He’s after the woman who helped put him behind bars. She’s been in hiding for three years raising the son he doesn’t know about.
Holding a grudge has never felt so good.
Shattered King is an intense, ultra-sexy standalone novel set in the world of the Lawless Kings. Sherilee Gray’s raw, deeply-emotional voice will leave you breathless long after the last page.
“Shattered King is a sexy, beautiful second chance love story... a truly enjoyable read.” - Sawyer Bennett, New York Times bestselling author
"Raw, gritty, and full of supercharged sexual tension...SHATTERED KING will break you into pieces right before it stitches you back together again." -Diana Gardin, author of SWORN TO PROTECT, Rescue OP's Series
"Intense and thrilling...filled with lots of action, danger, intense moments and sexy good times...Shattered King is a fantastic second chance romance that will not only leave your heart pounding, but will have you turning the pages quickly." - Once Upon a Book Blog
"What to say about Shattered King? Oh I know…..it’s AMAZING!" - Freeing Fantasy
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A Lawless Kings Novel
By Sherilee Gray
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2017 Sherilee Gray
All rights reserved.
Three years and four months later
My footsteps were soundless against the thick carpet as I headed up the darkened stairs. I didn't need a flashlight; the moon was doing a decent job through the skylight.
The Upper East Side townhouse had that smell. A smell that, to me, screamed money and privilege, not something I could describe easily. The word sterile rattled around my skull. Furniture polish. Floor cleaner. Whatever other shit they had their cleaning staff use to wash away any traces of personality. Anything real.
It hung heavy in the air. Lifted the damn hair at the back of my neck.
I despised the types of people that lived like this. Firsthand experience had taught me they couldn't be trusted. That they'd stab you in the back as soon as you looked the other way.
And in this guy's case, commit insurance fraud rather than admit they were living beyond their means.
I did a walkthrough and a quick search of the bedrooms before I headed to the office. I found the safe quickly, in a closet on the far side of the room, hidden under a stack of boxes. I'd been cracking safes since I was fourteen. Raul Esposito, a man who had become a second father to my older brother Van and me when our own had been a drunk and an asshole, had trained me well.
I'd picked up the skill so fast, I'd actually impressed the old bastard. The pride I'd felt when I did it on my own for the first time was something I'd never forgotten. Some people would think it was messed up that the only decent male role model I'd had taught me how to be a good thief, but I didn't give a fuck. I owed Raul more than I could ever repay.
I crouched low, getting a good look at the safe. Getting into it wouldn't be overly difficult. But before I pulled out my stethoscope, I entered several try-out combinations. Combinations that most new safes came with from the manufacturer. A lot of people never bothered to set a new one themselves, and that was always what I started with. None of them worked, so I searched around it. Another common mistake, writing the code down and keeping it close by. No luck there either. I went back into the office and searched the desk.
Shoved to the back of the bottom drawer, under a stack of Playboys, was a notebook. The fucking moron had actually written "passwords" on the front. I found the code I needed, then checked the time. There was still ten minutes on the clock.
I had the safe open in five seconds.
Empty. I had another flick through the notebook, just in case they had more than one safe. Nothing. It was a long shot, but this guy was obviously a total idiot. Definitely dumb enough to keep the painting at his own house.
I was heading for the door when a photo sitting on a bookshelf caught my eye.
My legs just fucking — stopped. Like a nail had been driven though the tops of both my feet mid-step, pinning me to the goddamn floor.
It was a family photo.
A Carson family photo.
I looked around the room again, almost giving myself goddamn whiplash, confused as hell.
Where the hell had my brother sent me? Anger flared to life, growing steadily, pumping through me.
Jesus fucking Christ.
One of those assholes lived here?
My eyes were drawn back to the picture, like someone else had control over them. Fuck, I couldn't look away, heart hammering in my chest.
Standing there, big smiles on their faces were Elizabeth and Pierce. Lulu's mother and stepfather. Alongside them her aunt and uncle and their kids.
A rough sound rasped up my throat, past my lips. Lulu. She was a little ways off to the side, on her own. She looked about sixteen here. She'd been a couple years older when I first met her, but her hair was the same — down and a little wild. Her gray eyes were aimed at the camera, and they sliced right fucking through me. I wasn't prepared to see her face, hadn't had a chance to sure up my defenses.
Something I hadn't allowed myself to feel in a long time, hammered me from behind. I hadn't seen her, not even a picture, not since she came to see me in prison.
And there she was. Tormenting me. Mocking me.
I picked it up, stared into her traitorous eyes. But the fury I'd lived off like fucking oxygen the last three years wouldn't come, because this wasn't the Lulu that tore me to shreds. She was a kid here, a kid who looked a little lost, and a whole fucking lot lonely.
The urge to fire it across the room nearly got the better of me.
I quickly put it down and got the hell out of there, before I did something stupid.
