Chapter 2. Get It Over With
Aria came down the stairs carefully. She wore a long black dress that would have been far too big for her if she wasn’t pregnant, but she looked perfect. She had her hair piled on top of her head. She wore just the right amount of makeup.
I took a step up and reached for her hand.
Aria smiled and placed her hand in mine. The contact made my skin tingle and burn.
“You look amazing,” I told her and kissed her cheek.
“Thank you,” Aria murmured.
“Aria, how are you?” My mother, Adrianna, approached us. Mom smiled at Aria.
“Adrianna, I’m great. Ready to get this over with,” Aria said. Aria knitted her eyebrows together and looked down at her pregnant belly and back to my mom. “I meant the party, not the pregnancy.”
Mom laughed. “Honey, I’m sure you are ready for both to be over.”
Aria smiled. “Maybe a little.”
“How is my nephew?” Austin wiggled his eyebrows.
“He is a night owl,” Aria said and yawned.
“I’m sure between the baby and Ace; you aren’t getting much sleep,” Benny said and cackled.
Mom rolled her eyes and shook her head.
Joey smacked Benny in the back of the head. “What the hell, dude?” Joey arched a brow.
“Sorry, Aria,” Benny muttered and rubbed the back of his head.
“My boyfriend. . .” Bailey trailed off and stepped to Benny’s side. “He has a way with words. Isn’t he charming?” Bailey glared at Benny.
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “We’re all used to it.”
Aria chuckled and nodded in agreement.
The foyer filled with loud chatter and music that came from the ballroom.
“Shall we?” I put my arm out for Aria.
“Right. Let’s get it over with,” Aria muttered. Aria looped her arm through mine.
I led her through the noisy crowd and through the double doors that led into the ballroom. Guests and waiters filled the ballroom.
“You’ll have to give a speech.” I gestured to the stage.
“Why can’t you do it?” Aria grumbled.
“I’m not the one taking over multi-million-dollar companies and half of Los Angeles, bebita,” I snickered.
“Great, no pressure. God, I need a drink.” Aria took a deep breath and rolled her eyes.
“As soon as the baby is out, I will give you an entire bottle of Bourbon to yourself,” I teased.
“Stop procrastinating. Get the speech out of the way, mingle a little, so we can skip the rest and go to bed.”
“Easy for you to say.” Aria sighed and walked away from me. If she had the energy, she would have stomped her way to the stage.
The song came to an end, and Aria took the microphone from the singer. Aria smiled politely at the man.
“Where did Aria go?” Luis asked.
“About to give her speech,” I said and gestured toward the stage.
“She looks nervous,” Benny said.
“And tired,” Abel added.
“Well, no shit. Of course, she is tired. She’s pregnant, dealing with the council, and has to put up with Ace,” Austin said and laughed.
“Babe, seriously?” Kalia scolded Austin.
I laughed. “She puts up with a lot of shit.” I couldn’t deny that Austin pretty much summed it up. Aria had her hands full with me and the baby alone. How she dealt with the rest was beyond me. She worked so hard the last couple of weeks to keep everything running the way it was supposed to. I didn’t know how she did it, but I knew that she did it better than any of us could have.
“Excuse me,” Aria said.
The chatter died down, and everyone turned their attention to Aria.
Aria looked like she was going to be sick. Crowds weren’t something that Aria was used to or fond of. Crowds made her nervous. That was something we had in common. Crowds didn’t make me nervous, but I felt awkward if a lot of the focus was on me.
“As many any of you know, my father Carlos Garcia passed away unexpectedly. It’s a huge loss for not only the family but for the businesses that he ran. Most of the time, I find myself wanting to call him to ask him what I should do, but then I remember that I can’t,” Aria said sadly. Aria cleared her voice. “My father left everything to me, and I’m trying my best to make things work and to carry out his legacy like he wanted me to. It will take time for me and all of the workers to adjust to things. However, I have huge plans for the future of the Perez family. I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight and showing your support.”
Everyone clapped. The guys and I clapped, whistled, and yelled like a bunch of lunatics.
Aria made her way off the stage and back to me. She leaned into me and smiled. “How did I do?”
“Knocked it out of the park, as you do with everything,” I said and pecked her lips.
“I wish everyone agreed,” Aria muttered and looked pointedly across the room.
I followed her gaze and saw the council members staring at us. Their eyes were nothing shy of rude. The way they stared was like they wanted to come over and pick a fight. I glowered at the men.
They all turned their attention away from us. They spoke amongst themselves and some other company.
“Ignore them, bebita,” I murmured.
“They will get over it, Aria, and if they don’t, I vote we kick their asses to the curb,” Austin said.
