Healing Hearts 13: The Name of the Game

By: Dixie Lynn Dwyer


Francesca has a secret, and coming from a family of criminals just adds to her need to play the game and pretend she is normal like her friends. She’s been doing fine for the last two years, putting the danger, the bad memories behind her, and avoiding temptation to help her family run their businesses more smoothly. Organized crime, loan sharking, you name it and she would be awesome at it, but her secret holds her back and the fear of history repeating itself. Then she meets six men. Soldiers who not only make her feel things she thought she could never feel after a broken heart, but they share a similar family connection, and they become too hard to resist.



With happiness at her fingertips for the first time in years, playing the game from the sidelines puts her family and her men at risk, and now she has no choice but to reveal her secret, use her natural capabilities to trick the bad guys, and secure the family business in a world not made for the faint of heart.







Prologue




Kingston McCann held his breath and waited for the additional blow. The one that would end his life and send him to his grave. It happened so fast, the images snapping through his mind in some fast speed slide show. His life as a kid. His five brothers. The way they all served their country and eventually teamed up together as an elite force. Their dreams, their connection, and how he was separated from them on this mission gone terribly wrong.

His heart pounded inside of his chest as image after image entered his mind. Their bond as brothers, as soldiers, as men was so strong, so very…

His body jerked at the sound of the first set of gunfire. Eyes wide open, he realized he somehow got another chance. Bullets whizzed by his head as he rolled to the right, out of the grasp of the enemy soldiers who captured him, tormented him, and promised a slow torturous death to the American soldier they hated and yet knew nothing about but this uniform and what it stood for.

He tackled one guy, heard the yells and grunts as others were being taken out, and he gripped the gun, turned, and shot, killing several of the men but taking some hits. No…No…I am not going to die here. Not now. Not after they came. Kingston roared, got to his knees, and fired into the crowd of enemy soldiers heading right toward him and his fellow soldiers, his brothers, his rescuers. Sweat dripped into his eyes, stinging them, but he wouldn’t blink. He just kept screaming, roaring like some monstrous being when suddenly a hand was on his shoulder, then arms gripped him tight and he heard the familiar voice.

“It’s over, Kingston. We’re here. You did it. You got them all. It’s over,” Almando told him. He dropped the gun, closed his eyes, and exhaled.

“Son of a bitch! You’re alive. Thank God, bro. Thank God,” Mason said, falling to his knees and giving him a hug. He could feel the energy leaving his body, but he needed to see them all. To know they were here with him if he didn’t make it. If he died today, he would at least die around family. He wondered where that thought came from and felt a little vulnerable at it, but then Almando came into sight. Fierce expression as usual, dark eyes squinting, his perusal over Kingston’s body and his orders grounded him as Notaro, Jaxon, then Hunter appeared next.

“How bad?” Jaxon asked.

“We move now while the adrenaline rush is still in him and we can get to the fucking pick-up point with time. He fucking pussys out and we’re going to have to carry his six-foot-four fucking heavy ass,” Mason said, and then gave him a punch in the arm. Kinston growled low and then started to try and stand up. He didn’t think he could do this. Then his brothers were pushing him. Cheering him on. Encouraging him as they always did, and then busting his balls and getting him to suck up the pain and live.

By the time they got to the pick-up point and boarded the helicopter, he was done. Finished. He closed his eyes after he saw their concerned expressions. “You came for me,” he whispered.

Almando squeezed his upper arm. “Damn straight we did. We’re brothers, and no one will ever keep us apart or prevent us from protecting one another. No one. Now close your eyes and rest. The fight isn’t over.”



* * * *



Francesca Voltaro smiled softly at the sight in her parents’ backyard. It was another Voltaro party, a Sunday afternoon filled with children laughing, aunts and uncles enjoying time together, everyone celebrating life and the fruits of their labor. A family bound by business generations old and generations strong. She could have missed all of this.

She sighed and felt the tightness in her chest. Would it ever go away, this feeling of guilt, of negativity, of darkness that now overshadowed more often than not the goodness in her? She felt tainted forever by her actions in the heat of the moment, in a last attempt to live, to bring justice to the family. To her father.

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