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Rugged and Filthy: A Roughneck Enemies to Lovers Romance by Piper Stone – Sample

Chapter One

“The song is ended, but the melody lingers on.”

—Irving Berlin

Foxx

Who said romance was dead?

Well, maybe I had more than once. I was a kickass, no-nonsense Marine with a penchant for violence. I loved all things outdoors from hiking to shooting, being on the water and kayaking. I’d never cared about watching movies, especially love stories. I wasn’t much into holidays, maybe because I’d spent so much time overseas during most of them.

But here I sat in my finest attire, which admittedly wasn’t anything special, but I’d made reservations at the best restaurant in the small town of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, the location on a pretty little spot of water. There was even a fountain off the oversized deck, the sounds of cascading water and the myriad colorful lights adding to the romantic atmosphere.

I’d picked a night when the place had live music, the piano player and guitarist ready and eager to play our song when I gave the okay. There were two candles on the red tablecloth, the flames flickering in the light breeze. Even the ordinary stench of the nearby swamp wasn’t evident tonight, replaced with the fragrance of night-blooming jasmine.

And in my pocket ready to burn a hole was the biggest diamond I could afford. It would take me four years to pay it off, but Dierdre was worth it. She’d been with me through thick and thin, several tours overseas. We were high school sweethearts, my deployment hindering our plans for a big family and a nice house in the suburbs. I even had one picked out, something we could afford. I planned on taking her there in the morning light to add to the celebration.

Now I was a freaking nervous wreck, eager to tell her I wasn’t leaving on any other tours, my time in the military finished. And I’d pop the question complete with champagne, a liquid libation I’d never tasted before but what the heck. You only proposed to the gal of your dreams once. Right?

I sat fidgeting, sipping on a beer while I waited.

She was already late by fifteen minutes, which wasn’t like her. My gal was known for being early to everything. People even teased her about it. Which was why I was beginning to worry something terrible had happened. I glanced at my watch for the tenth time, doing my best to calm my nerves. I’d told her tonight was special to me, trying not to give anything away. But my beautiful girl knew me too well. Maybe she’d wanted to make sure she looked perfect.

Which in my mind, she always did. She was beautiful in every way, her long red hair shimmering in the sunlight. I couldn’t wait to start a family with her.

As I sat back, pretending I didn’t have a care in the world, my heart thumped. Then my phone buzzed and I eagerly picked it up, frowning when I noticed it was a text from one of my buddies. Hudson Michaels was trying to be a buzzkill, constantly telling me that women were nothing but liars.

Granted, he’d found his gal in bed with his teammate from the Vancouver Cougars, the incident almost derailing his lucrative hockey career. In town for his sister’s wedding, he and my other friend, Jack Ford, were commiserating over their fates, likely drowning their sorrows in whatever bottle of booze they could get their hands on. They were just jealous, but the text made me smile.

Come to Ralphie’s where the beer is cold and the women cheap. We’ll take care of you.

My response?

Fuck off.

I laughed and shoved my phone back into my jacket pocket, rubbing my sweaty hands down my trousers. I was jumpy, more so than I’d thought I’d be since Dierdre and I had been together for over five years. At least I was ready to take this seriously.

After another couple of minutes, the waiter came over, his impatience written all over his face. “Sir, would you like to order something?”

“As I told you before, I’m waiting for my lady. She should be here any minute. She just got held up.”

“Sure. Another beer?”

What the heck. “Yeah, I’ll take one of those.” I glanced over the railing at the luminescent water, allowing myself to envision Christmas and birthdays, our wedding anniversaries. Maybe I could even learn to like chick flicks. I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought. Next, I’d be doing the laundry too. At least I had a job waiting for me on my father’s oil rig located off the coast of Alaska. Okay, so it was still a distance from Washington State, but closer than Afghanistan. The brutal job paid well and I’d only be gone for a month or so at a time. Much better than my six-to-eight-month deployments. One had even been a year to the damn day.