Jude was coming up the stairs when I hit the hall. Jude Wayland, excop, and at six-foot-five, two hundred and fifty pounds of solid muscle, not someone you wanted to get on the wrong side of. He still had good reliable contacts on the force, not to mention his expertise with security systems — namely how to shut them down. Add to that his size and ability to be intimidating as hell, he'd become our go-to guy when someone needed to be leaned on. Persuasion was one of his specialties.
"Company." He tilted his head to the front of the house.
We jogged down the stairs and I moved to the French doors off the living room, while Jude did his thing, reactivating the security system. We were shutting the doors behind us as the front door opened.
I turned to Jude when we were outside, fighting the rage pounding through me. "Who lives here?" Jude rubbed the back of his neck, looking guilty as hell, and then tilted his head toward the living room window.
We'd walked out the door two minutes ago and already there was a woman bent over the back of the couch, pants yanked down around her thighs, while some guy, not her husband, fucked her from behind like he was in the throes of a fit.
I recognized her instantly.
Jude shook his head, a look of disgust on his face and held up his hands. "You need to talk to Van. I'm staying outta this shit. I fucking told him this was a bad idea." Then he turned around and walked off.
I'd be talking to my brother all right.
Twenty minutes later I was back in Queens, striding across the underground parking lot toward the elevator that would take me up to our offices.
Van and I opened the King Agency before I went to prison. We started off doing personal protection and security, private investigation, mainly corporate, but some domestic as well, then moved onto high-risk fugitive recovery and missing person and kidnapping investigations. Coming from a rough neighborhood, living on the streets most of the time, you acquired certain skills to get by, to survive. Turned out that was better than any college education in our line of work. Clients started coming to us with jobs that other agencies refused to take them, either because they were too dangerous or crossed lines they weren't willing to cross. We'd never had that problem. Higher risk meant higher pay. We were good at what we did, the best, which was why getting taken down for arson when shit was finally looking up for the King brothers had fucking near torn me apart. Being set up was bad enough, but being forced to put my life on hold damn near did me in.
Ironic that the same woman that drove me to succeed, the woman I loved, the woman I believed loved me too, was the one that took it all away. I'd wanted to prove that I could provide for her, that I could give her everything she was used to. A big house. Money in the bank. A nice life. The agency was the first thing that had truly been mine. I'd been so fucking proud of it, wanted her to be proud of me. Coming from a home where I was constantly told I was nothing, that I was worthless, I'd needed that.
Finding out tonight my own fucking brother was keeping something from me, something that involved her family, the same family responsible for setting me up, getting me locked up ... yeah, I was pretty un-fucking-happy.
I climbed into the elevator and punched the button for the fifth floor, trying to lock down the anger riding me hard. I got a look at myself in the mirrored doors as they slid shut — it wasn't working.
When they opened again I was outside our glass-fronted reception area, three and a half inches thick and bullet proof — something that hadn't been tested yet, but the way I was feeling right then finding out how many rounds it would take sounded like an excellent way to blow off steam.
I pushed the door open, and strode into the stark white reception area, not surprised to see Ruby sitting behind the desk.
Ruby Styles was from our neighborhood, and a few years younger than me. Her home life had been about as fun as mine and Van's. And when she'd come to us for a job, we'd decided to give her a shot in reception.
She lifted her head, tucking her purple streaked hair behind her ear, and shoved her black-rimmed glasses higher on her nose. Her eyes widened when she got a good look at me.
"Is he in his office?"
She shot to her feet. "What's going on ... ?"
I headed for the door that led to our offices, ignoring her calling after me, anger unfurling in my gut, and punched in the access code.
Shoving it open, I strode down the hall. Van's door wasn't closed, and I could hear several voices coming from inside. I rounded the corner and my jaw got tight. Zeke and Neco were there along with my brother, deep in conversation.
"Something you forget to tell me about tonight's job?" I asked.
Van's gaze shot to me. "Hunt, let me explain ..."
"Yeah, that'd be good."
Zeke's eyes slid my way, giving nothing away. The Texan was at his usual spot, propped against the wall, tattooed arms crossed. Zeke Stanton was an ex-Navy SEAL, a sniper in a previous life — a life he chose not to talk about, ever. We'd all known each other since high school. Him and Van had enlisted together, been in the same unit. But Van had opted out before Zeke, left that part of his life behind before it marked him in a way his friend hadn't been lucky enough to escape.
Zeke only talked when he had to, did not waste time on pointless conversation. He also had a stillness, an intensity about him that was perfect for surveillance. The guy could move around unseen any-damn-where like no one else.
But while Zeke kept his distance, Neco closed in.
Not only was Neco Malik our best tracker, he had skills with a computer that were second to none. He was an exceptional hacker, could get into anything, could override any security system with the click of a few buttons. He was an integral member of the team, and one of my best friends. We'd run together when we were kids. He had it rough growing up, a half black kid in a mainly white neighborhood. Having a mother who sold herself to pay the rent, and a father who he had never met, meant life had been far from easy. As a result, he'd grown into one mean, angry motherfucker.
