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The Man I Can’t Have (Ward Duet #1)
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It started as a simple search for a landscape designer…
I wanted a beautiful backyard for my new home and my neighbors suggested I look into Ward Landscaping & Design.
So why am I falling for a man I know I can’t have?
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8 Years Ago – Charleston, South Carolina
If my mother could see me now, I’m certain she’d pick up the nearest object and smack me on the back of the head with it.
Granted, the nearest object is the cold bottle of beer clutched in my hand, but sure enough, she’d have grabbed it and hit me with it, just to knock some sense into me.
She’d raised me to be better than this. I wasn’t supposed to grow up and become a twenty-seven-year-old drunk, sitting on a busted-up bar stool in a dive bar named Lionel’s, especially when it was well after midnight.
Unfortunately, this day called for it. My rent is late. Bills are piling up, and not one motherfucker in town will hire me since the little scandal I had with my boss’s wife.
Hell, it isn’t my fault she wanted me; I didn’t even know she was married. She wasn’t wearing a ring the night I met her. I was at a party at my boss’s house—well, mansion, really. She came onto me, and Mr. Powell caught us in his office with her hand on my crotch.
Mr. Powell is a highly respected man—the most well-known business contractor in our state. I’m sure he’s told the businessmen of Charleston to never hire a son-of-a-bitch like me.
Most of the jobs I’ve applied for are in construction, electrical, or mechanical. All I’m good for is my hands, really. I’m great at fixing shit, yet no one around here who has a great business (and a wife) wants to hire me. Figures.
I can’t forget to mention that taking care of Shayla, my sister, is stressful as hell. Twenty-one years old and able to buy her own bottle of liquor, she thinks she has life all figured out. She has no idea how hard life is, considering I’ve piggy-backed her every step of the way.
Too bad Momma isn’t here anymore. Maybe I need her to hit me upside the head with something so I can stop pouting like a whiny little bitch and get a move on. I can hear her voice now, “You got time to mope at this bar, but no time to search for jobs?” I’d shrug, and she’d smack me on the head or arm with a firm hand and a deep, intimidating frown. I’d frown right back, but she wouldn’t give a damn. She’d give me a lecture about how I was destined to live a good life—that she named me Marcellus Leo Ward for a reason. To her, my name was powerful. It was a name that no man could ignore, because it was strong, and most men in this world—especially ones who want a successful business—hire men with solid names. Lately, that has proven to be untrue.
With a sigh, I finish off my beer and then lean forward on one elbow, pulling the slim wallet out of my back pocket. I slam a soggy five-dollar bill on the counter and focus on Lionel who is behind the counter, cleaning beer glasses. “Give me one more.”
“You sho? This’ll be yo’ third one tonight, ain’t it?” he asks. His accent is so thick that when I first met him, I had no idea what the hell he was saying. After many nights of coming here, though, I can comprehend most of what he says. You can definitely tell he’s from Summerville, South Carolina. Same place I was born. We connected because of that—being born in the same city.
“I’m positive.” Lionel gives me a sideways glance, like he knows I need to just take my ass home already, but I wave a hand, silently encouraging him to hurry up before I put the five he could use back in my pocket.
He uncaps my beer, slides it across the counter in my direction, and I push the five his way, putting on a smug smile.
“Know it ain’t my business or anything,” Lionel goes on, drying a glass with a towel, “but what you sittin’ ‘round here down in the pits fo’? Bringin’ the whole mood down around this place.”
“Been lookin’ for jobs,” I mutter after taking a swig of beer. “No one in Charleston will hire me. Don’t have much experience. Had a good job but got fired over some bullshit. I’m in need of a big job. Something great.”
“Big job? What you mean by that?”
“Somethin’ stable that comes with health insurance or at least dental, you know? Need it for me and Shayla.”
“Ah.” Lionel’s eyes get bigger. “I see. Why don’t you just make yo’ own?”
“My own business?” I scoff. “Yeah…I wouldn’t even know where to start.”
Lionel chuckles. “I can see you gettin’ away with something like dat.”
I look sideways at the small TV in the upper right corner where a basketball game is playing.
“Tell you what? I would hire ya, but my numba’ one rule is to never let a man who loves drinkin’ work at my bar.”