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"Hey there, babe. You come here often?"
By the sheer grace of what remaining patience she had left after a particularly rotten day, Joey Winfield resisted the urge to flip the bird at the scruffy biker with the tired old pickup line. She was in no mood for flirtations, harmless or otherwise. She'd come to Rosalie's, a roadhouse located on the outskirts of Boston, for one reasonto blow off some steam. She'd wanted a place where no one knew where she came from, that she was one of "the" Boston Winfields. A place where the whiskey wasn't watered down and where she could get rowdy if she wanted to or just sit quietly and contemplate the bottom of several empty glasses of bourbon. At Rosalie's, no one would judge her every move.
Maybe she'd even kick a little ass at the pool tables tonight. She was in that kind of mood.
She manufactured a saccharine sweet smile for the biker blocking her path. "Not as often as you comb your hair," she said saucily as she sidestepped the bear of a man and continued toward the bar before he realized he'd just been insulted.
Sidling up to the long mahogany bar scarred with age, she signaled for Mitch, the bartender. Perched on an empty black vinyl bar stool, she hooked the heels of her scuffed cowboy boots on the chrome rung. "Jack. Neat," she ordered when the bald-asa-cue-ball bartender, who made the scruffy biker look puny in comparison, worked his way down the bar to her.
Mitch's bushy unibrow winged upward at her request, but he didn't offer comment as he set a glass in front of her and poured a generous two fingers' worth of whiskey. Hard drinking was a staple of Rosalie's and Joey had every intention of doing some herself.
She fingered a twenty from the front pocket of her figure-hugging jeans and slapped it on the bar. "Better make it a double." She slid the bill toward Mitch. "And a pack of Marlboro Lights while you're at it."
That unibrow rose another fraction as he snagged a pack of cigarettes from the rack near the register. "Bad day?" he asked, tipping the bottle of JD again.
More like a bad year.
"You have no idea." She took a swig of Jack Daniel's, then tamped the pack on the bar before ripping it open and withdrawing a cigarette. Her throat would feel like seared meat come morning, but she didn't much care. She had a serious edge in need of smoothing out and could use all the help she could get in that department.
"How's your sister?" About a year ago she'd met Mitch through his sister, Lissa, who'd been a resident of the halfway house where Joey mentored troubled girls. The bald, tattooed bartender was capable of keeping the roughest customers in line but was a giant marshmallow where his little sister was concerned.
"Keeping her nose clean, last I heard," he said, offering her a light. "Phoenix is a good place for her."
"Glad to hear it," she said. Lissa had been a mixed-up kid who'd gotten in with the wrong crowd and ended up in trouble, despite her big brother's efforts to the contrary. She'd served three months in County on an accessory conviction to a B&E, then had been released to the halfway house for the first six months of a three-year probationary period. Joey had been the one to convince Lissa's probation officer to allow the girl to relocate to Phoenix to live with an aunt for a fresh start. It pleased her to hear the situation was working out well for Lissa.
"Anything else?" Mitch asked.
She shook her head and drew on the cigarette. "Thanks, I'm good."
Mitch nodded then took off to answer the call for more drinks from a pair of weary-looking men at the other end of the long bar. She took another sip of whiskey, then glanced around at the smattering of tables. She didn't recognize any of the patrons, but then she wasn't exactly a regular at Rosalie's, either.
She supposed she could've gone to Chassy, the trendy bar on Boston's south side that her half sister, Lindsay Beckham, owned, but she wasn't in the mood to be sociable or hang with the girls. Conversation wasn't high on her list of priorities tonight. In fact, the last thing she wanted tonight was to be Josephine Winfield, born with a silver spoon up her privileged ass. Tonight she wanted to just be Joey, a girl looking to raise a little hell.
Just once she wanted to be herself and not worry about the consequences.
A sardonic smile twisted her lips before she drew heavily on the Marlboro. What a concept, she thought, blowing out a plume of blue smoke. But who did she think she was kidding? She'd been so tied up in being what everyone else wanted her to be, or thought she should be, she'd forgotten what the real Joey was even like. Maybe she never really knew, but one thing she did know with absolute certaintyshe was so sick to death of pretending to be the good girl she could scream.
But that didn't mean she didn't enjoy a few minor rebellions on occasion. Like Molly, the high-priced Bengal cat she'd bought because it kept her Great Aunt Josephine and her snooty daughter, Eve, who were both severely allergic, from dropping in on her unannounced. Or the sleek fire-engine red sports car she drove, which made her Grandmother Winfield frown with disapproval whenever she buzzed past the main house to the carriage house, located on the extensive grounds of the Winfield family home. But those were the only acts of defiance her family was aware of of that she made certain. Her grandmother and great aunt's blue hair would turn a shocking shade of purple if they knew that deep down, their little golden girl, little miss Harvard Law graduate, Josephine "Joey" Winfield was bad to the bone.
Maybe she should think about finding herself an apartment in the city. Despite the lack of real privacy she had by living on the family estate, the problem was, Joey actually liked living in the carriage house. She enjoyed the quiet, especially the view of the beautifully manicured grounds, particularly the English garden. During the warmer months, she often spent her weekend mornings outside on the little flagstone patio with her morning coffee, a toasted bagel slathered with cream cheese and the Times crossword puzzle. But Sunday mornings were her quiet time, something she looked forward to all week.
