Chapter 3. The Talk
Abigail stayed back at the hotel with Stormy. I came to the mansion to find out the DNA test results. Andersen led me to the study. Ace, Aria, Andrea, and Angel stood near the desk talking about me from the sound of it. Their talking stopped when they heard the door open. They turned to face me.
“Andersen, we know how much you love being sucked into DNA tests,” Ace said and chuckled. “Do you want to do the honors?”
“I would be honored,” Andersen said.
I followed Andersen slowly to where the others stood. I shoved my hands into the pockets of my jeans. My stomach twisted from the uncomfortableness that I felt. Some small part of me worried that we were wrong about the DNA test. I had taken plenty of tests in my life, but nothing like this.
Andersen opened the document. We stared at Andersen and waited silently. Too many thoughts ran through my mind as I stared at the man. Nausea and dizziness overtook me. My breathing stopped.
“You’re a match. He is, in fact, Andrew Antonio Garcia,” Andersen said and handed the papers to Aria.
Aria covered her mouth with her hand. Tears pooled in her eyes, and she stared at the document. Aria handed the document to Ace, and he stared at it in shock.
I let go of the breath I was holding as I took the paper from Ace. My eyes swept over it. “This is really real? It’s accurate?” I had been fucked around so much in my life that it seemed hard to believe—no matter how much I resembled them.
“We sent it to the same lab that did Aria and Carlos when it happened to them. You can trust these people. It’s accurate,” Andersen said.
Andrea kept her hands over her face, hidden from the rest of us.
“How could we let this happen, Ace?” Aria whispered.
“It’s not as if we let it happen on purpose, bebita,” Ace muttered.
“God, what he must have gone through,” Aria mumbled.
“You have no idea,” I muttered darkly.
“I need a drink,” Angel said.
“We all do,” Ace added.
Andersen poured glasses of bourbon and handed them out. I slowly sank down onto the red velvet couch that looked as old and elegant as furniture from England. Undoubtedly, the couch wasn’t new but somehow maintained.
I stared at the glass of bourbon as I spoke. “Now what? What are you guys? You’re not movie stars, obviously. You killed Harold’s father. You know about gangs. Are you a mafia of some kind?”
“You would think we would stop having this talk one day,” Ace muttered.
Aria chuckled and nodded.
Angel kicked back in his desk chair with a cigarette and sipped his whiskey. “Well, let me tell you, I guess. We’re the head of all Latin Kings. Those street gangs you talked about; they’re not shit compared to what we are. Most of those street gangs don’t even know we exist. We take out certain Latin Kings when we see fit. You talked about one that wanted you to join them. They’re all going to die.”
“You’re Latin Kings?” I asked in disbelief. “Are you kidding me? Why would you kill your own men?”
“We most likely aren’t tied to the gang you’re referring to,” Aria said. “It’s so big that we can barely keep track of most of them. We are where it started. The real Latin Kings, not the punk street gang you have heard of.”
“Why kill them?” I asked.
“They threatened your life,” Ace said. “That’s not acceptable.”
I scoffed. “So, I turned away from a gang of Latin Kings only to find out that I was born into it.”
“Basically,” Angel said. “Of course, you have a choice. You don’t have to be a part of this life.”
“Well, I don’t want it. I’m in danger all the time as it is because of Mateo and Harold,” I said.
“Who is Mateo?” Ace asked.
“The president of the Latin King Motorcycle club,” I said.
“Bunch of copycats if you ask me,” Aria said.
“If you want protection, you might want to stick with us for now,” Angel said. “After that, what you do with your life is up to you.”
Aria knitted her eyebrows together. “You want nothing to do with us?”
“No, it’s not that. I—” I stopped and shrugged. “I don’t know any of you. The only things I know about you are what you have told me and what I have read. I walked away from Mateo because I didn’t want to put my girlfriend and her daughter at risk. If I join what you’re a part of, it’ll be the same thing that I’ve been avoiding.”
Aria and Ace sighed.
“Look, I’m smart. I can fight and protect myself really well, but I can’t beat an entire gang of men on my own. There is a lot of them. This shit happened from something all of you started years ago. So, I’m hoping you can help me figure out how to get out of this. I’m not saying that I won’t ever want to see any of you again. I just haven’t even wrapped my head around it. I’ve never gotten close to people. I’m not going to just start calling you mom and dad and move in. I had no choice but to come to you, or we would all die. I needed to know what happened.”
“We’ll get you out of this. You’re right. Your problems have to do with a fight that went on for years between Aryan brotherhood and Latin Kings,” Aria said. Aria gazed up at Angel. “You will help your brother.”
