Daddy, let’s kill
The bullet left my gun roaring through the air. It only took a second before being embedded in the target. My heart lurched, watching him bleed through his chest.
I shot my husband.
A year back
My instructions were very clear. I was bred for this moment since seven. Although my nerves flared, I knew how to curb them. After all, this wasn't the first time, I was putting up a show to entice. Unlike other cartel women, I knew what I was being prepared for. I wasn't the scapegoat sent to the Los Zetas syndicate, I was the trump card.
Daddy's trump card.
"Are you ready?" Dad walked into my room, a smile appeared on his crumpled face. Over the past fifty years, he had suffered in silence, endured the betrayal of enemies and imbibed it in every wrinkled line of his skin. His walk still hurt him, the trembling stick and the pain dancing on his face confirmed it. But he engulfed it with a confident sneer. "You look good." Moving closer, he lend his shaky hand. "Vamonos."
Dad's cartel days were numbered, with him unable to help much. After mamá's death we were the only ones for each other. The consequence of not having a male heir was quite evident. The business would be taken over by the Moralez, the leading cartel family.
Before we entered dad's chambers, I squeezed his hand hard. He may have grown old and weary, yet there was determination lurking behind those milky eyes. Looking at me, his lips rose, parting a smile. Although he too wanted to assure everything would turn out fine, his eyes conveyed the truth. He was as terrified as I was.
Still, we Ramirez's' won't go down without a fight.
Facing the golden ornate double door, I felt my mouth turning sour. Been prepared for a day like this was different than having to face one. Every option from running away to jumping off a cliff looped in my mind. Dad's gentle hand squeeze pulled me back to reality. This was happening.
The help opened the doors. Draft blew my perfectly placed hair. Pulling them affront, I walked in, resting my hand over dad's. It didn't take long for us to spot them, the Moralez heirs.
Sitting among the middle of his family seating, I saw him. El Demonio.
His stoic gaze travelled up and down, evaluating his prey, me. The man didn't have a hint of an expression, yet intriguing enough to catch my attention. Neatly placed hair and hooded eyes reminded me of the last time I saw him. With raised eyebrows, the predator slid back on his chair, crossing his legs. Confidence and arrogance went hand in hand with the man, whose crimson touched face and bloodshot gaze shifted momentarily to his brothers.
The other two men who sat on adjacent sides of him had striking resemblance to their father, Carlos, the head of the syndicate.
Dad dragged a chair, the room echoed with a screech, souring the tip of my teeth. The demon and I were locked in a staring match. His glance didn't waver, neither did mine. Never show your back to the predator and I didn't. The help closed the doors behind. Thud signaled us to begin.
"We all know the business takeover is impending." Dad broke the silent treaty. "But with the cartel gone, I would.. I mean.." his voice wavered and the smile on his face was wiped clean with his next words. " I won't be able to fend for my daughter. She's my everything and..."
Another long deep silence filled the room. I ran my hand over his, he gave me a tight nod. I knew, holding his trembling hands, there was pain in his heart when he parted those words along with his dignity. Staying silent, we let the Moralez take over.
Carlos Moralez was the first one to speak. His steps boomed across the room. The present head of The Los Zetas, one of the biggest Mexican cartel, he portrayed all demeanors of a leader.
Tall and slender as a grapevine, Carlos oozed charisma. Walking across the room, he smiled at his family as if taking their permission. His wife, Maria gave him her nodded affirmation.
"We know what it is like to maintain business, Ramon." Pulling a chair closer to us, Carlos sat. "Although I don't have a daughter, I know your sentiments in protecting her." His eyes travelled towards me. Maria walked close to him, facing dad.
The woman was an epitome of a walking angel. Dewey face and kind eyes, she reminded me of my mamá.
"We would be happy to take Valentina as ours." She smiled at me and then dad. I simpered, knowing well to play along. "From today, she is as much your daughter as she is ours."
Walking back to her sons, all of whom sat in a perfect semicircle, she lent her hand to the eldest. Antonio Moralez didn't spare a second. He took her hand and walked back. Such a sweet mama's boy. Nobody would ever know his dark side had he not revealed it. The dark, demented demon that he was.
And look at him now, hiding away behind his mother's trail.
Maria closed our distance. I look away, portraying the blushing girl which I wasn't. She took my hand and placed it over his, pulling my attention back to his emotionless eyes.
The specks of green remained frigid as he stared at me for a second before pulling his hand away. The jerk reaction was felt by both me and Maria. He murmured an insincere apology, walking back to be seated with his brothers.
