Hearts Desires

Hearts Desires by Deidre Dalton is Book #6 in the Collective Obsessions Saga.


Shannon's son Jamie Page begins to understand his lifelong yearnings but fears his family will never accept them. His first love affair with a nefarious character nearly costs his life, but brings to light his hidden desires. Happiness continues to elude the family, as if a dark shadow of evil has settled over the family estate.

From Chapter Two

July 1996

Larkin City, Maine


JAMIE TRIED TO GET away from the Larkin Animal Clinic every afternoon for lunch, barring an emergency. He used to eat a sandwich or a salad at his desk, but eventually found it stressful as staff members frequently interrupted him with procedure questions and advice. In order to recharge his batteries and clear his mind, he tried to leave the clinic every day at one o'clock for a well-deserved break.

His favorite haunt was Bruno's Café, but on Fridays he went to the Amber Whale. He loved the tavern seafood, especially the grilled salmon steak with fresh asparagus in the summer. By the time he reached the tavern shortly after one o'clock, the busy noontime lunch crowd had dispersed and there were only a half-dozen patrons lingering at the tables. He took a seat near one of the windows, which overlooked the harbor.

A young waitress took his order, but Jamie failed to notice her interested glance. Instead, he stared out the window. He watched the activity on the water, noting the Lady Banshee making her rounds as part of the Larkin Harbor Tour Company's day-tripper package. The tourist season was busy this year. While Larkin was not considered a major city destination in Maine, reputation of its charms reached far and wide. Summer and autumn were typically a vast boon for local businesses, and more often than not compensated for the slower winter months.

The waitress returned with a plateful of salmon and asparagus, so Jamie dug in. The food was superb, as usual, and he even ordered a second draft beer to complete the meal. He had just pushed his plate away when he noticed a tall, slender man walk into the restaurant from the kitchen. Jamie took in his black hair and olive-tinted skin, and the coal darkness of his large eyes. The man appeared older, perhaps in his early thirties, and walked with a natural ease that bespoke of regular exercise. He was wearing a long-sleeved red shirt with a white collar and tight-fitting black slacks, which drew attention to his lean body.

It was a moment before Jamie realized he was staring at the man, his mouth slightly agape. The stranger looked familiar, but Jamie was unable to connect the awareness with a recent memory. However, the manly vision was pleasing and brought a thrilling jolt to the pit of his stomach.

Jamie was simply mesmerized.

JACK SANSOVINO KNEW JAMIE Page was staring at him. He saw the young man from the Amber Whale kitchen as he cooked lunch dishes, and took a particular interest in his flawless handsomeness and quiet demeanor. When Jack entered the dining area, he deliberately walked toward the window overlooking the harbor. The lunch crowd had been fast and furious, and he was ready for a break, but his real reason for venturing out was to get a closer look at the solitary diner.

Jack paused just to the left of Jamie's table, pretending to take a long look out the window into the harbor. He crossed his arms and drew a great sigh, knowing the action would attract Jamie's attention. While the young man continued to stare at him, he did not say a word at first.

"It's a beautiful day, don't you think?" Jack finally said, glancing at Jamie and meeting his eyes.

Jamie reddened slightly, having been caught gaping at the stranger. He cleared his throat. "Yes, it's always lovely this time of year."

"You live in Larkin?"

Jamie nodded. "I was born and raised here. You?"

Jack shrugged. "I'm from New York, Little Italy in Manhattan to be exact. I moved to Larkin City about seven years ago."

Jamie raised his eyebrows. "Oh? That long ago? I can't believe I haven't seen you before now. Where do you work?"

Jack gestured toward the kitchen. "I'm head chef here at the Amber Whale. Before that, I was a sous chef for Harbor View Catering."

Jamie's eyes lit in recognition. "I thought you looked familiar. I must have seen you at HVC before."

"Did you work there, too?" Jack asked innocently.

"No," Jamie replied. "But my Aunt Dana runs the place now."

Jack stepped closer to the table. "Then you knew Carly O'Reilly?"

"You could say we were related by marriage," Jamie said ruefully. "She was married to my cousin, Liam Larkin."

