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Rain shadow 5, p.1
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       Rain Shadow 5, p.1

           Tess Oliver
 
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Rain Shadow 5


  Rain Shadow

  Book 5 of 5

  The Barringer Brothers Series

  Tess Oliver

  Rain Shadow Book 5

  Copyright© 2014 by Tess Oliver

  Cover Design by: Avanti Graphics

  This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental.

  All Rights are Reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Tess Oliver

  Chapter 1

  Angel

  “Angel, go see what your mother is up to. Tell her Gracie has dinner ready.”

  “O.K. Grandpa.” It was cold enough to see my breath, so I brought an invisible cigarette to my mouth and puffed out some pretend smoke. I put my Barbie doll back on her horse and ran to our cabin. Mom and I had decorated the door with pine tree branches for Christmas, and the needles had begun to turn brown. I stooped down to sweep up some of the fallen ones onto my palm.

  “I warned you. I warned you.” Mom sounded angry. I thought she’d been alone in the cabin, but she was talking to someone. I waited for a response to see who she’d spoken so sharply to, but no one replied. The metal doorknob was cold beneath my fingers. It was unlocked. I pushed open the door.

  I giggled as I looked inside but then sucked in a breath when I saw the look on my mom’s face. The room was covered with white fuzzy material as if a pillow had exploded.

  The temperature outside was freezing, but my mom was wearing her favorite green halter top and shorts. She leaned down, picked up a small brown object and waved it in the air. “It had to be done, Angel. He wouldn’t stop shouting at me.” It took me a second to recognize what she was holding. I blinked hard to stop my tears from flowing.

  I walked over to a large pile of white stuffing and stared down at Stewart’s decapitated head. His orange glass eyes stared up at me in terror. Mom had brought Stewart home for me after Grandma had died. He’d been my favorite toy, and I never went to bed without him tucked beneath the covers.

  Mom walked over and put her arm around my shoulder. “I’m sorry, Angel, but he was evil. I had to destroy him.”

  “Stewart was a teddy bear,” I sobbed. “How could he be evil?”

  She laughed, but it sounded different. It was hollow and twisted, not musical and smooth like her normal laugh. The other mom was back. The one who I didn’t know. The one who I wished I never had to see. The one who scared me.

  Mom sat silently for a long minute. Then she glanced around the room and gasped. “Oh my, Angel. What have you done here?”

  I peered up at her through tear blurred eyes. “What?”

  “Look at this mess you made. It looks like a snowstorm.” She laughed again, but this time it sounded familiar. She kissed the top of my head. “Let’s go eat dinner. I’m starved. Then I’ll help you clean this up.” She walked to the door, but I was frozen in shock. I stared around the room at the remnants of the bear I loved.

  “Angel?” she called again.

  “Angel?” Jericho’s deep voice popped me out of my musings. “Earth to Angel.” He snapped his fingers in front of my face, and I swatted at his hand as if I were shooing away an annoying fly.

  “Stop it, you pest.”

  “You’ve got to stop daydreaming about that guy so much. You were totally off in space.”

  I stared at the monitor. It was still on the article about schizophrenia. I’d been in the middle of reading it when the memory of my mom had floated into my head. “I wasn’t dreaming about Luke.”

  Jericho leaned on the wobbly desk and stared down at me with a cocky grin. “It was about me, wasn’t it?”

  I rolled my eyes. “God, you are such a self-absorbed rooster. Stop leaning on the desk. You’re shaking the computer.”

  He got up and glanced at the screen. Now it was his turn for the eye roll. “Shit, Angel, you’ve got to stop reading all that medical stuff. It’s dangerous.”

  “How is my knowing stuff about health dangerous?”

  He leaned on the desk again. “Let’s see. When I was eleven and I had a pain in the side of my head, with all the confidence of an internet doctor, you told me I had a brain tumor and that it was possible I might not live more than a year. I spent four days thinking I was done for, and it turned out to be an earache.”

  “I was only thirteen at the time.”

  “Then two years later, I was eating a bag of gummy worms and you told me I’d have diabetes in the morning and that I would have to get a shot every day for the rest of my life.”

  I smiled. “That was wishful thinking on my part because I badly wanted to learn how to give injections. But I will admit that it was a silly prediction. Diabetes starts from a lack of insulin, not gorging on gummy worms.”

  “That’s not the point.” He looked down at me, and a rare serious expression crossed his face. “Just because your mom had it, and your grandfather seems a little unhinged, it doesn’t mean you’re going to suffer from it.”

  “It can be hereditary, Richo. It’s entirely possible.”

  Cash came out of the bedroom with mussed up hair and an eleven o’clock in the morning shadow of black stubble. He was shirtless and the stitches on his side made him look even more dangerous than the massive arms and chest.

  “Well, look who has risen from the dead,” Jericho said. “Thought you were going to sleep all damn day. What did Drake say about borrowing one of his bikes?”

