Chapter 14. Watch Your Back
The weeks that followed weren’t much easier. Abigail learned a lot from my parents and me. It stunned my mother how quickly Abigail learned. Mom insisted that Abigail would turn out almost as dangerous as me, if not just as dangerous as me, because I trained her mostly.
There were times it got to be frustrating, but my parents kept me sane through it and insisted that she would get better, which she did. Mom and Dad said she should never stop practicing. However, by the end of the sixth week, Abigail was fully trained. She knew how to fight in just about every way that I could, but she still had to continue to practice with me to get better and stronger. In a sense, it was a learning experience for me just as much as it was for Abigail.
Angel taught me the things that I didn’t know, but there wasn’t much of that. Over the last few weeks, I had to work much harder than ever before. Angel wanted me to take the chair before his next birthday. He said he didn’t want to have to go through the big birthday bash.
Apparently, it was a tradition that the person in the chair have a birthday party. Can’t say I was happy to hear that. There were other parties too. When I took the chair, there would be a party for that as well. The Latin Kings were pretty much a monarchy, but an illegal one, and it didn’t run a country. It just ran the Latin Kings.
Some of our business associates weren’t happy about me taking over the chair. They preferred that Angel keep it. Angel said this was normal, and it would take time for them to grow accustom to me and how I do things.
Relationships would now be my choice and mine alone. What we dealt would be my choice as well. Mom, Dad, Carlos, and Angel worked hard to walk me through the past of the Latin King family—who ran it and what they dealt. Carlos took us out of drug-running—Mom and Angel never went back to the drugs.
Drugs caused a lot of wars for the Latin Kings. They said drugs were my choice, but I didn’t want that kind of scene. Bombs and guns were enough. Not to mention, we sometimes smuggled immigrants into America and made them legal without the government knowing. We also created fake ID’s, birth certificates, and social security cards, but that was Darren’s job, not mine. Darren could hack into government computers and programs, so we would never be taken by surprise if we got a warrant or anything like that.
Austin and Carley’s kids, who were a couple of years younger than me, would be working beneath me too.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan. Well, almost everything.
Angel walked into the study with me on his heels. “Look, I know the first encounter wasn’t good, okay? You have to understand that they just aren’t used to you. It’ll take time for them to grow accustom to you, is all. Plenty of them like you. The French and the Russian are just grouchy fuckers—they don’t like change.”
“And what the hell do I do if one of them tries to take me out because they don’t want me to take the chair. Even Mom and Dad know it’s a possibility. Relationships end all the time when a new person takes over,” I said.
Angel sat down in his chair with a nonchalant attitude. Everything seemed to bounce off Angel. He rarely lets things get to him or ruin his good humor. “And if they start shit with you, we will retaliate, and that’ll be the end of the relationship. Honestly, Andrew, what you’re worried about isn’t what you should be worried about. What you should be worried about isn’t what you’re worried about.”
“What should I be worried about?”
“Be worried about the future of the Latin Kings. You need to think about what you’re doing differently or better for the Kings—that is what will make you a successful leader.” Angel poured a cup of bourbon and handed it to me.
“So, we have to live here until I retire?” I asked. I sank down onto the red velvet couch and sipped the alcohol in my glass.
“No, man, you don’t have to. It’s a nice place, though, but if you want something bigger or smaller, you can have that. If you want to run things from here and live separate from here, you can. It’s easier to run things from your house, though. Depending on who you ask, I suppose.” Angel sat down beside me and sipped his alcohol.
“Tomorrow, it is all yours. I’m moving out tomorrow and signing over everything. I’ll take a good portion, and I’ll be here for a few weeks to be sure you transition easily. The day after tomorrow is the party. After that, Mia and I are going on vacation.”
“So, what you’re saying is unlike the rest, you’re going to enjoy your retirement?” I smirked.
Angel chuckled. “We’ll see how it goes. You need to meet up with the Russian mafia. Andrei shouldn’t cause you problems.”
