Hearts of blue, p.1
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       Hearts of Blue, p.1

           L.H. Cosway
 
Hearts of Blue


  Hearts of Blue

  By

  L.H. Cosway

  Copyright © 2015 L.H. Cosway.

  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.

  Contents

  Prologue

  One

  Two

  Three

  Four

  Five

  Six

  Seven

  Eight

  Nine

  Ten

  Eleven

  Twelve

  Thirteen

  Fourteen

  Fifteen

  Sixteen

  Seventeen

  Eighteen

  Nineteen

  Twenty

  Twenty-One

  Twenty-Two

  Twenty-Three

  Epilogue

  Glossary of Terms

  Playlist

  “Stealing, of course, is a crime, and a very impolite thing to do. But like most impolite things, it is excusable under certain circumstances. Stealing is not excusable if, for instance, you are in a museum and you decide that a certain painting would look better in your house, and you simply grab the painting and take it there. But if you were very, very hungry, and you had no way of obtaining money, it might be excusable to grab the painting, take it to your house, and eat it.”

  - Lemony Snicket.

  Prologue

  London, 2000

  The room was freezing, so cold you could see your breath mist in front of your face.

  There was something about it that made everything feel wet. The electricity had been cut off several weeks ago, and with it the central heating. The old couch in the living room was damp to the touch; so too were all the blankets and pillows in the bedroom Lee shared with his three brothers. He climbed into bed and closed his eyes, tried to ignore the discomfort of damp bedding and just go to sleep, but it wouldn’t work.

  He’d never admit it to any of his friends, but he often cuddled tightly to his older brother, Stu, for warmth. Liam and Trevor shared the bed on the other side of their small room, while their cousin Sophie slept in his mum’s old room. His aunt Jenny had abandoned her there months ago, right after Lee’s mum passed away. She’d then gone on an extended holiday with her boyfriend; “messed up” didn’t even begin to cover it. As far as social services were concerned, Jenny had moved in to take care of her late sister’s children. In reality, she was off sunning herself in Magaluf, boozing it up to her heart’s content and leaving all five kids with an envelope of money to survive on that had long since dried up.

  There was a man who wore a suit and gold rings who’d started coming around more and more often, offering Lee a way to take care of his family. He’d seen him a few times about the estate. Once he’d been beating a man half to death because he couldn’t pay back the money he owed him, and another time he’d been visiting a woman whose husband died, bringing her a hamper of food to feed her kids. It was difficult to reconcile the violent man with the one who helped the widow. How could someone be both kind and cruel?

  Still, Lee wanted to trust him. He wanted what the man was offering to be real and not a con, because he saw his expensive suit and stylish car, and deep in his gut he coveted those things for himself. He was tired of suffering, tired of seeing his brothers live a life of poverty. He wanted to make sure his family was never cold or hungry again, and the man represented an opportunity to do that.

  Stu coughed and turned on his side, his eyes open, clearly unable to sleep, either.

  “I hate her,” he said, drawing Lee from his thoughts.

  “We all hate her,” Lee replied. “What she did was selfish. She deserves to be hated.”

  “I’m not talking about Aunt Jenny. I’m talking about Mum. She was worse than Jenny. She never loved us. Mums are supposed to love their kids.”

  “She didn’t even love herself,” said Lee as he thought of her. “Junkies don’t love anything but getting high.” Both his mum and her sister had grown up in a house that was the worst kind of dysfunctional. It was no wonder they turned out how they did.

  Stu let his head fall back and stared up at the ceiling. “I’ll never do drugs. I’m swearing it now. If I ever try to touch a single pill, I want you to punch me in the face.”

  Lee chuckled quietly. “No problem, bruv.”

  “I’m serious,” Stu insisted. “I’ll even let you break my nose if it stops me from being such a stupid fucking fucker.”

  Stu’s proclamations woke up their younger brothers. Liam, who was just nine and the youngest, whined, “You two are being loud.”

