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McQUEEN:Las Vegas Bad Boys(7)

By:Frankie Love

“Right? Why do you think I dropped the pan?” Mary throws me a raised eyebrow as she falls in a heap a few feet beyond the ruined meal. “Just put it on today’s tab,” she says. “I swear. I was late getting Hardy from kinder because I totally spaced on the half-day the school had today. Bailey threw a fit in Whole Foods, and Justice hasn’t had a proper nap all week. I swear that girl lives in a car seat.”

“She’s not in one now.”

We both cast a look over to Justice, who is chewing on a teething biscuit, brown gummy food covering her face, her belly, and the diaper she wears in lieu of clothing. She’s in a swing in perpetual motion. I’ve babysat enough to know that the moment it stops, her screaming begins.

“Maybe it’s time you hired some help.” I manage to mop up the food and begin throwing the pie into the trash.

“Connor won’t let me. I have a five-thousand-square-foot home, three cars in the garage, a diamond ring on my finger worth a small island—yet he says a woman should be able to manage her own home.”

“Well, he grew up in different world. You have play dates to schedule, school uniforms to get to the dry cleaners, and mommy yoga to attend.”

“Your sarcasm isn’t helping.” Mary lets out a defeated sigh, propping herself up on the bar stool at the granite island.

I spray disinfectant on the floor and do a final clean. At least the dinner disaster is distracting her from noticing my non-virginal status.

“I’m not being sarcastic,” I say, defending my stance. “Connor and his five brothers were delinquents and his mom barely wrangled those kids through the Boston Public School. It’s apples and oranges. Can you imagine Connor’s mother dealing with life here, in Vegas, married to man like Connor? He has a reputation, and so do you.”

“Reputation or not, I’m over my head. Something’s gotta give. And this is the fourth night this week Connor has had a dinner meeting.” She walks to the freezer and pulls out a box of chicken nuggets and a bag of peas. “It’s times like this, when I’ve ruined dinner and I forgot to take a shower and I’m flying solo—again—that I wish Mom were still alive. She knew how to keep everything together. But me? I’m just one hot mess.”

Hardy and Bailey come into the kitchen, screaming about a tablet not working. Bailey’s face is streaked with tears and Hardy has crossed arms, all huffy and annoyed.

It takes one second to assess the situation and come to a decision.

“Mary, sometimes all anyone can do is one day at a time. And you,” I say, pointing at her, “are off duty for tonight. Get some Chardonnay, run a bath, and turn off your phone. Got it?” Rooting through the fridge, I find a chilled bottle and hand it to her. “Look, it’s a screw top—easy access.”

She doesn’t resist, doesn’t say if or but, doesn’t try to coax the kids to stop fighting. She just gives me a grateful look, grabs a wine glass, and leaves. She may be over her head, but she isn’t stupid.

Fifteen minutes later, Hardy and Bailey are sitting at the table eating their microwaved dinner. I have Justice in my arms, offering her a bottle while simultaneously squirting ketchup on plastic plates.

I may have a dad who’s arranging my marriage, but I also have a family I would do anything for.

Later, when the kids are happily watching Phineas and Ferb, and Justice is dozing in her swing, I take a break from unloading the dishwasher and check my phone.

Frick. Totally forgot about my plans with Lucy. She texted an hour ago.

Lucy: Where are you lady? What are we doing tonight?

I look at the clock. It’s only seven, and technically I could still pull off a night out with her. But, looking around my sister’s house, I see another load of dishes, a pile of unfolded clothes, and a sticky floor. I know what I should do.

I may hate the idea of marrying Grotto, but family is family. Not doing what my father has asked of me would excommunicate me from the family ... and my sister needs me. And I need her.

She’s my family, and family is more important than going out with friends—and certainly more important than marrying the love of my life.

Me: Sorry Lucy. I suck. But I’m on Auntie duty. Don’t hate me. Let’s do coffee this week. Xo

I slide my phone off, and roll up my sleeves.

Maybe when I’m done here I’ll treat myself to a quick late-hour workout. It will help me clear my head.

God knows, today I need it. Grotto. McQueen. Mary. I need to get my priorities in check.

