“No, it’s not.”
“This is what was supposed to happen.”
“I don’t accept that, Xander. You should live.”
“It’s okay. I’m fine with this. I promise. You’ve got to take care of our little girl now, Raine. You can do this.”
“Not without you.”
“You’ve been doing it without me. Luiz will take care of you.”
Tears fell down her face, and her heart was breaking. This couldn’t be happening again. No, it couldn’t. She wouldn’t be able to survive another like this.
“I love you,” she said, meaning every single word. It was the love of a good friend, of a father.
“Being with you, and with Christie, was the best thing ever. I’m honored to have spent all this time with you.”
He stroked her face and died in her arms.
Luiz stared at his friends, and he didn’t know how to say the next words, but he did. “I’ve been lying to you guys for seven years.”
Donnie, Tonio, and Jake all tensed. Paige held onto Donnie’s arm, calming him, and Zara did the same thing to Tonio. This was the harsh world where their lives were nothing more than pawns to many.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Jake asked.
“Seven years ago, I met the most amazing girl. I fell in love, and I got her pregnant. I was seventeen, and I thought I could handle everything. I thought I could keep her safe, that I could keep us all safe.”
“What happened?” Donnie asked.
“My father knew everything, so he ordered a hit on the family. It was his punishment of me, for thinking that I could have a life away from The Family. To live with happiness, with an outsider. Lora, she was the shining light in my life, and so was Christie. Our little girl.” He licked his lips, which were dry. For seven years he’d wanted to tell his friends the truth, but he’d been afraid, trying to keep them all safe. “I found out too late that my dad had ordered the kill. He wanted all of her family slaughtered, and my little girl.” He ran a hand down his face, remembering the chaos he’d walked into the moment he went to protect her. “The guards that were on my side were all dead, and so were her parents. Lora was dying, and I was too late to save her.”
He looked up to find Paige and Zara crying.
“Lora had a younger sister, Raine. She’d made her take Christie into the bathroom, and try to protect her. I saved them from being killed, and since that day, I’ve been protecting them.”
“Who did you have with them?” Donnie asked.
“A guy called Xander,” Raine said, coming out of the backroom. She was covered in blood, and hadn’t washed yet. Neither had he. He’d been more focused in getting his friends here for them to know the truth. “He was Luiz’s old bodyguard, and he was our friend.” Her gaze met his, and he saw the pain inside her eyes. She was hurting really bad.
She’d screamed at Xander to come back to her.
Luiz had had to pull her away against her will to stop her, and to protect them all.
“Yes, she is.”
“Your daughter?” Paige asked.
“She’s seven years old.”
“In a couple of weeks she’s seven,” Raine said. “Xander and I were going to take her out to the mall.” She stopped, and he saw the tears flowing down her cheeks. “Do you know who did it?”
“I’m getting to that now.”
“Excellent.” She pulled out a chair, and took a seat.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m waiting to see who you think it is. I take it you’re going to exact revenge, right? Make them pay.”
“I don’t think you should be here.”
“You think you’re going to stop me?” she asked. If looks could kill, he’d be dead by now just from the look shooting at him.
“I don’t want to get into an argument with you.”
“Then save it, Luiz. I’ve been living with your decisions for far too long. You think bringing me here is going to help the way I feel? I’ve seen the security this place has. You’re surrounded by friends, and by people who respect you.”
“You don’t get to tell me what to do anymore. For seven years I lived with Xander. I put up with your instructions because you thought you knew what you were doing.”
“Xander is dead!” She yelled the words.
Everyone else fell silent, listening to them.
“He died in my arms, and if we had been here, surrounding by your damn friends, he could still be alive. Your thoughts, your beliefs are total bullshit, Luiz.”
“You’re not thinking straight.”
“I watched my family die. I had to hold Christie, your little girl, while I listened to my family die. Tonight, I’ve just done the same thing, and if you think for one second that you can dictate to me, think again. I’m not fifteen years old anymore, Luiz. I won’t be stopped. Not now.”
Silence filled the room.
“I like her,” Tonio said.
“Me too. We could totally be BFFs. What do you think, Paige?” Zara asked.
“Totally. I’m Paige, by the way.”
“Nice to meet you,” Raine said.
The fight didn’t once leave her, and when he threw one of the IDs that he’d gotten at Donnie, he waited for his answer.
“Wait, he was connected to Maria’s husband, who we put in the ground.”
“Rafael?” Luiz had killed his sister’s husband as he was a fucking wife-beater, one of the foulest creatures to ever walk the planet. Months later, Maria, his sister, had killed herself, and her unborn child. “What do you think it means?”
“When Rafael died, his entire estate went to a long distance relative. I was dealing with a lot of shit at the time that I didn’t look into it. This man, he was on Rafael’s guard. I recognize him. He served my father many times.” Donnie threw the ID into the center of the table.
“Why would someone from your past want to kill us? Kill Xander?” Raine asked.