‘El Padrino’ is going to send a bunch of his personal bodyguards to keep an eye on Hanna. At least that’s what William said to us before we headed toward Rosarito. It seems the old fox is not coming with us but that we will meet him again in Sinaola in two days.
I don’t like it one damn bit that those fuckers are around and I don’t think ‘El Padrino’ is that concerned about Hanna’s security. I can’t push aside the suspicion that he’s just watching our moves, making sure we don’t start messing around.
Ricardo shrugged his shoulders, telling me not to worry too much. It seems he knows the guys pretty well and they know the deal. I still don’t like it at all but big dark guy assured me nothing is going to happen at least while we are in Tijuana.
I trust big dark guy but there’s something more. I can feel that invisible hand clenching my stomach painfully; that strong suspicion grabbing a hold of my guts, sending shivers up my spine again. I think Ricardo knows something he’s not telling me. It’s as if he’s hiding a card up his sleeve, waiting for the perfect chance to lay it on the table, showing his true colours.
Until this moment we have been playing against the devil, Reynaldo, in his yard and under his rules, but somehow we have managed to survive through the hell he subjected us to and we almost made in one piece. Almost. Now, the board has changed without warning and a new player showed up, El Padrino, setting his own rules, forcing us to play by them.
While we were playing against Reynaldo and in spite of the fact we were at a clear disadvantage since the beginning, I thought we could win and even that we had some control over the situation. Not that I was sure about that, but we had a few possibilities to rise victorious if we were smart enough and if we stuck together come hell or high water. But, now, having El Padrino sitting comfortably at the table, being the one who deals the cards, I’m starting to suspect we’ve turned into damned puppets at his beck and call, doomed to please him whether we like it or not.
That old drug dealer has too many ties; too many fucking ties at all levels. From high-echelon figures in the law enforcement and judicial systems in Mexico to street-level individuals in United States cities. The only two facts that seem to play in our favor are ‘El Padrino’ respects Ricardo and Hanna is his granddaughter. Apart of that we’re damn naked to his fucking mercy.
Ricardo told me while we were driving to Rosarito that as soon as we go to Sinaola, Alejandro, Marcos and Mia are going to vanish again until this shit is over. I asked about Elaine and big dark guy replied as he grinned devilishly that his wife wasn’t going anywhere far from him and that she knows how to protect herself, adding Elaine Montenegro meant business with shivs.
I asked if he had gone nuts. I don’t want Hanna or Elaine close to that fucker Reynaldo again, but Ricardo told me the Cuban asked Miguel to send his dancers to Sinaola. It seems Reynaldo is planning a super fancy party to celebrate his birthday and what a better way than to have his six exotic strippers around him on that special date, dancing for his brand new partnerships.
I don’t think Ricardo would risk Hanna or Elaine as bait but big dark guy seems to like to play with fire a little too much lately and I’m starting to suspect we’re going to end up burned. Ricardo said that way we can keep a close eye on our women, adding that now more than ever he needs me to trust blindly in his decisions, to not ask questions.
I trust him. I really do. But this suspicion is growing damn fast and I have a real bad feeling. We are still in hell but somehow this is turning even worse. These fuckers, ‘El Padrino’ and ‘El Azul’, the leaders of the Tijuana Cartel and the Juarez Cartel respectively, are not only drug dealers and they don’t act like Reynaldo or Santos. No parties, no chicks, no drugs. No fancy clothes, no luxury cars, no big mansions. Where the hell does all that money go?
They don’t show off their possessions like trophies. At first sight they seem like any other regular family man and that’s exactly what made of them really dangerous.
To not ask questions. That’s a fucking hard request. How the hell am I not going to ask them? How am I going to keep ahead if I have no clue what is waiting for us or where I am going? What’s going to happen from now on? Who’s going to take care of Mia if anything happens to us? What about his kids? Why the fuck does the big dark guy seems all of sudden so calm and at ease?
Ricardo already told me Mia and his sons are going to disappear but he refused to tell me where he was going to send them. For a second I wanted to beat the shit out of him for not telling me; for not trusting me enough when he was the one demanding blind trust in the first place. Only when big dark guy told me his reason was my anger dispelled in a second flat. What I don’t know, I can’t tell under torture.
Someone told me once that cars and houses are the clearest reflection of their owners’ personalities. If that’s true, then Ricardo Montenegro is still one of a kind and the exception that proves the rule.
His house is very tasteful and elegant in its design. It is painted in a soft yellow tone and its roof tiles are terracotta colour. Devoid of unnecessary or corny ornaments and lacking opulence or pretentious. It’s simple in its taste, functional but at the same time extremely comfortable and wrapped in an invisible veil of warmness and calmness. A home.
