Six of hearts, p.1
Six of Hearts, p.1L.H. Cosway
SIX OF HEARTS
BY L.H. COSWAY
Copyright © 2014 Lorraine McInerney.
All rights reserved.
Cover pictures taken from Shutterstock.com.
Cover design by RBA Designs.
Editing by Indie Author Services.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Books by L.H. Cosway
The Nature of Cruelty
Still Life with Strings
Tegan's Blood (The Ultimate Power Series #1)
Tegan's Return (The Ultimate Power Series #2)
Tegan's Magic (The Ultimate Power Series #3)
Tegan’s Power (The Ultimate Power Series #4)
Crimson (An Ultimate Power Series Novella)
For the ones whose childhood was stolen.
No matter your age, it’s never too late to steal it back.
Believe in the unbelievable, because this world we live in is magic.
Do your worst, for I will do mine!
- The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.
Jason’s neighbours’ house was much nicer than his own. At home all he ever heard was shouting, crying, or silence. All he ever felt was the pain of his father’s fists colliding with some part of his body.
One day while outside in their adjoining back gardens, he’d befriended the neighbours’ daughter. She was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen. He liked being around her because she was always smiling, a smile full of happiness and perfect white teeth. He wanted to capture that emotion, steal a little piece of it for himself.
Sometimes, on the days when his father was away at work, he felt something like happiness. It would just be him, Mum, and his brother Jack. He loved them both so much that he felt he would do anything for them. They would laugh and play in the garden, and for a time forget that in just a few hours the violence his dad always brought would return.
The neighbour girl would give him and his little brother food. She must have sensed their hunger, somehow known his father tightly rationed everything and his mother was powerless to stop him. He was big and strong, and his mother was small and weak. That was the way his dad liked it.
His favourite thing about his neighbours’ house, though, was the television. They weren’t allowed to watch TV in his house. It was against his dad’s rules. He would only ever hear it on at night time when he and his brother had been sent to bed and his father was home from work. At his neighbours’ house, he could watch endless television. There were no rules about that.
He’d been waiting in the old shed in the garden that night, knowing his father had been out drinking and would likely return home in a temper. Jason planned to stop him this time. He would do whatever was in his power to keep him from hurting his brother and mother, even if it meant taking the beating himself.
To pass the time in the shed, and to keep his mind from the pain he would soon endure, he brought some marbles and a deck of playing cards, practicing various tricks he’d made up. He always enjoyed doing tricks for people, seeing the look of wonder on their faces as he dazzled them with his skills.
At school he and his best friend Jessie would make a killing. Jessie would take the bets, and Jay would wager with his classmates that he could figure out which card they had without ever seeing it. It was one of the simplest tricks, but he was always challenging himself to think bigger. To master tricks that would impress people and gain their respect.
It was past midnight when he heard his dad come in. The front door slammed shut, and his father’s feet pounded on the steps as he went up the stairs. He knew that his absence would distract his dad. He would go looking for Jason, and that would keep him away from Jack and his mother.
As he peered out the window, he saw the light come on in his parents’ bedroom. There was some quiet talking, and then the light went off again. Silence. Jason let out a long breath. Perhaps this would be one of the rare times when his dad wasn’t in need of a punching bag.
He decided to wait for twenty minutes before going back inside. His dad would be asleep by then and wouldn’t hear him sneaking in. As he waited, he heard muffled voices coming from somewhere nearby. Peeking out the window again, he watched as three men dressed in dark clothes approached the back door. They were encased in shadow, so Jason couldn’t see their faces.
Frozen in place, he saw one of them bash in the glass part of the door. Then he reached in and opened it from the other side. Jason’s heart pounded. These were bad men, perhaps even worse than his own dad. He could feel it. They were breaking into his house, and he had to stop them.
Racing for the door, he entered the kitchen to find two of the hooded men staring at him, while the other walked around the room, pouring petrol over everything.
“Fuck! It’s McCabe’s kid,” the tallest of the three swore.
“Take care of him,” said the one with the petrol gruffly before moving into the next room.
The tall one grabbed Jason, but he struggled, biting and kicking at the man. Just as he started to scream, the man stuffed a balled-up dishcloth in his mouth, preventing him from making a sound. He continued to struggle and then felt a mind-numbing pain crash into the back of his skull.
That was the last thing he remembered before he woke up, smoke and flames blurring his vision. His house was on fire, and his whole family was still sleeping upstairs. He stumbled to his feet, preparing to go and wake them up, but then he heard someone shouting at him not to move. A fireman grabbed him and threw him over his shoulder. He struggled, but the man holding him was too strong. Seconds later he was outside, the fireman setting him down on a stretcher in an ambulance.
