Chapter 4. Moving
Things were a disaster by the time we got back home from the beach house. We had to come back home early because shit was falling apart.
“We can’t spend one fucking weekend away without being blown up over stupid shit,” I muttered.
Luis sighed. “I’m sorry, man. What did you want me to do about it? The Cali Cartel is pissed off. According to Arturo, the artillery is complete shit. He wants the brand we were getting before.”
Aria scoffed. “Oh, please. Obviously, Arturo wouldn’t know what a good gun is if he was shot in the head with it.”
I snickered. “I can make an exception, if you will, bebita.”
“Woah, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, you guys,” Joey said. Joey waved a hand as if to wave the topic away. “Look, Arturo can be an asshole, but the last thing we need is more enemies. Hell, we still haven’t even taken out the Aryan brothers. God only knows when the hell they will strike again. We have enough shit going on as it is. It wouldn’t be wise to get in over our heads.”
“Maybe we should recruit. Losing Jax and Gabriel wasn’t good. Not to mention Dad is gone,” Aria said. Aria plopped down in her desk chair and started to chew on a pen.
“Recruiting wouldn’t be the worst idea,” I agreed. “We have too much going on for the time being, though. Maybe later down the road, it would be a good idea.”
“Arturo wants Aria to meet with him,” Benny said. Benny crossed his arms over his chest.
“What?” I raised my eyebrows and stopped midstride.
Luis bit his lip. “I know it isn’t ideal,” Luis started.
“Not ideal? It’s not going to fucking happen!” I snapped. “That asshole can deal with me.”
“Babe, it’s fine. I can—” Aria started.
“No, you can’t!” The venom in my voice made everyone jump slightly. There was no way that I would allow Aria to meet with Arturo. “Did you guys forget that the bullet that killed Jax was meant for her?”
“Ace, this isn’t the same thing or even the same guy. Look, I can handle him,” Aria said.
“Ace, you are the one who insisted that she could handle this job. You said she could lead us. She is the boss, and that is who he wants to speak with. You knew that this type of shit would happen,” Abel said. “Aria can handle it, and you know that as well as the rest of us.”
“Man,” Austin muttered and grimaced. “You know I hate not siding with you, but I can’t on this one. They’re right. Aria needs to deal with this.”
I groaned and plopped down on the couch across from Aria’s desk. “Fine, but you better tell them that if they try anything stupid, I will move heaven, hell, and earth to destroy them. Call the idiot and set it up,” I told Luis. I need a drink — I thought to myself.
Aria grabbed my cigarettes and lighter. She rarely smoked, but it was a habit that she picked up a couple of months ago. Smoke rolled out of her mouth.
The boys left Aria and me alone in the study. The door closed with a soft thud.
“Ace, I’ll be okay,” Aria said.
I narrowed my eyes at her. “You fucking better be. What the hell do you expect me to do if you aren’t? It’s never good to take the chairman to these meetings. So many chairmen have died because of meetings like this.”
Aria sighed and shrugged. “I could walk across the street next week and get hit by a bus.”
“That isn’t funny, bebita.” I rolled my eyes. She would make a joke like that.
“Do you hear me laughing?” Aria tilted her head. “You can’t spend your time worrying about what happens to me. It will only hold us back, and you know that.”
I sighed but nodded. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew that she was right. I just couldn’t stand the thought of something bad happening to her.
A black Cadillac rolled up and stopped near the warehouse. Aria stood beside me with her arms crossed over her chest. The boys were gathered around us.
Arturo and three of his men climbed out of the vehicle and approached us. They stopped several feet in front of us.
“You all came,” Arturo said and chuckled. “Travel in a pack? That’s smart.”
“Well, you got me here,” Aria said. “What exactly is the problem, Arturo?” Aria placed her hands on her hips and shifted her weight to one leg.
“The artillery isn’t the same. Why are you suddenly changing it up?” Arturo asked rudely. “You even jacked up the price.”
“Don’t insult my intelligence, Arturo. It is, in fact, the same,” Aria said and took a step forward.
“It’s a different brand,” Arturo argued and took a step forward.
I moved closer to Aria.
“It’s a better brand. My father picked them out himself. He intended to give people something better. Tell me, how is that wrong? Maybe if you do not appreciate our effort to give you something better, this relationship should be over. It’s no skin off my ass. You would be one less dickhead I have to deal with,” Aria snapped.
Arturo raised a gun to Aria’s head.
The boys and I drew our weapons and aimed them at Arturo and his men.
Arturo smirked at Aria.
“You don’t really want to shoot me,” Aria snickered. “You would die the second you pulled that trigger, and you know it. I don’t think you are ready to die. See, the thing is, I know that you don’t have any other gun dealer, and you need these guns. You’re going into debt, Arturo.”
Arturo’s smirk faded.
My eyes flickered to Aria. What the hell is she talking about?