  Cash combed his long hair back and reached for a glass. “Hey, Mr. Enthusiasm, tone it the fuck down. It’s too early.”

  “It’s almost noon,” Jericho said.

  “Exactly.” Cash poured himself some orange juice and drank it down in one long gulp. “He said we could borrow a bike—”

  “Whooee!” Jericho yelled.

  Cash stared at him from the kitchen with a look that could not have been interpreted as anything but highly annoyed.

  “Let me finish, you goofball. We can only use it until three today. So, you’re out of luck.”

  “What do you mean I’m out of luck? I’d give my right nut to get on a damn bike today. You’re not going without me.”

  Cash hadn’t meant to, but he’d glanced my way and then quickly returned his attention to the carton of orange juice.

  “Too late, Cash,” I said.

  “Too late for what?”

  “I saw that look. You two are bored of babysitting me and, frankly, I’m pretty darn bored of being your charge. Both of you go. I’ll be fine.”

  Cash brought the glass up to his mouth. “Not a chance we’re leaving you here alone.” He gulped down the juice and placed the glass in t
he sink. “Jericho can go another time.”

  Jericho sank down on the couch and flopped his legs out in front of him in a teen style sulk. “That is totally fucked.”

  I sighed. “Great, now I’m going to be stuck with Grumpy all afternoon.”

  “And I’m stuck with Doc.”

  “I know.” I got up from the computer chair. “Take me with you.”

  Cash shook his head. “Barringer will be pissed.”

  “We could just go out for lunch or something and come right back,” I said. “He won’t even know.” I felt guilty about hatching a plan behind Luke’s back, but Jericho had been stuck watching over me for weeks, and now Cash had been pulled into it as well. And the truth was, I was going a bit stir crazy myself. I saw no harm in taking a short cruise on a motorcycle. “If I stay here with nothing to do and only the internet and its various medical reference sites to entertain me, then I’ll have each of us matched to some dreaded disease by the end of the week.”

  Jericho looked pleadingly at Cash. “It’s true. Come on, before we all come down with the plague. We could ride out to that burger stand on the highway, the one with the great chocolate shakes. We’ll eat and come right back.”

  Cash stared at both of us as if we were two obnoxious kids begging to go to the park. He crossed his arms, and the muscles in his shoulders flexed. He was still thinner than he had been, but he looked just as menacing as ever. “Fine, but I’m not taking the heat for it if Barringer finds out.” He left the kitchen but then stopped. “I was just going to give you a ride on my bike, Richo. How do I get both of you over there?”

  “How far away is Drake’s?” I asked.

  “About five miles.”

  “Surely you can leave me for a few minutes while you go pick up the bike.”

  Cash didn’t look convinced.

  “I’ll be fine. I won’t answer the door or even look out a window.”

  He grunted in surrender. “Why do I feel like I’m shooting myself in the foot over this whole adventure?” He walked out of the room.

  “Thanks, Evie,” Jericho said.

  I pointed a finger at him. “Luke can never know. I hate keeping any secrets from him, but he can never know.” I’d gotten so angry at Luke for keeping stuff from me, and now I was doing it to him. But I needed badly to get out. We’d been cooped up for days, and the walls were closing in on me— on all of us. I knew Cash was getting incredibly antsy, and Jericho was not far behind. His leg grew stronger each day, and, occasionally, I would catch that faraway look in his eyes. He was dying to get out on the open road and live his life again. A short trip and a bite to eat— it wasn’t a big deal.

  Cash came back out and stood over me. “Hey, Doctor Angel.” He lifted up the small knife that he’d always kept tucked in his motorcycle boot. “I need you to cut out these damn stitches. They’ve been in long enough, and I’m not going back to that hospital.”

  I leaned forward and examined the skin. “They do look ready to come out. In fact, leaving them in too long is not a good idea either. I imagine they could become infected or worse, get stuck in there for good. Surgical scissors would be better. I used to carry them in my bag.”

  “Yeah, well I’m not climbing the compound wall to retrieve your bag, so this blade will have to do.”

  I took hold of the knife. The tip was small and sharp. “It should work.” I smiled. “And you know I’m always up for a good unraveling.”

  ***

  The burger place looked like a shack that had dropped off the back of a truck and the owner had just started up a restaurant where it’d landed. There was nothing for several miles in either direction, but every wobbly picnic table was filled. The food was good, and that was all people needed to convince themselves to make the trip. For us, it had been for the juicy burgers and the stretch of open road that led us there. Even I had to admit, being back on a bike felt exhilarating.

  Cash finished his last bite of burger. “I could almost eat two of those things.” He looked over at Jericho. “Drake said the cops pulled a couple of the Bent for Hell guys in for questioning about Gunner’s death.”

  Jericho sucked on the straw of his shake and drained the cup to the last drop. “Yeah? Did they have anything on them?”