The house is facing sunset with several big windows that washes it in natural light and the backyard ends at the sand of the beach. There are a few orange trees and almond trees spread around the yard and a big fig tree at one of the corners close to a small vegetable garden and a barbecue.
There are a few houses around and I have noticed all of them have their own name. Something really frequent in the area I guess. Ricardo’s house is no different and the name of his house has been written in a small plaque made of mud tile in the fence at the right side of the wrought-iron gate. Elena.
As soon as we park the car in the drive way the main door opens and two kids rush to us, squealing and laughing. Alejandro and Marcos; Ricardo’s sons. They are 9 years old and 7 years old respectively and true to Mia’s words they are like little versions of their dad, the only thing missing is that air of danger, but physically no one might be able to say they are not his sons. Dark hair, tall and a mischievous gaze sparkling in their brown eyes.
In one second, Ricardo gets out of the SUV and holds them tightly against his chest, laughing out loud. I’ve only saw him moving that damn fast once, almost with inhuman speed, and back then that was at that warehouse when Hanna’s heart stopped beating.
Ricardo’s voice is soft and gentle, not a single trace of coldness and he seems more relaxed than ever before while hugging his kids, teasing them, making jokes and still laughing.
I feel my soft hair standing up all at once when I hear him, talking with them and swallowing hard, I gulp back down the lump that appeared from nowhere, threatening to close my throat completely. After a couple of minutes I tear my eyes from that vision before I end up crying on my knees as I force my brain to wipe away the picture of Hanna stroking her lightly rounded belly; that little bump that was my little son. Dominic.
Blinking my all of sudden blurry vision I turn my head, looking at Hanna and her face is stained with tears. Her teary gaze meets mine and we both smile sadly as our hands search for each other of their own accord. Words aren’t necessary between us.
I hear Mia calling my name and turning around I see her, standing at the entrance of the house, Elaine at her side, watching us. Taking a shaky breath I notice Hanna squeezing my hand, stroking my arm up and down.
“I gave you my word.” She whispers softly. I turn my head so I can look at her beautiful green eyes that are sparkling with unshed tears.
“Thank you, Hanna.” I whisper, holding her gaze. She smiles a little and bending her head, she kisses my lips softly.
“My pleasure, Dominic.” Hanna breathes as her lips brush against mine. “Now go and hug your kid sister, Toretto.” She teases me as a big smile spread on her lips.
I nod ‘yes’ and helping Hanna to get out of the SUV, I turn again, looking at Mia as I open my arms wide.
Mia throws herself at me and I hug her tightly, stroking her hair. Damn. I thought I wasn’t going to see her again. I can’t stop my tears that are spilling down my cheeks as Mia sobs silently with her face buried in my neck. She’s holding me so tightly that I almost can’t breathe. However, I don’t think it has anything to do with the fact that she’s choking the life of me. I close my eyes, sighing hard, hugging her fiercely and stroking her back up and down, soothing her.
Now we don’t have to let go of each other. Now we can linger as much as we want because there are no guards around, calling us to attention, scolding us for our improper behavior. I tilt her head back a little, looking at her face. She’s crying and smiling at the same time and I bend my head, kissing her forehead. Damn! I missed her much more than I thought. Then she turns her head, looking at Hanna and struggling so I let go of her.
Hanna mimics Mia’s smile and reluctantly I release Mia. In one second, she closes the distance between herself and Hanna and slowly, she hugs Hanna gently. I lock eyes with Hanna and fresh tears are rolling down her cheeks as she lets out the air she was holding with a heavy sigh as she returns Mia’s embrace with the same tenderness.
Fuck! I can’t believe it, but fresh tears are blurring my vision again. I can’t seem to stop them from falling unrestrained. Damn! Watching my sister and my woman hugging each other is making me so damn happy I think my heart is going to explode inside my chest. I’m completely overwhelmed with feelings and emotions, and before my brain registers my moves, I’m hugging them both in my arms, whispering how much I love them.
I don’t know how much time the three of us have been holding each other, but all of sudden Alejandro and Marcos are calling Hanna, squealing and laughing in a much similar way they did with their dad, asking their aunt if she’s gonna play with them at the beach.
I don’t want to let go of Hanna but I have no other choice. Her nephews are reclaiming her attention. Before any of them hold her, Elaine reminds the kids to embrace their aunt gently because she’s still healing from the accident. Elaine and Mia told them Hanna had an accident with her car while driving back home from her job and that’s the reason why they have to be very careful, not squeezing her hard.
