Chapter 1. Abolishing A Rule
A/N: The entire book is in Ace’s point of view!
The only light came from the moon and a small light that hung above the door of the warehouse. A man that wasn’t familiar to me stood at the door and tried to pick the lock. The man didn’t hear me approach.
I stopped several feet behind him and tilted my head. What a dumbass — I thought to myself. Surely, he must know who this warehouse belongs to.
“What exactly do you think you are doing?” I slurred and staggered. I blinked several times as I tried to focus. Damn, it’s a good thing I’m not driving.
The man spun around, and his eyes widened. The man took in my drunken state. His brown hair fell over his blue eyes. He crossed his arms over his chest. “Get out of here, man. This isn’t your business.”
The man clearly didn’t know who I was because he would be running for the hills if he knew who I was. I bit my lip to stop the chuckle that threatened to escape me. “Look. . .” I trailed off and shook my head. “I’m pretty sure that you aren’t S’pose to be in there.” I stumbled again. Damn, in my condition, this guy could whoop my ass.
The guy rolled his eyes at me. “You’re drunk, man. Go home and sleep it off or something. Trust me; you don’t want to play the hero. I’m not afraid of you,” he spat.
Well, I had to give him one thing, he was right about me being drunk. Drunk wasn’t a strong enough word; obliterated is more accurate. I threw my head back and laughed. I staggered and fell onto my ass. My ass was sure to be bruised tomorrow from hitting the concrete so hard.
The guy looked at me like I was an idiot.
“Man,” I choked through laughter. “It isn’t me you need to be worried about.”
The guy looked at me, confused. “What are you—”
Before he could finish his sentence, Aria came up behind him. Aria grabbed a fist full of his hair, arched his head back, and slid a blade across his neck.
The man’s eyes widened. Blood spilled from his neck and stained his white t-shirt. He choked and gurgled.
Aria shoved him to the ground. She stood above him and waited for him to bleed out.
The man looked up at Aria in horror.
Aria batted her eyelashes at him and gave him an innocent smile. “Sweet dreams,” Aria murmured to the man on the ground.
Damn, she is sexy as hell when she does that. I licked my lips and my gaze swept over her.
The man’s breathing stopped.
Aria’s gaze flickered to mine. “Ace, I hope you can get back up and walk back to the car because I don’t think I can help you much.” Aria waved a hand over her pregnant belly.
“Don’t worry about it, bebita. I’ll crawl if I have to,” I said and chuckled. I stood up and stumbled toward the man on the ground.
“You need to slow down on the bourbon, babe,” Aria said.
I ignored her comment. I knew she was right. I had been drinking too much since her father died. It had been a crazy two weeks. There had been so much that happened the past year.
I checked his left arm and his right. I looked for any familiar symbol. Most men that were in a gang had ink to represent what gang they were a part of. On the left side of his neck, there was a tiny four-leaf clover.
“Fuck,” I muttered. I looked up at Aria.
Aria tapped her foot impatiently. “Well?”
“You won this time, bebita,” I said and chuckled. “He is Irish.”
“Knew it,” Aria snickered.
Aria and I weren’t your average couple. Aria led one of the biggest and most feared gangs in America, the Latin Kings. I was Aria’s right hand and her protector. It was my job to keep her safe. I made it my job to keep Aria safe long before I knew she would be my boss.
Aria’s father, Carlos, was the leader before her, and I was his right hand first. I started seeing Aria before I realized that Carlos was her father. Even though it was against the rules, Carlos agreed to let us continue to see each other. Aria decided that when Carlos stepped down, she would take his place. However, it came sooner than we expected.
Aria and I had placed bets on who was breaking into our warehouse. I said it was the Russians and Aria said it was the Irish.
“Don’t be a sore loser, babe,” Aria said and smirked.
“Never,” I said and chuckled. “I love making you dinner.” I have to cook her dinner for a week. If I had won, Aria would have had to cook me dinner for a week. When Aria and I made bets, it was always petty things like that.
I grabbed the man’s arm and dragged him toward Aria’s BMW. Aria followed after me.
“Why is everyone trying to break into our warehouses?” Aria wondered.
I grunted as I lifted the man and threw him into the truck of Aria’s car. I closed the trunk and turned to face her. “They think they can get away with shit because your dad is dead. It’ll stop eventually. Let’s go home. You look exhausted.”
