Wings of Love (A Lilac Romance Book 1)
Copyright © 2017 Pamela Ferguson
Published by Forget Me Not Romances, a division of Winged Publications
Too late to turn back now.
Sweat streamed down Jack’s face as he jogged past dilapidated vehicles and boarded-up storefronts. The early May sun, unseasonably hot, beat down on his shoulders, burning the back of his neck. If it weren’t for the gang-symbol graffiti and distant Washington, D.C. skyline, he could almost imagine himself back in a war zone.
Marco’s men were posted along rooftops and slouching in doorways. Their hawk-like gazes had tracked him for three blocks, assessing the threat he posed. Maybe he should’ve brought another Peacetalker. But Marco’s invitation had been explicit. Come alone.
He stopped in front of a ramshackle house and lifted the lower edge of his tee shirt to wipe the sweat from his face. See guys, no wire. No weapons.
“Come on,” a male voice ordered from the dark interior.
He followed Marco’s man through the dimly lit hall. The guy had missed his calling. With a build like that he could’ve easily been a professional linebacker. Or a Green Beret.
Thick curtains covered the windows. A group of young men sat crowded around a large flat screen television, engrossed in a first-person shooter game. Electronic explosions mingled with curses and verbal jibes as the players battled for dominance. Ash trays overflowed with cigarette butts. Empty pizza boxes and drink cans littered the floor. The scene wasn’t all that different from a frat house.
Except these guys were criminals.
Marco sat in the corner, hunched over his laptop. The gang leader had the piercing eyes of a leopard, the quick movements of a feral cat who could dominate one second and disappear the next. A man like Marco never met anyone in the same place twice.
“Jackie, my man. Thank you for accepting my invitation. Sit down.”The black-inked skulls and scrolls on Marco’s tattoo-covered arms told the story of gang affiliations and repeat jail time. “Where you been keeping yourself?”
Jack straddled the chair, resting his forearms on the back. “Wherever Steve sends me.”
“You need a new boss. I can always use a man who knows his way around an AK-47.”
He’d told Marco about his past experience as an army negotiator the first time they’d been introduced. Building the fragile trust that existed between criminals and mediators meant sharing information. For Peacetalkers, there could be no hidden agenda, no personal stake in the outcome of any negotiation. The only goal was peace.
Marco leaned back and spread his arms. “So, who’s making deliveries at the soup kitchen in my territory? Peacetalkers and I had a deal it was off limits.”
Jack trained his gaze on Marco’s face. If the gang leader lied, he’d see the evidence in his eyes. “I hear it’s one of your men.”
“No way. Anybody doing deals at Father Jim’s?” Marco called to the young men seated around the TV.
At the sound of Marco’s voice, gaming and shouting stopped. All heads whipped around. A dozen sets of eyes trained on their leader like a pack of hounds transfixed by the hunter’s command. Each man shook his head in silent response.
Marco spread his hands. “See. Not my guys.”
The men resumed playing.
“Diners are complaining,” Jack continued, his tone intentionally flat. “The police wanted to post an officer during meal times but Father Jim refused. Won’t even let them install a surveillance camera.”
Marco smiled, flashing his gold grills. “Father Jim’s got cred.”
Jack nodded. The elderly priest insisted his soup kitchen served all God’s children, not just the law-abiding ones. “Sounds like the Peacetalkers have more work to do.”
“Then do it,” Marco said, his tone dismissive as he looked down at his laptop.
Meeting adjourned. Not a head turned as Jack walked out.
Marco’s bodyguard led Jack to the sidewalk. “Not everybody’s here,” the man muttered, his lips barely moving.
Jack stared into the distance, keeping his expression neutral. Message received.
“Later, man.” He took off jogging, arriving twenty minutes later at the Metro parking garage where he’d left his pickup. His heart pounded as his truck crawled through city traffic. He’d clean up and head into the office. He needed to tell Steve the rumor they’d heard might be true. One of Marco’s men could be selling drugs in the soup kitchen behind the gang leader’s back.
Slipping into an empty parking slot, he raced into his apartment building and up the steps. Half way down the hallway he reached for his keys and froze. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He looked over his shoulder.
A young man dressed in black stepped out of the shadow. “You’re looking for who’s selling at the soup kitchen.” The dim light revealed the sheen of sweat on his brow, the fire of anger in his dark eyes.
“Marco was already looking before he called me.” Jack spoke in the steady monotone he’d been trained to use in tense situations. “Father Jim’s is a drug-free zone. Everybody knows that.”
Light flickered on the blade the young man held in his shaking hand. “Marco declared war on whoever’s dealing there.”
Jack wished suddenly for the gun he’d given up when he’d chosen to become a Peacetalker. “Let’s go to the police together. You’ll get a lighter sentence if—”
“You think Marco can’t reach into jail and punish me?” the young man snapped. The knife flashed.
Jack leapt to the side. The men tumbled to the floor, kicking the walls as they struggled. He winced as the knife sliced through his shirt.
An apartment door opened and somebody yelled. His attacker jumped to his feet and ran. Head throbbing, Jack listened to a distant voice calling the police. He heard the sound of fluttering wings just before everything went black.
Read Wings of Love to find out what happens next.