d it didn’t.
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT READING ORDER
This book is the seventh and FINAL book in the King series. You must read the six prior books in order to fully appreciate Preppy, Part Three. King, Tyrant, Lawless, Soulless, Preppy One, Preppy Two, and Preppy Three.
I honestly don’t know where to start. Thank you so much to my husband for being a true source of inspiration to me every single day. Thank you for pushing me to always do my best and supporting all the times when I can’t do my best in other areas. I wouldn’t be writing if it weren’t for you. I wouldn’t be happy if it weren’t for you. You are an amazing person and I’m so lucky you chose me.
To Sunny, Kim, Clarissa, Pam, Louise, Kara, for taking the time to read early copies of this book. To Jessica for putting up with my weirdness and for reading my scribbles out of order and for encouraging me every step of the way. Thank you to Julie for keeping me sane and for just always being there. Thank you to my agent, Kimberly Brower, for sticking with me through this series.
A super special thank you to Rochelle Paige. Someday I hope to be as good of a friend as you are. And THANK YOU to Beth Ehemann for being my writing buddy during this process. YOU ARE MY HERO!
Thank you to Ellie for making my words pretty and for putting up with my ever changing deadlines.
Thank you to my daughter for smiling and laughing and being a light in my life when some days seem creatively dark. YOU are why I do this. I want you to grow up and chase your dreams like Mommy chased hers. I love you, sweet girl.
Thank you to Frazierland, my readers group. YOU guys keep me motivated. Every day you remind me of how much I love what I do. Thanks for hanging out with me. Laughing with me. And being ridiculous with me. I look forward to all of our good times ahead.
For my readers
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy
and vague. Who shall say where the one ends,
and where the other begins?”
-Edgar Allen Poe
There’s the type of evil that dwells deep within men’s souls, the kind that makes them do cruel things because they’re driven to do so by the demons whispering inside them.
Evil can be subjective.
At least that’s what I’ve learned in my time with Preppy.
Not all acts of malice are created equal. Not all men who have those demons choose to unleash them into the world. There are those like Preppy, like Bear, like King, who’ve chosen to channel that need, compartmentalize it into something they only draw upon when needed.
Preppy is capable of both cruelty and mercy, of both murder and salvation. He’s been the victim, the villain, and the hero. What I don’t think he’ll ever realize is that this gives him a power most men would dare not aspire to. Throughout his entire life, he’s walked a fine line between heaven and hell, between sinner and saint, between endless love and hardened hatred.
Then he died.
And although his death didn’t include ceasing to breathe, he still found himself in a living hell.
Preppy had every reason to harbor resentment so deep there would be no coming back from that dark place. He could have let the devil turn him into one of those men who answers his demons without question.
I don’t want to say Preppy had been tamed. Tame is the last word I’d use to describe him. He’s too wild. Too unpredictable.
Taming Preppy would be like trying to put a leash on the wind.
However, he did have this eerie sense of calm about him. He became focused. Precise. If you looked past the smile and jokes, you’d see someone who held his cards close to his chest and knew when to play them.
With the echoes of my son’s cry playing over and over again in my head I knew Preppy would come for me. He’d play those cards.
And he’d win.
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
The way back will be paved with blood.
I was jolted into consciousness, my head slammed against the side of whatever confines I was trapped in. I opened my eyes, but nothing but blackness stared back at me. The occasional bump and hum of an engine made me realize I was in some sort of vehicle, but I wasn’t in the cab.
I was in the trunk.
My hands and feet were bound together. A gag was tied so tightly around my head the fabric prevented my mouth from closing, so I was forced to bite down on it.
My heart was beating a million miles a minute. I felt my fingers turn cold. I felt dizzy, and when I tried to swallow, I found that I couldn’t.
I took a deep breath and set a mental image of Preppy and Bo in my mind. An acute sense of focus took over. A determination to get out of that trunk and back to my family.
But how? Eventually, someone was going to open the trunk, I had to be ready.
