Home > Brogan : A Carolina Reapers Novel

Brogan : A Carolina Reapers Novel
Author: Samantha Whiskey

 

1

 

 

Brogan

 

 

“I’m telling you, this is our year,” Sterling said as we jogged on the trails behind the housing development we called Reaper Village. All but a few of the Carolina Reapers, our NHL team, lived in the subdivision, including me.

“Stop saying shit like that,” Maxim snapped, shaking his head as we started up the last hill of the trail. “You’ll jinx us.”

“I don’t believe in that jinxing shit,” Sterling argued. “Luck is only what you make of it.”

Sometimes it was hard to believe the two were brothers. They’d been raised by different mothers in different households, but though their asshole dad, NHL legend Sergei Zoltov, who had basically hidden Sterling away like a dirty little secret, had played a front-and-center role in Maxim’s childhood. Most days I thought Sterling was probably better off.

Then again, what the hell did I know? My parents had died when I was six, and I’d been raised by my aunt and uncle who didn’t exactly have much time for another mouth with the eight kids they already had. I’d had my fill of kids growing up and had zero desire to ever bring one into my life on a permanent basis, which was good considering I’d probably make a shit parent.

“I’m just saying that we’re looking good,” Sterling continued as we crested the hill, our shoes crunching on the red gravel of the trail as we kept a good pace. “We signed some good rookies—”

“Which was the only benefit of losing during playoffs last year,” Maxim interrupted.

“And from what I’ve seen, we’re all still in pretty damn good shape,” Sterling continued.

“If London keeps feeding you cookies, you’re going to be in a round shape,” Maxim quipped, a smirk tilting his lips.

“Fuck off,” Sterling shoved his brother in the shoulder, sending Maxim into the tall grass for a few strides. “What do you think, Brogan? Do we have a shot at the cup this year?”

I shook my head at both of them, my breathing even and steady, whereas Sterling’s was starting to strain a little. The guy wasn’t out of shape—we’d just finished seven miles—but Maxim and I were both still going steady as ever. That’s what happens when you get married and your priorities change.

Fuck that noise. My only priority was my career and taking my team as far as we could get this year. Everything else was taking a sideline.

“Come on, I know you have an opinion,” Sterling urged.

“My opinion is that you two should shut the hell up and let us finish this run.” I threw them a wicked grin and kicked on my afterburners, tearing up the trail as I raced toward the open, wooden fencing that marked the start of the neighborhood.

“Fucker’s fast,” Sterling muttered.

“Just faster than you!” Maxim called back, hot on my heels.

Sweat poured off my body as I beat them to the opening in the fence, courtesy of our run and the August humidity South Carolina was known for. It was supposed to get up to one hundred and four today, and it was already in the eighties at seven a.m..

“You. Two. Fucking. Suck,” Sterling wheezed as he met us, leaning over and bracing his hands on his knees as he gulped in air.

“It’s the cookies,” Maxim said with a laugh as we started walking again, taking the trail that ended just before the start of the cul-de-sac.

A smile tugged at my lips as we walked down the sidewalk, cooling down.

The neighborhood was a mix of styles, from modern farmhouse to minimalist, each house somehow exactly fitting the personality of the player who lived inside. The rules of the community were simple. You didn’t have to live here as a Reaper, but you couldn’t live here unless you were one. Asher Silas, the tech billionaire who started the franchise, had built it for the express purpose of making our team feel like a family, and in that he’d succeeded.

We were loyal at best and dysfunctional at worst, but we were a family.

A red sedan sped down the street, blowing by us way faster than the twenty-five-mile-per-hour speed limit in the neighborhood.

“Slow down!” Sterling shouted at the taillights. “Kids live here!” The car zipped around the curve in the road, obviously not hearing Sterling, or not caring.

“Asshole,” I muttered.

“Fuck,” Maxim swore, wiping the sweat from his forehead with the bottom of his shirt. “Good thing school’s not in session or some of the kids would have been on the sidewalks.”

We didn’t have a ton of kids on the Reapers, but there were more than a few in the neighborhood.

“And this is where I leave you,” Sterling said with a wave, heading down the street toward his house.

“For the good of the team, lay off the fucking cookies!” Maxim shouted after him.

Sterling flipped him the middle finger in return.

“Give your brother a break. He’s in great shape,” I said as we approached the section of the street that belonged to us. Maxim lived next door to Sterling—which had caused hellish conflict our first year here, but I lived across the street from Maxim, just where the cul-de-sac opened up.

“I just enjoy fucking with him,” Maxim admitted with a grin. His brow furrowed as he looked over my shoulder. “Looks like you had a package delivered.”

I turned, spotting the dark parcel just in front of my front door. “It’s too damned early for deliveries.” A few strides later, and I was at the front steps that led up to my southern-style wrap-around porch. “What the actual fuck?”

“What is it?” Maxim called from across the street.

My stomach lurched sideways.

It was a fucking car seat, the kind new babies rode around in, like the one Axel had been toting his son, Colin, around in since he’d been born a couple of weeks ago. Was this some kind of prank?

“Brogan?” Maxim asked, his voice sounding closer as I took the stairs slowly.

Yep, that was a baby carrier. The black shade with pink piping was up, disguising its contents, and there were two carry-on sized suitcases flanking it.

“What the hell?” Maxim asked, appearing at my side. “Were you supposed to babysit Colin or something?”

I gave him a WTF look. “Do you honestly think I’m signing up for babysitting duty?” I fucking hated kids. Well, not all kids, just most of them. They were messy, noisy, and made constant demands for things I wasn’t capable of...things like unconditional affection and love.

“Good point,” Maxim answered, both of us taking that last step so we stood on the porch, just a few feet away from the baby carrier.

“And it’s not like Langley would just leave Colin to hang on my porch while we were running,” I noted, kind of wishing that wasn’t the case. At least that would have been an explanation for whatever the fuck was happening right now.

“Maybe it’s a prank,” Maxim suggested as we both leaned forward, our feet planted like we were both incapable of taking another step.

“It’s probably empty.” God, please let that fucking thing be empty.

“Yeah. Totally.” Maxim nodded, his dark brows furrowing.

I reached forward once, then snatched my hand back. “What if it’s not empty?”

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