Angel sighed and nodded. “Yeah.”
Aria turned to me and smiled. “You don’t need to change your name if you don’t want to, but we would be willing to pay for it if you do. But I will not call you Hayden whether you like it or not.”
Ace chuckled. “There is one thing you should know, don’t ever argue with your mother. You will lose.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yeah. My girlfriend is kind of like that too.” My eyes locked with Aria. “We can change it. Hayden Crowley isn’t who I am, and I could care less to live by that name. It has a pretty bad reputation. Harold killed his kids and meant to kill Iris. He pinned it on me. Iris slipped into a coma and woke up. Iris intends to tell the real story to the cops. I don’t remember what happened, so I assumed that I killed my adoptive siblings.”
“You may tell Abigail about us, but I strongly advise you don’t tell anyone that you don’t trust a hundred percent. We’ve kept this secret for over three hundred years,” Ace said. “It’s not often, but sometimes we have to silence people.”
“It’s not often at all,” Aria added.
“I understand,” I said. “Look, I’m not going to tell anyone that I don’t trust. I’ve done bad things too. I’m not some martyr, but I didn’t kill anyone who didn’t deserve it. I’ve only killed in situations where I didn’t have a choice.”
“We can help you with money and a place to stay for now, but things could get ugly,” Ace warned.
“Things already are ugly,” I said. “Maybe I should send Abigail home.”
“No, it’s not safe,” Angel argued. “I’m telling you right now, man, it’s kind of a thumb rule, but it’s true every time—If someone is after you, they will come after the people that you love the most.”
“He’s right,” Ace said. “Abigail, her daughter, and Iris are safer here with all of us for the time being.”
“Are you sure you can trust Iris?” Aria asked.
I nodded. “I wouldn’t have brought her if I thought otherwise.”
“You’ll need to stay with us until we figure this out. It’s safer here. There is plenty of room. Go get them,” Angel instructed me and glanced at Ace. “We need Benny.”
“Who is Benny?” I asked.
Mom smiled. “Our genius.”
“Well, what do we need him for?”
“To find Harold and Mateo,” Ace said.
“Maybe training Andrew would be wise,” Aria said to Ace.
“Train me to do what?”
“Mixed martial arts, guns, fighting, things like that,” Angel said.
“I’m pretty good on all of that, I think,” I said. A bit of arrogance colored my tone.
Ace smirked. “Well, let’s find out. Get the girls and bring them here. We will go from there.”
I stood up and left the massive library.
I climbed into my Challenger and peeled out of the driveway. I dialed Abigail’s number.
“Hello?” Abigail asked.
“Be ready,” I said. “I’m coming to get you. We’re all staying at the mansion for a little while.”
Abigail sighed. “I have to quit the coffee shop, don’t I?”
“You might as well. We won’t be back in Florida for a long time, I think.”
“Bebé,” I murmured.
“I love you.”
“I love you,” she said. The smile in her voice was apparent, even though I couldn’t see her.
I hung the phone up and sped through the city. Cars honked their horns at me as I weaved in and out of traffic.
I drifted into the parking lot of the hotel and slowed the car to a stop. I climbed out of the car and glanced across the street. Several men climbed out of a dark grey van. They mainly wore black. My suspicion rose instantly, but they didn’t notice me.
“Shit,” I whispered. I dashed up the stairs and knocked on the door harder than necessary.
Abigail opened the door and stared at me, confused. “What’s wrong?”
I pushed her into the room and closed the door quickly. I pulled Abigail over to the window and peeked out the blinds, which were closed.
“Hayden, what?” Abigail asked.
“Hayden?” Iris asked.
“There are some men across the street. I-I’m not sure, but something doesn’t feel right.” I pulled my phone out and dialed Aria’s number.
Aria picked up on the first ring. “Yes?”
“I might have a problem,” I said and swallowed hard. “There is a lot of them. I don’t know if I can handle them alone.”
“Aryan brotherhood, I think, but I can’t be sure. They were looking around. They were in this dark grey van. I think they were looking for me. They kept looking across the street at the hotel.”
“We’ll be there. Stay inside. What hotel and room are you at?” Aria asked.
“The Tangerine. Room thirty-three,” I said.
I watched out the blinds. The men were still looking around and talking. I dropped the blinds and looked at Abigail. “I’m sorry I drug you into this.”
Abigail shrugged. “I pursued you, remember?”
I chuckled. “How could I forget?”
