King of Hearts by C. A. Szarek

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King of Hearts

By C.A. Szarek


“I need to talk to you,” Gio muttered in her ear.

“I don’t have anything to say to you.”

His large hand clamped on her wrist. Maddie tugged away, but he tightened the hold.

Her eyes darted around the corridor. There was no one around, but anyone could come at any moment. The ready-room door was ajar. It would likely empty momentarily.

The briefing had gone well, but she’d fled the room first, before any of the LVMPD detectives or Captain Olinsky.

She’d thanked them for their time and attention, answered questions as fast as lightning, then told them she’d check in soon.

  Maddie hadn’t had a direction or destination. She was supposed to stay there, work with them, but she’d copped out. Stated her colleagues from the Marshals would meet up with them soon and they’d proceed.

She’d just needed to get out of there.

Get away from him.

Even if she’d never given him the barest acknowledgment during her talk of the case. Her reason for being in Vegas. With his father’s casino at the center of things.

She hadn’t spared him one glimpse.

Now, her eyes shot to his face, and she couldn’t turn away. “N-n-not here.” The stutter made her cringe, but Gio gave the barest nod and dragged her down the hallway.

He pushed open the nearest door and shoved her inside, slapping the light on and yanking the thick panel shut, just short of a slam.

The click of the lock resounded in her temples.

The contents of room told her it was an office supply hub, from the neatly organized stacks copy paper cases against one wall, to the shelves lining all the rest.

Post-it notes were next to boxes of pens, bundles of notebooks, highlighters, and multiple toner refills. File folders, and banker boxes galore. The scent of paper and cellophane tickled her nose.

She’d always loved going to the office supply store. New supplies made her want to do her job. She’d never been afraid of the paperwork side, what most cops dreaded. Maddie thrived on the investigation, being sharper than coworkers, researching and catching the little things others missed. She was detail-oriented, and good. She deserved this case, this command.

Her former lover whirled and stalked toward her, towering over her with his six-foot-four frame.

She refused to shrink way, but Maddie retreated until her shoulders and upper back hit the edge of the far shelf. There was nowhere else to go. The contents shook and she waited for something to fall and smack her head, but it didn’t happen.

Gio’s sapphire eyes flashed with anger and he slammed his palm on the edge of the shelf right above her left ear.

She winced.

“Are you five?”

“Excuse me?” She met that gaze dead-on, not wanting to give in to her confusion. Whatever she’d contemplated he might open with, it wasn’t that.

“Ignoring me. Pretending you don’t know me. Leading the whole fucking briefing, avoiding even one glance in my direction? Real cute, Senior Inspector Granger, with the United States Marshals Service.” He spat her title, last name and agency.

“I was trying to maintain professionalism.” Her tone sounded defensive to her ears and she fought another wince.

He threw his head back and laughed. “Bullshit.”

Maddie shuddered and wanted to rub her arm, but couldn’t move when he looked at her like that.

Gio was right, of course, but she’d cut her tongue off before she admitted that.

“It doesn’t matter how many years passed. You can’t pretend we didn’t exist.”

“Why not?” she snapped. “None of it matters. We have a case, and you happen to be on my taskforce. We have to work together. So, let’s just keep it professional. A work thing.”

“Hell no.”

His vehemence made her startle, and she reared back, knocking her head into the shelf.

“Shit.” Maddie rubbed the throbbing spot.

Gio’s expression lost some of its harshness. “You okay?”

He must not have been overly concerned, because her former lover still hovered too close for comfort. The heat coming off him warmed her, and her traitorous body only wanted him closer.

She needed a freaking distraction, stat. “Speaking of my case, how did you even get a spot on my taskforce? Olinsky doesn’t know your family owns the casino?”

He jolted. Averted his eyes, and jammed his hand through his dark hair. His shoulders quaked, more than the barest denial of his headshake.

Surprise washed over Maddie.

Gio’s hesitation shouted he hadn’t wanted to admit that truth, and perhaps he shouldn’t have. With one word to his captain, she could have him removed from her taskforce.

Probably should.

“It’s not a conflict of interest,” he said, as if he’d read her mind.

“How could he not know?” she demanded.

“I’m a private person,” he said on an exhale, like he needed a second to gather himself.


“My dad isn’t laundering money!” His shout had her freezing. He rubbed the back of his neck, and again, avoided looking her way. “He has cancer. He’s in the hospital.”

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