Chapter 8. Instinct
Benny sat at the desk and stared at his laptop. Dad, Angel, and Jesse hovered over Benny’s shoulder and stared at the computer. They weren’t speaking, but they appeared to be lost in thought or irritated.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
All their heads snapped up in my direction. Dad mashed his lips in a straight line. Benny looked up at Dad. Jesse and Angel shared a glance.
I stepped down the three stairs away from the entrance of the study and arched my eyebrow at them. “Is it a secret?” My voice held nothing but sarcasm.
Benny smirked. “If you want it to be.”
“Is it about me?” My teasing faded as I stepped around the large oak desk.
“Yes,” Dad answered. “We think we know where Harold is or was. That means we’re getting closer to him. He’s hiding.”
“He knows that I know. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if he knows I’m with you,” I said. “Look, you guys are all big and bad. There is no denying that, but you can’t underestimate Harold. He’s crazy, but he’s not stupid. Underestimating him would only be a disadvantage to us because he would take us by surprise.”
Angel pursed his lips and shared a glance with Dad. Angel looked back at me. “What do you suggest we do?”
“Keep your eyes on him. He won’t come at us head-on, I guarantee that,” I said and shrugged. “He never did play fair.”
“You seem to know him really well,” Jesse said.
“How could I not? He raised me. I know every side of that shady son of a bitch. Half of my life I spent hiding from him, running from him, or trying to defend myself against him. He’s strong, fast, and intelligent. If anyone has a chance against him, it’s me.”
By the time I finished talking, they were staring at me with unspoken pity and concern. It wasn’t necessary. After what I went through with Harold, it only made me stronger and wiser. Maybe it was the reason I was still alive.
I left the study, and when I reached the foyer, I stopped. Andrea, Abigail, Chelsea, and a few other girls that I didn’t know stood near the front entrance talking and giggling.
Andrea stopped when she noticed me. Abigail gazed up at me and smiled. The other girls stared at me like I was their favorite piece of candy.
“Uh, hi,” I said and grimaced, uncomfortable under the weight of their stares.
“Come here, Andy,” Andrea said. Andrea introduced me to her friends, but I forgot their names as soon as she spoke them.
My eyes were on Abigail. Abigail wore a tight strapless red dress. It hugged her breasts, hips, and thighs. I wasn’t paying much attention to the conversation. However, they said something about going out to a club.
The other girls disappeared out the front door, but I grabbed Abigail before she could get away. Abigail looked at me, confused. My mouth watered—that sense that consumes you when you smell something delicious, yet rage bubbled inside of me at the same time somehow. They weren’t a good mix.
“What is it, baby?” Abigail asked. Her eyes held such innocence that the anger faded, and it left behind a fiery passion.
I grabbed her face between my hands and smashed my lips against hers. Men were comparable to animals when it came to their women, whether they would admit it or not. They didn’t want another man to approach, speak to, or think about their woman. Abigail didn’t understand because she couldn’t see herself through my eyes.
Abigail kissed me back. Her fingers tangled into my hair, and she leaned into me. From her reaction, I probably could have gotten away with taking her upstairs, but I broke the kiss instead.
My forehead rested against hers, and when my breathing finally slowed, I spoke. “Try not to draw too much attention to yourself.”
She shoved me back slightly and gazed up at me. “Is that what you think I’m doing?”
“Not intentionally, but you do.”
“You’re bias,” she snorted.
“You were dropped on your head as a baby if you believe that, bebé.”
She giggled. “I wasn’t dropped on my head.”
“How do you know? Did you ask your mom?”
She shoved me playfully but stepped forward. She pecked me on the lips and smiled. “Don’t worry, babe. If anyone tries getting flirty with me, I’ll tell them I have a super badass scary boyfriend.”
“You better,” I agreed. “Or I might have to hang them with chains in the basement.”
She chuckled and headed for the door. “I love you,” she said over her shoulder.
“I love you.”
