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Authors: Lisa Hughey

Tags: #General Fiction

Stone Cold Heart

Table of Contents

Stone Cold Heart

Copyright

The Stone Family Romantic Suspense series....

Acknowledgments

Dedication

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Excerpt from Carved in Stone

Excerpt from Heart of Stone

Books by Lisa Hughey

About Lisa

Stone Cold Heart

by Lisa Hughey

Copyright

December 2013

Lisa Hughey

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written consent from the author/publisher.

 

This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are products of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

 

The Stone Family Romantic Suspense series....

Stone Cold Heart
:

Jess Stone, former FBI sniper, always felt like the kid who looks in the candy store window but could never afford to go in. But on a humanitarian mission to aid an earthquake ravaged country, finally she finds a place where she belongs, in Colin Davies' arms, and working for Global Humanitarian Relief, her big brother's company. But can the former SAS thaw Jess's stone cold heart?

 

Carved in Stone:

Connor Stone has always been odd man out in his family. Not the oldest, not the most charming, he'd had a lock on the youngest until another half-sibling came to live with them, so he raised hell in his youth. Con knows now the only way to redeem himself is with deeds, not words and sets out to prove once and for all he is worthy of the Stone family. When his older brother asks him to take care of business, Con finally will have redemption he craves. Except when Ava Sanchez, his brother's assistant, is threatened, he must choose between saving the girl and protecting his family. Will his choice bring him love or break his heart?

 

Heart of Stone:

Riley Stone is the handsome brother, the charming one. Everyone who meets him compares him to his father, which in his mind is not a compliment. But he's never met a woman he couldn't charm, until he meets Di, an acerbic, smart-mouthed, passionate activist who has no time for him or his charm. On the run, in the midst of danger, the blistering passion they share explodes. Can these two opposites find common ground, or will Di smash Riley's stone heart?

 

And coming soon....

 

Still the One:

Jack Stone, former Navy SEAL, and oldest Stone sibling is determined to keep his family strong. Family is everything. So he starts Global Humanitarian Relief and Stone Consulting to do some good and keep his family together. But when he has to team up with his old flame, Bliss, on a missing persons case, an evil threatens him, his family and the one woman he could never forget and doesn't want to let go. Can these two former lovers put aside past hurts and heal their hearts?

Acknowledgments

No writer works in a vacuum. I am very fortunate to have a supportive group of writers and professionals behind me.

 

Huge thanks to Adrienne Bell, LGC Smith, and Cecilia Gray for pretty much everything and anything. A special shout out to Adrienne Bell for the ongoing word wars!! The Pens for being totally awesome-sauce, whether it be emergency pick-me-ups, or writing retreats at the haunted house, or impromptu sessions at Panera, or lunches at Buffalo Hot Wings.

 

To The Killion Group, Kim for her amazing covers and general design advice and Jennifer for answering every question I have whether it's big or little in zero point two seconds. :)

 

Thank you all. :)

Dedication

To my family.

One

In the early evening dusk, Jess Stone lay on her stomach in the twenty foot high rubble of a demolished church, underneath a black and gray city-scape tarp intended to camouflage her position. A sharp-edged chunk of debris dug into her lower rib cage, the scope of the Remington M24 cool and familiar against her face.

Her standard uniform of jeans, running shoes, and plain black t-shirt rendered her just another anonymous and transient relief worker...which she was actually. A black baseball cap hid her distinctive multi-hued blonde hair. The paper mask kept out the contaminated dust from the destroyed buildings but did little to stem the overwhelming stench of decaying bodies.

Tanks rumbled through the destroyed coastal town, their public address system blasting warnings for citizens to stay in their homes, curfew was in effect. The threat was a joke. Ninety percent of the people in the town didn't have homes left. Those who did were terrified to go back inside. In the fetid, humidity choked air, the tent cities erected in the parks and on the beach were seething masses of the injured and shock struck.

The substandard construction in the small country had never been enough to withstand the angry might of Mother Nature. Buildings had toppled like a stack of Tinkertoys, and left crumbling cement walls with twisted rebar poking out of the jagged ruins like a skeletal hand.

Trapped in the concrete pieces that littered the ground, the heat from the tropical day seared through her thin sturdy clothing. The stank of the raw sewage that ran in rivulets through the streets overpowered the salt-laden breeze off the ocean. People, covered with the grit of pulverized buildings and humans, shuffled along with blank vacant stares. Two weeks after the quake, still in shock, their lives decimated first by nature and then kicked and beaten by the ineffectiveness of a flawed relief system. Hundreds of humanitarian agencies had descended on the population duplicating efforts and yet completely missing the need in other areas. The government was ostensibly trying to coordinate the effort, however the mass chaos was undeniable.

Through the Leupold Ultra M3 fixed power sight, she tracked the movements of Henri LeRoy, leader of this tiny island nation, violator of human rights and dignity, and all around poor excuse for a human being.

Sickness roiled in her stomach. The power bar she’d eaten for breakfast threatened to add to the rubble pile as she tried to figure out how in the hell she'd ended up here. Back behind a sniper rifle with the power over life and death trembling in the muscles of her right trigger finger.

Dammit. When she'd decided to take control of her life and quit the FBI, she hadn't wanted to do this any more.

She'd wanted to be a simple relief worker. She'd wanted to connect with her family, brothers and mother.

But that bitch, fate, had slapped her upside the head and now here she was, where she'd sworn she never wanted to be again. Looking through the scope of a high-powered rifle, with a crystal clear head shot and a murky sense of right and wrong.

