CROSS (A Gentry Boys Novella)

BOOK: CROSS (A Gentry Boys Novella)
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CROSS

 

(A Gentry Boys Novella)

 

 

 

By Cora Brent

 

 

 

 

© 2016

All Rights Reserved

 

COPYRIGHT

 

Please respect the work of this author.   No part of this book may be reproduced or copied without permission.  This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.

 

This book is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.  Any similarities to events or situations is also coincidental. 

 

The publisher and author acknowledge the trademark status and trademark ownership of all trademarks and locations mentioned in this book.  Trademarks and locations are not sponsored or endorsed by trademark owners. 

 

© 2016 by Cora Brent

All Rights Reserved

 

Cover Design:   © L.J. Anderson, Mayhem Cover Creations

 

Cover Photos:  iStock/DaniloAndjus, iStock/yoh4nn,dollarphotoclub/Nastia1983

 

 

Dear Readers,

 

I apologize in advance for breaking your hearts with this one. 

 

-Cora

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

 

Gentry Boys Series

 

DRAW

RISK

GAME

FALL

HOLD

CROSS: A Novella (May 2016)

WALK (May 2016)

EDGE (July 2016)

 

Savage Series

Born Savage

Book #2 (Fall 2016)

Book #3 (Fall 2016)

 

Defiant MC Series

Know Me

Promise Me

Remember Me

 

Stand Alones

Unruly

Reckless Point

 

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PROLOGUE

 

 

CENTRAL STATE PENITENTIARY AT EMBLEM

 

Con-man,

Remember when I started calling you that? 

I didn’t mean for it to catch on but it did.  You didn’t mind until the Reynoso brothers started chanting ‘Convict-man’ instead. Then you got all kinds of pissed off because in Emblem-speak there’s no worse insult than saying a guy is going to wind up in an orange jumpsuit on the wrong side of the barbed wire.

Anyway, I set those kids straight and let them know they could expect some heavy bruising if they didn’t shut up.  That’s what brothers do. 

You know, sometimes when I’m out in the yard I see the high school kids filing past with one eye on what’s going on behind the fence and the other on the wide world that lives on their side.  You know the type I’m talking about. The ones who are testing out their cool factor, flipping the bird, kicking up the dust, trying to hedge a dare that’s not worth a fucking thing because they are on the right side of the fence and they aren’t really risking anything. 

They are what we were once.  You remember.  I know you do.  

Back then, as soon as the last school bell rang we’d shoot the shit for a while behind Carson’s Garage in the hopes one of those guys had left a pack of cigarettes lying around for us to swipe.  Then we’d roam through our kingdom of a shit town before drifting too close to the prison perimeter, teasing and taunting until the guards chased us into the canal.  

Chase tells me you’re in school and I’m glad.  School was always where you belonged.  You only pretended otherwise because of me.  Chase and his brothers did a good thing getting you out of town.   Weird how we didn’t see our cousins for so many years and yet they didn’t hesitate to jump right in when life turned to crap.  Deck too. I remember when we were kids we used to see him riding around town like a leather-clad hell raiser and we were proud that we shared a last name.  He’s been here to visit a few times and I’m grateful. I know it’s only because of who he knows on the inside that I’m not getting my ass kicked all over the place. I guess there’s something to the bonds of blood after all.  And hell, maybe someday we’ll find out if the rumors are true, that any or all of them might be more than first cousins.  It wouldn’t surprise me. You know how Mom’s face always went blank and bloodless whenever someone dropped a hint that we weren’t Elijah’s sons? She would never deny it.  She would never confirm it.  She would never say a fucking thing.  

Why the hell do I keep writing things like that as if you don’t know all the good, bad and ugly Gentry family history?  You had a front row seat.  You know everything I know, no more, no less.  Maybe I keep writing it down more for me than for you.  Maybe it’s too easy in here to forget that life happened, that it’s still happening.

Conway, all those times we strutted past this place, spitting into the wind, daring it to spit back, I don’t think we ever considered what it was like for the guys watching us from the yard.  At least I know I never did.  You might have.  You were always the one who thought about people. 

There are things we never could have known about being inside the cage though.  In here you keep track of everything.  And dude, I mean fucking
everything
from the number of tiles lining the floor of your cell to the number of steps from the mess hall to the rec yard to the number of minutes that have passed since your last meal. Time has a different meaning as it passes.  It doesn’t take much to carve a landmark out of this wasteland of hours.

I know this morning when I woke up it was exactly the one hundred and twenty second time I opened my eyes inside these prison walls. 

