Unbreak my Heart, page 1
a broken billionaire novella
I. R. Johannesen
Published by Vine Publishing, 2014.
© I. R. Johannesen
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, without the written permission of the author or publisher, unless permitted by law.
Table of Contents
Texas billionaire, Crank Jackson, has just spent the last six years of his life behind bars languishing in an Austin prison for killing the man who killed his ex-wife, Georgia, and his only daughter Ellie.
After being released on parole for good behaviour he leaves Austin and heads to his newly purchased cabin in Caddo Lake to be alone and grieve for his daughter in peace; something that he was unable to do properly whilst in jail.
However, after having his heart completely shattered, the last thing he wants is to be around other people, especially gorgeous Clare Bennett, who sets his heart racing every time he is near her, and her beautiful and innocent daughter, Willow, who reminds him of the daughter he lost.
Clare Bennett has also tragically lost her spouse – her husband Clay – in a light plane crash the previous year and now her and her daughter Willow have to vacate their family home in the affluent suburb of Woodlands in Houston because she can no longer make the payments. To give herself time to decide where they will live once it is sold Clare and Willow pack up their belongings and head to Caddo Lake for a couple of weeks to check out the small cabin her granddaddy left her in his will.
The only problem is, ever since Crank Jackson stopped to help her after her car broke down a few miles from her cabin, Clare hasn’t been able to stop thinking about her tall, dark and handsome rescuer and to make matters worse she has just found out he owns the neighbouring cabin just fifty yards away from her own.
Crank Jackson took a deep, nervous breath as he watched the two correctional officers in front of him open the large, metal, external gates of the medium security prison and step aside to let him through. All he had to do now was take those few final steps and he would once again be a free man.
“You keep yourself out of trouble now Jackson,” Patterson, the officer on the right, drawled. He’d followed the news headlines back in 2008, surrounding the Jackson case, from the very beginning when news first broke of the vehicle accident that had claimed Jackson’s family: ‘EX WIFE AND DAUGHTER OF TEXAS BILLIONAIRE, CRANK JACKSON, KILLED IN DRUNKEN HIGHWAY CRASH,’ right through to the unexpected conclusion; ‘BILLIONAIRE KILLER GETS EIGHT YEARS FOR MANSLAUGHTER OF EX WIFE’S LOVER.’ You don’t get to keep your privacy when you’re a prominent Texas billionaire and, as expected, Jackson’s face had been plastered on every news channel and newspaper in the country for months; from the day of the accident that claimed his family right through to the end of his own trial and the handing down by the judge of the eight year jail sentence for manslaughter.
“Men like you don’t belong in here, you hear me?” Patterson continued. On impulse he held out his hand to shake Crank’s as he was about to leave the facility, but pulled it back when the other officer, a spiteful young intern named Smyth, who had also been assigned to escort Jackson to the prisoner release gates, called for him to stop; warning that physical contact with prisoners, even when they were about to walk free, was strictly against the rules.
Crank, however, had never been one for following what he considered as ‘dumb bureaucratic rules’, especially knowing that absolutely no action would be taken against him if he was to show gratitude to Patterson for being such a fair and helpful correctional officer throughout the last six years. “I’m actually gonna miss you, you great big son-of-a-bitch,” he drawled, giving Patterson a friendly slap on the back despite the no physical contact policy. “But I promise you this; I sure as hell won’t miss you enough to ever end up back in this joint again.”
“I intend to hold you to that,” Patterson grinned, handing him a large, brown, paper bag containing the few meagre belongings he had arrived with at the prison: a wrist watch and cell phone both with dead batteries; an ugly patterned tie his sister, Macey, had bought him for court appearances; an unopened packet of spearmint gum and a black leather wallet containing his driver’s license, two out of date credit cards and thirty-three dollars in cash.
Fortunately, Crank’s most precious belonging, a close-up photo of his daughter Ellie, sporting a huge grin from ear to ear, which he had impulsively snapped while she sat at the breakfast bar in his kitchen just days before she had been senselessly killed, had been approved to stay with him in his cell.
Instinctively, Crank put a hand to his pocket and reassuringly felt the stiffness of the photograph through the thin, cotton fabric of his shirt. He may have lost six years of his life, but it had been worth every last second knowing that justice had been carried out.
“Hurry up Jackson, move it!” the novice younger officer Smyth barked, stirring Crank from his reverie. “We don’t have all day. Just take your crap and git on out of here.”
In compliance, Crank tucked the rolled up paper bag under one arm, raised his other hand above his eyes to block the glare from the harsh Texas sun and squinted as he took his final few steps through the heavy, iron gates to freedom.
Six long years had finally passed since the judge had handed down his eight year jail term, with a six year non-parole period, for manslaughter back in 2008. And during those six long years he had spent many solitary hours each and every day thinking about what he would do once he was finally released.
