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PHANTOM Bonus Epilogue




“Aw, don’t cry, Eric. Don’t cry….”

Lord knew we’d learned our lesson about giving anyone unnecessary hugs over the last few years. But Olivia immediately pulled Eric into her arms—as best she could with her six-month pregnant belly. Meanwhile, I rubbed his back, trusting the vaccines we got toward the beginning of the year to keep us safe.

I figured Eric would be happy when Olivia, O2, and I showed him the flower-covered lattice archway and the rows of white chairs we’d set up for his wedding on Glendaver Castle’s back lawn.

But I didn’t think he’d burst into tears, turning the light yellow sleeve of Olivia’s dress dark with his guttural sobs.

Olivia and I exchanged a sympathetic look over his shoulder. This was about more than really liking the aesthetic we’d chosen for his wedding.

“Why are you crying, Uncle Eric?” O2 asked as if sensing the same thing we did.

“I’m sorry,” Eric answered. He pulled away from Olivia and mopped at his tears with the back of his hands. “After the year I’ve had—that we’re still having, I just don’t know how else to respond to all this beauty. I’m so happy to see you all again, but Olivia, you’re so pregnant. And Bernice, you’re still you, but O2 is so big—I just missed you so, so much!”

And there he went again.

This time I pulled Eric in for the hug while Olivia patted his back.

“We overstand,” I let Eric know.

I wasn’t just commiserating either.

None of us expected to be apart for this long. Two Januarys ago, Olivia and Phantom had returned to New York to introduce their baby daughter, Fei, to the grandmother they named her after and check in on the clinic. When I told Olivia about my landlord finding out that I wasn’t the great aunt on the rent-controlled lease and only giving me seven days to find a new place, she’d come up with a novel solution.

She’d bring O2 and me back with her to Kentucky so that I could help her continue setting up the clinic while she was technically on maternity leave. Three months, six months tops, we’d figured—just enough time to help Olivia get the clinic in Louisville fully staffed and running. Then O2 and I could move back to NYC and live in Phantom’s Upper West Side penthouse until we found a new place of our own.

My Aunt Minerva, who’d moved into the castle after she found out Olivia was pregnant, had even volunteered to also watch O2 during the day.

Rent-free castle stay, no-charge babysitting, extraordinary boss—Olivia had made it virtually impossible for this single mother to say no to her.

But shortly after O2 and I arrived in Kentucky for our short stay, the reports of a virus that would eventually upturn the world kept getting worse and worse. By the time three months rolled around, the idea of moving back to New York felt crazy. And by the time I got the vaccine over a year after our arrival, I honestly couldn’t see us ever returning to the big city I could barely afford.

Sure, Glendaver County was a little too close for comfort to the place where O2 was conceived. But that was just me being silly.

O2 had plenty of space to play outside without the risk of getting run over by a car if she wasn’t paying attention while chasing a ball. She loved Fei like a little sister. And she just adored Aunt Minerva, who’d set up a supposedly temporary daycare for the clinic staffers in the castle’s guesthouse, as did all the kids who’d ended up in her care during the pandemic.

Sure, Aunt Minerva occasionally sent the children home with simple spells to fast heal booboos and anything else that was bothering them. And around the holidays, quite a few of the parents had asked her to stop telling the children that one of her cousins was actually Santa Claus’s second wife. But other than that, we could all agree that Minerva was essential to us essential workers being able to do our jobs during the worse of the pandemic.

And as crazy as her spells and stories were, only one of us parents pulled our kids out of the makeshift daycare after getting our vaccines—and that was only because the child was going to live with her grandparents for the summer. Otherwise, Minerva’s witchy daycare would still be at total capacity.

Olivia had made it easy for me to agree to come to Kentucky and impossible for me to leave.

As Phantom had said last Thanksgiving when he stood up to give the toast with Fei in one arm and a glass of Glendaver Whiskey in his free hand, “I like our version of family.”

The only downside to the new family we’d created in Kentucky was that it didn’t include Eric.

So we held each other tight, and eventually, O2 tugged on the skirt of my maxi dress to say, “Now you’re crying too, Mama!”

Eric and I both let out watery laughs.

“We just missed each other,” I answered for both of us. “A whole, whole lot.”

“Yes,” Eric sniffled and once again mopped away his tears. “I missed you so much, I agreed to come down here for my wedding—even though my man wanted to just get married in some courthouse in New York.”

