Read the first three chapters of Prose Before Bros!

Chapter One

Thuy Nguyen had never seen so many casseroles in her life.

She’d seen plenty of food before, of course. She’d gone to too many large gatherings and block parties and Lunar New Year’s to avoid seeing stacks of food presented for the delectation of the masses, but she’d never seen quite so many of the quintessential American food. 

Squares, rectangles, circles of plastic storage ware covered every inch of the large oak dining room table. There were things she recognized, specifically salads: green, potato, macaroni. She guessed the pinkish stuff with cherries and marshmallows was ambrosia, since she’d remembered Maddy making that at the apartment. But the more food the throng of people brought in, the less recognizable it became. There was what looked like something with green beans, smothered in… gravy? With… almonds, maybe? Or mushrooms? Or — gah — both?

And then there was a dish that was just sort of smushy and… well, gray. Honest to God, gray. Like a vat full of spackle. She had to look away, gaining fortitude from the dark chocolate cake a nice woman named Jennifer Winston had dropped by, along with sincere condolences. Jennifer had mentioned that Mr. Blount had helped her when her roses developed a pernicious blight. Jennifer’s husband, Cletus, said that the man “was a wizard with manure” as well. 

This place is so weird.

The funeral service had been that morning. She’d stood by her best friend Madison “Maddy” Blount’s side as they’d buried Maddy’s father. There was now a small reception for those who wanted to pay their respects to the family of Edward Blount.

Thuy wasn’t quite sure if the same number of people would’ve shown up if they just wanted to pay their respects, or because they were curious about Maddy’s situation. Maddy hadn’t been back to Tennessee since she’d left to go to college, which is how Thuy had met her — they’d been roomies in the dorms, and best friends ever since. Now, people saw that Maddy had returned seven months pregnant, with a woman in tow and no man in sight. Thuy had never lived in a small town, much less one in Tennessee, but she got the feeling it was the sort of thing that got tongues wagging. She could feel the curious stares crawling over her skin as she refilled the iced tea pitcher and made sure that Maddy wasn’t on her feet too much. 

She’d been to funerals before, obviously. With her family’s history, funerals came a little too often, although the crowd was noticeably different. It was the town element that was really throwing her for a loop.

“So, you’re a friend of Madison’s, are you?” a woman’s voice asked behind her.

Thuy turned to see an older woman looking at her critically. She vaguely remembered this one — Mrs. Simmons, maybe? — because she’d been making less-than-veiled comments about Maddy’s pregnancy after the service. Thuy felt her protective instincts kick in, but knew this wasn’t the time for a scene. It wasn’t going to help Maddy at all to have her call this woman a nosy bitch in her living room.

Thuy pasted on her “can I help you?” smile, the one she’d perfected at the library. “Maddy’s my best friend. We roomed together at Cal.” 

“Cal…?”

“University of California. Berkeley,” Thuy supplied, since Mrs. Simmons still looked confused.

The woman curled her lip a bit. “Going off to that hippie school,” she muttered.

“And how did you know Maddy’s father?” Thuy asked, trying to change the subject from Maddy’s supposed “hippie” ways.

The woman waved her hand. “Oh, everybody knew Edward Blount. How he managed to keep the farm going was a miracle, all by himself, with both of his kids going off and doing whatever they wanted…”

Thuy gripped her temper, feeling her smile sharpen on her face. 

“… but the man had God’s own green thumb, and he managed to grow anything, as well as keep those cattle,” Mrs. Simmons continued. Her expression turned shrewd. “I suppose Maddy’ll sell the place now? No need for forty acres, especially in her condition.” Mrs. Simmons made a little gesture in front of her stomach, like she was rubbing a bowling ball.

“I have no idea,” Thuy answered, keeping her voice even.

“Really?” Mrs. Simmons paused, then said, “Well, if Maddy’s husband comes, maybe they could make a go of the farm, I suppose.”

It was bait, the cheapest kind. This woman wanted confirmation or denial about Maddy’s marital status. Maddy had warned her: small towns turn gossip into blood sport. Just smile and nod.

Fortunately, handling aggressive library patrons was something Thuy had some practice in. She could take some passive-aggressive nosiness. She smiled at Mrs. Simmons’ comment, nodding silently.

Mrs. Simmons’ expression turned irritated. “I said, if Maddy’s husband… or boyfriend…?”

