Home > Bounty (Brantley Walker : Off the Books #8)

Bounty (Brantley Walker : Off the Books #8)
Author: Nicole Edwards

 

 

Chapter One


Friday, April 29, 2022

 

 

“Whose ridiculous idea was this anyway?”

Brantley Walker glanced over at his cousin Sawyer, a slow smile forming. “The guy who said he’s never bowled before.”

Sawyer’s dark eyebrows popped up toward his hairline before he dramatically looked over at Reese, then back to Brantley. His voice was pitched higher when he said, “The guy who’s kickin’ all our asses right now?”

Brantley took a long pull on his beer, let his smile widen. “That’d be the one.”

“He’s a swindler,” Sawyer accused.

“I think you mean a hustler,” Kaleb corrected.

“A fraud,” Sawyer griped, his smile bleeding through despite his efforts to pretend he wasn’t amused.

Kaleb laughed. “No, I still think hustler’s the right word.”

Brantley shot a smirk at Reese. Six feet five inches of prime alpha male, wearing dark jeans and an untucked charcoal-gray T-shirt, was standing with his hands on his hips, looking like sin on a stick. Reese Tavoularis, the man who claimed he didn’t know how to bowl, had just gotten his sixth strike in a row, and the way his eyes glittered told him Reese had more hidden talents than he was letting on.

“Beginner’s luck,” Reese quipped, his lips twitching as he glanced between the others.

“My ass,” Sawyer countered, putting his hand above his eyes as though shielding them as he craned his neck and peered around the bowling alley. “Where’s the rest of your PBA league hidin’, huh? That them down there? They recordin’ this for TikTok? I bet they are, the fuckers.”

Brantley barked a laugh. His cousin certainly hadn’t lost his dramatic flair over the years. As far as bowling went, Brantley didn’t care one way or the other who won. He’d come because Reese had suggested it. Since their Fridays were usually spent at Moonshiners, he figured it was good to change things up a bit. Not to mention, when the man he was going to marry made a request for a date, Brantley damn sure wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity.

Granted, Brantley hadn’t realized it would be a group outing, but that didn’t bother him either. When Kaleb had mentioned needing to get out of the house, they’d invited him to come along. Kaleb had then passed the word on to his brothers, which was how Sawyer had come to join them. From there, word traveled like wildfire, and the next thing he knew, two of Brantley’s brothers, Cal and Griffin, as well as their brother-in-law Killian, were signed up. And to balance things out, Luca Switzer had jumped on the bandwagon.

And here they were, taking up space in one of the lanes, surrounded by others who were out to have a good time. The place smelled like talcum powder, chicken wings, and cheap beer, the air thick with laughter and conversation and the occasional thunk of a bowling ball hitting the pins. It was what Brantley considered a perfect night out.

“Sawyer, you’re up,” Kaleb announced.

“Might as well call the game now,” Sawyer grumbled. “That or let me use the gutter bumpers. This shit’s startin’ to get embarrassing.”

“And a grown-ass man usin’ the bumpers wouldn’t be?” Brantley retorted with a snort.

“Did he do it again?” Cal, Brantley’s youngest brother, asked when he returned from the snack bar carrying a plate of nachos, his eyes on the screen overhead.

“He did,” Kaleb answered.

“Son of a bitch.”

Brantley noticed Reese’s crooked grin, and he was damn tempted to drag the man to a storage room so he could kiss that smirk clean off his handsome face.

“Next time, he’s on my team,” Luca stated as he moved toward the steps. “Anyone else need another beer?”

“I’ll take one if you’re offerin’,” Brantley told him, his gaze never leaving Reese.

“Me, too,” Sawyer hollered.

“Me, three,” Killian said.

“I’ll go with you,” Kaleb offered.

When the crowd had thinned and Reese approached, Brantley crooked his finger to urge him closer. “Tell the truth. You were on your high school bowlin’ team, weren’t you?”

Reese chuckled softly. “I’m from the same small town you are, Navy boy. Coyote Ridge doesn’t have a bowlin’ team.”

“Good point.” He leaned in close to Reese’s ear, lowered his voice. “Just fair warnin’. You bowl seven in a row, I’m gonna blow you in the parkin’ lot.”

Reese’s surprised swallow was loud in his ear.

Brantley pulled back, met that whiskey-brown gaze, speaking just loud enough for only Reese to hear. “Your cock in my mouth with you pinned against the truck.”

He loved that Reese’s cheeks turned crimson. The man blushed more than a virgin schoolgirl, and Brantley happened to find that trait highly appealing. More so now that Reese would happily oblige him whenever he made an offer like that. In the beginning, Reese would’ve turned beet red and then found a way to hide out until the night was over. They’d come a long way since then.

“For fudge sakes,” Sawyer exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air as the ball bounced down the lane.

“Did you just say fudge?” Brantley asked, laughing when the ball managed to topple two pins and made a third one wobble.

His cousin spun around. “Hey, some of us have kids. My wife’d kick my ass if I came home usin’ the f-bomb again. The last time I did, Matthew used it to refer to his little brother.”

Brantley smiled, waiting for Sawyer to elaborate.

Sawyer sighed. “He called him a fuckapotomous for a week.”

“Oh, shit,” Reese said with a huff of amusement.

Brantley couldn’t help it, he nearly fell over with laughter. He could only imagine five-year-old Matthew singing the word as he shouted at his three-year-old brother.

Sawyer pointed at Brantley. “Your turn.”

Brantley passed his beer to Reese so he could take his turn. He didn’t put too much effort into it, which he figured was the reason he split the pins.

“That all you got?” Griffin called out from behind him. “What kinda shit-roll is that?”

He ignored his brother and waited patiently until the ball returned, smiling to himself. He knew without a doubt Reese was going to roll another strike. The man was on fire tonight, and Brantley was seeing a whole new side to him he hadn’t realized existed. Then again, Reese had been different since his return from Dallas a month and a half ago. Ever since they patched things up between them, overcoming some of the obstacles they’d put in their own way, things had been good. Really good, in fact.

Brantley put some extra spin on the ball and took down one of the two pins left standing. When he turned, he found Reese smiling back at him. That grin made him feel like he’d just knocked down every pin in every lane in one fell swoop.

“Good thing you’ve got the pro on your team,” Sawyer said.

Yeah, damn good thing.

“All right, bro,” Sawyer said to Kaleb. “Knock ’em all down, or next time I’m invitin’ Braydon and leavin’ your ass at home.”

“I’m pretty sure I invited you.”

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