The guy was like a brother to me, but right then, I needed him to back the fuck off.
Neco shook his head. "Just hear him out."
"Before you pop a fucking artery," Jude added, walking in behind me, voice nothing but a deep rumble.
I ignored them all and waited for Van to start talking.
My brother blew out a long breath and ran a hand through his hair. "I needed you to get into that safe, and I needed you doing it with a clear head."
I curled my fingers into fists, knuckles cracking. Van could be a ruthless son of a bitch at times, but this was extreme even for him. "Keep talking," I gritted out.
A muscle in his square jaw jumped. "I didn't want to send you in. If there'd been any other way ..." He crossed his arms, getting that stubborn look on his damn face. "You were the only one who could do what we needed in the time we had."
Union City Insurance had called us a few days ago, after they'd received a claim on a painting. The painting I'd been looking for tonight. If it weren't found, Union would be down three million. They wanted to avoid that.
This was the part of our business we didn't advertise. Illegal in every way it could be, unethical as all hell. But it paid well, and with our unique talents, our success rate was extremely high. Put simply, Union City wanted the painting found. They didn't want to pay out the money it was insured for, and they didn't care how the King Agency made sure the job got done. As long as the painting was returned to its owner, they were off the hook.
A lot of insurance companies felt the same way. If the claim was fraudulent, their client sure as hell couldn't accuse anyone of breaking into their houses and stealing it out from under them if it was already supposed to be missing. They definitely couldn't say anything when their insurance company called and returned their items with a smile and a "Hey, look what showed up."
Paying our fee, a fraction of what Union City would have to pay out if the painting wasn't found, was worth it to them. The guys at our agency either confirmed it was insurance fraud, or tracked down the stolen item and stole it back.
Which was what I'd been trying to do tonight, only it turned out a few vital details had been omitted.
I stepped up to my brother's desk and planted my fists on the surface. "I'm out of patience."
Van cursed quietly. "Robert Carson is the claimant."
A chill slid down my spine before it turned to steel. I had to plant my feet so I didn't dive across his desk and beat the shit out of him. "You don't see any problem, sending me on a job involving that family, without telling me?" No one in the room missed the quite fury in my voice. Even Zeke stood straighter.
Van casually undid the cuffs of his dress shirt and rolled up his sleeves, eyes never leaving mine. "We think Pierce is behind it."
My nostrils flared as I sucked in a rough breath at the mention of Pierce, Lulu's stepfather — and my ex-employer. I'd worked for him for a couple of years on and off while we were getting this place off the ground. Mainly debt collection, but occasionally I provided muscle for the prick, as one of his personal bodyguards. I'd met Lulu shortly after I started.
And I'd wished every day for the last three and a half years that I'd never laid eyes on her.
I choked down the rage. I had no damn choice. If I lost it, they'd close ranks. It's what they expected me to do, why they hadn't shared the details of the case.
I clenched my fists at my sides. "And the rest?"
My brother watched me closely, gaze darting to Neco before he spoke. I felt my friend move in closer.
"It was Robert that called in the claim, but the painting was taken from Pierce's home," Van said.
"How can Robert claim it if it's not his?"
Van's shoulders relaxed a fraction when he realized I wasn't about to throw down in the middle of his office, and kept talking. "Pierce made sure Robert co-signed every insurance policy ... every fucking thing he owns. Which isn't a whole lot, as it happens. Most of it's tied up in family trusts, belongs to his wife Elizabeth's family. Their homes were never theirs to begin with. Anyway, we both know Robert's weak, follows Pierce's lead like a goddamn puppy, would do anything for his brother, including insurance fraud."
As much as it pissed me the fuck off, I got it, the secrecy. I understood my brother's concerns. Anything to do with Lulu's stepfather was a hot button for me, to put it mildly.
But he'd purposely kept this from me, and even though I understood his reasons, there was no way in hell I was sitting this one out. I couldn't just do my job, find the painting, and forget the rest.
I crossed my arms. "Pierce has to be pulling the strings." The guy had gone underground in recent weeks. I didn't know why yet, but anything that might lead me to him, I was all in. "Selling privately, plus the insurance payout, would set him up nicely."
Van dipped his chin. "Exactly."
I had to find that painting. I didn't know why Pierce needed the money, but I wasn't letting that asshole get his hands on it. And I sure as hell wasn't missing the chance to get my hands on the son of a bitch either.
Pierce needing fast money meant he was in deep shit, plain and simple. He'd either vanish, go deeper underground, or use the cash to scrape himself out of trouble. None of those options were acceptable. That fucker was well overdue payback, and any way I could make his life harder — or, better yet, draw him out — was a win for me.
"I'm in." I locked eyes with my brother. "And if you ever keep shit like this from me again, or send me into a situation like that without all the facts, we'll have a serious fucking problem."
Van dipped his chin, jaw still hard.
Excerpted from Shattered King by Sherilee Gray. Copyright © 2017 Sherilee Gray. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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