The Billionaire's Son

By: Sharon Hartley

CHAPTER ONE

HER STRIDES LONG and sure, Kelly Jenkins picked up her speed as she turned into Peacock Park, confident she was on pace to beat her old time. Jazzed because she hadn’t scored a personal best on her favorite morning run in months—not since she’d entered the police academy—Kelly pushed harder. That was the key to success.

The shade of the public pavilion with its promise of cool water came into view, but she refused to risk a glance down to her wrist chronometer. She might lose a second or two. Patience was another path to success. She’d know within two minutes.

“Mommy!”

As the terrified wail of a small child registered, Kelly turned her head and spotted a young boy running toward her as fast as his little legs could churn. Two men chased him. She slowed her stride just before the child flung his arms around her thighs.

“Mommy,” he sobbed. “Mommy, Mommy.”

Knocked off balance, Kelly windmilled her arms to keep herself from falling and stared down at the boy clutching her as if she were a lifeline, guessing he was about four years old.

Before she could say anything, like “Hey, kid, I’m not your mom,” the two men arrived.

“Sorry, lady,” one of them said, a rough-looking dude who hadn’t shaved in days. Tats covered both forearms, and Kelly recognized the insignia of a local gang, but couldn’t remember which one. Greasy brown hair hung to his shoulders. There was a gun-size bulge in his jeans pocket that worried her.

“I’ll take the kid,” he snarled.

“No,” the boy shrieked, clutching her legs tighter, sharp fingernails digging into her bare thigh. “No! Mommy, no.”

Her cop instincts slamming into gear, Kelly reached down and picked up the child. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

“His name is Jason,” the man said, his voice hard, with an underlying edge of threat. “I’m his father. Hand him over.”

His entire little body trembling violently, Jason buried his face in Kelly’s shoulder, turning away from his “father.”

“This child is terrified of you,” Kelly said.

“Yeah, well, that’s none of your concern, lady. Just give me the kid.”

Kelly hesitated, assessing the two men. The second man was thin and shorter than the so-called father, but she noted a resemblance between the two. Same hair and cheekbones. Maybe brothers. The brother looked like he’d spent several years on the streets while this child was well nourished and wore expensive clothing. Something is wrong here.

“My name is Kelly Jenkins,” she said, “I’m a police officer.”

“Damn. She’s a cop, Adam,” the second man said.

“Jason seems very confused,” Kelly continued. “Is there anything that I can do to—”

Adam took a step forward, his arms out to snatch the child. “I don’t give a rat’s ass who you are. Just give me the damn kid.”

Jason looped the straps of Kelly’s jog bra through his tiny fingers and squeezed tight. “No, Mommy,” he managed, now barely able to get the words out.

When Adam placed his hands on either side of Jason’s waist, Jason wailed loudly and shrilly. Kelly stepped back, noting fellow runners had gathered to observe the unfolding scenario.

Wishing she’d been a cop longer than two months, Kelly debated her next move. Maybe it takes a village, but I have no right to keep a son from his father.

Yet the gangbanger only referred to Jason as “the kid,” never “my son.” And he never once spoke to the child directly, tried to soothe him or comfort him. What kind of a father acts like that?

“Is this your daddy?” Kelly whispered to Jason.

His face bright red, his screams now diminished to great gulping sobs, the child shook his head emphatically no. He locked his feet around her waist.

“Shit,” the smaller man said. “Get the kid, Adam. We gotta get out of here pronto.”

“Adam, right?” Kelly asked, deliberately using the name. Always good to make it personal. “Where is his mother?”

“Yeah, good question,” said a female jogger Kelly didn’t know by name but waved at every day.

“None of your fricking business,” Adam said. “Give me the kid, or else.”

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