“Oh! We are out of iced tea,” Thuy said, ignoring the implied question entirely. “Thank you for coming and being so supportive.” With that, she deliberately turned her back on the woman, who gasped at the rudeness of the brush-off — but couldn’t really reply, because of the complimentary statement at the end.

Thuy retreated to the kitchen where Maddy was leaning against a counter, dressed in black, rubbing her back. At seven months along, her stomach was prominent. “How’re you holding up?” Thuy asked in a low voice, as she pulled more iced tea from the fridge, mixing in the sugar syrup solution. She then mixed up another batch of lemonade iced tea. She didn’t want Maddy to worry about anything food related, not today. And she certainly didn’t want Maddy to try lifting anything.

“I’m hanging in there,” Maddy replied in a low voice. “I’d had a chance to make my peace with Dad, at least, over the past few years. Or as close to it as we were going to get.”

She noticed Maddy kept staring at the door. “You’re waiting for your brother, aren’t you?”

Maddy nodded sadly. “I don’t think he’s coming.”

“Why don’t you describe him? So I know what to look for.”

Maddy shrugged. “I’ve barely seen him since I was… what, twelve,” she said. “He’s big. Tall, I mean, and muscular. Or at least, he used to be. Maybe he got fat by now. It’s been sixteen years.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t want to get caught in the crush,” Thuy muttered, her eyes flicking to the doorway and the crowd of people beyond.

Maddy laughed. “Yeah, there are a lot of people. Dad would’ve been surprised at the turnout. 

He was well known, but he wasn’t exactly popular.”

No, from what she’d gathered, Edward Blount Sr. was an asshole, to the world in general and to his kids in particular. A hell of a farmer or rancher or whatever, but an asshole.

“This morning at church, I had a woman ask me flat out where the father of my baby was,” Maddy said in a whisper, making a face.

Thuy grimaced. “What’d you say?”

“That it wasn’t her business.” Maddy shrugged. “Hey, I figured, if she was going to be rude, then I could be rude, right? But she kept on going. Said that there was no way that I could take care of a baby all by myself.”

Thuy stared. “Does she not realize how many single moms there are in the United States? What, does she live under a rock?”

“I told her that I wasn’t alone. I had you.” Maddy started giggling. “So, don’t be surprised if people start making comments about us being lesbians.”

Thuy grinned. “If I swung that way, I’d be all over you,” she admitted. “And I don’t care what these people think. It’s not like we’re going to be here that long anyway.”

Maddy looked uncomfortable. “Still have the will reading,” she said. “Dad set up some lawyer as the executor. I guess I’ll see Teddy then if nothing else.” She frowned. “If Dad left him anything in the will. He did basically disown Teddy. And ever since Teddy joined that gang, he wrote us off, too.”

Thuy felt pain for Maddy. She of all people could understand how complicated feelings for family could be. She gave Maddy a hug, stroking her hair. “It’ll be all right,” she crooned, wishing fiercely that she could make everything all right for her friend.

Of course, that was the exact moment that Mrs. Nosy Simmons came in. She goggled at the sight of them hugging. 

“I didn’t mean to interrupt anything,” she said, her eyes wide.

Thuy fought the urge to laugh, instead cuddling Maddy closer. “Yes?”

She felt Maddy’s body shaking with suppressed chuckles.

“Oh. Uh…” The woman turned on her heel and retreated quickly.

“By the time that gets to her hairdresser, she’s going to say we were full-on making out by the sink,” Thuy observed, letting Maddy go.

“In front of God and everybody,” Maddy agreed with a giggle. 

Thuy glanced at her phone. It was eight-thirty, and it was going to take time to Tetris all the food into the fridge and freezer. Besides, Maddy needed her rest. “Let me know if you want me to clear the house,” Thuy said. 

“I’ll take you up on that,” Maddy said, grimacing a little and rubbing her back again. “Let’s give it another hour, and then you can go all ‘closing time’ on people and kick them out. Nobody does it better than a librarian.”

Thuy chuckled and knuckle-bumped Maddy, then went out to refill the pitchers of drinks. She loved Maddy like the sister she never had, and she owed Maddy more than she could ever repay. She could put up with a bunch of small-minded small-town people for a week or two if it meant making things easier for her bestie. 

If only she could track down Maddy’s brother, she thought with a grimace, and went back to work cleaning.

Chapter Two

Drill sat at a low table at the Dragon Biker Bar, taking lazy pulls off a long-necked bottle of beer, feeling numb. 

