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Published by EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ® at Smashwords


www.evernightpublishing.com




Copyright© 2018 Beth D. Carter



ISBN: 978-1-77339-542-5


Cover Artist: Jay Aheer


Editor: Audrey Bobak



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.


This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.



DEDICATION


The fictional town of Byron City is actually based on the real story of Butler City, NV, which was eventually renamed Tonopah. It has a fascinating history among the famous gold mines in the state of Nevada. This story is an homage to the pioneering spirits of the old miners.


Thanks to my dear friend CR Moss for always being there.



RECOVER ME



Beth D. Carter


Copyright © 2018


Prologue


Twelve years ago…


Bishop tugged on his arm, trying to free himself from the tight grip of the security guard, but the man’s fingers were steel talons. At the end of the long corridor that had twisted and wound through the bowels of the casino, the guard opened a door and yanked him inside, pushing him into a chair. He had one moment of satisfaction when he saw the imprint of his fist on the man’s cheek before the guard exited, leaving him alone in the room.

Wetness trickled down his lip and he reached up to wipe the blood leaking from his nose. One eye had already begun to swell. Bishop rose and walked to the door, intent on leaving, but as soon as he opened it, the security guard glared at him so he quickly closed the door again. As much as he wanted to leave, he wasn’t ready for round two. He knew his own limitations and the guard outweighed him by about seventy pounds of pure muscle.

Bishop sighed and leaned back on the door. One more blemish on his record shouldn’t upset him, but damned if he could catch a break. He’d come into the casino with hopes of finding work, but all he’d found was a fist in his stomach and his ass waiting for the police. He looked around the waiting room and decided it was far nicer than he’d first thought, and definitely better than a detention area. A black leather couch, ornate mahogany-colored furniture, and large framed prints on the wall gave an almost comfortable atmosphere. Upon closer inspection, he realized the prints were actually blown-up photos of old mines, with the names of each one engraved on silver bars below the picture. The most famous, of course, the Comstock, hung next to one labeled as the Mizpah Mine. They drew him like a magnet as he walked slowly past each portrait, reading names like Rhyolite and Goldfield. Bishop had never heard of them, but he found the images of the old miners interesting. Their faces held equal parts of hope and weariness, set amidst a backdrop of dirt, rubble, and antiquated-looking tools.

He came to one picture, different from the others because the mine stood alone, no one around on proud display. The darkened doorway leading into the earth was an ominous opening that beckoned with tantalizing promises, causing him to wonder what riches lay just within that portal. Gold? Silver? The allure drew him closer until he swore he’d be able to reach through the photograph and back into time.

“My grandfather came to Nevada looking for gold.”

Bishop jumped and spun around, bracing himself. Instead of the police, however, a dignified older man stared at him from narrowed eyes. Gray dusted the hair over his ears, and a gold chain crisscrossed over his vest. The man pulled on the chain and out of a pocket popped a round watch. The cover opened and Bishop heard a faint tick-tock as the man checked it, the oddly old-fashioned accessory blending perfectly with the man’s aura. Behind him, an open door revealed an office of some type, bathing him with warm light filtering through the threshold.

“Left his wife and child behind in his thirst for riches,” the man continued as he slipped the timepiece back into the vest pocket. “I have to admit his obsession calls to me a little.”

Bishop glanced from the man’s high-glossed shoe shine to the perfectly coiffed hair. “You don’t look like the miner type.”

“We’re all dreamers at heart, aren’t we? The lure of wealth is hidden in many different layers.” The man walked to the framed print Bishop had been drawn to and pointed at the darkened mine. “This one is called the Recovery, and my grandfather died for it. It should be in my family, but now it sits in probate.”

Despite his intention to not give a shit about anything, the story intrigued him. “Is it full of gold?”

“Could be,” the man replied. “No one knows for sure until it’s mined out.”

“If you want it so bad, why don’t you just take it?”

“The gold still lodged in that tunnel will take a lot of cash to dig out. It’s not a stealth situation by any means.” The man shook his head. “I’m a patient man. One day I plan to own it and lay my grandfather’s ghost to rest.”

Bishop didn’t say anything. He didn’t really care about the man’s grandiose plans, but the visceral reaction he seemed to have to the old photo disturbed him in a way he couldn’t describe, and it took a lot of strength to turn away from the framed picture. He didn’t have time to think about anything else except if his ass would be sitting in jail that evening. The man crooked a finger, motioning to come forward.

“Come with me.”

