“What the hell?”
Bang! Jessie stepped in my path and slammed both her hands against the fender. “Sean!”
I slammed on the brakes, jammed the shifter into park, opened the door, and stepped out. “Jessie – what the hell?” I rounded the truck and faced the woman standing with her arms folded against her bodice.
“That’s it? You’re just going to walk out – just like that?” She tried so hard to conceal the emotional charge within, but I had caught her sniffed back sob.
“You need an explanation?” I growled. “Fine ... okay ... You’re too good for me!”
“Oh, please, Sean. I’m a big girl. I can handle the truth. So don’t bullshit me!”
“That’s all you’re gonna get.”
“Just say it!” She jut out her arms, giving my chest a forceful, unexpected shove. “I was just a fling, right? That was all any of it ever was – and now that you’ve had me – Just tell me!” Tears streamed down her cheeks. “Say it!” She gave another shove, forcing me to take a step back.
“I would never say that.”
“Why not? It’s true!”
“You really think that I only wanted to screw you?”
“I’m not a fool.” She bit her lip and looked away. “Last night you were talking about forever and today ... it’s over?”
“Walk away, Jessie,” Calmly, I warned and turned away.
“I got played ... I see how it is now!” She screamed, drawing the attention of the small oriental waitress that had stepped out of the diner to sweep the sidewalk.
I stopped mid-step, raised a brow while she raised tear-filled eyes toward the sky and ran her tongue over her bottom lip.
“I guess I just have to accept it! Right? None of this was real or true – but don’t worry – I will be fine – I’ve survived much worse than being dumped by you!”
I caught the diner lady out of the corner of my eye, shaking her head with a hand on her hip. Staring at us with disapproval.
I ran a hand over my face. Never in my life had I dealt with private affairs in public. I’d never argued in an open environment and here this woman was airing all our dirty laundry for everyone to see. Like we had some dynamic affair when it had been little more than a few flirts.
Completely composed I stepped closer and I curled my lip. “Haven’t you had enough of me yet?” I pinned her against the grill, one hand on either side of her, leaned in and pressed my lips against hers. I pulled her close and enjoyed the passion she returned – damn she was making it impossible to give her up.
A black Hummer swerved into the spot in front of and screeched to a stop. Matt Divani jumped out.
I pressed my forehead against Jessie’s. The circumstances of my life always interrupted. “In a different world, this could have been great.” I let out a short laugh. “But it is what it is.”
I flicked my eyebrows at the object of my affection and pushed off the grill.
“Here you go, Ms. Jun.” I addressed the little diner lady and tossed her the keys to my white pick-up.
“I no valet,” she spit. “Can’t use door. Now can’t move truck?”
I chuckled. That little lady had been busting my balls since the first time I’d stumbled into her diner. Drunk. And I loved it.
“It’s a gift.” I winked and strolled toward my reality.
“You replaced that thing pretty quick.” Jessie held her tongue between her lips and held a sarcastic knowing smirk.
I paused at the driver’s door and grinned. The woman had that effect on me. The night before the Divani brothers ditched and torched my previous Hummer to avoid the law. Torching it may have been a bit drastic, but it made the JBI’s job a little harder.
“Always got a spare laying around … take care of yourself, Jess.” “
What’s the plan, Boss?” Matt asked as he settled into the passenger’s seat and his little brother Grato sat forward in the rear and rested a forearm on each front seat.
“Nothing much. Just tying up loose ends.” I gazed in my rearview.
“Cupid finally hit you with that arrow.” Matt snickered.
Grato mimed a shotgun, blew up his cheeks and let it burst out. The younger brother never spoke, but he had his own unique way of contributing to the conversation.
“Yeah, that son-of-bitch knocked me on my ass.” I chuckled. “But she can do much better than me.”
“Come on, Boss. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Grato patted my shoulder sympathetically.
“You gonna miss her?”
“Yeah,” I admitted. “Yeah, I’m gonna miss her.” And I would miss the way I’d felt since she’d come into my life. She’d healed a pain I thought would never go away, filling the hole in my heart with hope. I already missed the warmth of embracing her body, the taste of her kiss, the smell of her long ebony hair, and the twinkle in her eyes when she spat witty sarcasm.
I turned my thoughts toward the unexpected problem at hand and the phone call that influenced my romantic decision. I couldn’t keep her if I wanted her to live.
I couldn’t ignore the problem if I wished my empire to remain as I had built it. Problems seemed to fly at me from all directions. Around every corner. Hidden in every dark alley.
Growing up, my father liked to chuckle and say the mob life was easy — he lied. It’s harsh. It’s cruel and I believe he was the only who believed it. And no one – not even his most trusted man had the guts to disagree with him. Everyone, and I mean everyone I ever knew, had secrets. They excluded big bits and pieces of their story from the world and even from the ones they loved. Just like me, they make believe that everything is fine, when really, everything within us screams ‘how the hell did I get myself into this mess!’
We know we’re heading to hell. We know we’ve done too much to redeem ourselves and our prayers are nothing more than a cheap attempt to hustle a man who knows all. We know there is no paradise waiting for us and we have to enjoy this life before we plunge into eternal damnation. So, our souls plead for relief. Our hearts beg us to tell one person. To let one person know who we are behind the monster and when we do, love doesn’t bring any peace – we drag that person down with us.
I lived my life a moment at a time. Did what I had to do to protect my freedom and spent the rest of my time burying those actions in the deepest, darkest pit of my mind so I could pretend I had nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.
Honestly, I’d believed I could slowly phase my family’s legacy out of existence. I cut ties with politicians known as the council. Stopped collecting protection money from the local businesses and I kept my circle small. Recruiting few new men. Eventually, there would be nothing left to hide – Just one more hit – one more talkative soul to silence – repeatedly – until there were no more.
Recently, a rival family, The Bolivars, showed up in my territory. They cornered the drug market in the Northern part of Jenithiyah, but had issues producing Miasma, a drug made from Jenithiyain ocean water, and that forced them to obtain their supply from my organization – a deal struck by past generations and their sudden arrival didn’t surprise me.
They made their money through sweatshops. Employing indebted drug addicts to create knockoffs, but the majority came from extortion and hijacking shipments. There was plenty of wealth to go around, but the head of the family, Hunter Bolivar, was a greedy man. I’d always known he’d grow tired of sharing the profits from the illegal substance market. He arrived offering a truce – a simple fabrication as transparent as a whisper of wind – he wanted control of my territory – and I would have gladly handed over the last remaining illegal franchise I possessed – if I could walk away. A term in our negotiation we could not agree upon.