Badass Montana bounty hunter, Reaper Stenberg, is a take-ALL-prisoners kind of guy and goes balls-to-the-wall for every capture. Until he’s injured. The last thing he wants to admit is any vulnerability. And he doesn’t want to hear about it from his wife and partner, Carly. So, with a bum shoulder, he jumps headlong into the next job, working with teammates, Dagger and Lacey, to take down a dangerous arsonist. Soon, he wonders if he’s taken on more than he can chew, but it might be too late to admit he needs a little help…
Read an Excerpt
Reaper shivered and pulled the edge of the blanket up to his ears, grasping onto sleep, but a frigid breeze teased his nose, and his ass was getting cold. He pried open scratchy eyes, noting the gray light and figured it must be near dawn. Then he lifted his head and stared through the windshield at a house, hidden in the trees farther down the lane. Where the hell was he?
Oh, right. He was staking out Bert O’Sullivan’s house, hoping the bail-jumping armed robber would head home for a change of clothes or to pick up one of the weapons he kept wrapped in an old tablecloth under his bed. Reaper knew exactly where they were, because he’d already searched the house, looking for clues of Big Bert’s whereabouts. Just as an added precaution, he’d removed the bolts from the rifles, should Bert sneak back inside his place before he and Carly nailed his ass.
Speaking of the woman…
He glanced to his right. Her seat was empty, which partially explained the frigid air inside his Ford Expedition. Reaper hit the button at the side of his seat and listened to the whir as the back of his seat rose. He glanced around, surprised to discover snow had fallen while he’d caught some shut-eye. A trail of footprints led into the bushes beside the road, and he smiled.
Two nights ago when they’d first arrived, he and Carly discussed the necessities of a long stakeout. He’d packed an empty liter soda bottle for relieving himself, should the need arise, and had offered her one of her own.
But she’d rolled her eyes and dug inside her knapsack for her toilet paper. “I’d rather use the bushes.”
“You know they sell devices that make it easier for you to hit the target…”
“No, thanks,” she’d said and lifted her chin. Subject closed.
Chuckling, he bet that right about now, she wished she could have used the coke bottle.
The clock on the dash read 6:00 AM. Dawn was breaking. Reaching for the key in the ignition, he was about to start the vehicle and warm up the seats, when he saw a compact, lights off, roll to a stop in front of Big Bert’s house.
A large figure climbed out of the Prius, bouncing the small car as the male exited and slammed the door. The man looked up and down the street, his gaze snagging on Reaper’s Expedition.
Reaper ducked down to watch, his heart thudding, while Big Bert looked away then made a beeline for his front door. Once the fugitive was inside the house, Reaper lowered his window. “Psst! Carly!” he whispered harshly. “Get back to the truck.”
“Just a minute,” she muttered.
“Don’t have a minute. He’s here!”
“You better not be kidding,” she said, her voice rising.
“Hurry it up!”
“Son-of-a-bitch.” The frost-coated bushes crackled. Carly jogged around the back of the truck, pulling up her zipper.
Reaper let himself out, eased the door closed, then hunkered down to hide behind his SUV as he made his way to the back gate.
Carly already had the door open and rifled through his “go-bag”. She donned a Kevlar vest, slid her badge onto her web belt, which held pepper spray and a lock pick kit in the loops. Then she slid a Glock into the holster strapped to her thigh.
He reached past her for his shotgun, already loaded with bean-bag rounds.
Carly shoved a vest at his chest.
Reaper didn’t want to take the time to put it on. He’d already disabled Big Bert’s weapons, but rather than waste precious seconds with another argument, he donned the vest and shut the door on the vehicle. Then leaning toward Carly, he gave her a frown that would have had most men backing up a step. Not his woman, though.
She shot him an equally fierce scowl. “I am not staying behind you. I’ll take the back door.”
He blew out a breath and gave a reluctant nod. If she was any other hunter he employed, he’d expect her to take the other entrance, but he didn’t like letting her out of his sight. “You’ve got a weapon. Don’t forget how to use it.”
Shaking her head, she snorted. “I’m a better shot than you. Just don’t get in my way.”
“Back door’s already unlocked,” he reminded her. He’d left it unlatched when he’d conducted his search. “Keep quiet as you come through. I’ll make enough noise to get his attention.”
She slipped her fingers into her pocket, pulled out her earpiece, and tucked it into her left ear. “Got it. Let’s get this bastard.” She waggled her eyebrows. “Sky and Jamie are gonna be pissed they lost the coin toss.”
