Pretty Boy (Perfect Boys #1) by K.M. Neuhold



“Where are we headed?”

I give him quick directions to the house, which, as I told him, isn’t far.

“You wouldn’t really kill him, would you?” I ask as we drive.

“Mm,” Barrett grunts before casting a quick glance in my direction and then returning his eyes to the road. “Let’s hope he keeps his hands off of you, then none of us will have to find out.”

Surprisingly, that answer comforts me.

He turns onto my street, and insecurity grips me. Something tells me his shiny car with the fancy leather seats and the satellite radio probably cost more than my house. I squirm in my seat, wondering if he’d let me out right here if I asked. He doesn’t need to see the broken shutters or the roof that may just go ahead and cave in any day now. If he thought I needed his money and his pity the other night, I can only imagine what he’ll think if he sees the house.

“You can stop here,” I say in a hurry.

He eases his foot off the gas, but doesn’t stop. “Which house is yours.”

“That one,” I wave vaguely.

“You don’t trust me to know where you live?” he guesses, and I make a non-committal noise. “I wanted to take a look at your cheek, help you get some ice on it before it swells too much.”

“I been roughed up before. I’ll be fine.”

He makes a noise that sounds almost like a growl, flexing his fingers around the steering wheel and finally stopping the car. “Let me take you to dinner,” he says in that same firm way he told me that I was gonna let him drive me home. I bristle, sure this is another attempt to heap pity on me. I may not have much, but I do have my pride.

“I can feed myself just fine.” I open the door and get out, careful not to drop any of my cans. “Thanks for the ride.” I use my hip to close the door behind me.

Barrett rolls the window down. “I’m going to be here in town for at least a few days; let me give you my number in case you need anything.”

Boy, he doesn’t know when to give up, does he? “I won’t need anything. I been gettin’ by just fine without charity from you or anyone else.”

Before he can say anything else, I walk away, making my way behind the houses so he won’t see which one’s mine. My heart sinks a little at the sound of his car finally driving away.



Barrett

Sterling wanted to know if I’d really kill that hillbilly prick for touching him, and I think I could if push came to shove. I’m a confident man, a naturally dominant man, but at my core, I’ve always been a caretaker, more of a lover than a fighter. But when I pulled up and saw that fucker with his hands all over Sterling, saw the way he was cowering, not even trying to fight back, I saw red.

I can still feel his throat under my fingers, and I can’t help but wish I’d squeezed a little harder, just to make sure he fully got the message. The worst part of the whole thing was how unsurprised and resigned Sterling seemed to the whole thing. He’d said it wasn’t the first time he’d been roughed up. How common of an occurrence is it? And how the hell will I be able to put this town or that boy in my rearview mirror knowing how he’s treated here?

The answer is, I can’t.

I listen to the sound of ringing, my phone pressed against my ear as I sit down on the creaky bed, taking in the peeling wallpaper and gritty carpet. There’s a mysterious stain on the floor near the bathroom that I can only pray is water damage and not something much more troubling.

“Bare, hey. You home?” Kiernan, my business partner and best friend asks through the phone.

“Nope,” I answer, looking around again at the motel room and imagining the look on Kiernan’s face if he could see it. “There’s been a change of plans. I won’t be home for a week or so.”

“Oh? Was it the meeting with Wilson Laboratories?”

“No, everything went great at the meeting. I’ll email you the figures, and you can draw up the investment paperwork to send their way.” The two of us grew up together, went to the same boarding schools, summered in the same ritzy places, and came to the same conclusion that the entire thing was bullshit. Which is why after I got my degree in business and Kiernan finished his degree at Harvard Law, we decided to open an investment firm together focused largely on philanthropic endeavors as well as small businesses that aimed to improve quality of life for people. Between the two of us, and Alden, our stock market expert who makes sure our funds stay well in the black, we’ve managed to build a solid force for good in the world.