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The Heart of a Killer Mass Market Paperback – October 18, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Killer Series

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jaci Burton is a bestselling, award winning author who lives in Oklahoma and spends a fair amount of time on the back of her husband's Harley, where she often gets lost plotting her next story as the warm (and sometimes cold) breeze whips her face. She loves reality television, is a sucker for romantic comedies, and completely loses track of time when reading a great book. She's a total romantic and longs for the happily ever after in every story, which you'll find in all her books.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

He shouldn't have come home. He'd promised to stay away, but maybe it was finally time.

Nothing much was different in the old neighborhood. The only thing that had changed in twelve years had been him.

A lot had changed for Dante Renaldi in twelve years. The last time he'd been here had been the night he and the guys had killed someone in an alley. He'd left town right after that with Anna's father's help—more like his insistence—and he hadn't been back since. And in those twelve years he'd mastered the art of killing.

So maybe he hadn't changed much at all.

He vowed he'd stay away. Nothing was going to bring him home again. But one person could bring him home—his foster mother, Ellen Clemons.

Anna's father, Frank Pallino, might have asked him to walk away after that night—and never come back. And he had. But he owed everything he was to George and Ellen Clemons. Those were two people he could never walk away from. He trusted them.

They knew where he'd gone after that night, where he'd been all these years. They didn't know what had happened that night—he owed Anna that much. But he'd stayed in touch with George and Ellen over the years so they'd never think he'd walked away from them after everything they'd done for him.

So when Ellen contacted him and asked him to come home for her and George's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, there was no way in hell he was going to say no.

Twelve years, thousands upon thousands of miles and a few wars since then, he figured it was time to come home. He'd earned that right, especially after Afghanistan. If Frank Pallino didn't like it, too fucking bad. He'd kept his part of the bargain. He'd left, he hadn't tried to get in touch with Anna in all this time, or with any of the guys. And he had no clue what was going on with Anna.

Coming home could finally give him some answers.

Anna was the big question he was tired of wondering about. He needed to know, had spent too many nights bedding down on foreign soil, staring up at the stars and thinking about her. The only visual he could drum up was her in a shredded pink-and-white blouse, that damn heart-shaped carving on her chest and all that goddamn blood.

Seemed like the only thing in his head these days was blood. He saw plenty of it when his eyes were open, and he saw Anna's when his eyes were closed.

He didn't want that memory anymore. Time for some closure, to remove some of the blood from his mind.

His plan was to get in, get out, make it fast. He'd do his duty to Ellen and George, check on a few things, then leave. He didn't intend to stay. He was used to not staying long in one place, so he planned to treat this like a mission. All he had to do was get the intel he needed, then move on. It wasn't as if he and the guys were friends anymore. Or brothers. There wasn't going to be a reunion.

Once he left he'd find a nice beach for R & R and erase a whole lot of shit from his memory bank.

He'd rented a car at the airport, a nice nondescript midsize piece of junk. It wasn't military issue and there wasn't a chance in hell he'd be driving over a bomb, so this car suited him just fine. He almost felt like a regular guy.


Ellen had invited him to stay at the house. He smiled at that. To her he'd always be a kid. One of her kids, one of the many who passed in and out of their lives, but to the Clemonses, they were all "their" kids.

And okay, he wasn't a heartless bastard. He was here, wasn't he? But he wasn't going to sleep in a race-car bed.

He hadn't checked into a hotel yet, just wanted to cruise the old neighborhood to see what was what. Same houses as always, same parks, same sweltering-as-a-motherfucker kind of summer night when the humidity could suck the very life from you, and if it didn't, the mosquitoes would. It was this kind of night he remembered from twelve years ago, a night so hot you couldn't take enough showers to wash the sweat off.

He thought about dropping by George and Ellen's house, but that could wait until tomorrow. It was late and they had kids he didn't want to wake up.

Tonight he wanted to see the old haunts, check into his hotel and get on the right time zone. Tomorrow would be soon enough for whatever reunions had to be done.

He was actually looking forward to seeing George and Ellen, the last foster parents he'd had before Frank Pallino got him emancipated and into the service of the United

States Army. Dante wasn't sure if that was the best thing that had ever happened to him, or the worst. But considering he'd been about to turn eighteen and had no prospects for college or a future, Frank Pallino had probably done him a favor. He had skills now he never would have had if not for the army. Either way, what was done was done, and it was better than jail or God only knows what would have happened to him. He owed the man.

