Book 1 in the Old Town Country Romance series
Series and Book # in Series: Old Town Country Romance series Book One
Stand Alone if part of a series? Series but can stand alone
FOUR WILDE BROTHERS...ONE WILDE COUNTRY BAND
WILDE RIDERS is the first novel in a spicy new contemporary romance series about four sexy brothers, their small-town bar and their local country band. WILDE RIDERS can be read as a STAND ALONE NOVEL or as part of the SERIES.
Cooper Wilde spent his entire adolescence counting the days until he could escape rural northwest New Jersey. Now at 26, he can't believe he's coming back. But his late father's bar, Haymakers, is in financial trouble and his older brother, Jake, has asked for Cooper's help.
Riley Smith, 25, is fresh out of her Ivy League MBA program and wants to make an impression on her employer, H & C Bank. Her first solo assignment is a fraud investigation on a business loan they made to Haymakers.
Even though Old Town is less than 90 minutes from New York City, Riley feels like she's stepped into another world in this remote, one-bar town. Riley can't wait to do her business and get back to the city as quickly as her sports car will take her...until she meets Cooper Wilde. He's not like the other guys in this rural town and Riley feels inexplicably attracted to him.
If you like your trucks loud, your beer cold and your men hot...you'll love WILDE RIDERS.
The wind kicks up as I round the corner and enter the town square. Old Town came by its name honestly. The town never seems to change. The main street looks the same as it did when I was a kid, and probably not much different than when my parents were young, or even their parents. A few of the stores and restaurants have changed hands over the years but for the most part, the town looks like it’s been frozen in time.
Why does it always seem so much windier in Old Town than anywhere else in New Jersey? It even feels windier here than lower Manhattan, which is a feat. The way the wind often howls around the financial district, you’d think it was haunted.
I can’t believe I’m back in Old Town. When I got a job on Wall Street, I swore I’d never come back. The last time I set foot in Old Town was about six months ago, for my father’s funeral. Six months before that, it was for my mother’s.
I told my brother, Jake, I’d only stay for two weeks tops. That’s every bit of vacation time I’ve earned to date. Then I’m going to back to Manhattan and back to my life in the city. The last thing I want is to be a hick from the sticks again. I’ve worked too hard to rid myself of that stigma. I’m never going to be that guy again.
I’m an Ivy League graduate. I work on Wall Street. I have an apartment in lower Manhattan. I drive a BMW 6-Series convertible. And I’m well on my way to making my first million before I turn thirty, which is four years from now.
I’m not a country kid anymore.
And no matter what my brothers say, there’s no way in hell I’m ever going to be a Wilde Rider again. When I left home, I packed up my guitar and sealed away any musical aspirations I may have had right along with it. Being in a small town country band is fun when you’re a teenager but it doesn’t pay the bills and it certainly doesn’t pay for a Manhattan lifestyle.
Not unless you’re really good, and really lucky…and the Wilde Riders were neither.
I park my convertible on the street outside of Haymakers. It’s only eleven. The bar doesn’t open until noon. The only vehicle in the bar’s dirt lot is my brother Jake’s old Dodge Ram Pick Up. He’s been driving the thing since I left for college. I bet the vehicle has well over a hundred thousand miles on it. The way it looks, like it’s on its last legs, you’d think it had double that amount.
Even though it’s late August, there’s a bit of a chill in the air. The wind feels wet, like it’s going to rain. I put the top up on my convertible just in case. It’s the first car I’ve ever owned that wasn’t a junker and I’m proud as hell of it.
My stomach tightens as I approach the front door of the bar. The last time I was here was the night after we laid my father to rest. His final wish was for all the regulars to have a drink on the house in his honor. I made a promise to myself that was the last time I was ever going to set foot in the place.
Yet here I am getting ready to walk back inside again. I made it clear to Jake that coming here to help him doesn’t mean I’m walking back into my old life. That’s a life that I’ve worked desperately to leave behind. But when Jake phoned, he sounded scared, which isn’t like him at all. He’s Mr. Carefree. Troubles slide off his back like syrup glides off pancakes.
I’m here because Jake asked for my help. He said he might lose the bar, everything our dad ever worked for, if I didn’t give him a hand.
Being the oldest, Jake followed in our dad’s footsteps. He was the gregarious one of the Wilde boys, so it only made sense that he’d take over and run the town’s one and only bar. Jake has always been Mr. Personality. He’s great with people. But from the little he told me on the phone, he’s apparently not as great with money.
That’s where I come in. I guess having a degree in finance from Columbia and a job on Wall Street means that I’m like emergency services in a financial shit storm. I just hope it’s not too late to fix whatever mess Jake has found himself in.
I inhale and let out a deep breath before I push open the large wooden doors.
The first thing I see when I enter the bar are pink cowboy boots. They’re apparently attached to a female who is also wearing extremely tight black jeans. The rest of her body is hidden under a table. It looks like she’s trying to retrieve something.
I clear my throat so she realizes she’s not alone.
I hear a loud thump, followed by, “Oh, shit!”
As she extricates herself from below the table, the young woman rubs the side of her head.
It takes me a moment to realize that it’s Harley Davis. She looks a lot different than the little blond girl she was when I left home.
She stops dead in her tracks when she realizes it’s me. She gulps. “Coop?”