“You’re acting like this was an inconvenience. But Phantom did fly you out here private,” I pointed out, easily falling into my old snippy dynamic with Eric. “And we were the ones who did all the planning in set up work. I think the two words you’re looking for are ‘thank you’”

“I know, you’re right. Thank you! You two are the best.” Eric blew both of us kisses. “But you know my guy’s a city boy through and through. It was a job to get him to step foot in Kentucky, much less get married here like Olivia and Phantom.”

Olivia nodded.

“I can understand that he wouldn’t necessarily feel Kentucky was a safe place for him,” she said, validating him like the excellent boss she was—even if Eric was the one in charge of the NYC Women with Disabilities clinic now.

It was the exact right response. But then, O2 asked, “Mr. Byron is scared of Kentucky? But he’s a police officer!”

I mentally slapped myself. It hadn’t occurred to me that Olivia would remember the only boyfriend Eric had ever introduced her to before we left NYC for our temporary Kentucky stay. But, of course, she did.

After nearly five years of motherhood, I’d learned that kids’ #1 talent in life is zeroing in on the one question that will make things awkward for all the adults involved in the conversation.

“No, sweetie-bug,” Olivia said, bending down to address her as best she could with Phantom’s huge baby boy in her belly. “Uncle Eric is getting married to Uncle Phantom’s brother.”

“Oh,” O2 said with seemingly complete understanding—only to ask, “What happened to the police officer? He was nice!”

Because I guess she just didn’t feel this conversation was awkward enough.

This time Eric answered O2 for himself with a tight smile. “Well, Uncle Eric upgraded himself to Mr. Mike, a caring doctor who would never, ever go behind my back and cheat.”

O2’s mouth dropped open. “Mr. Byron cheated on a test?”

Kids. They bring the awkward, and they bring the funny, too.

O2’s next question ended up being, “Why are you laughing?”

And a little while later, after we told her we were going inside to introduce her to Mike and the rest of Phantom’s family, she said, “Hold on!” as soon as we walked through the kitchen’s door.

We all watched her run up the back staircase to Olivia’s old childhood bedroom, which she’d called her own for over a year—Olivia had even helped her swap out the N’Sync posters for ones of Applejack, Pinkie Pie!, and Rainbow Dash from My Little Pony.

She came back down a few moments later with a sheet of gold star stickers. We had no idea what she had planned for them until she reached up and stuck it on Mike’s mask after he introduced himself.

Of Phantom’s three doctor siblings, Mike looked the most like the only CEO in their family. Tougher and squarer than his other two older willowy brothers.

But his hard face softened as he asked her. “What’s this for?”

“For not cheating on Uncle Eric’s test!” O2 answered. Then she once again found herself having to ask, “Why is everybody laughing?”

We laughed a lot that day.

* * *

That night instead of having a traditional rehearsal dinner, Eric’s parents and younger tech billionaire brother brought over takeout from the Mayan Café, an Indigenous-inspired farm-to-table restaurant in Louisville that was hipster enough for Eric and Mike citified tastes, but delicious enough for the rest of us.

After setting up the kids in the kitchen with Minerva, we placed the food out buffet-style in the castle’s great hall. But it being early August, eventually, the small party spilled outside where the adults could mingle on the stone deck, and the unvaccinated children could take off their masks and play in their pod on the huge lawn below.

For many of us, this was the first time we’d been to any sort of largish event since the start of the pandemic, and we enjoyed each other’s company to the utmost.

Phantom’s parents told me all about Fei’s grandma, who’d sadly passed away just a few hours after meeting Fei. This was a happy story, according to them, and Phantom’s father insisted, “She promised to send me a sign of who she’s become before I die.”

Sensing a way to help, I told them about my distant cousin—who contrary to the requests of the skeptical daycare parents—really was married to Santa Claus.

“She talks to spirits,” I let Phantom’s father know. “And if there’s anyone who can help you figure out what happened to your mama, it’s her. But you’d have to travel to San Francisco during the twelve days of Christmas to see her. Here, let me get your number, and I’ll send you all the details….”

Eric pulled me aside after I exchanged numbers with Phantom’s much more tech-savvy mother.

“Can you go get Olivia? She’s talking my brother’s ear off. I think she’s trying to set him up with that spouse-stealing tramp.”

“C’mon now, Eric, stop calling one of the nicest people I know out her name. Allie didn’t steal your work wife. Olivia decided to stay down here before she even hired her. And she’s the one running the clinic by herself tomorrow while Olivia and me enjoy your wedding. Also, that’s my best friend you’re talking about.”

