Home > Slow & Steady (Alphas Undone #2)(6)

Slow & Steady (Alphas Undone #2)(6)
Kendall Ryan

The one creepy exception to that rule was this guy named Brant. Middle-aged, balding, sad beady eyes. He’d started showing up at about the same time I began working there. Now he rarely missed a shift that I worked. It was getting ridiculous. No one should go to a strip club that often.  Even if he had no life at all, there had to be better ways to spend his time. He should go learn to paint or something, for Christ's sake. Not sit in his favorite seat and stare at me, day after week after month. Not try to monopolize my lap dances or buy me cocktails as an opening for his awkward brand of flirting. He always tipped extremely well, so putting up with him was in my best interests, but his puppy-dog gaze made my skin crawl. One night, he had actually brought me a long-stemmed red rose. As if that would flatter me. Did he not realize that being nice to men—literally any man in the room—was part of my job description?

At the thought of Brant's tainted generosity, my bite of mac 'n cheese stuck in my throat. Suddenly I couldn't take the strained silence anymore. I'd had enough of men who didn't understand boundaries. Men who thought they knew what I needed better than I did. Neither Brant nor Grey cared about my actual opinions. I wasn't a real person to them, only a stage prop. They just wanted to live out their own fantasies of saving the damsel in distress: Poor single mom. Poor stripper. Oh, you poor, poor thing.

Some tiny part of me knew I was blowing this way out of proportion, but that whisper of calm rationality came too late. Fueled by wounded pride, my anger churned harder and harder like a runaway train, too fast for my better judgment to catch up. Why had I acted even the least bit polite, accepting Greyson's intrusive questions and condescending gestures? I needed to know what this charade was all about. Right fucking now. And if I didn't like what I heard, I'd put my foot down, no matter how delicious this dinner was.

I watched his face carefully as I asked, “Why are you here, Greyson? Trying to play knight in shining armor?”

His fork paused halfway to his mouth. He sighed through his nose, lips pressed in a tight line, then replied evenly, “No, Finley. I’m trying to help. That’s it.”

My heart pounded even faster. But as hard as I searched his dark eyes, I found no trace of dishonesty. He truly didn't want anything other than to give us what we needed—what we really needed, not just what felt good to give. He wasn't a false savior who would swoop in later and demand a return on his investment. And even if he did want that self-congratulatory high of being a good Samaritan...as long as he kept it to himself and didn't expect me to fawn over him, then maybe that wasn't so bad.

Wait, what was I thinking? This wasn't just any man sitting in front of me. No matter his good intentions, he couldn't bring Marcus back from the dead.

Maple’s squeals of delight interrupted my sour thoughts. I added a little more food to her plate.

Blinking back to reality, I noticed that Greyson still hadn't moved his fork. He was waiting to hear my response.

With no real clue what to say, I just huffed, “Good. Because I stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago.”

Silence descended as we resumed eating. All I could think about when I looked at him, no matter how kind he seemed or how striking he looked, was that he was the reason I lost my husband. That wasn’t something I’d ever get over. Ever.

Chapter Three

Greyson

Forcing a bite of food into my mouth, I couldn’t get over how much her daughter looked like her. From her green eyes to her honey-colored hair to her delicate features. She was a miniature version of Finley, and I was enthralled.

Using both hands, Maple enthusiastically shoveled food into her mouth, her chubby cheeks moving as she ate.

“She likes it,” Finley commented, watching Maple with a tender expression while she picked at her own food.

“It’s good to see. And you?”

Finley nodded. “Yes, it’s delicious, thank you.” She took another dainty bite from her fork, her eyes still on Maple.

Those were the first kind words she’d said to me, but I wasn’t going to bet that her sour streak was over.

The last time I’d seen her, she'd been dressed in all black, carrying a folded flag, tears rolling down her cheeks. She was a widow, way too young, and I'd been the one leading the mission that took Marcus from her. The guilt was insurmountable, so much so, that I spent all my free time pushing away everyone, working as much as possible, and chasing oblivion in the bottom of a bottle. She'd screamed at me in the parking lot that day, beat on my chest and dissolved into a puddle of tears. My SEAL teammates Nolan and West had carried her away, and I'd gotten into my truck, punching the steering wheel a few times trying to put physical pain into the anguish I felt inside.

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