He supposed he owed a lot of people.

The streets were wet tonight. A hard summer thunderstorm had come down just as he'd walked out of the airport. Dante had stood just outside the airport doors and watched the rain. It had reminded him of that night twelve years ago.

Full circle again.

Maybe he shouldn't have come back. As he'd sat at the rental car place watching the rain sheet sideways onto the pavement, the memories pummeled him, those twelve years sliding away. He could still see the alley, could still see Anna the way she looked when he and the guys had walked into the ice-cream shop that night. She'd been decked out in pink and white, her button-down shirt with the little puckers all over it, her dark brown hair in a high ponytail and her caramel-brown eyes mesmerizing him like they always had.

He wished he could remember her eyes and her smile instead of her tears and all that blood. He wished he could remember the happy times instead of the trauma that bastard had inflicted on her that night.

He exited off I-44 at Hampton and headed south, turning down Wilson toward the Hill. The old brick houses all looked the same with their small front porches and well-manicured lawns. Some of the restaurants had changed names, but a lot hadn't, owned by the same Italian families for generations.

Saint Ambrose Church still stood, proud and signaling the old Italian legacy of the Hill. Some things never changed. He toured the old streets where he and his brothers used to hang, wondering which, if any, his real mom had lived in. He had an Italian name, that much he knew. His parents had never married, and he'd never bothered to search his ancestry, figuring there was no point in looking for people who either didn't want to or couldn't keep him. He'd had his foster brothers, and the Clemons family who'd taken him in at fourteen and given him almost four years of the best family life a kid like him could have ever hoped for. That had been good enough.

He left the Hill and made a beeline for Forest Park. The park was deserted, but well lit to keep people like him and his friends from loitering at night. He loved the curving roads that led toward the zoo, the Jewel Box, the art museum, all the places the Clemonses had taken him. They'd made him feel as if he finally belonged to a real family.

His only other family had been his brothers. Now, those were some memories, like the nights they'd sit in the park and get drunk or just kick back and talk shit, at least until the cops would chase them out. Those were the good times, when he felt as if he was part of something—part of a unit of people who had your back, who would go to the wall and die for you if it came to that.

He'd found the same thing in the military to some extent, but that was by necessity, not by choice. You had to trust your unit or you'd die out there. He'd made friends, but not brothers. He'd left his real brothers twelve years ago, and he hadn't even told them why, or said goodbye.

Now he just felt alone. Even back home, he was still alone, roaming the deserted streets where once he was in a packed car full of his brothers. Or with Anna.

His cell phone buzzed, so he pulled to the curb and dragged it out.

It was Ellen. "Did I wake you?"

"No. I was out driving around. I was going to come by tomorrow. I got in late, so I didn't want to wake the kids you have staying there."

"Well, there's a problem."

He went on immediate alert. "What's wrong?"

"George isn't here. He went out earlier tonight and isn't back yet."

"Where did he go?"

"I don't know, honey. He didn't tell me. I'm a little worried."

Dante shifted his gaze to the clock on the car dashboard. It was one in the morning.

He knew George Clemons. George was a military man, rigid in his routine. Bedtime was nine for the little kids, ten for the teens, and eleven for the adults. Unless there was an emergency, you didn't deviate from the routine. And he adored his wife. Unless things had changed a lot in the twelve years he'd been gone, something was off.

"You two have a fight?"

Ellen laughed. "We don't fight, Dante. You know that. I love that man the same now as I did the day he asked me to marry him."

And that's what he'd liked about living with them. Stability without tension. The Clemonses were solid. George wouldn't just walk out on Ellen and leave without a word. Which meant something was wrong.

"I'll be right over."

Dante parked in front of the house just as a hot-looking black Harley pulled into the driveway.

The guy took off his helmet and turned to shoot Dante a glare.

No way. Taller, his arms covered in tattoos and he definitely had a lot more muscle showing under that leather vest than he'd had when they were kids, but Dante would know Gabe anywhere.

Gabe laid the helmet on the back of the bike and headed toward him, a smirk drawing his lips up.



