Title: Reaper’s Legacy
Series: Reapers Motorcycle Club #2
Author: Joanna Wylde
Available: January 28, 2014
Eight years ago, Sophie gave her heart—and her virginity—to Zach Barrett on a night that couldn’t have been less romantic or more embarrassing. Zach’s step-brother, a steely-muscled, tattooed biker named Ruger, caught them in the act, getting a peep show of Sophie he’s never forgotten.
She may have lost her dignity that fateful night, but Sophie also gained something precious—her son Noah. Unfortunately, Zach’s a deadbeat dad, leaving Ruger to be Noah’s only male role model. When he discovers Sophie and his nephew living in near poverty, Ruger takes matters into his own hands—with the help of the Reapers Motorcycle Club—to give them a better life.
Living with outlaw bikers wasn’t Sophie’s plan for her son, but Ruger isn’t giving her a choice. He’ll be there for Noah, whether she wants him or not. But Sophie does want him, has always wanted him. Now she’ll learn that taking a biker to bed can get a girl dirty in every way…
Eight years ago
Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
“I’m gonna stick it in now.”
Zach’s voice was rough and full of urgent need.
I smelled him all around me, sweaty and hungry and so beautiful I could die. After tonight he’d be mine for real. His hand reached down between us, guiding the round, rubbery head of his penis as it nudged my opening. It felt weird. He pushed at me and I guess he missed, because it hit me too high and—
“Ouch! Shit, Zach, that hurts. I think you’re doing it wrong.”
He stopped immediately and grinned down at me, the gap between his front teeth teasing. Holy crap, I loved that grin. I’d had the biggest crush on Zach since we were freshmen, but he never noticed me, not until a couple of months ago. My folks didn’t let me out much, but I’d managed to get permission to stay with Lyssa for a night and we’d snuck out to a party in July. Zach had honed in and we’d been a couple ever since.
I’d gotten really good at sneaking out.
“Sorry, babe,” he murmured, leaning down to kiss me. I softened immediately, loving the feel of his lips ghosting across mine. He adjusted himself and started sliding into me again, slow and steady. This time he didn’t miss, and I stiffened as he stretched me open wide.
Then he hit a barrier and paused.
I opened my eyes and looked up at him. He looked back down at me and I knew right then and there I’d never love anyone half so much as I loved Zachary Barrett.
“Ready?” he whispered. I nodded.
He shoved into me and I squealed, pain ripping between my legs. Zach kept me pinned with his hips as I gasped, shocked. Then he pulled out and I tried to catch my breath. Before I could, though, he’d thrust back into me. Hard. Ouch.
“Holy shit, you’re tight,” he muttered. He pushed himself up on his hands, throwing his head back as he pumped into my body, over and over, eyes closed and face straining with hunger.
I don’t know what I’d expected.
I mean, I wasn’t stupid. I knew it wouldn’t be perfect the first time, no matter what the romance books said. And it didn’t hurt that much. But it sure as shit didn’t feel good, either.
Zach moved faster, and I turned my head on the couch to look across the small apartment. His brother’s, apparently. We had it for the night—it was supposed to be our special, perfect time together. I’d expected flowers or soft music and wine or something. Stupid. Zach had pizza and some beer from his brother’s fridge.
“Ouch,” I muttered again as he paused, face twisting.
“Shit, I’m gonna come,” he gasped. I felt his penis throb deep inside, almost twitching. It was weird. Really weird. And nothing like I’d seen in movies—not even a little bit.
Was that it?
Huh . . .
“Oh, fuck that’s good.”
The apartment door opened as Zach collapsed between my legs, oblivious to the world. I couldn’t do anything but watch in horror as a man walked in.
I didn’t know him, but he couldn’t have been Zach’s brother. He didn’t look anything like Zach, who was taller than me, but not by a whole lot. This guy was really tall, and muscular in the way men who work with their hands get from heavy lifting on the job.
