Walker Graham has his life just the way he wants it, except for the woman he loves at his side. She’s keeping things strictly physical, but he knows with a little patience and persistence she’ll come around. He has time.
Until his past and her present collide…
When Grace Monroe is hired to investigate the murder of an Alabama crime boss the last thing she expects to find is Walker at the top of her suspect list. Quitting the case isn’t an option.
He’s under her skin…
As Grace tries to unravel the mystery, the threat against her grows and she sets a deadly game in motion. 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?
WARNING: Saving Grace was previously published as a 38,000 word novella under another pen name. It has been rewritten and expanded to 42,000 words. It contains violence, explicit language, and graphic sex. For mature readers only.
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. I 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. He’s scrawled 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 hurts.
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 and 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.