owned a big house and gave me the best of everything. Now, I’m one missed shift away from homelessness and utter devastation.
“I love this job,” I say in a dull monotone.
“I can tell,” she says, striding off happily, pen and paper at the ready, to a new table of ass-pinchers.
I sigh and approach a table, feeling the hard weight of Billy’s eyes on me. I’m not delusional. I know I’m not waitress material. I don’t think I’ve done one thing right under this roof. Billy’s been threatening to fire me since I started working here four years ago, back when this was just a quick summer gig before I moved on to bigger and better things. But he can’t find any other sucker to work such crappy hours, and for such crappy wages. When “bigger and better” got put on hold indefinitely, I became a permanent fixture here, and can’t see myself anywhere else, despite how miserable I am whenever I walk through the door to start my shift.
Sometimes I wish Billy would fire me. Maybe it would give me the push I need to get out and find what I’m meant to be.
Whatever that is.
I watch Abby, laughing and talking with the new customers. She seems so content. It’s hard to believe that four short years ago, we were planning to escape decrepit old Bradys Bend, Pennsylvania, where nothing exciting ever happens, and make our marks on the world.
Now, Abby just wants to get her customers’ lunch orders right.
And I . . .
I have no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes I feel like I’m heading downhill, away from the great big something that was waiting for me. Other people in my graduating class navigated to their callings. Some quickly, some took more time. But maybe some people don’t have a calling and are doomed to wander the earth searching their entire lives.
Maybe that’s me.
Feet crunching on discarded peanut shells, I approach my next table with menus. The bar suddenly erupts into wild applause, some men jumping to their feet, upending
Someone behind me says, “Isn’t that fantastic, little girl?”
I whirl. The man has a red face, like a pimple on the verge of popping, and a toothpick wedged tight between his fat lips. I guess to him, I’m little, since his backside is dripping over the seat like runny mashed potatoes, but I’d never be considered petite. I’m substantial, which is what my mother always called us Wilson women; not fat, but tall and solid. I regard him blankly.
He grins at me, revealing a missing eye tooth. “Aw, sweetheart, are you one of those girls who don’t know the game of football?”
I blink at him. “I understand it,” I say, raising my chin up high. “It does not sufficiently interest me, though.”
He regards me like I’m an alien from the planet Idiot. I’ve never spoken or acted like a local. In Bradys Bend, if football doesn’t interest you, you might as well bite the heads off chickens. Also, I can tell he doesn’t believe that I know a thing about it. When he opens his mouth to explain the fundamentals of the game, I cut him off.
“They’re four and twenty with the sac so they’re going to need to drive it hard to get it into the end zone. I’m sure St. Clair will throw. It’s his signature move when he’s under this kind of pressure.”
He looks at me, dumbfounded by my understanding of his language, that coy smile sliding off his face.
“Hey, Earl, don’t you know who this is?” a voice says across the table. I look up to see Charlie Magee, old Chuckie, who was a year ahead of me in high school, and my ex’s one-time best friend. As is typical of all Bradys Bend High School athletes, the four years he’s been out of school have managed to turn his linebacker physique soft; now he looks more like a lumpy mattress than a refrigerator. He has a barbecue sauce stain on the part of his t-shirt that’s working hard to stretch over his burgeoning beer belly.
Earl squints at me, spits a bit of peanut shell onto the floor. Attractive. “No, who?”
I cringe; ready for him to say Silas St. Clair’s old girlfriend. Silas St. Clair, Heisman trophy winner, Davey O’Brien Award winner, first draft pick for the Steelers three years ago, Super Bowl winner, and by far, the greatest thing to ever come out of Bradys Bend. Then, everyone will know why I’ve been walking around this place like I’m navigating a minefield.
Instead, he says, “She was one of our groupies. Never missed a single football game at the high school.”
I swallow the knot that ties up my throat. As relieved as I am, I’m also insulted. I was never a groupie to the game, never hung around the bleachers like the cheerleaders, waiting to be noticed by the players. I went to the games for one thing and one thing only: My boyfriend. But the door closed on that part of my life too long ago. No one can picture us together anymore, because I’m a waitress, and Silas St. Clair is, well . . . a god. A god who is known for his crazy antics on and off the field, whether it be dancing or doing handsprings on the sidelines or escorting three, count ‘em, three, porn stars to some awards ceremony last year. It’s almost enough to make me think that my sophomore and junior year as Silas’s girlfriend was just in my head.
“Hope they pull it out,” I add, because I’d probably get myself hauled into the parking lot and stoned if I said what I’m really thinking, which is, Hope he chokes.
Not that he ever does. Silas St. Clair is, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “practically inhuman in his precision. He rarely fails with what he sets out to do.”
But I can’t watch. I used to find it hard to watch, sitting in the front bleachers of the run-down Union High field, with its tufts of sad brown grass. I used to close my eyes and pray for good things for Silas St. Clair.
What a difference four years makes.
Steeling myself, I ignore the silence that has fallen over the crowd as they all hold a collective breath. I plant myself in front of a table of college boys with Carnegie Mellon sweatshirts who must have gotten lost on their way back to Pittsburgh, and say, “What’ll you have?”