Later would be soon enough for quiet time. Tonight, loud was on her agenda. Rowdy, even. There was that crappy day to shake off, after all, and the sooner, the better.
Her day had started out like any other, until Molly had made her run late. Somehow her mischievous cat had managed to jump on top of the entertainment center. The stubborn feline had refused to come down, regardless of the fact she'd spent nearly ten minutes yowling in distress over her predicament.
A run in her nylons and a chipped nail later, she'd driven like a bat out of hell to get to the office in time for a meeting with one of the managing partners to discuss the status of an important case she had coming up for trial. She'd been stunned to learn that she wouldn't be the lead trial attorney in the matter, but instead had been relegated to second chair, working with some new hotshot litigator the firm had spent weeks recruiting to head up their litigation department.
And what had she done about it? Not a damn thing. She'd very calmly expressed her disappointment, despite the fact she'd been seething inside. Not so much as a single forceful objection. Barely even a real protest, for that matter. She'd just sat there, saying nothing about the hours she'd spent preparing the case for trial, drafting motions and interviewing several witnesses, or the time she'd spent prepping her client for what promised to be a difficult cross-examination. She'd done what she'd been raised to dobe the good girl and not make any waves.
Well, she had once. An outrageous tsunami that she doubted she'd ever hear the end of, or stop feeling guilty about. She was a disgrace to bad girls everywhere.
Angrily, she stubbed out her cigarette and downed another swallow of her drink. What she should've done was told Lionel Kane III to take the case and shove it, along with her position at the firm. But she hadn't. God help her, she knew she wouldn't. Gilson v. Pierce was an important case and although she wasn't thrilled to play second fiddle to the firm's newest flavor of the month, at least she hadn't been removed from the case. To make matters worse, the managing partner had rubbed salt into an already open wound. Since trial was starting in another week, she'd been told it was up to her to bring the new guy up-to-date.
She hadn't thought her day could get any worse, but she'd been wrong as it continued to spiral downward. The judge had denied her request for bail for one of the girls she mentored from the halfway house who'd been arrested on a possession charge. Not only did Ginny Karnes have to spend the weekend in the county jail, but the nineteen-year-old now faced revocation of her probation, which could result in her serving out the remainder of a five-year suspended sentence behind bars.
Things became even more chaotic when her secretary had gone home sick, having been struck by a particularly nasty flu bug making the rounds of the office. A meeting with one of the firm's clients had gone badly. Then, to top off the end of a really nasty day, an impromptu dinner with her sisters had resulted in the announcement that her younger sister, Katie, and Liam James, Boston's most eligible bachelor, were now engaged.
She took a long drink of her whiskey. Not that she'd ever begrudge any of her sisters a chance at real happiness. She was thrilled for Katie, but her little sister's engagement to Liam only served to remind her that she was still painfully single with no prospects in sight. She suspected Brooke and David weren't far behind on the matrimonial trail, either, for as much time as the two had been spending together the past couple of months.
Tired of feeling sorry for herself, she grabbed a couple of ones from the change Mitch had left on the bar and wove her way through the increasingly growing Friday night crowd to the jukebox. A country ballad blared through the speakers, but she wasn't in the mood for a cryin'-in-your-beer song. Tonight it had to be rockthe harder, the better.
She slid the bills into the slot, then scanned the choices before making her selections. She settled on the latest from Korn along with a few of her other favorite rock bands.
"Excuse me, but I think you dropped this," a deep male voice said suddenly from beside her.
Joey let out a sigh and turned, a "buzz off" comment hovering on her lips, half expecting to find the burly biker again. Instead, she found a stranger with traffic-stopping looks holding up a five-dollar bill between his long, slender fingers.
Bedroom eyes, she thought instantly. Rich, like smooth, dark chocolate. The kind that promised lust and sin, two of her favorite pastimes. The "get lost, creep" she'd been about to deliver immediately evaporated from her vocabulary.
He had the kind of build she found impossible to resist, too. All wide shoulders and lean hips. The kind that held up to the promise of that lush, dark gaze. Better yet, the cocky half smile canting his mouth had her toes curling inside her cowboy boots.
One look at that mouth and her imagination took off like a shot. Despite her foul mood, she smiled.
Mentally, she attempted to calculate how long it'd been since she'd gotten laid. After counting back six months and not coming up with a single memorable experience, her answering smile faded slightly.
Six months? That had to be a record.
For her anyway.
Considering everything that had been going on in her life, both personally and professionally, it was no wonder she'd been lacking in male companionship lately. Her mother had passed away in July after a brutal battle with pancreatic cancer, followed by the discovery of a half sister given up for adoption that she, Brooke and Katie hadn't known existed. Only last month they'd been delivered another shock when they'd learned Brooke, her older sister, was only her half sister biologically. Not that Brooke's parentage made a lick of difference to her or Katie, but they'd still been stunned by the news, especially Brooke. The Winfields, her mother in particular, apparently had more skeletons lurking behind their closet doors than a centuries-old mausoleum had tucked behind its marble walls.