Pink Walls

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The Carmosinos [Part III]

I’m a runner.”

When I opened my eyes again, Saffron was no longer driving and I was no longer resting on Alex’s shoulder. It had stopped snowing for a while now and we had spent at least an hour on the road—that much was obvious to me, despite the fact that the window I was looking at was upside-down.

“Comfy?” Ron asked with a wide grin the moment she pulled open the car door. She peered down at me and bent over until our noses brushed.

“Yes,” Alex answered as I hurried to sit up. He didn’t seem to mind in the slightest that I had been using his lap as a pillow this entire time.

Saffron chuckled and straightened up again. “You are really cute when you sleep, Kay.”

Alex hummed in agreement while I stewed in mortification. It was already bad enough that I almost got them killed, why couldn’t they just let me forget about it?

“Get out, Alexiares,” Ron hissed and jabbed her index finger at him. Her nail ended up just an inch away from his eye but he didn’t even blink.

“Yes, boss,” he murmured demurely and got out of the car without a word of complaint.

Ron slid into the spot beside me and held my gaze. “Are you feeling better now?”

“Yes.” I tried to not look too touched by her concern and turned my gaze to the tall, unfamiliar buildings looming over us. We were definitely in a part of the city that I had never been to before—the richest part—but it wasn’t anywhere the Carmosinos owned. “Where are we?”

“We’re close,” she said. “But we have to keep up appearances. Are you okay to drive now?”

I nodded and got out through the other door.

“Kay,” Ron called the moment my boots hit the snow, and I ducked my head into the car to see what she wanted. She held a roll of expensive-looking leather out to me then shut the door before I could ask what it was.

I leaned against the body of the car and tugged on the knotted string tying the bundle together. When it came apart in my hands, my gaze fell on the set of throwing knives sitting snugly in its pouches.

Extra knives. I had never needed more than one before. Frank’s knife was usually enough no matter how hard a job was. I didn’t need to kill people after all, just disarm them. So why—

I was pulled out of my thoughts when Alex walked to me and clapped a hand on my shoulder.

“I don’t like this,” he said, the moment I turned to face him.

“You think it’s a trap?” That would explain why Ron had given me more weapons.

“This is not our territory,” was his curt reply, and that was as good an answer as any.

If Alex was worried enough to verbalize his uneasiness then we were definitely walking into a trap. There was no doubt about it.

On the other hand though, Ron wasn’t stupid. She had been made the heir of the Cisco family for a reason. So I didn’t need to think hard of a way to assure him that we’d be fine. I said, “If the boss thinks it’s safe, then it is.”

Instead of replying, Alex just stared at me, and for a moment I froze, thinking that he was going to hug me again, but he only gave my shoulder a hard squeeze before nodding one and walking away.

I turned back to the car and got behind the wheel. When I started the engine and looked into the rear view mirror, I saw Ron staring at me.

“What?”

“What did you two love birds talk about?”

I put the car in reverse and backed into the street behind us. From the map and aerial photos I had studied before this, we were less than a block away from Antonia’s mansion. That distance gave Alex a lot of potential spots to set up his rifle.

Knowing that his eyes would be on us the whole time, I felt more confident about walking into this fiasco of a meeting Antonia Carmosino was hosting. Trap or not, we were still going to call it a day after we lived through it.

“Kayden?”

I looked up into the mirror again and saw Saffron raise an eyebrow.

I remembered her question and thought back to the things Alex had said and the things he didn’t need to say. “I think he wanted me to keep you safe.”

Ron smirked and crossed her legs. She ran her nails over her bare knee then tugged the frilly hem of her skirt down to cover it. “Cute.”

I nodded. Ron and Alex were just like a cat and dog. There was simply no way for them to get along and their extreme personalities did little to help their situation.

With nothing else to talk about, a comfortable silence settled in the space between Ron and I, and it took no time at all for us to arrive at the mansion that Antonia called home.

The gates parted on their own and I drove inside, parking alongside the other five cars that belonged to the Cisco family. On Ron’s orders, the rest of our men had gone ahead of us so they had gotten here first.

I hopped out of the car and held the door open for Saffron. “Boss.”

She smiled and extended her hand towards me.

With all the care that I would use to handle something dangerous, I curled my fingers around her palm and helped her out.

The other members of the gang followed suit and filed out of their vehicles.

It only took a moment for I and Saffron to be flanked on each side by one of her men. The rest stood at attention in front of us, their hands clasped behind their backs.

