Chapter 11. Try Me
It took me one week to work with Aria. Most people would have thought it was crazy or impossible, but it was as if she had never forgotten the things that I taught her. It seemed that she just needed someone to remind her about who she is and what she is capable of. She could shoot, throw knives, and fight exactly the way she did before her head injury.
Aria still had no idea about the Latin King stuff. I would save that for another time. Aria informed me that she remembered Carlos a little and the DNA test. She didn’t mention anything about the Latin King stuff, so I knew she still didn’t know about that. Aria also recalled giving birth to Angel, but nothing else. There were still many things that Aria had no recollection of.
Aria fought with me to learn the truth, but I told her there was no reason to tell her since it seemed her memory was slowly making its way back. The doctor told us that he didn’t think she would get all of them back, but it was possible for her to get a few more. After we left the doctor’s office, I told Aria the doctor is an idiot and that I was confident she would get them all back.
There hadn’t been any news on Andersen or Jennifer. We were no closer to finding them. The only thing we could do is work to pass the time.
“The guns are no different, and the situation is no different. The price is better than it ever has been. What reason do you have to bitch?” I snapped. Cigarette smoke rolled out of my mouth, and I threw the cigarette. I wanted to throw the cigarette at Jorge Ruiz’s eye.
“From what I heard, Carlos’s daughter is running the show. I do not agree to let women lead something that has always been done and better done by men,” Jorge said.
Jorge Ruiz is the head of the West Coast Cartel — a cartel we had dealt with for years with no problems until now.
“Carlos is dead, Ruiz. Aria had an accident and is currently unable to run things. I’m the one that is running the show. So, if you have a problem, you’re looking at the guy you need to be talking to about it,” I said through clenched teeth.
“You are running things?” Jorge Ruiz asked and tilted his head. Jorge looked back at his men, and they shrugged.
“And even though my fiancé is out of sorts, just know that for a woman, she is as tough as they come. As a matter of fact, she could kick your short, rich, skinny little ass into next week. I would watch who you’re insulting. She ran things far better than I’m capable of. It’s a new day and age, Mr. Ruiz. I suggest you get with the program. You wouldn’t like it if some man insulted your daughter like that, would you?” I crossed my arms over my chest.
“Hm,” Ruiz hummed. Ruiz rubbed his chin with two fingers and smirked. He looked back at his men and back to me. “Well, with that said, Mr. Garcia, I see no reason to continue our relationship. It seems we have too much to disagree on, yes?”
“Take your leave in a kind matter, Mr. Ruiz. We wouldn’t want things to get ugly. As long as you leave in peace, we won’t be a bother,” I said.
Ruiz gave me a small smile and glanced around at the boys that stood alongside me.
Luis and Austin crossed their arms over their chests. They both grew rigid as they waited for things to turn ugly.
I, on the other hand, felt completely at ease. I knew that Ruiz wouldn’t be stupid enough to start a war right here. We had the upper hand, and he knew that. If Ruiz attacked, it would be a different way and a different day.
Ruiz put his hands up as if in surrender and started to back away.
“Ruiz,” I called.
Ruiz turned to face me before he got into his limousine.
“Don’t come at me sideways. No matter how you come at me, you will lose. Don’t. . .” I trailed off and hmphed with a smile. My gaze locked with Ruiz. “Don’t fuck with me.”
Something in his eyes flashed, fear perhaps. Whatever it was, he looked away too quickly for me to see it. Ruiz climbed into his limo. The limo pulled away from the warehouse and left a cloud of dust from the gravel.
“This is getting to be bullshit, Ace. We have lost many relations because of Aria taking over,” Luis said. “I love Aria, and she does a great job, but we need to find new relations that wouldn’t have a problem with her.”
“You know that new relations are her call. I’m not going behind her back like that,” I said.
“Then it’s time you tell her who she is. You said her training was going good,” Abel said.
“She can fight, yes, but this is different from that,” I argued.
“You’re scared of how she will react,” Austin said.
I sighed. “A little.”
“She reacted just fine the first time,” Joey pointed out.
“We’re not having this conversation right now. I’m going home. I need to check on Angel and Aria,” I said. I turned and started for my GTO but stopped because of a vibration against my thigh.
Aria’s phone number flashed across my screen. I slid my thumb across the screen to answer it.
“Hey, bebita. I’m on my way home now. Sorry, I was—”
“Ace!” Aria shrieked. “I need you.”
I stopped. My heart dropped into my stomach. My gaze flickered to the boys.
The boys stopped when they saw the look on my face.
“What? Where are you?”
“The girls talked me into going out to this club. I stepped out back to get some air because I got one of those flash headaches that I get. This man. . .” Aria trailed off. Her voice came out in a rush and barely above a whisper. “I killed him. I didn’t know what to do. He was going to hurt me. I-I t-th-think.”
