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Reapers and Bastards Anthology (Reapers MC #4.5)
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From the New York Times bestselling author of the Reapers Motorcycle Club and Silver Valley series comes an anthology of extras and never-before-released material, including a new short story featuring fan favorites Horse and Marie.
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TWENTY YEARS AGO
“There’s no room for you in here!” Erin hissed, glaring up at me from a narrow hollow between two boulders. I clenched my fist, wishing I could punch her right in the face.
This was my spot—she only knew about it because I’d shown it to her. In the distance I could hear the boys shouting at each other, followed by a girl’s shriek. We’d been playing a weird game of hide and seek on the way home from the bus stop all week, although it seemed a little unfair that the girls always had to hide. Unfortunately there were five guys and only four of us, so they called the shots.
“You suck,’’ I told Erin, then started up the hill again. Bitch. See if I ever saved her ass in math again.
Pushing through the trees was hard work and after a couple minutes I was panting. Not only that, between the steep hillside and the brush everywhere, I was making too much noise. Crap. I’d bet Boonie five bucks that he wouldn’t be able to catch me before five p.m. I didn’t actually have the money to pay up. It’d been stupid, but he’d been flipping me so much shit lately. For a couple weeks, actually.
God only knew what he’d make me do if I couldn’t pay. Knowing my luck he’d make me eat another damned worm.
I’d first met Riley Boone when I was four years old. We moved to Callup, Idaho, after my dad blew out his back and had to go on disability. Boonie’s family lived next to ours. Every afternoon he’d swagger off the school bus after kindergarten like a conquering king. For the first week he ignored me, until I’d impressed him by climbing nearly thirty feet up in the tree behind his trailer. They had to call the fire department to get me down, but it’d been worth it to see the respect in his five-year-old eyes.
He gave me a worm in honor of my accomplishment. I’d fallen in love. The next day he made me eat the worm and our relationship has been complicated ever since.
Eight years later I was still getting myself in trouble trying to impress him.
I was almost halfway to the ridge now, my backpack tugging me downward as I climbed. I’d been up this high before—hell, I’d explored most of the gulch over the years—but this was farther than I’d usually go this late in the afternoon. It was a bit of a risk. If I went too far I wouldn’t make it home before it was time to fix dinner for my dad.
Not a good scene.
On the other hand, Boonie probably wouldn’t look for me up here. He liked to think he was so sneaky and tough, but I was pretty sneaky, too.
The distant shouting faded as I clambered higher. The hillside was really steep now. The soft trickle of a stream sang to me in the distance, the light hardly filtering through the thick evergreen branches overhead. Ferns and moss and pretty little flowers grew on everything.
Unfortunately, ferns and moss and flowers aren’t big enough to hide behind.
Then I saw a fallen tree and smiled. The trunk itself wasn’t that big, but it’d come down sideways, lodging against several other tree trunks to form a natural shelf on the slope.
It was perfect.
Climbing up and over it, I followed the length to where it’d crashed through a little thicket. If I crawled in there I’d be completely invisible. Seconds later I was flat on my stomach, peering down the hillside from my perch and feeling smug as hell. It was four thirty already. Another half hour and I’d be the winner. About time, too, because it seemed like Boonie was always ahead me.
Not this time. Ha.
Something rattled on the slope below and I froze, eyes darting. More rattling, and I saw some branches swaying about a hundred feet off to my right. Someone was down there, but if I stayed still they wouldn’t be able to see me.
Don’t move. Don’t breathe. Don’t let him win.
Then a boot landed on the middle of my back and I screamed.
“Hey, Darce,” Boonie said. “Looks like I win again.”
“Shit,” I groaned, dropping my forehead into the pine needles. “How did you do that?”
“I’ve been right behind you the whole time,’’ he said. “When will you learn? You can’t beat me.”
That wasn’t worth an answer so I didn’t bother giving one. Instead I pushed with my hands, trying to get up but his booted foot held me down firmly.
“Jesus, Boonie. What’s your problem?”
“Five bucks. Pay up.”
I sighed, wondering why the hell I’d let him goad me into this. Time to ’fess up.
“I don’t have the money,” I admitted. Boonie didn’t say anything at first, then he lifted his boot slowly, setting me free. Shit. Was he going to be a dick about this?