Beneath These Chains (Page 59)

“I think my head is spinning.”

Lord laid a hand over my arm. “There’s no reason to freak out. Let’s just keep doing what we’re doing, and if it works for us, then it’s nobody’s business but our own. You know I’m in this for real, and so are you. That’s all that matters.”

His words calmed me—mostly. I wouldn’t be entirely calm until I had a little time alone to get myself together. But Lord was right—it didn’t matter what anyone else thought about it, and I didn’t care about that. It just … it seemed so fast to me, but then again, I guess Lord wasn’t the type to move slowly.

“Okay. But I really do need to spend a few hours at home. I need to do laundry, organize some stuff, and it’s nothing you’re going to want to do.”

“I’ve got some shit I can take care of too. I’ve been slacking off at the gym, and I can catch the tail end of practice if I hurry. Once we’ve got the shop back on solid ground, I’m going to look into hiring another employee. With us working the same shifts and me trying not to leave you there alone, I haven’t been pulling my weight with the boys.”

Guilt slid through me. “I don’t want to be a bigger burden to you than I am help.”

Lord studied my face. “Do you even want to still work there now that you’ve got the watch?”

My eyes widened. “Are you serious? You’re really asking me this question right now?”

“Elle, you don’t have the best … track record for keeping jobs, and if this isn’t a job you want to keep, you don’t have to work at Chains to keep me.”

If my eyes could’ve shot laser beams, I’m pretty sure they would have. “If it hasn’t occurred to you yet, I happen to love working there. I know it hasn’t been that long, but I feel like I’ve finally found my place. I love the haggling, the stories, the crazy customers, and goddammit, I like working with you.”

Lord held up a hand in what I considered a gesture of surrender. “Okay. But if you decide you’re bored with this, I want you to know it isn’t a package deal. I’m with you either way. But, for the record, I like working with you too. I’d love for you to stay.”

“Good. I’m staying. If I change my mind, you’ll be the first to know. But don’t hold your breath.”

Lord turned the key in the ignition, and the subject was put to rest.

He dropped me off at my apartment, and I kissed my sexy man through the window of his sexy car. “I’ll call you when I’m done.”

“You better, otherwise I’ll be here hauling your ass to my bed anyway.”

“Promises, promises.”

And then he was gone.

I caught more than the tail end of practice—I caught a beer with my brother. I filled him in on all the shit going on with Elle and her ma … and I finally told him that Chains had been struggling for a little while, but I was close to getting it back on track. It was humbling to admit to your younger brother than you were having trouble keeping a business afloat that had run just fine while he owned it.

“If you need anything from me, you just let me know. And don’t get your panties in a wad over this. When you ran Chains for me, you didn’t have to worry about paying me. I know that takes a big chunk out of your profit, which is why I tried to give you the place,” Con told me.

“I ain’t telling you to get sympathy; I was telling you because I’m sick of pretending there’s nothing going on when I’m sure you know there is. And there’s no way I would’ve taken it for free. I would’ve let you sell it to someone else first.”

“Which is why I sold it to you, you hardheaded bastard. You’re too fucking stubborn for it to be anything but a success.”

“Yeah, well, it’ll be a success as soon as I unload a couple of those muscle cars. They were a risk, and one that I took with shit timing.”

“You got a convertible, right?”

“Yeah, the SS. Needs some work. Could use a new paint job. I was thinking cherry red with a white racing stripe.”

Con nodded absently. “I’ve been thinking about getting something for Van that was a little less … German. She’s only ever driven a Mercedes, but she’d look sexy as fuck rolling in a red SS. Plus, it’d give me something to wrench on when I’m bored. And it’s got a nice, big back seat…”

He didn’t have to finish that sentence for me to know exactly where it was going. I left it alone. “Are you serious? Because I know a guy who can do the work. I didn’t want to put the cash in just yet. Broke my heart to think about selling it as-is.”

“Oh, so now you want to make a profit off your little brother? Nice, Lord. Nice.”

“Business is business. But I’ll still give you the family discount.”

Con grinned, and I knew he didn’t care. “I don’t want a damn discount, and I’ll front the cash for the restoration if you can get it done quick. It’d be a great birthday present … but you’ve only got six weeks.”

“Let me talk to my guy,” I said, knowing this was Con’s way of giving me a hand up without giving me a hand out. I found I wasn’t too proud to take it.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Not a text—a call. Elle.

“I’ll be back,” I said, rising from the table and heading outside to answer it.

“What’s up, sweet thing?”

“Hey, ummm … I kind of need to stay at my place tonight.”