Yep. I was ready to move on.

Another two minutes passed and I finally texted her.

Where are you, sugar britches? I’m waiting.

We both had iPhones and when she didn’t read what I’d sent after a full three minutes had passed, I was seriously nervous. At least I thought I’d get a nasty remark in return since she hated my little nickname for her.

“Here you go, sir,” the waiter commented as he placed the beer in front of me.

I almost knocked over the bottle in my effort to stand. The second I turned around, relief flooded through me. There she was standing in the warm glow of the evening light, her long hair flowing. I was surprised she was in jeans instead of a dress, but it didn’t matter at this point. The only thing that did was my proposal and sharing a passionate evening. I would ravage her body later.

She approached tentatively, glancing at the table. Only when she was a couple of feet away did I notice the odd look on her face.

“Is everything okay? I was worried about you.”

She moved around me, not allowing me to pull her into my arms. “I’m fine. Just fine. Can we sit and talk?”

“Sure. Of course. Did you get that promotion?”

The deep exhale she issued sounded terrible, like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders. “Not exactly.”

“Oh, honey. I’m so sorry. The hospital is full of a bunch of idiots.” She’d worked hard to become an RN, overcoming a half-dozen obstacles. I was so proud of her.

“It’s okay. Look, we need to talk.”

“I know you hate me being away so much so let me interrupt,” I told her, far too eager to wait for long. “I’m home for good. Well, I’ll be going out on the rig every few months, but that’s only for a couple weeks at a time.” So I was minimizing the time I’d be gone. I couldn’t help myself.

“That’s great, Foxx. Really great, but I need to tell you something.”

“Not yet. Let me finish. Then you can talk.” I was nearly jumping out of my skin, so happy we could finally be together permanently. She could move out of her parents’ house and we’d live happily ever after. I slipped my hand into my pocket, wrapping my fingers around the small velvet box before dropping to my knees in front of her.

Instantly, I heard gasps from behind me, other customers joyful to see romance in bloom. Dierdre pressed her hand across her mouth, blinking several times.

I opened the box slowly, hoping the diamond sparkled in the flickering light. It wasn’t the finest clarity of those top dollar diamonds, but I was proud of what I’d been able to purchase. My baby deserved the world. “Dierdre Janice Cannon, will you do the honor of becoming my wife? To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, until death do us part? Or we retire to Florida.”

The place she’d always wanted to live.

She glanced at the ring then up into my eyes. I knew at that moment something was terribly wrong.

“Foxx. We need to talk.” She slowly pressed down the lid, covering the diamond. I was stunned that she didn’t have an immediate answer but somehow managed to get back to my seat.

“What’s wrong?”

“I didn’t get the promotion, but I did get a new job.”

“O-kay. That’s wonderful. I don’t understand.”

She was nervous, her hand shaking. “It’s in Miami.”

“What?” I had no clue she’d applied for a job in Miami.

“Yeah, it’s an amazing opportunity for my career. You always knew I wanted to live there. It’s a huge increase in salary and so many chances to move up. It’s time for me to do what I need to do to better myself. You know?”

“Sure. Of course. Well, it’s going to be tough to make it work but we can do that. I mean maybe I could find a job there. That could work.”

She placed her hand on the table, shaking her head. “You don’t understand. I don’t want you to go with me.”

“What are you saying?” I was confused, completely drifting into some crazy fog.

The way she turned her head away from me was telling, my nerves raw from the ugliness of what I suspected was coming.

“I’m saying I’m not going alone. Mark is coming with me.”

“Mark… you mean Mark Jameson, the intern you met like four weeks ago?”

“Yes, but it was over a year ago. He got a job at the same hospital where I’ll be working. We’re moving there and into a condo he just bought.” She smiled as if I’d be completely okay with this while she’d just ceremoniously shattered my entire world.

