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Hard as Stone

By´╝ÜSarah O'Rourke

Chapter One


Jacob Stone was going to hell.

Everybody knew it; it was so far from a secret that it wasn’t funny. Oh, his mother still lit candles for him in the hope that somehow he’d find salvation for his sins. It was a well-known fact around his hometown that his sainted Momma regularly slipped a little something extra into the offering plate to keep his mortal soul in the fervent prayers of his parish priest. She still had a vain hope that her erstwhile son would somehow find the path to true redemption.

Yeah, that’s right. His mother kept a priest on the payroll in a bid to save his soul from perdition.

Personally, he thought it was a waste of good money, but hope continued to spring eternal for his Momma and old Father Anders. Jake ‘The Widowmaker’ Stone, however, held no such delusions about what his eternal life would hold after he passed from this mortal realm. In all likelihood, fire and brimstone would be his new reality. It wouldn’t be much different from his present.

The stains on his soul were permanent and dark, but he could live with that. He’d taken down a lot of bad men by being the best asshole he could be. He’d drank with thieves and murderers, caroused with hookers and whores, and snorted coke with some of the slickest drug pushers to ever deal in the United States – all in the pursuit of truth and justice. In short, he did whatever he had to do in order to separate the head of the monster from the proverbial crown. Just ask anybody that had worked with him during his twenty-year tenure with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.

Jacob Stone always got his man, no matter what it took or what he had to do. In his world, the end did indeed justify the means. Cold and merciless, he’d earned the Widowmaker nickname the old-fashioned way. Many a criminal had met his demise after tangling with the wrong end of Jacob’s Glock, and he’d left a trail of weeping widows in his wake.

What could he say? If you did bad shit, meeting an ugly end couldn’t be that much of a surprise, could it? He wasn’t a man for which showing mercy came easy.

Some philosophized that ending a life weighed heavily on a man’s conscience. Mourning, however, was not in Jacob’s nature. More often than not, he found himself questioning the decisions he’d made to leave some of the scumbags alive rather than dead. Sure, they’d been spared his bullet, but they faced the criminal justice system’s prosecution. And hell, prison would seem like a day at Disneyland for some of the creeps he’d put behind bars – hardly a fitting punishment for some of the filth he’d dealt with. He found himself nostalgic for the days when punishment could be meted out with a simple bullet to the head at a lawman’s discerning discretion. To his credit, he was well aware that this was not exactly the attitude God was looking for when admitting souls into the Promised Land.

Not even close.

He simply didn’t give a fuck. Not anymore. If the price of bringing his late sister’s murderer to justice was his soul, he’d pay the cost without question. No sacrifice he’d have to make was too great to see that fucker go down in flames.

At any rate, he was well aware that his final eternal destination would most likely be plenty warm.

He could live with it.

Or, he thought he could.

Until the day he actually exchanged words with Harmony McKinnon.

That was the day everything changed for him. That was the day that he lost his soul-deep certainty that he could continue to masquerade as a monster in order to slay the bigger beast.

Now, he’d never been one of those pansy-asses that waxed poetic about love at first sight. Hell, no. But even he couldn’t deny that something inexplicable happened the instant he’d first laid eyes on the special woman that was Harmony McKinnon, and he couldn’t help the foolish grin that spread across his face as he recalled that first conversation.

~~***~~

He was sitting on the cracked leather bench seat of the restaurant booth closest to the back wall - the same spot he’d claimed every afternoon for the past ten days - when he first saw her. For nearly two weeks, he’d waited for this moment to catch a glimpse of the woman that might prove the key to bringing down one of the largest drug cartels in the nation and putting some of the worst criminals he’d ever run across behind bars. Most importantly to him, though, the woman he watched just might be the pawn he needed to nail his sister’s killer.

He was pleasantly surprised; she definitely wasn’t what he’d thought he’d find when he finally located her. In fact, she was the exact opposite of everything he’d expected, he thought to himself as he watched her womanly body move toward his table at the back of the restaurant. Sure, he’d reviewed the pictures that were in the file that the DEA had put together on her, but none of those snapshots had done her an ounce of justice. In photographs, you couldn’t tell just how touchable her peaches-and-cream complexion looked or how her long blonde hair shimmered. A man couldn’t see just how gently her rounded curves caressed the light pink tee shirt and faded blue jeans she wore like a second skin. And that smile of hers… let’s just say that those full, rosy lips of hers would make the wet dream he knew he’d have tonight a bestselling box office attraction if it was ever filmed. Fuck, seeing that smile up close and in real time was enough to make even a monk’s cock stand up and pay attention.

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