Can you tell I’m jumping up and down? No? Well, if my foot wasn’t sore, I would be! My baby is out in the world today, and I can’t wait until you read it! After you do (see that note of positivity?), I would love to hear what you think! And if you have time, consider leaving a review. Other readers will depend on what you say to make a decision about buying my book. Your opinion matters. Okay, enough from me. Enjoy a peek inside Reaper, and don’t forget to enter the contest!
Former Marine, Reaper Stenberg is a bounty hunter, running his own satellite agency of Montana Bounty Hunters, along with his partner, Jamie Burke. As a general rule, Reaper doesn’t like working with a partner, especially female partners. When chasing a bail-jumper, he prefers to keep his head down and follow the leads. He doesn’t like the “chatter” that usually accompanies working with a woman.
However, partnering with Jamie has taught him a few things. There are women who can focus on the job at hand without letting silly distractions get in the way of his concentration. Jamie is one of those rare creatures who doesn’t gossip, doesn’t get into his business, and can actually be useful when shit goes sideways and they have to get physical. Over the months since their boss, Fetch Winter, put them together, Reaper has come to admire the woman’s grit and ingenuity.
And then Jamie up and gets busy planning her wedding…
See what happens when Reaper has to deal with a ride-along author, Carly Wyatt, who—when shit goes sideways—proves his first female partner’s grit and ingenuity aren’t just lucky happenstance, and who challenges Reaper’s strict relationship rules.
Win an Amazon gift card! Because I believe in the power of things said out loud, I’d love for you to say something out loud—or at least in the comments below—about how you feel readers will embrace my bounty hunters! And because I’m already looking for more Montana Bounty Hunter character names, I want you to take a turn naming them! I already have Reaper, Dagger, and Fetch. They always have macho nicknames that mean they’re either big and badass or there’s no escaping them. So, give it a try and maybe you’ll win!
Read an Excerpt!
As a general rule, Reaper Stenberg didn’t like working with a partner, especially female partners. When chasing a target, he preferred to keep his head down and follow the leads. He didn’t like the “chatter” that usually accompanied being paired with a woman.
However, partnering with Jamie Burke had taught him a few things. Women existed who could focus on the job at hand without letting silly distractions get in the way of his concentration. Jamie was one of those rare creatures who didn’t gossip, didn’t mess in his business, and could actually be useful when shit went sideways and they had to get physical. Her methods for subduing a target weren’t ones he’d ever employ, but she knew how to compensate for her smaller frame and lesser strength. Over the months since their boss, Fetch Winter, had put them together, Reaper came to admire the woman’s grit and ingenuity.
Case in point was their present predicament.
No, this time she hadn’t tripped bail jumper, Mark Rebos, with a Jackie Chan move, and no, she hadn’t gripped his balls and twisted so hard he begged for mercy. This time—while she’d run all out—she locked a cuff on her right wrist, jumped onto his back, and snagged his right with the other cuff. Now, they faced each other, squinting in the rain and ankle-deep in mud, and Rebos couldn’t swing without dragging her closer.
The big man looked ready to explode. His pockmarked face was red, and his eyes bugged. Although Rebos was six inches taller than Jamie, and outweighed her by about eighty pounds, Reaper’s money was in Jamie.
Rebos tried to draw back his arm, but Jamie flopped like a ragdoll, making him pull her weight around. He was tiring. “What the hell did you do that for?” he asked, his voice thick with frustration.
Still breathing hard, Jamie shrugged. “Your wrist was the only thing I could reach. And you’re fast. I had to jump on your back before you pulled too far ahead. I was not running the length of Main Street again.”
They were both drenched. Rain fell in sheets around them. When Reaper and Jamie had spotted Rebos leaving the tobacco store at the other end of Main, Reaper had no other option than to halt in the middle of the street while Jamie leapt out the passenger door. Thursday night in Bear Lodge, Montana was Bingo night, and the old folks had filled every parking spot along the street. He’d driven around the corner to park before following Jamie, who chased Rebos and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Fugitive Recovery Agent, dipshit!” Luckily, Reaper had time to draw a rain poncho over his head before speeding after them.
