“Okay. Christie always loves it when you visit.”
“I love coming here.” He took hold of Christie’s hand, trying not to say the next words, but he couldn’t hold back. “What about you? Are you happy to see me visit?”
He looked into her eyes.
“Yeah, I like you visiting.”
“There’s something I want to tell you.”
“What is it?” Raine asked.
“I don’t want any of your boyfriends around Christie. The last thing I want is for her to feel confused by it.”
“Luiz, it’s the last thing you have to worry about right now. I’ll not let anything happen to her. I promised my sister, and I will continue to promise you. In my world, in my life, Christie will always come first.”
“What are you saying?” Luiz asked.
“I’m saying that we were fools to think that we could clean up this mess and walk away.” Donnie threw his pen on his desk, and rubbed his eyes.
“But this is what we agreed. The Family doesn’t have to rule this city, Donnie.” Tonio was pacing, and every now and again stopping.
“It’s what I hoped. You don’t think I didn’t have a plan for myself, for Paige, and for my future? Fuck. I didn’t want this. I never wanted to be some fucking ruler, or the head of this fucked up family.”
“You are, and there’s nothing you can do about that,” Jake said. Jake sat in the corner of the office. His fingers were pressed together as he leaned back, staring at all of them. “Together we can do this.”
“This isn’t about us doing this,” Luiz said. “Our plan should have worked.”
“Where did we fail?” Tonio asked.
“We failed in the fact that we didn’t take into account the importance of The Family.”
“Huh?” This came from Tonio.
Luiz understood instantly. “When there is one family at the top, they are the rulers of all others. Take away one family, another will rise up, and it may not exactly be the best decision for the city or even the country.” He moved toward the window, rubbing at his eyes. He was so damn tired. Between this work, and trying to see his kid, he was just exhausted. In the beginning he had believed it was possible to be part of something bigger, something better. That belief was rapidly running away from him, and any hope he had of bringing Christie and Raine closer to him was fading fast.
“So that’s it. We fucked up, and now we’re screwed?” Tonio asked. “I’ve got George to think about, and Zara’s pregnant again. I can’t do this. I’m not going to allow my son to become what we were. What my father made me.”
Luiz stopped and went to his friend. They were all friends. Putting his hand on Tonio’s shoulder, he tried to offer him the comfort and strength he needed. “You will never be the monster that your father was. Believe me.” Tonio’s father demanded that he rape and kill for films. For sick bastards who wanted to get off on that kind of shit.
“I just, I can’t. We all agreed that The Family had to cease to exist.”
“I know. Even though we were mature for our ages, we didn’t see the full truth. We can still turn this around.”
“How?” Tonio asked. “We stay with The Family, keep it up and running. We’re practically begging for death. Bullets, threats, our very lives will be at stake.”
Donnie stood and rounded the desk. He leaned against it. “What about if we walk away? Do you think any family would let us four live? They would hunt us down and kill us. I can’t have that. Not for George, not for Petal, and not for my little sister either. I can’t do it.”
Luiz didn’t speak up. His friends didn’t know that he had fathered a child. They didn’t know about the hit his father had placed on Lora, on his kid, or that he’d kept her hidden for so long now. Too long. She was nearly seven years old, and asking questions all the time. He’d hoped to bring her back to him, to have a life away from the danger, away from the risk of death.
“What do we do?” Luiz asked.
“We have to make a choice.”
“You’re saying that we’ve got a choice?” Jake asked.
“It’s a choice I’m granting each of you. I can’t walk away. I know that now, and I accept it. Paige is pissed. Of course she is, but I’ll deal with it. I’ll deal with everything that comes our way, and I will protect our families the best way I can. I’m giving you the chance to walk away.” Donnie reached onto his desk with an envelope. “Here are three passports, with different identities. I’ve not looked at them, to save you all. If you want out, and I know you do, take them, and start a new life. I don’t want to know where, who, or why. Just start over.”
Luiz looked at that envelope. It was the chance that he wanted. The only problem was he’d made a pact, a blood oath to his best friends. They were his brothers.
“What would you do?” Jake asked.
“I’ll be here, of course. Trying to keep The Family together, tearing apart all threats, and hoping to save my very soul and Paige’s love in the process.”
“Then that’s it, I’m staying,” Jake said. “You couldn’t organize your own pussy growing up. Paige likes me, and the way I see it, you’re going to need some help with her and with Petal along the way. It’s not like I’ve got my own woman waiting for me.”
Jake had a crush on the girl, or the woman that Donnie’s dad had stolen, and used for his own personal pleasure. The problem was, Charlene, the woman, was a lesbian, and she now had a lover of her own. Jake was still brokenhearted about that.
Tonio cursed. “Fuck! I wouldn’t be the man I am now if it wasn’t for us working together. You bastard. This isn’t a real choice. I can’t leave you behind. Zara would kick my ass. We’ve always had each other, and I can’t let you face whatever shit you’re about to face alone. It’s now who I am, so I’m in. No matter what.”
Luiz stared at the brown envelope and thought about his kid, and his kid’s aunt. They deserved a life better than the one he was providing. He just knew it.
“What about you? You in?” Donnie asked.