With little fanfare, she could blast LeRoy's brain matter all over the silk-covered walls and the antique Louis the XIV scrolled chairs in the receiving room of his ridiculously elegant weekend mansion which, since built properly, had sustained minimal damage. Her muscles twitched with the knowledge and acceptance that with one slow slide of her finger, the despotic, amoral leader would be history.

Jess didn't want to kill him, didn't want to be directly responsible for another death. She didn't want this choice. She’d given up this kind of life. She'd left the FBI after a series of high stress cases to get away from the doubt and guilt that had crippled her. To make her own decisions about right and wrong rather than carry out the commands of her bosses.

But if Henri LeRoy lived, chances were astronomical that many other citizens would die.

And yeah, she'd probably been manipulated into this. Actually no probably about it. Assassination had not been listed as one of her duties when she'd joined Global Humanitarian Relief. Damn her brother anyway.

But now all she could do was lay here in the desecrated remains of the former church and hope that her special skill set wouldn't be needed.

Fortunately, she was secondary backup.

And unless several things went horribly wrong, she would break down her weapon, get back to the relief aid encampment, back to actually helping people, and be out of here without ever firing her rifle.

Then she could hand out seed packets to her heart's content and figure out what she was going to do next. If she'd stay with GHR and her brothers, or go. First, she had to get through the next two hours.

But if something did go wrong...she prayed that if she was called upon, she could make the right decision. Make the shot. Cold zero.

Two

60 hours earlier

 

"Are your shots up to date?"

No hello. Jack Stone, Jess's oldest half-brother and more importantly her new boss, was direct and to the point. And she knew better than to interrupt his train of thought. "Yes." She’d had her round of standard inoculations, Tdap, MMR and Hep A & B, including vaccinations for malaria, tuberculosis, and cholera, a month ago.

"My office. Now."

Jess was finally going to get to go into the field. Her heart rate picked up and anticipation zoomed through her body as she mentally reviewed possibilities. But, with his sense of urgency, there was only one logical destination. She was going to Port-du-Bois in the Caribbean. Finally, she was going to get to do some good. Adrenaline flooded her body like a welcome and familiar drug, the buzz nearly making her light headed.

Jack twirled his finger, indicating she should close the door. "Time is critical"

Keisha Johnson, her least favorite employee and sometimes nemesis at the Global Humanitarian Relief headquarters in Monterey, sat in the other chair. Jess didn’t even know why the woman didn’t like her but she knew she didn’t. And the feeling was mutual. Something about Keisha rubbed her the wrong way. Jess thought she might have a thing for Jack, but since Jack was her brother, she couldn't come up with any reason that Keisha would be threatened by her. After all, Keisha knew that Jack was her brother. Keisha was in her early thirties, with kinky black hair, mocha skin, striking hazel eyes, but more importantly she had a killer brain. And an attitude the size of the Pacific Ocean.

Dressed in faded camo pants and a tight army green t-shirt, her youngest brother Connor leaned against the credenza behind Jack's desk arms crossed over his impressive chest.

Jess's heart sunk a little. She wasn't Connor's favorite person. Never had been. He'd never come out and said it but she knew that he resented her. He'd been the baby of the house until she and her mother had come to live with them when Jess and Connor had been eight. Their relationship had always been a bit strained. But with the chip he had on his shoulder, his relationship with everyone was a bit strained. Although it seemed like lately he'd been making an effort to move beyond it.

Her pleasure dimmed. She'd been hoping her first mission wouldn't involve Connor. But she'd get over it.

The door swung open and her middle brother, Riley, sauntered in looking like James Bond right before he hit the baccarat tables. Smoothly shaven jaw, sharp cheekbones, and eyes the color of Ireland's green grass, Riley could charm the pants off the even the most virulent of man haters. It was a gift. He didn't just charm though, Riley was the consummate protector and he truly loved women. His charm was genuine and heartfelt no matter the woman's age, looks, or disposition.

Jess's spirits lifted. Maybe she'd be going with Riley. Except, based on his beautifully tailored suit and designer tie, he didn't appear ready to hit an earthquake-ravaged country.

Ava Sanchez, Jack's sweet and gorgeous assistant, began to close the door gently. Her gaze swept the room, skipped over Riley and cast a fleeting, longing look at Connor, before carefully averting her attention.
Huh
.

"Now that we're all here," Jack said gruffly. Jack had been her hero since the day she and her mother had moved into their father's mansion on Seventeen Mile Drive and he'd picked her up and given her a welcoming hug and a giant smile. Jess's heart flooded with love for her half-brother, who had convinced her to come work for GHR, overly responsible for taking care of the world or at least his little corner of it. "Let's get started."

Keisha dismissed Jess, and cut her gaze back to her phone before focusing back on their boss.

Jess had spent the last several months learning the ins and outs and logistics of humanitarian aid relief. A far cry from her work as an elite sniper for the FBI, when she'd prepped for targeted killings, a fancy, legally-sanctioned term for assassinations, but she had voluntarily retired from her prior employment.

When Jack had requested that she come work at his company, she'd thought long and hard about the offer. As a child, she never quite fit in. She came to live with them late. She was a girl to their rough boys. Sometimes she wondered if she were incapable of more meaningful connections. As if her heart was stone cold and unable to warm. Except she loved her mother, she adored her big brothers, Jack and Riley. Hell, she even loved Connor. But she'd still felt like that kid staring in the window longingly.

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