He wore a black leather vest with patches over a ratty T-shirt and jeans that had streaks of dark motor oil or grease or something. A half rack of beer dangled from one hand. His hair was short and dark. Almost military. His lip was pierced and he wore a two rings in his left ear and one in his right, like a pirate. Eyebrow was pierced, too. His features were bluntly handsome, but nobody would ever call him pretty. Big black boots covered his feet, and the chain from his wallet hung low across his hip. One of his arms had a full-sleeve tattoo. The other had a skull with crossed blades behind it.
He stopped in the doorway and looked us over, slowly shaking his head.
“I told you what I’d do if you broke into my place again,” he said quietly. Zach popped up and his face went white. His entire body—with one notable exception—stiffened. I felt that exception slither out of me, along with some fluid, and realized we hadn’t even bothered to put a towel down or anything.
But how was I supposed to know we’d need a towel?
“Shit,” Zach said, his voice a tight squeak. “Ruger, I can explain—”
“Don’t fuckin’ explain,” Ruger said, pushing forward into the room. He slammed the door shut behind him and walked over to the couch. I tried to hide my head in Zach’s chest, more ashamed and embarrassed than I’d ever been in my life.
Flowers. Were flowers too much to ask?
“Jesus Christ, what is she? Twelve?” Ruger asked, giving the couch a kick. It shuddered under me, and Zach sat up, pulling away from my body. I shrieked and pushed my hands down between us, trying to cover myself from his brother’s gaze.
Then it got worse.
The brother—Rooger? whatever the hell kind of name that was—looked right at me as he leaned across my body, grabbing a folded blanket from the back of the couch.
He tossed it over my crotch.
I moaned and died a little inside. My legs were still spread wide, my skirt up high around my waist. He’d seen everything. Everything. This was supposed to be the most romantic night of my life and now I just wanted to go home and cry.
“I’m takin’ a shower and by the time I’m done, you need to be gone,” Ruger said, getting in Zach’s face. My boyfriend flinched. “And stay the fuck outta my apartment.”
With that, he walked down the hall to the bathroom, banging the door shut. Seconds later I heard the shower come on. Zach jumped up, muttering.
“Asshole. He’s such a goddamn asshole.”
“Was that your brother?”
“Yeah. He’s a prick.”
I sat up and straightened my shirt. Thank God I hadn’t taken it off. Zach loved to touch my breasts, but we’d actually moved pretty fast once we got started. I managed to get to my feet, holding the blanket in front of me while I pulled down my skirt. I had no idea where my panties had gone, but a quick look around didn’t reveal them. I leaned over the couch, digging in the pillows, hunting. No luck, but I managed to stick my hand in the disgusting wet spot we’d left behind.
I felt like such a whore.
“Fuck!” Zach yelled behind me. My head jerked up—how could things possibly get any worse? “Holy fuck, I cannot fucking believe this!”
“The condom broke,” he said, eyes wide. “The fucking condom broke. This has got to be the worst night of my life. You better not be pregnant.”
The air froze in my lungs. Apparently things could get worse.
Zach held the broken rubber out toward me. I stared down at the nasty thing, not quite believing my bad luck.
“Did you do it wrong?” I whispered. He shrugged, not answering.
“It’s probably okay,” I said after another long pause. “I mean, my period just ended. You can’t get pregnant that soon after your period, right?”
“Um, yeah, probably,” he said, flushing and looking away. “I didn’t really pay attention to that shit in class. I mean, I always use a condom. Always. They never break, not even—”
My breath caught and I felt hot tears well up in my eyes.
“You told me you’d only done it once before,” I said softly. He winced.
“I’ve never done it with anyone I loved before,” he said, dropping the broken rubber and grabbing for my hand. I tried to tug away. The mess on his fingers grossed me out, but when he pulled me in tight and wrapped his arms around me, I caved.
“Hey, it’s gonna be okay,” he muttered, rubbing my back as I snuffled against his shirt. “It’ll be fine. We’re fine. And I’m sorry I wasn’t honest with you. I was afraid you wouldn’t stick with me if you knew I’d been stupid before. I don’t care about any other girls and I never will. I just want to be with you.”
“Okay,” I said, pulling myself together. He shouldn’t have lied, but at least he owned up to it. Mature couples worked through hard stuff all the time, right? “Um, we should probably get out of here. Your brother looked pretty pissed. I thought he gave you a key?”
