The Porter brothers were raised to live and die by Three Rules.
One, a Porter always keeps what"s his.
Two, a Porter stands his ground.
Dustin never had to search for his true love. They used to play and get in trouble together, shared a playpen, and their mothers used to be best friends. But that was before their fathers made them enemies and changed the course of their lives. Now the Porters stayed on their side of the mountain while the Hayes stayed on theirs.
Believing it was easier to coexist as frenemies with Jessie Hayes rather than changing the Porter stubborn ways, Dustin was content with booty calls, raising his son, and growing weed as a side business " until he heard her screams. Now he was going to show a murderer just how much they had underestimated this Porter brother. And he was going to have to break his father"s last rule: Leave no enemy standing " to claim the enemy that held his heart.Books in Series:Porter Brothers Trilogy Series by Jamie BegleyBooks by Author:Jamie Begley Books
"Is it still alive"" Jessie squatted down beside the unmoving baby bird, reaching out with her fingertips to the delicate animal that must have fallen from its nest.
"Of course it is, stupid."
Jessie jerked to her feet and punched her friend in the shoulder.
"Ouch! What"d you do that for""
She jutted her chin out angrily at Dustin"s bewildered expression. "I told you not to call me stupid!"
"Jeez, you could have just told me. You didn"t have to hit me!"
"I don"t call you stupid when you ask me to help with your reading homework."
"It just is; that"s why!"
"Hush, my pa will know I sneaked out of the house again. I"m not getting another whipping because of you."
Her friend"s face turned red. "Your pa whips you again, I"m gonna beat him up." Dustin clenched his hands into fists as he pretended to punch the air.
Jessie giggled. "You will""
"Yep, I told you that the last time he did. I"m not afraid of that old fart."
"You"re not big enough to beat him up."
"Greer and Tate are. They"ll do anything I tell them to."
She stared at him doubtfully. "How about we just be quiet and nobody has to beat him up""
Dustin"s angry expression faded. "Okay, I don"t want your pa mad at me anyway."
Jessie gave him a quick hug before dropping back to her knees, gently touching the wisps of the feathers. Startled, the bird lifted its weak head and began chirping for its momma.
Raising her tear-filled eyes, she stared up at the tree, hoping the momma bird would swoop down and pick up its baby.
"She ain"t gonna come for it. You touched it."
Jessie cupped the fragile bird in the palms of her hands and held it to her chest, feeling its trembling through her thin cotton T-shirt.
"Whatcha doing"" he asked with interest.
"I"m going to climb that tree and put it back in its nest."
"Why you going to do that" The mama won"t feed it. It smells like you now."
"Quit saying that! I can"t leave it to die."
"Because I just can"t; that"s why."
"You"re going to break your neck," he stated matter-of-factly.
"You think so"" The tree was big, and she had never tried to climb one that large.
"I know so."
"You could do it for me." Giving him a pleading look, she held out the baby bird encouragingly. "Please, Dustin. I"ll be your best friend in the whole world."
He rolled his eyes at her. "Give it to me."
Jessie transferred the bird into his hands, watching as he took off his cap and put the bird inside before going to the tree.
"If I break my neck, tell Ma I love her and Greer can have my favorite hat if the bird doesn"t poop in it."
"You"re not going to die." Moving farther under the tree, she watched as he climbed, placing her hands on the trunk as if she were strong enough to hold it steady. "Be careful," she whispered up at him.
"Now you"re worried about me when I"m almost there""
"It didn"t look so tall when you were down here."
"You should see from here," he snorted down at her.
She watched as Dustin reached the tree branch with the nest. Jessie fearfully wanted to yell at him to be careful, but she didn"t want to startle him.
Feeling her heart beating in her chest, she watched as he turned the cap over, depositing the bird inside the nest before letting the cap sail downward to her.
Looking inside the cap, she saw why he hadn"t put it back on.
When Dustin was safely back on the ground, she tried to hand it back to him.
"I don"t want it. It has bird shit inside."
"I"ll wash it for you." She stared adoringly at the boy who, even though he thought she was silly for saving the bird, had returned the baby to its nest. "I wish I could climb trees like you."
"Have my pa chase you with that belt of his, and you"ll learn real quick."
"You want me to ask Holt to beat him up when he does""
"Nah, Holt couldn"t fight his way out of a paper bag, much less beat my pa up," he teased.
She frowned. "I could ask my pa."
Dustin laughed. "Your father would help Pa try to catch me."
He would. Her father was just as mean as Dustin"s.
"When I grow up, I"m going to marry a nice father, not like mine."
"I"m never getting married."
Her young heart trembled at his words. "Everybody gets married."
"I"m not. And neither is Tate or Greer."
She tried to think of something that would convince him to get married, drawing a blank until an idea came to her.
"Do you want to be like Clyde""
"Clyde Gibbs"" Dustin"s face paled at the mention of the old man who was so scary that no one would trick or treat at his house or sit next to him at church.
Jessie nodded. "He"s not married. Pa said there isn"t a woman in town that would have him."