by Becca Taylor w/a RR Taylor (@RRTwriting)
Editor: Holly Ingraham (@holly_ingraham)
Adult Romantic Suspense
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P.I. Jake Hardington needs a ride and, oh yeah, don’t forget the bolt cutters. This is usually how his “favors” for the Reno PD turn out, but in the past the cavalry didn’t look so damn good in a suit. When his favor becomes a police matter, Jake's connections keep him on the case, and under his broody hero's watchful eye.
Detective Larkin Hardroe blames karma and bad decisions after the naked man he rescues becomes his new temporary partner. He works hard to keep Jake at arm’s length, but Jake isn’t buying the act. Letting Jake in could risk his life, but keeping him out could cost Larkin his job, the only thing he has left. Either option hazards their reluctant friendship and any chance they have at something more.
The case gets personal for Jake when they find the body of his confidential informant in a steamer trunk and they dive into an unorthodox investigation, starting on the streets where Jake grew up. He drags Larkin in his wake, his risky tactics yielding results, all the while poking and prodding Larkin into trusting him. They need to solve the case before more people die. Or Jake gets Larkin shot. Or Larkin shoots Jake.
HARDWIRED: A HARDINGTON AND HARDROE MYSTERY, is an adult M/M romantic suspense in the vein of the CUT AND RUN series by Abigail Roux with the flavor of PSYCH (fake psychic abilities not included). Complete at 99,000 words. This enemy-to-lovers, slow burn series follows two dynamic characters with a boatload of baggage as they banter, shoot and sneak their way through crime bosses, serial killers, dirty cops and the mob with the hope of finding some hard-won love.
HARDWIRED was a 2020 RevPit winner, the 2019 Sexy Scribbles RWA grand winner, a Maggie winner, and has finalled in twelve other contests, including the Daphne. It is my first novel. I’m a member of the Northern Colorado Writers. When not reading and writing I enjoy camping, Dungeons and Dragons, and craft beer.
Thank you for your consideration.
Becca Taylor Writing as RR Taylor
First Five Pages
A small rectangle light flared in the semidarkness. Fucking-finally. It was ringing. It was goddamned ringing! Oh, Siri, you sexy bitch.
And ringing… Siri better have called Zee. If she’d called Zeke, Brie or any other random residual booty call number he’d forgotten to delete, he’d have to revoke his endorsement.
“C’mon, c’mon.” Jake sucked in a breath. He wasn’t panicking. Just…chilly. Everything was fine. All part of the plan.
The light dimmed and a beep interrupted the ringing, he surged forward—and jerked to a halt, fingers twitching to reach. Relax. It takes forever to freeze to death.
“Siri,” he warned, “don’t you die on me.” Jake held his breath until the phone spit out another jarring ring. A soft scratching noise rattled through the empty darkness. Rats? Please not rats. He couldn’t turn far enough to check. “Pick. Up. Zee.” The phone beeped again, echoing around him. “Dammit woman, this is no time to send me to voicemail!”
“Seems like the perfect time.” The voice resonated weirdly, tinged with electronic buzz from the speaker.
“You called me, remember?”
“Zee, I need you to come get me.”
“What? ” She sounded like Thumbelina. At the bottom of a barrel.
“Come get me.” He tried again, louder, the words bouncing back to him.
“Can’t. I’m at a crime scene.” Her tiny voice went monotone, not distracted, more focused in two directions.
“Send one of the guys.”
“We’re all at the crime scene. Kind of a bad one.”
Shit. “Daisy.” He never called her Daisy.
“Where are you?” She was dialed-in now.
“Old Sparks Warehouse district. Building nine.”
“Are you hurt? In danger?” Clinical. Assessing.
Fair questions, but a bit of concern wouldn’t have been amiss. Just because he could talk didn’t mean things weren’t dire. Not that they were exactly dire. But they could be. There could be rats. “No, no, I’m okay. But it’s kinda urgent.”
“I’ll send someone.”
“You owe me.”
Owe her? This was her goddamn favor. She pulled the friend card way more often than he did… ‘Course, he usually needed bigger favors. But this completely didn’t count. Sirens and voices overwhelmed the call in a Doppler effect as she pulled the phone away. “Wait!”
“Have them bring bolt cutters.”
Her delicate snort preceded the call dropping off. She never said goodbye, like a normal person. His phone gave a little half-beep and left him in darkness.
It’d be twenty minutes. An hour tops. “Yup… And now my nose itches.”
Larkin stopped the car south of the tracks, next to a row of buildings. White sunlight filtered through the cloud cover, washing color into overexposed grayscale like a post-apocalyptic movie set. Though red was still disturbingly vivid, powering through the dulling effect of the overcast day. Made sense with the place’s murder-shack vibe. Gotta be able to see the blood.