Stormy held her arms out for me to pick her up. I picked her up and hugged her tightly. She raised her head and stared into my eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“It’s hard to explain. Ask me when you’re older.” I ran my fingers through her brown curly hair and kissed her forehead.
After a few minutes, I looked out the window again, and I wished I hadn’t. The men walked across the parking lot. One of them pointed at my car, then pointed to the upstairs.
I groaned. “This is bad. This is so fucking bad,” I muttered. I turned to Abigail. “They’re coming.”
“What do we do?” Abigail whispered.
“We have to get the hell out of here. Take her. No matter what happens, get to the car and get the fuck out of here.”
“I’m not leaving you here,” Abigail argued.
“We do not have time to argue about this. You will leave,” I sneered. “Take Stormy and Iris with you and get to the mansion.”
Abigail’s eyes watered, and she shook her head. I grabbed her face between my hands and pressed my lips to hers roughly.
The kiss didn’t last as long as I wanted it to, but we didn’t have time for anything more. “Listen to me this one fucking time,” I said sternly.
I grabbed her arm and pulled her toward the door. Iris followed after Abigail. We snuck out of the room. Abigail and Iris had the bags. I had what little weapons that I brought with me.
We made it down the stairs and halfway to my car when several vehicles suddenly peeled into the parking lot.
“Run,” I told Abigail.
Abigail took off toward my car, but a black van came into the parking lot, cutting her off.
Aria and Ace climbed out of the van. Aria threw the side door open. “Get into the van now!” Aria hissed at the girls.
Before I could move, a hand grabbed my shoulder. I spun around, grabbed the gun from the man, opened my blade, and stabbed the man in the chest. I shoved him to the ground.
Several more men just like him gathered around me. Shots fired, and the men started falling. One of the men put a gun to my head and wrapped an arm around me, using me as a shield. He backed up slowly.
Several men, unfamiliar to me, stood beside Ace and Aria. Ace pointed a gun at the man that had a gun pointed at me.
I had thought about death and how much easier it would be than living, but that was before Abigail and Stormy came into my life.
“Hayden!” Abigail jumped out of the van and dashed toward me, but Aria caught her and restrained her.
The man that had the gun to my head shook violently. He didn’t want to die any more than I did. I wasn’t afraid to die but being afraid of dying and not wanting to die isn’t the same thing. I had two good reasons to want to live. I carefully put my hand in my pocket and opened my knife. I slowly retreated my hand from my pocket.
Ace and Aria stared at me with fear in their eyes. They knew this wasn’t a good position to be in.
“Drop it,” Ace said to the man.
The man took another step back, distracted by Ace, and I knew it was my only shot. I raised my arm fast and shoved the gun away from my head. The gun went off in the air. I spun around and slid the blade across his throat. Blood gushed from the wound, and the man dropped to his knees. I kicked him in the face, and he fell onto his back.
Aria, Ace, and the others dropped their weapons and sighed with relief. I dashed across the parking lot.
“Your timing is impeccable,” I said.
Aria wrapped her arms around me and hugged me tightly. I hugged her back, feeling a little strange about the fact.
Angel smirked at me. “Well, you’re not half bad, are you?”
“All of you come back to the mansion,” Ace instructed the men.
“Who the hell are they?” I asked.
“You’re going to find out soon,” Aria said and ushered me toward the van.
Abigail threw her arms around my neck and smashed her lips to mine. I wrapped an arm around her waist and let her kiss me but pushed her toward the van as we kissed. She broke the kiss and climbed into the van, and I climbed in after her.
“What about my car?” I asked.
“We’ll get it later,” Aria said.
Stormy stared at us, confused. “Are those bad men?”
“Yes,” I told her.
Stormy crawled into my lap. “Why do they want to hurt you?”
“They don’t particularly like me,” I told her.
Stormy buried her face into my chest and shook with fear. I rubbed her back soothingly, but I didn’t know how to explain the truth to her, so I stayed quiet.
By the time I finished telling Iris and Abigail the story, they were staring at me like I gave them the hardest math equation of their life.
“Is that everything?” Iris asked.
“Did I mention that my name is being changed to Andrew Antonio Garcia by tomorrow afternoon?” I asked.
“It’s going to be weird getting used to that,” Abigail said.
“So, how many siblings do you have?” Iris tilted her head.
“Um, like six, I think. Angel is the oldest. There is a set of identical twin girls, Arianna and Adelina, Alana, Aiden, and Andrea. Andrea is my twin,” I said.
“Latin Kings,” Abigail said in disbelief. “And they’re rich.”
“They run other legitimate businesses, but yes. You two can’t tell anyone about this. They won’t allow it,” I said.