“My stepmom has an emergency key,” he said, shrugging. “I took it. He was supposed to be out of town. Grab the pizza.”
“Should we leave some for your brother?”
“Screw him. And he’s my stepbrother. We’re not even really related.”
I found my shoes and slipped them on, then got my purse and the pizza. I still didn’t know where my panties were, but just then I heard the shower stop.
We needed to get out.
Zach glanced over at the bathroom, then winked at me as he grabbed the half rack off the counter.
“C’mon,” he said, taking my hand and pulling me toward the door.
“You’re stealing his beer?” I asked, feeling a little sick. “Seriously?”
“Fuck him,” Zach said, narrowing his eyes at me. “He’s a total dick, thinks he’s better than everyone else. Him and his stupid fucking motorcycle club. They’re all assholes and criminals, and he is, too. Probably stole it in the first place. And he can buy more any time he wants, not like us. We’ll take it to Kimber’s. Her parents are in Mexico.”
We jogged down the apartment complex stairs, then crossed the parking lot to his truck. It was kind of old, but at least the full-sized Ford’s king cab had plenty of room. We’d take it out sometimes, just the two of us, and spend hours lying in the bed under the stars, kissing and laughing. Other times we packed three or four couples in, all sitting on each other’s laps.
Zach hadn’t done such a great job tonight, but that wasn’t his fault. Sometimes life just didn’t follow the plan. I was still crazy about him, though.
“Hey,” I said, stopping him as he opened the driver’s side door.
I turned him around and popped up onto my toes, kissing him long and slow. “I love you.”
“I love you, too, babe,” Zach said, smoothing my hair back behind my ear. I melted when he did that—made me feel all safe and protected. “Now let’s go kill some of those beers. Shit, fuckin’ crazy night. My brother is such a dick.”
I rolled my eyes and laughed as I hauled ass around the truck.
So losing my virginity hadn’t been perfect and beautiful and all that. But at least it was over and Zach loved me.
Too bad about the panties, though.
I’d bought them special and everything.
Eight Months Later
“Fuck, it’s my mom. I gotta grab that,” Ruger yelled across the table at Mary Jo, holding up his cell. The band hadn’t started yet, but the place was still packed, and he couldn’t hear a damned thing. He didn’t get out much since he’d started prospecting the Reapers. Earning a place in the club was a full-time job by itself, and he pulled shifts at the pawnshop, too.
Ma knew that, and she wouldn’t have called if it wasn’t important.
“Hey, lemme get outside,” he said loudly into the phone, walking toward the door with long strides. People got the fuck out of his way, and he bit back a smile. He’d always been a big guy, but now that he wore an MC cut?
Fuckers practically dove under the tables when they saw the club patches on his vest.
“’Kay, I’m outside,” he said, moving away from the crowd in front of the Ironhorse.
“Jesse, Sophie needs you,” his mom said.
“What do you mean?” he asked, peering at his bike, parked down the street. Was that guy getting close to it? Oh, not gonna happen . . .
“So are you going?” she said. Shit. She’d been talking.
“Fuck, sorry, ma. Missed what you said.”
“I just got a panicked phone call from Sophie,” his mom repeated. “Stupid kids. She went to a kegger with your brother and now she thinks she might be in labor. He’s too drunk to drive her and she’s having contractions, so she can’t drive herself. I’m gonna kill him. I can’t believe he’d take her somewhere like that, especially now.”
“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?”
“Jesse, don’t use that language with me,” she snapped. “Can you help her or not? I’m in Spokane and it’ll take at least an hour to get there. I’ll start making more phone calls if you can’t do it.”
“Wait, isn’t it too early?”
“A little too early, yes,” she replied, her voice tense. “I wanted to call an ambulance but she insists it’s just Braxton Hicks. Ambulance rides cost a fortune, you know, and she’s scared of the bills. She wants to go home but I think she might need the hospital. Can you get her or not? I can meet you there as soon as I hit town. I’ve got a real bad feeling about this, Jess. Didn’t sound like Braxton Hicks to me.”