Hanna smiles tenderly when Marcos, the smaller one shows her a bruise he has on his knee, saying that he fell while playing football last week, asking Hanna to show him one of her bruises. Her smile falters a little but slowly, she lifts the cuff of her jeans, revealing a similar bruise on her knee, causing Marco to frown a little, asking if it hurts her. In response, Hanna shakes her head ‘no’, saying that it hurts just a little bit. Then she cups his face, kissing his cheek, lingering on her caress. Marcos giggles and gently he embraces Hanna’s waist, whispering he’s going to take care of her, putting on her knee the same stuff his mom put on his knee to heal him. Alejandro laughs at hearing his younger brother and slowly he embraces Hanna as well, saying he missed her a lot.
Damn! If I wasn’t already overwhelmed watching Hanna and Mia together, now watching my woman, holding the kids is almost breaking me apart. She’s stroking their hair and backs, smiling and giggling at the things they are saying. I can’t find words to explain what I’m feeling right now. I’m damn happy knowing she’s with her family now, but on other side I feel really sad. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Hanna with kids but I wonder if in the days Snake had her, if she thought she wasn’t going to see them again.
I lift my head, looking around and I see Ricardo staring at Elaine who is still at the main porch. She hasn’t moved at all since we arrived. Elaine has been looking at us, at me. As if she was deciding if I’m worthy enough. I don’t blame her and I understand her mistrust. It’s not like I’ve done a great job, showing how much I love Hanna at least in front of her.
I know Elaine and Hanna are like sisters and I guess Ricardo has been talking with her about what we have been doing since we got Hanna back. But I figure Elaine has lost count of how many times she saw Hanna crying because of my stupid actions and I guess it will take some time until Elaine trusts me that much.
She’s protective with Hanna in a way not even big dark guy is. Concerning the ones they love women are like wild animals. Maternal instincts are the strongest along with survival instinct and I bet Elaine wouldn’t think twice, tearing me apart if I dare to hurt Hanna again.
However, Elaine welcomed Mia without a second thought, making my sister feel as if she was at home. I can’t repay her for that fact and even though I suspect Elaine didn’t do that expecting my gratitude; I know I won’t be able to thank her enough.
Ricardo pads to her side and Elaine walks down the stairs that leads to the drive way, never taking her gaze off her husband. They are standing in front of each other and time seems to stop around them. Slowly, Ricardo pulls Elaine to him, holding her and in one move he leans down, capturing her lips in a searing kiss.
I turn my head when I hear Alejandro and Marcos giggling, looking at their parents kissing each other. When Ricardo and Elaine part lips, they keep staring at each other eyes for a long moment. I guess I’m not the only one who doesn’t need to talk aloud with my woman to have a conversation. Elaine smiles widely and Ricardo releases her, chuckling.
Well, I wouldn’t say that big dark guy is forgiven, but at least she didn’t kill him, yet. Elaine walks to Hanna and slowly she hugs her.
“Welcome home, Hanna.” Elaine whispers in her ear as Hanna sighs hard, holding Elaine tightly, closing her eyes.
Introductions made, Alejandro and Marcos went to play football with other kids at the beach and Hanna, Mia and Elaine moved to the kitchen, squealing, laughing and already catching up. Ricardo and I rolled our eyes and decided it was time to take a look at my dad’s car.
Fuck! The Dodge is totaled. I don’t know why but I didn’t remember it was in this terrible state. I don’t even dare to think how many hours I’m gonna spend, repairing it or how much it’s gonna cost me.
Ricardo asks me if I’m planning to race with her. Well, that’s a good question because I’m not that interested anymore in racing cars, not even my dad’s. Before all this mess started I had no doubts and my answer would have been ‘yes’, but that was then and now is different. Everything is so different it’s scaring me.
I know I have changed; actually I’m not even a shadow of who I used to be. Hanna is also different and Mia as well. Things I gave great relevance are not that important anymore. My priorities have nothing to do now with what they were one year ago. I’m not even sure how much longer I’m going to live. Not to mention the fact that the current state of the Dodge is such a mess that it’s gonna be hell.
One year ago Vince, Jesse, Leon and Letty would have helped me without a second thought, but now there is no more Toretto team. I’m alone and I don’t think Mia is going to help me with this task. She always was the once in charge of books, and Hanna doesn’t know shit about engines and cars.
Ricardo passes his hand over the jumble that was once the chassis of my dad’s car, stroking it slowly, almost reverently and all of sudden he tells me he knows some shit about engines.