As Crank headed out into the almost deserted prison car park, a petite blonde woman jumped down from a brand spanking new, black, Ford dual-cab, 4WD and rushed over to greet him. “Crank Jackson, I am so god-dam happy that you are finally a free man again!” his younger sister, Macey, exclaimed happily, throwing her arms around him.
As they hugged, Crank picked her up and swung her around affectionately. “And you are a god-dam sight for sore eyes Macey Birch,” he said playfully, as he placed her gently back down on the ground and looked across at the new 4WD.
“Is that mine?”
Macey nodded proudly. “It sure is.”
“And the cabin?” he asked hopefully.
“That too Crank,” she said reassuringly. “Right by Caddo Lake in Harrison County just like you asked. In fact everything that you asked me to do has been done. I got great money for your house in Rosedale. I bought you the cabin at Caddo Lake, fully furnished of course, and paid cash for your new 4WD.”
“How much was left over from the sale of the house for you and Eli?” he asked excitedly, hoping she would distract his thoughts by telling him about all the things they had done with the money he had gifted them.
Macey dropped the keys of the 4WD into Crank’s hand and walked with him over to the vehicle without answering. “The
Noticing that his sister had her eyes averted, Crank stuck his hand under her chin and lifted her gaze to meet his. “Mace, I told you to have the leftover money deposited into your account for you and Eli and the twins. It was supposed to be a gift for all of your hard work. Why did you put it back into my account?”
Macey firmed her jaw and looked him square in the eyes. “I know you wanted us to keep it Crank, but it just didn’t seem right. You worked so hard to make your money; much too hard to start giving away big chunks of it like that. Besides, you know what a proud man Eli is. If I’d have kept the money like you asked he would’ve just made me give it right back. He ain’t ever gonna accept that much money as a gift; not even from his incredibly rich and handsome brother-in-law.”
Crank couldn’t help but smile at her steely reserve. He knew only too well what proud folk his sister, Macey, and his brother-in-law, Eli, were and he respected them immensely for that, but he also knew that they had been doing it tough financially for years now and he was not the type of man who backed down when it came to helping out his family.
“How long now before those twin nephews of mine start college?” he asked.
Macey smiled proudly, “Just two more years.”
“And just how much tuition money have you and Eli managed to put aside for them so far?” he prodded.
Macey immediately averted her eyes again. “We’ll get by, Crank, we always do. Eli is thinking about taking out a second mortgage on the ranch, which will more than cover their tuition expenses.”
Crank wrinkled his brow. “And what about you Mace; are you happy to double up your shifts at the diner for the next ten years to help pay off a second mortgage?”
Macey swallowed hard. “I always do whatever needs to be done for my family Crank; you of all people know that.” She turned away and placed her hand on the passenger door handle of the 4WD to open it but Crank grabbed her elbow and gently turned her around to face him again.
“Mace, be straight with me; how much is left owing on your ranch mortgage?”
Macey continued to avoid eye contact as she spoke. “Eli handles most of the finances, but I believe it should be around one hundred thousand dollars, more or less.”
“Then let me use some of my money to pay the mortgage off for you and Eli,” he pleaded, “and let me pay for Edward and Michael’s college tuition fees. It’s the least I can do for my only sister after all you have done for me. Besides, you guys are the only family I have left now. What’s the point of being filthy rich if I can’t help out the people I love?”
Macey wiped a tear from her eye and lifted her hands in defeat. “Okay, okay, I accept, but only under one condition.”
Crank eyed her tentatively. “And what condition is that?”
“You have to stay with us at the ranch tonight and get Eli to agree. You know I can’t go against his wishes.”
Crank raked a hand through his thick, dark hair. “I would dearly love to Mace, you know I would, but …”
Macey cut him off before he could finish his sentence. “It’s the only way it’s ever gonna happen Crank. You know that. Ain’t no way Eli’s ever gonna agree to accept money from you ‘less you talk him into it man to man.”
Crank knew his little sister was right. Even though her husband, Eli, knew that he had a net worth of well over 1.5 billion dollars, he was not likely to be easily persuaded to accept a gift of cash – especially one so generous.
Crank downed the last of his can of Bud in one gulp and leaned back in the weathered wicker chair on Macey and Eli’s front porch, still mulling over in his mind how he should broach the subject of giving his brother-in-law financial help.
As he sat quietly, his mind recalled the many letters Macey had written him in jail over the past six years. Many of which indicated that, due to a succession of severe droughts, they had been doing it tough financially. Heck, as well as working her fingers to the bone on the ranch, Macey had even explained in one of her letters that she had taken on a second job at the local diner to help make ends meet.
“You want another beer Crank?” Eli asked, twisting one free of its plastic casing and handing it to him.
As he accepted it Crank couldn’t help noticing how much thinner and older Eli looked than when he had last seen him two years ago during one of his rare prison visits, he now looked more like a man in his mid-forties than a man in his mid-thirties. “Is everything okay Buddy?” he asked, reaching across to put his hand on Eli’s shoulder. “You’ve been so quiet. You’re not upset that Macey invited me to stay for the night are ya?”
