This is the first chapter of the novel The Long Game by J.L. Fynn.
Twenty-year-old Shay Reilly has proven himself to his Irish-American Gypsy clan on small-scale cons, but now the clan leader has a bigger mission: playing the long game.
To rake in the score he’s after, he needs to con co-ed Spencer into falling in love with him. He knows he should see Spencer as a mere means to an end, but that’s easier said than done when there’s a witty, attractive girl in your arms.
Now the only thing that can keep them apart is the thing that brought them together: Shay’s plans of revenge against someone who wronged his clan and family years before—Spencer’s father.
Jimmy Boy leaned on the counter and flashed a sweet smile at the cute blonde working the register.
“I’m sure glad y’all were open this early ‘cause our pa wanted to have the new deck done this weekend.”
I kept my head bowed, eyes trained on the scuffed tennis shoes I’d pulled on in a rush to make it to the truck before we hightailed it to Slidell.
My brother and I hadn’t made the ten-minute drive to the hardware store to get parts for a new deck, and we certainly weren’t building one with our da. But, for some reason, that’s what Jimmy Boy’d come up with—as if visiting a hardware store for a box of screws was so unusual it required some kind of grand explanation.
Lying for lying’s sake never made me uncomfortable. If there was one thing I knew about being a Traveler, it’s that Travelers didn’t truck with being honest with country people, even when being dishonest wasn’t strictly necessary. Besides, it was difficult switching between talking from both sides of your mouth out on the road to being straight with people once you got home. There was just no point in trying to keep track of who you’d lied to and who you hadn’t.
The girl grinned, taken by my brother’s charm. “Well, I’m sure glad y’all came in.” She batted lashes almost too pale to see.
I fought the smile pulling at the corner of my mouth. Most Traveler men had their fathers or uncles to show them the ropes. I really only had my older brother, but he’d been enough. Jimmy Boy could piss on your leg, tell you it was raining, and then sell you a broken umbrella. And he’d taught me everything I knew.
“I’m glad you’re glad,” Jimmy Boy said. He leaned in further, his elbow inching across the counter so his face moved closer to hers.
She blushed and dropped her eyes, and I saw my opening.
“All right, lover boy, move it so I can pay, and we can stop wasting this girl’s time.” I nudged him aside with my hip and shoulder as I pulled a ten from my wallet and handed it to her. Her eyes only flickered to me for a second as the money moved from my hand to hers. So far, so good.
The blonde watched Jimmy Boy through lowered lashes as she counted out my change. A five and three ones. It couldn’t have worked out better if she’d been in on the scam.
I opened my wallet, making a show of getting ready to put the bills away, then snapped my fingers as if an idea had just dawned on me.
“You know, I’ve got a ton of ones in here. I wonder if you might be able to change them for a ten?”
I didn’t wait for her response but slid several ones from my billfold and added them to the change she’d just given me. I left the five on the counter where she’d laid it but handed her the ones.
“Sure thing. I could always use smaller bills for the register.” Her eyes never left Jimmy Boy’s face as she took the bills from me and handed me a ten, which I put into my wallet right away.
Jimmy Boy leaned in just a hair closer. “You are sweeter than a speckled pup and twice as cute. Anyone ever tell you that?”
Splotches of crimson appeared on the girl’s cheeks as she shook her head.
“You better count that. Can’t never be too careful, darlin’,” he said, and her eyes moved to the money in her hand as if she’d only now realized there was a transaction being made.
I knew exactly how many bills there were and so did he, but this was the best part of the game.
“Oops, there’s only nine here.” She counted through the stack of ones a second time to be sure. The poor girl actually looked apologetic, as if it had been her mistake.