I had no idea what to say but there were several vicious thoughts about what I wanted to do to the asshole Mark running through my mind. “How long?”

“How long what?”

“Have you been sleeping with him?”

The way she shrank back away from me indicated fear. Of me. Of the man she’d confessed her love to when we were both seventeen, the one who’d she promised to spend the rest of her life with.

“Don’t, Foxx. Okay?”

“Don’t what? Make this shit storm any worse, Dierdre? Make my heart race any faster? Or are you telling me to get the fuck over it?” My voice had risen by several decibels and I didn’t give a flying fuck who overheard us. When she remained quiet, I slammed my fist on the table, knocking over my beer bottle. The sound of liquid spilling over the edge of the table to the deck was a perfect backdrop for the shit that had been dumped into my lap. “How. Long.”

“Almost a year.”

Maybe I hadn’t been prepared for the truth. I glared at her, no words drifting into my mind, but I could see blood—Mark’s blood to be exact—from the bullet I wanted to put into his brain. I was a sharpshooter after all, highly skilled in killing enemies.

And I’d consider the man exactly that.

Sadly, now I had to place the only woman I’d ever love into the neat and tidy box as well. I slowly rose to my feet, the ring box still in my hand. As I backed away, she threw out her arm as if she was going to apologize then didn’t.

That was my cue to get the hell out.

But as I was preparing to walk into the main part of the restaurant, disappearing into the shadows, I stopped short, glancing at the lake to my left. And without any hesitation or concern about the money, I pitched the box into the water.

After that, I made a promise to myself.

I would never open my heart to another woman ever again.

Once in the parking lot, I pulled out my phone, dialing Hudson’s number.

“Yo, bro. Did you do the dirty deed?” he asked, the blaring music in the background almost drowning out his words.

“We’re done. Finished. Order me a bottle of beer and three shots of tequila. I’ll be right there.”

And just like that, my entire life had changed, tossed into the dumpster. Well, fuck it.

Fuck romance.

Fuck women.

Being around them was only good for one damn thing. Hard fucking.

Chapter Two

Thirteen years later

Foxx

Brutally savage work.

Yeah, it was something I was used to. Getting dirt under my fingernails was a requirement or I hadn’t been working hard enough. But as the sweat poured down my back and both sides of my face, I was more than a little ready to get the fuck off the oil rig my father had owned for more than half my life. Where I’d once found the entire scope of work challenging as well as fascinating, my callused hands and tight muscles an effect of the brutal working conditions, I wanted nothing to do with the frigid climate of Alaska.

Maybe using my two months off to head to a more tropical climate was in order.

The crew had even suffered a major ice storm this year, losing five hundred thousand dollars’ worth of product to boot. We should have gotten off the rig before it had nearly been torn apart, but Pops had demanded the entire crew of one hundred and fifty men stay on board, locked down for the duration of the fucking storm. We’d made it through but not without our bumps and bruises.

The much smaller second tier was coming in, mostly for maintenance work. While my father was the owner-operator of the rig, time was needed to get the aging equipment functioning to perfection before we filled the next order. At least Pops had a nose for oil, paying top dollar for the rig. I’d laughed in his face for selling the house I’d grown up in to do so, but we were finally exceeding quota.

But I was tired of the life.

Period.

The truth was I was getting too old for this line of work. Or so I liked to think. However, the fact Pops was in his early sixties and still beating the shit out of the younger riggers was a reminder the oil industry was deep-seated in my blood. My grandpappy had also owned a rig once upon a time, his life and death spent on the water.

I’d been five years old when the rig he had owned blew up from a faulty drill, several of his men also dying in the horrific tragedy. Had that slowed my father down for a blip in time? Nope. That’s how the man had instilled such a tremendous work ethic in me. Plus, I had that same sense of smell, which helped in encouraging new riggers to join the team.