Abigail closed the door behind her.
A giggle came from somewhere behind me. I spun around and saw Mom holding Stormy. She stared at me with a knowing look that confused me.
“What?” I asked.
“I wish you knew how much you sounded just like your father,” Mom said. “He was always that way with me too. I couldn’t take him anywhere. If he so much as saw another man look at me, he wanted to beat them up.”
Stormy smiled and reached for me.
I took Stormy from Mom. “It’s just a guy thing,” I said.
“It’s a Garcia thing,” Mom corrected. She giggled and walked the other direction.
“Daddy, can we watch movies?” Stormy asked.
“Well, since your Mom ditched me, I guess I’m all yours.”
Stormy smiled, and her eyes lit up at what I said.
Only one girl on the entire planet could talk me into watching princess movies back to back. I painted her nails, did her hair, had a tea party with her, and questioned my sanity in between. The strangest part about it—it didn’t bother me, not one bit. I loved doing things with Stormy.
Ace had interrupted us at one point. I was sure that I would be made fun of for it later.
Stormy curled into my side as we watched Beauty and The Beast. At some point through the movie, Stormy fell asleep.
I carried Stormy to her room, tucked her into bed, and kissed her forehead. I snuck out of her bedroom and downstairs.
Dad sat at the kitchen island with a cup of coffee. His back faced me, and he had his head down. “Andrew,” Dad said.
I scoffed. “How did you know it was me?”
“I’ve been an assassin for forty years. It kind of comes with the job, I guess. Everyone’s footsteps are different. Once I’m familiar with them, it kind of sticks with me.” Dad laughed and shook his head. He finally glanced up at me.
The coffee in the pot had been freshly made. I poured myself a cup and yawned loudly. I hadn’t slept well the night before, but I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep until Abby got home. I sucked at sleeping without her. I always got more sleep with her in the bed.
“That’s interesting,” I said.
“To be a good assassin, a person must learn to use all their senses. I learned to use my other senses in ways most people don’t. It’s not just the footsteps, I suppose. It’s how a person smells too. People can’t usually sneak up on me,” Dad explained.
“Hmm,” I hummed. “I should practice that.”
“That wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Dad agreed.
I sat down and glanced up at him. “I’m like waiting for you to laugh at me. Is that wrong?”
“Laugh for what?”
“Playing tea party.” I sipped the coffee and stared at it.
Dad didn’t respond, so I gazed up at him.
Dad smiled at me and shook his head. “I have four daughters and several granddaughters. There isn’t a damn thing funny about a tea party, son. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Actually, I’m proud of you for it.”
I laughed. “What? You can’t be serious.”
“I’m dead serious. A lot of fathers don’t spend time with their daughters when they’re young like that. Hell, not to knock your grandpa or anything because he was a good man, but he never did that for your aunts.”
“Carlos? I thought he only had Mom?”
“I’m talking about Andrew Garcia, my father.”
I pursed my lips. “You named me after him.”
“Yes, we did. Andrew was Carlos’s best friend and a great assassin, but some other guy got the better of him. Andrew was too proud to play with us when we were young. He didn’t interact in what he called childish games. He would tell us stories and watch movies with us, but nothing like what you did. I wasn’t like that with your sisters. I wanted to be a better father than mine, not that mine did too bad. That age is fragile. They need you the most at that age. It amazes me how attached that little girl is to you. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“Sometimes I think she’s like that because she knows she lost her real father.”
Dad shook his head. “No. I don’t think so. I think she looks at you like you are her father. You love her, and she senses that. She didn’t have to call you dad. She did it on her own free will, right?”
“Well, yeah, of course. Abigail and I never asked her to or made her.”
“Kids can sense people, see through people in ways that adults can’t, I believe that.”
I nodded. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”
“You and Abigail seem to be doing good. Your mother told me she walked in at the end of your conversation with Abigail. She said you got kind of possessive.”
“Don’t sweat it. I was like that with your mom.”