I felt around with my fingertips and bare feet for anything I could use as a weapon but disappointment set in quickly.
It was empty.
Out of frustration and fear I pounded my bound wrists against the coffin on wheels, pausing when I remembered something.
“Andrea, how did the cat end up in the trunk of the car?” my dad asked.
“I dunno,” I sang innocently, twisting from side to side as my dad hit a button on his key chain, popping the latch. Mr. Wiggles hissed, springing out as if he'd been shot out of a catapult. He looked back at me with his own special brand of cat-like contempt as he pranced back into the house, no doubt to hack up a revenge hairball on my pillow.
“Well, don’t do it again, okay?”
“I swear I’ll never do it again.” I’d have to find another place to play bomb-shelter. A place that didn’t automatically lock when it shut.
“Good.” My dad nodded, seemingly satisfied with my promise. He bent over at the waist and yanked lightly on one of my braids. “Because I don’t think the emergency release latches were designed with cats in mind.”
Immediately after remembering my dad’s words I felt around with my fingertips, growing more and more frustrated with my bound hands.
I didn’t know where I was being taken, but I knew my time was limited, and if I didn’t act now, I’d end up on the wrong end of whatever plans had been made for me by whatever psycho was stupid enough to abduct me.
Preppy would find this asshole, and he’d stop at nothing to make sure he paid. That thought fueled me as I continued my search. My frustration grew. I flipped over onto my stomach and shoved my fingers down as far as they could go into the crease on the floor lining in the backside of the trunk. I gasped with delight through my gag when my fingers hit something plastic. I grunted, reaching down further and further until I was finally able to fit my fingers through the loop.
It was now or never.
With my hand and feet bound I was going to have to roll out of the trunk. It was possible I could be hit by another car or die on impact. I pushed that thought aside and again focused my attention on the only two people in the world who mattered.
I tugged on the loop with all my might.
Nothing happened at first, but when I tried again, pulling and tugging until I felt a blood vessel pop in my neck, the roof above me finally lifted. The warm wind flew in and all around me, blowing my hair into my face. The sultry night air instantly beaded up on my skin.
There was no time to count to ten. No time to think of the consequences. An open trunk wasn’t something that would go unnoticed.
The car came to a screeching halt while I was mid-roll, positioned over the rim between bumper and trunk. I went flying into the air, spinning several times over. The flesh on my arms and legs felt as if they were on fire, burning as my skin made contact with the road, dragging against the sharp shell embedded in the asphalt.
When I finally came to a stop, brake lights filled my blurry vision. I heard a car door open followed by the sound of steps on the pavement growing closer and closer.
I was talking to King and Bear about the future of the Granny Growhouse operation by the bonfire when Bo came up behind me and pulled on one of my suspenders. “Hey buddy,” I started, stopping when I saw the tears staining his face. I crouched down, so we were eye to eye, dropping my beer onto the grass. He may not have been able to speak, but I never had a problem understanding him, and right then he was telling me that something was very VERY wrong. “Is it Mommy?” I asked, my heart hammering in my chest.
Bo nodded and grabbed my hand, dragging me into the house where a wine bottle was broken on the floor, red wine seeping into every nook and groove, canals of red spread throughout the kitchen.
I hadn’t realized Bear and King had followed until King spoke. “What the fuck happened?”
“I’m not sure, but I know that we gotta fucking go,” I answered. I turned back around to Bo. “Did you see who took her?” I asked as calmly as I could without trying to alarm him more than he already was. Bo shook his head and rubbed his hands all over his face and head. “He wore a mask?” I asked.
Bo nodded and dread pitted in my gut.
“How many?” I asked.
Bo held up one finger.
“Do you know if it was a man or woman?”
Bo grabbed his crotch through his jeans.
“Did you see where they went?” I asked.
Bo shook his head and ran in place.
“Good boy,” I said, pulling him against me for a quick hug. “It’s good you ran.”
