Dirty Together (The Dirty Billionaire Trilogy #3)(5)

by Meghan March

“Hot damn, look what the cat dragged in,” Benny yells over the percussion of balls hitting the lane and striking pins. He shuffles over as fast as his cane can hold him, and yanks me into a hug.

“Hey, Ben. How ya been?” It’s the same way my gran greeted him for years, and it rubbed off on me long ago.

He pulls back, lowers the old wooden cane back to the floor to steady himself, and tilts his head to one side. “I think I’m more interested in how you’ve been, Mrs. Billionaire Country Star.”

Heat burns in my cheeks. I don’t want to talk about the me that exists outside this town. That’s not why I’m here.

“I’m fine. Just taking some time off.”

He opens his mouth to ask something else, but shuts it just as quick. I glance sideways at Logan, and he’s giving Benny a hard look. Shielding me from questions?

“How about some shoes and a lane, Ben?” Logan asks.

The older man nods enthusiastically. “Of course. Anything for my girl here. Except, there’s a catch.”

“Ben—” Logan starts, but I interrupt. I know exactly what Benny’s going to throw out as the catch.

“I’ll sing one song. But not one of mine.”

“Done. Go bowl a few games, and I’ll meet you in the bar later.”

We bowl two games, and the easy camaraderie I feel with Logan surprises me. It’s not the heightened anticipation I seem to have every moment I spend around Creighton, but it’s also a lot less stressful.

It’s just . . . easy.

It’s also impossible not to compare the men, one rough around the edges and the other smooth and cultured. Both dangerous in their own way.

I know how to behave around a guy like Logan, and not just because I’ve spent a lot of time with Boone on tour. Logan’s upbringing wasn’t all that different from mine. I can throw sass at him and give as good as I get, all without feeling awkward or trashy.

I give as good as I get with Creighton too, but when I’m in his world, I lack confidence because I’m totally out of my element. On tour, things were better, but that was him playing in my world. Wasn’t there some old saying about a bird and a fish falling in love? Are we just too different?

My thoughts are distracting enough to make me throw a gutter ball. Damn. There goes my three-hundred game, which I’m perfectly capable of bowling, thank you very much. And that’s just another skill a billionaire’s wife probably shouldn’t have on her résumé.

I excel at bowling, deep-frying pickles, and singing songs about pickup trucks and broken hearts. I hate feeling like this, so inadequate, and I hate that I’m the one digging the slices in deeper. How can I ever truly be good enough for Creighton if I never believe it myself? Annika’s words jab at me again and again.

Logan throws a strike, thankfully distracting me yet again. He can also bowl a three hundred. I watched him on plenty of dates when I worked here in school. Just another difference between the two men. Brews and Balls is the kind of place a guy like Logan brings a date. I try to picture Creighton here and find it utterly impossible.

But I was so determined to shake this place off and never come back, so what does it matter if I can’t picture Creighton here? I wanted a bigger life, and I got it. When am I going to get the guts to live it instead of just float along and let the tide pull me in and out?

I grab my ball, line up . . . and throw another one into the gutter. Turning away from the lane, I drop into the molded blue plastic chair and rest my head into my hands.

“Holly, what the hell?” Logan asks.

“I can’t do this. I need to stop thinking. I don’t want to think any more tonight, and this isn’t working.”

Logan sets his ball back into the ball return and lowers himself into the seat beside me. Underlying the woodsy scent of his aftershave or deodorant is that combination from the garage—oil, exhaust, rubber, and citrus.

It’s not unpleasant. It’s real.

But it’s not Creighton.

“What can I do? How do we get you to stop thinking?” he asks.

I can only think of one solution. “Let’s get drunk.”

Logan shakes his head. “I’m driving.”

“Then I’ll get drunk.”

He doesn’t speak for the space of a breath. Finally, he leans his elbows on his knees and looks sidelong at me. “You sure?”

“Abso-fucking-lutely.” I may not know the answer to any other question I need to answer, but this one, I have handled. Like a boss.

With a shake of his head, he says, “Pick your poison then. And maybe get that song in for Ben before you’re too lit to be able to sing it.”

“I think tonight is a tequila kind of night. And I can never be too lit to sing.” I scrunch my brow. “I don’t think. I guess we’ll see.”

“Fuck, I know this is a bad idea.” But go along with it, he does.

Shots are lined up on the bar, and I forgo the salt and the lime, opting instead to take my shots straight and chase them with beer. This decision is probably one I’ll regret later. Almost certainly. But I’m already feeling the buzz and forgetting to care.

Benny is already cuing up a song when I grab the microphone from the stand. I don’t even care what it is. I just want to get onstage, even if it’s a tiny stage in a Podunk bowling alley, because this is one place I feel completely confident. I’m going to sing my heart out tonight. These people may have come to bowl and drink, but they’re about to get one hell of a show.

The music that comes from the speakers makes me laugh, a real, honest-to-God belly laugh. Something I haven’t done in longer than I can remember. Somehow Benny always knows where my head’s at. He’s cranked up Miranda Lambert’s “Famous in a Small Town.”

I belt out the lyrics and find my happy place.

Benny plays song after song, and the tequila keeps flowing. I don’t count the songs or the shots, or the number of people gathering in the small bar of the bowling alley. I don’t keep track of any of it. I don’t notice the whispers of the crowd, the flashing cameras, or later, the people stepping aside to let someone pass.

My eyes are closed and tears are welling in them as I sing the last lines to Sara Evans’s “Born to Fly.” It’s the song that started it all on this very stage. A little overwhelmed, I slide the microphone back into the stand and lean over, hands on my thighs, trying to reel myself back in.