Then we waited—out of principle of course. We weren’t the ones who were going to ring the doorbell and announce our presence. That would only make us seem desperate, and desperate was something we were far from. We ran the city and deserved the respect owed to us.

In less than a minute, a man was leaving the mansion to sprint in our direction. I smiled at that. Antonia was being unusually receptive for a Carmosino.

“Ron Cisco,” he dipped his head slightly in greeting and held his hand out behind him. “This way.”

“Of course,” Ron’s voice was cheerful but her face carried a frown the man would never see. He was much shorter than the security personnel surrounding us and he didn’t even dare to look directly at her.

“You don’t mind if my men stretched their legs though?” Ron asked, but was already dispersing her subordinates with a wave of her hand. “They have been on the road for hours just to ensure that I arrived safe and on time.”

Safe? Yes. On time? Far from it. We were almost two hours late.

The man looked around in panic as Saffron’s people began to position themselves around the mansion.

“Antonia wouldn’t mind,” she continued while pulling me along with her up the steps that led to the mansion’s door. “She promised me a very warm welcome!”

I almost felt sorry for the little man by the time we reached the doors. Saffron was just like that. Either you did things her way or you did things her way. There was no circumventing her order.

He let us into the building with a shallow bow and a dozen men moved in to surround us, their rifles already aimed at our chests. The four men with us had reacted faster than we had and also had their guns out but the truth was, we were outnumbered.

“Boys!” a woman called from somewhere above us, her intonation thick and Russian. “I have told you. Today is about peace.”

“Antonia Carmosino.” Ron signalled our men to lower their pistols. “As lovely as ever, I see.”

“Lovely?” Her voice was punctuated by the sharp clicks of high-heeled shoes. “How do you know? You cannot see me.”

“Boys,” Antonia continued, her voice getting closer with each step she took, “take Cisco’s bodyguards to go and play.”

When both sets of armed men withdrew and disappeared up a staircase, I found the redhead standing right beside Ron. She wore a white evening gown and held a glass of wine in her left hand.

“Still fond of magic tricks, I see,” Ron said, not at all perturbed by the woman’s sudden appearance.

The two shared a brief hug for the sake of civility and the moment they parted, Antonia immediately trained her gaze on me.

“Who is this?”

Ron put an arm around my shoulders and pulled against her in an act that could only be defined as possessive. “You will find out if our talk goes well.”

What the hell did that mean?

Antonia eyed me curiously then nodded.

“This way.” She gestured to the double doors at the end of the corridor to our right.

“Our meeting place,” she explained when she let us inside.

What immediately caught my eye were the armed men that lined the walls of the room. If this really was a trap, things weren’t looking too good. We only brought along twenty five men, and four of them had already been whisked away to God-knows-where.

Antonia dismissed the men then turned to us. “I set up this meeting in complete honesty. We will not be disturbed,” she pointed to the long dining table that occupied most of the space in the room. “Sit where you like.”

Yes. I was convinced. This was definitely a trap.

When Ron pulled out the chair in front of me, I sat down in it. She smiled warmly and seated herself next to me.

I already had a bad feeling about this.

Antonia walked to the other side of the table and sat opposite us. The pleasantries were done with, now it was time for business.

“Five more bodies were found in an abandoned warehouse in our part of the city. That was the original venue for our meeting, Cisco,” she said.

“Are you saying that it has something to do with me?” Saffron tapped a nail on the table. “Antonia, you are getting bold.”

“Only you and I knew of the warehouse.”

“Then you have your answer.”

“I am surprised that you admitted it so easily.”

“It is obvious that you have a mole.” Ron crossed her arms and frowned. “Don’t accuse me of deaths my people have nothing to do with, and don’t forget that the bodies of my men are still in your territory.”

“Of course,” Antonia smiled thinly and sipped on her wine, “I have nothing to do with that.”

“Why am I here, Antonia? Are you going to do something productive? Or am I speaking with the wrong Carmosino?”

“You will not belittle me, Ron Cisco.” Antonia narrowed her eyes. “You are not someone worthy of meeting my father.”

“I was talking about your sister,” Ron said, her grin growing wider when Antonia’s smile faded.

I thought all hell would break loose right then and there but the two women had already moved on from the sore subject.

“You haven’t introduced us yet, Ron,” Antonia said.

“I am sure that with your resources, you already know who he is,” Ron said with a laugh and I was reminded of why she had been looking for me yesterday.