"You have my deepest sympathies," Jack said sincerely. "I was shocked when I heard about Carly's death last year. No one at HVC suspected she was the type to take her own life."

"It was a bad time," Jamie agreed. Then he stood up, extending his hand. "By the way, my name is Jamie Page. I'm a veterinarian at the animal clinic on Waterford Street."

Jack shook his hand. "I'm Jack Sansovino. It's nice to meet you."

The touch electrified Jamie. It was unlike him to respond so strongly to a complete stranger. He felt he hid his reaction well, confidant that Jack had no inkling.

Jack held Jamie's hand a few seconds longer than normal, feeling the young man's reaction to their touch. "Well, well," he thought. "Not only is Jamie part of the illustrious Larkin family, he's a fruit basket to boot." He withdrew his hand slowly, a smile appearing on his face. Becoming friends with a troll member of the local high and mighty could prove useful in the future.

It wasn't part of Jack's nature to prefer men in his bed, but if he could gain inroads into Jamie's family wealth, perhaps it might be worth a tumble or two. In that instant, he knew if he took the plunge there would be no going back for either of them.

"Say, are you doing anything tonight?" Jack asked smoothly. "I'm off work until Sunday, and I wanted to check out the culinary competition at the Lobstertail."

Jamie laughed. "I can save you the trouble. Your cooking is much better than the food at the Lobstertail."

Jack cocked his head slightly, and then winked. "Yeah, but I need some excuse to get out of the house. Come on, say you'll join me."

"Sure, why not?" Jamie replied, trying to sound casual. "I usually go to The Coven with my cousin Brose on weekends, but maybe we could go there afterward?"

Jack nodded. "That sounds great," he said easily, although he had no intention of going to The Coven any night soon. Before he met Jamie's close friends or family, he wanted to ensnare the young man hook, line and sinker. That way, personal disapprovals would hold little sway with the impressionable Jamie.

"Jack and Jamie, Jack and Jamie," Jamie tested the names in his mind. Then he grinned. "You've got a date," he sparkled aloud, unable to help himself.

"Good," Jack replied pleasantly.

In hindsight, Jamie would realize if he looked closer that day he might have seen the narrowing glint in his new friend's eyes.

JACK AND JAMIE ENDED up spending the weekend together. After dinner at the Lobstertail early Friday evening, Jack convinced Jamie to accompany him to Bangor to visit the Hollywood Casino and Raceway (known as the Racino to locals). Leaving Jamie's Datsun pickup in the Amber Whale parking lot, the two men climbed into Jack's black Corvette and took Interstate 395 leaving Larkin City. The journey to Bangor was a quick thirty miles, and they reached the city just as dusk fell.

Jamie was suitably impressed with Jack's car. "It's gorgeous," he said. "Where on earth did you find a Corvette in such pristine condition?"

"My brother Tony used to buy, restore and sell vintage Corvettes," Jack replied as he maneuvered the Friday night traffic on Interstate 395. "Years ago he overhauled this little beauty, and he gave it to me on my nineteenth birthday."

"He doesn't restore Corvettes anymore?" Jamie wanted to know.

Jack shook his head. "Once in a blue moon he'll take on a project, but he's too busy with the family restaurant to work on cars like he used to."

Jamie was astonished. "Your family owns a restaurant?"

Jack grinned. "You seem surprised."

"Well yes," Jamie admitted. "Why would you come all the way to Larkin City to work in a restaurant if you could keep it in the family?"

"My father is set in his ways," Jack said with a touch of bitterness. "Tony is the oldest son, so Tony gets the restaurant. Even though I'm the one devoting my life to the culinary arts, Tony still gets the restaurant. Don't get me wrong. I love my brother, but he can't boil an egg. His true talent is in restoring old cars, obviously. Being the chef in the family, I wasn't about to sit around and play second fiddle to Tony while he reaped all the benefits from the restaurant." He glanced at Jamie, his hands still steady on the wheel. "I guess you could say I rebelled. I heard about Larkin City University's Chefs Program through a friend, so I applied and got in. I've been in Larkin ever since."

"Carly must have been impressed by your skills to hire you," Jamie noted. "While she wasn't one of my favorite people, she did take HVC very seriously. She only hired the best and offered the finest."