“Does that ever go away? Honestly, at first, I thought I was just insecure or something,” I muttered and looked away. Ace and I grew close, but talks like this still made me feel strange.
“It doesn’t go away,” Dad said and chuckled. “Your mom still gets looked at, and I still fucking hate it. You’re not insecure. You just love her so much that you don’t want something bad to happen to her. I wasn’t even insecure with women or acted that way until I met your mom.”
“He hates that I make him act like a fool,” Mom said as she strode into the kitchen.
I threw my head back and laughed.
“Whatever, bebita. I’m starting to enjoy acting like a fool for you now. I’ve been doing so for nearly forty years,” Dad said and stuck his tongue out at Mom.
I finished my coffee and put my cup in the sink.
“Andrew!” Someone shouted.
“That sounds like Andrea,” Dad said.
We rushed into the foyer.
Andrea held Abigail around the waist. Abigail had her arm around Andrea’s shoulder and leaned into her. Abigail giggled like a lunatic. Her giggle stopped short when she saw me.
“Babe,” she slurred and stumbled toward me.
Andrea caught Abigail before she could fall to the floor. Andrea looked as if she could barely stand on her own, so how she managed to catch her was beyond me. Dad grabbed Andrea, and I grabbed Abigail.
“Where is Chelsea?” Sean asked as he came down the stairs.
“In the cab passed out. I was just about to come to get you,” Andrea said and pointed at Sean. Andrea staggered and giggled. Dad gripped tighter onto Andrea.
“Okay,” Dad said. “I think you’re staying here tonight too, Drea.”
“Me too,” Andrea said and nodded.
Dad lifted Andrea and carried her upstairs. “Girl, you’re way too big for me to be carrying around.”
I carried Abigail bridal style to our bedroom while she played with my hair and cooed at me.
Once I got her into bed, I took off her high heels.
She squirmed and giggled at me. “I love you, babe,” she slurred.
“I love you too, bebé.”
“You’re so cute and sexy,” she said and smiled.
“You’re going to be hungover tomorrow,” I said. I took her heels over to the closet. When I came back out of the closet, she stood beside the bed. “Lay back down before you fall.”
“I can’t sleep in this dress. It’s too tight,” she said and grunted in frustration. She couldn’t reach the zipper. She lost her footing and stumbled slightly.
I crossed the room to her. “Turn around.”
“No, I got it,” she said. She slid the red dress downwards. My eyes watched as the dress left her body. Even in her drunken state, she managed to slip out of the red dress so gracefully that I stared at her awestruck. She stood in front of me with nothing but a strapless red bra and matching thong.
I grunted and licked my lips.
Abigail smiled and stepped toward me. Her hands slipped under my shirt and slid up my chest. Her eyes clouded with lust. Abigail could be very seductive when she wanted to be, or maybe I was easily seduced. I had a hard time believing that, considering I turned away any and every girl that showed any interest in me apart from her. She pressed her lips to my neck.
I swallowed hard and tried to rationalize the situation. “Bebé, you’re drunk.” My teeth clenched to keep from getting hard.
She giggled. “Why does that matter?”
“You’re really drunk. I should go get you something to eat and drink.”
She scoffed. “I definitely don’t need any more to drink.” She pressed her lips to my jaw and hummed in pleasure.
Rational thoughts started to get tangled with irrational thoughts. Blood pumped through me too fast. The tendons in my neck tightened. “I meant water,” I choked out. “How about pizza?”
Abigail sensed a victory. There was no use fighting it. “How about you?” She pulled her head back and licked her lips. She shoved me toward the bed.
I fell onto the bed and watched as she climbed on top of me. How can something so innocent and sweet be so damn naughty?
Abigail lifted my shirt. Her lips trailed from my chest to the waistband of my jeans. She stopped and unbuttoned my pants.
She managed to make me hard in no time at all. She wet her lips before she placed them around my cock.
