BlackJack (A Standish Bay Romance Book 1)

BOOK: BlackJack (A Standish Bay Romance Book 1)
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BLACKJACK

A Standish Bay Romance

 

By

CHRISTINE DONOVAN

 

http://www.christinedonovan.org

 

FB: Christine Donovan Author

Twitter: Christine Donovan @cmdonovan

 

Cole Jackson
spends fifteen years in prison for a murder he did not commit, the murder of
his wife Lindsey.

His talent as a
songwriter, and being an avid reader, save him from the loneliness of the cold,
dark and unforgiving prison walls. But as he joins the world of the free again,
he struggles with his once again fame, because of his rock-n-roll band, of
being a convicted killer and the fact that his self-esteem and self-respect
were lost years ago. Prison will do that to you, not to mention drugs, alcohol
and an unfaithful wife.

He no longer
has the drugs, the alcohol, or the unfaithful wife. What he has is a tarnished
reputation and the determination to find the true killer and restore his life.

Shannon
Gallagher’s hard work as a writer has finally paid off. She believes her life
is complete until she meets Cole Jackson. She idolized him at sixteen, cried at
twenty-one when he went to prison. Now at thirty-six she meets him and falls
instantly in love. But as Cole gets closer to his wife’s killer, he puts
Shannon’s life in danger. Can he expose the murderer and keep Shannon safe?

Copyright 2015 by
Christine Donovan

ISBN 978-0-692-38846-4

BLACKJACK

 

Cover Design by Kendra Egert

Edited by Judy Roth

All rights reserved.

 

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only.
This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like
to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for
each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was
not purchased for your use only, then please return it and purchase your own
copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author. To obtain
permission to except portions of the text, please contact the author at
[email protected]

 

This novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places
and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, or, if real, used
fictitiously. Any resemblance to any person or persons, living or dead, events
or locales is entirely coincidental.

This book is dedicated to my husband Michael.

 I love you!

I want to thank my husband, my four sons, Shawn, Matt,
Danny and Joey for all your support over the years and my three-year-old
granddaughter, Olivia, for brightening up my days. My mother, Alberta Murray
and my sister, Karen Gomer, for always being there for me. Also, thank you to Sammie
Grace for being the first to read BlackJack and giving me valuable information.

Prologue

Groping the
wall blindly, hoping to steady his rubbery legs, Cole Jackson swore as he
realized he was totally wasted. The hotel hallway seemed to sway violently like
a ship caught in a serious gale—the kind small boats don’t survive intact.

“Shit,” he
yelled as he collapsed to one knee then slowly raised himself up and continued
shuffling toward the room he shared with his wife, Lindsey.

From a distant
haze, voices pummeled through the buzz surrounding his brain. Faces blurred and
flashed in and out and around the black spots plaguing his eyesight.

One person asked,
“How’d the show go tonight, Mr. Jackson?”

“Great, just
great,” Cole thought he replied. The words formed in his brain—he just wasn’t
sure they managed to escape his mouth.

Another man
remarked, “Do you need any assistance?”

“Hell no,” Cole
muttered aloud this time as he tripped along mumbling to himself. Why did
everyone assume he needed assistance just because he had a damn good buzz on? It
was his life, wasn’t it? And if he chose to blur it with alcohol it was his
business and nobody else’s.

Cole slid the
stupid plastic key card in the door for the third time. “Damn, damn, damn.” He pounded
the door with his fist. “I need sleep. All I want to do is crawl into bed. Come
on, fourth time’s the charm.”

As he turned
the knob, he prayed Lindsey slept
alone.
He’d stayed away as long as he
could without passing out in the hotel bar.
Not like he’d never done that
before
.

“What the
hell,” he swore as he shoved the door open, banging it into something. Once
inside with the door shut, he looked down, blinked several times, forcing his
eyes to focus, and saw Lindsey lying on the floor. A deep red stain encompassed
her chest and a potent metallic smell suddenly floored his senses. Cole swayed
and tried to steady himself as blackness descended, swallowing him up
.
The
last thing he remembered as he collapsed next to Lindsey was his hand landing
in something warm, wet and sticky.