I sighed and stood up. “I’ll take Bruno and Vic,” I said. They were both sons of Austin. More would start beneath me next week.
“Andrea too,” Angel suggested.
Andrea and I grew quite close, but our moments together were sometimes strange, unusual, and awkward. Andrea and I were so much like each other that it made things weird. Sometimes it seemed that we knew what the other was thinking. It’s like first meeting someone you don’t know, and suddenly you understand them and know them instantly, without thinking about it. This left our parents to believe that Andrea and I would make good partners and that we would work well together.
Bruno and Vic met up with us at the warehouse where we would meet Andrei and his men. Andrei isn’t one that I met before. He apparently had been out of the country and over in Russia doing business for quite some time, though I met his second in command, Dmitriy.
Andrea stayed close beside me. Bruno stood beside Andrea, and Vic stood on my other side.
“Don’t let them intimidate you, Andy. That is the main thing,” Andrea said. Her long black hair blew out behind her.
I clenched my jaw and nodded. I held a strong stance. People never intimidated me easily and even less now than before—for I am the son of Ace and Aria Garcia, and I knew about their history with the Kings.
Two navy blue Cadillac Escalades rolled to a stop not far from where we parked. Several men got out and walked toward us. The one I assumed to be Andrei had black hair and blue eyes. He stood tall and had a muscular build. Dmitriy looked almost childlike next to the man. All of the men were built like wrestlers, but they all dressed in suits.
“Andrew, isn’t it? My name is Andrei,” he said in a stiff tone.
“Andrei, I believe you have already met my sister Andrea. These are Vic and Bruno, my cousins.” I gestured to the others.
“Of course,” Andrei said. “Sons of Austin Garcia, yes?”
Vic gave one solid nod but didn’t speak.
“Well, let’s get to it. The thing is, Andrew, I’ve been dealing with your eldest brother for quite a time. He’s been loyal and trustworthy. However, I have my doubts about you. Don’t think I won’t be paying attention. If you screw me, I will hunt you down,” Andrei said.
“There won’t be any of that. My family has been good to you, Andrei. That won’t change. Of course, as long as you continue to be loyal to us,” Andrea said.
“There is quite a bit of talk on the streets that the new Latin King boy doesn’t have the faintest idea what he is doing. Let me advise you to watch your back,” Andrei said coldly. The way he looked at me was like he wanted to decapitate me where I stood.
“You might want to watch your back if you continue to speak to me like that. I can make new relations elsewhere. The money you bring me isn’t of a great amount, I can assure you of that. You’re not one of our greater relations,” I snapped.
One of Andrei’s men sneered at me.
Andrei raised a hand and smirked. “Son, pick and choose your battles carefully.” Andrei lit a cigar. Dmitriy threw a bag of money to our feet, and the men grabbed the small bag of artillery. I wasn’t lying when I told him he wasn’t one of our greater relations. There were plenty of others who we dealt with for years with no problems that bought a greater amount.
The men climbed back into the vehicles and sped away from the building. Dust rose through the air as the tires kicked up the gravel.
“He’s going to be a problem,” Vic said.
“A lot of them are. Last week I got into a fight with the French,” I muttered. “The week before that, the Japanese held a gun to my head—that was after we worked out our last problem.”
“Transitions never go over lightly, Andrew,” Andrea said softly. “We’ll work through it. Come on, let’s go home. We have to be up early tomorrow morning.”
“Guys, come over tomorrow. There will be a meeting,” I told Vic and Bruno.
“We’ll be there,” Bruno said. Bruno and Vic left first.
Andrea and I slowly made our way to the car. Andrea climbed into the passenger’s seat, and I climbed into the driver’s seat. The car rumbled to life.
“Sometimes. . .” I trailed off and shook my head. I put the car in drive and sped up the road.
Before I made it to the highway, Andrea spoke. “You don’t know that you made the right decision by taking the chair?” her voice came out barely above a whisper.