I released Bo and ran from the house, across the yard to where the party was still going on like my life wasn’t spiraling out of fucking control, toward King’s tattoo studio where I took the picture off the wall that hid the safe. My hands were shaking as I entered the combination, luckily getting it right on the first try. I started tossing weapons and ammo to King and Bear who tucked and strapped guns and knives to their bodies in record time.
“What’s going on?” a voice asked. I turned to see Dre’s dad standing in the doorway. “What’s all this?”
“Nothing, I’ll explain later,” I snapped through my clenched jaw.
“Son, I’m not stupid,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest in a dad-move that would have been intimidating if I wasn’t me and he wasn’t him.
“I know that, sir,” I said. “But there’s no time. Someone took Dre. That’s all we know. We gotta roll and we gotta roll now.”
“We...we have to call the police...” he started.
Bear interrupted him. “With all due respect, sir, that’s not gonna happen.” His southern drawl dragged out each word as if he were toying with it. “We got our own way of handling things ‘round here. You’re in the dirty south now.”
King tucked a pistol into his pants and grabbed another gun, clicking the clip into place and cocked his gun adding. “We’ll bring her back,” he said confidently.
My friends and I pushed past Dre’s dad. “I don’t know what Dre’s told you about me,” I called over my shoulder as he followed us across the yard to the driveway.
“She’s told me enough, son, and I don’t care. I don’t care about any of it,” he paused. “Just... just go get our girl. Bring her back to me. Whatever it takes.”
“Here, take these,” Thia said, suddenly appearing with the baby strapped to her chest and Ray beside her. Thia reached into her diaper bag and tossed Bear two pistols with pink handles. “Already loaded,” she said. Bear gave both her and the baby a quick kiss on the forehead and jogged over to his bike where he shoved the pistols into his saddlebag.
“Keys,” I called to Doe who didn’t hesitate to toss them to me.
“I’ll watch after Bo,” she said with a sad smile.
King and I jumped into Ray’s truck as the sound of Bear’s bike rumbling to life filled the cab as we took off down the road. I drove while King stuck his head out the passenger seat window, looking at the road for any sign of where Dre might have been taken.
“Do we even know where we’re going?” King asked.
“No, but whoever took her couldn’t have gone too far,” I said. At the end of the road, Bear pulled up alongside us and pointed left, turning that way. I took off in the other direction, pressing my foot on the gas until it hit the floor.
We’d just rounded the corner when we spotted a car parked in the middle of the street. It sped off as we approached, but then something else caught my attention on the road ahead.
No, not something.
I slammed my foot on the brake and yanked the wheel to the left. The truck flipped over onto its side. King came crashing against me. As the truck skid across the road, I wasn’t thinking about the metal twisting and crumpling in all around us. My thoughts were on the piles of black hair and pale skin lying in a heap the middle of the road.
I just hoped I hadn’t turned too late.
“Well friends,” I started, leaning against the wall in King’s shop. “This is the fun part of the evening where we get to meet and discuss who’s trying to fuck with us and all the ways they need to die.” I unsheathed the knife strapped to my belt and began cleaning it with a rag although it was already spotless and I could see my reflection in the blade.
Dre was passed out upstairs. She was scraped up, but nothing was broken. She’d be okay.
Thank fucking God she’d be okay.
Bear sat on the rolling stool King used when he was tattooing. He shook an errant hair from his eyes and made a steeple with his hands, leaning forward with his elbows resting on his knees. “I’ve always said that the best way to eliminate an unknown threat, is to start by taking out the known ones,” he said in his serious biker voice. The same one he used with his brothers when the shit hit the fan.
“So let’s make a list,” King suggested. His massive frame took up every available inch of the leather sofa. His knees spread wide apart. “Anyone who even has even a little reason to want to cause us or our families harm.”
“Then what?” I asked, my head still pounding. I pinched the bridge of my nose.
Bear shrugged. “Then we kill everyone on it.”
“Agreed,” King said, crossing his arms over his chest. “By removing all of the threats against us, no matter what the reason. Chances are that we’d also remove the one who tried to get to Dre.”