      
Chapter
One

        Fifteen years later

Cole Jackson
sat in the suite his band BlackJack reserved at the Four Seasons in Boston. Every
muscle in his body was tense, making it difficult to pick away on his acoustic
guitar. He hated to admit it to himself, or anyone else for that matter, but
nerves plagued him like hell. Not nerves exactly, more precisely he was scared
shitless. Tonight BlackJack opened their tour in Boston, and his thoughts were
filled with insecurities as to how he’d be received. He swallowed, hoping to
stop the waves sloshing inside his stomach, causing him to gag. If he managed
to keep any food down today, it would be a miraculous occurrence.

He worried
about what people
saw
when they looked at him. Did they see a killer? Or
did they see a man who had some bad luck? It shouldn’t matter one way or
another to him, but it did. If only he could adopt that,
who gives a shit
what anyone thinks,
attitude. Fifteen years in prison for second degree
murder had destroyed his self-esteem and self-respect. There was nothing like
going to jail for something you didn’t do.

All his friends,
the close few he allowed near, kept telling him to talk about his ordeal, get
it out in the open, and things would improve. His soul would heal. Like hell it
would. People would just know what he went through. He had no intentions of
letting the entire world experience prison life through his eyes. So, he buried
the memories in the recesses of his mind, never to be dug up.

Tonight, a new
chapter of his life would begin. He was back playing his music, his life’s
dream. During his days in jail he had hoped and prayed to play again someday,
but he’d never thought it would actually happen. And truth be told, there were
days during his prison confinement he surprised himself by seeing another
sunrise. So here he sat, his favorite guitar cradled in his arms, his fingers
gripping the pick like a vise, and the music he usually played so effortlessly
sounding like crap.

“Hey, Cole.” AJ
Macleod, BlackJack’s bass guitarist, back-up vocalist and also Cole’s best
friend, charged into the band’s suite. “You won’t believe who’s signing books
at the Prudential Center today.”

Cole glanced
up, not the least bit interested. His mind was heavily centered on tonight’s
concert and trying to keep his body from jumping out of its skin. He finally
asked, knowing AJ wouldn’t leave until he had his say. “Who?”

“Guess? And ah’ll
give ye a hint—ye read all her books.”

“Shit, AJ. I
don’t have time for your games. Just give me the damn name of the bloody
writer.”

His friend grinned
from ear to ear. “Shannon Gallagher.”

Cole caught his
guitar moments before it hit the floor.

 “Thought that
might get ye.” AJ chuckled. “Man, ye should see yer face. Stunned doesn’t even
begin to describe it. Ah’m heading over tae the bookstore, wanna tag along?”

Cole thought
about it for all of one second. He had kept a low profile since his release
from prison, and he and AJ together might cause people to recognize them. He
couldn’t face all the questions and looks that would be directed toward him. Someday
he would have to face it, but not today. He just couldn’t do it. All his energy
and emotional charge needed to be focused on tonight. Getting through this
concert was crucial. If he survived it, his first public appearance since going
to prison, he could survive the rest of the concert tour and quite possibly the
rest of his life.

He had to admit
though, the name kick-started his pulse and made him curious as to what she—he
shook his head. “I appreciate the invite, AJ, but I’m staying put...ah, lying
low.” He settled in with his guitar once again. “Just going to strum my Betty
here and try to relax.”

AJ shrugged. “Suit
yourself man. But ah hear she’s quite a looker.”

As Cole watched
AJ leave, loneliness slammed into him. “Stupid idiot,” he muttered to himself. He
should have gone. It would have done him good to get his mind off tonight.

***    

Shannon
Gallagher had driven Route 3 from her home in Standish Bay, heading north to
Hingham to pick up her sixteen-year-old son, Cameron at her ex-husband’s house.
Tonight she was surprising him with tickets to a BlackJack concert at the
Garden so it made sense for him to tag along on a book signing she had at the
Prudential. He could shop around and kill time, something teenagers were good
at. She could hardly wait to see her son’s expression when she waved the
tickets in front of his eyes, not to mention they were spending the night in
Boston. A city they both loved.

She had been
signing books for one full hour and was riddled with guilt for the people still
waiting in line. It humbled and amazed her when people came to see her and buy
her books. She would never take it for granted. One day success existed and the
next, puff, it vanished right along with health and happiness. Fortunately for
her, she’d been blessed with all three so she never understood the
unsettledness and yearning that nagged her at times. She daydreamed and reached
out constantly for something that eluded her. She had a notion what it was and
wondered if it would ever be close enough to grasp.

