“What could my sister possibly do to help you with a case at the Jolly Gent? It’s a men’s strip club the last time I checked. And now she’s on the radar of some southern Tony Soprano wannabe? That’s just fucking perfect.”
Lucky flicked a glance in her direction, the internal debate about how much he should tell about their activities the past few days battling it out in his eyes. She didn’t think it was any of her brother’s business. In fact, she couldn’t imagine why her brother was here now. Taylor hadn’t called him. Sheriff Burke must have felt she needed big brother to come to the rescue, and she was growing angrier by the second. What she did with her body, in private or in front of an audience, was entirely up to her.
Teague finally glanced her way and then back at Lucky, dismissing her entirely. She was tired of being ignored. It was time to channel the late, great Patrick Swayze and take “Baby” out of the corner.
“I was dancing. It was my choice.” She let that float out there for a bit and waited for the explosion she knew was coming.
Teague closed his eyes for a moment, his fingers pinching the bridge of his nose in the exact same way her father did when he was irritated. She could almost see the countdown clock winding down in his head.
“You were doing what?” His eyes, so much like her own, flashed with the anger he was doing a crappy job of hiding.
“I was dancing. Working the pole.” She smiled, deliberately picking a bigger fight because now she was just feeling mean. “One of the regular girls is missing and I tried to help find her. I was making progress until one of the customers tried to get a little too friendly tonight.”
“Too friend—?” Teague choked on his words, his face red and all attempts to keep a lid on his anger vanishing like smoke in the air. He turned and advanced on Lucky, Beck stepping in between the two of them before they made physical contact.
“Lucky, what the fuck were you thinking to let my sister do something like that?”
“I was keeping an eye on her.” Lucky glared down at Teague, his body pushing against the hand Beck had on his chest. He was like a junkyard dog on a chain, snarling and spoiling for a fight. “Besides, there’s no telling your sister no when she decides to do something.”
“Then you should have called me and I would’ve stopped her.”
“He didn’t let me do anything!” Taylor shouted over the two them, physically inserting herself between the two of them to ensure they listened to her. “You two act like I’m not even here, like I need your permission to make decisions about my own life. This is why I never wanted to come back to this crappy little town.”
They both looked dazed, as if they were surprised to see her there at all, and she dug her fingers into her palms to keep from knocking sense into both of them.
“You two need to wake up. I’m a grown-ass woman and I’ve done a good job of taking care of myself for the past seven years without the both of you around to pass judgment on my decisions. You might not like the tattoos or the piercings, but I don’t care.”
Lucky opened his mouth to say something and she cut him off.
“Not a damn word, Lucky.” She swallowed hard, the bitterness of her words leaving a rough taste in her mouth. If anyone should have understood her, it was Lucky, but he still treated her like the silly girl who’d followed him around with a stupid crush, and that hurt like hell.
“You get no say in what I do with my life. You don’t get to waltz in after all these years and act like you’re important enough to factor in my decisions.”
It was low blow. And now that she’d said it she just wanted to take it back. Yeah, he’d betrayed her when he’d acted like she didn’t matter, but no part of her was doing a happy dance over the look of pure hurt darkening his baby blues to a watery gray.
“You look like shit.”
Lucky slid into the booth at the Southern Comfort Diner alongside Beck, tucked his sunglasses into the collar of his shirt, and flipped off Jack across the tabletop for stating the obvious.
“Bite me, Jack.”
Lucky caught the eye of his Aunt Dolly, the owner of the diner and Jack’s mom, and signaled for her to bring over his usual breakfast of pancakes, bacon, eggs, home fries, and black coffee. Today he needed the caffeine since he’d lain awake half the night on Beck’s couch, trying not to think about Taylor’s harsh words and Mr. Clean eyeing her across the dance floor. When he’d finally crashed into fitful bouts of dream-filled sleep, the morning alarm had buzzed way too fucking early.