But I was beginning to fray around the edges. Most of the dudes on the rig would head back to the mainland, rekindling their often tumultuous passion with their wives or girlfriends, others spending a couple of weeks hooking up with chicks they just met. Me? I preferred time alone. Even my two buddies often had a difficult time getting me out of the house. Why bother? There was nothing good beyond the doors of my cabin deep in the woods outside of Seattle.

As I yanked off my gloves, stretching out my back, I noticed both Hudson and Jack approaching with three beers in their hands. Pops had rarely been able to control the drinking on the aging rig, something that was left to me to do. Because I was strict in enforcing the few rules we had, I wasn’t the most well-liked rigger on the hunk of iron and steel, but I didn’t give a shit.

Two men had come close to losing their lives a couple of years before because of trying to work in a drunken stupor. We had enough issues between skyrocketing insurance rates and mechanical issues that required securing another loan, without being blasted in the news all over again.

But right now, a cold one sounded damn good, so much so I offered a rare grin.

“Whoa. Hold the fuck on. Did the sun just come out?” Jack snarled as he spun in a full circle. He was the jester of the three musketeers, the name we’d coined for ourselves. I wasn’t sure why he could be so jovial after spending a few years in prison for an aggravated assault, the prosecuting attorney aggressive as fuck since he’d been bucking for a promotion.

The asshole had won even though the evidence had been bullshit. Jack had been doing nothing more than attempting to save a woman from another round of horrible abuse from a bully. See where it had gotten him? A record that would never be expunged. I’d made the prosecuting jerk’s life miserable every day for two years afterwards. Not that that had done me any good either. Now the son of a bitch was a judge. One day he’d get his. Fate had a way of intervening every time.

At least the time spent behind bars hadn’t dulled Jack’s dark sense of humor. Nope, the gal he’d spent several years with, who’d left him on the day of his conviction, had done that. At least on this surprisingly humid, fucking far too sunny day he was able to smile.

Maybe that’s because we were headed for vacation or that the project had gone well enough everyone on the rig was getting a bonus for a change. Whatever the case, I’d be sleeping for a week solid as the first item on my agenda.

“To the big man,” Hudson said, lifting his bottle as soon as I’d grabbed a brewski out of Jack’s hand. “And it’s fucking freezing. I hate the goddamn cold weather.”

“Hear, hear,” Jack said. “Wait. Who the hell are we talking about?” He burst into laughter and I rolled my eyes before sucking down almost half the bottle.

As I wiped my mouth, I studied the larger than usual waves. It would appear another goddamn storm was rolling in. The amount of snow we’d seen this year had been ridiculous. It would be good to be on dry land for a change.

“What are your plans?” Hudson asked us both.

“Me? I’m thinking about heading to Hawaii,” Jack said, grinning after doing so. “Maybe we could all go. You know, some sun and surf, beautiful island girls. We could even share one together if you prefer.”

“You forget our buddy here has sworn off women completely,” Hudson teased, throwing me a goofy look. “But I wouldn’t mind hooking up with a hot chick or two.”

“Not me,” I said in passing. Maybe I was getting too old or too tired to give a shit about a woman. Maybe if I continued to tell myself the same lie, I’d finally start to believe it.

“When was the last time you got your dick wet?” Jack punched my arm and for a few seconds, I wanted to throw a hard jab under his jaw.

While I knew they were just teasing, the continuous comments about my lack of love life were starting to get on my nerves. “All three of us know how love works. It stinks.”

“I ain’t talkin’ about falling in love. I’m talking about shoving your cock into some sweet pussy. At least four or five girls. Maybe I’ll do them at the same time.” Jack’s laugh was boisterous.

We all laughed but I doubted Jack was kidding. He liked to think of himself as a ladies’ man. Hudson shook his head. “Do you remember when we met inside that dive bar, all three of us commiserating about our bad luck with women?”

“Which time?” I asked. “We did that three times if I remember correctly.”

“I remember. And all three times we talked about sharing a single woman together.” Hudson grinned like a kid locked inside a candy store.