Part of it might be exhaustion. The club had been in a state of freefall since their president Razor St. Claire had gone to jail as a result of their vice president, Darrell Winston, going states’ evidence against him. Their trusted lieutenant Repo had gone on the road — on the run, if rumors were to be believed. Even Razor’s psycho wife had gone missing, under even more dire circumstances and rumors that were only whispered. The resulting power vacuum had meant a lot of infighting, a lot of desertion. The crew was a shadow of its former self. But the results were Drill’s old friend Catfish landing on top, running the show. Of course, he’d leaned plenty on Drill as his muscle, and Drill had spent the past six months kicking a lot of asses to get people in line.

Now, Catfish was off in the back rooms somewhere with Dirty Dave, trying to brainstorm some way to build the crew back to its former glory. Their finances were a mess, their income significantly reduced. Drill didn’t care about that so much. He felt tired just thinking about it. 

But that wasn’t the only reason for his numbness.

He’d seen his father’s obituary almost by accident. He’d been eating breakfast over at Daisy’s Nut House, and he’d picked up a newspaper someone had left behind out of sheer boredom. To see his father’s stern face staring at him in inky newsprint had been like a blow to the sternum. 

Edward Blount. Dead at age sixty-six, leaving behind a son and a daughter. 

He didn’t know who’d written up the notice. Obviously, someone who was good at putting things politely and succinctly. Whoever it was had mentioned that the elder Edward Blount had been predeceased by his wife, Maisey. It also said that he was the fifth generation of Blounts to run the farm that still sat on the outskirts of Green Valley. 

They say if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all, so the obituary ended rather abruptly from there, only listing the funeral and burial, with family and friends gathering at the farmhouse after.

He figured his sister Maddy must be setting up the reception or whatever afterward, at his father’s home. His father had no other kin to speak of, being an only child, to the constant disappointment of Drill’s grandparents. Drill wondered absently how his sister was faring. Last he’d heard, she’d headed out to California, and as far as he knew, hadn’t been back since.

Don’t think about it. He took another pull of beer from the bottle. He was too tired to think about the past, anyway.

“Want some company?” one of the biker groupies — Tish? Misha? — asked, sliding onto his lap and reaching to stroke his shaved-bald head. He hated when they did that. He sighed, stopping her hands. Her closeness gave him a good look into her eyes. Even in the dim lighting, he could see her pupils were the size of dimes. Squinting, he saw that she was starting to get the tell-tale scabs and itchy rash of a meth head.

He sighed again, turning grim as she struggled harder, brushing her tits against his chest. “Not interested.”

She pressed harder, until he gently shoved her off, turning back to his beer.

“What the hell, Drill?” the girl snapped, her voice high pitched enough to compete with the blaring music. “You think you’re too good for me or something?”

Jesus be a fence, he thought with irritation, then blinked. He hadn’t thought of that particular saying in years, not since he was…

Nope. Wasn’t gonna accidentally wander down that Memory Lane. He shook his head. “I’m just not interested.”

“Aw, lay off him, Alice,” a young guy said. The kid was dressed in all black, his blond hair cut short at the sides but flopping at the top. Drill recognized him as Pete Lundy, son of the local bank manager, recent college drop-out, and low-level weed dealer. He was also a tentative Wraith recruit. Man, we must be desperate, Drill thought derisively. “Drill’s father just died. That’s bound to mess a guy up.”

Alice’s eyes were confused. “Who’s his Dad?” 

Drill stared at them as they continued their conversation. Like I’m not even here.

“Old man Blount,” Pete continued easily. “Or Old Man Blunt, if the rumors were true. Said that he could grow anything, and just before he died, he pretty much did. Like some of the highest-grade pot in the world — for ‘medicinal’ purposes.” 

Drill gritted his teeth. He knew better. His father could probably grow roses out of granite — the man was God’s own farmer — but Drill knew his father would sooner burn down all forty acres of land than break the law. 

No, his stupid thug of a son was the only one capable of that.

“D’you know, I tried to sneak into his greenhouse one night to find out if it was true?” Pete went on conversationally to Drill, as Alice watched eagerly. “Guy went after me with his twelve-gauge.”

Now, that sounds like him, Drill thought.

“So, did you go to the memorial service earlier?” Pete pressed, getting on Drill’s nerves. “Or are you going later? I’m guessing later, when it’s not so damned crowded.”