He glared. “Now you’re on the mistress’s side? That makes me despise her even more.”

So, same old Eric.

He ended up doing his own dirty work, pulling Olivia out of the conversation with his crazy rich brother with a ding of his glass to get everyone’s attention before he thanked her and Phantom for providing their house for the wedding.

And by thanking, I mean he mumbled something about their generosity—then took not-so-humble credit for “saving” her from marrying Garrett by telling Phantom about their upcoming nuptials.

“Mike and I had only been dating for a few weeks, but after I got that invite, I was like, ‘not to be totally insane, but you’ve got to introduce me to your family, like, way too soon so that I can pretend to let it slip to your brother that Olivia’s getting married.’ Honestly, I knew he was the forever one when he actually agreed.”

Olivia and the rest of Phantom’s family had tears of laughter in their eyes by the time he was done with the story. But Phantom, who’d kept a thick arm wrapped around his wife’s waist the entire party, grumbled something low in Olivia’s ear.

I didn’t have to hear what he said to know that Eric’s story was still in the “too soon” category for him. If not for Eric’s interference, Phantom would have lost his wife to Garrett Easton. And I was no Olivia in the empathy and validation department, but I could guess that the longer they were together, the worse that thought became for him.

In any case, Olivia quickly stopped laughing and laid a soothing hand on his cheek.

I could almost imagine what she was saying. Something along the lines of… “I know those memories are hard for you. But look at us now. Concentrate on the present. Think about our future.”

Whatever she said, it worked. Phantom’s concrete face broke out into a soft smile, and he laid a hammy hand on her belly while pressing his forehead into hers.

The moment was so loving, so tender….the hot pang of jealousy erupted in my chest before I could stop it. I had to look away, turning my back on the scene in favor of watching the children play under the setting sun.

Nobody deserved to be happy more than Olivia. But more and more lately, it had been hard for me not to covet what she had—not the money and the clinics, but all the blessings she’d received in her personal life.

I adored O2—a little too much, even more now after the pandemic. The longing for another had become an ache in my heart. But I didn’t want to go the single mother route again.

What would it be like to actually fall in love and get pregnant? The right and solid way—not the crazy and wrong way, like I had with O2’s father?

“I think I know what’s got that pensive look on your face….”

I didn’t realize Olivia had moved until her voice tore me away from thoughts of the things I couldn’t have.

“Um…” I answered. I was pretty sure Olivia didn’t know I was experiencing a helpless bout of jealously over her happily ever after, so I didn’t know how to respond.

“One of us has got to talk to Dawn as soon as she gets here with Victor tomorrow,” Olivia continued, assuming that we were on the same wavelength. “I mean if she says anything to Eric about her brother and….”

I caught up in an instant and concluded, “Oh wow, yeah, that could definitely ruin Eric’s big day. As in love as he is with Mike, he’s still really bitter at Byron.”

“I know, right?” Olivia agrees. “Better not to chance him finding out until after the wedding. But they’re not getting in until right before the reception. And since I’m Eric’s best person….”

“Don’t worry, I’m on it,” I assured her.

* * *

“Hey, what are you doing out here?” my best friend, Allie, asked me the next day when she found me seated on the steps of Glendaver Castle. I was reading the latest sci-fi novel by another one of my aunts, Clarissa Quinn, instead of whooping it up with everybody else at the wedding reception.

Allie was supposedly here to pick up her son from the backhouse daycare where he was hanging with O2 and Aunt Minerva. But she’d worn a pretty wedding-appropriate sundress for the occasion.

Olivia’s scorned work husband would never have invited her to the reception himself. But since Allie had to pick her son up from Minerva’s daycare anyway after the clinic closed, Olivia and I had told her to drop by for some free food and fun.

“Let me guess,” she said before I could answer. “You’re trying to finally get a quiet moment by yourself for the first time since the pandemic started.”

I laughed at her guess.

Allie understood the struggle more than most as a single mother herself. And she had a near similar story to my own. Olivia had hired her for her already overly popular clinic in Louisville despite her being visibly pregnant just because someone she trusted—me—recommended her. The only difference was, she’d been hired on as a fresh out of medical school general practitioner doctor instead of a clerk.

Over the course of the pandemic, we’d become even closer—to the point where O2 insisted on calling Allie’s toddler son “Little brother,” no matter how many times we explained they weren’t related by blood.

And even though she was the doctor with the least experience at the clinic, she was the best, according to our online reviews. Olivia trusted her to be the doctor in charge when she was away and lived in fear that her second work spouse would quit on us.