  “Our bad, little man. Go back to sleep. We’ll be quieter,” said Lee in a hushed voice.

  “I’m hungry,” said Trevor, sitting up and rubbing at his eyes.

  Lee and Stu had been shoplifting food for weeks, but it was only going to be so long before they were caught. They couldn’t keep doing it. They had to find an alternative. Again, the man in the suit invaded his thoughts.

  “When is Aunt Jenny coming back?” Liam asked, too young to realise she was never coming back, not for them anyway.

  “She’s not,” Stu gritted out abruptly. He didn’t have Lee’s sensitivity when it came to dealing with the younger boys. Liam’s eyes started to shine right before he burst into tears, and Lee climbed from the bed, going to his side to comfort him. He threw his arm around his little brother’s shoulders and brushed away his tears with his thumb.

  “It’s going to be all right. We don’t need her,” he promised him.

  “How can you say that?” Trevor asked bitterly. “We have nothing. We’re just a bunch of kids nobody gives a shit about.”

  “I give a shit,” Lee threw back. “I give a shit about all of us. And I’m going to figure out a plan.”

  “A plan?” Liam piped up, sniffling.

  “Yeah. I don’t care what I have to do or who I have to step over — I’m going to make sure we never want for anything ever again. I’m sick of living like this.” A silence elapsed as he felt all three boys stare at him. He broke the quiet when he asked finally, “Who’s with me?”

  Stu immediately reached over and placed his hand on top of Lee’s. “I am.”

  “Me, too,” said Trevor.

  “And me,” Liam agreed.

  Lee made eye contact with each of his brothers, their pact sealed. Tomorrow he’d go see the man in the suit, and, with any luck, their lives would change.

  He just hoped it would be for the better.

  One

  London, 2010

  Karla

  The first time I met Lee Cross, I was doing something as ordinary as shopping for groceries.

  Standing casually outside a betting shop, he’d called on my best friend, Alexis, who he knew because she’d dated his brother. Time seemed to move in slow motion when his eyes landed on me, and I immediately felt flushed. Almost against my own will I found him attractive, from his tousled brown hair to his mischievous blue eyes, to the tattoos that peeked out from the ends of his shirt sleeves.

  Long story short, he asked me out. I shut him down. He’d tried to lure me into saying yes by whispering in my ear.

  “If you come, I’ll make you come with my tongue, and I won’t expect anything in return.”

  Can’t say I wasn’t tempted, but that was probably just my ten-month dry spell steering the wheel. I was a police constable. I took my job seriously. And I only had to take one look at Lee Cross to know that he didn’t live on
the same side of the law as I did. Plus, he was too young for me. Sure, it was only three years, but still.

  The second time I met him, I was providing Alexis with some moral support, because she’d asked Lee a favour and he’d come over to our flat. He’d been cocky, lounging next to me on the couch and flirting. I had to keep reminding myself that he was off limits, especially when he flashed me that confident little grin of his. The one that said, One word, and I’ll fuck all that frustration right out of you, babe. Real annoying, like. I’d never give him that word. I’d never let myself say yes to Lee Cross.

  And the third time I met him, well, that brings us to the present, as I chased some hoodie down a back alley. Just seconds earlier I’d caught him attempting to rob a car parked outside a newsagents, and the second he saw me he scarpered. I worked out several times a week, but this fucker was too fast for me. Needless to say, I was relieved when I saw that the alley had a dead end. Too bad for him. There was nowhere to go, and my shift partner, Tony, would be rounding the corner any moment. My relief quickly deflated when the hoodie effortlessly jumped the ten-foot wall like it was nothing. What the hell? Just before he dropped down the other side, he turned and shot me a wink.

  Cheeky. Little. Bastard.

