Chapter 16: California Love
The smiles and cheers of joy that emerged from my house as soon as we walked in were bold enough to shake and rattle the world. Everyone was just as shocked and overjoyed to see Frankie live and in the flesh as I was, but there was one face that seemed to be riddled with turmoil: Andreas’s. While the team smothered my eldest – and official – cousin with hugs, I took the opportunity to pull my new love out to the back patio once again.
His gentle squeeze around my eager frame was enough to make me feel missed, but not enough to make me feel loved, and I knew why. His expression said it all, and I wanted to save him from any more worry. But I just needed to hear those powerful words he said to me before I left … one more time.
“Tell me again, Andreas. Tell me about the love you have for your mom, and for me.”
“I love my mom like nobody else, and I love you too … just as strong, but in a different way, and I shouldn’t have to choose between the two.”
“You didn’t have to choose,” I told as his eyes lit up.
“What do you mean?”
“By the grace of God, it seems that I had a little more power in the secret society than I knew of. I used that power to save us both. To save us all, really.”
“After everything she said to you, after everything she was trying to do, why did you save her?”
“Just because someone else is evil doesn’t mean that I have to be the same way. I can use my power to be better, and I plan to.”
“So,” he smiled, wrapping his arms around my waist, “does that mean I can tell her about us now?”
“I think she’ll be looking forward to it, especially since I told her that I was in love with you.”
His eyebrow rose with shock. “You said that?”
“So, Lorenzo is …?”
“And the divorce is …?”
“Going through without a hitch.”
“Which means that vacancy is …?”
“Open ... for you, just you, if you want it,” I happily flirted as his tender touch made its way to my face.
“Since the first day I saw you, it’s all I’ve ever wanted.”
Our lips eagerly crashed together like magnets. A kiss that contained both fire and desire as we melted with each other, into each other. With each passing moment, we were becoming more and more in sync in a manner that was previously unknown to me.
Finally, I didn’t feel wrong for being with him …
For kissing him …
For finding comfort in his caress …
And it wasn’t because everybody knew we were a thing.
It was because I had learned to stop living my life for Lorenzo, and start living it for me. I knew what I wanted, I knew what I didn’t want, I knew what didn’t feel right, and I knew what felt so damn good. Most importantly, I could finally thank the Diamond Secret Society for something: they truly helped me find the beauty in life’s complications.
“Wait,” I said lightly pressing Andreas away.
“What’s wrong, baby?”
“We’re going to go back in this house. Somebody is going to explain to me why my previously dead cousin is suddenly alive!”
“You didn’t get that answer on the way over here?” he asked, following me into my living room.
My team was sitting, attentively listening, until I barged in the room, of course. Luckily, I had great timing. Not only were Chloe and Frank at the beginning of explaining themselves, but my Aunt Vienna and Sylvia had just walked in. My heart flew on wings as Andreas rushed to hug his mom, and while embracing her son, she gazed in my direction with a smile and a head nod of gratitude.
I smiled back, before preceding to interrupt the pleasant temperature of the room. “Does anybody else want an explanation as how Frankie’s not dead? Because we were all broken up, ready and willing to avenge our own, because we thought somebody murdered him. Chloe? Talk. Now.”
“I’m sorry, Haze. We had to stage Frankie’s murder. It was the only way we could bust Judd Payton for his crimes, and put an end to his human trafficking ring, and drug smuggling organization.”
“And y’all were trying to transition this man into politics?” I threw at Sylvia.
“Trust me, dear, he wouldn’t have been the first.”
“Unbelievable! So, how were y’all able to pull it off? Judd wasn’t in on it, I’m sure.”
“No, of course not.”
“So, how were you able to make him and the ambulance and everybody go along with it?”
“I told you that I had agents watching the team every time they had an appointment. We had been staking people out for a while. We just didn’t have enough manpower to follow your entire clientele around all day. You allowing us to bug the baskets and hotel rooms helped us be in multiple places at once.”
“As for pulling off the murder, let’s just say I’m good at faking it. And trust me, it’s not easy to lie there and get your ass whooped when you know you can take the guy, but you have to play the part.”
“And the ambulance?”
“Those were our guys,” Chloe answered. “We had the uniforms, an official vehicle on standby, an officer to stand back to explain everything to the doctors and nurses …”
“But the Diamonds, they had a doctor back there that was willing to falsify the records regarding his death.”
“Dr. Dayana Maru. Yeah, it turns out she falsified a lot of records for the Diamonds.”
