Hard Target (Book 1 in the All or Nothing Series) Excerpt

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Lost and Found

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          Riley had known Parker wouldn’t let something silly like an updated password deter her from getting into the club. Her dogged determinedness was one of the things he secretly liked about her. He did, however, feel bad for Mr. Gold Chains. The guy looked like he might wet his pants when she mentioned the gun. Strangely enough, Riley was almost disappointed they’d arrived at the secret entrance because they were having quite the conversation. As usual, she was wound tight and uppity and obviously thought he was celebrity vermin.

          But it had unnerved him a little how easily she’d pegged it when she said he’d had no intentions on staying with the Tomcats long. Although Seth and the team’s turnaround had him pondering his options these days. Winning the Super Bowl would put him in demand, but he’d really just gotten started in Texas. Sure, it wasn’t his home state, but the people were friendly and it got just as much warm weather.

          Once they’d reached the top step, he knew immediately where he was in the club. To the left would be the bathrooms, and the right led back to the main dance room. So he went right in search of Irv, the owner, and prayed someone had found his wallet. There was an older DJ spinning records, not the guy who’d been there the previous night. He was playing an old hip hop song from yesteryear. The club looked stark in the daylight. There was more desperation than titillation as the dancers gyrated unenthusiastically on the stage. Parker was right. The men sitting there while they munched on hot wings did have a creepy air about them. To make matters worse, his stomach growled, reminding him that he hadn’t eaten anything yet.

          Parker looked around the room. “How does your hangout look without the beer goggles? Doesn’t look quite as sexy in the daytime, does it?”

          “OK. So it takes on a different tone during the day.”

          Parker listened to the music and perked up. “I’m pretty sure the song that’s playing was out in the nineties. This must be their Throwback-themed day.”

          It was pretty old, but he recognized the singer’s voice. “So what? It still has a good beat.”

          “Sure. That’s why the chick on the pole looks like she’d rather be knitting.”

          “You kids today don’t know squat,” Irv said as he approached. “This song was a club favorite back in the day. It was an intoxicating blend of provocative rap lyrics and a seductive rhythm. It really got the girls moving.”

          Parker raised an eyebrow. “The girls who danced to this song must be grandmothers by now.”

          “Irv,” Riley interrupted. “It’s good to see you.”

          “Riley.” Irv gave him a sly grin. “You and the boys were pretty wild last night. I love it when you come in almost as much as I love it when you win a game. You’re very good for business.”

           “How so?”

           “When the word spread that the star quarterback of the Tomcats is a regular here, boom, my business skyrocketed.”

          “I had no idea.” Riley swallowed the huge lump in his throat.

          Parker looked smug. “Sounds about right. You are a trend setter after all.”

          “Irv, I’m glad business is good, but I have a problem. I lost my wallet here last night. Did anyone turn it in?”

          “Sure did. Fantasia found it in one of the seat cushions. She came in early just in case you returned for it. She wanted to give it to you personally.”

           He let out a huge sigh of relief. He remembered Fantasia. She was the blonde who kept saying she did house calls. “Irv, you don’t know how happy I am to hear that.”

          “Have a seat. She’s around here some where. She’s protecting it like it’s the Hope Diamond or something.” Irv went off to get her.

          “Your bacon is saved,” Parker said as she scanned the room.

          “You don’t know the half of it.”

          “Hey, sexy!” A blonde woman jumped into his arms.

          “Fantasia?” She sure did look different.

          “Oh.” She giggled. “I know I look different when I’m not dancing.”

           “Yeah,” Parker murmured. “You look like a school girl.”

          Riley’s eyes widened. “You are legal, right?”

          “Of course, silly. Irv has a strict policy about those things.” She handed him the wallet.

          “If nothing else, Irv seems to be a really classy guy,” Parker replied but was looking at the bar.

          “I know right? I’m really lucky to have him as a boss,” Fantasia squealed. “I knew you’d be back for it. No one else touched it when I found it. Everything is still intact. I made Irv put it in his secret wall safe.”

          “Thanks, I appreciate you taking the time.” Riley looked her over again. What a difference the night and some strobe lights made. “Is your name really Fantasia?”

          “No, it’s Sheila.” She grinned. “I’m just doing this while—”

           “Working her way through college,” Parker finished for her.

          “Nobody likes a smarty-pants.” Riley grumbled.

          “Sexy, why don’t you take a seat in,” Parker looked past him, “in the VIP room and have a drink with Fantasia. I’m sure you have some kind of reward for her.”

          “What?” He gave her a quizzical look. What was going on with her? She seemed distracted.

          “Trust me.” Parker winked.


           “I’m not really dressed for it, but I could give you a dance on the house?”

          “That won’t be necessary, but we can have a drink. A Shirley Temple for me. I’m still getting over last night’s fun.”

          Fantasia waved over a waitress and gave her their orders, then took his hand and led him to the VIP room. He turned to see what Parker was up to, but she was gone. Riley took a seat and leafed through his wallet and saw that his credit cards and the thousand bucks he’d had were still there, but no luck with the key card to his building. He hadn’t spent any money on women last night, but he did have a hefty tab for the drinks. The bubbly college student was going on about how she thought it was kismet that she’d found the wallet when the waitress came back with their drinks. The waitress wanted to stay, but Fantasia shooed her out of the room.

          “Now that we’re all alone.” Fantasia starting undoing the buttons on her blouse.

          “Sheila.” He shook his head. “I mean Fantasia. It’s really not necessary. I do want to pay you a finder’s fee for protecting my wallet. You saved me from the nightmare of getting new credit cards and fraud alerts.” He took the thousand out of his wallet and handed it to her.

           Her eyes widened. “I’d have to work three days for this much money.”

          “Take a break. Maybe use the time to explore other career options.” He smiled. He didn’t know if one less dancer on the stage tonight would be good for Irv’s business, but it would relieve whatever was gnawing at his conscience.

           “You are so kind and loving. I can’t believe you don’t have a girlfriend.”

          “I’m not really, and that’s exactly why I don’t have one.” Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a guy entering the VIP room. He knew from his visits that it wasn’t allowed without someone to escort you in there and the guy seemed to be lurking. He had his hand in his pocket like he was holding something.

           Riley stood and made Fantasia get behind him. “This is a private party, man. What are you doing in here?”

          Before the guy could answer, there was a distinctive click. It was the sound of a gun being cocked.

          “Answer the man.” Parker came into the room with the weapon aimed at the party crasher.


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Riley and Parker’s love story begins!   I hope you enjoyed the pre-edited excerpt!  Revised tentative release date December 30th!

In case you missed it!

Riley & Parker’s Playlist

Riley’s Character Profile

Parker’s Character Profile

 Happy Reading,


Banner photo credit: © Can Stock Photo / prometeus / mimageprotography

Copyright © 2016 Rhonda Laurel.  All Rights Reserved.


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