“That’s fine. Christie watching cartoons?” she asked.
“Yeah. She came and got me up, jumping around excitedly.”
She chuckled. “That’s Christie. She loves it when you come around. She misses you.”
“I miss her, too. All the time.”
Spooning some instant coffee into her cup, she tried to ignore the tingles that rushed through her entire body from being close to him. That kiss last night had made her cry, but she was attracted to him, and that made it harder for her. He was only trying to keep her in line, and she didn’t want that. Luiz didn’t feel the same for her as she did for him, and she had to live with that. She had already been living with that.
“Have you ever thought of taking her with you?” she asked.
“I can’t do that.”
“The threat is always going to be there, and she misses you. She’s seven in a few days, Luiz. She should be with her father.” Pouring hot water onto the coffee, she gave it a stir, and took a seat at the counter.
“You’re not going to add milk?” he asked.
“I can do without the calories.” After last night’s dinner, she had made a new vow to go on a diet. She had been self-conscious last night. Not that she would ever tell Xander or Luiz that. Her love of food had never changed, not in the past few years, which sucked.
“Thanks.” Great. She was fine.
He’d forced himself to kiss her, and she didn’t want to think about what else he actually planned to make himself do, to keep her in line.
“I can’t bring Christie into this world.”
“Your father tried to kill her.”
“And he took your whole family.”
“You’re her father, and I think you need to consider that future for her. She’s going to want answers. She’s not going to be the adorable little girl for much longer, who likes a toy, and she’ll shut up. One day soon, she’s going to want answers. What are you going to do then?” she asked.
She had tried not to think about it, but Christie’s questions were becoming more prying. Where did her daddy go? Why did Daddy have to go? What did Daddy do? Why couldn’t she have friends over?
“Raine’s right,” Xander said. “We didn’t really think this through, and if we’re not careful, it’s going to bite us in the ass.”
“No one knows about you, and that’s the way I want it to stay.”
Raine sighed. “If that’s what you want.”
She took her coffee, and walked into the sitting room, taking a seat on the sofa. Christie was sitting on the floor, eating some cereal, and watching the cartoons.
“Do you love him?”
“Of course I do. He’ll take care of me, Raine. I’ll be protected.” Lora touched her stomach. “I’m so happy.”
A flash of pain rushed through her. She would do anything for her niece, anything.
“I’ve finished,” Christie said.
“Take it into the kitchen, and then go and get dressed.”
Sipping the dark liquid, Raine wrinkled her nose at the bitter taste.
“I think we should talk,” Luiz said, coming into the room.
“There’s nothing for either of us to talk about. You don’t have to worry about me thinking you’re offering anything.” She smiled at him, even though it was the last thing she felt. There was no happiness, not really.
They were all waiting for Luiz to come back, to pay a visit for their lives to move on. Only now it wasn’t going to move on. They were all going to stay in the same world forever. Waiting for him to arrive, and play with them, until he grew bored.
It was how it was starting to feel.
“I’ve got to head back.”
“Of course you do.” And that didn’t hurt at all. Liar!
“I don’t want you to go on another date with Bradley.”
“I’m sure you don’t.” She didn’t know why she felt so angry, but it was so strong, and so instant. Gripping the cup tightly, she gritted her teeth, and tried to think of the good this was all doing. Christie was growing up in a semi-normal environment. Wasn’t she?
“It’s good for Christie.”
“Please, leave me alone, Luiz. Go back to your life, and we’ll be waiting here for our next lot of instructions. That’s what you do, right? Instruct, order? Stuff like that.”
“You’re pissed at me.”
“Wouldn’t you be at me?” She shook her head. “Forget it.”
“Talk to me, Raine.”
“No. I don’t want to talk to you. You’d just brush my concerns away. Go, and do whatever you need to do. Xander and I, we can fix it. Believe me.” They had been doing it for so long that it was almost second nature. “Go!”
Luiz hesitated for a second, and then turned to go. She closed her eyes, waiting for the door to close, and of course it did, like so many times before.
When the car was gone, she went back into the kitchen to find Xander sitting at the counter.
“You okay, baby girl?” he asked.
“I’m fine.” She poured the coffee down the sink, noticing that her hands were shaking. She didn’t want to think about how fucked up this whole situation was. “He’s going to fuck up, and all of this is going to bite him on the ass. You know that, right?”
“I know it. You know it. He doesn’t think it will happen. We’ve just got to keep doing what we do best.”
“And what’s that?”
“Picking up the pieces every time he leaves.” Xander opened his arms, and she went into them. Every time Luiz went away, he took a part of her with him, and he didn’t even know it. Xander could clearly see that she had feelings for Luiz, and hiding them was the hardest thing she ever had to do. When Luiz was around, he made her forget about all of her troubles, and made her believe for a short time that her life could go back to being normal.
“Will it ever get easier?” she asked.
“I hope so, kid, for your sake.”
Three weeks later
“You’ve been acting weird,” Tonio said.
Luiz ignored his friend, and looked over the books from several of the brothels and fighting rings they had in town. Nothing had changed, not really. The only difference between now, and seven years ago was the fact he didn’t have to answer to his father, and people were now afraid of him.