Beautiful Rose (Beautiful Rose #1)


by Missy Johnson

Chapter One

Jack

"So, is this place open, or what?"

I turned around to see Alex approaching the bar. "What, you're drinking at three in the afternoon? They must be working you hard," I joked.

He sank onto one of the twenty stools that lined the length of the counter and shook his head. Alex glanced around, taking in the interior of the bar. His eyes grew wide as his jaw dropped open. I hid a smile, enjoying his reaction. The black stonewash countertop ran from the front of the venue right down to the back. Behind the bar in front of the mirrored backsplash that was mounted to the wall were glass shelves housing every spirit you could possibly think of. Oversized gray suede sofas complete with throw cushions and low-lit booths created intimate little nooks for people to socialize in, while the large modern tables in the middle of the room provided the perfect space for larger groups. Everything about this place, right down to the dance floor in front of the stage, screamed modern and classy. Exactly the look I was going for.

"Hey, this place has scrubbed up pretty well," he said, running a hand through his short dark hair. We shared the same dark, unruly hair and dark brown eyes. It wasn’t hard to see we were brothers. Though we shared some physical attributes, we were so different in personality that it was hard to imagine us being as close as we were. Alex was quiet and very focused, whereas I was outspoken and loud. My personality had toned down somewhat over the past few years. But I was still very much “me.” There were some things you just couldn’t change, and my warped sense of humor was definitely one of them.

He stifled a yawn as he stretched out his arms. He pointed to the Corona tap and made a drinking motion with his wrist. Well, it was either that or jerking off, and I chose the former, because the image of him jerking off was one I didn’t want in my head.

"You sound surprised. Besides, it’s not like you haven't seen the place finished," I chuckled, pouring him a beer and one for myself.

"I know, but it looks different all cleaned up, without your shit everywhere. I mean, it was starting to look as bad as your apartment down here," he joked.

“Funny.” I made a face at him. Like he could talk. The only reason his place was so clean was because of the cleaning service he employed. “The place does look good though, right?”

The truth was, I was surprised, myself, at just how nice this little place had turned out to be. What had started as a few casual shifts after escaping from the UK had turned into me owning the place less than three years later.

In the early days, this place was a dive that housed the same intoxicated old men, night after night. I'd work my shifts, and a few days a week I'd play to the small, and by small I mean small, crowd. At the time, it had suited me perfectly. Having somewhere I could play my music without judgment or expectation had played a huge role in overcoming what had been a really bad stage in my life.

And slowly, as I began to settle into my new life here in sunny Brooklyn—a far cry from gloomy London—the crowd who came to see me play grew to a good number of regulars. The idea that people came to hear my music was a strange feeling, but it wasn't that hard to get used to. I’d never been one to shy away from attention, and I was getting accustomed to turning back on the charm for women. The only difference was nowadays I did it more through my guitar than I did with my cock.

The night I’d found out Max was selling this place I'd lost a game of poker and drunk way too many beers. My memories of that night are hazy at best, but apparently I was standing on the bar, singing to Max, begging him to sell me the place. In the end, he had agreed, just to shut me up.

The next morning I woke up with a huge hangover, a bar in my name and a much lighter bank account. There were a few “What the hell have I done” moments, but they quickly passed as I got more excited about the place and what I could do with it. This was it, my dream. This was my chance to do what I loved doing.

I'd closed the doors for a month and done some serious renovating. The end result was what I hoped would become one of the hottest upscale nightspots in the area, while still keeping the laid-back, live-music feel of the place.

This had all seemed like such a great idea weeks ago. Now? Well, now I was scared as f**k that this would turn out to be one of the Top Ten Jack Falcon Disastrous Mistakes.

Trust me, making that list was no easy feat.

"You're still coming past tonight?" I asked Alex, already knowing the answer. My brother was the one constant of my life. He was my best friend and the person I looked up to most, so making time for him was something I'd always put first. Our weekly poker game with a few friends was something we always tried to uphold, but the fact that he was here now meant he probably had to work.

"I'm sorry man, I hate to do this to you, but someone called in sick and now I have to work," he grumbled, slumping over the bar. He looked like shit.

I glanced at his beer. "And that's allowed? Shit, you weren't kidding when you said you guys were laid-back." Alex scowled and pushed the beer back over to me, which only made me laugh harder. If his boss heard he had even looked at a beer before work he would be out the door. "Man, I think you just know I'll win. You have the worst poker face I've ever seen."