“She told you that?”
“Yeah, but not without some incentive. Just like you, she was scared because they told her that they had the government in their pocket, and we’ve got eyes everywhere,” she mimicked as Frankie and Aunt Vienna laughed. “Meanwhile, they didn’t realize that some of government Diamonds were me, Frank, and my mom.”
“But Frankie’s a man. I thought men weren’t supposed to know about the Diamond Secret Society.”
“They’re not,” Aunt Vienna spoke up, “but in this case, we needed him. The Global Diamonds agreed, but only if I vouched for him and had him shadow me for a while so he could understand our ways and how pertinent it is that he never talk about the Diamond Secret Society’s existence.”
“I’ve heard that speech every hour on the hour for the past week in the Philippines.”
“So that’s where you’ve been this whole time? In the Philippines with Aunt Vienna? And Tita, how on earth are you a federal agent and a Diamond, and I don’t know this?”
“Dear, there is a lot you don’t know. For example, I bet you didn’t know that Jewel Socorro is an Undercover Agent for the United States Secret Service. She’s been investigating a counterfeit scam that’s been traveling up and down the Pacific Coast. Once we make our way through all those recordings, I’m sure she’ll be able to get back to Brooklyn.”
“Brooklyn? She’s from New York?”
“Oh yeah. She was planted by the NYC Diamonds, although she talked her job into letting her go undercover so well that her office actually thinks they had something to do with her change of scenery,” she giggled. “And I know you didn’t know your mother and Chloe decided not to serve as Diamonds.”
“So you guys are just Blood Diamonds?”
“That’s right,” mom answered. “Which means that we don’t have to attend those mandatory meetings y’all have, but if it’s a dire Diamond emergency and our services are required, we are obligated to do our part to help out.”
“And there’s something else I think we should let you in on, Hazel.”
“What’s that, Tita?” I asked as Aunt Vienna went to open the door. On the other side stood Daisy Payton, for reasons unbeknownst to me. “Uh, what the hell is she doing here?”
“She is with Frank.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Daisy and I are old friends. We went to college together. Had a little thing back then, but …”
“But his day job shoved me to the backseat. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone when they’ve made a successful career of lying to people and keeping secrets. I didn’t know how to trust him.”
“But she always knew that she could trust me. So, when her relationship with Judd got violent and she became suspicious about a few things in their life, she reached out to me. I looked into it, she came in to speak with me and my supervisors, we agreed to protect her, and the rest is history.”
“Not the way you two are hugged up,” I shouted as the room filled with laughter. I mean, they were hand in hand, her head was on his shoulder, and I wasn’t supposed to notice? “Is there something you two would like to tell the class?”
“We were going to wait until Judd’s case went to trial, but …”
“One of the reasons I wasn’t there to let you guys in the house for the Diamond meeting was because I no longer have a key to that house.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
“Judd and I have been separated for a long time. The red carpet events, the charity fundraisers, us being all hugged up in pictures … it was all a show. The only thing Judd and I had going for us was our image, and I tried to help maintain it, but with each scandal he got mixed up in, it burned to the ground.”
“What about the plan to get him into politics? What about the DC Diamonds knowing about Frankie’s murder? How’d y’all pull that off?”
“Camille’s one of mine,” Aunt Vienna said with a raised hand. “We went to Georgetown together. And she made a very good suggestion before I left the old theater to come here. It seems that with Sylvia being forced down from the head Diamond of the Hollywood sector, there is an opening that needs to be filled. As a Perfect Diamond, you get first dibs.”
“I’m sorry, what? Are you saying that, that I could be the Head Chairwoman of the Hollywood sector?”
“With your heart of gold and your drive and your team, you could do amazing things for the American West. For the Diamonds in general. We could use a pioneer like you. What do you say?”
“I say yes! And my first order of business is to have my floral shop serve the community well, and legally, so I can help people the way I originally intended to. Like, maybe double it up as a non-profit for job placement services or something.”
“You’ll have plenty of time to figure it out,” Aunt Vienna smiled, “and I’m sure you won’t have a problem doing so with this large support system.”
“Uh, excuse me, Boss?” Talia waved. “Does this mean that we’re finally in the clear? Are we all free?”
With a sigh of relief, I took a look around the room. The sight of my team, my family, and my new man safe and sound in my house gave me an overwhelming sense of happiness. My head nodded in answer.
“Yeah, sweetheart. We are all free.”
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