Joanna Wylde Reaper's Stand (Reaper's MC)

ISBN 13: 9781494551650

Reaper's Stand (Reaper's MC)

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9781494551650: Reaper's Stand (Reaper's MC)
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As Reapers Motorcycle Club president, Reese "Picnic" Hayes has given his entire life to the club. After losing his wife, he knew he'd never love another woman. These days, Reese keeps his relationships free and easy-he definitely doesn't want to waste his time on a glorified cleaning lady like London Armstrong. Too bad he's completely obsessed with her.
Besides running her own business, London has her junkie cousin's daughter to look after. Sure she's attracted to the Reapers' president, but she's not stupid. When her young cousin gets caught up with a ruthless drug cartel, Reese might be the only man who can help her. Now London has to make the hardest decision of her life-how far will she go to save her family?
Contains mature themes.

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About the Author:

Joanna Wylde, the author of the Reaper's MC series of books, has published several erotic romance novels, including Gladiator's Prize, Be Careful What You Wish For, and Jerred's Price. She lives in Idaho. Visit her at joannawylde.net.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

This is my fourth book in the Reapers Motorcycle Club series, and as time passes it becomes harder to write my acknowledgments. The list of people who have supported me grows longer and I’m afraid I’ll forget someone. You have no idea how much I appreciate all of you.

Thanks to everyone at Berkley who has made this possible, especially Cindy Hwang. I have an incredible team behind me and I appreciate all their efforts. It’s worth noting that I’ve been repeatedly blessed by the Cover Gods—the Berkley art team has been amazing, and I hear almost daily from readers praising their efforts.

I also want to thank my agent, Amy Tannenbaum, Betty, my MC friends, my beta readers, my writing posse, all the bloggers who have supported me and everyone on my Junkies page. Special thanks to Chas and Jessica, because it doesn’t matter whether or not a book is good if nobody ever finds out about it. Kylie, Hang, Lori, and Cara—you know exactly how much you’ve helped me, and don’t think I take it for granted. Thank you for all the time you’ve given me.

Finally, thanks to my family, whose endless patience and willingness to step up makes my writing possible. I love you very much.

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Throughout this series, I’ve tried to offer readers insight into MC culture and how I do my research. I’m very fortunate to have the continuing support of real women affiliated with clubs, and like each of my books, this one has been reviewed for accuracy. Reaper’s Stand was the first in which my club friends didn’t find major errors regarding club life, so maybe I’m finally figuring it out.

I’ve tried to make each book in the Reapers Motorcycle Club series different, rather than following a set formula. This has challenged me as a writer, but I’ve enjoyed exploring a variety of character types along the way. I think you’ll find that Reaper’s Stand has a different feel than the books that came before it. For example, Devil’s Game was a coming-of-age novel. Reaper’s Stand is the opposite—it’s a book about mature characters who are already fully formed as individuals. Every time I try something new, I worry that readers won’t be willing to make the leap. So far you haven’t given up on me. I hope you enjoy Reaper’s Stand.

PROLOGUE

COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO
PRESENT DAY
LONDON

Should I look him in the eye when I killed him or just shoot him in the back?

Tough call.

I crouched in the kitchen, digging through my purse as if searching for keys. I knew right where the gun was, of course, but pulling it straight out just seemed so . . . obscene. The smell of dinner on the stove filled my nose. Chicken chili, with whole-grain corn bread in the oven for a side because it’s healthier.

It’d been baking for ten minutes already, which meant I had about twelve more minutes to end his life before the bread burned.

Reese sat out in the dining room, reading one of his motorcycle magazines and drinking his favorite beer while he waited for food. I’d been sure to buy a half rack earlier, and I’d met him at the door with a cold one open and ready to go. He was on his second now. I wasn’t under any illusions—two beers wouldn’t be enough to slow him down if he came after me, or ease his pain if my aim was off.

Still, a man deserves a beer before dying, right?

My fingers brushed the cold metal of the gun. I pulled out my phone instead and looked at Jessica’s picture, studying her pretty, smiling face on graduation day. So full of hope and promise. She’d raised her right arm to wave at the camera. Her pinkie curled forward, offering a glimpse of the sparkling tips on her new acrylics. She’d wanted them for graduation so badly. They hadn’t been in the budget, but I couldn’t tell her no.