When she’d leapt onto Rebos’s back, she’d taken him to the ground in the middle of a deep, muddy pit dug out by the torrent of water falling from the culvert above.
“You need any help, partner?” Reaper drawled, standing under an awning on the sidewalk above them.
Jamie bent and placed her hands on her knees, which forced Mark to double over. Their heads bumped.
She angled hers to frown at Rebos. “You gonna give me any more trouble?”
Rebos shook his head. “Just unlock these,” he said, lifting their hands. He squinted at her in the deluge. “Hey, you’re that female bounty hunter, ain’t you?” he said, a slow grin stretching his mouth.
“I’m a fugitive recovery agent,” she said, and then she strained to reach her left hand across her body to root inside her right front pocket.
When her shoulders dipped, Reaper grinned. “Lose your key?”
“I think they’re in yesterday’s pants,” she said, her voice rough with disgust.
Reaper couldn’t help chuckling, which earned him a mean scowl from Jamie. He held up his hands. “All right. I have a key.” He reached into his left pocket, dug around, and then frowned. “Wrong pocket.”
“Reaper…” she said, her lips tightening.
Yeah, he was just kidding. He reached into his right and pulled out a key. “Children, hold up your hands.”
Jamie gave him the evil eye.
Reaper was feeling pretty good about this capture. He hadn’t had to bust a nut. And Jamie had provided him with a nice tale to share around the office. He unlocked the cuffs then pulled Rebos onto the sidewalk.
Jamie waved away his hand and climbed up on her hands and knees, before straightening her backbone and marching away.
Reaper wrapped his arm around Rebos’s shoulder and gave him a little shove forward. They had a ways to walk. “So, buddy, did I read your arrest warrant right—you stole the sheriff’s car?”
The big man shook his head. “How was I supposed to know that piece of shit Hyundai was his?”
Reaper patted his shoulder again. “Bad break, man. Hey, I’m gonna have to cuff you before I put you in the car.”
“Yeah, I figured.” He held still while Reaper moved behind him and snapped the cuffs around his wrists. “So, tell me. The chick, your partner…she single?”
Reaper was beginning to feel like it was Christmas. “She is.” Not a lie. Jamie’s wedding was in two months.
Rebos straightened his shoulders and thrust out his chest. “Think she’d wait for me?”
Although he wanted to, Reaper didn’t dare laugh.
Back at the office, they dropped their copy of the jail’s paperwork on Brian’s desk.
Brian was still bent over in his wheelchair laughing, his brown eyes tearing. Every time he glanced up at Jamie, he burst out laughing again—and he still hadn’t heard about lovesick Rebos.
As he stared at the muddy mess she’d made of the floor, Reaper shook his head. From the top of her blonde head to the heels of her cowboy boots, his partner was coated in sludgy muck. “Think your boyfriend Sky’s gonna let you in the house, looking like that?”
Her lips curved. “I imagine he’ll make me strip on the front porch.”
Reaper glared. Damn, sex on the porch sounded nasty. And fun. He didn’t need a reminder of the fact his latest place to crash had reclaimed her spare key. Something he’d mentioned to Jamie that morning in the spirit of “sharing.” Women seemed to like that shit, but Jamie hadn’t commiserated. No, she’d raised her fist to Girl Power and told him he needed to find himself a real girlfriend. One he’d actually have to talk to. Reaper had shuddered at the thought.
He patted his pocket for keys, then began to turn, ready to head to the door. He had places to go—well, the nearest bar. Maybe there he’d find his next bed to crash in.
“Not so quick,” Brian called out.
Reaper pivoted back and raised an eyebrow.
“Fetch has something special planned for you.”
Reaper glanced at Jamie who was busy wiping mud off the side of her neck with a tissue.
“Not her. She’s off for the next few days. Wedding stuff. You,” Brian said, and then smiled.