“If I remember correctly,” Jack said as he rubbed his stubbled jaw, “we actually did share a hot little snack at least once.”

“Twice,” I muttered, although the last time I could barely remember since I’d been so intoxicated. That had been not long after Jack had been released on parole.

Suddenly, Hudson had a faraway look in his eyes. He’d had a rough time in his life. He’d lost his girlfriend first, his lucrative career due to a broken ankle caused by an opposing team member’s wayward puck shot and his parents right after that, killed in a car accident. At least the drunk driver remained behind bars, but it had nearly crushed his spirit.

How many times had either Jack or I had to collect him from a bar where he’d caused trouble? More times than I could count on one hand. I’d also bailed him out of jail twice. At least the sheriff had been sensitive to his despair.

“You know what I was thinking recently?” he asked, turning his full attention toward the rolling waves.

“Shit. Do we want to know?” I snarked, trying to keep the mood light. When he got into his melancholy shit, it usually meant babysitting him for a night or more.

Jack pounded him on the back and they acted as if they were going to walk into a boxing match. The two were like brothers, something I envied.

Hudson snorted. “I was just thinking how cool it could be if we did find one woman who we could spend the rest of our lives with. One big happy family.”

Jack choked, spitting out a gulp of beer. “You’re shittin’ me.”

“Nope. I think that would be a perfect scenario.”

Both men looked to me as if I had all the answers. “What?”

“What do you think, big man?” Jack kept a grin on his face.

“I think there isn’t a woman out there who could handle the three of us at the same time. I have a feeling she’d put a bullet in our brains after a month tops.” I threw back the beer bottle, guzzling down the rest. That’s when I noticed my father leaning over the railing on the small deck leading to his office. He was watching the three of us intently.

Hudson followed my gaze, shuddering visibly on purpose. Pops was a hard man, also a former Marine who hadn’t softened a single bit as he’d aged. He was tougher than most men, rarely offering any compliments or allowing a single excuse from any of the men who worked for him. He’d run off the few female riggers because of his bad attitude. Or maybe that had been our overtly sexual cast of characters. Either way, my father didn’t take any shit.

I was certain the cigars he’d taken up smoking were going to kill him one day, but as everyone always said, the man was too mean to die. When he beckoned me with a nod of his head, Jack whistled under his breath.

“Somebody is in trouble,” he said as I started to walk away, which prompted me to give him my favorite one-finger salute.

The guys knew Pops was hardest on me and always had been, the hard-drinking, hard-working man instilling a true work ethic deep inside. He’d once told me it was because his brother, my uncle, was what Pops called a disgrace to the family. Uncle Rex had run off with the New York Irish mob, becoming one of their enforcers.

Which was nothing more than a fancy way of saying he enjoyed slaughtering people. Hell, maybe it ran in the family’s blood, both Pops and I killing our share of insurgents with flair and ease.

However, I’d hated my dad for his lack of emotions until well into my late twenties. Then I realized why he pushed me like he’d never done to anyone else. He was terrified I’d become him. That had been the single time he’d admitted what he considered his failure, the argument we’d had leading to the most and only real heartfelt moment we’d shared.

Other than the few minutes of suffering around my mama’s funeral. He’d never been the same since her death. Between that and the shit with Dierdre years before, I was determined never to fall head over heels in love with anyone ever again.

After tossing the empty bottle into the trash, I jogged up the steel stairs, pitching open the creaking metal door and walking into what my father called the command center. The rig might be older than the man himself, but he’d updated the communications and navigation equipment given his military background. He knew just how important it was to keep clear lines of communication, especially since he and nine of his squad mates had almost lost their lives in an ambush decades before. He continued to bear the scars from shrapnel like badges of honor. Especially since the bastards in the military had refused to give him a Purple Heart for saving four of the men under his command.

He’d become bitter from that as well as the other shit life had thrown at him.

“What’s up, Pops?” I asked.

