“Donnie told us about your late night call,” Jake said.
He didn’t know why his friends had descended on him this late Friday night, but he was intent on ignoring them, getting the books done, doing the rounds, and then making his way toward Christie and Raine. Three weeks had already passed since he last saw his little girl. Raine had avoided him as well, which he hated. He didn’t like this tension between them, and it was all his fault.
“Do you have a girl waiting around for you?” Tonio asked.
“Can nothing be fucking sacred anymore?” he asked, glaring at his two friends.
“Not when you’ve been different,” Donnie said, entering the room, and turning off his cell phone.
Jake turned his cell off.
“Seriously? How old are you two?”
“Old enough to know something is wrong with our best friend, and you are. You’re at least one of our best friends,” Jake said.
“I’m not in the mood for this. I’ve got a lot of work, and I’ve got somewhere to be.”
“It has been three weeks, and even Paige is mentioning how absent you’ve been,” Donnie said. “What’s wrong, man?”
Luiz wasn’t interested in talking.
“I’ve got work to do.”
“It’s going to be there for you tomorrow. What’s wrong?”
He closed his eyes and tried to stem the anger that was building inside him. He was so angry. So pissed off. Infuriated.
Thinking about Raine’s face, the anger in her eyes, and how heartbroken she’d been, it tore him up inside.
“Back off, Donnie.”
“All you’re doing is working, man. We’re worried,” Tonio said. “This is not like you. You’ve not visited us, or hung out.”
“Too busy for your friends.”
He’d had enough. “You want to know why I’m not hanging around?” he asked. “It’s because nothing has fucking changed.” Slamming his hand down on the desk, he stood and glared at Donnie. “We had a plan, Donnie. We had a big fucking plan, and guess what, we’re not going to get a chance to see it through. We were fucking fools.”
“We can still live our life the best we can, Luiz.”
“Bullshit. We can’t do anything, and you fucking know it.” Picking up the file, he threw it at Donnie, and papers fell out, covering the floor. “We’re always looking over our shoulders. There’s always a threat of someone taking from us, threatening us. This is why we can’t lead normal lives, we’re always waiting for the next fucking threat, and I didn’t sign on for this shit.”
“You think any of us signed on for this? You think we want to be constantly in this fight? I’ve got a family, Luiz. So has Tonio. We all know the risks, and yet we’re still fighting today, to keep on working, to keep on living to make sure we can still have a fucking life.” Donnie reached down, grabbing the paperwork. “We were born into this life. We are the ones that drew the unlucky straw here, and I get it. I do.”
“You don’t get fuck-all.”
Luiz walked around his desk, and headed toward the door.
“Where are you going?” Donnie asked.
“I’m going to work, because right now I think I’ll say something I’ll regret.” He stormed out of his office, and released a breath as he got into his car and was able to shut out all of those doubts.
Pulling out of the office, he reached out to his cell phone, and dialed Xander’s number as he drove toward the first brothel. There was no chance of him going to his little girl. The last thing he wanted to do was to go to Christie when he stank of sex and desperation. He didn’t want his job to touch her.
She had to stay innocent for as long as possible.
“Hello,” Xander said.
“Hey, how is everyone?”
“Christie?” he asked.
“She’s … fine.”
“What’s going on?”
“She’s upset. She had hoped that you would be at her school today as it was ‘bring your father to school’ day.”
“Fuck, I completely forgot that. I’m sure there were other kids that didn’t have a dad there.”
“Actually, there weren’t. She’s a little upset.”
“Will you put her on the phone?” Luiz asked. He should have been there. He was missing everything, and as he thought about what he’d missed, he hated what he was doing. Raine was right.
“She doesn’t want to come, Luiz, I’m afraid.”
“Crap. Can you tell her how sorry I am?”
“Yes, of course.”
“This is happening, isn’t it?”
“Again, what did you expect to happen?” Xander asked. “It seems that you’re always making decisions here, Luiz, but you’re never here when it actually matters.”
“I know. Fuck, I know. Is Raine there?”
There was silence, and then he heard some muttering. “Raine can’t come to the phone right now.”
“Why the hell not?”
“She’s busy washing her hair. I’m sorry, Luiz. I’ve got to go. We’re having a movie night.”
“No more dates for Raine?”
“She’s been on a couple because I’ve asked her to. I’ve got to go, Luiz. Bye.”
Before Luiz could say anything, he cursed, and slammed his hand against the steering wheel. He was so pissed off and angry at himself, and at Raine. She didn’t need to go with anyone else. He was right here for her. Didn’t she realize that? He was happy to give her whatever she needed, and it didn’t have to be awkward.
Pulling up outside of the first brothel, he stared at the building, which had men going inside and coming out. His cell phone went off again, and he checked the screen to see that it was Donnie.
Picking it up, he ran a hand down his face. “What’s up?” he asked.
“I know you’re pissed off. I know you’re angry with us. With me.”
“It’s … nothing. I should have known we wouldn’t be able to do this. It’s fine. It really is.”
It wasn’t. He was struggling between his responsibility with his daughter, and his best friends. He had to make a decision.