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Authors: Jannine Gallant

Wilde One

BOOK: Wilde One
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The Wilde brothers have one thing in common—a thirst for adventure. But Griff Wilde is about to be taken on the ride of his life . . .

 

When Griff Wilde receives a letter from a dead man sending him on a race to find a mysterious treasure, he’s not worried about the competition. After all, salvaging sunken treasure is what he was born to do. But the riddles leading to the clues are a little trickier than he anticipated . . .

 

Ainslee Fontaine is ready for a change. A cross-country scavenger hunt sounds like a piece of cake after teaching in New York City. How hard could it be? For starters, travelling alone seems to have its hidden dangers, like real-life treasure hunters who ignite her deepest passions. But there’s still a hidden prize to find—unless someone stops them by any means necessary . . .

 

“Jannine Gallant is an exciting new voice in romantic suspense.”

—Mary Burton,
New York Times
bestselling author

 

“Well developed, realistic characters. Entertaining family dynamics. Jannine Gallant gives you a satisfying read.”

—Kat Martin,
New York Times
bestselling author

 

“Check all the windows and doors before you go to bed because the relentless, obsessive stalker in
Every Move She Makes
will have you looking over your shoulder long after the lights go out.”

—Nancy Bush,
New York Times
bestselling author

 

 

Visit us at
www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

 

 

Books by Jannine Gallant

 

Who’s Watching Now

Every Move She Makes

Every Step She Takes

Every Vow She Breaks

 

Born to Be Wilde

Wilde One

 

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

 

 

 

Wilde One

Born to Be Wilde

 

Jannine Gallant

 

LYRICAL PRESS

Kensington Publishing Corp.

www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

 

Copyright

 

Lyrical Press books are published by

Kensington Publishing Corp. 119 West 40th Street New York, NY 10018

 

Copyright © 2016 by Jannine Gallant

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

All Kensington titles, imprints, and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund- raising, and educational or institutional use.

 

To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book.

 

Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager:

Kensington Publishing Corp.

119 West 40th Street

New York, NY 10018

Attn. Special Sales Department. Phone: 1-800-221-2647.

 

Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

LYRICAL PRESS Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

Lyrical Press and the L logo are trademarks of Kensington Publishing Corp.

 

First Electronic Edition: September 2016

eISBN-13: 978-1-60183-769-1

eISBN-10: 1-60183-769-0

 

First Print Edition: September 2016

ISBN-13: 978-1-60183-773-8

ISBN-10: 1-60183-773-9

VD1_1

 

Dedication

 

To my fellow authors who have become good friends as we’ve learned this business together.

 

I appreciate your encouragement, support and camaraderie more than you know.

 

May you each achieve your dreams!

 

Chapter 1

 

Griff Wilde downed the last of his beer and pushed back his chair. Legs grated across the scarred wooden floor of his favorite dive on Key West where he and his team had spent the better part of the night celebrating. Mission accomplished. They’d salvaged a hoard of gold doubloons, not to mention a few quality artifacts from the old galleon mired deep in the silt of the ocean floor. He’d donate the best pieces to a museum, including a couple of brass candlesticks and a garnet broach, but keep the gold. A grin spread. The profit margin for this operation would be his best yet. Reason enough to hoist a few then take a month or two off for a well-deserved vacation.

“You aren’t leaving are you? Hell, it isn’t even dawn yet.”

As Griff rose to his feet, he glanced over at Joe Hackett.

His old friend’s eyes were glazed, but he still managed a lopsided smile. “The party’s just getting started.”

Griff snorted. “I don’t intend to spend my first night in weeks on dry land sleeping on a beer-stained floor, which is where the rest of you seem destined to end up.”

He gave Willy a nudge, and the boy slid off the chair to land in a boneless heap beneath the table. Across from Joe, Arlo grunted and twitched, head thrown back, mouth hanging open.

Griff shrugged. “Looks like the party’s definitely over.”

“Lightweights.” Joe tilted the last of the pitcher’s contents into his glass.

A frown drew Griff’s brows together. “Maybe we should wake them up and haul them to their rooms.”

“Not gonna happen. Let ’em sleep it off. Roy’ll rouse those two when he shows up in the morning to clean the place.” Joe swirled the beer in his glass. “Nice of him to let us stay after he closed up.”

“It isn’t the first time, and I gave him one hell of a tip.” Griff headed toward the door, his steps faltering a little. Gathering his bearings, he turned to his friend. “You coming?”

“Naw, I think I’ll brew a pot of coffee then take a walk to watch the sunrise. No point in going to bed. I have a midday flight to catch out of Miami, and I need to get there first.”

“Suit yourself. I’ll be in touch once I know for sure where we’re going next. I think we’ll switch it up and head to the Pacific. Based on my research, there should be a couple of old wrecks to choose from off the California coast. One near Big Sur looks promising.”

Joe pressed his hands down on the table then pushed to his feet. “Don’t rush into anything. I could use some down time.”

“No worries. I think we all could. See you in a month or two.”

“Take it easy.”