That made me feel a little better about the lie of omission I’d told to get her the job. I’d insinuated that Allie—or as she was professionally referred to—Dr. Allison Snow was a medical work colleague from my pre-New York days.

That was only kind of true. She’d worked with me back then—but not at the doctor’s office I’d clerked at in Tennessee. The job we’d worked had been off the books in a place you couldn’t find on Yelp or Google Maps.

But we never talked about what happened at that under-the-table job.…or the fathers of our children.

Hopes and dreams, all day—I could tell you Allie’s 5-year plan, line by line. But our pasts….well, let’s just say that the reason we’re such good friends is that we understand what’s thoroughly off-limits.

As far as we’re concerned, we’re exactly what we say we are. A boring office clerk and an ultra-capable doctor. The girls we were when we worked at that roadhouse right at the Tennessee/Kentucky border….well, we’ve left them behind.

For us, there’s only now, and we try not to think about our pasts ever catching up with us.

“Good guess,” I said to Allie in answer to her question about why I was waiting outside the castle. “But really, I’m out to intercept Dawn, who should be here any second with her husband, Victor.”

Allie’s eyes widened, “Oh my gosh, are you going to run interference to warn her not to bring up the situation with her brother and the yakuza….”

“Yup,” I answered before she was even finished with her guess.

When I said we were best friends, I meant best friends. And though our own pasts are off-limits, everybody else’s is fair play.

My gossip game was A++ after years of being a side character in The Phantom and Olivia Show. So my girl knew all the special guest stars in their universe, including the obscure ones she’d never met.

“Ooh, I’ll wait with you,” she said, dropping down to sit on the stone steps beside me. “Maybe his sister will have an update for us too. I can’t wait for another episode of that story!”

“See. This right here is why we’re best friends,” I let Allie know with a huge laugh.

She laughed too, and the southern accent that she tried not to use in her professional day-to-day came back full force as she declared, “I’m just saying this single mom Kentucky life is thin on drama. I need an infusion of it wherever I can get—”

Roaring engines in the distance cut off whatever she was going to say.

The laughter disappeared from our voices, our minds, our very souls.

Because we knew that roar. It was the growl of ruin and danger, announcing a motorcycle gang’s arrival at the roadhouse. It was the sound of our pasts catching up with us.

Every nerve, every drop of blood, every breath in my body froze.

“Don’t freak out,” Allie said, her tone dropping back into doctor mode. Unlike me, she had a full view of the road as she assured me, “It could be anybody, it doesn’t have to be them—”

But then she stopped cold, her pretty face collapsing into horror.

It was them.

I knew that even before I turn to see the ten bikers roaring toward us with their president at the front of the pack. He had a distinctive red beard, parted into two braids like a Viking—Viking that’s what his fellow Reapers called him. But all outsiders had to call him Waylon under threat of physical violence or, in our case, getting fired.

Don’t piss off Waylon—that had actually been a rule written down on a whiteboard in the back of the roadhouse.

“Maybe…maybe he won’t remember us,” Allie said beside me, her voice shaky and hopeful.

But we’d been the only black women who worked at that roadhouse. Of course, he remembered us.

As if to confirm my guess, Waylon stopped his bike right in front of Allie and me while the rest of the gang drove on toward the parking area around the side of the house. “Red, Allie, is that you?”

He knew Allie’s real name, but of course, he didn’t know mine.

I didn’t give it to any of the bikers at that roadhouse 1) I wasn’t stupid—at least not until O2’s father looked down at me with those piercing blue eyes, and 2) I was pretending to be somebody else back then. A woman with flaming red hair who did what she wanted and was ready to party.

Allie, so capable beyond her years, just stared at him, her face as stunned as I felt.

“What are you doing here?” I asked for the both of us.

“Security. Something about a secret show for the gay brother of some big shot alcohol guy,” Waylon answered.

Too late…

Too late, I remembered the other party conversation I’d overheard. Phantom teasing his little brother about not wanting to come to Kentucky but loving a particular country trap artist…

My brain went desperate like Allie’s.

Maybe he wasn’t talking about the same guy. He’d retired from performing shortly before the pandemic. And lots of other acts used MC gangs as security, especially in small venues like ours.

It could be anybody—

“What are you doing here, Red?” Waylon asked again, interrupting my denial fest. Then before I could answer, he said, “You better come with me. He’s been looking for you.”

