Carnival Hill (The Harlequin Crew #3) - Caroline Peckham

This book is dedicated to Mutt.

He knows when shit is up and he knows how to pee on a motherfucker when they’re down.

We love your rage and your furious, unforgiving nature all wrapped up in a tiny little fluffball package.

We love that you pee in Fox’s plant pots daily, and that you will never, ever forgive him for shouting at you because HOW. DARE. HE?

And we love that, unbeknownst to Fox, you’ve been using his pillow to scratch your ass whenever you get the chance.

So we salute you Mutt!

M y eyes were closed and my head was full of the sound of Otis Redding singing Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay as I imagined the feeling of the sun on my skin and my toes in the water alongside the taste of freedom on my lips.

Heaven had always been that simple for me. Laughter in the air and warm bodies close to mine while we drank stolen beers and let the tide take our troubles away with it.

So that was where I was. Out in the sun with my boys, not stuck inside this metal coffin. There wasn't dust clogging my throat and my limbs weren't screaming at me to move from being stuck here for so fucking long.

I wasn't slumped with my knees half bent and my feet screaming in pain from the stilettos I couldn't reach to unbuckle. There was no agony in my heart as fear for my boys ripped me apart and I kept replaying the last moments where I'd seen Chase before the building came down in my head.

None of that was real. It couldn't be real.

Because Otis Redding was singing the chorus and my heart felt light as I laughed.

"I dare you, little one," Chase encouraged and I groaned, throwing an arm over my eyes as I flopped back onto the hot wooden boards of the little jetty dramatically.

"You guys pick on me because I'm the only girl," I accused, one eye cracking open as I found JJ grinning at me while he swigged on his beer.

"Not true," he said. "We pick on you because you're the bravest. Chase didn't dare anyone else because he knew we wouldn't do it."

I smirked at the idea of that and pushed up onto my elbows as I kicked my toes back and forth in the cool water.


"No," Maverick denied. "I'm not scared to do it."

I snorted because of course he wasn't. Rick wasn't scared to do anything.

Fox's eyes were fixed on me and he glanced around towards his house before shaking his head.

"I'll do it," he said. "I won't get in as much trouble if I get caught."

"Boo," I complained. "Then it's no fun."

I sank the last of my beer, enjoying the fuzziness it left in my head as I sprang up and looked towards Harlequin House too. Stealing the keys might be the simplest way, but as I looked back towards the fancy speedboat which Luther had just bought, I found I didn't want to go with easy. Besides, creeping into that house while Fox’s scary ass daddy was home did not appeal.

"I can do it without the keys," I decided, preferring that idea to the chance of Luther catching me in the house.

"It was just a joke, pretty girl." JJ caught my hand to stop me as I set my gaze on the boat, but I just rolled my eyes.

"If I can boost a car, I can boost a boat, JJ. Besides, Luther will never even know we took it. Don't tell me you're all going to go chicken shit on me now?"

There was a clamour of protests at that suggestion and I grinned as I unbuckled my shorts and dropped them before tossing my shirt down too.

"Don't laugh," I snapped as they all stared at my stupid lilac bikini which didn't fit right anymore. "My dumb boobs keep growing and I already know it doesn't fit properly. But I tried to steal a new one from that kiosk up on Tide Street the other day and the bitch working there spotted me, so I had to run for it."

"Yeah, I was just thinking how dumb your boobs are. You look fucking terrible, beautiful," Maverick snorted and Fox punched him in the arm.

"Yeah, well it would piss you off if your dick just kept growing and growing all the damn time and you had no boxers that fit anymore," I snarked at him.

"I think JJ's having that problem right now," Chase joked and JJ cursed