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Goading the Enforcer

By:Charlie Richards

Goading the Enforcer
Charlie Richards

       Wolves of Stone Ridge: Book Six



Chapter One


Jared stared up at his childhood home. Ten years was a long time to stay   away, even though he knew it was for the best. He didn't want his life   as an assassin to touch his parents or sisters. But when his mother  had  told him his older sister was getting married, he'd had no choice  but to  make the trip to Colin City. Jared took a deep breath and  climbed out  of his rented Porsche, prepared to put on the façade of his  life.

He hadn't even reached the porch when the door swung open and Patricia stepped out and rested her hands on her hips.

"You are so giving me a ride in that!" Grinning up at his sister, he drawled, "Oh, yeah? Who says?"

He was ready when she screeched and launched off the porch and into his   arms. He swung her around in the air, laughing the whole time. She   pecked his cheek before pulling back and grinning. "Welcome back to   Colin City. Hasn't changed much, has it?"

"Nope, it sure hasn't," he replied, setting her back on her feet. "Where   are Mom and Dad?" he asked, his gaze straying to the empty doorway.

Patricia immediately sobered, making alarm bells go off in Jared's head.   His sister rarely did serious, which meant this was big. "Mr. Giovanni   was killed. They thought you were coming into town tomorrow, so  they're  at the viewing."

He frowned. "What happened?" he asked as he headed back to his car to   grab his bag, already thinking of what dark shirt he had to go with the   black jeans he wore. He was glad he hadn't checked into his hotel yet   and still had his clothes with him.

She grimaced. "It's kind of weird, really. The story is he was out   jogging and got hit by a car. Hit and run. The police haven't arrested   anyone though."

"Well, if it was a hit and run, then they wouldn't know who it was,"   Jared pointed out, dropping his bag on the dining room table and pulling   out a black sweater. He whipped the light blue button-down shirt he   wore over his head and quickly replaced it. Catching Patricia's   expression, he lifted a brow. "What?"

"Why are you changing?" she asked.

"I knew Mr. Giovanni growing up. I'm going to pay my respects," he   replied. He picked his keys back up and eyed his sister. "Where is it   at?"

Letting out a sigh, she said, "Give me a sec and I'll come, too."

Five minutes later Jared was back in his car, driving toward Colin City   Memorial. Patricia turned to look at him. "I only saw him a few times   growing up. Why did you spend so much time with him?"

"He taught advanced computer courses when I was in high school. He's the   one who helped me get ahead and win that technology scholarship." He   grimaced, knowing the man wouldn't approve of what he'd ended up doing   with his skills, but he could still pay his respects to the deceased. "I   kept in touch with him for a number of years."

"That was him, huh?"

Nodding, he fell silent, thinking how his life had changed after he'd   gone to college. During his second year, he'd saved a woman's life,   taking the life of her attacker in the process. In his panic over what   he'd done and afraid of getting charged, he'd hid the body and made it   look like the man had run away instead. That had been the first of many   deaths to dirty his hands, but the money was good and he really didn't   mind the work as an assassin. He didn't know what that said about him,   but there it was.

He pushed those thoughts away. He was on vacation. It was a mandatory vacation, but a vacation nonetheless.

They arrived at the memorial center and headed into the building,   quickly locating the viewing. Jared stood in line, listening to those   around him tell stories of the man. When he reached the side of the   grieving sister, he offered his condolences.

"How did you know my brother?"

Jared reached out and took one of her hands in both of his, offering   comfort. "He was my teacher in high school," he explained. "He tutored   me and helped me get a scholarship. The world has lost a truly great   man."

"Aye," the man standing next to her replied when it became apparent the   woman was too choked up to answer. "Kyle was a great man. He'll be   missed."

Releasing her hand, Jared turned to study the speaker. A large,   shaven-scalped African American with dark brown eyes returned his gaze   and Jared had the distinct impression he was being measured. He nodded,   forcing himself to move aside. Then he stepped up to the casket.

Jared's eyes narrowed. He was familiar with killing blows and the marks   they left on a body. Mr. Giovanni's death was not the result of a hit   and run. Although mostly hidden by the suit jacket and tie, Jared still   saw the thin discolored line around Kyle's neck, which told him a   completely different story. Someone had garroted the man.                       
       
           



       

"What the hell?" he muttered, forcing his body to get moving again. He   regarded the crowd, wondering if anyone else had noticed the   discrepancy. As he strolled toward the bar, his gaze locked onto a pair   of ice blue eyes that stared right back at him.

Sucking in a surprised breath, he raised one brow and lifted his chin   toward the bar. He didn't have long to wait until the huge blond   appeared next to him. "Tanis," the other man growled.

"Grady." Jared grinned for a second before schooling his features into a   more appropriate expression for attending a viewing while he  remembered  the mission where he'd met the detective. He'd ended up sick  as a dog  in the middle of a foreign country, which allowed some  insurgents to  capture him. If it hadn't been for the man next to him,  he would have  been killed. He spotted his sister headed toward him,  leading his  parents and turned to the man who'd rocked his world by  shape-shifting  into a tiger. "Better call me Jared here," he murmured  quietly. "And hit  and run my ass."

He spotted the flicker of amusement in Grady's eyes before the shifter could hide it. "Jared then and you're right."

Patricia draped a wrist through Jared's arm and smiled coyly up at the   big detective. "Hello, Detective Stryker. My brother's not in trouble, I   hope."

Jared wanted to roll his eyes, but resisted the urge. First, this was in   no way the place to flirt. Second, the man didn't look like he played   for the other team, but Jared knew Grady was gay. His sister was  barking  up the wrong tree.

Grady gave a respectful nod. "Of course not, Miss Templeton." Before he   could say more a slightly heavy man with steel gray hair pulled into a   queue that ran down his back stopped beside Grady and wrapped a   proprietary arm around his waist. Grady smiled fondly at the man and the   gray-eyed stranger's face made something click in Jared's memory.

Two months ago, he'd done research for Grady on a Doctor Gordon Digby, a   psychiatrist. He'd sent his tiger friend most of the information he'd   located, but kept a few details to himself. Like a recent picture he'd   located as well as a few details of the man's-shifter's-likes and   dislikes. He hadn't thought it pertinent at the time. Now he knew he'd   been mistaken.

He ignored his sister's surprised gasp and stuck out a hand. "I'm Jared   Templeton. You must be Doctor Gordon Digby. I've heard so much about   you. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."

Gordon's brows shot up and he glanced at Grady before taking Jared's   hand. "Nice to meet you, Jared. I'm afraid I can't say the same."

Grinning, he shrugged. "Can't say I'm too surprised. Not much to say about me really."

Grady snorted, quickly covering it with a cough.

"I'm in town for my sister's wedding. I hope we can catch up," he said   to the detective, letting his hazel eyes meet Grady's for a second,   requesting information and offering aid at the same time.

For a second, he didn't think the big man would take him up on his   offer, but then Grady wrapped an arm around Gordon's shoulders and   grinned. "Sounds like a plan. We're playing poker tomorrow night at my   buddy's place. I'll text you the address if you're available."

Jared smirked. "You're texting now? Well, how about that?"

"Yup. I'm moving up in the world," Grady teased goodnaturedly.

"Will miracles never cease," he quipped back, remembering how he'd had   to bust Grady's balls, figuratively of course, to get the man's promise   that if he ever needed anything he'd call. The tiger hated technology.   After chuckling over Gordon's snort, Jared grinned and said, "Yeah. I   came in early to make sure I had extra time. You have my number." He   winked at Gordon and added, "I'll bring the Hefeweisen."

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