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Jack of Hearts

By´╝ÜSandra Owens

PROLOGUE

As an investigative reporter with a deep belief in the laws of our country, I’ve used my pen to fight injustice wherever I found it. Over the years, I’ve exposed politicians and those in power who’ve hurt and/or stolen from the very people they are supposed to protect. I’ve never hesitated to unmask these villains living among us . . . until now.

As you sit at your kitchen table drinking coffee, or in your recliner, or wherever you are while reading this, I will be praying that my family understands why I had to write this article. If I’m aware of criminal activity, no matter how close to home it hits, and don’t expose those responsible, then my life’s work means nothing.

Michael Parker again read the last two paragraphs of the front-page story that would run next week. Although he thought he might be sleeping on the couch afterward, he planned to give his wife and daughter the article to read tonight.

“You gonna let me read that yet?” Jack, his editor, asked, poking his head around the doorframe.

“Tomorrow.” His family would read it first, then Jack could have it. Michael had never been this secretive with his editor before, so the man was biting at the bit to know what his award-winning journalist was working on.

“Coffee in my office in the morning then. I’ll buy.”

Michael rolled his eyes. “No you won’t. I still refuse to drink that shit from the vending machine, you cheap mofo. I’ll pick up coffees on my way in tomorrow.” Which Jack had known Michael would do. It was a game they played, one Jack enjoyed more than he did since Michael was always the one buying.

As soon as his editor left, Michael shut down his computer. He pulled out the thumb drive, putting it in his briefcase. Unlike any of his other stories, this one wasn’t saved on his computer. It existed on this thumb drive only, staying with him at all times.

It was going on ten o’clock, time to go home and face the music. He’d called earlier to say he was finishing up a story and would be late. Most nights, he looked forward to going home to his wife and daughter. Not tonight, though. He swiveled his chair around, his gaze falling on the bookshelf behind him. The photo of him with his family at his daughter’s high school graduation caught his eye, and he sat for a good five minutes staring at the two most beautiful women in the world.

He’d never been prouder than when he’d listened to his daughter give the valedictorian speech. That girl had stolen his heart the moment she was born and he’d laid eyes on her. When he’d held her in his arms for the first time, he’d made a promise to his baby girl that he would do his part in making the world a better place for her. Over the years, he’d done his best to keep that promise, to be a father she would be proud of.

Briefcase in hand, he rode the elevator to the ground floor, waving to the night security man as he walked out of the building. This late, he was the only one on the sidewalk, which suited him. He wasn’t in the mood to talk to any of his coworkers. His car was parked in the garage across the street, and as he waited for the light to change, he stared ahead, seeing nothing.

This story had Pulitzer Prize written all over it, but the thought didn’t excite him as it should. He just wanted to get it published, deal with the repercussions, and put it all behind him.

The revving of an engine penetrated his brain, and he blinked, focusing on the car headed straight for him. The hell? He tried to get out of the way, but he’d waited too long. The impact sent his body flying through the air and crashing into the building behind him.

Funny, shouldn’t he feel pain? His vision grayed, but before fading out altogether, he thought he saw a man grab his briefcase, then take off running. “My story . . .” he tried to say, but his mouth refused to work.

As the world turned to black, tears leaked from his eyes. I’m sorry, my beautiful girls. So damn sorry.





CHAPTER ONE

The fight was as good as over before it started. Alex Gentry walked to the bar, grabbed a pitcher of beer meant for the dudes playing pool in the back room, then returned to the biker lying facedown on the floor. He stood over the heavily tattooed man and poured the contents over the guy’s head.

“Get up, Spider,” he said when the man’s eyes blinked open and he sputtered. Spider laughed, turned onto his back, and opened his mouth, catching the beer. The dude was fucking crazy.

“Good stuff,” Spider said when the pitcher ran dry.

“I sure hope you’re not giving away free beer again, bro.”

Alex managed not to show any surprise at hearing the voice of his oldest brother. He glanced over his shoulder and glared at Nate. “Stop sneaking up on me like that.”

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