The only thing I have that’s just mine is MMA fighting.

I’ve given up the idea of marrying for love, and now I’ve also given up my virginity. But the one thing I want to keep, for as long as I can, is my MMA gloves.

I won’t give those up without a fight.

I just hope it doesn’t come to that.

Chapter Six


The dinner is boring as hell.

I mean, Emmy is a doll, obviously. But Tess made it to dinner and she and Jack have been talking about his latest recordings throughout the appetizers and the first few bottles of wine.

I’m ready for some fucking Budweiser.

I may play a cool-ass game, but deep down my roots are pretty middle America. My dad has a mechanic shop and my mom bakes tater tot casserole and is a secretary at an Elementary school. You can’t get much more red, white, and blue than them.

Right now, sitting in this five-star restaurant where the steak has been aged sixty days and the fucking French fries are doused in truffle oil, I miss my mom’s Sunday meatloaf, the sound of the game blaring on the front room TV.

I haven’t been home for a while. I hate making excuses, but what I hate even more is explaining my life in ways they can understand. Of course, my parents don’t have a clue what I’m really up to, and neither does my brother, Mark. Like hell I’d tell them. I can’t even imagine what they’d say.

Still, I feel a long way from home sometimes. Even if the people there never understood me.

The truth is I hardly understand my goddamned self.

I also don’t understand why JoJo has been on my mind all night long.

“You okay, McQueen?” Emmy asks across the table. “Need some more wine to take the edge off?”

“Naw,” I say, waving her off. “I don’t know what my deal is. Maybe I’m tired.”

“Maybe you’re always so busy hustling for the ladies, you don’t know what it means to just relax with your friends,” Jack suggests.

Turning the tables, I ask, “Where’s your lady tonight, Jack?”

“She won’t be here for a week, shit. You know that; she’s taking your stage.”

“Oh, yeah,” Tess says, animated. No surprise. Tess always wants to be in on the gossip. “How do you feel about that, McQueen? That stage has been yours for years.”

“It’s cool.” I shrug. “The guys at The Cockpit are solid, and it’s honestly an easier gig than what I did at Stripped. There, I did an actual revue, like dance numbers. There’s a coach and everything, teaching us the choreography.”

“And this new show?” she asks.

I snort. “This new gig is just straight-up stripping. Different skill. We rehearse, but we come up with our own routine.”

“And what’s the skill? Jack asks, laughing. “Make sure you get a nice wax?”

His words piss me off, and I don’t know why. I’m usually pretty good about the shit I get over my profession. Still, it annoys me.

“Right. Gotta get nice and clean for those women who you might have had a chance with until they saw me.”

“Ha, nice one,” Ace says giving me a fist bump. Emmy pinches his arm as he does.

“Honestly though, Tess,” I say. “I’m working out way more with this new job. Straight-up stripping is no joke. I can’t have movies like Magic Mike put me to fucking shame. I gotta put out.”

“Seriously, bro, it’s our money on the line,” Ace says.

I know he’s joking, but it’s still hard to swallow. I mean, there’s a fucking lot of pressure tied up in this. Ace, Jack, and Landon have all put cash into the club, and their payoff hinges on my ability to draw a crowd. I can’t fucking mess this up.

The waitress finally brings out the main course and I eat as quickly as possible. I want to ditch this dinner party and go let off some steam.

Steam I didn’t know I had. I’m all wrapped up in this conversation, the pressure and money and having the right fucking moves.

And also, JoJo. I can’t get that woman out of my mind.

Usually, it’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am ... but with her, all I want is seconds.

I need to punch something and fucking get a grip.

Pushing out from the table, I set my linen napkin on my cleaned plate. “I’m out.”

“You sure? We’re gonna get drinks at the bar before we call it a night,” Emmy says.

“Thanks, but I’m good. I’ll let you guys enjoy your little double date.” I smile, tousling Jack’s hair to annoy the shit out of him. “Don’t have too much fun without the life of the party.”

Leaving the restaurant, I swing by In-N-Out for a shake, a few hamburgers, and a few orders of fries. I’m suddenly starving. Must have been that killer workout this afternoon. My legs are still aching from it.