I blink a couple of times, completely shocked about his words. I wasn’t expecting such an offer on his part. Ricardo chuckles when he sees the expression in my face and grinning he adds that motorcycles engines are not that different from cars. I frown deeply, thinking about what he’s suggesting and I wonder if Hanna told him what this car means to me.
Then he shrugs his shoulders like what he said wasn’t a big deal. Damn. But it is. It is a damn big deal.
I slid my gaze past him, resting on his customized Harley. I almost had forgotten about his ride. I ask him who brought it and Ricardo laughs, answering Elaine drove the Harley of course.
I blink slightly shocked. Not that I think Elaine couldn’t do it, but I never let anyone drive my car. Not even Letty, even though she asked a couple of times. My reply was always a definitive ‘no’. Hanna never asked for that though and right now I don’t know if back then I would have let her. I mean my car was my car; something almost sacred and it would have felt weird, letting somebody else driving it.
Ricardo seems to read my thought because he plunges forward that for a couple, trust is essential as well as respect and love, adding that there’s no room for selfishness or childish behaviors.
If you are in a relationship you have to be all the way in, there’s no half way. It’s all or nothing. Marriage is a free commitment, but a commitment all the same. You choose which woman you want to spend the rest of your life with and then you have to be consequent with your decision. No point in wasting your time if you’re not going to be able to trust the other completely even in the tiniest daily things.
We walk back to the house, heading toward his office, crossing the salon when we hear Elaine, Hanna and Mia laughing in the kitchen. We glance at each other and grinning, we stop dead in our tracks, leaning against the wall.
I know that this is a really bad habit and that my dad taught me damn better than this but…I really can’t help it. I know it’s not nice to be overhearing other people’s conversations but who would be the guy that actually would resist the temptation? Apparently not me and the big dark guy neither because here we are like two little kids, shamelessly paying close attention to what Mia, Elaine and Hanna are chatting about.
From where we are standing they can’t see us and they probably think we’re doing guy shit. Well, actually we’re doing something that most men would love to do; to hear what women talk about when we aren’t around. However I have the strong suspicion we’re going to pay for our little mischief and all of sudden, my dad’s words pop inside my mind without warning.
“Listen, Dominic, sometimes who looks for the truth; it deserves the punishment to find it, son.”
I frown deeply, thinking about those words and I wonder if he was right. Ricardo and I have been spending a lot of the time too involved in our own plans, thinking about how we were going to deal with this shit in which we are immersed and I’m not sure if we have been paying close attention to others’ feelings and how our actions were going to affect them.
There are things a woman would never talk with a man about, no matter how much trust they have in each other. Sometimes, women feel a lot more comfortable talking about delicate issues with other women especially if they are confident that there aren’t men around to hear them.
Nevertheless, we haven’t done that on purpose though; it has been just an accident, but once their conversation turned to deeper matters than sharing cooking tricks, catching up on the last gossip and talking about how the kids were doing at school, Ricardo and I found ourselves unable to move from where we are standing.
From time to time Ricardo and I glance at Alejandro and Marcos who are still playing football at the beach, just to make sure they are okay. Not that those two kids are in danger, at least for now. As long as Ricardo is around, no one is going to dare to come close to his family unless they have a death wish which I seriously doubt.
Hanna is talking about ‘El Padrino’, telling Elaine and Mia about our encounter with the drug dealer. Her voice sounds cold yet tinted with sadness. I don’t know for sure what she was expecting but I bet Hanna would never figure that her grandfather was going to shrug his shoulders, not giving a shit about how or who killed Magdalena. However, I wonder what Hanna’s uncles would say about it. I don’t think all of them are that involved in ‘El Padrino’s’ business. Maybe there’s somebody inside this damn family who actually still gives a shit about honour.
I think Hanna was seriously expecting for ‘El Padrino’ to avenge Lena’s murder just because she was asking him for. Unfortunately, no matter what pretty lies he tells himself, and even though Hanna is his granddaughter, at the end of the day ‘El Padrino’ is just a drug dealer and all it comes down to money.
So far Reynaldo’s and Santos’ organizations are ‘El Padrino’s visa to keep his advantage over the Juarez Cartel, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds a way to shoot anyone including his nephews, justifying his actions later if any of them try to jeopardize his secret business with the Italian. If we are right in our suspicions regarding Santos’ plans for Reynaldo, it won’t be long until the Cuban is dead. The only question left is what about Santos and Snake?
‘El Padrino’s’ words were pretty clear. Santos can’t be touched at all. Well, hell, it’s true that the sick Italian has nothing to do with Magdalena’s death but I suspect that bastard knows more shit than he’s showing and I can’t help but wonder if we should be safest with him out of the way in the long term. I don’t feel like dealing with someone like him in a few years to come, and I have no doubt if we leave that fucker alive he might be able to come back, hunting us down.