“I thought Alexiares would accompany you,” Antonia drained the rest of her wine in one go, “I miss him dearly.”

“Alex is busy.” Saffron smiled.

“And you only brought twenty-five men. Risky.”

“We are all friends here.”

Antonia hummed and returned her gaze to me. “What does he do?”

“I’m a runner,” I answered before Ron could.

“Quite outspoken, isn’t he?” Antonia chuckled and set down her glass.

Ron laughed and ran a nail down the side of my cheek. “That’s just the way I like him.”

“You know,” Antonia began to speak but was cut off when Ron grabbed me by the chin and kissed me.

This wasn’t the simple peck on the lips she always gave me but the beginnings of a full-blown make out session. She curled her arms around me and tugged hard on my hair as she deepened her kiss.

On my shoulder, she tapped me three times.

My eyes widened the moment I managed to decode the message.

So this really is a trap! I slipped two knives out of my sleeve. They were the smallest of the set, barely two inches long, and so were able to fit easily beneath Ron’s acrylic nails.

When we pulled away from each other, Antonia was smiling like she had won the lottery.

“You must really like him,” she said.

“Cut to the chase, Antonia.” Ron sighed. “I have things to do.”

“Of course.” Antonia grinned and snapped her fingers.

I wasn’t able to react in time when a cord was slipped around my neck and pulled tight until I could just barely breathe.

Where had my assailant come from? I didn’t know.

I resisted the urge to struggle or free myself. Ron obviously had a plan and it was my job to wait for it.

“Did you think that I invited you over just to talk, Ron?” Antonia got to her feet. “Superiority rolls off you in waves and that infuriates me.”

“So, you’re jealous. Deal with it.”

Through the corner of my eye I saw that Ron’s predicament was no better than mine. She had the barrel of a Glock up against the back of her head.

“You do not give me the most basic form of respect but I should have known better than to expect that much from you. Two hours, Cisco.” Antonia shook her head. “You do not appreciate my sincerity.”

“Antonia—” Ron tried to stand.

“Sit down!” Antonia pressed two fingers to her forehead. “Sit down or Kay gets what’s coming to him.”

“What do you want, Carmosino?” Ron asked coolly. “It isn’t like you to be so impulsive.”

“Control over all the city, of course,” Antonia replied. “Wouldn’t that be grand?”

Ron snorted. “You think doing this would make your father love you again? Face the facts, Antonia, you are pathetic.”

I didn’t get to hear Antonia’s reply because at that moment sirens started blaring from all around the mansion. The glazed window overlooking the dining room shattered and it’s jagged glass pieces came raining down on us.

At the same time, the man holding a gun to Ron’s head collapsed to the ground and streams of Antonia’s men flooded the room.

Taking advantage of the chaos, I slashed at the cord around my neck and forced the chair back until I and the man behind me crashed to the floor.

Before he could react, I clipped his jaw and knocked him out.

Saffron was already shooting at Antonia but it was no use because the wall of bodyguards that now surrounded her.

When the men started pulling out their own guns, I scrambled to my feet and tackled Ron to the ground.

We rolled under the table as gunfire erupted above us and all over the building.

Our peace meeting had deteriorated into an all out war.

“You okay, boss?” Now I was kneeling over Ron with my hands on either side of her head. With my back flushed against the bottom of the table, we were practically squashed against each other.

She grinned. “This gun only has three bullets left and I have no extra magazines. I’ll have to depend on you from now on, Kay.”

I closed my eyes and held back a sigh. “You knew this was a trap.”

“I did.”

“And you didn’t tell me?”

“What’s the fun in that?”

I rolled off her to stick a knife into the boot of someone who was getting too close. When he shouted out in pain, I decided to pull him down to join us.

I slammed my elbow into his wrist and he let go of his gun. I tossed it to Ron then pressed a knife to his neck.

“Are you going to kill me?” he whispered.

“You’re asking the wrong person.” I flashed him a grin and took a peek at the room. No one else roamed about and more than one body was on the floor. It seemed like the majority of Antonia’s men had either been picked off by Alex or had retreated with her.

Whatever the reason for their absence was, the room was now clear.

I got to my feet again and ignored the sound of a gun going off twice beneath the table. I helped Ron get back to her feet when she called for me.

“Was that necessary?”

She patted my cheek and smiled sweetly.

“All is fair in war, Kay,” she said, and the gunshots erupting from all around the mansion told me she was right.

❄❄❄

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