Pretty Boy (Perfect Boys #1) by K.M. Neuhold
“Drive safe and watch for critters out there in the dark,” he advises. I nod, my lips twitching in a smile at the twang in his voice and the earnest expression on his face.
He walks away to get a refill for the man at the end of the bar, and I reach into my pocket, pulling out my wallet and tossing a hundred-dollar bill down onto the bar. I may not be able to do anything for the boy, but hopefully the money will make a small slice of his life just a little better. Maybe I can swing back through here in a few days after my Dallas meeting. I’m not sure what that will accomplish, but I like the idea of seeing him one more time before I head home to Vegas.
I don’t even make it to my car before the door to the bar flies open and the quick crunch of gravel has me turning around to find the boy sprinting after me.
“Sir,” he pants, skidding to a halt in front of me. I reach out to steady him before he careens into me. “There was a mix up. You left too much.” He thrusts the hundred-dollar bill toward me. “The drink was only two-fifty. I think you meant to leave a five prob’ly?”
“There wasn’t a mix up.” I reach out and curl my hand around his, noticing the smoothness of his skin as I push his hand back toward him. “I left it as a tip.”
He shakes his head, trying again to offer me back the money. “It’s too much,” he insists.
“Sterling.” I say his name firmly, and his eyes snap to mine, going wide. He stops trying to give the money back, and I fight a smirk. If he responds so beautifully to my tone alone, I can only imagine what a perfectly sweet boy he would be for me. “I left this money for you. I can more than afford it, and I want you to have it.”
The pink tip of his tongue peeks out from between his lips, wetting them before disappearing back inside. I feel his hand clench under mine, tightening around the bill as he scrunches his forehead. He’s thinking entirely too hard about this.
“Take the money. You need it more than I do, pretty boy,” I insist.
The wrinkles in his forehead smooth out, and for the first time tonight, I see something other than sweet, shyness in his eyes. They harden, as does the set of his jaw, and his hand clenches under mine again.
“I don’t need no charity,” he says curtly. “And I ain’t no pretty boy.” He yanks his hand out of my grasp, dropping the crumpled bill on the ground and stomping back into the bar without looking back.
I stand in stunned silence for a solid minute, staring at the door to the bar with a mixture of frustration and awe. Sweet boys have always been my weakness, but a sweet boy with claws when he needs them? Fuck, that’s the stuff of my fantasies.
It’s all I can do to keep myself from heading back in there and tossing him over my shoulder…or putting him over my knee. The only thing that makes me get into my car and drive away is the promise to myself that I’ll come back in a few days.
I don’t think I could stay away if I tried.
I stand in front of a row of canned soup, trying to decide if it’s better to buy a larger amount of pea soup—which I detest—or only two cans of the more expensive chicken soup. I know the answer, but I want to pretend for another couple minutes that I could get the chicken soup if I wanted.
Of course, that nagging little voice in the back of my mind reminds me that if it hadn’t been for my own dang pride, I coulda bought a whole lot of chicken soup. At a dollar fifty per can, a hundred dollars…oh boy, that would be a helluva lotta soup.
I squirm internally, embarrassment filling me at the reminder of the other night, and the handsome stranger who clearly took one look at me and decided I was some sorta charity case. I might not be rich, but I get by just fine. I keep food in the cupboards and keep my mama alive, and if that’s all I can do, it’ll have to be good enough.
Who does he think he is anyway? Just because he’s some sexy, gorgeous man from the big city doesn’t give him no right to judge my life or take pity on me.
With a huff, I finally cave and fill my basket with as much of the God-awful pea soup as I can afford, and then treat myself to a box of Saltines to make it a little more bearable. And, since I made a good choice with the soup, I have enough left over for a package of lunch meat.
Before I can get tempted to grab anything else, I head up to the front and get in line to pay. I’m sure I have enough, but while I wait, I mentally add up everything in my basket and then count out my money so I have it ready to go. Miss Amanda may be making chit chat with every customer in front of me, asking about their kids and talking about the weather, but experience has taught me that it’s best if I’m ready to pay and leave quickly.
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