“My family! I have to wake them up!” he protested hysterically, but a medic held him down. He felt bile rise in his throat, nausea overtaking him as he vomited into a bucket.
“He’s got a concussion,” he vaguely heard someone say.
He’d never felt more helpless in his life, staring up at his house as the fire overtook it. He tried so hard to remember what those three men looked like, but their faces were just shadowy blurs in his mind.
At the hospital, a female doctor with pretty, concerned eyes looked him over. She frowned when she saw the bruises on his ribs, asking where he’d gotten them from.
He told her that he’d fallen off his bike.
She didn’t look like she believed him.
Time was either moving too fast or too slow; he couldn’t seem to tell. Whenever he asked about his mother and Jack, nobody would tell him anything. Then a bald man with glasses came and sat down with him in the room where he’d been placed. It was full of toys f
Jason could see in the bald man’s eyes that he wasn’t bringing him good news, and that made him lash out. He picked up a bunch of toy cars and began throwing them around the room. He didn’t want to hear what the man had to say; he knew he couldn’t handle it.
A few hours later he was told that his uncle from America was on his way to come and take him to live with him. Jason had heard of this uncle, his mother’s eccentric brother, but had never actually met him.
In the interim, his neighbours came to take care of him. They filled the doorway of the room in the hospital: mum, dad, and daughter. She had the biggest blue eyes, his favourite eyes. They were the perfect family, and his own didn’t exist anymore.
His purpose was gone now. What was the point of his life if it wasn’t to protect Mum and Jack?
His body started to shake as tears fell down his face. The girl rushed to his side, throwing her small arms around his neck and hugging him tight. She whispered that everything would be okay and that he was going to come and stay with them for the next few days until his uncle got there.
It took him a long time to stop crying, but when he did, he went home with his neighbours. At their house he spent the saddest three days of his life.
Then his uncle arrived and told him unsympathetically that his family were dead. He took him away to a world that was nothing and everything like the one he left behind. Each day Jason thought about those hooded men, about his mother and brother, whom he couldn’t keep safe in the end, and with those thoughts came one unchanging theme.
Sometimes in life you just have to laugh.
These last couple of weeks I’ve been making my debut into the hazardous world of online dating, and right now I’m staring at my computer screen, trying to figure out if this latest “suitor” is serious or just seriously taking the piss. What does he look like? I hear you ask? Well, I know he’s got a really nice set of particularly shiny abs, or he Googled a picture of a really nice set of particularly shiny abs and used it as his profile image. Is that supposed to be oil or sweat? I can’t tell.
Anyway, his message reads as follows:
Hey, pretty lady,
Dayum, I am agog! Your picture caught my attention as soon as I spied it. You are soooo flipping beautiful. I really hope we can get to know each other better. Please check out my profile and write me back. If you don’t, I might just have to cry.
There are so many things wrong with this, I don’t even know where to start. First of all, I have to whip out the dictionary on my office shelf to check the meaning of the word “agog.” Its definition is “in a state of eager desire,” or “highly excited by eagerness, curiosity, or anticipation.”
Steve’s use of the word “agog” makes me the opposite of agog. In fact, I find myself in an eager state of desire to delete his message from my inbox. Then there’s his use of “dayum.” His profile states he’s twenty-seven years old and was born and raised in North County Dublin, where nobody uses the word “dayum.” And if they do, they need a good firm talking to. Somebody’s been watching too much MTV. And the mention of crying? I have no words.
In any case, my reaction to his wooing endeavours is a big, fat “no thanks.” This is mainly because his message smacks of a copy and paste job, hence the use of “pretty lady” instead of my actual name.
I can imagine he’s been sending this bad boy out to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the site. Or should I say every Tomasina, Dickina, and Harriet, waiting all agog for some unsuspecting woman to write back and be tricked into cybersex. I bet Steve only waits about ten seconds before inundating his victims with dick pics.
We really do live in a world full of perverts.
Also, I apologise to any woman whose parents were cruel enough to name her Dickina.
A quick glance at my watch tells me it’s eight forty-five. Only fifteen more minutes before the office officially opens, so I quickly log out of the pit of despair, otherwise known as my online dating site, and check to make sure I have all the day’s appointments prepared for.
Brandon Solicitors is my dad’s law practice, which can be found in a small three-room office space in Dublin city centre. Ever since I finished school, I’ve been working here full-time as his legal secretary. We mostly deal with small claims. You know, people who want to sue their local supermarket because they slipped and fell on a wet floor. Or people who want to sue their local supermarket because they “slipped and fell on a wet floor.”