For instance I’m thinking about how ambitious that bastard is. Let’s think that suddenly he decides he wants a bigger piece of ‘El Padrino’s’ cake. ‘El Padrino’ would be in his way to the top and Hanna would become an essential piece to use against the drug lord.
Regarding Snake, I know for sure that Ricardo is making his connections, tracking him. I have no doubt big dark guy is gonna kill him. No matter what he has to do or how much time it takes him. Ricardo is not going to let that bastard go and I want to help him in that task. But Ricardo is not saying shit about it. He says Snake is out of my league.
Ricardo chuckles, shaking his head and his move brings me back to the here and now, focusing my attention on our girls’ conversation.
“So what was his name again, Mia?” Hanna asks, laughing softly.
“Spilner, Brian Earl Spilner.” She says.
“Damn, sounds like a serial killer.” Elaine mutters under her breath causing Mia to grunt and Hanna to laugh out loud. “Is that what he is?”
Brian Earl Spilner? Who the hell is that fucker? And why is Hanna asking Mia about him? I frown deeply, looking at Ricardo and he’s grinning wickedly. Fuck!
“He’s not!” Mia replies, pretending to be mad. “Brian is sweet and nice and cute and he’s damn hot!” she says, giggling.
What?! From where did that Brian guy came from?! I knit a brow, looking at Ricardo as he rolls his eyes, chuckling. Damn. The fucker is having the time of his life, watching me.
“Fuck you.” I mouth, narrowing my eyes. In response, Ricardo grins even more, shaking his head. Fuck!
“Yeah, whatever.” Elaine says, laughing.
“Oh, come on, Elaine, take a look at his picture.” Hanna says. “Blonde, blue eyes, pretty boy… He looks one of those damn surfers.” Elaine laughs.
“Not my calling. I love them big, dark and dangerous.” Elaine says. “And when I say big, I mean big.” She adds, laughing.
I can’t see them but I bet their eyes are sparkling with a mischievous gaze. My brows shot up and I look at Ricardo. He grins as he shrugs his shoulders.
“Amen, sister.” Hanna says solemnly. “Give me five, woman!”
“Hooyah” Elaine says.
“Hooyah” Hanna replies and I hear the sound of their hands clapping.
Damn! Women are something else. I don’t know what is with them and our size! Jesus! They are the entire time saying that the first things they notice in a guy are shit like his eyes, his hands or his voice, but at the end, what they are paying close attention is his bottom and the size of his dick. Well, hell, it’s not like we are different. First thing we notice are their breasts and their tight asses. Yeah!
“Yeah, well, Brian is big enough. I give you my word” Mia says solemnly, making Hanna and Elaine burst out laughing hard. “Since big bad Toretto wasn’t around, my sexual life improved considerably.” She adds, laughing with them.
What the fuck…?! I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Damnit! I’m gonna have a little chat with my kid sister like yesterday. Sexual life? You should be studying, missy and not messing around with any fucker who I don’t know anything about!
I glance at Ricardo and the fucker is laughing silently. Fuck! I bet big dark guy is gonna give me shit about this. Damn! I’m gonna grab that Spilner fucker and I’m gonna introduce him to my big punches. Yeah that’s what I’m gonna do. I’m gonna introduce them to him so far that my knuckles are gonna up end buried in his fucking throat. Shit!
“Oh, shit!” Hanna hisses in pain and the laughter died in a second.
“Are you okay, Hanna?” Mia asks, sobering completely.
“Yeah, it’s just when I laugh hard my body still hurts like a bitch.” She whispers.
“Fucking bastard.” Elaine mutters under her breath.
We’re not inside the same room as they are but even from where Ricardo and I are standing we feel the sudden change in the mood. No more laughs or jokes. Ricardo goes serious in a second flat, growling under his breath as I tighten my jaw so hard my neck muscles hurt.
“What the hell am I going to do now?” Hanna whispers in a teary voice. “My body is a complete collection of bruises and scars.” She breathes, her voice faltering. “I’m a damn mess…” Hanna breaks completely, a loud sob escaping her throat.
I clench my teeth, closing my eyes tightly and a vision of her battered body spread in my mind, silently torturing me in time with Snake’s sick words echoing painfully.
“Hanna, those bruises are not going to last forever, honey,” Elaine says tenderly. “And the scars will end up healing.”
