Authors: Elle Wylder
Bad Boys of River
City Book Two
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Walker Graham has everything he ever wanted. Everything but
the woman he loves at his side. Grace Monroe is having none of that, however.
She's spent the years since her divorce distancing herself from emotional
entanglement. She enjoys her affair with Walker, but she won't let him get
under her skin.
Until his past and her present collide.
When Grace, a private investigator, is hired to investigate
the murder of a Birmingham crime boss the last thing she expects to find is
Walker at the top of her suspect list. As the attempts on her life mount she
has no choice but to turn to Walker for help. But in the end can she trust him
with her life and her heart?
Table of Contents
I’m being hunted and it really chaps my ass. At first I
thought I was just being paranoid. Investigating the brutal murder of a crime
boss can do that to a girl, even if the event is almost eight years old. But I
learned to go with my gut in the Army, and that itchy feeling on the back of my
neck is not going away.
Someone is following me.
Letting the straps of my bag slide off my shoulder to the
ground, I quickly drop to my knee on the sidewalk to tie a shoe that doesn’t
need it, and scan the street. Nothing. A few things fall out of my purse during
the ruse and I shove them back in, the straps once again going over my shoulder
as I straighten.
A small white rectangle flutters to the sidewalk and I reach
to retrieve it, the three rows of black block lettering making me grimace as my
fingers lift it up.
Graham’s Garage. Walker Graham. Owner/operator.
came here looking for someone else’s secrets and I found his. I know he’s not
clean but it’s a shock to finally have some of the holes in his past filled in.
call me, babe
and his phone numbers across the back.
Someone else to add to my growing list of problems--and oh my God--suspects.
The hair on the nape of my neck rises. I can’t remember the
last time I’ve been so spooked. I hastily push the card into my back pocket and
cautiously start down the street. It was light out when I arrived at the police
station in downtown Birmingham to speak to one of their homicide detectives,
but traffic forced me to find a parking spot a couple of blocks away on a more
secluded side street. A few streets over I can see the hustle and bustle of
early evening on the busier main drag, but all of that is too far away to
protect me from whatever hunts me here on this deserted road. The feeling of
unease increases and I pick up my step, hurrying around the last corner that
will take me to my car.
I’ve been hired to investigate cold murder cases before.
It’s not like this is the first time. It is the first time I know people
involved in the case, however. My cousin Lynn was one of the responding
officers, and the Birmingham police detective I just talked to said Walker was
their number one suspect. I was so disbelieving he showed me Walker’s record.
To call it extensive is an understatement. And disturbing. I stopped trusting
men after just a few months with to my ex-husband. The marriage was over years
ago but the distrust will never go away though I’ve come close to something
like it with Walker. I want him to be innocent of this murder, but even if he
is, he is sure as hell guilty of everything else.
I breathe a sigh of relief when I see my black SUV waiting
exactly where I left it. I can’t wait to get back to Atlanta. Digging through
my bag for the keys, I curse myself for not having them out and ready. I know
better. I resist the irrational urge to cheer when my fingers close over the
cold metal and yank them free.
Closing the final feet to the driver’s door, I experience a
sudden spike of fear. Adrenalin pumps through my veins and crawls across my
skin, and I whirl in anticipation of an attack. Pulse racing, I search the dark
corners of the street. Nothing. The area is clear. But the feeling of being
pursued, being stalked doesn’t subside. Keeping my eyes sharply focused on the
area I came from, I fumble the key into the door lock. It takes valuable
seconds too long, but finally clicks open. Pulling the handle up, I back away a
little and edge around the door, tossing my bag inside.
I hear the loud pop before the pain registers a split second
later. My leg crumples under me, forcing me to the ground. I shift position to
try to get a look down the street and fire arcs through my thigh. My hand
brushes against the pain and comes away wet and red. I stare at it, mind racing
and adrenalin-pumped blood surging. Someone shot me. And son of a bitch it
I can’t see anything crouched down next to the car and reach
for the seat to leverage myself up. I have to get out of here. Get to my gun.
Call the police. Blood pools under my feet as I move. Find a freaking hospital.
I get the foot of my good leg under me and push up. As my
upper body clears the side of the truck’s seat, several shots fire over my head
and I drop back to the ground. I set my back to the open door and search the
shadows in front of me, the direction the shooting came from. The last group of
shots were over my head but I’m still wide open. Anger surges through me. The
fucker is toying with me. He could finish me off now, but doesn’t. Why not?
My thigh pulses in pain and I press both palms over it,
watching blood seep through my fingers. I try to bring my thundering heart
under control, know each wild beat pumps more of my blood out of my body. I
have to get out of here, have to get to a hospital before I bleed to death. An
ambulance’s siren screams in the distance and I fight back a scream, knowing
I’m just a few short blocks from one of the best hospitals in the South while
my life bleeds out on a deserted city street. The irony of the situation is
impossible to ignore.