Drill didn’t even grunt. He watched as a stripper, with more enthusiasm than skill, shook her naked rack and then turned to flash her ass, swinging around the pole. He shook his head, sighing again. She was obviously new, and needed practice, he thought clinically. His body didn’t stir at all.

What is wrong with you?

It wasn’t his father’s death. As far as he was concerned, his father had died the day he’d joined the Wraiths. Maybe even earlier, when his mother had died. But this empty feeling had been growing for a while, and this numbness was starting to get alarming.

The meth girl interrupted, straddling him this time. “Poor baby,” she crooned, leaning forward and licking his earlobe. “I can make you feel better. Just take me to one of the back rooms, and you’ll forget all about it.”

He got to his feet, picking her up easily. Then he handed her to Pete like she was a feral cat. “Not interested,” he repeated.

Pete laughed as Alice shoved him away, cursing. “Not interested in the funeral,” Pete clarified, “or in Alice here?” 

“Either.” Drill sat back down. “Both.”

Unfortunately, Pete decided he was Drill’s new best friend and sat down beside him, motioning to a waitress. “I hear your sister’s back in town,” he said. 

Drill frowned. He hadn’t seen Maddy in sixteen years, not really. Not since he’d joined the Wraiths. He felt his chest tug a little. He found himself wondering how she was. When he left all those years ago, he hadn’t worried that his father would beat her — the man’s old school sensibilities meant he’d never strike a woman, although Drill had inconspicuously kept tabs to make sure that his instincts weren’t wrong. His sister hadn’t gotten the whippings Drill himself had received. That said, he imagined that living with “Old Man Blount” hadn’t been easy for her, since his old-fashioned take on life probably kept her pretty constrained. When he’d heard she went off to school, he was amazed — and cheered. 

Of course, if Maddy was so smart… what the hell was she doing back in Green Valley?

Pete hunkered down, leaning across the table conspiratorially. “You know, there are some rumors going on around your sister. Like, deviant shit.”

Drill finally focused on the kid. He might not have been in his sister’s life, might have cut off that part of his family — but by God, he wasn’t going to sit here and listen to Pete fucking Lundy talk smack about his kid sister.

“Like what?” Drill asked, his voice deceptively calm.

Pete perked up, as if thrilled that Drill was finally participating in the conversation. “I hear she’s knocked up, and there’s no husband. Just some Chinese chick,” he said. “A chick. I heard that your sister told my Mom’s friend that she doesn’t need a man, she’s got her woman.” He looked like he was drooling over that tidbit of gossip.

Drill blinked. His sister was gay? That was news. Not that he cared one way or another. He knew some people in the Wraiths might not share his opinion, but he just didn’t give a damn about who decided to sleep with who, if they weren’t sleeping with him.

Obviously, Pete here cared.

What was more concerning was the fact that she was pregnant. He tried to imagine it, and couldn’t. In his head, she was still the twelve-year-old kid, her hair in braids, her head bent studiously over books. Or she was playing softball, with the kind of easy grace that made winning plays look like a walk in the park. 

Now, she was supposedly pregnant, with no man in the picture. How was she managing?

He found the numbness retreating, pierced by Pete’s missive.

Was she all right?

“What the hell are you talking about?” a new voice chimed in.

Pete and Drill looked up to see Catfish standing in front of them, his arms crossed. He looked imposing, and irritated.

Pete saw that he had a new audience, and quickly crowed out, “Drill’s sister here is gay! And pregnant! She brought her girlfriend to his Dad’s funeral, and…”

“Drill doesn’t have a sister.”

Catfish’s words were like a hammer striking an anvil, and Pete winced back. “Wha…what?”

“Drill doesn’t have a sister. Or a father.” Catfish’s eyes gleamed. “You join the Wraiths, then we are your family. Period.”

Pete looked abashed. “Uh…”

“If you have trouble cutting ties, if you want to sit around like it’s a fucking sewing circle exchanging gossip, then maybe Drill here should kick your ass out, huh?” 

“No, sir!” Pete was visibly trembling by now.

“Goddamn recruits,” Catfish said, shaking his head. He gestured for Drill to follow him. Drill got up, abandoning his beer, following him to the back rooms. “I wanted to go over last week’s take, and talk about some loans we’ve got to get collected. Okay?”

Drill nodded, following Catfish down the hallway. But the numbness had retreated, followed by a sense of curiosity, and concern. Not for his father — it was too late for that, even if he’d had a better relationship with the son of a bitch.

But Maddy…

What had happened to Maddy?

