Dirty Money

By: Jessica Clare

Chapter One


It’s a blistering hot day out in West Texas. There’s not a fucking cloud to be seen, and it’s so dry that the dust puffs up under your boots as you walk. Reminds me of the old days, back when me and my brothers used to be the roughnecks out on the old, rickety rig that cost me a finger and Clay two toes. In a way, it’s kinda nostalgic. I’ve got my bandana on under my trucker cap to kill the worst of the heat, an old company T-shirt on with my jeans, and shitkickers on my feet. I got grit on my face and a brutal sun beating down, and the land all around me is flat and open and bare of everything but the occasional rig in the distance. Ain’t a tree around for miles.

Feels good. Feels more like me than I have in a long time.

But the moment I see the guy in the suit show up, briefcase in hand? I know this shit’s gonna be trouble.

I take a swig of my water and watch the peckerhead rush across the endless landscape like he’s got somewhere to go. I hate suits. Hate guys that think they’re appropriate on a rig site. Hate wearing the damn things.

Just kinda hate suits in general.

Clay finishes chatting with a couple of the roughnecks leaning against a nearby pickup, and spots the suit hobbling over toward us. He drifts over to my side, where I’m perched on the end of my truck bed, and sits down next to me. “Who’s that?”

“Dunno.” I check the time on my watch. Ten minutes to go.

Clay crosses his arms and tilts his head, staring out. He chews on the toothpick in his mouth for a moment, then leans toward me. “I’d ask if it was the company man, but I guess that’s you and me, right?”

I shrug over at him. “Did Bates say he was sending someone?” Bates is our partner for this newest rig, just because I owed him a favor from way back when. It ain’t because I need the money. These days? I don’t need anyone’s money. But Bates did me a solid back in the day, and now his company’s got nothing but dry wells. So I told him I’d give him half the profits if he’d let me handle the dig site and the crew and all the shit that takes a brain. Bates? Nice guy, but not much in the way of brains. Better to let me do it.

“Dunno.” Clay chews on his toothpick again. “Maybe our boy here’s lost.”

I scratch my beard absently. “Seems like an odd place to get lost, if you ask me.”

“S’pose we’ll find out soon enough,” Clay says. “You got your dowsing rods?”

I nod and pull them out of a back pocket. “We’ll get started in ten.”

“I’ll tell the others.” Clay hops back up, whistling, and the truck bed bounces as he does.

I remain seated, rolling my dowsing rods absently between my hands. My mood’s growing a little darker by the moment. I don’t like surprises. I sure don’t like a surprise on a potential well site that I’m in charge of. Gives me bad juju. I ain’t a fan of bad juju.

The suit finally arrives where our trucks are parked. We’re out in the flats, in the middle of nowhere. He hesitates, then looks around. I’ve seen that look before. He’s looking for the boss man.

That’s me.

After a moment, he hugs his briefcase closer to him and then heads toward me. “Is this the meeting site for the Price-Bates potential well?”

“Yep.” I roll the dowsing rods between my hands again, slowly. Should put ’em away. Shouldn’t be filling ’em with all this bad energy, but I can’t help myself. Need something to do with my hands, because the urge to jerk that briefcase out of his grip is growing by the moment.

He sizes me up, studying my form. I’m bigger than him, a helluva lot more tanned, and dressed like the rest of the crew. After a moment, he sniffs and glances around. “Are we waiting for Mr. Boone Price to arrive?”

I shrug. Clearly this fool doesn’t realize I’m Boone Price. It’s something I get a lot, and it shouldn’t surprise me after two years of this nonsense. People think a billionaire can’t have a beard, or tattoos, or wear a T-shirt. They think I should look like this peckerhead in the suit, all sweaty and nervous with his damn briefcase. “There a problem? Wasn’t told there’d be company men here.”

“Company men?” The man wrinkles his nose.

Hell. Does this guy not know anything about roughnecking? “You know, the boss man’s lackey. The shill. A tool. The company man.”

He frowns at me and pulls out a pair of sunglasses, then mops at his forehead with a linen hanky. “Mr. Bates sent me with contracts for Mr. Price. I’m to get him to sign things before the well is dug.”

“Did he, now,” I say flatly. “We aren’t drillin’ today, you know.”

Top Books