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King Of Hearts: A Dark Erotic Romance (Old Money Roulette Book 2) by Natalie Bennett (1)

Prelude

It wasn’t hard to conjure up the memory of what made me choose this path. Some things just stayed with you no matter how much time had passed.

I could still hear the mocking laughter in the voice mail.

I remembered the torrential downpour falling from the starless sky when I went to collect the body.

I saw the uneven jagged suture in the shape of an X going across her abdomen, and the wriggling white maggots hungrily feasting on the rotten trimmings.

The coroner said she was still alive when the box blade split her wide open.

I prayed she was unconscious when her son was stolen from her body.

And I hoped to God, even though I no longer had the right to rely on him for a damn thing, that she’d taken her last breath before he failed to take his first.

Flickering candles sent shadows dancing across the empty pews surrounding me. I waited on Father Franco’s sixth sense to kick in and let him know I was there.

I was perfectly fine with the solitude. It gave me time alone with my thoughts; something I rarely had an opportunity to take advantage of.

Staring up at Jesus’ deeply sorrowed frown, I took a sip from my silver flask in honor of their memory, swallowing the liquor down like a bitter pill of acid, relishing the burn.

Today marked the anniversary of a deeply personal tragedy, and this was my way of mourning.

I’d never had the simple luxury of breaking down or succumbing to my baser emotions. My hate, hurt, and rage were simply scraps of substance that fed the morally bankrupt beast constantly foaming at the mouth inside me.

From the age of fourteen, I was fluent in the art of not giving a fuck, being sadistically cruel, and knowing sometimes I would have to make tough choices for a better result. That’s just the way things worked in mas alto.

There was always someone lurking in the shadows, waiting to exploit a weakness in hopes that you would break down, giving them the opportunity to take what others had worked so hard to achieve.

If I stumbled, I had to be prepared for my empire to crumble. That was unacceptable. As was the situation someone had recently tried to force me into.

One phone call confirmed everything I’d already known.

My Elena was meant to be used as a pawn in a game she knew nothing about, cast into the raging sea of my world and left to sink or swim.

Unfortunately for the other player, I had a life vest on hand and my own agenda for her.

I’d been working the same angle for years, knowing my delayed gratification would be well worth it. No weapon formed against me would ever fucking prosper, unless I was the one to wield it. Ace was about to receive a very rude awakening in the not so distant future.

Capping the flask, I tucked it back in my inner suit pocket just as Father Franco wordlessly made his way down the aisle and sat on the pew beside me.

He knew me well, knew all the losses I’d locked away, all the lives I’d heartlessly taken, and the joy those temporary moments of playing god brought me.

When he finally spoke, it was with the years of aged wisdom always evident in his voice.

“What is it you wish to have forgiven?”

This was how he always started off our conversations, and he always got the same response.

Today, I came for something different.

“I didn’t come here in search of forgiveness for the things I’ve done, Father. I came seeking absolution for the all things I’m about to do.”

He silently shifted beside me, settling in and preparing himself for my confessions.

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