Wilde One

Wilde One

by Jannine Gallant

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601837738
Publisher: Random House
Publication date: 09/27/2016
Pages: 262
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.59(d)

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Wilde One

Born to Be Wilde


By Jannine Gallant

KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.

Copyright © 2016 Jannine Gallant
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60183-773-8


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.

Why didn't he just sell the freaking thing and mail us checks? His inner voice responded with unswerving logic. Maybe because the government would have seized it — whatever it is — and returned the treasure to its rightful owner.

Curiosity niggled. The exact nature of the spoils wasn't spelled out. Vaguely worded hints about a priceless prize could mean any number of things. Griff rolled his eyes. He knew all about priceless — and what was fair game to the finder and what had to be handed over to the original owner. The booty could be anything from a stash of cash to a missing Rembrandt to something the old bastard found in a cereal box.

Make that crazy old bastard.

Victor the Loon had set up some sort of scavenger hunt with clues leading to the treasure. The first riddle read like gibberish, and he was too tired to try to figure it out before he got a little sleep. Griff slouched down onto the mattress. He ought to toss the letter in the trash where it belonged. Running a hand through his hair, he winced as his head began to throb.

Damn cheap beer.

Rolling off the bed, he rummaged through his bag for a bottle of aspirin and popped a couple of tablets, then glanced over at the cryptic letter.

Since he didn't have anything on his plate at the moment, maybe he should step up and play the game. The timing was right, and he was a risk-taker by nature. If the treasure hunt turned out to be a bust, all he would have lost was a little time and energy. Right now he had plenty of both to spare — or would after a couple of days of solid rest.

After turning off the light, he crawled into bed and flopped over on his back. Sleep first. Paperwork second. Then he'd set to work deciphering the enigmatic clue below the old guy's signature. The key in the envelope must be part of the puzzle, too. He'd figure it out.

How hard can it be?

Even if the other competitors in this crazy game had the means and ambition to play, Griff had no doubt he'd be the first to unravel the riddles. He slid a hand behind his head and closed his eyes. With his skill at finding treasure, it wouldn't even be a contest.


* * *

Ainslee Fontaine jammed the last of her bags into the rear of the midsize SUV and slammed the door shut. Glancing up at the old brownstone, she let out a breath. Relief, regret, anticipation, and a healthy dose of anxiety rolled in her stomach, making her wish she hadn't choked down the breakfast burrito she'd grabbed from a vendor off the street corner.

At any rate, the burrito was history, as was her job teaching in the Big Apple. For better or worse, she was out of here.

Hopefully better.

Sliding behind the wheel, she fired up the engine and pulled away from the curb. Driving through the clogged streets of New York City, she couldn't help comparing her current frame of mind with the naïve enthusiasm she'd bubbled over with upon her arrival five years before. Singlehandedly, she'd planned to set the disadvantaged youth of the inner city on a direct course toward learning and success.

What a crock.

Instead, she'd been ignored, sworn at, threatened with a knife on three different occasions and taken a punch. The black eye had tipped her over the edge. She hadn't expected the girl to swing at her. The boys she'd disarmed with a couple of swift moves. She should thank the martial arts expert she'd dated for those lessons.

Enough was enough. The student success stories were few and far between, one a year if she was lucky. Those golden moments, heart bursting with pride as a child she'd mentored went off to college, had almost made up for the disappointments. Almost. She needed a break from the sheer misery of the environment these kids were trapped in before her soul was sucked dry. She wanted to go back to her roots.

Maybe not her actual roots. Not the small town in Iowa where she'd grown up. In Cloverdale, cows outnumbered people fifty to one — maybe more — and wheat and corn fields stretched to the edge of the horizon. But, she sure wouldn't mind living in a town with the same wholesome atmosphere. A neighborhood where community meant more than which gang you belonged to. A place where kids could hang out on a street corner without fear of being caught in the crossfire of a drug deal gone bad. Her neck craned as she glanced up at the towering buildings where inhabitants lived and worked like lab rats in some grand social experiment. She craved an environment with mountains and trees or maybe an endless stretch of empty beach and rolling waves. The finest Mother Nature had to offer.