“Didn’t think I knew that did you?” Aria tilted her head. “We gave you a fair price. You will make a great profit off those guns if you sell them to the right buyer. Be smart about it, and you might just pull yourself out of the hole you dug.”
Arturo lowered the gun and gritted his teeth.
The boys and I didn’t move. We kept our guns on the men. I wanted to blow off Arturo’s head just for aiming his gun at her in the first place.
“I guess we will see how it goes then,” Arturo muttered.
“If you decide that you don’t like the artillery, I will be willing to give you a full refund in trade for the guns I sold you,” Aria offered. The offer was more generous than he deserved.
Arturo and his men put their hands in the air as if in surrender and began to step away. Arturo turned to head back for his vehicle.
“Oh, Arturo!” Aria called to him.
The boys and I lowered our guns and stared at Aria with a curious expression.
What more could she have to say?
Arturo spun around unwillingly and met Aria’s stare.
Aria smirked. “If you ever put a gun to my head again, I will kill you with my bare hands.” Aria’s confidence made me smirk.
Damn, I knew my girl was a little badass.
Arturo nodded. “My apologies.” Arturo climbed into his vehicle. The vehicle disappeared up the driveway in a cloud of smoke.
“That was awesome!” Benny guffawed. “How the fuck did you know about the debt?”
“Well, you taught me how to hack into bank accounts, and I checked his bank records,” Aria said. “He’s not even broke. He is in serious debt.” Aria smirked.
“Wow,” Austin huffed.
Luis chuckled. “Damn, you can take care of yourself.”
I smiled and shook my head. “You’re something else, bebita.”
Aria shrugged. “Let’s go home. I want to see my baby.”
Aria had fallen asleep in Angel’s nursery. I took Angel from her carefully and placed him in his crib. It was getting late. I picked up Aria bridal style, and she didn’t stir at all.
After I put Aria in bed, I went into the bathroom to take a shower.
The hot water spilled down my face and chest. The events of the day continued to race through my head. Every time that I thought about Arturo pointing a gun at Aria, I grew angry. My pulse quickened, and my nostrils flared. I slammed my hands against the tile of the shower.
“Fuck,” I spat through clenched teeth. I turned the water off and stepped out. I needed to go to bed and stop thinking about it, or I would go search out Arturo and put him in a hole — a hole he couldn’t crawl out of.
To my surprise, the bed was empty. It took me a moment, but I realized that Aria probably went back downstairs.
Without knocking, I walked into the study. Aria sat at her desk with a pen in her hand. She draped over the desk and yawned loudly. She blinked several times and opened her eyes wider.
“Bebita,” I murmured. Sometimes, Aria worked too hard, and I would have to put my foot down. This was one of those times.
Aria looked up from the paperwork and squinted at me. She rubbed her eyes. “Hi, babe. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pass out. I need to get this paperwork done.”
I stopped beside her. “Let’s just deal with it tomorrow. You’re exhausted, and so am I. This is getting out of hand. I know that you want to do your job as best you can—”
“Really, Ace, I am fine,” Aria said.
“You’re going to work yourself to death, Aria,” I snapped. “Even your father knew he had to sleep once in a while.” It seemed like a low blow, and I hated saying it to her, but she needed to hear it.
Aria huffed and went back to her paperwork. She pursed her lips and scribbled her name across the bottom of the page.
As soon as she signed her name, I took the pen from her and threw it behind me.
“Hey!” Aria whined.
I swiped my arm across the desk, and everything that was on the desk hit the floor. Things rolled and clattered around the floor.
The chair spun under my grasp. I lifted Aria from the chair and sat her on the desk. “I said that is enough.” I used my bossy tone, and most people, apart from Aria, didn’t argue with me when I used it.
Aria snickered. “Who’s the boss?”
“I am,” I growled playfully. My fingers tangled into her hair, and my lips crashed against hers.
Aria moaned against my lips.
My mouth moved down her neck, and I nibbled lightly. I unbuttoned her jeans and yanked them off.
“Oh, god. Ace, we can’t do this right here,” Aria murmured.
“Bet,” I whispered in her ear. With one finger, I snapped the thin fabric of her thong and pushed it aside.
Aria gasped and slid her hands down to the waistband of my shorts.
“I’m fucking you on this desk, and then I’m taking your ass to bed with me,” I murmured in her ear.
Weeks had passed, and Aria and I had gotten the Perez estate finished. We planned to sell the mansion in town and move to the estate.
“Ace.” Tammy came into the kitchen.
“Hey, Tammy,” I said. “I’m glad you’re awake. I wanted to talk to you.”
Tammy smiled at me, but the smile didn’t touch her eyes. I couldn’t fathom what she was going through. Tammy was pregnant with Carlos’s baby, but she wasn’t that far along. It had to be difficult to dream of raising a child together and then lose him like that.
“About what?” Tammy asked.
“Aria and I want you to know that you can come with us. Aria mentioned you might stay with Tina for a while,” I said.
“I’m glad you brought that up. I heard you were going to sell the house you bought,” Tammy said.