  Cash shook his head. “Hell no, they’re just grabbing at anything they can. We know that Dreygon was behind it. I’m just surprised the club hasn’t started to turn on him. Gunner was a fool, but he was a Paxton.”

  I snatched the last French fry from the basket and grinned across the table at a disappointed Jericho. “Honestly,” I said, “I think everyone is scared shitless of my grandfather.”

  Cash shrugged. “Could be. But I don’t think this reign of terror to get the troops in line is going to last long for him. Even the most intimidating ship captains eventually faced mutiny.”

  Jericho held up his soda cup. “Then here’s to a quick and clean mutiny.”

  We smooshed cups together. “Thanks for buying us lunch, Cash,” I said.

  “Guess I should have figured that you two wouldn’t have any money to pay,” Cash said. “My supply is running out too. I’ve got enough for two more months of rent and then I’ll be penniless.”

  “What are you going to do then?” Jericho reached for a fry on his plate but Cash blocked his hand. “What are any of us going to do, for that matter?”

  Cash took the lid off his coke and swigged back the rest of the drink. “Not sure about you two but I’m going to head out and look for work. I’m leaving Nevada for good. If Dreygon wants to come after me, he’ll have to cross state lines. I’m not going to stay holed up in some hideaway waiting for that asshole to get me.”

  “Then take me with you,” Jericho said.

  Cash shook his head. “Can’t take care of myself yet, Richo. I need to find work and get settled first.”

  Jericho crushed his cup in his hand. “Getting pretty fucking tired of being treated like a burden. I can work too, you know? We could get a place together.”

  “You need to stay here and keep an eye on Angel while Luke’s at work.”

  “So I’m the burden. Both of you can go. Take off on your bikes, throw shit to the wind and be off with you. I don’t need any protection.”

  “You’re both being dramatic. And Dreygon is the burden. He’s put a chain around all our necks.” Cash balled up his trash and stood to throw it away. “Now that I think about it, that chain has always been there, he’s just tightened it some. Let’s go. We need to take Angel home and return the bikes.”

  Jericho trudged back to the motorcycle, and I followed Cash to his. “I can’t even take off on my own Harley because it’s being held hostage in Dreygon’s garage,” Jericho complained. “How the fuck am I going to get it back, Cash?”

  “You’re not. Doesn’t Dreygon own the title on it?”

  Jericho didn’t answer. He swung his leg over the bike and yanked on the helmet. “Nothing like feeling completely worthless. Even this fucking helmet is borrowed.” On the ride to the burger stand, Jericho had been beaming the second we pulled onto the highway. He rode a Harley the way I rode a horse, completely content and ridiculously happy.

  I climbed on behind Cash, and we headed out onto the road. The adventure had started out great, but the realities of our situations had cast a bleak mood over all of us.

  Chapter 2

  Luke

  I’d finished my reports early, and I’d decided to surprise Angel with a weekend away. While it was impossible to relax completely, a few days in a cabin near Tahoe seemed like a good way to try.

  I drove toward Cash’s house. It was obvious he was getting restless, and I was sure he’d need to find work soon. I knew little about Cash except that he seemed trustworthy, he was tough as shit and he was on the opposite side of Dreygon. Both he and Jerich
o had lived a long time in the compound and had depended on the club for their livelihoods. Now they were alone, and I was sure neither of them had any fortune saved up.

  My phone rang and Carson’s voice came through the speaker. “You were out of here so fast I didn’t get a chance to talk to you.”

  “I finished up early and decided to get a start on my weekend. What’s up?”

  “I got a call from that friend of mine at the county office. It’s about the birth certificate.”

  I turned the corner onto the small street where Cash lived. His bike wasn’t in the driveway. “What did she say?”

  “She couldn’t find a birth certificate for an Evangeline Sharpe born in Nevada. Maybe she was given a different name on the certificate, or maybe she was born in a different state. I could ask her to check for you, but it might be easier if you find out where the girl was born first.”

  “I’m trying to do this without her knowing. The whole thing is really farfetched and crazy. It’s not anything I want to tell her about because it’s way out there.”

  He paused. “Just exactly what are you up to?”

  “I can’t even tell you yet.” I pulled up to the house. Something wasn’t right. It was too quiet, and Cash wasn’t home. “I’ll see if I can find out where she was born without causing too much suspicion. I’ve got to go, Carson. Thanks.” I’d planned on surprising Angel with getting off early and the weekend trip, but it seemed that they’d surprised me instead.

  I knocked on the door, but the house was empty. I pulled out my phone. I called Angel first, but she didn’t answer. Jericho and Cash weren’t answering either. They had only one motorcycle between them, so how the hell did they leave together? A new possible scenario took hold, and my gut twisted into a knot. I searched around the front of the house. There were no signs of a struggle or forced entry. None of it made sense.

 
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