The buildings were numbered 1-13 in rough-brushed crimson. The few windows were blackened with dirt where they weren’t broken, the walls perforated with rust and the edges of the sheet-metal doors torn into red-tipped curls. God, were his shots up to date?
Number eight’s roof was partially collapsed, the shadowy rafter teeming with beady-eyed little pigeons. Larkin grimaced. Sky rats. He checked the dash-mounted GPS again. Yeah, not at all a weird place to be picking up a friend of Lieutenant Daniels.
He sighed and ran a hand through his hair, mussing the longish dark strands that were supposed to be slicked back for work. He straightened his suit vest, swept his jacket behind the Glock 17 on his hip and grabbed the bolt cutters from the front seat.
He had to pull his knee back to get it out the door. The Ford Focus wasn’t built for a guy with his frame. Six-two and muscled, he had the seat all the way back, but it didn’t make the door bigger, or the seat wider, and he was developing a bruise on his right knee from hitting it on the steering wheel every time he got out of the car. In theory, the department was finding him a new ride, but until they seized something appropriate, he was S.O.L.
Building nine was as dilapidated as the others, but the new padlock and chain shone like a beacon. He walked a circuit, scoping out eight and ten as well. The only doors were the big barn-style ones on the front, and the windows were all too high and tetanus-inducing to try. Larkin bit his lip. This wasn’t even his jurisdiction, but Lieutenant Daniels had put the bolt cutters in his hands herself.
He rolled his shoulders, examining the heavy chain. The cutters were on the small side, but with a grunt, he severed a link. The ends of the chain clanged against the siding. Larkin winced, listening for voices or the crunch of gravel over the scratching and cooing filling the air. After a moment, he let out a breath. Ain’t nobody here but us pigeons. He pulled the chain from the door handles, trying to muffle the clinking. The whole thing set him on edge.
The lieutenant had called him over about an hour after they’d reached the crime scene. He had thought, hoped, she was finally going to give him a chance to prove himself. He’d been in Reno a month and a half and he was still getting the simple cases, collecting witness statements and running for coffee like some rookie. But standing there over four shooting victims, she handed him a pair of bolt cutters and a hastily scrawled address and told him to go pick up a friend of hers.
Peachy. He paused, gripping the handle. This had better not be some sort of initiation. They were cops, they had to know he carried a gun…right? Larkin tucked the bolt cutters through his belt. It was awkward, but he drew his Glock and slid the door open a crack, staying behind it as he peered in. The place was a tactical nightmare. Crates stacked ceiling-high formed a maze through the middle of the building. Furniture and other unidentifiable lumps covered by dusty tarps choked the free spaces, while tires lined the walls in tall towers.
And that was just what the tiny shaft of sunlight creeping through the door revealed.
Larkin stepped in and scanned the shadows. Nothing moved. He tried the lights. No power. He pulled a flashlight from his breast-pocket and rested his gun arm on his wrist, moving to the largest pathway. It’d be impossible to clear a place this big by himself. The crate tunnel loomed around him, funneling him to the center of the building. Forty-feet in, his circle of light slid up a solid steel door embedded in a sheet-metal dividing wall. Larkin leaned in and wiped the grime from the door’s little square window—“Damnit.”—with the sleeve of his nicest suit.
Chain-link fencing ringed a storage room, cutting it off from the back-half of the building. Streaky light from the filthy windows failed to penetrate the deep shadows; his flashlight played over empty space and a big metal table bolted to the floor. A faint noise came from the left.
Someone was whistling “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain.”
He tried the handle. Locked.
Perfect. Normally he’d mule kick it, but no way was he putting his back to the room without backup. Larkin kicked from the hip, pain spiking up his shin into his knee. Twice more and the doorjamb weakened. He gritted his teeth and shouldered it—the resulting crunch was mostly the wood frame. He cleared to the right, then stepped around the door.
He’d known he would have to pay his dues, do the grunt work, prove himself. He’d even expected a bit of hazing, maybe some cold shoulders, or ready fists if they’d heard about his time in New York, but he hadn’t expected this. It was one of those moments that made you look back on your life and wonder at what point you’d screwed up so royally that you deserved this. Except he didn’t have to wonder. Captain Trake had given him three options to save his career and—he guessed—his life. He’d picked Reno, NV.
“Hey, you must be the new guy.”
Larkin was pointing his gun at a tall, naked guy, handcuffed to the fence. He blinked and lowered his weapon. “What the fuck,” he sighed.
“Jake Hardington.” Like it was an explanation.