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Exclusive Excerpt: Jack of Hearts by Sandra Owens

Release Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Series: Aces & Eights, Book 1

Summary

Alex Gentry doesn’t scare easily. Working as an undercover FBI agent in the biker bar he and his brothers co-own, he hangs with deadly criminals in order to gather information. Danger is just part of the family business. But one thing has him terrified: his attraction to Madison Parker.

Madison is the cousin of Ramon Alonzo, son and second in command to a notorious drug lord Alex is trying to bust. Alex has befriended Ramon as part of his cover, and Madison has unknowingly become his informant. Falling for her could risk this case—and both their lives.

All Madison wants is to get her new bookstore business off the ground, and for her creepy cousin Ramon—to whom she’s unfortunately indebted—to leave her alone. If she could only stop fantasizing about his mysterious new friend, Alex…

As the Alonzo cartel investigation heats up, so does their relationship. But will the secrets they’re keeping tear them apart—or get them both killed?

Exclusive Excerpt 

Alex rode back to Aces & Eights sans helmet, something he’d never done before. But he needed the cool night wind on his face and whipping through his hair after being so close to Madison. There had to be somewhere else they could meet, a place that didn’t have both her and a bed in it. 

His brain had gone on vacation when he’d agreed to teach her self-defense. That would mean touching her. Just being close to her tonight, he’d felt her heat, inhaled her lemony scent, and wanted nothing more than to put that bed of hers to good use. If he followed through on the promise of showing Madison how to protect herself, he’d definitely have to find a place without a bed anywhere near the premises. Of course, that would still leave the floor, up against the wall, atop a desk if there was one . . . 

He took the corner hard, scraping the bottom of the foot peg across the asphalt, the grinding noise echoing in the night. Throttling up, he tried to outrun thoughts of a woman with cat-green eyes. 

It worked for a few minutes as he raced down the empty street, but then she crept back into his mind. He couldn’t tell her he was FBI for fear that she would slip and say something around Ramon. Nor was he entirely certain that she was clueless about the family business and what Ramon and his father were involved in. 

Worse, he was the lead on an operation to take down part of her family. When that came about and she realized he had helped make it happen, she would hate him. That trust in him shining so brightly in her eyes would vanish when her cousin and uncle were hauled away in handcuffs. 

Better not to know what he might be missing, so no kissing her. Ever. No doing any of the things he’d fantasized about since he’d first met her. She was a source for information and nothing more. When he returned to the bar, he would tell his brothers about her. Once she wasn’t his personal secret, his fascination with her would diminish. Satisfied he had his priorities straight, Alex eased back on the throttle and turned the bike toward Aces & Eights.

***

 “When you gonna tell us who your informant is?” Nate asked. 

Court brought three ice-cold bottles of beer to the table, sliding into the booth next to Alex. “Yeah, you’ve never been so secretive before. What gives, bro?” 

Good question. Alex enjoyed the end of the day when, after locking up, he and his brothers would have a beer together before heading home. Sometimes they’d have some laughs over something Spider or some other dude had done, but usually they’d go over their progress on building a case against the Alonzo family. With Ramon MIA, things had stalled a bit. 

Although he’d decided to level with them about Madison Parker, a.k.a. Spooky Man, Alex hesitated, that damn need to protect her surfacing again. If his brothers knew about her, they’d push him to use her to the fullest extent. Although he would do that, he wanted to do it his way. Hell if he knew exactly what that way was. There was a black hole in his mind, one he wanted to fill in before he gave his brothers Madison’s name. He also hoped to ascertain her innocence first, if she was innocent. 

Being FBI agents, they were naturally suspicious of anyone with connections to the bad guys. Once he knew which side of the line Madison was on, and if it was the right one, he could better argue her case. If it turned out he was wrong about her, then she’d go down with her uncle and cousin. Yeah, he needed to know more about Madison Parker before he turned over her name. 

“Ramon will be back tomorrow. He’ll be at the Flamingo Bar around five, and I plan to just happen to go there with a date.” 

He’d never been able to pull one over on Nate, who narrowed his eyes. “Spooky Man tell you this?” 