“That’s the plan. Aria doesn’t see any reason for us to hang onto it,” I said and shrugged.
“Well, it’s plenty big enough for AJ, Ariel, the baby, and me. I thought maybe I could rent it or buy it from you,” Tammy said. “I would need to talk with the bank, but I think it would be doable,” Tammy said. Tammy stopped at the coffee pot and poured herself some coffee.
“Buy it? Tammy, you can just have it. I’ll sign it over to you,” I said.
“No, Ace. That wouldn’t be right,” Tammy argued.
“Look, you have enough on your plate. If you don’t want to come to the mansion with us, I understand that. The memories in this house and that house must be difficult for you. At least, let us do this for you. We want to help you,” I insisted.
Tammy pursed her lips. “I’m not looking for a handout.”
“I’m not giving you a handout. I’m giving you a hand up. There is nothing wrong with helping you. I would do it for my mother. There is no reason that I shouldn’t do the same for you,” I said. I leaned against the counter and sipped my coffee.
Aria came into the kitchen with Angel in her arms.
“Let me take him, and you can make him a bottle,” Tammy said.
“Thanks, Mom,” Aria said.
Tammy sat down at the island with Angel in her arms. Tammy cooed at him and swayed him side to side.
“I’m taking the house off the market,” I said to Aria.
Aria stopped and looked at me, confused. “Oh, and why is that?”
“I’m giving it to your mother instead,” I explained and gestured to Tammy. “She wanted to buy it, but I insisted that she doesn’t need to.”
“Oh, Mom, that is a great idea. AJ, Ariel, and you will love that. It’s a beautiful house,” Aria said and smiled.
“Thank you, honey,” Tammy said.
Aria and I had the Perez estate renovated. It hadn’t been updated in years, and it was finally finished.
“The movers will be here soon, bebita,” I said. “I’m going to go shower.”
“Okay,” Aria said. Aria took Angel from Tammy and sat down to feed him.
“Please, be careful. Many of these things are very old,” Aria told two of the movers. Aria sighed and rubbed her forehead.
My hands gripped her shoulders, and I rubbed them gently. “You worry too much.”
Aria smiled and rested her head against my chest. “I just don’t want anything to get broken.”
“It will be fine. Are you ready?”
“I will be. Just give me a minute,” Aria murmured. She gazed around with a nostalgic expression.
Part of me wondered if we were making a mistake selling the mansion, but it was Aria’s choice. If I knew how to persuade her out of doing it, I would have. Aria was as stubborn as they came.
Rosa and Andersen had left the mansion an hour ago with Angel.
The GTO rumbled to life. I rested my head against the driver’s seat and closed my eyes. I thought of Carlos. It was like he wasn’t far away. The sound of his laughter was near, and it made me smile. It hadn’t occurred to me until Carlos’s passing just how much I cared about him.
A door closed with a soft thud and pulled me from my thoughts. Aria was in the seat beside me with a blank expression.
“Bebita, are you sure? We can afford not to sell it. It doesn’t need to be like this,” I said.
“It’s just easier,” Aria murmured. “Nobody wants to be here, and nobody is going to want to come back to keep with the upkeep of it.”
“We could hire new workers,” I suggested.
“No.” Aria set her chin stubbornly.
I sighed. “As you wish, bebita.”
Aria and I made it to the mansion. We helped the movers unload things from the truck. I tried to talk Aria into letting the movers do it while we unpacked, but she wasn’t having that. If you knew Aria and didn’t know she was rich, you would never assume that she was. Aria was one of the least stuck-up people I knew.
Within a few hours, we had everything in the house and started to unpack things. Some of the workers helped sort through things and put them away.
The sun had gone down, and Aria and I had just gotten done hanging a picture up. The picture hung over the grand fireplace in the study. It was an image of Carlos and Aria. I climbed off the ladder.
“Come on, bebita, let’s go to bed,” I said.
Aria started to climb off the ladder.
I turned away from her for only a second.
“Ace!” Aria shrieked.
I spun around. I barely had time to think about what I was seeing. Aria fell toward me, and the fall was at least twelve feet. It happened quickly. Just in time, I took two steps and put my arms out.
Aria fell into my arms with a jolt. Aria’s jaw dropped, and her eyes widened. “Woah,” she breathed and gazed up to where she had fallen from.
My eyes formed into slits, and I shook my head at her. “You fucking klutz,” I said and chuckled.
Aria giggled breathlessly. “I’m so sorry. Good catch, babe. Thanks.”
“Cat-like reflexes, bebita,” I said and smirked.
“So, shall we go to bed?” Aria murmured.
“We shall,” I agreed and pressed my lips to hers. I carried Aria out of the study and into the foyer.
“I can walk,” Aria offered.
“I’m practicing for our wedding night,” I said and wiggled my eyebrows.
Aria giggled and pressed her lips to mine. “Well, you are doing a fine job,” Aria teased.