My voice is practically a roar, shattering the tense silence. The boys scowl and crane their necks around me to see the television, ignoring me as if I’m an annoying boulder that just rolled into their way.
I tap my pen on my notepad, blow a tuft of wayward hair out of my eyes. “Hello?”
Suddenly the quiet is broken and the place explodes with celebration as the word erupts from several places at once. The word I’d expected to hear. The word I’d been dreading.
“Fucking A! Fucking A!” A goateed dude in a Penguins hat shouts, jumping to his feet and giving his friend double high fives. Peanuts spill and beer sloshes across the table. “I told you! I told you my man St. Clair would pull it off! I can feel it. Back to back Super Bowl wins!”
Idiot. It’s hardly October; the Super Bowl sounds a little presumptuous, and it’s not just my glass-half-empty view of life speaking. College oaf is so busy doing a celebration jig that he doesn’t realize he’s doing it on my toe. “Hello?” I say again, grouchier this time, pulling my foot away and giving him the stink-eye.
Nothing. I’d have a better response if I were a fly buzzing around their ear, because maybe then, at least, one of them would swat at me. They all continue to celebrate, tossing back their artsy craft beers, rejoicing along with the rest of the bar.
One by one, their eyes turn back to the screen and they settle back into their chairs. I think that maybe this in my in, and I can finally get their orders taken, so I say, “Okay—”
“What’s going on?” one of them says, eyes glued on the television. “What’s—”
“He’s down. Tackled after the whistle. That’s a flag.”
“Flag nothing. He’s not getting up,” another says. “Look, they’re calling for the stretcher.”
The room falls into a stunned silence. I manage a glance toward the screen. Sure enough, the coach is standing in front of a huddle of bodies, motioning frantically toward the sidelines.
I swallow. “Who?” I whisper.
Goatee looks at me, seeing me for the first time. “Who do you think?” he grouches, taking his disappointment out on me. “St. Clair.”
“Is it . . . is it bad?” I ask. No one answers me, because I’m sure it’s too soon to know, but the thing is, as much as I’ve worked to separate myself from him, I know. It must be. Silas had gotten battered pretty badly in high school, and he always, always walked off the field. Even when he’d broken his ankle once, he’d practically jogged to the locker room.
Billy finds the remote and ups the volume on the television so that the announcer’s voice blares through the silent bar. “Things are not looking good for our hometown golden boy, Silas St. Clair.”
A chorus rings out all over the bar, a total one-eighty than the fevered celebration from a minute ago. This time, it’s a collective, depressed, “Shit.”
“It’s his ankle,” the guy with Penguins cap says, removing it and running his hands through craggy black hair. “Well, that’s it. There goes the season.”
His ankle again? Memories flood back. Silas St. Clair, trying to impress me during our study sessions, doing tricks with his crutches, pretending one of them was an electric guitar. Back then, he’d made like it was nothing but a little nuisance. But now? Now I knew it meant a lot more.
Maybe even everything.
Hope he chokes. That’d been the last thing I’d thought before the snap. My heart skips anxiously. Had I done this?
“Don’t worry, baby,” Chuckie says behind me.
“Oh, I’m not,” I murmur absently, tucking a stray hair behind my ear. I break my eyes from the screen, realizing Chuck’s looking at me in a way that makes me think he’s putting the pieces together, that maybe he’s remembering how, once upon a time, Silas and I had been a couple, the envy of Union High Schoo
Back when I was someone. Back when I stupidly thought that wherever life took me, Silas would be by my side.
But Chuckie just leers at me and says, “If you want a hot football player to drool over, I’m right here.”
And then he reaches over, wraps his fat hand around my ass cheek, and squeezes so hard it pulls tears from my eyes.
One week later
The girl with the A-name wastes no time.
It’s Ashley. Or Alicia. I forget. Doesn’t matter. The only thing that’s important is that her big, luscious lips are as good as they looked. By the time I pull into the parking lot of Billy’s, she’s already sucking on my dick, going up and down like I’m her favorite flavor of lollipop, her head bent under the steering wheel in a way that can’t feel good.
But I feel good. Damn good. I thought I’d need a few stiff drinks to manage this homecoming, but this works, too.
She takes me all the way into her mouth, making slurping sounds like she’s actually enjoying it despite being turned at an awkward way that has her big tits smashed up against the center console. This isn’t the girl’s first rodeo. But I guessed that when I picked her up hitchhiking on the side of Route 268. At first, in her old sneakers and bare shoulders despite the frigid early October temperatures, I thought she looked as sorry as I felt, which was why I stopped to let her in. But when she saw the ring on my finger and recognized me, she told me she wanted to give me head. Just like that, in the way you’d offer up a spare granola bar. After the month I’d had, I felt entitled.
I fight just long enough to pull my F250 to a juddering stop in a parking space and try to look casual as a couple walks past. I don’t know them—and in this town of seven-hundred I used to know mostly everyone—but this is a trucker place, so it gets lots of new faces, and who knows? Four years might’ve been enough to change this sorry town. Doubtful, though.
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