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Dirty Money

By:Jessica Clare

Chapter One


Boone

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."

"We're not?" The suit frowns, gazing around him.

The man's stupider than dirt. I glance over at Clay and the other boys,  but they're all looking at me with amusement. Clearly, this is my  problem. I roll my dowsing rods between my hands again. "No digging  today. You see any equipment?"

He turns. He actually turns and looks around. Like he wouldn't see a  fucking rig from a fucking mile away. They ain't exactly stealthy pieces  of equipment. Off to one side, my brother Clay snorts and presses a  hand over his face, trying to hide his laughter.

I glance at my watch. Five more minutes. Damn. That means this idiot's  gonna sit here in front of me for five more minutes, looking for a rig  that ain't here.

The suit finally turns and looks at me again. "If we're not digging, what are we doing here?"

I hold up the dowsing rods. "We're picking where we drill."

The suit stares at the rods I'm holding, then looks me right in the eye.  Then, he looks away over at Clay and the others. "Does your boss know  that you're using sticks for this?"

"It's called dowsing," I correct him. He's got a snotty tone in his  voice I like even less than what I've heard so far. "And it works."

"Listen," he says, clutching his briefcase to his chest and wiping at  his forehead again. "I realize that Mr. Price had a big hit on oil-"

"So I hear." Really, this would be amusing if it wasn't so damn insulting.

"And I know they call him Spindletop, because he found a well that rivals that one-"

"Hundred thousand barrels a day," I agree. I know this story well. It's my damn story.

"And I realize that maybe because he came from working oil that he  doesn't mind if you do things in a haphazard fashion," he continues, his  lip curling as he looks over at me. "But Mr. Bates is not as foolhardy  with his money and his time, and I'm here to see that Mr. Price doesn't  waste either of them."

"Uh-huh," I say slowly.

He stares at me, waiting for an answer.

I check my watch. Two minutes until the top of the hour. Close enough. I  hop off the end of the truck bed and nod at Clay. "Wanna get started?"

"Still got two minutes," Clay says.

"Two minutes?" the suit asks. "Two minutes for what? Is Mr. Price going to show up?" And the idiot turns and looks around again.

"Bad juju if we don't start at the top of the hour." Clay smirks over at  me. "And we need all the good juju we can get 'round here."

"Our juju's already bad," I say, rubbing the dowsing rods with an  oil-soaked cloth like I always do, so they get the scent of what they're  looking for. "Might as well get this dog and pony show going."

"Shouldn't we wait for Mr. Price? My employer won't be happy about this dowsing-"

I've about had enough of this peckerhead. I step forward, and the man  retreats like I'm gonna raise a fist. "You want Boone Price?" I ask him.

The suit nods, cringing.

I shove a thumb at my chest. "I'm Boone fucking Price. And if I wanna  fucking dowse for oil, I'm gonna dowse for oil. Understand?"

The man's mouth drops open. Then shuts. Then opens again. He eyeballs  me, then the rods in my hand, as if he doesn't quite believe it.

Hell of a day I'm having.



By the time we leave the worksite, I'm in a foul mood. Worse than foul. I  should go home and shower the West Texas dust off of me, but I can't  stop thinking about the dickface in the suit and how he was such an ass  to me. I don't know why it's galling me so much, but I can't get past  it. I'm still pissed about it when I climb into my truck and Clay sits  in the passenger seat and starts yammering about the day. He's in a good  mood-of course he is. Ain't nothing that bothers Clay for long. Me, I'm  the one that stresses the fuck out over everything.         

     



 

And the lack of respect I'm getting right now? It fucking bothers me.

I tear down the highway, only half listening to Clay laugh and tell  jokes about what the guys said. About what I did today. I'm not paying  attention. All I can think about is Bates. Bates sending his little  pencil-dick company man to try to get me set up "proper." Like I don't  know what I'm doing. Like I'm the one that doesn't have money.

Like I'm the one that's the needy party.

Fuck that shit. I don't need anyone.

By the time we get to the outskirts of the city, Clay's yawning and  mentioning beer. I give my brother a narrow-eyed look and a nod, then  grab my phone off the dashboard. I dial Bates.

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