“Yeah, of course,” he replied, wondering what the hell “Braxton Hicks” were. He saw Mary Jo come out of the bar, smiling at him ruefully. She knew all about sudden phone calls and changes in plans. “Where are they?”
He got the information, then hung up, walking over to his date and shrugging his shoulders. This sucked. He wanted to get laid, and not at the clubhouse. Some fuckin’ privacy would be nice for once, and Mary Jo was wild as they got.
“Club business?” she asked lightly. Thank fuck she wasn’t a drama queen.
“Nope, family,” he replied. “My asshole stepbrother knocked up his girlfriend and now she’s going into labor. Needs a ride to the hospital. I’m gonna go get her.”
Mary Jo’s eyes widened.
“You should leave,” she said quickly. “I’ll take a cab home. Shit, that sucks . . . How old is she?”
“Just turned seventeen.”
“Damn,” she said, shivering with genuine horror. “I can’t imagine having a kid that young. Call me later, okay?”
He gave her a fast but hard kiss. She reached down and offered his cock a quick squeeze. Ruger groaned, feeling himself stiffen. He really needed to get laid . . .
Instead, he pulled away and walked over to his bike.
The party was halfway to Athol, off in some field that he vaguely remembered visiting when he was in high school. He found Zach’s truck easy enough. Sophie stood next to it, looking scared in the summer twilight. Then her face tightened and she hunched over her giant belly, groaning. Now she looked terrified.
Ruger parked his bike and realized he’d have to leave it in the field—no way she could ride with him. Fucking great. Asshat little shits would probably run over it or something. Sophie’s face was white with strain, though. No room to fuck around. She needed to go in the truck, and clearly she needed to go now. Ruger shook his head, glancing around for his brother.
He still couldn’t figure out why a smart, beautiful girl like her would pick Zach, of all people. Sophie had long, reddish-brown hair, beautiful green eyes, and a way about her that screamed feminine softness—a softness he’d spent more than one night imagining with his dick in his hand. Even pregnant in the middle of a field party, she was still gorgeous.
Way the fuck too young, though.
She saw him and winced, reaching around to put one hand against her back, stretching as the contraction ended. Ruger knew she didn’t like him, and he didn’t blame her. They hadn’t met under the best of circumstances, and things between him and Zach went further to shit every day. Ruger hated the way he treated their mom and hated the way he lived his life. More than anything else, he hated the way the little fuck was already running around on Sophie behind her back.
Cocksucker didn’t deserve a girl like her, and their kid sure as hell hadn’t won the lottery when it came to his future daddy.
“How you doing?” he asked, coming up to Sophie and hunkering down so he could see her face. Her eyes were full of panic.
“My water broke,” she said, her voice a hoarse whisper. “The contractions are coming really fast. Way too fast. It’s supposed to be slow with your first baby, it never happens this fast. I need to get to the hospital, Ruger. I shouldn’t have come here.”
“Oh, fuck me,” he muttered. “You got the keys?”
She shook her head.
“Zach does. He’s over by the bonfire. Maybe we should call an ambulance? Oh . . .” she groaned, leaning over.
“Hang in there,” he said. “I’ll get Zach. I can drive you to the hospital faster than an ambulance at this point.”
She groaned again and leaned back against the truck. Ruger took off toward the bonfire, finding Zach half passed out on the ground.
“On your feet, asshole,” Ruger demanded, grabbing him by the shirt and dragging him upright. “Keys. Now.”
Zach looked at him blankly. Was that barf on his shirt? High school kids stood around watching them, eyes wide as they clutched their big red Solo cups of cheap beer.
“Fuck me,” Ruger muttered again, digging down into his brother’s pants pocket, hoping like hell he hadn’t lost them. This was closer to Zach’s dick than he ever needed his hand to be. He pulled out the keys, dropping Zach back into the dirt.
“You wanna see your kid gettin’ born, get your ass in the truck now,” Ruger told him. “I’m not waiting for you.”
With that he took off toward the Ford, wrenching open the door and lifting Sophie into the backseat. He heard a thudding noise and saw Zach climb into the truck bed out of the corner of his eye.