He walked back into the opulent office he’d just left, and after a moment’s hesitation, Bishop followed. The man sat down in a large brown leather chair behind a heavy glass-topped desk. Bookcases filled with large volumes lined one wall from floor to ceiling. Thick carpeting cushioned his feet as he took a few hesitant steps inside the room. Even the air seemed to smell sweeter inside, and Bishop felt like a fish who had just flopped off a fishing line.

“Sit,” the man ordered, pointing to one of the leather chairs in front of his desk.

Bishop plopped into one, the smooth material causing him to slide down a little. Not that he minded. Caving in on himself was a defense mechanism he’d perfected long ago.

“What’s your name?”

He thought about telling a lie but he had a feeling this man knew lots and lots of things. Was he being tested?

“Bishop Kain.”

“My name is Sherman Groto, and I own this casino,” he said. He picked up a remote, hit a button, and a partition of the opposite wall dropped down to reveal two rows of monitors. A video began to play, spaced out across all the screens, making the recording larger than life. Bishop watched himself in the futile fight with the security guard who’d brought him here.

“Good form, although your swings are rough and your timing is shit. It made Mr. Masters easily anticipate your moves.”

The whole fight was over in a matter of seconds when Masters grabbed hold of his arm and twisted it behind his back. Groto turned off the video when the two left the camera angle.

“You don’t have much to say about this,” Groto said as he tossed the remote back onto the impeccable desk.

Bishop shrugged.

“How old are you? Seventeen? Eighteen?”

“Nineteen.”

“Why did you come into my casino, Mr. Kain?”

“I was looking for work and your thug grabbed me for no reason.”

“He grabbed you because you’re under age and dressed like a fucking punk.”

Bishop looked down at himself. His well-worn jeans had frayed holes on his knees and his hoodie had been washed one too many times, turning the original black color into a washed-out gray, but it was all he had.

Groto stood and walked from behind his desk to a mini bar in the corner where he poured himself a tumbler of amber-colored alcohol.

“A man is defined by how he looks, how he dresses,” Groto murmured. “By his presentation as much as by the words he says. Or, in your case, by what he doesn’t say.”

“I wasn’t doing nothing,” Bishop muttered, slinking down a little lower in the wing-back chair.

“Double negative. See there?”

Bishop glared at the older man, wishing he could plant his fist in the smug face. Wealth surrounded him, so how the fuck would he know or understand the hell he’d grown up in?

Groto pointed with a finger. “You think I can’t guess your background? From the sullen, rebellious look I’d say parental abuse. More than likely from the sperm donor you hate to call ‘dad’. You’ve been knocked around a few times, probably ran away on multiple occasions, but always had to go back for one reason or another. No alcohol or drugs, not yet at least, but maybe in the future, which leads me to think you’ve given up on finding any good in this world.”

Shock poured through Bishop, and he shifted uncomfortably in the chair. He didn’t like his history being mapped out so blatantly. Was the man a fucking mind reader?

“Lucky for you, I see potential.”

Again, Bishop was rendered dumbfounded. He had to be living in some type of bizarre dream where opposite day ruled supreme.

“You ever thought about fighting, Mr. Kain?”

“I fight every day.”

Groto waved his hand dismissively. “I’m not talking about back alley shit, I’m talking about real fights with real potential for monetary gain.”

“Like Sugar Rey Leonard fights?”

“No, a little more like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture fights, except take away the rules and regulations.”

“You’re talking about underground fighting.”

Groto nodded. “I am. It’s an arena where a winner could walk away with forty or fifty grand a night, tax free. Where the only rule is to survive. No bullshit, no circle jerks. Where you can get all the pussy you could possibly desire.”

Bishop could care less about free pussy. His limited experiences with girls had left him feeling more empty than satisfied, and he’d come to the conclusion that he simply didn’t care about sex. There were more important things in life than getting his dick wet. The money however, that captured his interest. With money, he could rise above the filth of his life, take control, and make his old man suffer greatly. Give back some of the abuse the bastard liked to dish out.

“What do I have to do?”

Groto swallowed his drink in one gulp and placed the tumbler back on the bar before crossing his arms across his chest. Satisfaction leaked from him like a well-fed cat.

“If you let me handle your future, I can make you a lot of money.”

“You’ll teach me how to fight?”

“No, Mr. Masters will teach you how to fight. I’ll be your sponsor in the arena.”

“Was Mr. Masters a fighter in these underground fights?”

“He was. One of the best. Retired early and stayed with me as head of security.”