I curse myself again for taking this damned job, still
unsure exactly what I’ve gotten myself into. The investigation sounded like an
interesting challenge. But that isn’t the real reason. It was the money that
did it. That and the boredom. Bitterly, I acknowledge the truth of the thought.
Yeah. Money. The root of all evil. I snort. I’m getting maudlin in my near
death experience and not being objective about my reasons, my goals. I want to
move home to River City and open up shop there. I’ll be starting from nothing.
And unfortunately, I’m caught in the same real estate crunch as everyone else.
I can buy out the lease on my office space, no problem. But my condo? I’m so
underwater it’s criminal. So yeah I need the payday solving this case promises
to be. Nothing wrong with that, right? Except the small matter of finding
myself under fire on this dingy street. It’s like being back in Iraq. Without
the superior firepower. Or backup.
The hell with this shit. Turning my head, I study the
interior of my vehicle. My gun is in the glove box on the far side. No way I
can reach it. But my cell phone is clipped to the side of my purse, sitting on
the center console. I assume putting a phone to my ear will get me shot at
again, but if I can just reach it, I can use it on speakerphone and hide it on
the floorboard next to me.
Stretching my arm across the seat, eyes scanning the street,
I grip one of the straps and slowly ease it towards me. It gets tangled in the
emergency brake, and the phone is inches from my fingers. Out of reach.
Taunting me. Gritting my teeth, I raise my body a fraction, get a few more
inches out of the stretch and my hand closes over the small black box. Or maybe
it is the spots that suddenly swim in my vision that are black. I squeeze my
eyes shut, letting my arm fall to the floor and my butt sink back to the
ground. The phone
the spots are black. Shit. I’m going into shock.
I’m going to pass out soon. Unconsciousness tugs at my limbs.
I lean against the side of the car, one hand pressing against
my leg and the other sliding the bar to unlock the phone. I struggle to find
the phone icon, punch in the numbers, and turn on the speakerphone, nearly
panicking and blinking rapidly when the spots return.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
The feminine voice is immediate and sweet, the best I’ve
ever heard. I rattle off my name, location, and that I’ve been shot, then the
world fades to black.
I wake slowly, my mind foggy and body leaden, my leg a dull
distant throb of tenderness. It’s an effort to crack my eyes open and peer
around. My murky brain catalogues the space. A small white room, wires running
in and out of my body, a bed. I’m in a hospital. Struggling to remember why, I
shift, trying to sit up and gasp at the sharp twinge of pain as I jostle my
leg. The door slides open and a young woman in surgical scrubs comes in. I
squint at her nametag, but can’t make it out. The woman smiles.
“Good. You’re awake.”
“What happened?” I manage to croak in reply and am suddenly
aware of how dry my throat was. Worst cotton mouth ever. “Can I have some
The other woman picks up a cup and holds it to mouth. I lick
some of the shaved ice. When I nod she sets it back on the table and smiles
“You just came out of surgery. The doctor removed the bullet
and everything looks fine.”
I drop my head back against the pillow and close my eyes. I
“Mr. Graham is on his way. We should have you moved out of
recovery and into ICU before he arrives.” The nurse winks. “Tell me, is he as
sexy in person as he is on the phone?”
Shit. Walker is coming? I’m not sure I can take him right
now. Or maybe the nurse means his brother, Trace?
“Walker?” I whisper. “Or Trace?”
The woman cocks an eyebrow. “There’s two of ‘
I can’t help but grin in response. Yes, God help us all.
There are two of them. It’s too many words to force through my parched throat
so I just nod.
“Which one?” I ask when the silence stretches.
“Oh sorry!” The nurse pauses while recording the various
instrument readings. “Walker.” She flashes another wicked grin. “And he sounds
I force a smile. “He is.”
Hot. Territorial. Possessive. Well, he would be if I don’t
stay very clear about the rules. I don’t delude myself into thinking that is
due to anything but pure dumb luck--I live in Atlanta and he lives just outside
River City, in southern Alabama. It will be much harder to resist him when I
have to deal with prolonged exposure. I groan. Damn. He’s coming here. He will
probably go all macho and alpha male on me now. My body tingles and it isn’t
from the morphine injection I just received.
He is definitely yummy, but I feel a trickle of unease the
more I think of him coming, something I’m forgetting, a reason I need space
before dealing with him again. Something that refuses to rise to the surface of
my drug-addled brain. I fight a yawn as the nurse slips out the door, try to
force the correct synapses to fire in my head, but can’t fight the slide back