It was close, but Alex managed not to squirm as if he were still ten years old and in trouble with his older brother. “Yep. I need a date.” 

Court snorted. “Just pick one of the many outta that contact list of yours.” 

“And put an innocent woman in Ramon’s sights?” There were a good number of female names stored in his phone, and he tried to think of one who could hold her own against Ramon. There were a few biker groupies in there, and any one of them probably could, but he was still uneasy about bringing any of them into contact with the Alonzo family. 

“Taylor Collins.” 

Alex gave Nate an appreciative nod. “Good thinking.” Taylor was a fellow FBI agent, and he should have thought of her. 

“I’ll  all Rothmire first thing in the morning and set it up.” Nate slid out of the booth. “I’m heading for home.” 

“Me, too,” Court said. 

Alex collected their bottles. He hoped their bureau chief agreed to loan them Taylor. Once she showed up on his arm, the man was going to want her. That was Ramon, wanting whatever anyone else had, especially a beautiful woman. 

At least Taylor was trained to protect herself. He had taken a Krav Maga class with her and had been duly impressed with both her determination and skills. He’d never been at the gun range with her but heard that she put it through the bull’s-eye every single time. So, yeah, he was good with introducing her to Ramon. 

After dropping the beer bottles in the recycling bin, Alex followed his brothers to the garage. As their three Harleys roared onto the street, he fell into his usual position, with Nate in the lead, Court in the middle, and him in the tail gunner position. 

Alex liked riding behind his brothers where he could keep an eye on them. It felt like he was protecting Nate and Court, something he owed them both for taking care of a confused, angry boy. 

Even though Nate had mostly raised him, growing up, Court had also kept an eye on him. Court was the one Alex had gone to when he needed to confess a sin before Nate heard about it. Together, the two of them would devise a story that would put Alex in a better light than he deserved. Because he’d often found himself in trouble, he had a special place in his heart for Court. That didn’t mean Court hadn’t given him hell, but Court’s hell was easier to take than Nate’s. Disappointing Nate had always made him feel like a brainless slug. 

As he followed his brothers home, for some damn reason he thought of his mother and wondered if she’d be proud of how they’d turned out. It had been twenty-two years since he’d last seen her, and because she’d made no attempt to contact them, he guessed he’d never know. They didn’t even know if she was still alive. 

At the security arm blocking their way to the lower-level parking garage, he pulled up next to Court while waiting for Nate to punch in the code. 

“You going to head back out?” he asked Court. Alex was feeling restless and wasn’t sure he was ready to pack it in. 

“Nah. I’m worn out.” Court grinned like a mischievous boy. “Might ruin my reputation if I tried to make a lady happy tonight.” 

“And here I thought nothing could keep you from getting it up.” He leaned his bike toward Court’s, reached over, and punched his brother’s arm. “You’re no longer my hero.” 

“Liar. I’ll always be your hero.” 

The security arm lifted, and Court followed Nate into the garage before Alex could retort. If he’d had the chance, he would have said, “Both you and Nate are my heroes.” And he would have meant it. Without them, Alex Gentry would have been crushed under his father’s heavy hand. 

There were ten floors in their condo complex, and Alex lived on the eighth. Court had his place on the ninth, and Nate’s condo was on the tenth. When the elevator came to a stop at the eighth floor, he waved a hand at his brothers. “Let me know if Taylor’s a go.” 

“I’ll call you after I talk to the boss,” Nate said as the door closed. 

Alex walked down the hallway, passing two condo units before he came to his own. After letting himself in, he took out his phone to check for messages. Nothing from Madison, so that should mean she was tucked snugly in her bed, safe and sound. 

And there he went again, thinking of her in bed.

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About the Author

A native of Florida, Sandra Owens managed a Harley-Davidson dealership before switching from a bike to an RV and roaming the open road (though she’s also chased thrills from sky-diving to upside-down stunt-plane flying). In addition to Crazy for Her—a 2013 Golden Heart Finalist for Romantic Suspense—her works include the Regency romance novels The Letter, winner of the Golden Quill for published authors award, and The Training of a Marquess, winner of the Golden Claddagh Award. A member of the Romance Writers of America and a potential cat owner, she lives with her husband in Asheville, North Carolina.

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