Read Chapter One of ‘A Heart’s Endeavor’

Chapter 1

Corporal Jack ‘Dog’ Horan leaned against the small window in the communications room at the Pennsylvania State Police barracks. He blew out a breath. What a day. Another five minutes and he was out of there. Hell, another twelve months and he could hand in that blasted campaign hat that troopers were required to wear while on duty and say adios. He loved the job, but twenty-five years on the force was enough.

Becoming an officer of the law had been a dream of his since he was eight years old. It may not have been his mother’s first choice of professions for her only child, but his dad had supported his decision. So did his mother after the initial shock. To ‘protect and serve’ had been drilled into his head at the police academy and stayed with him ever since. Now all he wanted to do was marry and maybe have a kid or two. He hadn’t been as lucky as some of the guys who were already married with families of their own. He may not have found the right woman yet, but he wasn’t giving up the search.

There were plenty of available females who’d like nothing more than to take on a man in uniform, but it was just sex and that was becoming monotonous. He wanted more than just a ‘go out for a drink then fuck’ relationship. He longed for a marriage like his parents had. His parents had openly expressed their love and commitment to one another right up until his dad passed away ten years ago from the coal miners’ disease known as ‘black lung’.

Jack glanced at his watch. One minute left. He might as well head for the locker room. He took a step away from the window only to jerk to a stop when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye. He had met all the employees at the Grab ‘n’ Go mini market across the street, but he didn’t recognize the girl sweeping the pavement. He peered closer and felt a stirring in his groin. Girl, hell, this was a full-bodied woman. Not the usual skinny-assed type the owner, Bob Delano, was known to hire. Either Bob had wised up or his new wife had laid down the law. From this distance the woman’s backside appeared quite captivating. Jack was anxious to get a closer look.

A hard whack landed on his shoulder. “Hey, Jack, see anything interesting out there?”

Jack swung around and stood directly in front of the window. “Nada.” Hell if he’d say anything. The word female would barely pass his lips and there’d be a cluster of single officers elbowing him out of the way to eyeball the woman like a pack of starving coyotes. No…this time he’d be the one to meet the newbie first.

He hurried to the locker room and changed from his uniform into a pair of jeans and a short-sleeved shirt. His mind raced with questions. What was her name, where did she live, and most importantly, was she married? If so, that would be the pits. He didn’t mess around with married women. Jack stepped into his sneakers and barreled out the side door, nearly knocking over his commanding officer. He hurried to the parking lot behind the barracks and leaped into his Durango. Jack hit the gas and darted across the highway, but she was nowhere in sight. He circled the building on foot and came around the other side. Shit, where did she disappear to so fast? Frustrated, he went inside the store and spotted Bob coming out of the cooler.

Jack tossed a wink in Elaine Delano’s direction. “Can I borrow your husband for a few minutes?” At her nod, Jack threw his arm around the older man’s shoulders and steered him outside. “Okay, Bob, let’s have it. What’s her name, where does she live, and is she married?”

“Is who married?”

Jack rolled his eyes. “Don’t be a smartass.”

Bob chuckled. “Melanie’s been a widow for about a year. She stopped by yesterday and asked about the help wanted sign in the window. I thought I’d give her a shot. She seems pleasant enough.” He lit a cigarette. “Not bad to look at either.”

Jack ignored the offhand remark “Where does she live?”

“At The Lake.”

That information was a surprise. “Hmm, I wonder why I’ve never seen her before at The Cabin or down by the lakeside.” Jack had been given a guest pass by one of his fellow troopers so he could enter the gated community as often as he wanted. He liked to fish and The Lake held fishing tournaments along with other interesting events for both the young and the old.

Without another word, he spun on his heel and left Bob with his smoke. Back inside, Jack prowled each aisle and came up with zilch. He sauntered over to the counter and picked up a bottle from its cardboard display. He pretended to read the label while trying to think of a way to ask Elaine about Melanie without sounding like a horny teenager.

“Are you buying that bottle of horny goat weed or do you intend on staring at it for the rest of the day?”

“Huh?”

She smiled knowingly. “If you’re looking for the new girl she left a little while ago.”

Jack set the bottle down with a bang and glanced outside. Bob was nowhere to be found. Mumbling under his breath, Jack strode to the back of the store and plowed through the swinging doors bearing the sign Employees Only. He was wise to Bob’s tricks. There was an emergency exit at the rear of the building the girls used for quicker access to the trash bin. Bob must have come back inside that way to avoid getting his head knocked off for not telling him Melanie had left.

Jack poked his head around the doorjamb of the small office and snarled, “Thanks a lot, asshole.” Bob’s look of surprise didn’t fool him in the least. He stared pointedly at the two monitors on the table in the corner of the room. Christ, the man must think him an idiot. “You knew I was hanging around to talk to her.” He heard footsteps behind him and moved to the side.

“Hey, honey, Stacy’s on time for once.” Elaine grabbed her purse from underneath a chair. “I’m going home to start the lasagna. You’re welcome to join us, Jack.”

“No thanks, sweetheart. I have to be going too. I promised my mom I’d stop by and check the oil in her car.” He nodded to Bob and followed Elaine to the back exit. He stopped and said, “Remind the girls to always release this bar on the door after Bob leaves for the day. It’ll be locked from the outside, but if there’s an emergency all they’ll have to do is give it a good push. That way they won’t have to waste time fumbling with the key.”

Elaine batted her eyelashes and grinned. “I always do, Trooper Horan.”

Jack frowned. “I’m not joking, Elaine,” he said sternly. “And make sure you tell Melanie.”

The short redhead’s smile vanished immediately. “I will, Jack. In case you’re interested, Melanie’s working seven-to-three tomorrow and then three-to-eleven permanently after that.”

He winked. “Thanks.”

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