Her thoughts
were interrupted when someone cleared his throat. She looked up into the eyes—well
she would have looked at his eyes, if he wasn’t wearing dark sunglasses—of a
tall man with shoulder length brown hair and a mustache. He wore jeans and a black
leather jacket. She quickly apologized for not paying attention. “I’m sorry. My
mind wandered.”

He smiled and
handed Shannon her newest book. “Quite all right, luv. Ye’ve been busy.” He
glanced at his watch. “Ah think ah’ve been queued up in line for forty-five
minutes.” He paused and took in the crowd. “Nice turnout by the way.”

“Thank you. And
I’m sorry you had to wait so long.”

“Not a problem,
ah’ve nothing pressing.”

Shannon flipped
the book open to the title page and glanced back to the gentleman with the
foreign accent. “Are you from England?”

“Not originally,
no, but ah used tae live there. ah’m from Scotland.”

“Ah. I’ve been
once. It’s beautiful.”

“Aye. That it
is.”

“Is this book
for you?” she asked, pen in hand.

He shook his
head. “No, luv, it’s for a good friend. His name is Cole, spelled C.O.L.E. He’s
a big fan of yers. He’s back at the hotel. Ah couldn’t convince him tae come.”

She signed the
book with her curvy, Parochial school penmanship.
Cole, you need to get out
more. But if you’re going to stay in, you’ve picked a great book to keep you
company. Enjoy, Shannon Gallagher.

The Scottish
man laughed as he read what she wrote. “He’ll like that. Thank ye.”

She smiled. “Thank
you and I hope your friend enjoys the book.”

He took off his
glasses and winked at her. “He’ll enjoy it, luv. He reads all yer books. Good
day.”

“Good day,” she
replied back with a touch of Scottish accent in her voice as it was contagious
not to do so.

Shannon’s eyes
followed the man out of the store. There was something vaguely familiar about
him. But, oh well, she didn’t have time to ponder it now, she still had a line
of people waiting to meet her, and she didn’t want to keep anyone waiting
longer than necessary.

***

At two-fifteen,
Cameron returned from meandering through the shops inside the Prudential Center
just as Shannon completed signing the last book. As they left the bookstore,
she spotted the Scottish gentleman approaching. Once again she had a nagging
feeling he looked familiar.

He again removed
his glasses and glanced from her to Cameron and back. “Excuse me, ah dinnae
mean tae intrude, but ah hoped maybe ye, if ye dinnae have any plans for this
evening—”

“I’m sorry,”
Shannon interrupted him. This was going to spoil her surprise. But, oh well,
she had to tell him sometime. “I’m taking my son to the BlackJack concert.”

Cameron yelled and
picked her up for a crushing hug. “Mom, how
did
you? The
concert’s been sold out
forever!

“I can’t
breathe, and I have my sources,” she choked out.

He let her go
quickly. “Sorry.”

Shannon turned
to the man. “I’m truly sorry. If you’ll excuse us we must be going.” She
offered him her hand.

He surprised
her by holding it tightly cradled between both of his. “So ye like BlackJack?”

Smiling, she
studied him, trying to read his expression. He seemed amused at something. “Yes
I do. My son, Cameron, as well. We’re huge fans.”

“Ah’m AJ
Macleod. Ye signed the book ah bought today for Cole Jackson.”

Shannon’s pulse
jumped. She removed her hand from AJ’s and placed it on her speeding heart. Cole
Jackson read her books,
the
Cole Jackson. Oh my, she locked her knees
before they buckled and she collapsed to the floor right then and there.

Cameron looked
at her. “Mom, are you okay? Did you
hear
what he said? You signed
a book for Cole Jackson and he is...oh shit man...you’re AJ, bass guitarist. I
thought you looked like him...but...you’re
really
him?”

AJ laughed. “Aye,
that’s me. Listen, Cole doesn’t get out much, and he’d be thrilled if ye came
by the hotel tae meet him. We’re staying at the Four Seasons.”

 “So are we,” she
said softly, hardly believing this conversation.

“We are?” Cameron
asked, sounding even more shocked than before.

