Is it too late for second chances?
Jared Martin left Tidal Falls a hotheaded youth. Eight years in the military has turned him into a cynical, disillusioned man.
Then he returns home to find out he’s a father.
When an old enemy follows and causes mayhem in the small town, can Jared overcome the odds to protect the woman he’s always loved and the child he never knew?
The Rebel’s Redemption
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Jared’s world narrowed down to the little black barrel of the gun pointed at his chest. Funny, in all the years of being in the SEAL teams he’d never been in this situation. Not to say he hadn’t dodged his share of bullets. It’s just they’d always erupted like a hailstorm, out of nowhere. This was somewhere. The back alley of his mother’s freaking café in freaking America to be exact. What the hell?
If he wasn’t so pissed off at himself for getting into this situation, he might have laughed. Eight years overseas off and on, and he was going to get shot in his own backyard. How’s that for ironic?
“Look man, why don’t we talk about this?” Jared forced his gaze to focus on Sergei’s steely gaze instead of the muzzle of the semi-automatic.
“The time for talk is past,” the Russian said. “You ignored my advice and instead made a fool out of me with that stupid trick you performed.”
“Advice? You call beating the livin’ shit out of me, advice?” Jared ground his teeth together, and fought to keep a level tone. “You can’t blame a guy for wanting to retaliate.” A crash by the garbage caused both men to crouch into a fight stance. A tabby cat raced away. Jared straightened, his heart knocking against his ribcage, as desperate to escape this mess as the animal. He needed to defuse the situation before someone came upon them; please God not his mom.
“Okay, you’re right. I shouldn’t have set off alarms or caused those slots to pay out. But seriously dude, you can’t go around acting all KGB, we’re in the good old USA now.” Jared kept a careful eye on the guy’s trigger finger and cursed his loose tongue. What part of defuse couldn’t he figure out?
Sergei tipped his felt hat back on his bald head like an old time gunslinger. His hand holding the gun never wavered. “You have big mouth.”
Yeah, I’ve heard that a time or ten.
“Why don’t we handle this like two adults? I’ll call your boss, tell him I screwed up and it’ll never happen again…” There was no doubt on that, if he ever went near a casino again he’d kick his own ass. “And then you can go back to ruling your little kingdom far, far, away.”
The sound of the hammer cocking reverberated with frightening clarity in the small alley. There wasn’t even anywhere for him to take cover. The garbage can was at least ten feet away. Jared’s jaw cramped from the tension. His skin crawled as if overrun with fire ants. Where was his team when he needed them?
He’d just decided the only alternative was to rush the son-of-a-bitch when the alley erupted with the screams and laughter of children. Two kids rounded the corner at full speed on pedal bikes, racing each other to an imaginary finish line.
Sergei seized the opportunity, stepped between the bicycles and scooped the kids off their seats. The bikes, wheels still turning, fell to the ground in front of him creating a barrier. The kids—God, it was Chris and little Jessica—shrieked until Sergei shook them, then they froze, eyes wide and frightened, hanging under his arms like rag dolls.
“Let them go, you motherfu…” Jared’s voice came out low and lethal. Every muscle in his body prepared itself for the moment of attack. His breathing slowed until he could count each heartbeat as the blood coursed through his veins. Waiting. Watching.
Barnikov laughed. Laughed. The prick.
“Now it my turn to play game.” Jared made a slight move and Sergei’s smile flat-lined. He dropped Jessica to the ground in front of him but kept his forearm wrapped around her neck. The gun nestled the side of her head pointed straight at Chris dangling from his other arm. “Move and I shoot.” He shuffled the trio back towards the mouth of the alley. “We’ll talk again, my friend.”
And then he disappeared around the corner, leaving nothing but the slowly turning tire on a bike, and Jared’s heart as it shattered.