Aria rolled her eyes. “I’m pregnant, Ace. I’m always exhausted.” Aria turned and started for the driver’s side.
We slid into the car. Aria started the car, and the dash lights danced across her face. She sped away from the warehouse.
It only took us a few minutes to get back to the mansion. It was nearly midnight when we pulled into the driveway. A few lights were on, but not many.
We asked Andersen to get rid of the body in the trunk before we went upstairs to her bedroom. After Carlos died, Aria and I started staying at the mansion more. We needed to be here to run things.
Aria came out of the bathroom in a pair of pajamas. She stopped in front of her mirror and slid a rubber band out of her hair. “You should just sell that house, Ace.” Aria brushed through her hair and came over to the bed. She crawled into the bed beside me.
I sighed and shrugged. “I’m going to keep it, but I’m not planning on going back there. I’ll rent it out or something. Maybe one of the boys would want it.”
Aria nodded. “Maybe.”
“Has your mom decided what she is going to do yet?” I asked.
Aria rested her head on my chest. “She’s looking for places in the area. She wants something smaller. She doesn’t want to stay in the mansion, and she doesn’t want to move to the Perez estate with us.”
Aria and I decided that we would sell this mansion and move to the old Perez mansion. Aria made plans to renovate the old mansion, and it wouldn’t be finished for a couple of months.
“How come?” I asked.
“She said that being there would be just as much of a reminder of Dad as this house would be,” Aria said. “I don’t blame her. It’s hard to be in this house without him in it. Mom knew Dad since he lived at the Perez estate. She said it held more memories than this place did. For me, that isn’t the case.”
“I’ll let up on the drinking, bebita. I’m sorry. It’s still hard to process it. . .” I trailed off. “I keep picking my phone up like I’m going to call your dad to ask him what we should do. I’m not used to him not being around, and it’s fucking with me.”
“I know, babe. It’s okay. It’s not easy for any of us,” Aria said.
My gaze flickered to the clock and back to Aria. “You’re officially eighteen. Happy birthday,” I said. My fingers brushed her hair away from her face.
Aria looked up at me and smiled. “Thank you.” The smile didn’t reach her eyes.
I knew Aria better than I knew most people. I took the time to get to know her, and I understood her in ways that nobody else did. “What’s wrong?” I demanded.
“Maybe people are right, Ace. It’s one thing to talk about taking the chair, but to actually do it is something else entirely. I don’t think I can do this. I think you were wrong. I’m not cut out for this. You should be the one running things—”
“Stop it, bebita!” I hissed through clenched teeth. I moved her off of me and sat up.
Aria sat up and looked at me worriedly.
“Stop letting other people put shit in your head. They want to drive that seed of doubt in you because they don’t know or understand who you are and what you are capable of. Fuck, I don’t even know why you think that I am better off running it. So far, you are holding up better than I am. I’ve been nothing but a stupid fucking drunk the last two weeks,” I said. I took a deep breath to calm myself and rubbed my chin in agitation.
“Ace, the council doesn’t want me to—”
“I don’t fucking care what they want, and neither should you!” I shouted. I jumped off the bed and spun around to face Aria. “I get that it isn’t an easy job. I will be there to help you as much as I can. My job is to help you and keep you safe, and I will do that. You will make the decisions, though, Aria. I will not make them for you. You will run things because you were born to do it. It runs in your blood, not mine. You’ll do great, and if I thought for a second that you couldn’t do it, I would tell you.”
Aria bowed her head and exhaled sharply. After a long moment, she looked back at me. “Really?”
“Really,” I said.
Aria shrugged. “Fine.”
“I love you,” I said. I crawled onto the bed and pressed my lips to hers. Anytime my lips were against her lips, it made my body overreact. It felt like kissing her the first time every time.
Aria tangled her fingers into my hair and bit down on my lip.
A groan escaped me, and I slipped my tongue into her mouth. Her hot breath fanned across my face. I broke the kiss and rested my forehead against hers. “You do bad things to me,” I murmured.
Aria smiled and crawled into my lap. “You do bad things to me too.” Aria pressed her lips back to mine.
The council members would be here soon. Aria paced back and forth in front of her desk. Her walk was more of a waddle. I hated that she had so much stress to deal with while she was pregnant, but thankfully her pregnancy would be over soon.