I know this the twenty eighth letter I’ve written to you. 

I know that it’s been four months to the day since she died.  The same amount of time has passed since you and I saw each other, since we even spoke. 

I’m not sure which one of those things hurts the most.  Don’t think I’m blaming you.  Not at all.  Or comparing my pain to yours.  I’m not.   

I only send these letters to Chase first because I wanted to make sure you were getting them.  He says he always hand delivers every one and that you stopped tearing them up right away but he’s not sure you read them either.  I hope you do, if it would help at all. It hurts thinking of you out there alone in the world.   But I’m glad you’re living at Deck’s house up in the valley rather than in this wasteland.  I guess by kicking you to the curb Mom did you a favor, although I’m sure that wasn’t her intention.  She hasn’t been here to visit.  At this point I don’t really want her to come anyway. 

I miss you, Con.   I miss life.  I can’t even imagine what this has done to you.  If you’ve read even a handful of the other twenty seven letters then you’ve already heard the truth and you know that nothing was as it seemed.   

Someday I’ll get out of here.  A lot more days need to pass by before then.  A lot more letters need to be written, even if it’s just me saying the same thing over and over again and never knowing if you read a word of it.

I think about her.  Not in the same way you do and I might not have any right to think about her at all.  But she was beautiful and kind and by the end she was my friend.  She was full of love and confusion and none of it was her fault. 

I’m sorry, Conway.  I can’t say that to her so I say it to you because you’re all that’s left. 

I’m still your brother.  I’ll be your brother forever.  It’s the only thing that matters to me at this point.  I’d do anything to make things right with us.  I hope in the distant day when we see each other again it will be possible. 

Please look after yourself out there in the meantime. 

Strength in brothers, 

Stone 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIVE MONTHS EARLIER…..

CHAPTER ONE

ERIN

 

People don’t wake up the morning of their last day and know that it’s the last day.

Well, most people don’t.  

Maybe the idea occurs to the ones who know they are terminally ill.  Or those who have a shred of something extra sensory.  Or those who plan end it all themselves.     

There was no reason that such morbid ideas should have been on my mind as I watched the sunrise make shadows on the wall.  I didn’t have any intention of dying on this day or the next one or any time soon.  But my fingers betrayed some small guilt and snuck beneath the cap of my right sleeve to trace the scab flanking my ribs. I hated knowing how it got there. 

The house was too quiet.  Vaguely I remembered being disturbed by a monsoon storm that had blown through here last night.  The winds must have knocked out the power. 

I could hear my little sister Katie snoring in the next room and usually the air conditioner drowned her out.  A glance at the empty face of my bedside clock told me I was right.  It was still early but the house would heat up fast if the power wasn’t fixed by mid morning. 

I pressed the half-healed wound and winced over the raw feel of the skin, but I was relieved not to see blood when I pulled my fingers away.  I didn’t like blood.  Blood was a necessary byproduct but it still bothered me.  My mind strayed back to those gloomy ideas of death and I sat up, shaking out my hair. 

I didn’t have a death wish.  That was never the point.  My best friend Roe was the only one who knew about that secret shame but she would never say anything to anyone.  She didn’t even live around here.   

Without even thinking I reached for my phone.   The time was even earlier than I’d thought.  Only six hours had elapsed since I’d stumbled through the front door half drunk on passion.  Even though it was long after curfew and my dad was sternly waiting on the living room couch he didn’t do a thing except sigh and wave me off to my room where I happily curled up into a ball and slept soundly. 

It was way too early to expect a message from Conway but there it was anyway.  He must have sent it right after he left me and retreated next door to his own house.  

Sweet dreams, butterfly. 

It was a nickname that went way back, before we kissed, before we were us.  Back to a time when I had bony knees and a gap-toothed smile, when I used to trail after the neighboring Gentry brothers in a desperate bid to be included in their games.  Stone would scowl at the sight of me scrambling to keep up with them.  I was a small, nervous girl and he was the neighborhood king.  I did not interest him at all.  But Con, younger than Stone by a mere ten months, would smile and wait for me.

Once I caught up to them by the foot of the butte, pretending like I just happened to be in that place at the same time.  Stone, never a fool, threw me an annoyed look and started hiking up the side like I wasn’t even there.  But Conway paused thoughtfully. 

“That’s like you,” he said, pointing to a small, fluttering object. 

I’d felt my face scrunching up.  I was ready to cross my arms and be offended.  “How am I like a butterfly?”

