Mine to Keep (NOLA Knights #3) - Rhenna Morgan

Chapter One

The good thing about public transportation was that it ran more reliably than Bonnie’s beat up Ford Focus.

The bad thing?

New Orleans’s Transit Authority didn’t run on-demand. Which was going to make for a slow getaway on her return trip home later this afternoon. Definitely not ideal when you were trying to escape the nightmare neighborhood you grew up in.

Bonnie leaned against the bus’s hard plastic seat back, crossed one jean-clad leg over the other and took a good gander at her fellow travelers. At mid-afternoon on a Monday, Line 80 didn’t have a ton of passengers, but the ones on it looked like they all needed three solid days of nothing but sleep.

Well, everyone but the guy in the dirty gray coveralls at the back of the bus. He’d been stretched across three seats and out cold since she’d gotten on near her apartment in Tremé. Whether he was drunk or just hiding from the quick January cold snap that had hit yesterday was a toss-up. But so far, nothing had made him budge. Not even the painful screech of the bus’s brakes at every single stop.

Twelve of them, to be exact.

At this rate, Bonnie was going to have permanent hearing loss before she got where she was going.

As if the bus driver had heard her snide thoughts and taken them as a personal attack, he hit the brakes and sent another fresh squeal ringing from under the chassis. The passengers had barely righted themselves from the sharp forward jolt when he opened the doors and droned into the microphone, “Louisa and Abundance Streets.”

Bonnie sighed and stood. “Home sweet home.”

She’d murmured the snarky comment under her breath, but the middle-aged woman who’d been trying to keep two energetic young boys in line piped up before Bonnie could make the front door. “Look at it this way. From here, anywhere you go is up.”

With a sharp laugh, Bonnie made her way to the pavement and hefted her backpack higher on her shoulder. The lady wasn’t wrong. For a neighborhood called Desire, it was a long, long way from what anyone would consider desirable. More like a country town that had been forgotten and left idling in the seventies. A few tiny houses dotted what had once been a fully populated area—some mostly well-kept and surrounded by chain-link fence and others falling apart. In between many of them were empty lots, the homes that had once stood in the average-sized plots now well overgrown with weeds big enough to rival trees. The only new structure in sight was a decent-sized church surrounded by baby Crepe Myrtles.

The driver revved the engine and the bus trundled away, leaving Bonnie two blocks and a fruitless conversation away from her escape. Crossing the street, she ducked her chin deep in the collar of her jean jacket and forged into the crisp wind. “I have got to get my car fixed.”

The walk to Clouet Street was over in no time, and the sight that greeted her was the same as it always was—Dad’s Chevy parked a little off the tiny driveway, the gate to the chain-link fence left open and the trash can that never left the front curb close to overflowing. The house itself was basically a double-wide that had taken on permanent airs and was painted in the drabbest tan color known to man. Once upon a time, the oak trees in the front and backyard had added a homey feel to their lot, but these days they’d gone so long without trimming they all but hid the house from plain view.

She rounded her brother’s Triumph motorcycle blocking the sidewalk, jogged up the cement stoop and—sure enough—the front door was unlocked.

Inside, the living room was all shadows and disarray, the blinds drawn tight against the clouds outside and all kinds of bills and junk mail scattered over the coffee table and couch. No lights were on in the kitchen either, but at least a little light streamed through one uncovered window. She headed that direction and opened her mouth to call out a hello, but stopped dead in her tracks when her dad’s voice bellowed from his room at the end of the hallway.

“Boy, you’ve got shit for brains! What the hell were you thinking?”

Well, guess that answered where everyone was.

She changed directions and started clearing a pile of motorcycle magazines off the couch.

Her brother Kevin’s response wasn’t intelligible from the living room, but the tone behind it was reminiscent of all the other lectures

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