Chapter Three

It was ten o’clock before the last of the mourners and well-wishers and neighbors left the Blount homestead. Getting all that food tucked away had taken some creativity, but at least they wouldn’t go hungry in the next week. Or possibly month, she thought, as she crammed the last plastic container in and shut the fridge door firmly. Maddy had been yawning since nine, so Thuy had sent her off to sleep.

“You sure you don’t need help?” Maddy had asked, rubbing at her eyes.

“You sure you’re okay sleeping in your Dad’s room?” Thuy had asked in return.

“Yeah. I mean, he had his heart attack in the field, not here in the house. Besides, this belly needs more room than my old twin bed.” She’d disappeared up the stairs, saying goodnight.

Thuy felt a little freaked out. She was on a farm. She’d never been on a farm before. That probably came off as totally snobbish, but damn it, she’d lived in some of the sketchiest neighborhoods in Oakland, so it wasn’t like she felt she was “above” it. She’d gotten used to the quick popping sounds of drive-by shootings, the wail of sirens, the screech of tires on asphalt. The loud braying laughter of drunks, usually from some of her family. 

This? The weird silence and nature sounds? Downright eerie. 

So was the total abundance of space and darkness. She was used to skies that glowed an unhealthy orange from light pollution, thank you very much. Not this vast threatening void. The stars were pretty, she thought, but it was November. The temperature wasn’t too different from the Bay Area, but still, fifty degrees was a little nippy to be hanging out on the creaky porch, staring at the stars.

Besides, there was stuff to do.

She wandered around the small house, making a mental to-do list. When Madison called her in tears, saying her father had died, Thuy had immediately taken time off to help her. Fortunately, her boss at the bioscience library had been very understanding, and she’d found people to cover her shifts. They’d gotten to Tennessee, and she’d helped Maddy through the mundane details of taking care of death. 

They’d need to get rid of everything, Thuy thought. Put the house on the market. She’d heard and seen some cattle on the way in (and wasn’t that a trip — all those cows, right there)… one of the neighbors had said they were feeding them that week, to help out, but the cattle would need to be taken care of. And of course, there was the will reading.

So many details. 

The brother, Teddy, had never shown up. Maddy didn’t like talking about him, but Thuy knew how much Maddy missed him. Apparently, they’d been close as kids, probably as a united front against their asshole Dad. Thuy had heard only a little about how strict the man was, and how unhappy he’d been when Maddy had chosen Berkeley for college. He never visited. Of course, given Thuy’s own family history, she wasn’t going to throw stones. 

She sat down at the sturdy oak dining room table, rubbing its surface. It looked like an antique. Most of the things in the house looked old, but in a good way. Again, it was a far cry from the way she’d grown up. 

Because of the stillness of the night, she heard the buzz of an engine before she fully put together what the sound was. Then her body went on full alert.

That’s not nature. 

That was a motorcycle, something loud and growly.

She waited by the door, listening as the sound got louder. Whoever it was, was coming up the long-ass driveway that led to the farmhouse, the barn, and the little guest cabin. They were headed there deliberately. That driveway was nearly a half-mile, at least, to the main road.

Who would be coming here at this time of night? On a bike, no less?

She felt a prickle of fear. Maddy had mentioned a biker gang in town. If a member of a motorcycle crew were headed out at this time of night, to a deserted farmhouse, they would probably be there to rob the place. Not the most subtle of hits, admittedly. But they were out in the middle of nowhere. How sneaky did someone have to be when the nearest neighbor was miles away? 

And anyone could’ve found out about the funeral, she thought, panic rising. Easier still to find out that the old man was dead, and in a town this small, they’d hear that the only people staying on this desolate property were two women. Off in a farmhouse so far from the main drag, no one would ever hear the screams. Two vulnerable women. One of them pregnant. 

With that, she thought of Maddy, sleeping upstairs. She set her jaw.

Vulnerable, my ass.

She went to the hall closet, grabbing the shotgun Maddy had mentioned when they arrived. She opened it quickly, making sure it was loaded. Then she snapped it closed and turned on the porch light as the motorcycle roared to a stop in front of the house. 

She waited until the figure on the bike looked at her. The gun was at her hip, tip down, ready to be tilted up at a moment’s notice.

“Evening,” she said, feeling a bit like one of those gunslingers in The Magnificent Seven. “Can I help you?”

It took her eyes a second to adjust to the darkness. He took his helmet off, and she couldn’t help it. She gaped a little.