"She was a remarkable woman in more ways than one," Jack said nonchalantly. He glanced at Jamie again. "Why didn't you like her, then?"

Jamie shrugged. "It's not that I didn't like her. Even though she was married to my cousin Liam for fifteen years, I really didn't know her that well. It may sound odd, but even though we all lived in the same house she was an enigma to many of us in the family. Let's just say she wasn't easy to know."

Jamie was not comfortable discussing Carly O'Reilly, considering her murderous actions in life and the way she died. He did not want to rehash the scandal attached to her demise, either. Anxious to change the subject, he asked: "Is Tony your only brother?"

"Yes," Jack replied absently. "I have a younger sister, though. Her name is Desideria, but we call her Désirée. She works at the family restaurant as a waitress."

"Are you close to your family?"

"Despite my defection we keep in touch," Jack answered. "You don't need to know that my father is a son-of-a-bitch," he thought to himself. "You also don't need to know that my brother is a lazy bum, my sister is a slut, and my mother is a drunk." Aloud, he said: "I try to go back home at Thanksgiving and Christmas."

"Your family has never visited you in Larkin?"

"They rarely leave Manhattan," Jack replied. Assuming a light tone, he said: "Enough about me. What about you? Do you have any brothers or sisters?"

"I have one older sister. Her name is Angie. She and her husband Tom live in New York, where they publish the Manhattan Daily Journal."

Jack whistled. "Really? I think my father reads that paper."

"Tom founded the journal about five years ago," Jamie said. "He and Angie have made a real success out of it."

"What about your parents?" Jack prodded.

"My father used to work in the mining business. He's sort of semi-retired now, but for the most part he and my mother just love hanging out together. They are two of the happiest married people I know."

As they took Exit 3B to Main Street in Bangor, Jack changed the course of their conversation. "I can't believe you've never been to the Hollywood Casino," he said. "What's more amazing is you've lived all your life in Larkin and never heard of the place. The Racino, as it's known to locals, is a complete blast. They have live harness races between April and November."

"What are harness races?" Jamie interrupted curiously.

"They're not as exciting as track races but are fun nonetheless," Jack replied. "Basically, the horses in harness races typically pull two-wheeled carts called sulkies. You know, like the one-seat carts they used for rural transport back in the old days. I think the Amish still use them." He took a breath. "Anyway, the horses race in a specified gait, which is either trotting or pacing. Betting is allowed, just like it is for standard track races."

Jamie could tell his new friend relished harness racing, so he tried to take a further interest. "What sorts of horses do the racing?"

"You mean, what breeds?"


"They're known as Standardbreds," Jack continued. "They are bred specifically for harness racing. They are well-muscled with solid legs and long bodies. They are also a bit heavier than thoroughbreds, with powerfully-built shoulders and hindquarters. Some of the better-known breeds are the Tennessee Walker, the Morgan and the American Saddlebred, which comes from Kentucky."

"You really know harness racing," Jamie said with admiration. "Before today, I'd never even heard of the sport."

"I'm probably boring the hell out of you," Jack said good-naturedly.

"No, not at all. I find it interesting."

"The Racino has more to offer than racing," Jack assured him. "They have a thousand slot machines, and two restaurants. They also have video roulette and poker, and live entertainment in the Sound Stage Lounge. It's the most fun to be had this side of Atlantic City."

"I'm not much of a gambler," Jamie admitted.

"In more ways than one," Jack thought. "But that's about to change."

"Mark my words," Jack said aloud as they pulled into the parking lot of the Racino. "You are about to have the time of your life."

JACK WAS A SEASONED gambler, so Jamie's ineptness at the "sport" amused him. They started out at the slot machines, but Jamie was careful to bet the minimum.

"You'll never win anything if you bet that way," Jack chided him gently. "If you bet the maximum, you'll reap the rewards."

Jamie looked dubious. "Yeah, maybe, but this is like flushing money down the toilet."

"Give it a chance," Jack encouraged him. "Not many people win right from the get-go."