Aria smiled but didn’t say anything. Aria didn’t have to say it aloud. I knew that she wanted to say that she didn’t want to fire anyone. Keeping the peace with Carlos’s workers was important to Aria.
“Why can’t we just tell them? Why does Aria think she needs to be the one to do it?” Luis gritted his teeth, and his nostrils flared.
“You need to show her some fucking respect, Luis! Be happy that she is bending the rule so that you can tell Kelsey before marriage. Aria just thinks it would be smart if we told them all at once. Aria is the one at the biggest risk. Her ass is on the line. She owns everything. If any of those girls’ rat on Aria, Aria could face huge consequences,” I snapped.
“Why can’t we tell them now then?” Luis asked.
“I’m the one who told Aria that it needed to wait,” I said.
“Until when?” Joey asked.
“Until Aria has our son!” I slammed my fist down on the table. “She is pregnant and stressed out as it is!”
“Sorry,” Luis muttered. “You’re right.”
“Aria needs to try to do this delicately. You’re breaking a huge secret to these girls. Aria needs to know that the girls won’t open their mouths,” I explained. “It’s best if we do it as a group thing. They might take it better. Aria thinks it was better that we were all there when she found out. People are less likely to flip out in a crowd than one on one.”
“That’s a good point,” Abel said. “Aria is doing us a huge favor, guys. Let’s just do it her way.”
The boys all agreed and dropped the subject. We got back to our poker game.
Aria came into the study. “I’m going to bed.” Aria grimaced and rubbed her stomach.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” Aria said.
“I’ll be up after this game,” I told her.
“Night boys,” Aria said.
“Goodnight,” the boys chorused.
The game ended, and the boys left. I cleaned up the mess we made in the study and went up to the bedroom. The house was quiet and dimly lit. I was the last person awake.
Aria laid on her back, fast asleep. Even in sleep, she looked uncomfortable and exhausted. Her long black hair fanned across the pillow.
When Aria first told me she was pregnant, I was scared out of my mind. Carlos swore he would castrate me if I got Aria pregnant. Shortly after we found out Aria was pregnant, I was kidnapped by the Aryan brotherhood, which saved my balls from being chopped off.
We weren’t aiming to have a baby, and part of me felt like we weren’t ready for it. Sometimes life threw curveballs, and this happened to be one of them. With everything that happened, it didn’t seem like we had time for a baby. I worried that we wouldn’t have time for our son.
The mattress shifted slightly under my weight. I crawled up close beside Aria and pressed my lips to her forehead.
A hand shook me awake. “Ace,” Aria groaned. Aria stood on the side of the bed. Her face hovered near mine.
“Bebita, what time is it?” I groaned.
“My water broke,” Aria said. “My stomach hurts so bad.” Aria hunched over with a pained expression.
“Oh shit,” I breathed. I turned the light on and crawled out of bed. My head was fuzzy from the lack of sleep. According to the clock, it was four in the morning. When I was finished getting dress, I grabbed my keys. “Let’s go.”
Aria started to move, but she stopped. Aria groaned in pain and gripped the railing on the bed. “I can’t move. It hurts too much,” Aria panted.
“Bebita, we have to go now,” I insisted and grabbed her arm.
Aria smacked my hand away and glowered at me. “Maybe you should call the doctor. I won’t make it.” Aria’s chest rose and fell rapidly. “Call the ambulance or something!” Aria shrieked.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and dialed 9-1-1.
Aria clutched onto my arm and groaned in pain. Her face reddened and scrunched up.
“Ow, fuck, Aria,” I grunted. The hold she had on my arm was tight. “Lay down or something.”
“Shut up, stupid. This is your fault!” Aria shouted. Aria let me help her to the bed. She kept her back against the headboard and writhed in pain.
“Hello, what is your emergency?” the operator asked.
I explained the situation quickly and gave the operator our address. My gaze went back to Aria. Aria panted heavily.
“How far apart are the contractions?” the operator asked.
“How the hell should I know?” I arched a brow.
“First time?” the operator asked.
“Uh, yeah,” I snorted.
“I fucking hate you, Ace!” Aria screamed.
“It sounds like she is getting close. Go into the bathroom and get some clean towels. The ambulance is on their way, but you might need to deliver the baby,” the operator said.
My pulse quickened, and I staggered. The blood drained from my face. “What?” I breathed. “I better not be delivering no fucking babies. I’m not a doctor.”
“Sir, stay calm,” the operator said. “You are going to have to assist your girlfriend.”
I took a deep breath to calm myself. Right, a baby. How bad can it be? I started for the bathroom.