And she wanted a dog. A big, sloppy mutt to give her unconditional love in exchange for food and long walks. Not one of those purebred, over-groomed excuses for canines paraded at the end of a leash through Central Park for the world to admire. She wanted a common, everyday sort of dog. Normal. Was that too much to ask?

Ainslee pushed auburn hair, limp with the dank humidity of a June day, off her forehead as she finally cleared the worst of the city congestion and headed west toward ... wherever. She'd taught her last class, filled out a forwarding order at the post office to send any future mail to her parents' dairy farm as a temporary solution to her homelessness and sold off all her belongings that didn't fit in the back of the SUV. A clean break with the past. She'd give herself some much needed downtime before making any rash decisions about the future, even if it meant she wouldn't have a new teaching position in the fall.

A blue sign promising a rest area in two miles loomed before her. Maybe drinking that oversized bottle of water hadn't been the smartest move before beginning a long road trip. Then again, it wasn't like she was on a tight schedule. She took the exit a couple of minutes later and parked in the shade of a scraggly dogwood tree. After a quick trip to the restroom, she grabbed the road atlas off the passenger seat along with a stack of mail she'd collected that morning and took her load to a nearby picnic table.

Heat radiated from the pavement, nearly melting her sandals. Little black birds pecking at some spilled corn chips scattered when she sat on the hot bench. She opened the atlas and stared at the different colored states spread across the page. When her cell chirped, she pulled it from her purse to glance at the display then smiled before pushing the connect button.

"Hey, Devin, how's life?"

"Could be worse." Her best friend responded in a sunny tone. "Of course it could be better, too. The congressman is keeping me hopping."

"I bet. I can't believe Walton Hinsdale is running for president."

"Me, either. Work's been crazy with all the campaigning." A sigh gusted through the phone. "I don't want to think about it right now. What're you up to? School's out for the summer, isn't it?"

Ainslee leaned on one elbow and smiled as a golden retriever galloped toward a grassy area, dragging a young boy at the end of the leash. "Yep, I left New York this morning. Right now I'm sitting at a rest area, trying to decide which way to head."

"Wow, you really did it? You quit your job?"

"I certainly did. My only goal for the summer is to see some of the historic spots I tried so hard to teach about to my students. Those delinquents didn't give a rat's ass where their ancestors came from or what they'd accomplished to give their descendants a better life."

"Of course they didn't. They're teenagers. Do you have something new lined up for the fall?"

She winced. "No."

"What?" Her old friend's voice rose in a squeak. "Ainslee the Organized doesn't have a plan of action?"

She frowned. "I'm tired of always being responsible. I need a break from my straight and narrow life, at least for a few weeks. I want to go a little wild for a change. If worse comes to worst and I can't get a teaching position in September, I can always wait tables to survive."

"You'd do that?"

"Maybe." She closed her eyes and pressed fingers to her temples. "I've kind of had it with — everything. You know what I'd like?"

"What?" Devin's tone was soft. Sympathetic.