“Settle down, bebita,” I said. I leaned back against the couch and threw an arm behind my head.
“Settle down?” Aria stopped and raised her eyebrows. “Let me get right on that.”
I rolled my eyes. “You can always fire the idiots. I could care less.”
“Dad said that having a council was helpful. I want to try to get them to like me,” Aria said.
“They’re just a bunch of cranky old men. Don’t worry about it too much. If they can’t handle you taking over, they need to go find a new job,” I said.
“Right,” Aria snorted. “That is helpful.” Aria walked over to her desk and plopped down in her chair.
“As good as you look in that chair, I’m still trying to get used to you sitting in it,” I said and chuckled.
Aria smiled. “Yeah. I’m still trying to get used to sitting in it.”
Someone knocked lightly on the study door.
“I got it,” I muttered. I got to my feet and walked over to the door.
Andersen bowed his head respectively. “The council is here.” Andersen looked at Aria.
Aria smoothed her hair nervously.
“Don’t fret, Aria. You will be fine. Your father never let them get under his skin. Fire them if you must,” Andersen said. Andersen looked exhausted, which is how we all felt. Carlos’s death wasn’t easy on any of us.
“Thanks, Andersen,” Aria said.
“Send them in,” I said.
Andersen turned without another word and started back down the hall.
I walked back toward Aria and stood beside her.
The council members filed into the study. There were six men. They helped with making decisions, stocks, trades, and assets. All of the men were in their fifties — a little older than Carlos. Our ancestors had a big council, but we downsized. We didn’t need a hundred men to run the companies. The council lost a few members due to death over the years, but we felt no need to replace them.
Juan, Antonio, Ray, Pedro, Fernando, and Alejandro sat down across from Aria’s desk.
Andersen came into the study. He went over to the whiskey cabinet and pulled out a bottle of scotch. Andersen poured drinks and served them to the men.
“Aria, what was it that couldn’t wait until the ball? The ball is tonight, isn’t it?” Juan arched a brow and sipped his scotch.
Antonio scoffed. “Surely, you wouldn’t cancel it. It is not only your birthday but a celebration for a new leader.”
Irritation clouded Aria’s eyes at their assumptions. “Settle down, gentlemen. I’m not canceling anything. The ball will still happen, and I will be announcing leadership. I brought you here to talk about abolishing the rule of not telling significant others until marriage,” Aria explained.
Alejandro raised his eyebrows. “I’m sorry. What?”
“It’s a bit old fashion, don’t you think? I found out what Ace was, and we’re not married,” Aria explained.
“Your father broke that rule, Aria. He also broke the rule by letting you in as chairman,” Pedro said. “The council was created when the Kings were created. We were put here to prevent anyone from breaking the rules and to help the chairman.”
“I understand that,” Aria said. “But you need to understand that this is the 21st century. Luis has been with Kelsey for quite a few years. Marriage doesn’t guarantee that Kelsey will accept Luis’s life as a Latin King. Divorce didn’t become legal until 1857. Divorce is common now. These women deserve to know what they are marrying into. They might be more accepting if they get a choice in the matter before they take vows. It’s like an arranged marriage or something,” Aria said. Aria glowered at the men in front of her.
“We’re not entirely sure that you should be taking the chair, Aria. This is a perfect example of our concern. You are trying to change too much. We kept this secret for three hundred years by following these rules,” Ray snapped.
Their anger toward Aria pissed me off. It was not my place to get in on this argument because I wasn’t the boss, but I refused to let them treat my girlfriend this way. “Because she is a woman? For the last three hundred years, women have helped their husbands run the Latin Kings. None of you seem informed about Aria. So, allow me to be the one to tell you. Aria is smart, strong-willed, motivated, and talented. Aria is much like her father, and she hasn’t let any of us down. Things around here will be changing whether you like it or not. It is—”
Antonio cut me off, which only upset me further. “Ace, we just think that the chair would be more suitable for you—”
“Don’t fucking interrupt me!” I shouted. My deep voice boomed and echoed along the walls of the study. It’s a good thing these walls are soundproof, or the neighbors would have heard my outburst.
Aria jumped slightly and gazed up at me. Aria turned and glared at the men. The room fell silent for a brief moment.