Whoever the guy was, he was tall and yoked. He had muscles that bulged the motorcycle leathers he was wearing. He had a shaved head that gleamed and a face that was carved out of marble, with piercing blue eyes that took her in with a lazy perusal that didn’t seem terribly threatened. He looked like an octagon fighter. His full, sensual mouth was quirked up in a smile.

“You must be the girlfriend.” His voice was deep, rumbling. 

It took her a second to process his words because she was too busy processing his looks. She frowned. “What girlfriend?”

“Maddy’s girlfriend.”

She rolled her eyes. “Okay, whatever. Who are you, and what do you want?”

“I’m here to see Maddy.” Now he looked a little more determined. “So you can put the gun down.”

Instead, she held it tighter. “It’s ten o’clock at night,” she pointed out. “She’s asleep.”

“So wake her up.” His expression turned irritated. “I need to talk to her.”

“You can talk to her in the morning.” She didn’t feel scared of him, necessarily, but she got the feeling he was very determined when he wanted to be. 

“Can’t. Now’s the only time I have.” He started to walk towards the door.

She lifted the barrel of the gun up, and he paused. “I said she’s asleep,” she said carefully, her heart beating fast. “Get on the bike, and beat it. We’re not available for visitors right now.”

He stared at her, then took a step forward. “Or what? What happens if I don’t leave?” He sounded genuinely curious.

She took a deep breath, and held the shotgun steady, holding the butt off to one side as the barrel edged closer to where he was standing. “That is a very good question.”

He studied her for a moment. “You’re holding it all wrong. Haven’t you ever held a gun before? What are you going to do, toss it at me?”

For a second, she felt like shooting him out of sheer principle. She was holding it that way because it was how her father had taught her: she was too tiny for the recoil of most guns, and if she braced it against herself, she’d dislocate her shoulder. She didn’t feel like telling this stranger that, though.

“I’ve already called the cops,” she lied, wishing now that she had. She’d gotten so used to avoiding the police, it wasn’t second nature. And besides, what was she going to say? He hadn’t done anything.

Yet. 

Her muscles tensed.

He smiled lazily. “Darlin’, I’m not trying to scare you, but this farm is a ways away from town — it takes easily half an hour for anybody from the station to get here. And even if it’s a big county police station, they’ve only got three people assigned to our area. The police are usually too busy to pay much attention to a sleepy little backwater like Green Valley.”

It was disconcerting, how well he knew the police situation in the area. The reason he was so well versed with the police set up couldn’t be good — he hardly looked like the neighborhood watch type.

“Then I’ll take care of it myself. Step back,” she growled, as he fearlessly put another foot forward. She prayed she didn’t have to shoot this man. It had been years since she’d been in this position. “Who are you?”

He smiled, easily… a teeny little bit sexy, she thought traitorously, then grimaced at herself, surprised. Yeah, he was good looking, and he was dangerous. But didn’t she of all people know that “bad boys” were just bad news?

“I’m Drill,” he said, as if that cleared things up. “And I’m here to talk to Maddy… and get some answers.”

Get some answers?

Just like that, the gun went up to point at his head. Her protective instincts roared. “Listen, Drill. Maddy’s my best friend in the world. The only family I’ve got left. I don’t know who you are, or what kind of answers you want, but I’ll say this. If you hurt her, or scare her, or do anything that makes her uncomfortable,” Thuy said, her voice a deadly calm, “Satan’s gonna flinch when he sees what I do to you. Got it?”

They stood like that, staring at each other, for a long minute. Then Drill’s smile grew wide. 

“Little fireball, aren’t you,” he said, sounding surprised. “I like that.”

“Thuy? What’s going on?” Maddy’s voice emerged from the doorway, sounding nervous.

Thuy panicked. “Maddy, go back to…”

But it was too late. Maddy stepped out on the porch, then took one look at the bald stranger and clapped her hands to her face.

“Teddy!”

With surprising speed for a pregnant woman, she flew down the stairs, hurling herself at the biker and throwing her arms around him, to Thuy’s shock.

“Drill,” he corrected her, with surprising gentleness, hugging her back. “Sweetie, you know it’s Drill now.”

“Thuy,” Maddy said, ignoring his statement, “this is my brother.”

Thuy stared at him, putting the gun down and blinking. “This? This is your brother?”

The guy winked at her. Actually winked.

Thuy groaned. Well. This promised to be awkward.

** END SNEAK PEEK **

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