Ruger turned on the engine and popped it into gear, ready to go. Then he slammed it back into park, jumped out, and ran over to his bike. He had a little first aid kit in there. Nothing fancy, but at this rate they might need it. He climbed back in the truck, pulled out of the field and started toward the highway, watching Sophie anxiously in the rearview mirror. She was panting hard and then she screamed.
Every hair on the back of his neck stood up.
“Holy shit, I feel like I need to push,” she cried. “Oh, God, it hurts. It hurts so bad. I’ve never felt anything like this, drive faster. We need to get there fast . . .”
Her voice trailed off as she groaned again. Ruger drove faster, wondering if Zach had something to hold on to. He couldn’t see him back there. Maybe he’d passed out in the bed.
Hell, maybe he’d bounced out. Ruger didn’t care either way.
They’d almost made it to the highway when Sophie started shouting.
“Stop! Stop the truck.”
Ruger stopped, hoping to hell that didn’t mean what he thought it did. He threw on the parking brake and turned to see her, eyes closed, face almost purple and full of agony. She was crouching forward, moaning.
“Ambulance,” he said, his voice grim. She nodded tightly. He made the call, giving the operator the details of their situation. Afterward, he put the phone on speaker, dropping it to the seat. Then he got out and opened the back door, leaning in.
“I’m here with you, Sophie,” the 911 operator told them. “Hold on. The paramedics only have to come up from Hayden. You’ll see them soon.”
Sophie groaned through another contraction.
“I have to push.”
“The ambulance is ten minutes out,” the operator said. “Can you hold on until they reach you? They have everything they need to help you with this.”
“FUCK!” Sophie screamed, squeezing Ruger’s hands so hard his fingers went numb.
“All right. It’s unlikely the baby will be born before they arrive, but I want you to get ready, Ruger,” the operator said, her voice so calm she sounded stoned. How did she do that? He felt about thirty seconds away from a heart attack. “Sophie needs you now. The good news is that childbirth is natural and her body knows what to do. A baby born this fast usually means a very smooth delivery. Do you have a way to wash your hands?”
“Yeah,” Ruger muttered. “You gotta let go for a sec, Sophie.”
She shook her head, but he pried his hands free. He ripped into the first aid kit, pulling out a couple of ridiculously small sanitary wipe packets. Then he attacked his hands and tried to go after hers.
She screamed and punched his face.
Holy shit, girl had some power behind her. Ruger shook his head, then pulled it together, cheekbone throbbing.
“It’s too early,” Sophie gasped. “I can’t stop it. I have to push now.”
“When is she due?” the operator asked as Sophie moaned long and low.
“About a month,” Ruger told her. “It’s too early.”
“All right. The most important thing is to make sure the baby is breathing. Don’t let it fall on the ground if it’s born before the EMTs arrive. You’ll have to catch it. Now don’t panic—it can take hours to push out a baby, especially the first one. But just as a precaution, I want you to find something warm to wrap around the child if Sophie delivers. You’ll check the baby’s breathing. If it’s good, you’ll lay him on the mother’s bare chest, face down, skin to skin. Then put whatever you have over him. Don’t tug on the cord, cut it, tie it off, or anything. Keep your hands away from the birth canal. If the afterbirth comes out, wrap it with the child.”
That’s when it hit him.
Sophie was going to have her baby right here on the side of the road. His nephew.
Holy shit, she needed to get her pants off first.
She wore leggings and he tried to pull them down with her still inside the cab. It didn’t work, and she couldn’t seem to find a comfortable position, either.
“We have to get you out of here,” he said. She shook her head, teeth gritted, but he picked her up and set her feet on the ground anyway. Then he pulled down her sopping wet leggings and panties in one smooth move, lifting one foot and then the other to free her legs from the clinging fabric.
Sophie cried out again, face tight as she bore down next to him, falling into a squat beside the truck.
Fuck, he needed something to keep the baby warm.
Ruger glanced around frantically, finding exactly nothing, so he pulled off his cut and tossed it into the truck. Then he ripped his T-shirt over his head. It wasn’t the best, but it was relatively clean. He’d showered and put on a fresh one before meeting Mary Jo.