“Not all of them, Elaine. Those burns are gonna stick with me for the rest of my damn life.” Hanna replies, taking a ragged breath. “They are on my breasts and on my belly and…”
“And what? It’s not like you’re a fucking model, woman.” Elaine says and she sounds like she’s speaking through clenched teeth. “Not that you’re too much of a beach girl either.”
“You don’t get it, Elaine. I feel nauseated every time I look at myself in a mirror…” Hanna whispers between sobs. “I’m disgusting.” Elaine grunts and she sounds frustrated.
“You are not fucking disgusting, Hanna!!” She retorts firmly. “So what if your skin is not flawless? So what if you have scars? Those things are not important, Hanna. You’re alive and you’re beautiful and you’re not alone anymore. You have your family with you and we love you”
“And what about Dominic, huh?” Hanna retorts, cutting Elaine.
“What about him?” Elaine replies. “He says he loves you, right? Then let him show you.”
“It’s not that easy, Elaine.” Hanna says softly. “When Dominic holds me or touches me…I… I have to force myself to keep focused so as not to have a panic attack.”
“Listen, Hanna. I can’t start to figure out the living hell you’re going through right now, honey. But what I do know is that my brother loves you with everything he has.” Mia says and she’s putting as much reassurance as she can in her words. Hanna breathes shakily and Mia keeps talking. “You told me once that Dom was the only man who was able to heal you, right?” Mia pauses for a second and then she goes on. “Then let him help you, Hanna.” Now is Mia’s voice that sounds teary.
“I keep thinking about what that bastard did to me; the things he said to me… and… and I can’t… I can’t push him out of my head and it’s driving me crazy…” Hanna says and she sounds completely broken. “I hear his voice and I see his face and…”
I’m feeling my heart breaking in pieces hearing Hanna’s words. My throat is completely closed with that invisible knot. Fuck!! My chest feels so tight that all of sudden I can’t breathe. I’m forcing the air through my lungs but they feel like burning.
I notice Ricardo’s hand squeezing my shoulder and I open my eyes, blinking unshed tears. He narrows his eyes, staring at me. I hold his gaze, cold and hard, no emotions at all. I take a ragged breath, filling my lungs as I exhale slowly. That bizarre calmness I saw at the warehouse is present in his gaze along with that predatory smile. Death.
He’s not talking aloud but his eyes are speaking so clear I hear the words inside my brain. Ricardo is gonna make sure Snake dies as painfully as possible and he’s going to take his sweet time, torturing him. What that fucking bastard did to Hanna is going to seem a walk by the river compared to what Ricardo has in store for him.
I keep breathing, trying to regain some calm, never lifting my gaze off Ricardo’s. I need to see the promise he’s making me so I’m able to keep going.
“You’re stronger than this shit, Hanna. You have to grab a hold of your own emotions or they will destroy you in a blink.” Elaine says firmly, almost leaving no room to complain. “If you don’t fight this back, that bastard wins.”
“And how am I going to do that?” Hanna asks, regaining some confidence in her voice. “I don’t even know how to control my unconscious reactions.” She groans frustrated.
“I read once an article about sexual healing after abuse and it said that one excellent way to handle automatic reactions to touch is a massage.” Mia clears her throat.
“Hey, that sounds great, Hanna.” Elaine says. “I even have the perfect massage oil.” I can hear the smile behind her voice. “Chocolate….Mmmm…” Ricardo’s wife purrs.
“Jesus! This feels weird.” Mia says and she sounds slightly embarrassed. Hanna and Elaine chuckle a little. “We’re talking about my brother.” She says giggling, the light-hearted mood returning slowly.
Ricardo knits a brow, still looking at me as a small grin tugs his lips. I blink, shocked. Damn! Who can understand women? One second they are crying, next one they are teasing and even laughing? And here I thought Ricardo and I were totally fucked up because we were making jokes about sex. Damn, they are as messy as we are.
“I’m not telling you to have sex but both of you could use some time for yourself, fooling around a little. You definitely need to share that kind of intimacy with Dom.” Elaine says, that unmistakable tenderness she uses while talking with Hanna or Mia evident in her voice.
So chocolate massage oil, huh? Now that’s something I can get used to. Fuck! My dick is twitching just thinking about Hanna’s naked body covered in massage oil. Shit, shit, shit.
Ricardo growls, pulling me out of my pleasurable vision and as soon as I look at him I feel my heart stopping dead as a strong shiver runs up my spine. Fuck! His narrowed eyes are fixed on mine, holding a silent warning. I better not start fucking things up or I’m gonna end up regretting my actions. I bet he’s thinking right now exactly what I was thinking a few minutes before about that fucker Brian whatever. At the end, Hanna is like Ricardo’s kid sister and I already know their relationship is exactly as Mia and I. Shit!