I groaned in pleasure. All rational thoughts in my head disappeared. I pleaded with her to keep doing it, but the pleas came out in Spanish. My fingers tangled in her wild brown hair, and I pulled it.
She moved faster, impossibly fast. It was like she understood what I said. My mouth continued to spit out naughty things to her in Spanish. She moaned with me in her mouth, and her fingernails dug into my chest.
Within minutes, my body started to shake, and my mind went numb as I came in her mouth. She licked her lips after she swallowed and looked up at me. I stared at her breathlessly. The look on her face alone was enough to make me hard again, and I knew from her expression that she wasn’t done with me yet. She wanted me, and she would get what she wanted.
She climbed on top of me and threw off her bra. “I’m not done with you, papi.”
“Okay.” I ripped her thong and tossed them.
“Damn it, those were my favorite,” she scolded me.
“Really?” I flipped her, so she was beneath me. “Here, I was under the impression that your favorite thing to wear is me,” I said and smirked.
She bit her lip and tangled her fingers in my hair. “Oh, baby, you are.”
Iris stood in front of her bed with a suitcase. She placed some clothes in it that I bought her. She stared down at it. Her back turned to me.
“What the hell are you doing, Iris?” I asked.
Iris turned to me with tears and a longing in her eyes. “I was just about to come look for you.”
A hundred assumptions rolled through my mind in a matter of seconds. “Really?” I asked. “Looks to me like you’re about to hit the road.”
“I am,” she agreed. “I wouldn’t leave without saying goodbye first, of course.” She turned around, closed the suitcase, and pushed it back. She sat down on the edge of the bed. “We need to talk.”
“Clearly,” I said. “What’s wrong? I thought you liked it here?”
She sighed and bowed her head. Her golden hair fell over her face as she shook it back and forth. Her gaze met mine. “I do, sweetie. It’s a wonderful place, but it isn’t mine. I can’t put my life on pause because Harold wants me dead. I’ve made arrangements to stay with my sister. I don’t belong here. This isn’t my family.”
“What the hell am I, chopped liver?” I threw my arms in the air in frustration. What she said made no sense to me.
“No, you’re my son. You’ll always be my wonderful baby boy. I’ll want to come and see you, and I hope for grandkids one day. Stormy is wonderful too, of course. I hope you get married and live the life you deserve, but I can’t stay here. This is your real family, and I’m not that.”
“Mom,” I groaned. I sat beside her. “You’re real to me.”
“I know that,” she said and kissed my cheek.
“You can’t leave, Mom. If Harold finds you—”
“My sister is staying in a new place she bought. It’s unlisted, and Harold doesn’t know anything about it.”
“That doesn’t mean he won’t find it. Please, listen to me.”
“I’m going to be just fine, okay? I’ll call every day. I’m not going far. Just over to the San Francisco area. I wrote the address for you and phone number.”
I sighed. “You’re stubborn. At least take the cellphone that I gave you.”
It worried me, but what could I say? It wasn’t like I was some little kid that still needed his mother. I would be okay without her around. Iris hadn’t seen her sister in years, and she missed her. She talked about her sister for weeks. Iris finally woke up, and she wanted to go back to living her life. I couldn’t be upset with her for that.
I drove her to the airport and helped her inside. I sat beside her until her plane was ready to go. Neither of us said too much. It wasn’t awkward, but both of us held tension and concern for the other.
When it came time for her to get on the plane, I stood up with her. Iris turned to me and gave me a warm smile. She grabbed my face between her hands. She spoke softly and with deliberation. “You take care of yourself and be safe. Keep me posted about everything. I’ll call you when I get there.”
“I love you, Mom.”
Her smile widened, and she kissed my cheek. “I love you too. Behave yourself. Take good care of Stormy and Abigail.”
“I will. Come visit soon.”
She nodded. She grabbed her suitcase and disappeared through a crowd of people. My stomach turned as the concern heightened. It took all I had not to chase after her and try to stop her again.