“Maybe you need to go back and reread the rules. I have read them myself. In the rules, it states that the eldest boy takes the chair or the only child. It doesn’t say that women aren’t allowed to take it. It was preferable back then that a man did it. It just so happens that all of the men who took this chair had sons. Carlos only has one child, and that is Aria. Carlos wanted Aria to take it, and you won’t take that from her under any circumstances,” I spat. I jabbed a finger in their direction. “She can fire any single one of you.”
Fernando began to speak, but I cut him off.
“Aria is allowed to abolish any rule without anyone’s permission. This isn’t a democracy, gentlemen. This is a dictatorship. You should appreciate the fact that she chose to involve you in her decision. With all of that said, I think you better reconsider how you talk to her. I’m certain that she won’t hesitate to be rid of you. Aria is, in fact, your boss!” I slammed my hand down on the desk. The desk shook beneath my hand, and I glared at the men.
The room fell silent for a long moment.
“Any questions?” I arched a brow.
“Your loyalty is unlike any other, Ace. I can see why Carlos chose you as his right-hand,” Alejandro said. “Well, there isn’t much left to argue here, is there?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I said in a low voice.
“I suggest that you heed Ace’s warning,” Aria said. “I will fire you or find a new council if it comes down to that, and I don’t want it to come down to that. You’re welcome to come back tonight for the ball, gentlemen. Now, if you will excuse us.” Aria gestured for the council to leave.
The men stood up and walked out of the study. The door closed behind them with a soft thud.
I turned around and sat down on Aria’s desk. I crossed my arms over my chest and gazed down at her.
Aria smirked at me. “It gets a little hot in here when you get all angry like that.”
I chuckled but didn’t speak.
Aria stood in front of me and wrapped her arms around my neck. “It’s hard to pretend to be angry when I wanted to marvel at you.”
I wrapped my arms around her waist and pecked her on the lips. “It’s all about intimidation, bebita. You’re the boss. You need to get used to that. You hold power to everything. Don’t let any of them scare you or make you feel like you don’t belong here. Don’t allow them to walk all over you.”
Aria smiled. “Thanks, babe.”
“You need to go get dressed. You have a party to attend,” I said and smirked. I knew how much Aria hated being the center of attention, and I found it amusing.
“Yeah, yeah,” Aria grunted.
I laughed at her lack of enthusiasm.
Aria kissed me one more time and left the study.
Andersen walked in a moment later. “How did it go?”
“Rough,” I muttered. “They don’t like it, Andersen, but there isn’t anything they can do to change it.”
“Do you feel like she is cut out for it?” Andersen wondered.
I plopped down in the chair and sighed. “I know she is. She just needs time to grow used to it.”
“They will get used to it too. It will take time for everyone to adjust to the way things are now,” Andersen said.
“Will you stick around?”
“Of course, and I do believe in her. I believe in you, as well. You two will make it work. Is there anything you need?” Andersen asked.
“There is one thing you could do,” I said.
“Don’t be serving people tonight. We have other workers, Andersen. You’re just as much a part of this family as any of us. Take the night off and enjoy the party. I want you there as family.” I crossed my arms over my chest.
Andersen pursed his lips. “Perhaps, we should run this idea past Aria?”
“There is no need. Aria wouldn’t argue it. Aria is very fond of you, Andersen.” Aria had grown so fond of Andersen that I almost forget he isn’t her biological uncle. They had a strong bond forming.
Andersen nodded. “Okay, I suppose that I should go get ready then?”
As Andersen walked out, Austin, Benny, and Luis walked into the study. The guys greeted Andersen on their way in.
“How did the meeting with the council go?” Luis asked.
“About as good as you would expect,” I muttered.
“Where is Aria?” Benny asked.
“Getting ready for the party,” I said. “Where are Joey and Abel?”
“They will be here soon,” Austin said.
“Are your girls here?” I arched a brow.
“They are. They probably went to find Aria,” Austin said.
“The council doesn’t want Aria to take over. I think if they can’t accept her leadership, she will have to fire them,” I said.
“Do you honestly think it will come down to that?” Luis asked. “We’ve never not had a council.”
“I hope not,” I said.
Benny snickered. “Are you still getting used to the fact that your girl is your boss?” Benny wiggled his eyebrows at me.
I smirked but didn’t speak. I love that she is my boss — I thought to myself.