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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Mira; First Edition edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780778312598
  • ISBN-13: 978-0778312598
  • ASIN: 0778312593
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,375,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jaci Burton is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling, award-winning author of over 60 books. She lives in Oklahoma and when she isn't on deadline, she can usually be found trying to convince her husband to remodel some room or another in their house (she blames HGTV for this). She loves gardening, sports, casinos and getting lost in a great book. She's a total romantic and longs for the happily ever after in every story, which you'll find in all her books.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
The prologue really hooked me into this story, which is always a win. The beginning takes us back to Anna at 16, Dante at 18 and they're in young love. Dante and his 3 foster brothers come by Anna's work as she's closing up for the night and when she heads out back to take out the trash, she's grabbed and beaten by a man in the alley. He would have done much worse to her, but Dante and the others came out to check on her, pull her attacker off her and beat him into unconsciousness. After getting Anna inside, they head back out to check on the guy, who's dead. Dante and his foster brothers, Gabe, Roman and Jeff, weren't exactly model teens growing up in the system. But they don't want to be taken away from their current foster family who they all care about and Anna doesn't want to see her friends take the fall for protecting her from something that would have ended up being much worse than a beating. She calls her dad, who's a cop, and makes the guys leave. What Anna didn't realize is that she wouldn't be seeing Dante again for 12 years.

Dante's back in town after being gone and completely out of touch for 12 years. He's asked to come back for his foster parents anniversary celebration and he couldn't say no to the people who gave him the only family he ever knew. When his foster father goes missing and is found murdered in the same alley that Anna was attacked in all those years ago, Dante knows it's something more than just a coincidence and all his brothers and Anna are reunited through this murder.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Firstly, I want to give Ms. Burton props for stepping out of her comfort zone and making a go at the Romance Suspense Genre. WOO HOO!!

With that being said, I will say that I thought the PLOT had soooooo much potential. It could have went anywhere with all of the choices we had for the killer. BUT, it just didn't do it for me. The story kind of fell flat. The plot just flopped somewhere after a few chapters and after a while I just didn't care WHO the killer was.

Anna was likeable in the first few page or two and then she kind of annoyed me. Dante was a hero, who lacked the hero traits. I mean, who just left their girlfriend after a traumatic event like that?? I understand it's fiction, but to never say goodbye?? And their chemistry....WAS SO NOT JACI BURTON....The dialogue was OFF and the relationship between them was just OK for me.

Now on the other hand....I thought Gabe was SEEEEEEXY, and If his book is the next in the series, I might just have to read it anyway!!

The plot was very repetitive, and I was kind of hoping that the person who attacked her was a kid obsessed with her, and his brother continued in the obsession, or something like that. Or Roman was really the one that tried to attack her, but a kid in the alley was mistaken for the guy in the shuffle. Something other than what the outcome actually was.

So I will say it was ok/good, but not great/amazing. I usually LOVE Ms. Burton's stuff so I was actually very sad that I didn't like this one that much!! There is still hope for the next book in the series!!
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Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
I immediately opened it up and started reading. Unfortunately, I put it down about 100 pages into it having lost some interest. About a week later I picked it up again and started reading. Again, I put it down about page 200. I found myself struggling to make myself finish the book. It wasn't that it was bad, it just wasn't holding my interest the way her other books have in the past. I am a huge fan of Jaci Burton, but this book left me feeling disappointed in her new series.

When the book starts, I was instantly intrigued. Four foster brothers, Dante, Gabe, Jeff and Roman, come into the ice cream shop that Anna works in. Anna is the daughter of a police officer and instantly takes on a protective role for the brothers, but she only has the heart for one: Dante. While the boys are eating their ice cream, Anna takes out the trash and is brutally assaulted. When Anna takes too long, the brothers go to check on her. Finding her under attack, they instantly defend her and attack the perpetrator back. When I say attack, I mean they kick the holy living you know what kicked out of him. This causes the conflict of the book.

Two of the boys leave town, Dante and Gabe, but they don't know the other one did and the other two make the best out of a bad situation. Dante doesn't even tell Anna he is leaving and never contacts her in the twelve years he is gone. There is a cover up of what happens, so Anna has to internalize all the anguish she feels since she can't tell the events of the attack without giving away what actually happened.

Now twelve years later, Special Forces Dante Renaldi comes back home for the anniversary party of his foster parents. No sooner than he lands and starts driving he gets a call that his foster-father hasn't come home.
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