You have to understand—none of us ever expected Jessica to graduate.

Hell, she shouldn’t even be alive. My bitch of a cousin had done drugs all through both pregnancies, yet somehow Jessie pulled through. Not unscathed. She had the usual developmental quirks . . . poor impulse control, bad judgment. Quick to anger. They came from fetal drug effects—the gift that keeps on giving for a child’s whole life. But at least she had a life. Her little sister died in the NICU two days after her birth. Never got a chance.

Fuck you, Amber. Fuck you very much for doing that to your kids.

I glanced up at the oven timer and realized I’d wasted nearly three minutes thinking about Jess. I supposed I could kill him after pulling out the bread, but putting it off would just make things harder.

Or maybe I should feed him first?

No. He’d had his beer, but if I had to sit across from Reese over a meal I’d never make it. I couldn’t look into those blue eyes and laugh. I’d never been a good liar. This past month had been heaven and hell rolled into one big bad joke.

Right. Time for the punch line.

I pulled out the small pistol and stuck it into the pocket of the loose sweater I’d picked so carefully for just this moment. I also took out my keys, my ID, and my cash, stuffing them into my jeans. Just in case. I didn’t really expect to survive the night, but it never hurts to hope. The van was even gassed up and ready to go, on the off chance that I managed to get away.

Of course, I had no idea where I’d drive. Burn that bridge when you get to it . . .

Things started going wrong as soon as I walked into the dining room. Reese wasn’t sitting at the head of the table, where I’d left him. Damn. I could’ve shot him in the back without warning if he’d just stayed put. Now he sat facing me, leaning casually in his chair, beer in hand. The magazine lay open before him and he looked up, offering me that mocking smile of his. God, I loved that smile, despite the fact that it could be cruel as all fuck.

“Something you want to talk about?” he asked, cocking his head.

“No,” I murmured, wondering what he’d say if I shared my thoughts. Gee, Reese, I’m so sorry I’m about to kill you, but if it makes you feel any better I hate myself for doing it—not a hundred percent sure I won’t shoot myself next.

I wouldn’t, though. Not yet. Not until I saw Jessica for myself, made sure they’d kept their promises and she was safe and sound. After that?

Well. We’d just have to see.

He sighed, eyes flicking to my pocket, where my hand shifted nervously on the gun.

Paranoia hit yet again.

He knew. He knew all about it, I could see it in his face. Fuck. I’d failed her . . . Don’t be ridiculous. How could he possibly know?

“Babe, you look like you could use a day off,” he said finally. “Have you considered hitting the spa? Maybe get a massage?”

“That costs too much,” I said automatically, biting back a hysterical laugh. Because money mattered now, right?

“I wasn’t suggesting that you pay for it,” he said, frowning at me.

“I don’t want your money—”

“Yeah, I know, you’re totally independent and you like it that way. Blah, blah. Just let me do something for you, for once. Fuck’s sake.”

Shit. Why did he have to be so nice?

I felt my eyes start to water and I looked away, forcing myself to detach again and focus. I needed to kill him, and I couldn’t give him any warning. But he was facing me and all the way across the room, which was a bigger problem than it sounds. Pistols aren’t exactly known for accuracy, and it’s not like I had much in the way of experience.

I needed to get closer.

If I came up behind him, rubbed his shoulders . . . That would be close enough. God, I was a shitty human being.

“The food won’t be ready for another ten minutes,” I said. “You look sort of tense. Want a neck rub?”

He raised a brow as I circled the table.

“I think you should stay back,” he said slowly. I paused.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I’d hate to make it too easy for you, sweetheart.”

My chest tightened. I offered a weak smile, because like I said—I’m a shit liar.

“I don’t understand.”

“I’m assuming you’re planning to shoot me in the back of the head,” he said quietly, and that’s when I realized he wasn’t relaxed at all. He might be leaning back casually, but every one of those solid muscles roping his body had drawn tight, poised to attack. “That’s a bad idea. You shoot that close, you’ll be all covered in blood spatter. Means you’ll have to risk tracking more evidence out of the house or taking time to clean up. Either way, complicates things.”

Well. At least it was all finally out in the open. Almost a relief. I pulled out the gun and held it up, using my left hand to brace my right as I carefully sighted on him. I expected him to explode up at me, to fight back. Instead he just sat, waiting.

“Go ahead, do it,” he said, a sad smile toying with the corners of his mouth. “Show me what you’re made of.”

“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. “You’ll never know how much I wish this weren’t happening.”

“Then don’t do it. Whatever it is, we can work through it. I’ll help you.”

“You can’t.”

He sighed, then looked past me and jerked his chin.

“It’s over, babe,” I heard a man say from behind. Huh. I guess it was. Fortunately, I had just enough time to pull the trigger before he hit me.

CHAPTER ONE

EIGHTEEN DAYS EARLIER
LONDON

My back was killing me.

It was nearly two in the morning, and I’d just finished up the late-night cleaning shift at the pawn shop. I’d been letting myself get soft the past couple of months. Too much time spent managing the business, not enough time scouring bathrooms, because I’d forgotten just how much work scrubbing a toilet really is.

Well, scrubbing toilets, floors, dusting, vacuuming. London’s Cleaning Service did it all, and while we might not be the cheapest crew in town, we were the best. I knew this because I turned down more accounts than I took these days. Thanks to my hard-earned reputation, finding new clients was easy. Workers? Not so much. Most people aren’t fans of spending their nights wiping up after others, and even with my higher-than-average starting pay, people flaked on me.

Tonight, for example.

I’d gotten a call from Anna—one of my crew leads—to say she had two no-shows. Because the life of a cleaning lady is nonstop glamour, that meant I got to spend my Friday evening scraping dried pee off the floor in a men’s bathroom.

Charmed existence, I know.

At least my aching back and I could crawl into bed soon.

I pulled up to the house and noticed a blue Honda Civic parked in front. Mellie’s car—my young cousin’s best friend. She must be spending the night with Jessie, I realized. I bit back the surge of annoyance. On the one hand, I really preferred it when Jess cleared stuff like this with me ahead of time.

On the other, there were worse things than having the girl home on a Friday. Most of them were worse, actually. God, I loved her so much, but Jessica was impossible. I reminded myself yet again that it wasn’t entirely her fault—the counselors told me over and over that I needed to help her learn to cope with her limitations, because it’s not like she’d grow out of them.

Decision making wasn’t Jessica’s strong suit.

According to the experts, that part of her brain just hadn’t developed quite right, thanks to her mother’s ongoing chemical romance. I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I knew she wasn’t like other kids. But you know what? We all have to learn to get along in this world. Nobody’s born with a clean slate, and she wasn’t a little girl anymore.

I unlocked the front door to find Mellie sitting on the couch. Her knees were drawn up, her eyes were huge, and she clutched a can of Diet Coke like a shield.

My parent radar crackled to life.

“What did she do now?”

“We were at a party,” Mel whispered. “It was around ten o’clock. She ran into some girls who graduated a couple years ago—Terry Fratelli and her friends—and they invited us out to the Armory for a party with the Reapers motorcycle club.”

I swayed, grabbing the back of my old, green wing-backed chair to catch myself.

“Fuck.”

Mellie’s eyes got even wider. I didn’t cuss. She knew I didn’t cuss. Ever.

“What’s the rest of it?”

The girl looked away, biting her lip.

“I’m so sorry for leaving her,” she said, guilt written all over her face. “But there was no way I’d go out there and she didn’t listen to me. She actually got kind of . . .”

Her voice trailed off and I filled in the gaps. Jessica liked to make fun of Mel when she wouldn’t follow along like a well-trained puppy. Classic Jess. Such an idiot child—I wasn’t quite sure how she managed to keep a friend like Melanie around, given the shit she pulled.

“Anyway, she promised me she’d text, and I told her I wouldn’t say anything as long as she stayed in touch. But she stopped texting me around midnight and I could tell she was really drunk. Her messages weren’t even making sense. I’m really scared for her, London.”

This last was said with a sniffle, and I realized the poor girl was terrified. I came over and sat down next to her, giving her a hug. Mel spent so much time over here that she felt like my own sometimes.

“She’s gonna be so pissed I told you.”

“You did the right thing, baby,” I said, running a hand across her hair. “She’s being a selfish brat, putting you into this position.”

“Well, on the bright side she’ll forgive me,” Mel muttered. She sniffed and pulled back, looking up at me with a wavering smile. “She always does.”

I smiled back, but my thoughts were grim. Mel was too nice. Sometimes I wished she’d ditch Jessie and find a new best friend. Then I felt guilty, because even with her issues, Jess was my heart.

“I need to go find her,” I said. “Do you want to stay here or head home?”

“I was thinking I could sleep here tonight?” she asked. I nodded, already knowing the rest of the story. Friday nights at Mel’s house weren’t pretty, especially on paydays. Her dad liked to celebrate the end of the week a little too much.

“Sounds good.”

·   ·   ·

I tried calling Bolt Harrison from my van so Mellie wouldn’t hear me. He managed Pawns, the same store I’d been cleaning that night. It happened to be owned by the Reapers MC. Bolt was their vice president.

I’d had the cleaning contract there for about six months now. They were becoming one of my most valuable accounts and had dropped hints about offering a second contract for The Line, their strip club. We’d already come in a few times when they needed extra help, and I had high hopes it would grow into something bigger. I originally ran the Pawns crew myself, but two months ago I’d turned it over to Jason, an older guy who’d been with me for almost five years. He was reliable, worked hard, and did a great job managing the people under him.

The MC paid well, and they paid in cash, which was convenient. In return, we kept our mouths shut about anything we might see, which honestly wasn’t as much as you’d think. I thought there might be some prostitution happe...

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Book Description Tantor Media, Inc, United States, 2014. CD-Audio. Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New. As Reapers Motorcycle Club president, Reese Picnic Hayes has given his entire life to the club. After losing his wife, he knew he d never love another woman. These days, Reese keeps his relationships free and easy-he definitely doesn t want to waste his time on a glorified cleaning lady like London Armstrong. Too bad he s completely obsessed with her. Besides running her own business, London has her junkie cousin s daughter to look after. Sure she s attracted to the Reapers president, but she s not stupid. When her young cousin gets caught up with a ruthless drug cartel, Reese might be the only man who can help her. Now London has to make the hardest decision of her life-how far will she go to save her family? Contains mature themes. Seller Inventory # AAC9781494551650

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Book Description Tantor Media, Inc, United States, 2014. CD-Audio. Condition: New. Unabridged edition. Language: English . Brand New. As Reapers Motorcycle Club president, Reese Picnic Hayes has given his entire life to the club. After losing his wife, he knew he d never love another woman. These days, Reese keeps his relationships free and easy-he definitely doesn t want to waste his time on a glorified cleaning lady like London Armstrong. Too bad he s completely obsessed with her. Besides running her own business, London has her junkie cousin s daughter to look after. Sure she s attracted to the Reapers president, but she s not stupid. When her young cousin gets caught up with a ruthless drug cartel, Reese might be the only man who can help her. Now London has to make the hardest decision of her life-how far will she go to save her family? Contains mature themes. Seller Inventory # AAC9781494551650

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Book Description Tantor. No binding. Condition: New. Dimensions: 7.4in. x 5.3in. x 0.6in.As Reapers Motorcycle Club president, Reese Picnic Hayes has given his entire life to the club. After losing his wife, he knew hed never love another woman. These days, Reese keeps his relationships free and easyhe definitely doesnt want to waste his time on a glorified cleaning lady like London Armstrong. Too bad hes completely obsessed with her. Besides running her own business, Londons got her junkie cousins daughter to look after. Sure shes attracted to the Reapers president, but shes not stupid. When her young cousin gets caught up with a ruthless drug cartel, Reese might be the only man who can help her. Now London has to make the hardest decision of her lifehow far will she go to save her family This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Audio CD. Seller Inventory # 9781494551650

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