Banking the Billionaire (Bad Boy Billionaires #2)(10)

by Max Monroe

Herding Cassie inside was relatively easy, and as I introduced her to Frankie, she had a genuine smile on her face. I wasn’t sure if it was for him or me, though; with his tan, tattooed skin and piercing light green eyes, he tended to have that effect on women.

Packed into the tight space of his kitchen, I stood between the two of them and waved a hand back and forth.

“Frankie, this is Cassie, Kline’s wife’s best friend.”

“Hey, nice to meet you,” Frankie said through a smile.

“And Cassie, this is Frankie. I own a tattoo shop with him.”

“You own a tattoo shop?” she asked abruptly.

Frankie laughed. “I see you two know each other well.”

I shook my head, laughed, and pushed on. “I also know Frankie from home.”

“Home?” Cassie questioned.

“You just picked me up from there.”

“Jail?” she joked, and Frankie drew his eyebrows together. I shook my head slightly to wave him off.

“Yes, exactly,” I teased, but I could tell Frankie would be asking me questions later.

“Where’s Claire?” I asked him.

“Out back with the kids.” I glanced out the window and spotted her soft smile almost immediately. “Come on. We’ve got burgers and stuff.”

We followed him out, and I set my gift on the designated table. Cassie watched as I set it down, and then rummaged through her bag, walking away from me and straight to Mila when she found what she was after.

Frankie and I both looked on as her hand appeared with a Barbie—still in the box—in tow.

“What the hell?” I murmured. “Did she just have that thing in there?”

Frankie laughed and crossed his heavily tattooed arms across his chest. He jerked his chin in her direction. “What’s the deal there?”

“No deal.”

“Right. I’m not blind. I read her shirt and noticed the swells underneath.”

“Uh-oh,” I teased. “I’m telling Claire.”

“Telling me what?” she asked as she came up beside me and placed a hello kiss on my cheek. The sweet scent of her perfume filled my nostrils and made me smile. I’d been friends with the two of them for as long as I could remember. Our love for Margo linked the three of us together. She had been one of Claire’s closest friends and Frankie’s little sister.

“He was planning to tell you that I’d noticed his date’s assets,” Frankie admitted diplomatically.

Claire laughed and shrugged until the tips of her blond hair grazed her sleeveless shoulders. “I noticed too.”

Empty burger dish in hand, she moved on quickly, carrying it to the kitchen to put it in the sink.

As soon as she disappeared, my eyes found Cassie again and watched as she rolled the ends of her yoga pants up to the top of her calves in preparation to play whatever game the kids had talked her into. Mila tried to mimic her by lifting the hem of her dress, but Cassie pushed it back down gently and laughed.

“She’s the phone call from a couple of weeks ago, huh?” Frankie asked, and I just nodded. He’d seen me out the window of the shop laughing and smiling and swooning all over the goddamn place while Cassie flirted and flaunted her ability to converse while drunk, but my eyes refused to leave their perusal to acknowledge him with any more than that.

He laughed as Cassie stood in front of Mila, doing some kind of ridiculous dance for her and her friends, and I felt the sentiment of his humor way down deep in my chest.

“Man,” Frankie muttered. “I can’t wait to watch this unfold.”

“So, how long have you known T?” Claire asked as she handed me a freshly washed serving bowl. We’d been at Mila’s sixth birthday party for just over four hours, and while I was exhausted, I was also having the time of my life.

Hey, I don’t have to pour beers from my tits to have a good time.

I took the dish and dried it, my eyes fixated on the scene through the kitchen window, watching Thatch hula-hoop with Mila in the backyard. “Not too long. He’s best friends with my best friend Georgia’s husband.”

Claire smiled warmly at the tongue twister, and her eyes jumped as she followed the breadcrumbs all the way to the end of the trail. “Kline?”

“Yeah.” I nodded, setting the dish on the clean rack. The fact that she knew Kline and at least of Georgia made me curious. “How long have you known Thatch?”

She grinned. “Since we were kids.”

“So you know all of his dirty secrets?” I teased. Her grin fell slightly in response, and it was not the reaction I had expected. She grabbed another dish towel and wrung it in her hands.

“I’ve known him just as long as I’ve known my husband, and still, I don’t know everything. He can be quite the mystery, but I’m not even sure he intends for it to be that way. Thatch is the kind of guy who’s open and honest but doesn’t exactly take it upon himself to open up, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I’m noticing that.” I mean, I hadn’t known about the tattoo parlor until today.

“But he’s a good guy.” She unclenched her hands, tossed the towel on the counter, and smiled as she looked out the window. “Underneath all of that charming swagger and big ego, he’s got an even bigger heart.”

My gaze followed hers back outside. I watched Thatch lift Mila up and throw her over his shoulder, running around the yard while all of her friends chased them, giggling and smiling as they ran. It didn’t take a genius to see Claire was right. My chest ached from the overwhelming cuteness of it all.

Claire turned off the faucet with a muttered, “Oops,” as though she’d forgotten to do it before. After a deep breath, she hitched a hip against the counter and faced me, eyes all-knowing. “He’s basically a big teddy bear when you get to know him.” She winked and put a kind hand to my arm. “Just go easy on him, okay? He hasn’t necessarily had the easy road when it comes to relationships.”

I shook my head, and my eyes made an attempt to bug out of my head. “Oh, we’re not in a relationship.”

“I know,” she said, smirking. “But I also know Thatch enough to know he’s fucking tenacious.”

I grinned at the fact it was the first f-bomb I’d heard Claire drop since we got to her house, but I guessed little ears would do that.