Dark Hearts (Secrets and Lies)

By: Sharon Sala

Some lies never stay buried...

Betsy Jakes was having nightmares, nightmares that could solve a decades-old mystery. And for someone in her small town, that meant she had to die.

When Sam Jakes returns home to help his brother solve their mother’s murder, two things shake him to the core. This crime is clearly the work of a serial killer who has struck twice before. And...Lainey Pickett is still in town. The woman he walked away from without an explanation years ago has just walked back into his life. She still holds a grudge—and his heart.

As Sam digs deeper into the murders and thirty-year-old secrets begin to emerge, he finds himself racing against time not only to catch a killer but to keep Lainey, the only woman he’ll ever love, from falling victim, too.






DARK

HEARTS





It’s never too late to make amends for a mistake. You can’t change the outcome, but acknowledging what you’ve done is the first step in helping yourself to heal.

I am dedicating this book to people who have learned how to let go of what they did wrong. I’m sure the list is long, and since being first seems to intimidate a lot of people, I will volunteer to add my name first.

My name is Sharon.

I learned to let go.



One

It was raining in Atlanta—what locals called a toad strangler—with water rushing through the streets and into gutters, taking dirt and garbage with it, flowing down into the sewers like shit being flushed down someone’s toilet.

Sam Jakes had an apartment in downtown Atlanta, in a building that catered to high-end renters with expensive tastes. He hadn’t chosen it because he loved the high life, but because the security factor was second to none. He also liked it for the anonymity it provided for the people who lived there. No names on the mailboxes, just apartment numbers, and no public listings anywhere on site. He’d made enemies running Ranger Investigations, uncovering other people’s secrets and lies. He didn’t want them following him home.

Sam hadn’t always been a loner. Growing up, he had been as normal and fun loving as any young boy could be. He hunted the mountain behind the family farm outside Mystic, West Virginia, and fished in the rivers. He loved football and pork chops with his mama’s cream gravy, and as he grew older he’d learned to love Lainey Pickett most of all. Then two planes flew into the World Trade Center and changed his life. Instead of beginning his freshman year of college, he’d enlisted in the army and gone to war.

After his second tour of duty he’d become a bomb tech, learning to defuse everything the enemy could construct, and then went back to war. Nine months later he came home in pieces, burned over half his body and with PTSD so bad that he didn’t turn on the ringer for his cell phone for three months. When he could move without screaming, he changed the ringtone to the opening notes of “Amazing Grace,” and when the hospital finally released him, he moved into an apartment without telling anyone where he was. He didn’t want his family camped out on his doorstep, bemoaning his condition or treating him like an invalid.

It took close to a year for the burns to completely heal and for him to get mobile enough to go through rehab. It took even more time for him to accept himself. His family came to see him once he let them know where he was, but he wouldn’t go home. In his mind, Sam Jakes from Mystic, West Virginia, was dead and buried in the sands of Afghanistan, which meant Lainey Pickett was no longer a part of his life. He quit Lainey without giving her a chance to quit him first.

Ten years and three psychiatrists later, he and PTSD had an unsettled truce, and the burn scars on his body looked like melted plastic. Except for the occasional visits his family made to Atlanta to see him, he communicated with them by phone. He lived for work and very little play, and on this particular day, he was trying to catch up on rest after a six-day stakeout.

Although it had been raining with soggy persistency for more than six hours, Sam was sound asleep inside apartment 4B, stark naked and belly down on the king-size bed with his cell phone in one hand and a handgun in the other.

In his dream, he was making love to Lainey. His fingers were tangled into the mane of red hair fanned out around her face, and he was hard as a rock and so deep inside her he couldn’t think. He could hear her short, breathless gasps as he pushed deeper into her, pounding harder until she suddenly arched up beneath him and wrapped her legs around his waist. He felt the climax roll through her and was about to come with her when he began hearing his brother cry out, calling his name. He turned to look for Lainey and she was gone. Then the tone of Trey’s voice changed to one of terror.

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