He sat back in the same chair he’d had for maybe twenty years, rocking back and forth as he stared at me. “You up for an adventure?”

“What the hell are you talking about?” The gleam in his eyes usually meant trouble.

He shifted the toothpick he was chewing from one side of his mouth to the other, keeping his intense glare. “Do you remember hearing me talk about my buddy, Sean O’Rourke?”

About a bazillion times. He’d met the Irishman during basic training, the two of them sparring at first then becoming fast friends over the years. The man had moved back to his home country, raising his family there since meeting a lovely Irish girl from Dublin. They hadn’t seen each other in at least a decade. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time they’d talked either.

“Sure, Pops. What about him?”

“He called asking for my help.”

“Really? Isn’t he running a rig of his own off the Ireland coast?”

“Aye.” He always fell into an Irish brogue anytime he talked about Sean. “He’s not doing so good. He’s having some issues with keeping men and certain acts of sabotage on his aging rig, which ain’t performing like it used to. He can’t run it full time any longer. From what my buddy said, the riggers have no sense of discipline. Plus, he’s got some favor he needs doing for a buddy of his, which means he needs a full staff of roughnecks.”

Uh-oh. I knew where this was going. “You want me to go over there and straighten the assholes out, to help get them back on their feet?”

“Something like that.”

“Why can’t he do it?”

He leaned up in his chair, rising to his full height. That usually meant I wasn’t going to be able to turn him down. “He had a massive heart attack a few months ago. He can’t work the rig any longer. Plus, he’s got other underlying health problems too. Poor dumb fuck. Luck ain’t in his corner. Never has been.”

“O-kay. Who is running the rig now?”

“One of his kids who has no clue how to handle the riggers.”

“Oh. So what are you asking?”

My father’s eyes sparkled, something that never happened. “I’m saying that Sean needs more than one man to get the rig back in order. Evidently, few are skilled like you and your buddies are. Jack and Hudson can work their magic as well. From what I understand, there’s a lot of mechanical issues. Plus, there ain’t no one with your nose for oil.”

Why did I have a feeling there was so much more to this story? My dad was tight lipped when it came to his buddies and time spent in the Marines. Serving our country did have a way of changing every man and woman sent overseas.

“Let me see if I got this right. You want me to convince my buddies, Hudson and Jack, that after being out to sea for three freaking long months of savage work and icy conditions that they need to come with me on an adventure in another country.”

“Yep. And about seventeen others.”

I laughed. “Twenty men heading to Ireland. For how long?”

“A couple weeks, a month tops. The pay should be phenomenal.”

That was like a lifetime to the men who’d barely had a few hours off let alone a single day. Sure, all of us were getting a damn good salary for a change but that didn’t make up for the heavy weight of exhaustion and loneliness. Or the stench of salt water, body odor, and crude oil.

“Right. You know how well that will go over.”

“Maybe not, son, but my buddy needs help and I’m the only man he can trust.”

My dad almost never called me his son either. That meant there was something else going on. “I’ll think about it.”

“Well, don’t think too hard. With that other fuckin’ storm rolling in, we got less than eight hours before we need to be off the rig or hunker down for the long haul.”

Great. He had me stuck between a rock and steep precipice. “They’re not going to want to do it. You know that. Let alone I doubt every man has a passport.”

“We can work that out. I know some folks who can expedite the paperwork.”

“And what about Jack? He has a record.”

“He ain’t on probation. He’s a free man.”

Free. I wasn’t certain there was such a thing. As I scratched my beard, he walked closer.

“Son. I need you on this one. Sean saved my life. I owe it to him to do something in kind.”

Goddamn it. I hated it when he laid a guilt trip on me.

I shook my head but grumbling about it wasn’t going to do me any good. I’d do just about anything for my dad, even if he could be a pain in the ass at times.

“Let me see what I can do.”

Fuck. Why did I have a feeling this was going to be a pain in my ass?

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