"I'd like to have someone to lean on. Someone to help share the load. You know how it is in the city, constantly surrounded by people, but no one really cares."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Wilde One by Jannine Gallant. Copyright © 2016 Jannine Gallant. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Wilde One 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good story, action and romance.
BooksAndSpoons More than 1 year ago
What a fun adventure filled story this was! I enjoyed it immensely and the twists in the plot with the scavenger hunt made it rather addictive. If you love the tv series Amazing Race, this is a romance novel for you. The set up is intriguing, and the glee I had when I figured out the clues before the characters, I didn't know it possible to be in a competition with the characters, but I was right there, going 'duh' when I got it before them, and grinning when I completely missed it... Ainslee and Griff are both charming, the banter between them made me smile, and the chemistry they had was amazing. They were truly a team and begun fast friends until they were more. I liked the tempo of the development of the relationship. Even though it was intense and everything was happening fast, they still didn't rush into it but got to know each other first. Not only was the competition bring up the tension, the mysterious attacks towards them, that got increasingly bolder, brought danger and threat into the picture as well. But despite the menace and competition, even the drama and trouble, the story had an ever delightful, joyful, even hopeful tone to it. I scenery the author painted with her words to the tale was breathtaking, the romance filled with passion and tenderness, and as the miles left behind increased, the feelings got deeper, the venture more dangerous, and the tension higher. Truly a lively, entertaining tale, filled with adventure, endeavor, and aspiration ~ Four Spoons with a teaspoon on the side
Pure_Jonel More than 1 year ago
What a tale! Gallant weaves adventure with history and some danger to create a fast paced novel that really makes you think. the manner in which the budding romance between the characters is heightened by the life altering adventure that they find themselves on was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed the vivid way that she brings the entire world to life in such a big way. I experienced the story alongside the characters and had a blast doing so. The characters that Gallant has created were the perfect match for both one another and the adventure that they find themselves racing towards. Griff's personality had me hooked from the get-go. The way that he and Ainslee come together was a blast. The many different secondary characters not only rounded out the story nicely, they also gave me sneak peeks into what makes the main characters tick. As a whole, this was a thought provoking and intensely enjoyable novel. It was the perfect start to the series and a fantastic introduction into Gallant's writing. Please note that I received a complimentary copy of this work in exchange for an honest review.
Linda__ More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Fast paced romantic suspense done well. Griff and Ainslee, along with three others, each receive a strange letter from a dead man inviting them to participate in a scavenger hunt. The reward is unknown, but each of them is intrigued. After quitting her NYC teaching job, Ainslee is headed out of the city, but without a clear destination. Griff is recently back on land after completing a salvage project - he literally makes a living searching for lost treasure. After they each receive the strange letter, they meet each other and quickly realize they're on the same quest. What follows is an engaging novel that kept me turning pages as quickly as possible. While the premise of a scavenger hunt isn't a new one, the author makes it feel fresh and with many twits and turns. Fans of the genre will love this book. I have added the author to my must read authors' list.
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
What fun! A treasure hunt with riddles, competition, travel, a bit of history and education, intrigue, suspense…and of course…love…what more could I ask for? Griff Wilde is an underwater treasure hunter so when he receives a letter that gives him something interesting to do while on hiatus from his job he snatches it up and heads off to win big. Early on he runs into Ainslee Fontaine and they quickly agree to work together during the search for Nazi treasure. Ainslee has just resigned from her job teaching in New York and is rather burned out so when she receives her letter about the contest she is ready for an adventure. They hit it off immediately, have great rapport, enjoy the same things, are strong individuals with goals in mind and thoroughly enjoy being together while they decipher the riddles and retrieve clues and spend time traveling together. On this hunt there are three other competitors all hoping to find whatever loot has been buried. The race is on and for some reason the story reminded me of the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World but I am not sure why since it has been so long since I have seen the movie. Anyway, on the convoluted trail to the treasure Griff and Ainslee spend time camping, visiting historical sites, having fun, sharing, meeting one another’s families and steaming up the tent. They have their ups and downs, are threatened and eventually have to break up and move on with their lives alone or find a way to be together. This was a delight to read. I loved the dialogue and rapport between Griff and Ainslee. Their families were treasures and explained how both ended up so sane and wonderful. I enjoyed the trip with them from beginning to end and wish them both much happiness in the future. I guess they became real to me and that is a wonderful thing. I also am eager to see what will happen in book two of this series! AND there were a few characters that showed up that would make great subjects for books that might not fit into this series. Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the copy of this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great story