Please don’t overlook my use of sarcasm on that last sentence.
Basically, we’re not exactly the high flyers of the law world around here, but we get by.
The entrance door to the office swings open, and my dad, Hugh, limps his way into the room. His limp is particularly noticeable today, and it makes me frown. He must not be getting as much rest as usual.
When I was just eight years old, our house was broken into by a group of thugs, and they beat my father so badly that he now walks with a permanent limp in his left leg. That’s not the worst of what they did, though. One of them shot my mother when she made an attempt to call the police. When I became hysterical at the sight of my dead parent, the shooter threw me into a mirror. The glass shattered and I got badly cut, leaving me with a permanent scar that runs from just below my ear, down the side of my neck, and under my jawline. Mum died that night, leaving me and Dad all alone. They never caught the burglars.
I was only a child when it happened, but my heart remembers my mother, and I miss her every day. Dad never mentions it, but I know he does, too. She was the love of his life, and he never quite found it in himself to move on to someone else.
“Morning, Matilda,” says Dad. “Could you get me a coffee from the place down the street? Our machine is broken again.”
“Will do,” I reply cheerily in an effort to block out the horrific memory that had just been flitting through my head. “How have you been sleeping?”
He grimaces and glances down. “I suppose you noticed the leg?”
“Yeah, you need to rest it more often,” I say, grabbing my handbag from under my desk.
“I was up half the night working on the O’Connell case,” he explains.
“Right, well, get an early night tonight, okay?” I urge, walking over to give him a quick peck on the cheek. He replies that he will, and I duck out of the office. I can be particularly protective of my dad’s health, because we’re really all the other has left in the world.
Making my way down the narrow staircase that leads out of the building and onto the street, I bump into a tall man with golden-brown hair. I wouldn’t normally notice a man’s hair so specifically, but this guy has some serious style going on. It’s cut tight at the sides and left long on the top, kind of like a sexy villain in a movie set in the 1920s. I stare up at him, wide-eyed. He’s wearing a very nice navy suit with a leather satchel bag slung over his shoulder. Even though it was the first thing I noticed, his hair pales in comparison to the wonder that is his face. I don’t think I’ve ever been up close to such a handsome example of the male species in my life.
Why can’t men like this write to me online? I ponder dejectedly.
Because men like this don’t even know the meaning of the term “socially awkward,” my brain answers.
My five-foot-something stares up at his six-foot-whatever, and I think to myself, what’s a prize like you doing in a dive like this? Actually, now that I’m looking at him, he does seem vaguely familiar, but I can’t put my finger on where I’ve seen him before.
Probably on the pages of a fashion magazine, if his looks are anything to go by.
If it hasn’t already been deduced from the fact that I can’t even find a date using the romantic connection slut that is the Internet,
Since the entrance to the building is so narrow, we have to skirt around each other. I give him a hesitant smile and a shrug. His eyes sparkle with some kind of hidden knowledge as he lets me pass, like beautiful people know the meaning of the universe and are amused by us ordinary folks who have to bumble along in the dark.
I’m just about to step out the door when the tiger starts to speak. “I’m looking for Brandon Solicitors. Do you know if I have the right place?”
I step back inside.
He sounds like Mark Wahlberg when he’s letting his Southie roots all hang out. His deep American accent makes me want to close my eyes and savour the sound. But I don’t do that – because I’m not a complete psycho.
“Yeah, this is the place. I work here, actually. I’m the secretary slash receptionist slash general dogsbody. It’s my dad’s firm,” I reply. Too much information, Matilda. Too. Much. Information.
The tiger smiles, making him better-looking, if that’s even possible. And thankfully, he doesn’t comment on my fluster. “I have an appointment with Hugh Brandon at nine. I’m Jay,” he says, and takes a step closer to hold his hand out to me. My back hits the wall, his tall frame dwarfing mine. I don’t think he realises just how narrow this space is, and now I can smell his cologne. Wow, it’s not often that I get close enough to a man to smell him. And Jay Fields smells indecently good.
“Ah, right. Jay Fields. Yeah, I have you pencilled in. You can go on upstairs, and Dad will take care of you,” I reply, shaking his hand and letting go quickly so that he doesn’t notice my sweatacular palms. “I’ve got an errand to run.”
He stares at me for a long moment, like his eyes are trying to take in my every feature, but that can’t be right. When he finally responds, it’s a simple, “I won’t keep you, then, Matilda.”
Six of Hearts by L.H. Cosway / History & Fiction have rating 5 out of 5 / Based on50 votes