My phone rang and pulled me out of my trance. I wasn’t sure how long I stood there. For all I knew, Iris’s plane already took off.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Andy, did Iris make her plane?” Abigail asked.
“Are you on your way home?”
“I’m about to leave.” I turned and started in the direction of the airport parking lot.
“Are you okay?” Abigail’s voice filled with concern because she could tell that I was concerned and slightly out of it.
“I’m fine.” My voice came out higher and cracked slightly. I wiped the tears away from my eyes that had escaped without me realizing it.
“That sounded really reassuring,” Abigail said sarcastically. “I knew I should have gone with you.”
“No, bebé. It’s fine, really. Believe it or not, I can take care of myself. I’m a big boy,” I said and chuckled.
“Right. Says the guy who is always losing his keys, phone, and wallet. Face it, Andy, you would lose your head if I wasn’t there to find it for you,” she said and giggled.
I threw my head back and laughed. “You’re right. I don’t know how the hell I got along without you. I probably barely survived.”
“You like it.”
“Stormy, watch it!” Abigail shouted. There was a loud thud. Abigail shouted, and her voice faded away from the phone as if she dropped it.
“Shit,” I hissed. I raced across the parking lot to my car. One car backed out and honked. When I dashed past the back of their car, it nearly struck me.
The engine of my Challenger roared to life. Without looking, I backed out quickly and cut off some car in my haste. The car honked at me. I sped out of the parking lot.
My thoughts were clouded with concern as I raced up the street. I tried hard not to imagine the worst possible scream, but from the other end of the phone, whatever happened sounded bad.
Several times on the way home, I tried to call Abigail, Angel, Sean, and Mia. None of them answered, which made me more frantic.
I made it home in half the time that it took me to get to the airport. An ambulance sat near the entrance of the house. Both of the large wooden doors were wide open, and two men were carrying out a stretcher.
I stopped and stared in shock. The shock wore off, and I dashed up the stairs of the mansion.
Abigail came out of the house with her hand on her chest and sobbing. Angel held her upright, trying to soothe her.
“Abby!” I shouted.
Her head snapped up. “Andy.” Abigail stumbled down the steps and fell into my arms.
“What the hell happened?”
Stormy laid on the stretcher with an oxygen mask over her face. Her eyes were closed, and her face swollen and black and blue.
Angel, Mia, Chelsea, and Sean strolled down the front steps.
“I-I tried to catch her in time,” Abigail stammered between sobs.
My eyes flickered to Angel. Abigail was too anxious to tell me what happened. Concern distorted all of their features.
“Stormy got out her tricycle and was riding it around upstairs. Somehow, she managed to go over the edge of the steps. I didn’t see it. She rolled down the stairs. They’re made of concrete, and it’s a long way down. . .” Angel trailed off. “She’s hurt really bad, but they’re not sure how bad. She slipped into unconsciousness and went into a seizure or something.”
One of the paramedics turned to us. “Only one person can ride with,” he said.
“Go, bebé. I’ll follow you,” I murmured. I shoved her toward the ambulance and helped her inside.
Sean and Chelsea chased after me to my car. I followed the ambulance from the driveway and looked back. Angel and Mia were in a car behind us.
“Did either of you see it?” My eyes flickered to Sean.
“Abigail is the only one who saw it. Abigail couldn’t make out much, but that Stormy went over the edge of the steps. Abigail came out of her room and saw Stormy on her tricycle going down the steps,” Sean said. “She just kept saying that she tried to catch her in time.”
I pinched my nose between my finger and thumb and clenched my jaw. “This is my fault. I shouldn’t have bought her that stupid fucking tricycle.” I slammed my fist down on the dashboard and cursed under my breath. Stormy lost the first tricycle in the accident. The vehicle that hit me screwed it up. However, I bought her a second tricycle because I knew how much she liked it. I considered not getting it because of what happened the first time. They say to trust your instinct, and I blatantly ignored mine.