I have another teaser from Healing the Heart for you today. I’m back to polishing this up for beta readers, so anyone who is interesting in reading and giving feedback, let me know. This is the follow-up to Duty to Protect, and while it does make references to the first book, you don’t necessarily have to read it first.
If you’ve read snippets I’ve shared for Wippet Wednesday, you may recognize this character.
She trailed off, her eyes locked on something past him. He started to turn then a big hand came down on his shoulder. He started to tense until the voice said, “J-Man, why didn’t you tell me you were coming in?”
He let out a breath. “Blayze. I mean, Carlos.” He still forgot the man had gone back to his birth name after leaving the gang. “This is my…this is, Melanie. She’s been volunteering at the clinic.” He couldn’t believe he’d almost called her his girlfriend. They’d never labeled what they had. He hadn’t wanted to.
The man smirked though as if he understood. “It’s been a long time, J. You don’t come into my place near enough.”
“I’ve been busy.” He didn’t interact with people from his old life much outside of the clinic, either. How else would he be able to say he’d put it behind him? Melanie still stared at the man behind him, and Jared imagined he did make a strange sight. His dark skin was tattooed, his arms, his hands, even his neck. In the restaurant, he always wore a nice button-up shirt and slacks, but it didn’t hide all of it. How many businessmen did she see who were covered in ink?
“Mel, this is Carlos Armas. I’ve known him a long time, and he owns this place.”
She closed her mouth then and held out a hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Armas.”
He laughed but shook her hand. “Call me Carlos, please, and it’s my pleasure.”
“How’s Brent?” Jared asked. Shadows flitted across the man’s eyes, then they were blank. Not good apparently.
“Haven’t spoken to him recently. I need to get back, but I hope you enjoy your dinner. You’re welcome here anytime, J.”
Jared nodded, but Carlos reached across the table to take Melanie’s hand. It looked strange seeing her perfectly smooth hand in his rough scarred one. Jared felt a spurt of jealousy then Carlos released it and stepped back. “Take care of my boy here.”
“I’ll try to. He doesn’t make it easy.”
Carlos headed back toward the kitchen. Jared turned back to her and saw Melanie’s gaze on him. “What was that about?” she asked. “Who’s Brent?”
“His brother. We used to…run together,” he said, not thinking of a better way to phrase it. Brent had gotten him into the Coyotes, through his older brother. Carlos had made him think he could get out of it when the time came.
“He seems like a good guy,” she said, covering his hand with hers.
“He is. Once you get past the tattoos.”
“I didn’t even notice. He has tattoos?”
She couldn’t hide the smile at her lie though, and Jared laughed. With that, all the awkwardness disappeared. Why hadn’t he made her smile sooner?