Hell! We’re talking about an innocent massage. Well, okay, maybe not that innocent but I’m not gonna hurt Hanna. Damnit! I love her and I would never force her to do anything at all. I know how she feels and how fragile Hanna is right now. I would never take advantage of her weakness for my own benefit. However, I have to admit Hanna is damn brave.
“Besides we’re not going anywhere until Friday and it’s not like I’m going to use the damn oil any time soon.” Elaine chuckles sadly.
At his wife’s last words, Ricardo blinks, returning his attention to their conversation but not before he shakes his head, rolling his eyes. I frown deeply, shivering again. Damn! Ricardo is still a scary fucker.
Hanna sniffs, clearing her throat and when she speaks again, her voice sounds like Elaine’s.
“I’m sorry I dragged you into this mess, Elaine.” Hanna says softly. “If I would have known I would never have asked you for your help.” In response, Elaine chuckles.
“Don’t worry, Hanna. For me it’s just more of the same, honey. I knew what I was getting into it’s just…” Elaine trails off, sighing hard. “This time is different, Hanna. Both of you are too involved.”
“I’ll be fine, Elaine. I promise you.” Hanna replies firmly. “Richie will take care of everything.”
“And who’s going to take care of him, Hanna?” She retorts coldly. “We both know Richard’s going to track Snake down and when he finds that bastard, he’s going to kill him.” Elaine says as a matter of fact, causing Mia gasps loudly. “And this time…I’ve got a bad feeling, Hanna.” She adds, softening her voice.
Damn, Mia! She’s not used to hearing people talking about killing others with such conviction. No matter Vince was a scary motherfucker; he never went this far with anyone as far as I know. Ricardo is a completely different thing and I wonder what Mia thinks about all this shit. I have to talk with her before we go to Sinaola.
I look at Ricardo, narrowing my eyes. His jaw is set tightly and his teeth are clamped. His neck muscles are clenched painfully and he’s breathing through his nostrils. Damn.
“Elaine…” Hanna whispers as a heavy sigh escapes her lips. “Did you tell him about your suspicions?” She asks softly, concern evident in her voice. Elaine chuckles sadly.
“I would never do that to him, Hanna.” She replies. “He doesn’t need that shit right now.” Elaine adds as she sighs hard.
“I…I think you should tell him how you feel, Elaine.” Mia says softly. “At the end he’s your husband and…”
“And what, Mia? What am I going to tell him, huh?” Elaine snaps harshly. “That I don’t want him to leave for days? That I’m scared to death every single damn time he takes a ‘job’?! That I live glued to that fucking cell phone 24/7, waiting to hear his voice so I know he’s still ‘alive and kicking’?” Elaine pauses to take a deep breath. She’s panting lightly.
Fuck. I’ve been teasing Ricardo, having fun with him about that deal he has with his wife. But now, hearing Elaine talking I feel like shit, and looking at Ricardo I know he feels even worse.
“I’m pissed with him but I’m also scared to death.” Her voice is a bizarre mix of pain, sadness and concern yet cold and hard and her breath hitches for a second. “I’m Elena Montenegro, a tough bitch, cynical and ironic, but… sometimes I’m not that strong, you know? And my heart breaks every time he wakes up in the middle of the night, sweating and panting after one of his many nightmares.” Elaine whispers sadly. “I’ve got to pretend in front of my sons that everything is okay, but it’s damn hard to sleep at night in an empty bed while my husband is in the middle of nowhere, risking his life.”
Ricardo tenses every single muscle as he lets out a low growl, closing his hands in fists. Shit, shit, shit. I wonder if Ricardo was aware of his wife’s fears.
“Every single scar is a constant reminder of how close I am to losing him every fucking time.” Elaine sniffs lightly, clearing her throat.
“I’m with Mia, Elaine. You should tell him before we go to Sinaola.” Hanna says softly, sighing hard.
“I can’t afford that luxury, Hanna and you know that.” She pauses for a second, taking a deep breath. “Richard needs my strength and that’s exactly what he’s going to get.” Elaine says firmly, no trace of doubt on her voice. “That and the couch tonight.” She adds, chuckling.
“Are you going to make him sleep in the couch for real?” Mia asks.
“Nah,” Elaine chuckles, “But he doesn’t know it…yet.” She adds, laughing, making Hanna and Mia laugh with her.
I glance at Ricardo and he’s looking down; his gaze fixed on a spot he only can see. I lift my hand, squeezing his shoulder to catch his attention. He tenses but slowly, he raises his head, looking at me. Fuck! His gaze is still cold and hard but behind there’s something else.