  I’d recognise those blue eyes anywhere, because his older brother possessed an identical pair. Trevor was the second-youngest member of the Cross family. He had a number of arrests to his name, all minor stuff, and he hadn’t done any prison time. Yet. I was willing to bet that if he kept going the way he was going, he’d end up behind bars sooner or later.

  A second went by before Tony came up beside me, hands on his hips as he tried to catch his breath.

  “Did he just jump the wall?”

  “Yep.”

  “Fucker.”

  “My sentiments exactly. Come on, I think I know where we can find him.”

  After my first two encounters with Lee, I’d done my homework. I knew he lived on a council estate in Hackney. I knew that he was twenty-five years old, and owned a garage with questionable operations just a couple minutes away from my nick called Cross Bros. And I knew that, just like his younger brother, Trevor, he hadn’t done any time. But like I said, it was going to happen eventually.

  Admittedly, I’d gone a little overboard looking into him, and I couldn’t say why I was so interested. I guessed I just wanted to know what I was up against, since every time I ran into him, he seemed determined to win me over.

  Tony and I returned to the patrol car, and I hopped in the driver’s seat, my destination already in mind. My hands felt prickly and my heart thrummed at the idea of going to Lee’s house on police business, but I’d caught his brother in the middle of committing a criminal act, and no way was I letting him off the hook.

  “That’s four I’ve counted so far,” said Tony, resuming our often-played game of counting the trainers hanging from power lines. It was a sign to show that drugs were being sold in the area. Sadly, Tony and I always counted more trainers than we had time to deal with. Plus, it wasn’t like we could use a pair of dangling sports shoes as a reason to go searching somebody’s house. That’s why the trainers worked so well. Everybody knew what they meant, when technically they didn’t mean anything.

  When we reached Lee’s street, which consisted of two long rows of houses, I noticed that some were in okay condition, while others were either boarded up or falling apart. It was the kind of place you didn’t want to get stuck walking through at night, or during the day, for that matter. Lee’s house, number 52, was probably the best kept. It had triple glazing, and parked outside was a souped-up black Ford Focus RS with tinted windows in the back.

  “How did you know to come here?” Tony asked, derisively eyeing the car in the same way I was. It was just too fucking typical.

  “I recognised the guy. This is where he lives,” I answered, gripping the steering wheel as I glanced out. We were exiting the car and making our way to the house when Tony said, “Dealt with him before, did you?”

  I shrugged right before I lifted the knocker and banged three times on the door.

  “Something like that.”

  The curtains twitched on the window of a house two doors down, and I saw a little old lady peek her head out. She seemed to startle when she caught me looking and quickly let the curtain fall back into place. I could hear the TV playing and voices talking inside Lee’s. Then somebody walked down the hallway and opened the door. It was a small woman, probably in her early twenties, with a pixie face and short brown hair. I wondered if she was Lee’s girlfriend. She was chewing gum as she cocked her head and gave me a blank stare.

  “Yeah?”

  “Good evening, miss. We’re looking for Trevor Cross, want to ask him a few questions about his whereabouts earlier this evening. Is he in by any chance?”

  The woman continued giving me her blank stare before rolling her eyes and turning to shout over her shoulder, “Lee! The old bill are at the door asking about Trev.”

  “I’m cooking dinner. Tell them he’s not in,” Lee called back, and I got a little fizzle in my stomach at the sound of his voice. It had been two, maybe three months since I’d last seen him. Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy about my reaction. I knew he was telling the truth about dinner when a waft of garlic hit my nose. Whatever he was cooking, it smelled delicious.

  She turned back to me, and I levelled her with a hard expression that made her swallow.

  “Don’t think they’re gonna leave so easily, cuz.” So she was his cousin?

  “Fine, I’ll be there in a minute,” Lee snapped.

  She gave me a pointed look that said, Happy now? before turning and strutting back inside the house. I glanced at Tony. He seemed bored. This sort of thing was business as usual for us; however, the fact that it involved Lee Cross meant I was far from bored. I adjusted my radio and ran my hands over the notebook tucked safely inside my shirt pocket before straightening out my tie. I was fidgeting, my agitation drumming itself up higher the longer Lee left us waiting.