"Don't mess with me, Jack," he grumbled, reaching behind the bar for a bottle of water. "Today was an ass of a day. I swear, sometimes group therapy is enough to drive me to suicide." He unscrewed the top of the bottle and drank.

“Sitting around listening to other people’s sob stories? How could that not be uplifting?” I asked dryly. “There is no better therapy than knowing someone’s got it worse than you.”

Alex narrowed his eyes at me.

“What? I was kidding!” I chuckled, holding my hands up. Geez, he was so sensitive! Sometimes my humor was so underappreciated.

"Okay. If you say so," he replied, rolling his eyes. He stood up and grabbed his keys. "I gotta run, but I'll try and drop past after my shift." He glanced out the window and winked at me. "Looks like you have company anyway."

I followed his gaze.

Harmony.

Blonde hair, blue eyes, huge tits and a mouth that could suck the brass off a doorknob, Harmony was the closest thing I'd had to a girlfriend since moving over here. When you're only f**king the one girl and you've met her parents, then she kinda-sorta is your girlfriend, whether you like it or not. I prefer the term “friend with benefits,” though I go loosely on the term “friend.” Harmony wasn't a nice girl, which suited me perfectly. The last thing I needed in my life was a nice girl.

I'd been lucky to experience love once, and I'd f**ked it up. Nothing made me want to go through that pain again. Everything about Harmony was easy—excuse the pun. So long as I f**ked her and took her out occasionally, she was happy.

Well, that's not exactly true. Harmony was never really happy, but she was the kind of girl I knew I was safe with, someone I knew I could never fall in love with, and being with her kept me out of trouble.

I rested my hands on the edge of the bar as she sashayed toward me. Literally. If she put any more wiggle in her hips, she'd topple over.

Alex waved at her, then turned around and rolled his eyes at me before leaving. He wasn't a fan of Harmony. But then again, not many people were. She had more attitude than a drunk socialite, and about as much modesty.

"Hey baby," she crooned, leaning over the bar to kiss me, her br**sts practically rolling out of her low-cut red top. My eyes lingered on them. What? I’m a red blooded male, and they were more on display than Miley Cyrus’s tongue.

"How are you?" She plopped herself down as though it had taken all of her energy to do so, and then she sighed loudly.

I cocked my eyebrow, knowing she was hinting for me to ask her how she was. "Yeah, good. You? How's work?" I asked with a smirk, pretending I actually gave a shit. This was why I was so suited to bar work. I could fake interest in any conversation.

"Okay," she sighed. "I can't wait till this place picks up so I can work here."

My eyes widened. What? Her working here?

No. Fucking. Way.

I'd seen her waitress long enough to leave me wondering how in hell she held down a job. Seriously, this girl gave blondes a bad name when it came to using her head. Now, giving head, that was another story. That was a job she could handle quite well. Hell, I'd rather pay her to suck my c**k than work my bar. Then again, sucking my c**k was kind of working my bar, right?

"What about the club?" I asked her, trying to hide my shock. She worked as a waitress in a strip—sorry, a ‘gentleman’s club…which also kind of explains how we met.

She shrugged. "Well you'll need me here, so of course I'm going to leave, silly." God, I hated it when she did that. I'm twenty-eight, not five. What was next, airplane feeding me my dinner?

"Shit, I'm sorry baby, I hired another waitress today," I said, lying through my teeth. There was no way I could handle her around me 24/7. She almost drove me insane as it was. Besides, I was pretty sure my entire staff would quit with her working here.

"Well un-hire her," she said, her eyes narrowing.

Oh, shit, here we go. Tantrum time. You think it's beyond a twenty-five year old woman to throw a tantrum? Trust me, it's not.

"Harms, she's someone Alex knows," I fibbed, taking her hand. "I can't just un-hire her." I walked around the bar toward her. I nudged her knees apart and slid myself between her legs, wrapping my arms around her waist. She was softening. I tilted her head up and kissed her neck. She sighed, her lips finding mine. She moaned softly and I knew I had her.

Whew, that was close. Now I had to find a waitress.

"Can I come over later? I got you something for your birthday." She smiled mischievously.

"Harm . . .” I began, feeling uneasy. My birthday was a week ago. I don't even know how she knew about it. I sure as hell didn't tell her and none of the guys knew, besides Alex, and I couldn't imagine him going out of his way to tell her anything.