He’s been looking for you….

Like it’s been five days since I last saw him, not five years.

And that let me know without a shadow of a doubt who had come to perform tonight. There was only one person who Waylon referred to as “he”—like he was some kind of deity who needed no introduction.

This was my worst nightmare.

I glanced at Allie.

Best friends. We were best friends for reasons we never talked about….

Without having to say a word, we both broke toward the castle’s front doors.

We ran…ran through the castle toward the backhouse daycare and our secret children as if we had hellfire at our feet.

But we screeched to a halt at the back house’s door.

“Mama!” Allie’s son called out, toddling right on up to her.

But O2…my Olivia…

She didn’t call out my name. Because she was deep in conversation with a masked man who’d squatted down to speak with her. He wore a cowboy hat paired with a Ruthless Reapers leather vest. And though his back was turned to me, I recognized all the tattoos running up the back of his neck and down his arms.

I’d teased him one of the days we’d been together. Kissing each inked piece while my hands grazed his hard, lean body—until he put me on my back and buried his mouth in my sex, aggressively returning all my soft kisses with a hard wet one of his own.

“Mommy! Mommy!” O2 called out when she saw me over his shoulder. “It’s G-Latham!”

I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even breathe as G-Latham slowly stood up to his full six feet plus.

“Bernice?” Allie asked somewhere in the distance.

At the same time, O2’s face went from excited to worried. “Mommy?”

I needed to say something…reassure my daughter, the love of my life.

But I could only stare at G-Latham as he turned to face me. Or Griff as he’d introduced himself to me that night when I thought he was just another Reaper, like nearly every other guy at the roadhouse.

A few more hopeful maybes sparked in my chest…

Girls in his world were a dime a dozen. There’d probably been a million mes while he was out on the road.

Maybe he wouldn’t recognize me. Maybe he wouldn’t realize—

“Red,” he said, his ice-blue eyes narrowing on me, then on my daughter.

Our daughter.

All the hope died in my chest.

G-Latham. G-Latham was here. And he knew…

He knew the little girl he’d just been talking to was his secret daughter.


Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

You have GOT to find out what happens next

in the Ruthless MC series:

WAYLON: Amira and the Grumpy Reaper

GRIFFIN: Red and the Big Bad Reaper

REAPERS: Dr. Snow and the Vengeful Reapers

HADES: Stephanie and the Merciless Reaper



Also by Theodora Taylor


WAYLON: Amira and the Grumpy Reaper

GRIFFIN: Red and the Big Bad Reaper

REAPERS: Dr. Snow and the Vengeful Reapers

HADES: Stephanie and the Merciless Reaper



HOLT: Her Ruthless Billionaire

ZAHIR: Her Ruthless Sheikh

LUCA: Her Ruthless Don

AMBER: His to Reclaim


RUTHLESS TYCOONS: Broken and Ruthless

KEANE: Her Ruthless Ex

STONE: Her Ruthless Enforcer

RASHID: Her Ruthless Boss



VICTOR: Her Ruthless Crush

VICTOR: Her Ruthless Owner

VICTOR: Her Ruthless Husband

HAN: Her Ruthless Mistake

PHANTOM: Her Ruthless Fiancé



Cynda and the City Doctor

Billie and the Russian Beast

Goldie and the Three Bears

Reina and the Heavy Metal Prince

(newsletter exclusive)



His for Keeps

His Forbidden Bride

His to Own



His Pretend Baby

His Revenge Baby

His Enduring Love

His Everlasting Love



Her Ruthless Tycoon

Her Ruthless Cowboy

Her Ruthless Possessor

Her Ruthless Bully



Her Russian Billionaire

Her Russian Surrender

Her Russian Beast

Her Russian Brute



Vegas Baby

Love’s Gamble



Her Viking Wolf

Wolf and Punishment

Wolf and Prejudice

Wolf and Soul

Her Viking Wolves



Her Dragon Everlasting

NAGO: Her Forever Wolf

KNUD: Her Big Bad Wolf

RAFES: Her Fated Wolf

Her Dragon Captor

Her Dragon King


ALIEN OVERLORDS (as Taylor Vaughn)

His to Claim

His to Steal

His to Keep



Her Scottish Wolf

Her Scottish King

Her Scottish Warrior



About the Author

Theodora Taylor writes hot books with heart. When not reading, writing, or reviewing, she enjoys spending time with her amazing family, going on date nights with her wonderful husband, and attending parties thrown by others. She LOVES to hear from readers. So….

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