Eli managed a smile. “Of course not, you’re family and you’re welcome to stay with us whenever and for as long as you like.”
Crank cracked open his can of beer and took a quick slurp. “Then what is it Eli? You seem so quiet and preoccupied. What the heck is wrong?”
Eli scraped his chair across the porch to get closer to Crank and spoke softly in order to avoid Macey overhearing their conversation from the kitchen. “Crank, things haven’t been too good on the ranch over the last five years and I was kind of hoping I could have a little chat about getting a loan from you to tide us over until things improve.”
Crank was taken by complete surprise. For Eli to even contemplate asking for a loan he knew things must be even worse than he thought. “How much do you need?” he asked. “Whatever it is just ask?”
Eli looked at him through bloodshot, tired eyes, no doubt from lack of sleep. “Crank, I had to take out a second mortgage on the ranch three years ago in the peak of the drought and I never told Mace, and now I owe the bank 200 thousand dollars.” He picked up his Bud with a shaking hand and took a sip to calm himself. “Crank, they’re threatening to foreclose on our mortgage in six weeks’ time if I don’t come up with at least half of the money. You’re my last hope. Can you lend me the 100 grand?”
Crank rubbed his stubbled chin and stood up, slightly annoyed that Eli had taken so long to confide in him. “Eli, why the hell didn’t you tell Mace about the second mortgage? She had a right to be told. After all, the ranch is half hers.”
Eli looked thoroughly ashamed. “I just wanted to spare her any more pain I guess. You had lost Ellie, her only niece, in that drunken crash and then you were sent to jail for eight years for manslaughter. How could I add to her troubles by heaping our financial problems on her as well? I just couldn’t.”
Crank’s jaw clenched. “That drunkard bastard got what he deserved,” he snapped, “but you’re right, Macey has been through a lot.” He took a deep breath and decided to push Eli further to find out the full extent of their financial troubles before agreeing to anything temporary. “Tell me Eli, if I lend you the 100 grand can you afford to make payments on the rest of the mortgage, send the twins to a decent college and still afford to live comfortably without you and Macey working yourselves into early graves?”
Eli shrugged his arms. “Crank, I don’t get a choice. There is no other alternative.”
Crank motioned for Eli to sit back down. “Yes Eli, there is another alternative and you’re going to agree to it whether you like it or not. I’m going to pay off your entire 200 thousand dollar mortgage and set up a 100 thousand dollar college trust fund for each of your boys, and it will be a gift; I don’t want to be paid back. Do you understand?”
Eli’s shoulders sagged. “Crank that’s very generous, but I can’t accept it, even from you. It’s bad enough that I have to trouble you for a loan, but a gift?” He shook his head. “Thank you so much for the offer, but I’m a proud man, just like my daddy, and I would prefer to borrow what we need to get us out of trouble and pay every cent of it back. It ain’t right to depend on family for handouts, no matter how rich th
Crank clenched his jaw again defiantly. “Eli, it ain’t right to keep your wife in the dark about financial troubles either, no matter how honourable your reasons may have been for keeping them a secret, so either you come clean to Mace about the second mortgage and the foreclosure on your ranch or you agree to let me take care of the entire mortgage and set up the college funds for the boys; the choice is yours?”
By now both men were up out of their chairs and Eli stared silently at Crank for a moment as if weighing his options. Before long silent tears began spilling down Eli’s cheeks and he wiped them haphazardly with his sleeve. Suddenly, his entire posture lifted as if a huge weight had been shifted from his shoulders.
“Crank, how the heck am I ever gonna repay you for your generosity?” he asked, grabbing Crank unexpectedly around the waist and lifting him completely off the ground in a heartfelt bear hug to show his gratitude.
“And what generosity might that be?” Macey asked, walking out onto the verandah just as her husband was lowering Crank back down onto the floor. “What exactly have you two been up to while I’ve been busy cleaning the dishes?”
Before Eli had a chance to speak, Crank put an arm around his sister’s waist. “Your husband has just sensibly agreed to let me pay off your entire 100 thousand dollar mortgage and set up a 100 thousand dollar college fund for each of your boys. So what’s say we ditch these beers and open a bottle of your best wine to celebrate?”
Macey threw her arms around Crank’s neck and kissed him on the cheek and then grabbed Eli and kissed him long and hard on the lips. “Crank I don’t know what you said to convince Eli to accept money from you, but I’m mighty glad he accepted.” She wiped tears of pure joy from her eyes. “Now if you two will excuse me for just one minute I’m gonna go back inside and get that wine before he changes his mind.”
“Don’t you worry about that little sis! I won’t be lettin’ Eli change his mind.” he assured her. “Now how ‘bout you go get that wine!”