“Wait, baby, come back!” Aria pleaded. “I need you. I didn’t mean what I said. I love you.”
“I’m not going anywhere, bebita. I’m just grabbing some towels,” I told her.
Aria groaned and rested her head back against the bedframe.
I sat down on the bed beside Aria and put the towels down. “Alright, now what?” I asked.
“You need to see if the baby is crowning,” the operator said.
“What the hell does that even mean?” I asked. I threw a hand in the air and let it drop back onto my leg.
“What are they saying, Ace?” Aria panted.
“You need to look and see if the baby’s head is visible,” the operator said.
“Woah, I’m sorry, but you want me to fucking what?” I exploded and jumped to my feet. My eyes widened, and my lips parted. They can’t seriously want me to look down there.
“Sir, you need to do it. The ambulance will be there soon, but I need to know if this baby is close to coming. They might not be there to deliver it.”
“Look, lady, you must be out of your damn mind if you think I’m doing that,” I muttered.
“It’s important that you do this. Childbirth is a serious matter. Things can go wrong. You need to be prepared for that,” the operator said.
I sighed and sat the phone down. I climbed onto the bed and pulled Aria’s shorts off.
“What the hell are you doing, Ace?” Aria asked.
“I have to see if you are crowning,” I muttered.
“Hell no! Don’t touch me.” Aria’s eyes widened, and she moved away from me.
“Stop it, bebita,” I said. “They said I had to look. You and I are going to have to do this.”
Aria stared at me in shock. “You can’t deliver our baby!”
“We don’t have a choice,” I said. “You can do this.”
Aria laid her head back against the pillow and cried. “I want my mother.”
“I’ll get her,” I said.
The baby’s head was visible, which had to have been one of the most unreal things I had ever seen. It was a good thing I didn’t have a sensitive stomach. I rushed out of the bedroom and into Tammy’s room.
Tammy laid on her bed, hidden beneath her thick blanket.
“Tammy?” I shook Tammy awake.
“Ace, what is going on?” Tammy asked, disoriented from sleep.
“Aria is in labor, and she is going to have the baby here. She is already crowning or whatever the hell you call it. I need your help,” I said.
Tammy jumped out of bed and followed me back to the bedroom. Tammy stopped and stared at Aria for a moment, wide-eyed.
“The operator is still on the phone,” I told Tammy.
Tammy took the phone and put it to her ear. She spoke quickly with the operator as she paced back and forth. Tammy nodded in understanding.
“Ace, it hurts! I want it to be over,” Aria cried.
Tammy came over to the bed and kneeled between Aria’s legs. Tammy put the phone down but put it on speaker. Tammy smiled at Aria. “It’s going to be okay, honey. Plenty of women have had their babies at home. You need to push. The harder you push, the faster it will be over. I promise,” Tammy said.
Thank god that Tammy is here–I thought to myself. “You can do this, baby,” I said to Aria. I helped Aria sit up slightly and placed a couple of pillows behind her back.
Aria pushed and screamed.
“A couple of more good pushes, Aria,” Tammy said.
Aria clutched onto my hand and squeezed it as she pushed and screamed again. My hand ached in protest, but I knew it was nothing compared to how she felt.
Tammy reached between Aria’s legs and pulled the baby out.
The baby cried.
Aria and I stared at our son.
Tammy smiled and turned him around to show us.
“That’s a beautiful sound,” the operator said. “The ambulance is pulling into your driveway. Is everything okay?”
“Everything is just fine,” Tammy said. Tammy wrapped the baby into a towel. “Congratulations,” Tammy said to us.
“He’s beautiful,” Aria murmured.
“Angel?” I arched a brow. “That is a girl name, bebita.” The name that Aria picked for our son completely threw me off. I expected something more manly, but how could I argue? It wasn’t like I went through all that pain to have him.
Aria held onto the baby. He had a blue blanket wrapped around him and wore a blue hat on his head. Aria and the baby came to the hospital to be checked out. The doctor said they could get out in a couple of days.
“It can be a boy name too,” Aria argued. “Angel Carlos Garcia.” Aria smiled at the baby in her arms.
“Alright, bebita,” I said and chuckled. “Angel it is, but when he gets older and if he gets angry about his name, it’s your fault.”
“You know, I’m kind of impressed that you didn’t faint or puke,” Aria teased.
“I’m impressed that you didn’t hit me in the nuts,” I muttered.
“It was debatable.” Aria batted her eyelashes at me with an innocent smile, but it looked pure evil.
I chuckled. “I bet it was.”
Aria handed Angel to me.
My eyes couldn’t leave his little face. “He’s incredible. You did good,” I murmured — all of the worries that I had before vanished.