He broke into a grin.  “They surprise you when you’re least expecting it.” 

The Gentry boys grew up faster than I did.  They were messing around with all kinds of girls by middle school and getting into the sort of trouble that was worthy of their last name.  As long as there had been a town of Emblem there had been Gentrys in it; a tribe of tall, muscular mischief-makers. 

Around that time my own father started grumbling over the antics of our next door neighbors. Elijah Gentry had finally died of some slow, wasting disease the same month our small family was turned inside out from the loss of my mother.  While I became cook, babysitter, and housebound dutiful daughter as my father tried to paste together the pieces of his heart, the Gentry boys dealt with their father’s death by running wild.  They came and went all hours of the night in all kinds of bad company.  Aside from their mother’s occasional screech of ‘No good little shits!’ echoing over the neighborhood, no one did a thing. 

“They won’t end up fit for decent company,” my father sighed one night, glaring out the open kitchen window as the boys whooped and howled while riding up and down the street on a pair of dirt bikes that they’d probably stolen. 

“You don’t know that,” I snapped as I cleared the dinner dishes away, wondering why I should feel defensive of two rowdy boys who weren’t even my friends. 

My father had looked at me with some surprise since I didn’t usually argue. But then again, he wasn’t usually so pessimistic.  He probably hadn’t really meant to speak the words aloud in the first place.  

“You’re right,” he finally said softly and then helped me clear the table.  After that, the subject of the Gentry brothers didn’t come up again, not for a long time. 

I had stopped trying to chase them, staring moodily down at my own skinny body and figuring I’d never catch up anyway. 

I
did
catch up though.  Without even trying. 

Maybe every girl on earth is allowed to own one single season.  I had mine two years ago.  It seemed like my body changed overnight and I’d been too busy to really notice. Apparently the Gentry boys hadn’t noticed either, not until opening day at the Emblem town pool when I kicked my shorts away and slipped my t-shirt over my head. 

“Damn, honey,” whistled Stone as he sauntered by in all his bronzed glory and did a double take at my bikini.  When his eyes slowly lifted and reached my face I saw a fire in their blue depths that shot straight through me in a delicious shiver.

Stone Gentry idly ran a hand over his muscled chest and considered me as he jerked his head.  “Why don’t you come hang out in the deep end, Erin?”  He was barely sixteen and he already spoke with a low, sexy rumble in his voice that seemed like it was invented to test female willpower. 

“Thank you, Stone,” I said primly and not a little smugly. “I think I’ll wade in slowly.” 

He shrugged and retreated to go find an easier conquest.

I slipped into the cool water and hung out by the wall in the four foot deep section, trying not to get splashed by the dozens of other swimmers.  I didn’t even notice Conway was around until he was right next to me.  He’d already been underwater.  His hair was slicked back and even though I’d seen him running around the neighborhood a thousand times without his shirt I still stared. 

“Hey there, butterfly.”  He reached out and playfully tugged a lock of the long brown hair I’d forgotten to tie up.  

Conway’s fingers lingered on my shoulder and his eyes met mine with the same lusty fire I’d seen in his brother a few minutes earlier.  But something about Stone’s intensity had frightened me a little.  He was the type who wouldn’t be shy about going right after what he wanted.   I wasn’t ready for that. There was something different about Con though, something gentler.  I wanted him to keep on looking at me forever. 

“Hi,” I whispered back. 

He kissed me that night.  And the next night.  And most nights since then.  People say it’s impossible to find love before you understand what it is, but I say that’s bullshit because we learned together, Conway and me.  God, I loved that boy.  I loved him so much. 

Katie let out a mighty snore in the next room and then whimpered a little.  I swung my legs over the side of the bed and waited to see if she would cry out.  I would go to her if she did, even though she would just get annoyed.  Old habits died hard.  I’d been coaxing my little sister out of her bad dreams ever since our mother’s death five years ago. 

A few seconds of silence passed and I relaxed, listening to the peculiar ring of silence that was strangely devoid of the ever-present hum of electricity.  People have forgotten what true silence is, all of us.  Years ago, when we were still a whole family, we spent a week camping up north, in a pine forest outside Prescott.  When the dark descended and the light vanished it was the same kind of silence I heard now.  Peaceful, and yet odd. 

The memory of the camping trip was fleeting but stirred up something.   The echo of my mother’s voice was so loud for an instant I expected her to walk into the room.

It was a stupid thought.  She had made sure she wouldn’t be walking into this room or any other room.  I didn’t want to think about that right now.  Or ever. 