Bishop wasn’t stupid. He might not have finished high school, but he knew a thing or two about the streets and how fighters had a limited life span, either in or out of the caged arena.

“What happens if I die during a fight?”

Groto studied him hard for a couple of seconds. “I’ll make sure you have a proper burial.”

“What about my money?”

“We can draft up a will if you wish.”

Bishop nodded.

“Funny, that’s the same question Mr. Masters asked me when I offered him the same deal.”

“That’s because I know the unofficial rules. Most losers don’t come out alive.”

“So don’t lose.”

“That’s my plan,” Bishop said. He sat up a little straighter and narrowed his eyes. “You treat me right, Mr. Groto, and I sure as hell will return your investment.”

Chapter One


Hurry up, girl,” her father snapped. “We’re gonna miss the wagon.”

Eva-Ann fumed silently as she half-dragged the chest over the uneven ground, away from the train depot, and toward the waiting supply wagon. Her father had already rushed up to the supply master, completely ignoring her as usual, not that she really cared. It was best that Clyde Dunclyne stayed busy and preoccupied, rather than worrying about the daughter he never wanted in the first place.

You need help, Miss?”

The deep voice carried from behind her, startling her and causing her to drop the chest. She spun and looked up, far up, into the soulful, searching gaze of the most handsome man she’d ever seen. Deep-set brown eyes, thick black lashes that she envied. Concern radiated out of him as they locked gazes. Her heart stuttered as the saliva in her mouth dried up, causing her to grow a little uncertain. For the first time in her life, she couldn’t seem to form a coherent thought.

You’re heading to Byron City?” the man asked.

She nodded, trying desperately to remember words.

He smiled, and it was like getting hit in the gut. What the hell is happening to me?

The name’s John,” he said, touching the brim of his hat in a show of respect.

She cleared her throat, thankful she seemed to remember how to talk. “Eva-Ann Dunclyne.”

Nice to meet you, miss,” he murmured. “I’m the local blacksmith and horse wrangler for Byron City. Your pa a miner?”

Yes. Powder monkey.” She pointed to the chest. “Probably not a good idea to drag that thing over the ground.”

John’s eyes widened as he studied it. “He always leave you to move it?”

Eva-Ann glanced at her father, who was still talking to the wagon master. “I’m his only child, and to have been born a girl is a mortal sin he cannot forgive.”

Ah,” John said. “Well, if it’s any consolation, from my point of view, it’s definitely better that you’re a girl.”

He winked at her.

****

Present Day


“Jesus Christ, Evie! Wake the hell up!”

The words penetrated through the sleep clouding her mind and she struggled against the chemicals trying to drag her back into dreamland.

“Evie, I swear to God I will commit your ass to a psychiatric ward if you don’t knock this shit out.”

The anger, as much as the words, cut through her desire to drift off again, and she opened her eyes. Her brother, Chris, hovered over her. The frown creasing his brow looked unnatural on his usually cheerful face, and although she knew she was the reason why he was upset, she simply was too tired to care. She pushed feebly at his shoulder, trying to get him to move back, but he must have interpreted her gesture differently because he grabbed her arm and shook her hard.

“One day I’m going to walk in here and you’re going to be dead,” he all but yelled at her. His tone was hard and cold, but she could detect the fear underlining the words. “How the fuck can you possibly do that to me? You’re my only Goddamn family!”

“Shh,” she whispered. The loud words made her head hurt.

“No, I will not shush,” he said. He shook her again. “You will get your ass out of bed, shower because you fucking stink, and brush your teeth. If you don’t then I’ll do it for you, but you are coming with me tonight.”

“What? Where?”

“I got a gig tonight, a fight out at the abandoned water park,” he said. “And since I can’t fucking trust you not to swallow more of those fucking pills, you’re coming with me.”

“No—”

“Don’t you dare tell me no. I won’t lose my sister to a fucking overdose. So get up and get into that bathroom. If you’re not clean in fifteen minutes I will wash you myself. Got it?”

Clutching the bottle in his hand, he turned to leave.

“Gimme back my pills,” she said.

“No.”

“I need them, Chris,” she whispered, and even she heard the pleading desperation in her voice.

He turned back around to stare at her. Even in her drowsy state, she saw fear and concern in his face. Guilt sliced through her.

“Do you want to die?” he asked without malice or anger. A simple question that seemed to freeze him in place.

“No,” she said, and it was the truth. His shoulders relaxed a bit, easing the strain on his face. “I don’t take them to die. I take them to sleep.”

“Why?” He held up the bottle and pills rattled around in the plastic vial. “What can this possibly give you?”