Sometimes, he really couldn’t stand Brian. Their office manager was part of Team Jamie. That smile was too wide and held more than an ounce of snark. “What’s he want me to do?”
“You have a ride-along for the rest of the week, starting in the morning. An author friend of his.”
For fuck’s sake… Reaper groaned. “Why me?”
Brian’s smile was angelic. “No clue. But he said you’re to behave.”
Reaper scrubbed a hand over his face. Fetch shouldn’t have said that. Didn’t he know better than to throw down that kind of challenge? “Author. Huh. He better not be late, or I’ll leave his ass behind with you.”
“Not a he…” Brian laughed again.
Reaper flashed a look of disgust at Jamie who chuckled softly. No way in hell. Training Jamie not to get herself killed had taken every bit of his patience. He didn’t have any left for some author-ess who wanted to pick his brain and ask asinine questions, and who wouldn’t know how to keep the hell out of trouble. No way. No how. Reaper fisted his hands on his hips and glared. He’d just have to make sure that a single day spent in his company was long enough.
With their laughter following him out the door, Reaper slogged toward his SUV through four inches of water accumulated in the parking lot. Once seated behind the wheel, he let out a deep breath and let his head fall back against the headrest. Not a bad day. Still, he felt… He didn’t quite know. Restless, maybe? Dissatisfied? And why? Everything was going great. His success at Montana Bounty Hunters, as well as Jamie’s, had led Fetch into trusting them to open and run this satellite office. Already, the operation was showing a profit. He liked his crew. Sure, he’d given Jamie a hard time when they’d started working together, but she’d more than proven herself over the months they’d partnered. Her friend Brian, even if he did get under Reaper’s skin, was a good man and great support. He made their lives easier in measurable ways, handling much of the computer end of their job—a task Reaper didn’t love.
Work was great. His crew was great. Soon, they’d add more agents. So, why wasn’t he happy? Maybe Jamie was right. Perhaps, he needed a special someone in his life to give him something to look forward to when he walked out the door at the end of the day.
Or, maybe, he was simply pissed Sylvia had kicked him to the door the minute he made a face when she asked who he was taking to Jamie’s wedding. Like she expected him to ask her. Fact was, he hated weddings, and the thought of taking a woman he “dated” to an event like that made him feel as though a noose tightened around his neck. So yeah, he’d grimaced.
“Crap. Why am I such a fuckup?”
His phone lit, and the strains to White Buffalo’s “Come Join the Murder” filled the cab. What did it say about a man when the bartender at his favorite watering hole had his own ringtone? “Yeah, Brady?”
“Uh, Reap, you need to get on down here. I just cut off your brother.”
Which meant Sammy was getting ugly. “Hell, I’m five minutes away.” He tapped to end the call, hit the ignition button, and sped out of the parking lot. Sammy, drunk on his ass, usually ended up with a pricey bar bill for broken windows and splintered furniture—if not jail time in the county lockup.
When Reaper arrived at the bar, he removed his holster and secured it in his glove box. He also stored his badge.
Inside the bar, a fight was already in progress. Members of Sammy’s motorcycle club stood in a circle around Sammy and another club member, Blacky McNally. Standing a head taller than most of the men crowded tightly around the staggering pugilists, Reaper made note that the fight must have just started because neither man was bleeding.
Brady waved to catch his attention.
Reaper circled the edge of the cheering crowd to reach him. “How’d it start this time?” he shouted.
“Sammy groped Blacky’s old lady.”
Reaper sighed. Sammy was looking to get his ass kicked. “I’d appreciate you holding off calling the cops.”
His arms crossed over his burly chest, Brady nodded. “I know you’ll make it right.”
So much for his cut of tonight’s takedown. Reaper sighed and pushed his way through the crowd.
“Hey, it’s the bounty hunter,” one of the club members shouted.
“It’s Fugitive Recovery Agent, dipshit,” he muttered, and then smiled. “Unless a bench warrant carries your name, you got nothing to worry about.” He rolled his shoulders, raised his fists, and then waded in.
