More than just dodgy line calls set tempers flaring at Porchfield Tennis Club when the new coach turns out to be an old acquaintance of Jack Regent's who enjoys more than mixed doubles with other men's wives.
Retired gangster Jack Regent craves an easy life, drinking and playing tennis at a country club on the Isle of Wight, England. But when the man who Jack caught in bed with his wife shows up as the new coach, Jack suspects his old life may be catching up with him.
Jack is dragged back into his old world of violence to protect the tennis club and one of its foremost members. When some thugs with grudges kidnap his wife Tania, his dangerous past intersects with his new life. Can Tania put a new spin on the past or is it too late to make things right?
“Small world, eh Jack.” Colin dropped the refined accent he'd adopted for the benefit of the other members.
“Too bloody small. What the hell are you doing here?”
“Taking up a job offer. Your Trina was very keen to have me.”
Jack snorted. “Don’t get too comfortable. You won't be staying.”
“Oh, come on now, Jack, I didn't take you for such a bad loser. Besides, our little bit of bother is all water under the bridge now. It happened a long time ago and it's not healthy to bear grudges. Can't we make the best of the situation and try to get along? I'm not the same person I used to be.”
Jack threw a contemptuous look his way. “Leopards don't change their spots.”
“Does that apply to you as well, Jack?”
“This isn't about me.”
“It ought to be. Everyone tells me you're the leading light amongst the men players so you and I need to get along.”
“Yeah, like that's gonna happen.”
“Come on, Jack! I bet they'd be amused to learn who taught you to play tennis in the first place. And who taught Tania too, for that matter.”
Jack clenched his fists, breathing hard as he waited for his temper—and the urge to floor the arrogant bastard— to subside. Colin, who knew what Jack used to do for a living, should show more respect. He should certainly have more sense than to voluntarily refer to the time seven years ago when Jack hadn't been married long and Tania had persuaded him to take tennis lessons. Tania could persuade him to anything then, even though he’d tried to tell her that East End enforcers didn't play tennis. They had their macho images to protect. But much to his surprise he took to the game like a natural and enjoyed it.
Then he came home early one day and found his wife and Colin engaged in an energetic bout of sex on the floor of his living room. He beat Colin senseless and threw Tania out, refusing to listen when she begged for an opportunity to explain. What was there to explain? Tania, the focus of Jack's life, was soiled goods now and he was relentless in his determination to be rid of her, knowing what they'd once had could never be rekindled.
He'd fallen hard for Tania and pursued her relentlessly until she agreed to marry him. It had to be marriage. Jack knew for a certainty he'd met the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. She even inspired him to crave respectability. He protected her from his sordid working life, daring to imagine he could settle down like a regular bloke and have kids, a dog, a big house in the country. The whole nine yards. If he was a superstitious man he'd have been telling himself even then that his sins were always going to find him out and it wasn't in the script for him to be happy. Perhaps he even believed it, which was why he had no intention of ever getting serious with a woman again.
“I bumped into Tania in London the other day,” Colin said, as though reading Jack's mind. “She's looking good.”
Jack stiffened at the mention of her name. Did she still live in town? He had no idea and refused to give Palmer the impression that he gave a shit. There was little he could do to force him to leave the club either, not without raising unwanted speculation about their history. But Jack reckoned he probably wouldn't have to do anything much to hasten his departure. If he reverted to type he'd soon put his foot in it and queer his own pitch. In the meantime he just needed a little reminder to keep his mouth shut about Jack's past. Out of sight of the other members he took Colin's arm in a vicious grip, forcing it up his back until it was on the point of snapping.
“What the fuck…”
“Just shut up and listen.” Jack growled in Palmer's ear. “If one word gets out about inappropriate matters, do I need to remind you what―”
“Sure, Jack, no sweat. I'm not gonna say anything. I'm just here to make a new start, same as you. I don't want any trouble.”
“Good. Because I seem to recall that you're right-handed.” Jack gave the arm attached to the hand in question another vicious twist. “It would be heartbreaking if this little twig were to snap and ruin your means of making a living.”
“For Christ's sake, Jack, be reasonable!”
“Keep it that way.” Jack glared into his eyes. “You know very well that I don't make idle threats.”
He let him go then and watched him walk away, ashen faced and trembling, no longer quite so cocky.