The bar door creaked as Griff stepped outside. The damp heat of a Florida night smacked him in the face. He drew moisture-laden air into his lungs as he strolled the two blocks to his rented room. After unlocking the cabana door, he hit the light and blinked in its sudden glare. His gear rested in a heap on the floor where he’d dumped it after vacating the
Wilde Lady
. In the corner, a pile of papers was strewn across the table.

He grunted, not looking forward to tackling the slew of forms he needed to file before he could wrap up this job and head for…he wasn’t sure where he wanted to spend the summer. Another decision to make.

First up, a quick shower to help clear his head followed by a few hours of sleep, and then he’d tackle the dreaded paperwork. Five minutes later, he toweled dry and pulled on a pair of shorts. Glancing in the mirror, he winced. Jesus, after a night of drinking, he looked every one of his thirty-two years and then some. An overlong thatch of dark brown hair hung in bloodshot green eyes. Fine lines feathered out from the corners, a result of endless hours spent in the sun aboard his salvage vessel. A quick smile flashed. No matter. He wasn’t entering any beauty contests.

Leaving the bathroom on his way to the bed, he paused beside the table. A stack of mail he hadn’t gotten around to sorting sat next to the waiting forms. Sifting through bills, pleas for charitable contributions, and circulars selling everything from life insurance to fishing gear, he pulled out an envelope with familiar handwriting. His grandpa didn’t believe in texts or e-mails. He believed in communicating with his grandchildren the old-fashioned way—through the U.S. Postal Service. Another smile slipped out. And they damned well better write back or all hell would break loose. He’d read what was sure to be a rambling account of the latest events on the family’s Wyoming ranch after he got some sleep.

Dropping the letter onto the pile, he swooped to catch an envelope that slid toward the table’s edge. His brows lowered.
What the hell?
Two handwritten letters in the same week? His name and box number scrawled across the front of this one were barely legible. No return address. The post mark was San Francisco. He didn’t know anyone in San Francisco, did he? After ripping open the flap, he unfolded a single sheet of paper covered on both sides with shaking cursive. Something hard rested at the bottom of the envelope. He pulled out a key with no identifying marks on it and frowned. Turning the letter over, he glanced at the signature. Victor Talbot.

Who the hell is Victor Talbot?

He flipped back to the front.

If you’re reading this, I’m dead.

Griff sank onto the foot of the bed. Nice opening line. Even the need for sleep couldn’t compete with that hook.

You’re probably wondering who I am and what my business is with you.

Victor Talbot, whoever he might be, had that part right at least. Griff scowled at the messy penmanship and read on, squinting now and then to make out the words.

Let’s call it delayed justice for the five men remaining in our squad on the fateful day we recovered the Nazi treasure.

Treasure? Now that sounded promising, even if the rest of the statement had a suspicious ring to it. He moved backward on the mattress to settle more comfortably against the headboard. “Recovered my ass. I bet they stole this so-called treasure.” He clamped his teeth together and went back to reading.

It’s time for one of their descendants to claim the prize. As my final gesture to the men who thought of me as a brother—my way of making amends—I bequeath my priceless treasure to only the most deserving of the contestants. The one who finds it first.

“Huh?” He glanced up at a cobweb decorating the corner of the ceiling. What the hell did the old guy mean by that? Griff did some quick mental math. Victor had to be in his nineties if he fought in World War II. Or was before he croaked. Probably completely senile to boot. Griff conjured up an image of a wizened gnome on his death bed, cackling with glee as he penned mysterious notes to unknown recipients. With a snort, he returned his attention to the letter.

Since my comrades-in-arms were all cut down in their prime, I’ve hand-picked a contender from each of their gene pools. The one I feel will most likely accept the challenge and put up a fair fight. Decipher the riddle to find your next clue. Good luck.

“Jesus.”

After taking a quick peek at the riddle squeezed in at the bottom of the page, some nonsense about jealousy and liberty and wealth, he read the whole letter again, just to make sure he had the facts straight.

The man had to be a complete loon. His writing was atrocious, but the content seemed direct enough. Griff reviewed the pertinent details. This Victor character had fought side-by-side with one of his ancestors during World War II. His grandfather occasionally mentioned his father who’d died in combat somewhere in France. Grandpa had vague recollections of his dad teaching him to ride a horse and taking him fishing. A photograph of Hartley Wilde in his army uniform hung with the rest of the family portraits displayed at the ranch. Looking at it was sort of creepy, like looking in the mirror. Then again, Griff’s two brothers were nearly his clones, except for Sawyer’s lighter hair and Tripp’s long, girly lashes.

A yawn nearly cracked Griff’s jaw as he dragged his wandering attention back to the letter. Victor Talbot and his pals had
recovered
some sort of war treasure from the Nazis. Obviously they hadn’t turned it over to the proper authorities. He frowned. Definitely something hinky about the whole situation. According to the letter, none of the other five men in the squad had survived into old age, leaving the geriatric warrior who’d contacted him as the sole owner of the treasure. On his death bed, he’d apparently decided fair was fair, that the descendants of his army buddies should get a shot at the confiscated loot.

BOOK: Wilde One
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