Harley has definitely grown up. She’s still thin but she’s not a tomboy anymore. She has curves in all the right places and full rack, which I’m having trouble keeping my eyes off of.
“What are you doing here?” she asks, her blue eyes are filled with concern. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” I lie. “What are you doing here?”
She laughs. “I work here now. Jake gave me a job.”
“Aren’t you still in high school?”
She rolls her eyes at me. “I graduated two years ago.”
How is it possible that little Harley Davis, the girl who has had a self-proclaimed crush on me since she was twelve, is now an adult?
“Cooper,” I hear my brother call from the other end of the bar.
As I head over to him, I take a good look at the place. Some things are exactly the same as when dad ran the place. The old wooden bar that my dad liked to brag he built with his father hasn’t changed. And neither have the matching wooden bar stools. Even some of the liquor bottles behind the bar are dusty and don’t look like they’ve been touched in years.
There are also brand new tables and chairs scattered throughout the place. And what looks like a semi-professional stage has been installed for whatever band decides to play on Friday and Saturday nights. Back in the days when I played with my brothers in the Wilde Riders we’d just move a few tables out of the way to set up our gear. This new performance area looks expensive.
I put a hand out for Jake to shake but he pulls me in for a hug instead. I’ve seen my oldest brother twice in the last year—at our parents’ funerals. He refuses to set foot in the city and I refused to come back to Old Town, so it’s been kind of a stale mate.
Jake is two years older than me but he still looks like my younger brother. Maybe it’s his boyish round face or the glint of mischief he always seems to have in his eyes. Or it could just be because he’s always been such an easy-going and carefree guy that the stress of life hasn’t managed to age him yet.
Today Jake looks a lot less carefree than I’ve ever seen him. He’s got a few deep creases in his forehead that I’ve never noticed before.
“Thanks for coming,” Jake says. “I know how you feel about being here.”
I don’t think he has any idea how I feel about being here. He’s never left rural New Jersey—he’s never lived anywhere but Old Town.
“So, what’s up?” I ask. I’m not much for small talk. I’d rather get down to business.
He eyes Harley and then says quietly, “I think we should talk in my office.”
I nod and we head toward the back of the place, near the kitchen area, into what used to be a storage closet. Jake has set up a small desk with a computer, monitor and printer. That’s about all that will fit in the cramped space. Jake sits on the edge of the desk and motions for me to take the chair.
“I’d rather stand. It was a long drive out here.”
Jake runs his fingers through his thick brown hair. It’s shaggy and looks like it hasn’t been trimmed in a while. “I really messed things up,” he says.
Jake has never had a problem speaking his mind. Sometimes he may be a bit too blunt.
“Can you be a little more specific?”
He bites the inside of his cheek. It was a bad habit he had as a kid. Mom hated it and would tell him to quit doing it whenever she caught him. I thought he’d gotten over it years ago.
“You know Mom always kept the books for Haymakers. I didn’t know how much Dad depended on her until she died. He had no idea how to handle any of the accounting for the business. I guess Mom tried to teach him about accounts payable and receivable and all that stuff but it just didn’t sink in. Plus, I think he was kind of in denial that she was actually dying. Anyway, things started to fall apart but he was too proud to ask for help. I inherited a mess that I’ve made even worse because I don’t know what I’m doing either.”
I take in a deep breath. My mom died almost a year ago and my dad died six months ago. If the finances have been deteriorating for a year, things could potentially be in really bad shape.
He opens the top drawer of the desk and pulls out a certified envelope. Anything sent certified mail usually isn’t good news.
He hands me the letter. It’s from H & C Bank. “I thought Dad had the place paid off,” I say as I take the letter from Jake’s hand.
“He took out a loan for some improvements. We needed a new roof and he put in new tables and the stage area.”
“Why did he need a new stage?” I ask. I know I probably sound bitter but I don’t care. “Did you talk him into it?”
My brother always had dreams of being a country singer. He’s got a great voice and a lot of musical talent but he never had the drive or ambition to make his dream a reality. Because Jake was the most like my dad, and his first born, my dad would have done anything to make Jake happy.
“It wasn’t me,” Jake insists.
I glare at him.
“Okay, it wasn’t just me,” he admits. “Dad felt like he was losing business because of the competition. Some of the new places that have opened up recently have live bands every weekend. And not just bands like Wilde Riders—bands with CDs and deals with real record labels on actual tours.”
“I didn’t see any new bars when I drove through town.”
“Not in Old Town. In some of the other towns around the county. They’ve been drawing some big name groups. Dad felt like he needed to do something to attract a younger crowd.”
“Are you still playing?” I ask.
Jake shrugs. “Off and on. You know it’s never been the same without you. We keep trying to find a guitar player that’s even half as good as you and it still hasn’t happened. We lost another one last week.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Now that you’re back in town, maybe—”
I cut Jake off. “I’m back in town to help you get this straightened out.” I hold up the letter. “I’m not back for any other reason. And I’m definitely not back to play with the Wilde Riders again.”
“We sounded really good the last time we played.”
“That was a onetime thing. I did it for Dad.”
Jake throws up his hands. “Okay, I get it. You don’t want to be part of the band. I can respect that.”
“And we’ve got bigger problems,” I say as I open the letter.
My heart sinks when I read the contents. Things really are as bad as I imagined.