“I wish Dad were here to see him,” Aria said. Aria fisted the blanket that covered her from the waist down and stared at it as if it were going to answer a question she had.
My gaze flickered to Aria. “Me too, bebita.” I couldn’t help but wish my father was around too, but I knew that I would do whatever it took to make my son someone my father would have been proud of.
All the guys and their girlfriends were at the mansion, waiting for Aria and me to arrive with Angel.
Aria took Angel into the dining room and sat his carseat on the table.
I offered the guys a beer, and they followed after me to the kitchen. Workers bustled around the kitchen, cleaning, and cooking. We took our beer back to the dining room.
The girls were gathered around the table, fussing over Angel.
“Ha, see that? He is already a lady’s man,” Austin said and chuckled. Austin tipped his beer bottle toward me.
I smirked. Our bottles clinked together, and we took a sip. “Of course, he is a Garcia.”
Aria turned around and walked over to me. She smirked and wrapped her arms around my waist. “I’m sure his ego will be just as big as his father’s ego.”
A chuckle escaped me.
“We need to tell them,” Aria murmured.
“Yeah,” I agreed. I turned my head to look at Aria’s mother. “Tammy?”
Tammy looked up from the carseat and smiled. “Yes?”
“Do you mind watching Angel for us?” I asked.
“Of course, I will,” Tammy said.
“We want all of you to come to the study,” Aria announced. “We have something to talk about.”
The girls looked at Aria, confused.
“What’s going on?” Kimmy asked.
“Come find out,” I said. I gestured to the exit of the dining room.
Aria led the way to the study and gestured for everyone to take a seat. Aria sat down in her chair, and I stood beside her.
“There is something all of you need to know about. You have all been with your boyfriends for quite some time. I’m sure you wonder why they work so late and such crazy hours at times. I’m going to tell you because I don’t feel that you should have to wait for the truth,” Aria said. “What I am about to tell you should never be repeated. You all have a choice to make. You accept what I tell you, or you don’t, but you will never repeat it. It is of utmost importance that you understand that. If you don’t think you want the truth, leave now.”
The girls all stared at Aria, surprised, but none of them made any attempt to move.
“Your boyfriends’ jobs aren’t typical, and neither is mine. Now that my father is gone, I run things. I didn’t want to force them to keep secrets from you, but it is such an old rule. My father didn’t want the boys telling you the truth, but I want you to know what you’re getting into,” Aria explained.
The boys stood behind the girls with their arms crossed over their chests. Their faces were blank, but I knew the expression. What Aria was saying was ripping them apart inside. They hated the idea that they could lose their girlfriends over this.
“You will choose to accept it, or you will leave, and you will never come back,” Aria said.
Nobody said anything for a long moment.
“Okay,” Aria said. “We are the Latin Kings. We are the original charter. I’m the leader, Ace is my right-hand, and all the boys do similar work to what Ace and I do. We mostly sell illegal weapons. We don’t hurt anyone unless it comes down to that. Most of what we own is legitimate. A long time ago, the Latin Kings were involved in a lot more illegal activities, but not as much now.”
The girls all turned in their seats to look back at their boyfriends.
Jenny was the first to turn back to Aria. Jenny chuckled and shrugged. “I’m not even surprised. I’ve been with Joey forever, and I knew something was going on. I knew that I would find out eventually. I won’t say anything.” Jenny stood up and walked over to Joey. Jenny wound her arms around Joey’s waist. Joey sighed a breath of relief and tangled a hand into Jenny’s hair, and wrapped the other arm around her shoulder.
Aria and I looked at the other girls.
From the look on Kalia’s face and Bailey’s face, I knew they would be more likely to leave than any of the other girls. Jenny and Joey had been together the longest. Kelsey and Luis had been together almost as long. Kimmy was in it regardless because her father, uncle, and brother were a part of it. Kimmy wasn’t surprised because she grew up around it.
Bailey had only been with Benny for a year. Kalia and Austin had been back and forth the past year.
It surprised me a little when Bailey and Kalia promised to keep the secret and went to their boyfriends. I squeezed Aria’s shoulder gently. Aria knew I had my doubts about telling the girls, but it went about as good as Aria had expected.
Aria looked up at me and smiled. “Told ya,” she mouthed.
I chuckled and nodded in agreement. I held my fist up to Aria. Aria made a fist and bumped her fist to mine. I figured that Jennifer, Kelsey, and Kimmy would take it the easiest, but I wasn’t sure how easy. Telling Bailey and Kalia concerned me the most.
No longer having to hide what we were to our friends was like a breath of fresh air. It took a lot of weight off my shoulders, so I could only imagine how good it made Aria feel.