Reaper’s heart rate sped. Not one to ponder the vagaries of fate, he couldn’t help the little uptick of satisfaction that lightened his mood.
A fight on a Friday night was almost a Stenberg tradition.
* * *
A hour later, Reaper tossed a bag of frozen peas onto the kitchen table in front of his brother then pulled out another and took a seat opposite Sammy. Without speaking, because he really didn’t want to start a shouting match, he squeezed the bag between his hands to loosen the frozen vegetables. Then he set the bag on the tabletop and rotated his fist to rest his swollen knuckles against the icy-cold pack.
“Maybe you should put that on your cheek,” Sammy said, lifting a finger to point at Reaper’s right cheek.
“Need my hands more than I need this face,” Reaper said, his voice dead even. He was still pissed his brother cost him a huge chunk of change for the damages he’d caused at the bar.
Sammy grunted and placed his own bag against his left eye, which was swollen shut and beginning to blacken. They both sat in silence, until Sammy released a long, loud sigh. “Sorry about the bar bill. I’ll pay you back.”
Reaper shot him a glare. Don’t lie to me. Fuck, don’t say anything.
His brother glanced away. “Maybe I should head back to my place.”
“Your bike’s back at the bar, and you’re still drunk.” Reaper tipped his head from side to side to ease a knot forming in his neck. Talking to his brother always made him tense. “Why the hell did you pick a fight with McNally?”
“He took the first swing.”
Leaning forward, Reaper shot him a glare. “You grabbed Danielle’s ass. Do you think he was gonna let that slide?”
That gesture always fried Reaper’s ass. Blood roared in his ears. “What?” he bit out. “You don’t give a shit? Did you want him to kick your ass? What is it with you, lately?”
Sammy shoved back his chair. “Got a headache. Since you’re not gonna take me back in town, I’ll sleep on the couch.”
Reaper watched as his brother pushed up from the table and turned to go. “I’ll be up early. You want a ride, you be ready.”
His brother didn’t answer as he walked away.
For a few moments longer, Reaper sat in the kitchen, rolling his sore knuckles on the bag. He didn’t like the direction his brother was heading, and he placed the blame squarely on Sammy’s association with his bike club. The roadside bar didn’t exactly attract the most upstanding citizens. They were a brawling, boozing bunch of ex-cons and misfits. As an ex-con himself, Sammy should have known better than keep that kind of company. Many of those losers worked at McNally’s garage, Sammy included. The few times Reaper had dropped in, he hadn’t liked the seedy atmosphere.
More than once, Reaper tried talking to Sammy about dropping his membership and finding another job, but Sammy remained stubborn. He didn’t want his advice. Didn’t need it, he’d said. The last time Reaper asked him about the club, they’d ended up fighting and hadn’t spoken for a month.
If Sammy wasn’t the only family he had, he might have let him learn some more hard lessons on his own. As the situation now stood, he was enabling his kid brother to continue his downward spiral. Tonight, he’d picked up the tab for the splintered furniture, broken glasses, and the six-foot mirror behind the bar.
Sighing, he lifted his hand and balled his fist, wincing at the tug of bruised muscles stretching over his knuckles. Well, hell. Tonight was clusterfuck. Tomorrow, he still wouldn’t catch a break—not with an overeager ride-along asking questions and getting in his way. If he ignored her, he wondered how long she’d last.
His lips twitched. Yeah, he’d have Brian find the dirtiest, low-down target on their list and make sure she got muddied along the way. Nothing too violent, but something to make her reconsider hanging out with him for the rest of the week. Then maybe, he could talk his brother into riding shotgun and let him see what happened when dirtbags made stupid mistakes. Maybe he could rattle Sammy hard enough to help him see his current path would only lead to shit.
Reaper let out another deep sigh. With his adrenaline crashing, he was ready for bed. Feeling better about the next day’s challenge, he tossed the thawing peas back into the freezer and smiled, which caused him to wince. Maybe he should have iced his cheek.
Nah. Maybe his face would make the author-ess think twice about sharing his SUV.