“Stop. Where the hell are you at?” I asked. My pace quickened as I headed for my car.
“That new club that we opened downtown on 21st Street,” Aria said.
“Stay put. I’ll be there in a few,” I said. I shoved my phone into my pocket. “We need to go to the Sunset Nightclub on 21st Street.”
“What happened?” the boys chorused.
“Aria killed someone,” I said.
The boys stared at me in shock. Their shock wore off when I jumped into my GTO, and it roared to life. Gravel flew through the air as the GTO spun in a half-circle.
People walked in different directions up the sidewalk and across the street. Lights from the businesses lit up the area. I stopped in a parking spot near the front of the nightclub.
I gazed through the crowd for anyone familiar but saw nobody. There was a dark alleyway on the side of the club. I started up the alleyway.
A dumpster sat near the corner of the building. As I walked past it, a hand reached out and grabbed me. My muscles tensed instinctively, but when my eyes caught a pair of familiar blue ones, I stopped.
“Aria,” I breathed. “Are you okay?” I gazed around, and my eyes stopped on a man that laid beside the dumpster. “What happened? Did anyone see?”
“I broke his neck, I think, just like you taught me. Nobody saw. At least, I don’t think. I didn’t know what to do. He started touching me and like trying to force himself onto me, and I told him to stop, but he wouldn’t,” Aria explained in a rush.
Luis, Austin, and Abel came up behind us. All three of them were breathless.
“Joey and Benny are inside,” Abel panted.
“Fixing the cameras,” Austin added.
“We need to move this guy fast. The cops were called for a dispute that happened in the club,” Luis said.
“Austin, bring your car around the back,” I said.
Austin took off back down the alleyway.
“I’m so sorry,” Aria said. Tears built in her eyes. She trembled from fear, and her chin quivered.
“Stop, bebita. It’s okay. You’re okay. That’s all that matters,” I said.
“Shouldn’t we tell the cops?” Aria whispered.
“No, we’re not. I told you that I taught you to fight to protect yourself. This is one of those situations.” I wrapped an arm around her shoulder and pulled her into my side.
Several days had passed since the incident with West Coast Cartel and the man that Aria killed. For days Aria and I slept in my bedroom. Aria told me sleeping apart was ridiculous and to just move back into our bedroom. Aria grew more comfortable around me as time had passed, and her shyness began to fade, and her bluntness returned.
Aria sat on the railing of the balcony just outside of our bedroom. Her eyes were fixated on the stars in the dark sky.
I stepped between her legs and stole her attention from the sky. I smiled at her. “What are you doing?”
“Don’t you think it is strange?” Aria murmured.
“That depends on what you’re talking about,” I said.
Aria smiled. “You know me so well. Why don’t you tell me?”
I pursed my lips and tilted my head. “What do you mean?”
“It always seems that you can just pick my thoughts right out of my brain. You know how I will react, what I will say, or think to almost any situation,” Aria said. “It’s frustrating that I don’t know you the way you know me.”
“You used to, and I’m sure it will come back to you. You’re wrong. I wasn’t ever sure how you would react, and it kept things interesting,” I insisted. I caught a strand of her hair that the wind blew out of place and tucked it back behind her ear. “I’ve had more difficulties lately. I’m more used to the new you and not the old you. You’ve changed a lot in two years, but it’s as if we’re back at square one.”
“That’s what I’m talking about. Everyone told me that I fell madly in love with you. I lost my memory, and somehow you made me fall in love with you all over again. It’s almost like we were written in the stars. . .” Aria trailed off.
Her words stunned me. I swallowed hard and stared at her bewildered, but she didn’t notice the hesitation right away.
“Even if I never get all of my memories back, it won’t matter because I still chose you. I still want you. I still love Angel and you,” Aria said. She pressed her hand to my cheek and smiled, but her smile quickly turned into a frown when she noticed my change of mood. “What? Did I say something wrong?”
“Um, N-no,” I choked out.
“Well, what is it?” Aria dropped her hand from my cheek.
I grabbed her hand and placed it on my neck near my pulse, which had quickened because of her words. “Do you feel that?” I whispered.
“You’re the only person that can do that to me. I was never afraid of anything until I met you. To this day, there are only two things that scare me, which are Angel and you,” I said. “You’re the only one that can make my heart race. You give me an adrenaline rush that I don’t feel with anyone but you.”
“Scared of Angel and me, for what?” Confusion twisted in her eyes.
“I’m scared of losing both of you,” I murmured. “Death would be better than that.”
Aria smiled and pressed her lips to mine.