Sophie pushed for an eternity, crouched down and digging her fingers deep into his shoulders. He’d have bruises there in the morning. Probably cuts from her nails, too. Whatever. The 911 operator’s calm voice encouraged them, saying the ambulance was only five minutes out. Sophie ignored her, lost in her own world of pain and urgency, giving loud, low groans with every contraction.
“Can you see the baby’s head?” the operator asked. Ruger froze. “You want me to look?”
He was pretty damned sure he didn’t want to look. Fuck. Sophie needed him, though. The kid needed him, too. Ruger dropped down to peer between her legs.
That’s when he saw it.
A tiny head, coming out of her body, covered with dark black hair. Holy crap.
Sophie sucked in a deep breath and gripped his shoulders even harder. She let out one loud, long moan as she pushed again.
Then it happened.
Ruger reached down—almost in a trance—as the world’s most perfect little human slid right out of her and into his hands. Sophie started crying with relief as blood streaked her thighs.
“What’s happening?” the operator asked. He heard a siren in the distance.
“The baby just came out,” Ruger muttered, awed. He’d seen a calf born, but that had nothing on this. “I’m holding it.”
“Is it breathing?”
He watched as the newborn opened its little eyes for the first time and looked right at him. They were blue and round and confused and fucking gorgeous. They closed again as the baby screwed up its tiny mouth, sucked in a deep breath and let out a piercing wail.
“Yeah. Fuck. The kid is fine.”
Ruger looked up at Sophie as he raised the baby between them. She smiled hesitantly and reached for her child. Her exhausted, tear-streaked-yet-radiant face was the second most beautiful thing he’d ever seen in his life.
Right after those tiny blue eyes.
“You did good, babe,” he whispered to Sophie.
“Yeah,” she whispered back. “I did, didn’t I?”
She kissed the boy’s head softly.
“Hey Noah . . . It’s mommy,” she said. “I’m gonna take such good care of you. I promise. Always.”
Seven years later
Our last night in Seattle didn’t go so great.
My babysitter, my emergency backup sitter, and my second emergency backup sitter all had the flu. I’d have been screwed if one of my new neighbors hadn’t volunteered to keep an eye on Noah. I didn’t really know her, but we’d been living next to each other for a month and no red flags. Not the best, I know.
You do what you have to when you’re a single mom.
Then Dick yelled at me for coming in late for my shift.
I didn’t tell him I’d nearly missed work altogether because of Noah. And no, I’m not just calling him Dick because he’s actually a dick (although he is). It’s his real name.
That night I truly understood why he was in such a bad mood, because of the six girls who were supposed to be on, only two showed. Two had the flu (genuine—half the city had it) and two had dates. Or I’m assuming they had dates. Their official stories were a dead grandmother (her fifth) and an infected tattoo.
Apparently none of the drug stores in her neighborhood carried Bacitracin.
Either way, things fell to shit fast. We had a band, which put the customers in a good mood, but the live music and drunken dancing made it even harder to keep up with my tables. Also made us busier than usual. We would’ve been stretched even with a full staff. To make things perfect, it was a local band and most of their fans were college students, which meant crappy tips.
By eleven I was already tired and needed to pee in a bad way, so I ducked into the bathroom. Out of toilet paper already (of course), and I knew damned well nobody had time to restock. I pulled out my phone, doing a quick check for messages, and saw two. One from Miranda, my babysitter, and a second from Ruger, the world’s scariest almost-in-law.
Miranda first. I held it to my ear and listened, hoping to hell everything was all right. No way Dick would let me off early, even for an emergency. Ruger could wait.
“Mom, I’m scared,” Noah said.
“I took Miranda’s phone and I’m hiding in the closet,” he continued. “There’s a bad guy here and he’s smoking inside and he wanted me to smoke, too, and they kept laughing at me. He tried to tickle me and make me sit on his lap. Now they’re watching a movie that has naked people in it and I don’t like it. I don’t want to be here and I want to go home. I want you to come home. I really need you. Right now.”
I heard his breath hitch, like he was crying but didn’t want me to know, and then the message cut out.