I’ve seen that gaze before. Back then I thought that it seemed big dark guy wasn’t comfortable in his own skin; now I suspect I was wrong, or at least I misunderstood what I was watching.
Ricardo is not only uncomfortable with what he is, but as well with the fact he’s dragging his wife with him. Elaine is his strength and Ricardo needs her more than air to breath, but at the same time, he’s somehow killing her inside with his actions.
In one fast move he turns on his heels, heading outside, slamming the door closed at his back. At the unexpected hard sound, Elaine curses loudly and in a second, she enters the salon, spotting me.
“Where’s Richard?” Elaine asks me as she lifts a hand, wiping away the tears left. I look at her, not knowing what to answer. Elaine looks down and without a second thought she curses under her breath, storming out of the house, in search of her husband.
Damnit! Now my dad’s words make sense to me.
“So we are staying here?” Mia asks me as she looks at me. I frown deeply, staring at the ocean.
I know that what I’m about to tell Mia is going to hurt her but I have no other choice.
“We’re not going back to LA, Mia, that’s for damn sure and we can’t tell anybody where we are.” I say, trying to keep my voice gentle, turning my head so I can look at her. “Ricardo checked the FBI wanted list and my name appears listed, baby, and if I go back, I’m going to spend more than two years locked in Lompoc.” Mia sighs hard as she looks down, her feet playing with the sand. “There’s nothing left for us there, Mia.”
“Dad and mom are there, Dom.” She can’t help it and her voice sounds tinted with sadness. I look at her and she seems to be fighting back tears.
Damn! I know she’s not only thinking about our parents. I figure that guy she was talking about with Elaine and Hanna maybe means more for her than I thought.
“Mia, look at me.” I whisper, squeezing her hand as a heavy sigh escapes her lips. “I heard you talking about that guy…” I trail off, frowning deeply. Mia shakes her head, chuckling.
“Its okay, Dom and it’s not like it’s something serious. I mean…” She replies as she lifts her head, looking at the ocean. “You’re more important for me than any guy.” She whispers, smiling sadly. I pull her to me, hugging her as I stroke her hair, feeling an invisible hand squeezing my heart.
All my life I’ve been making decisions in her place, dragging her with me into whatever shit I was getting myself into and I keep doing the same shit. Damnit! This is so unfair for her.
Mia is all ready to sacrifice everything, placing me ahead of her own needs, hopes and dreams. I think I didn’t learn shit after all. I’m still a selfish bastard at least regarding my own sister.
“I’m sorry for all this shit, Mia.” I whisper, kissing her forehead. “I didn’t want things going this way.” Mia tilts her head back a little, looking at me.
“You had no other choice, Dom. Shit happens; it’s not your fault.” She whispers, smiling a little. I sigh hard, hearing her words.
Of course is my fault. It is my fucking fault. I should have heard Hanna when she begged me not to take that last fucking job. All the mess that came after that night is just the consequence of my fucking stubbornness and my endless selfishness.
“I promised you I wouldn’t drag you with me again and here I am, making you pay for my own sins one more time. It’s not fair, Mia.” I say, pulling her to me, needing desperately to hold her.
“Now it’s different, Dom. You did what you had to do and I’m with you all the way.” Mia reply, hugging me tightly. “No matter what. I’m going to stick by your side.” She adds fiercely.
I can’t help it, all the horrible things I’ve done over the last two weeks are coming back to my mind, making me feel nauseated, thinking about them. I should tell Mia but I’m too scared about her reaction. However, I don’t want to lie to her and she deserves to know the truth about her brother’s acts.
“Mia, I gotta tell you something, sis, and it’s damn hard for me to find the right words to explain it to you and for you to hear it.” I whisper, forcing my voice out, past the lump in my throat. In response, Mia lets out a heavy sigh and shaking her head ‘no’ she replies.
“I don’t want to know it, Dom.” I frown deeply, hearing her. She can’t be serious. This is important, she has to know it.
“No!” She replies, hugging me tighter. “Whatever you did, I don’t need to know it, Dom. You’re here and Hanna is here. That’s all I need to know. Everything else, I don’t give shit.” Mia adds.
I don’t know who is comforting who anymore. Mia is stronger than I already knew and even though I’m sure she’s hurting right now, she still manages to show me her strength, not allowing me to fall deeper.
I close my eyes, fighting back the tears that are threatening to be shed unrestrained. I know God is blessing me, allowing me to have two beautiful, strong women at my side, showing me their support, respect and unconditional love. I guess I did something really good along the way because honestly I don’t think I deserve Mia or Hanna.