Instead I stared at my bare legs and had a sudden flashback to the sight of them in the moonlight, in the bed of a pickup truck, right before Conway carefully settled on top of me. We’d almost done it last night.  Not like all the other ‘almost’ times that never even really came close. 

Last night I wanted to and when I let him slide my jeans off it wasn’t just for him.   I’d felt him pressing against the flimsy barrier of my panties as my body opened and strained and begged while he moved himself against me. 

“Love you so much,” he’d whispered and covered his mouth with mine as his hands explored and our bodies intertwined.  He wanted so badly to get under my shirt but backed off when I stopped him.  It wasn’t a good time for him to go there, not after the things I’d done lately.  If he wondered why I was sometimes shy about certain things, he never pushed me to tell him why. 

“I love you too,” I told him and meant it completely. 

Somewhere in the background his brother Stone was fucking Courtney Galicki against the trunk of a nearby mesquite tree.  They were being loud as hell about it too, a frantic kind of
thump thump thump
that sounded fierce and frenzied. 

In the end we didn’t get there. 

Courtney moaned and Stone roared as they pounded out a tribal rhythm.  But Con put his head on my chest and sighed, replacing the condom in his pocket before he even unwrapped it.  I threaded my fingers through his hair and kissed his forehead, grateful that the boy I loved knew me better than I knew myself sometimes.  Our first time shouldn’t be in the back of a rusty scrap heap while his brother screwed with abandon not twenty feet away.  But when I put my hands on him he guided me lower so I could get him off like we’d done dozens of times before. 

Conway had already done everything with other girls before we got together.  I never asked him how many there were.  It didn’t matter.  Yet sometimes I got jealous of the idea that anyone else had ever touched him. 

The power was still off and the house was still silent.  My breathing quickened as I thought about the way Con had panted and shuddered as he finished in my hand.  Then I thought about the way he’d touched me to return the favor and I had to press my legs tightly together to stifle the sudden ache between them. 

“MOTHERFUCKER!” 

The shout came from next door.  Sometimes I couldn’t tell Con’s voice from Stone’s. 

I hopped off the bed and took two steps over to the only window in the small bedroom I’d lived in since I was born.  Pushing the eyelet curtains away and sliding the window open, I had an instant view of the Gentry’s property. 

The Gentry house had started to look somewhat shabby these past few years.  My father commented on it often enough, even offering to help Tracy Gentry repaint the exterior and do something about the landscaping.  She told him to piss off and mind his own fucking business.  Con’s mother was not my favorite person. 

The shouting had come from Stone.  His back was to me and he seemed to be yelling at a closed window.  He wore nothing but a pair of loose boxers and growled another curse as he pulled a cigarette out of his mouth and crushed it against the stucco.  If the sharp gravel covering the heavily weeded yard hurt his bare feet he gave no sign.  Their house had the same exact layout as mine and the bedroom the brothers shared was the same one my two younger sisters occupied here.   The boys shouldn’t have had to share a room; I knew there was an empty one, the same room that was mine.  However it had been closed off and unused ever since their father died in it. 

I watched in silence as Conway’s brother stalked over to the front door, tested the knob in vain, cussed another blue streak and then grabbed a cheap plastic lawn chair that had probably blown into his yard during last night’s storms.  I recognized the chair.  It belonged to us. 

He paused there for a moment, leaning on the back of the chair as he shot a moody glare at the closed bedroom window.  The brothers were closer than brothers usually were.  Practically twins, they were only ten months apart and in the same class, but they were always hassling each other for some reason or another.  I didn’t have any brothers, only sisters, so for all I knew that’s just what brothers did.  In any case, Stone had likely jumped out the window to pollute his lungs in the yard and Conway had used the opportunity to lock him out. 

Suddenly Stone yawned and stretched, causing his boxers to slip a few crucial inches and almost offer an x-rated view.   Ordinarily I would have averted my eyes right away.  Stone was my boyfriend’s brother.  He was also a total dog.  There was nothing tempting about him. 

At least that’s what my heart said. 

Apparently the rest of me wasn’t so sure because my eyes wouldn’t budge and my breath caught before a sharp inhale. 

Maybe he’d heard me in the midst of the unusual silence or maybe the fluttering of my curtain caught his attention. Stone stopped in mid-stretch and zeroed right in.  I saw his gaze travel south immediately. I didn’t have to look down to realize what he was staring at with unconcealed hunger.  I never wore a bra to bed and my shirt – thin, white and the victim of laundry shrinkage – strained against my breasts. 

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