  I heard some shuffling, and then a little boy of about three or four years of age shyly poked his head around the door. He was adorable, and I was grinning like an idiot before I had the chance to school my expression.

  “Hey, what’s your name?” I asked, bending down a little to meet his eyes. The second I spoke, he dashed off. Sometimes kids got scared when they saw the uniform.

  A second later Lee was walking down the hallway toward us, wiping his hands on a dish cloth. He wore jeans and a T-shirt, and I allowed myself a brief moment to take in the intricate tattoos that adorned his arms and the way his jeans hugged his trim waist before straightening my posture. Lee’s eyebrows lifted when he saw me standing there. His expression didn’t give much away, and his attention wandered briefly to Tony before returning to me. He seemed at ease. This was his territory, and I didn’t like it. He had the upper hand, no question.

  A slow, easy smile spread its way across his mouth as he eyed me. “I knew you’d come a-knocking sooner or later, Snap.”

  “There was a little boy,” I blurted. No idea why I said it.

  “That’s Jonathan. He’s my cousin Sophie’s kid. They live here with us.”

  “Oh,” I said, staring at him dumbly for a second before remembering why I was there. I cleared my throat. “Well, we’re here on official business. I’ve just come from chasing your brother Trevor down an alley after I caught him trying to steal a Honda. If he’s here, I’d like to speak with him.”

  Lee folded his arms. “Like I said, he’s not in. But how do you know it was Trev? Lots of blokes out there who look like him, good-lookin’ son of a gun that he is. I think you’ve got your wires crossed, babe.”

  “You’re talking to a police constable, son. Show some respect,” Tony said, bristling at Lee calling me “babe.”

  Lee looked at Tony, then at me, and smirked as he dipped his head forward and spoke low. “My apologies, Karla.” The way he said my name gave me that fizz
y feeling in my stomach again, but I didn’t let it show. Up until now, he’d never called me by my actual name, always by the nickname he’d decided to give me: Snap, or the longer version, Gingersnap.

  “That’s Constable Sheehan to you,” I said firmly.

  Some recognition flared in his eyes as he ran a hand over his jaw. “Did you just say Sheehan?”

  I narrowed my gaze at him. “That’s right.”

  “Fuck.”

  “Did I not just tell you to show some respect?” Tony cut in, disgruntled now.

  Lee didn’t even look at him this time. His attention was all on me. “Any relation to Superintendent Sheehan?”

  I swallowed, my throat growing dry all of a sudden. He knew my dad. Fantastic. “That’s none of your concern. Now, if you could assist us in locating your brother….”

  “Oh, Christ, you are, aren’t you? What is he, your uncle? Your old man? Please don’t tell me you’re married to the prick, because that’ll just put me off my dinner.”

  His statement made me forget myself for just a second as I screwed up my face in disgust. “Eww, no. He’s my father, you….” I caught myself right before I added the word “idiot” onto the end of my sentence.

  “Shiiiit! Your dad? Bloody hell, Snap, now I just feel sorry for you.”

  He wasn’t joking, either. There was genuine sympathy in his expression, but I plastered a stoic look on my face. Most everyone who knew my father knew he was a hard-arse, belligerent fucking bully of a man, but he excelled at his job. His personal life, not so much.

  “I’m not discussing this with you. Call your brother and tell him to get down here. If he’s innocent like you say he is, then he shouldn’t mind us asking a few questions.”

  Lee didn’t breathe a word; instead, he stared at me in a way that made my uniform feel too constricting, my stab vest too heavy. Slowly, he reached inside his jeans pocket and pulled out an iPhone. After tapping on the screen a few times, he lifted it to his ear, eyes on me as the call rang out. I was close enough to hear it go to voicemail.

 
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