She opened her mouth to reply, to tell him exactly why she needed to sleep. Only in dreams can she see him again, the man she knew was her soul mate. A man she had met only once, in a dream land, and one she desperately wanted to be with again. Only problem was the fact that he was a complete fantasy that only existed when she closed her eyes.

In the end, she closed her mouth, not answering. What could she possibly say without sounding crazy? That she was in love with a man she’d only met while she’d been in a coma? The psych ward would have her on psychotropic drugs faster than she could blink.

Chris sighed and stuffed the bottle back into his pants’ pocket. “That’s what I thought. Get showered and dressed, Evie. We leave soon.”

He stormed out of her bedroom, his boot heels echoing on the wooden floor as he walked to the front of the house. Evie lay staring up at her bedroom ceiling, her mind once more consumed with John. She knew it made no sense, this obsession with a man who didn’t exist, and before the accident she would’ve been the first person to laugh at her pitiful self. Now, however, she was more a shell than an actual person, one who didn’t want to let John go. Maybe one day she’d have the willpower, but if she were completely honest with herself, that day wasn’t anywhere in her future.

“Ten minutes, Evie!”

Chris’s warning got her moving. Her brother didn’t make idle threats, so she pushed herself out of bed and into the bathroom. The face that reflected back at her in the mirror was more skeleton than human. She’d lost too much weight, indicated by the way her bones protruded from under her skin. As she stared at herself, her image shimmered, and her other self superimposed over her reflection. Every day it became harder to distinguish who she really was, or which Evie she wanted to be.

She bent and splashed water on her face, trying to shake the image before her. Eva-Ann was taking over, and she was quickly losing the will to fight her off. Everything Evie wanted was in the dream world, and the real world held nothing but a long stretch of empty time. For now, however, she had to get through the evening, so she turned on the shower and tried to shake off the lingering pull of sleep.

After she dried off and dressed in jeans and a sweater, she walked over to her bed and kneeled down so she could easily slide her hand between the mattress and box spring. She touched upon a plastic bag and pulled it out. Several orange-red capsules bounced about in the baggie. The first chance she could get, she promised herself that she’d sneak back to Chris’s car and take a nap.

****

Bishop sat apart from Groto and Iron Fist in the limo, preferring to keep his back toward the glass partition so he could observe the interchange between the two men. They cruised down the freeway, heading toward the last fight Iron Fist would ever engage in before retirement. The pathetic excuse of a man thought he was walking away that evening, but Bishop knew the truth.

The pedophile would breathe his last that night.

“Thank you, Mr. Groto,” Iron Fist blabbered. “Thank you for your forgiveness. I promise to never do it again. You have my word that I’m a reformed man.”

Sherman Groto’s face revealed nothing. To most, he seemed relaxed, even jovial, but Bishop recognized the ruse. He’d been with the boss long enough to recognize the fury simmering just under the surface.

“Don’t think my acquiesce to this fight makes me forgive you,” Groto said softly. “Men like you need to have your balls cut off and stuffed in your mouth before being ass raped by every homo in Las Vegas. You can never be forgiven because your sin is unforgivable. Any man who touches a child sexually isn’t a man.”

Iron Fist was a huge bear of a man, with the force to back up the bulging muscles, but even under the easy nature Groto presented, the man visibly wilted.

“I swear, Mr. Groto—”

“I don’t want to hear your fucking lies and platitudes. Just take a dive ninety seconds in and you’ll have made good on your culpability.”

“I know what I did was wrong,” Iron Fist said. Bishop realized the man didn’t know when to shut up. “I have a weakness, but I promise to get help.”

Bishop was ready to kill the fucker on those words alone. Only one thing was taboo and that was children. Groto’s own granddaughter had been an innocent victim, a sweet young girl who now had to see a therapist on a daily basis to deal with the abuse she had suffered. Bishop had helped his boss take the pervert apart, piece by piece, and now staring at Iron Fist, knowing the asshole had hurt children, Bishop wanted to exact that same revenge.

But Groto had a different plan.

“Thank you for not, you know, killing me or something. I won’t let you down tonight.”

“I know you won’t,” Groto said. “Mr. Kain will escort you to the waiting pen. I suggest you not leave that area and try to run.”

“No, sir,” Iron Fist replied, shaking his head. “So this new kid I’m fighting, Blackout, he’s good?”

“Does it matter?” Bishop asked blandly. He didn’t really expect an answer and Iron Fist didn’t pursue the answer. Instead, he changed topics.


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