Sky and Jamie sat on Bert’s girlfriend’s place. Calling them now wouldn’t make any sense. The location was ten minutes away, and Reaper was pretty sure they didn’t have ten minutes to cool their heels waiting for the other couple.
Together, Reaper and Carly ran from tree to tree, moving toward the small clapboard house. Painted white maybe a decade ago, the grungy, peeling paint looked as neglected as the yard, decorated with trash and rusting parts of cars, and coated with ice and fresh snowfall.
Reaper knew well the interior looked worse. A pig like Bert, who’d pistol-whipped a fast-food clerk because she hadn’t emptied her cash drawer fast enough, betrayed his ugliness in every aspect of his life.
Near the house now, he indicated to Carly to head toward the back entrance. Reaper crouched low and moved to the front door. He paused once to dart his body upward and quickly glance inside a window.
Big Bert moved down the corridor leading toward the bedroom. The back door was at the end of the hallway. Reaper’s stomach tightened. “He’s heading to his stash of weapons. I’ll make some noise to draw him out. Wait until you hear me.”
“Got it,” she whispered.
Reaper climbed the two steps of the small concrete porch and raised his boot. With a powerful kick, he shattered the doorframe then knocked away the splintered door, sagging on its hinges. “Bert O’Sullivan,” he shouted as he jogged through the living room, “Fugitive Recovery Agent! Come out with your hands up!”
The back door cracked open, but Reaper waved Carly back. From inside the bedroom, he heard cursing. Then he heard crackling and something sliding. “Goddammit, he’s goin’ out the window!”
“On it,” Carly said, ducking out the back door.
“Fuck!” He ran into the bedroom, leapt into the middle of the mattress and to the floor beyond, then bent to climb out of the small window, wondering how Bert had squeezed his big frame through.
Once on the ground, he followed footsteps in the snow, which led into the backyard. Entering the fenced yard, he watched Bert duck into a shed, with Carly maybe ten feet behind him. “Wait!” he said. “He might have another weapon—”
But that wasn’t what Bert had gone after. The roar of an engine sounded, and a second later, a four-wheeler burst forward from the shadows.
Carly jumped to the side to avoid being run over.
Pissed now, Reaper stood in Bert’s path, blocking the only exit—the narrow strip of lawn between the house and the neighbor’s chain-link fence.
A sneer curved Bert’s lips, and he twisted the throttle, giving his four-wheeler more gas, and sped faster toward Reaper, clearly intending to run him down.
At the last second, Reaper stepped to the side and shot out left his arm, clotheslining Bert across the chest, and knocking him off his ATV. Pain sucked the wind out of Reaper, and he bent at the waist cupping his shoulder.
Bert lay on the ground with the breath knocked out of him, wheezing.
Reaper turned his head to watch the ATV, momentum still propelling it forward, bounce against the side of the house, into the fence, and back against the siding, before coming to rest.
Carly ran to Bert and pointed her weapon toward his gut.
Still, gasping, Bert’s gaze followed her action. With a roll of his eyes, he raised his hands.
“Need you to turn over on your belly, big boy,” Carly snarled.
Moaning, Bert complied. “Can’t breathe,” he gasped.
“Don’t have to, asshole. I’ll sit you upright once the cuffs are on your wrists.” She straddled the backs of his upper thighs and clasped a manacle on one thick wrist, and then reached and tugged on the other arm, ignoring Bert’s groans, until she clicked the second in place. With jerking shoves, she moved him to his knees, and then to his feet. Snow and mud smeared Bert’s face as he looked down at Carly, his gaze narrowing.
Stabs of pain matched his heart rate. Reaper forced himself to straighten. Through clenched teeth, he ground out, “Don’t even think about it. She’s a better shot than me, and you’ve already pissed her off.”
Bert’s head turned, and his gaze assessed Reaper’s tall frame.
Reaper shook his head. “Ex-marine, buddy. It’s not worth me kicking your ass.”
In the end, Big Bert’s shoulders sank, and his head dipped, his chin nearly touching his chest. As Carly led their fugitive to the Expedition, Reaper reached beneath his vest for his cellphone.
He tapped the speed dial.
“We got him.”
“Nice! Everyone, okay?”
Reaper didn’t mention the fact he was pretty sure he’d dislocated his shoulder. “Since we made the grab, you two get to return him to jail in Bozeman.”
Sky groaned. “Sounds fair. Meet you at the office.”
The transport was fair all right. Even splitting it four ways, the bounty was generous. A judge had set Big Bert’s bounty at $300,000. How the asshole had managed to raise his percentage of the cash was a mystery that would have to wait to be solved. Reaper sucked in a breath through clenched teeth. His shoulder was screaming.