I broke the kiss and rested my forehead against hers. “A long time ago, you said something similar to me.”
“About it being written in the stars. I never believed in that kind of stuff until I met you. Hearing you say that without any memory of saying it caught me off guard. You can’t imagine what it’s like. It’s like rewinding our life and getting to do it all over again,” I explained.
The wind blew Aria’s hair back. She threw her arms around my neck and put her lips on mine. She pulled me in closer by wrapping her legs around my waist.
My arms encircled her waist, and I carried her back to the bedroom and turned out the lights as I went.
“I’ve hired a new butler. He should be moved in today,” I told Aria. I sat at the desk and continued to scribble my name across the paperwork.
Aria laid on the couch with her nose in an Ellen Hopkins book.
“Haven’t you already read that book? Why not pick a different book by her?” I asked.
“I’m up to speed on all of her books. I’m rereading my favorites. I’ve read this one about six times now. I just can’t seem to get sick of it. I wish they would make her books a movie. I think Hollywood could make millions off of her books as movies, but they’re a bunch of imbeciles,” Aria muttered. “Her books have been life-changing to teenagers across the country. I can’t believe Hollywood didn’t beg her to make a movie.”
“Maybe they have, and she shot them down,” I argued.
“Maybe,” Aria allowed. “So, who is this new butler?” Aria closed her book and sat up.
“His name is Nicolas Moreno,” I said. “Apparently, he is new to the area and looking for work. He intends to go to college or some shit.” I waved off the rest of the thought. College wasn’t my thing.
“Well, what made you decide to hire another butler? I didn’t even know you were searching for one?” Aria asked.
“Things have been kind of tight since Andersen died, or didn’t die, or whatever the hell happened to him. I just thought it would help keep things in check here.”
“Any news about Andersen or Jennifer?”
“We’re still trying to figure out who the hell the men are in the photos. I’ve spent hours looking at them, and I haven’t a clue. The only thing we know for sure is they weren’t who they said they were.”
“What about the investigator?”
“He’s looking,” I muttered. “Whoever planned this did a damn good job. Benny can crack anything, and even he is drawing a blank. I don’t want to talk about it anymore, bebita.”
“I had a dream the other night,” Aria said. “I was hoping if you could tell me if it’s real. It felt real.”
“What is that?” I asked.
“I dreamt of the night I first met Carlos, but I didn’t find out that he was just my father. He said he was a Latin King or something,” Aria said. Aria knitted her eyebrows together.
I dropped my pen and stared at her in shock.
“And one other thing. I mean, I remembered when I woke up. . .” Aria trailed off.
The study door opened, and Nicolas walked in, but Aria didn’t notice or hear Nicolas’s entrance. I was too in shock to stop the words that came out next.
“Did we almost have sex in an elevator?” Aria tilted her head and raised her eyebrows.
Hm, now that one kind of turns me on—I thought to myself. Damn it, focus Ace, she knows!
Nicolas cleared his throat.
I don’t like this guy already. How could he interrupt us at a time like this? I was about to ask her if she needed a reminder of that night.
“Nicolas,” I said stiffly. “Rosa or Ramone can show you to your room. Ramone will also show you how to get started.”
“I apologize for interrupting,” Nicolas said. The study door closed with a soft thud.
Aria stared at me with a twist of shock in her features. Her lips parted, and the oxygen escaped her lungs.
I chuckled at her reaction.
“You could have warned me,” Aria hissed.
“But the look on your face was priceless, and I wanted to know what you remembered,” I said and snickered. “I like what you remember.”
Aria buried her face and giggled. She looked back up at me. “So, it was real?”
“As real as it gets, bebita,” I said and wiggled my eyebrows.
“What about the other thing?” Aria tilted her head. “You didn’t confirm or deny that.”
I wish a hole would open in the floor, and I would fall through! How the hell am I supposed to answer this question?
The study door opened before I could answer Aria’s question.
Saved by Benny! I breathed a sigh of relief.
Aria turned to see who had interrupted.
Benny dashed into the room, followed by Joey, Austin, Luis, and Abel. They all had a panicked expression.
Maybe I’d rather answer Aria’s question. . .
“You’ll never fucking believe this shit,” Benny said.
At this point, I would believe just about anything — I thought sarcastically. “Try me,” I said.
Benny threw a piece of paper down on my desk and shoved his hands into his pockets.
I must have read the contents on the paper more than a dozen times before I finally looked up at the boys that stood in front of my desk. “Holy shit,” I breathed.
Aria came up behind me and read the paper to herself that was in front of me. “Is this real?” Aria gasped.
Aria and I locked eyes for an immeasurable moment.
“There’s no way,” I said. I looked up at the boys. “It’s a trick. It has to be.”