Jack sat next to Jamie on the wooden stool provided by the casino. Jack ordered beer from the waitress, catching her eye. She was small and voluptuous, with dark hair and blue eyes. He read her name tag: Annabel. She was obviously giving him and Jamie the once-over. At any other time, Jack would take advantage of the situation but he daren't reciprocate with Jamie in earshot. Instead, Jack winked at the waitress and turned his attention back to the slot machine.

Jamie seemed unaware of the attention he drew from various females in the casino. His striking good looks were breathtaking, yet he didn't seem to care about the possibilities at hand. It would take very little effort on his part to score, but he simply wasn't interested.

"What a waste," Jack thought to himself. "If I had that kind of pull, my bed would be full for the night with a different woman every hour on the hour."

Suddenly, Jamie's slot machine began ringing. He grew excited. "I took your advice and bet the max a few times," he said. "What did I win?"

Jack glanced up at the flashing scoreboard and gasped. "You bloody lucky boy," he exclaimed. "You just hit the jackpot."

"How much?"

"Two thousand dollars."

Jamie's jaw dropped. "Are you serious?"

Jack pointed to the flashing numbers. "Look for yourself."

Jamie was beside himself with excitement. He waited for the cashier to verify his winnings, and then took the tokens in hand. "I want to stop and cash these in," he told Jack. "There's no sense in playing anymore. I don't want to lose what I've won."

Jack chuckled. "You are a novice, aren't you? The point of gambling is to take chances. True, you might lose what you've already won but you also might win a lot more."

Jamie was unconvinced. "I'd rather stop for now. We can always come back another time."

Jack glanced at his wristwatch. "It's only eleven o'clock," he noted. He turned to Jamie. "Say, I've got a great idea. Let's stay the night so we can go to the Saturday harness race. It starts at one-thirty tomorrow. We could have lunch beforehand, and make a real day out of it."

Jamie hesitated. "I'm not sure . . ."

"Do you have other plans?" Jack prodded.

Jamie shook his head. "Not really. I'm off work tomorrow."

"Do you have someone waiting at home then?"

"I live alone in a cottage on the family estate," Jamie confessed. "But my dog Foofer is stuck in the house."

"Is there someone you can call to take care of him?"

Jamie nodded. "I can call my cousin Brose."

"Then why don't you do that?" Jack suggested. "Come on, aren't you having fun?"

Jamie brightened. "Actually, I am having fun. I forgot what it's like to relax and enjoy myself."

"There you have it," Jack said. "Tell you what, I'll get us a room and you call your cousin. After you're done, we can get a bite to eat and then play some more slots."

"Let me give you some money for the room," Jamie offered. Then he grinned. "Besides, I just won a few thousand so I think I can afford it."

"That and a lot more," Jack thought. Aloud, he said: "Okay. Go make your call and then we'll get a room."

After Jamie left to find a telephone, Jack ordered another beer from the waitress and continued playing his slot machine. He knew he was on the precipice of something momentous with Jamie Page. He could feel it in his bones. While intelligent, Jamie was highly impressionable and nervous about revealing too much of himself right away.

Jack was typically offhand in his treatment of lovers and the like, but he had no experience with a tender-hearted homosexual like Jamie. The young man was still unsure of himself and his yearnings, which might make a relationship with him more difficult to manage. Jamie required special handling.

But Jack was nothing if not resourceful. He knew he was capable to adapting to any situation to suit his purpose, even if it meant romping in bed with a man. He decided to treat it like a new adventure, and wasn't life just full of them? Having a rich and easily manipulated boyfriend was the best means to an end for him. Even if it didn't work out in the end or was only short-lived, he would still benefit from the association.

The key was to be gentle and patient, qualities that were normally foreign to Jack. He was used to taking what he wanted when he wanted it, with no regrets. However, this time, he set his mind to accepting a slow pace. He would court Jamie with infinite care and consideration, making sure to ensnare the young man before he knew what was happening to him. Jack had done much the same with women before, so surely his charm could work its magic on a burgeoning twink. He would gently tease Jamie to whet his desire, and to make the relationship indispensable to him.

That decided, Jack continued to play his slot machine. A slight grin appeared on his face as he waited for his new-found friend to return to him.



HEARTS DESIRES ©Deidre Dalton. All rights reserved.

"Hearts Desires" may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from the author. "Hearts Desires" is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental.