Home > Reaper's Fire (Reapers MC #6)

Reaper's Fire (Reapers MC #6)
Author: Joanna Wylde

PROLOGUE

TINKER

My stomach cramped again, and I shuddered. There was blood in the toilet. Not a lot of blood, but not a little bit, either. Big, stringy clots and bright red drips and . . . squeezing my eyes tight, I forced myself to ignore the pain, focusing on the phone in my hand instead.

“I’m sorry, Tinker, but Mr. Graham can’t leave court right now.”

Craig’s always-smooth, professional voice cracked as he said the words, because we both knew what he was really saying: Mr. Graham wouldn’t leave court, because winning his case was more important than his wife’s health. Even Brandon’s own paralegal was ashamed of him.

“Craig, I think I’m losing the baby. I need my husband. Did you tell him that?”

Silence.

“Tinker, he’s not coming. I . . . I don’t know what to say. You should probably get to a hospital. Do you have someone who can drive you?”

I looked down between my legs, watching as another drip of blood plopped into the bowl, creating a slightly darker spot in the pinkish water. It wasn’t easy to see past my stomach—my once-flat belly was long gone. God, how had this happened?

“Yeah, I can call my friend Margarita,” I said slowly. “Let Brandon know I’m going to the ER.”

“All right,” Craig said. “And, Tinker?”

“Yes?”

“I’m sorry.”

• • •

My daughter, Tricia, was born still at eleven thirty a.m. She weighed just over two pounds and I named her for my mother.

• • •

The sun had gone down when someone knocked faintly on my hospital room door. I stared at the ceiling, ignoring the knock, wondering what I’d done wrong. I’d failed her . . . She was this tiny, precious thing, and I’d had one job—to carry her to term safely. What kind of woman couldn’t even protect her own baby?

The knock came again, and Margarita stirred in the chair next to me.

Maybe it was Brandon.

He’d texted an hour ago, saying that he’d be down just as soon as he could. I didn’t care. All that mattered was my baby girl. I’d wanted her so badly, even if Brandon didn’t, and now she was dead. Dead. What a terrible, ugly word.

The door opened a crack, and a man peeked through.

“Can I come in?” Craig asked hesitantly. I nodded at Margarita, who waved him in. From the hallway I could hear a baby’s cry—fucking sadists put me on the maternity ward, because apparently that was the best place for me medically. The sounds of other women’s happiness twisted the knife in my empty stomach.

Tricia.

My heart had exploded with love when I’d seen the positive pregnancy test, and then exploded again the first time I’d felt her kick. Every day was a miracle, and I’d followed her development on the maternity calendar religiously.

I’d held her for two hours before they took her away.

“Tinker, I’m so sorry for your loss,” Craig said, stepping inside. He carried a bundle of flowers. I stared at him blankly, wondering how the hell my husband’s assistant could make it to the fucking hospital when Brandon couldn’t. She’d been his daughter, too.

I hated him.

“Let me take those,” Margarita said, and while her words were perfectly polite, her tone was just this side of menacing. Fair enough. Craig worked for Brandon and Brandon was the enemy. She despised him. Always had. Most of my friends from before our marriage did, something I really should’ve paid more attention to when he proposed. My dad always called me stubborn, said I had to figure things out the hard way, even as a little girl.

Guess he was right.

“Brandon—”

“Unless you’re going to say Brandon isn’t here because he was in a fatal car crash, don’t bother,” Margarita snapped. Craig looked between us, then his head dropped, shaking slowly.

“I’m so sorry,” he repeated. “He was closing down his computer when I left.”

We stared at him, the silence growing more uncomfortable, because what could you say? Craig flushed, and I took pity on him.

“It’s not your fault,” I said. “Do you want to sit down?”

“No,” he replied, shuffling his feet. “I should get home. Mr. Graham has court first thing in the morning, and I need to go in early to finish prepping. Take care, Tinker. If there’s any way we can help—I mean, the staff at the prosecutor’s office—let me know. We’re all thinking of you.”

To hell with that. If they thought of me at all, it was because they pitied me. Fair enough, because I was pretty fucking pitiable. There was another knock at the door, then Brandon opened it, stepping into the room.

“Tinker?” he asked softly. He carried two dozen red roses, which meant he at least had the presence of mind to feel guilty. One dozen for romance, two for forgiveness. That time he’d cheated on me, I’d gotten diamond earrings.

I hated diamonds. Always had. Seemed like a husband should know that about his wife.

“Little late, aren’t you?” Margarita asked, her voice like ice. Brandon stared her down.

“I’d like some time alone with Tinker.”

“No fucking way—”

“It’s all right,” I told her, twisting my wedding set around on my finger. The engagement ring alone totaled nearly four carats, encrusted and bright. It wasn’t the original, of course. Brandon liked to upgrade it every few years, because God knew his wife couldn’t wear something simple. His family came from money—supposedly a lot of it, based on the prenup I’d signed—but I’d always thought it was tacky as hell. Margarita glanced toward me, and I read her look. Are you sure you want him here?

“It’s fine,” I told her. “Why don’t you take Craig to find some coffee or something? He’s probably had a long day.”

“Coffee would be perfect,” Craig blurted out, more rattled than I’d ever seen him. I had to give him credit—coming to the hospital couldn’t have been easy. The flowers he’d brought probably cost ten bucks down at Pike Place, but I liked them better than Brandon’s overpriced roses.

They were sincere.

Margarita and Craig walked out, leaving me alone with my husband.

“So,” he said, setting the bouquet on the small table next to me, nearly knocking over my cup of water in the process. “How are you doing? I’m so sorry I couldn’t come down. It was the motorcycle gang case, and you know how big a deal it is. Today we were scheduled to cross-examine a key witness, and I didn’t feel comfortable letting anyone else take over. I would’ve come if I could.”

Brandon gave me his politician’s smile, the same smile he used to schmooze future donors for his campaign. He hadn’t announced anything yet, but I’d known for a while that he planned to run for King County Prosecuting Attorney when the position opened up in two years. The current prosecutor would be retiring, and as head of the criminal division, Brandon was the logical successor.

“Sit down next to the bed,” I said quietly. “We need to talk.”

“Of course,” he replied, all concern. The portrait of a loving husband. Too bad there wasn’t a camera to capture the moment. Might make a good campaign poster, so long as they Photoshopped some color onto my cheeks.

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