Not that I was offended by his reaction, what caught my attention was the cringed on his face as if my touch burned him. After that, the demon didn't bother me with his unfazed stare.
As dad talked to Maria and Carlos, I sat beside them, unravelling the loose thread from my sleeves. Maria gestured to her boys, one of whom walked up. In contrast to the demon's expressions and demeanor, his was much better. With a smiling face and a hand projected out, he introduced himself.
"Hi, Agustin. I mean I am Agustin Moralez.."
Taking his hand I continued, "Valentina Ramirez."
He smiled wider, still holding my hand. "Can we talk outside?"
I nodded, letting him walk ahead of me. Before the doors opened, I heard Maria's faint comment. "Accompany them Antonio."
I turned around to see if he was coming. His hand waved in the air dismissively while continuing talking to his other brother. The ball of fire inside me raged up with his act. I could only calm myself with a reminder of why I was doing this.
Agustin and I crossed the foyer and walked into the garden.
"I know you must be nervous," he said, plucking dead leaves from withered plants. I nodded, my mind still focused on the discussions inside. "Don't worry. Mama had instructed us all to behave, once you are married. We won't be running around the house like madmen, if that's what you are worried about."
When his hand lingered over mine, I snapped to reality. "Sorry, my mind was somewhere else." I stated the truth. Well, half the truth.
"Don't worry," His hold engulfed my palm. "I know Antonio looks angry and mad all the time, but he is a sweetheart."
Well, it was not him who was on my mind but I played along, smiling.
Agustin continued his rant, without catching a breath. "It takes time to get used to him but once it happens, you would love him too. Even Elena had the same reaction like..." Abruptly ending the statement, he scanned my face before looking away.
"Who is Elena?" I asked, sensing it was someone important in their lives. He nodded sideways, hanging his head low. Feeling sorry for him, I continued, "If you don't want to tell me, it's fine."
He looked up smiling, something which he did quite often. "She was Antonio's wife. I mean.."
Hmm. Only privileged cartel members had heard of Elena's death by a rival cartel. I wasn't one among them.
By now, it must be very clear, the Moralez family control both the government and the press. So it was no surprise that they held back the news of their own daughter-in-law's death from spreading like wildfire.
All the power in the world, yet it couldn't save their own kind. I smiled on the inside, knowing the hurt it must have caused them, loosing their own. I wasn't impervious to other's grief, but it was the Moralez, whose pain and suffering gave me a sense of relief.
"We should go back. Dad must be missing me," I gestured at the door and Agustin happily walked back. On our return, he talked more about the emotionless Antonio, the levelheaded middle born, Alejandro and being his talkative self, about him, the last-born Moralez.
Once the doors opened, dad's gaze landed on me. He leaned over and whispered words for my privileged. "I am signing the contract." I gave him a tight nod, blessing the business takeover.
The Moralez were very persuasive. They knew that dad didn't have a foothold, thanks to the absence of a male heir. They ensured that he was pushed to an extend where he'd have no other option but to accept their demands and let go of his business. If only, I was a boy to take over the business.
The tyrant family may have won today, but their days were numbered.
After the signing formalities, flutes of champagne circulated. Maria closed our distance, tugging a rogue hair behind my ear.
"Bienvenida a la Familia." (Welcome to the family) Smiling for their benefit, I dug into my lips as she kissed my forehead. "Although it would be official soon, I want to tell you that from now on, you are my daughter."
Not knowing how to display the required reaction, I continued fidgeting with the flute stem. Dad rescued me from the torture. "Maria," he stooped low, both in voice and stand. "Valentina may be a stubborn one, but I hope you would forgive her if-"
Holding dad's hand, she stopped him from speaking further. "She is my daughter now, Ramon. Don't you worry. She will be taken care of like a Moralez."
I wanted the façade to end as much as the next person. The torture of enduring their sugary gestures were merely beginning. They stayed back for lunch, talking and laughing, extending the torture duration. My jaws hurt with the smile I donned.
Blushing brides win hearts, I reminded myself.
The talks eventually died down and the elitist family bid adieu, leaving us behind.
Dad turned to me, holding my hands and tugging me closer. I wiped a rogue tear from the corner of his eye and fell into his warm embrace. "Don't worry. It'll all work out, dad."
He nodded over my shoulders, letting off an unsatisfactory chuckle. "I know, I know." Sighing, he pulled my face up. Kindness danced on his, helplessness hid behind the walls of his heart. "I am sad that my daughter will be married, only to become a widow."
Looking at him, I straightened my back. "A widow, yes. But a head, nonetheless."
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