I took a couple of deep breaths, trying to control my surge of adrenaline. I checked the time on the message—almost forty-five minutes ago. My stomach twisted and for a second I thought I might puke. Then I pulled it together and left the bathroom. I managed to walk back into the bar and had Brett, the bartender, unlock the drawer where we kept our purses.
“I need to get home, my kid’s in trouble. Tell Dick.”
With that I headed toward the door, pushing through drunken frat boys. I was almost out when someone grabbed my arm, spinning me around. My boss stood there, glaring.
“Where the hell do you think you’re going, Williams?”
“There’s an emergency,” I told him. “I need to go home.”
“You leave me now with a crowd like this, don’t come back,”
Dick growled. I leaned forward and stared him down, which was pretty easy considering the guy was hardly more than five feet tall. On good days I thought of him as a hobbit.
Tonight he was just a troll.
“I need to take care of my son,” I said coldly, using my deadliest troll-killing voice. “Let go of my arm. Now. I’m leaving.”
Driving home took at least a year.
I kept trying to call Miranda, but nobody answered. When I reached our ancient apartment building, I tore up the wooden stairs to the top floor, shaking with a weird mixture of rage and fear. Miranda’s place was right across from my little studio, and while my thighs and calves hated the climb, I loved how we were the only residents up here. Until now.
Tonight it felt remote and scary.
I heard music and grunting as I pounded on the door. No answer. I pounded harder and wondered if I’d have to break in. Then the door flew open. A tall guy with unbuttoned pants and no shirt blocked the entry. He had the start of a gut and bloodshot eyes. I smelled pot and booze.
“Yeah?” he asked, swaying. I tried looking around him, but he blocked me.
“My son, Noah, is here,” I said, struggling to stay calm and focus on what really counted. I could kill this asshole later. “I’m here to pick him up.”
“Oh, yeah. Forgot about him. C’mon in.”
He stepped aside and I ducked past him. Miranda’s place was a studio just like ours, so I should’ve seen Noah right away. Instead I spotted my useless neighbor on the couch, collapsed on her back with her eyes glazed and a dreamy smile on her face. Her clothes were rumpled, her long hippie skirt shoved up above her splayed knees. The phone lay on the coffee table in front of her, next to a bong made out of plastic pens, foil and a Mountain Dew bottle. Empties surrounded it, because apparently weed wasn’t enough to keep her entertained while she failed to babysit my seven-year-old child.
“Miranda, where’s Noah?” I demanded. She looked at me blankly.
“How should I know?” she slurred.
“Maybe he went outside,” the guy muttered, turning away from me as he reached into the fridge for another beer.
I caught my breath.
Across his back was a giant tattoo that looked kind of like Ruger’s, only it said Devil’s Jacks instead of Reapers. Motorcycle club. Bad news. Always bad, despite what Ruger insisted.
I’d think about that later. Focus. I needed to find Noah. “Mama?”
His voice was soft and trembling. I looked around frantically, then saw him climbing in through an open window facing the street. Oh my God. I moved toward him, forcing myself to approach oh-so-carefully. Four flights above the ground and my boy was clinging to a windowsill. If I wasn’t damned careful, I’d knock him off the ledge.
I reached out and clamped my hands around his upper arms, pulling him in and clutching him close. He wrapped around me like a little monkey. I rubbed my hand up and down his back, whispering how much I loved him and promising never to leave him alone like that again.
“I don’t get what you’re so upset about,” Miranda muttered, pulling herself up to make room for her asshole boyfriend. “There’s a fire escape out there and it’s not like it’s cold. It’s August. Kid was fine.”
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and forced myself to stay calm. Then I opened them and looked past her.
That’s when I saw the porn on the TV.
My eyes skittered away from the sight of a silicone woman screwing four guys simultaneously. Something terrible took fire in my heart.
Stupid bitch. Miranda would pay for this.
“What’s your problem, anyway?” she slurred.
Available for pre-order
Book #1 in the series, Reaper’s Property is available now
Joanna Wylde is a freelance writer and voracious reader.
You can visit her website http://www.joannawylde.net/
Signed set of Reapers Property and Reapers Legacy