Abigail shrugged. “Okay.”
Iris nodded. “Okay.”
“So, how are all those men that were there related to you?” Iris asked.
“They’re not all related. Austin is Ace’s brother. Luis is Aria’s cousin. Abel is married to Luis’s sister, so he is sort of related by marriage. Benny and Joey aren’t related. Jesse, Gage, and Kenny are friends of Angel’s, but they also work for him,” I explained.
“And Ace and Aria are your real parents?” Iris asked.
“Right, but they don’t run things anymore. Angel runs things. They help him, though, or something like that,” I said.
Abigail shook her head. “Can I sleep on it? This is a lot to wrap my head around.”
“Me too,” I said and yawned. I hugged Iris tightly. “I’ll keep you safe, Mom.”
She pulled away and smiled. “I’m a little surprised you still call me that, now that you found your real parents.”
I smiled and shook my head. “Now I have two moms.”
Abigail slipped out of the room, leaving Iris and me alone.
“Can you ever forgive me for the awful life you had?” Iris murmured.
“There is nothing to forgive. You tried, and I know that. You were a great parent. Harold was the problem, not you. I’m sorry about the other kids,” I said sadly.
Iris stroked my cheek with her hand. “At least, I still have one. It could be worse. I could have lost all of you. I do wonder what the others would have been like, and I miss them. But I never loved them more than I loved you. I loved all of you the same.”
“Me too,” I said. I kissed Iris’s cheek. “Goodnight, Mom.” I spun around and left the room. I walked down the dimly lit hallway to the room that Abigail and I were staying in. Being in this house was strange.
It was apparent that the family that lived here loved and supported each other, and I never had that in my life. Iris was good to me, and I cared about my siblings even though we fought over petty things, but it wasn’t like this family. This family was tightly knit. It was impossible to be near them and not notice.
I spent hours in the library, which they called the study, getting to know and understand them. I still didn’t know or understand everything. Keeping all their names straight wasn’t easy either. Some part of me wondered what my life would be like when I left this place.
The bed in the center of the room was possibly one of the most enormous beds I had ever seen. The bedroom was probably bigger than my entire apartment back home. The closet looked like a mall; it was two stories. The ceilings of the bedroom were ridiculously tall. The windows were twice the height of me.
I stared out the window, which looked over the back patio. I couldn’t understand how I got here. My biological siblings grew up, getting whatever they wanted and everything I had, I had to work my ass off for. Nobody gave me anything.
“Baby,” Abigail said softly. She wrapped her arms around my waist and peeked around my arm to look up at me. “Are you okay?”
“I don’t even think I know what I am,” I whispered. “My entire life, I thought I knew exactly who I was only to find out that I don’t know myself at all. The name I went by for the last twenty years isn’t even going to be my name by tomorrow afternoon.”
“Well, I like Andrew. It has a ring to it,” she teased lightly. She walked around me and stood between me and the massive window. She ran her fingers through my hair and smiled at me. “You look the same to me.”
My cold eyes melted into her eyes. Something about the way she looked at me always softened me. When I first met her, I was a cold human being. I felt nothing. I didn’t allow myself to feel things, but she walked into my life and knocked down those walls. She thawed me out.
“You’re crazy. How can you be so rational about everything?” I said and chuckled.
“Love makes you do and think strange things.” She wrapped her arms around my neck and kept her eyes on mine.
I shook my head. “It’s strange being here. I should have lived a completely different life. But the thing is, it doesn’t bother me that bad that I didn’t. Actually, I’m glad I didn’t grow up here.”
Abigail tilted her head as if trying to get a better look at me. “I’m the crazy one?” she teased. “Why would you want that? You never would have been abused. You wouldn’t have been locked away for a crime you didn’t commit. You wouldn’t have been told you were sick when you weren’t. You—”
“I never would have met you,” I whispered. “No big house, no amount of money, and no fancy car is ever going to be worth what you’re worth to me. You and Stormy are the most important things to me, and that won’t ever change. You believed in me or saw something in me that nobody else did. You saved me in ways that nobody else could have.”
Tears pooled in her eyes, and her chin trembled. She stood on her toes, and her lips crashed against mine.
I groaned and lifted her. Her legs snaked around my waist, and I carried her to the oversized bed. Her lips burned against mine like fire on ice. She melted me, no matter what kind of mood I was in.
Aria, Ace, and the others wanted me to stay here. They wanted me to be a part of the family, but I couldn’t stay unless Abigail would stay, and I knew at some point, we would have to have that conversation, but not tonight. Tonight, we were going to make some use out of this huge bed.