“Perfect. We’re
in suite 526, come on up and visit before the concert. We usually have a jam
session tae loosen up and relax, then a light dinner.” He turned to leave,
paused, pivoted back and looked right into her eyes, his green ones hypnotic. “Please
say ye’ll come, luv.”

How could she
not? If not for her, but for Cameron who would positively hate her if she
refused. “I...um...yes, I suppose we will,” she answered, her voice sounding
distant and nervous to her own ears.

***

As they drove
to the hotel, Cameron never shut up. She didn’t remember the last time she
heard him talk so much or be so excited about something.

“Do you think
they’ll mind if I bring my guitar?”

“I suppose not,”
she replied, hoping it was true.

Shannon pulled
up in front of the hotel, handed the keys over to the valet parking attendant
and waited as their bags were unloaded. After checking in, they went up to
their room so Shannon could change. She removed her pantsuit and slid into her
favorite jeans, sweater and black leather boots. After she brushed her long
brown hair, her teeth, and touched up her makeup her hand flew to her stomach
as her insides churned. Her body trembled in fear and excitement with the
knowledge that minutes from now she would meet Cole Jackson in person. Her dream
come true since she was sixteen and BlackJack first hit the music scene. She
took a drink of water and prayed she didn’t embarrass herself and throw up
during her introduction to him.

Now she stood
with Cameron, outside the door to suite 526, and on the other side stood her
idol. Okay, so she was a little old to have an idol, but he was something. The
sound of someone singing and playing guitar drifted through the door.
Cole.
She reached out with an unsteady hand to knock on the door, only to pull back
and groan. “Cameron, I don’t know if I can. I’ve always wanted to meet him. What
if I make a fool of myself?”

Cameron shot
her a teenager’s exasperated look, complete with eye roll. “Mom, get real. You’re
like the coolest Mom ever.”

Before she had
a chance to flee, Cameron knocked on the door, it flung open, and her stomach
took a silent tumble. AJ greeted them with a warm smile and stepped aside,
sweeping his arm out. “Welcome.”

Shannon scanned
the room anxiously, until she found Cole, sitting on the arm of a couch,
strumming an acoustic guitar. Her lungs constricted and she couldn’t breathe,
nor could she tear her eyes off him. He was mesmerizing. She drank in every
detail she could make out from this vantage point. His dark blond hair was
pulled off his face and he sported the in-fashion five o’clock shadow. She also
noticed some hard lines on his face he didn’t have in his twenties. He didn’t
look like a pretty boy anymore. Oh, no—he looked better—much better. Older,
more handsome, and she detected a vulnerability most people might not see, but
she had a trained eye for detail. He wore old jeans with holes at the knees, a
plain black T-shirt that hugged his ripped body and black leather boots all
scuffed and well broken in. She knew from his pictures he was tall, but she
never imagined the muscles rippling in his arms as he played his guitar.

“Mom, you’re
staring,” Cameron whispered.

“Huh, what?” she
said, coming out of her daze. “Oh God, I was. I was staring.”

AJ chuckled.
“Cole has that affect on women. Come, let me introduce ye.”

Shannon stepped
back and shook her head. “No, I can’t.”

AJ’s easy going
expression turned to confusion. “Why not, ’tis not because...?”

Shannon placed
her hands on her scalding cheeks. “Oh God, no, it’s just, well, like he’s been
my fantasy man since I was sixteen. I wouldn’t know what to say. Just listen to
me now. I sound like a moron.”
Where was the person who wrote so eloquently
?
Cole
had
been her fantasy man. Having married her ex-husband John McKenzie
at seventeen because she was pregnant with Cameron had her growing up fast. Times
were tough. She coped by either submersing herself fully into being Cameron’s
mother, putting her stories to paper or engrossing in BlackJack music and
dreaming about Cole.

AJ curled his
large, warm hand around her elbow and tugged her along with him. “Aye, he’s
every woman’s fantasy. But let me tell ye.” He lowered his voice several
octaves. “Cole’s extremely shy. He’ll be as nervous as ye.” He wiggled his brows
at her and his eyes sparkled with mischief. “If ye tell him ah said that luv,
I’ll deny it.”

BOOK: BlackJack (A Standish Bay Romance Book 1)
7.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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