My eyes locked with hers. “It’s super creepy when you pick shit out of my head with one word,” I muttered.
“How did you know I was going to say that?”
Andrea sank lower into her seat and watched the city flash past us. “Even though you’re much like Dad, you’re much like Mom too. You have this indecisiveness about you. Dad and I aren’t like that. Once we make a decision, we continue on that path, and we don’t question our choices.”
“You’re the exact definition of ambivalent, Andy,” she said and rolled her eyes. “You’re always questioning your decisions. You obsess over the fact that you might have made the wrong choice. How many times have you chickened out about setting a wedding date with Abigail?”
“Yes, you are.”
“Fine, maybe I have Mom’s indecisiveness, but you have her stubbornness,” I said and stuck my tongue out at her.
Andrea scoffed. “So do you!”
“You really should set a date. How is Abigail supposed to believe you truly want to marry her if you’re afraid to commit?”
“C-commit?” I stammered and looked at her in disbelief. “Andrea, that is a load of shit. I asked her, didn’t I? I live with her. I’m raising her daughter. That doesn’t make sense. Abby knows that I love her. I love her and Stormy more than anyone. I’m not afraid of. . .” I trailed off and huffed in irritation. “That.”
Andrea rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Sure, but maybe you should talk to Abigail just to make sure, you know? Otherwise, she might get tired of waiting for you to decide and leave. Girls don’t like it when a guy can’t commit. It makes them think—” Andrea stopped and grimaced.
“It sounds to me like you would know.” I arched a brow.
“I was engaged once.” She stared out the windshield as if she were in another time and completely lost in thought. “He kept beating around the bush about setting a date, even though he asked me. I confronted him. He told me that he wasn’t sure that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. The next morning, I snuck out of his apartment, and I never saw him again. We had a huge fight that night, and I just went straight to bed. He never came after me or anything.”
“Wow. When did this happen?”
She looked up at me with tears in her eyes that hadn’t quite brimmed over yet. “About a month before you showed up.”
My lips parted in surprise. “I’m sorry. You deserve better than that, and you’ll get better than that one day.”
“Thanks,” she said and smiled.
We made it back to the mansion, and there were a lot of cars parked out front. Andrea and I shared a confused glance.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“Mom and Dad’s car is here. It looks like a lot of the family is here. Maybe it’s a meeting,” Andrea suggested and shrugged.
We climbed out of the car. I stuffed my hands into the pockets of my jeans and walked alongside Andrea. “I don’t think they would call a random meeting.”
“The council will call a meeting when something bad has happened,” Andrea said. She tried to sound nonchalant, but there was a nervous edge in her voice.
What Andrea said was exactly what I was worried about. We took our time going up the front steps—one step at a time. Neither of us wanted to know what waited on the other side.
Being the braver one, I went first and held the door for my sister. Andersen strolled into the foyer and gestured for us to follow him. He led us into the dining room.
Andrea and I let out a sigh of relief at what we saw. The family sat around the dining room, chatting lightly and laughing. They had just started eating dinner. Andrea took an empty chair beside Mom. I took the one between Stormy and Abigail.
“Andy, how did it go?” Mom asked.
“Later, Mama,” Andrea murmured.
Mom and Dad shared a concerned gaze but let the topic drop.
“Hi, daddy,” Stormy said.
“Hey, baby girl,” I said. Abigail didn’t greet me when I sat down, which I thought to be unusual. I looked up at her. Abigail had a very blank expression which only made me more suspicious. Then I got thinking about the things Andrea said to me. It made me wonder if Abigail said something to Andrea. Understanding women wasn’t an expertise of mine, but I knew that girls talked, and I knew Abigail better than I knew anyone.
“Have you two set a wedding date?” Dad asked.
The entire table fell silent.
I gritted my teeth in agitation. Leave it to Dad. His timing is always impeccable good or bad. Abigail dropped her fork, pursed her lips, and looked at Dad, then back at me. She tilted her head. For the first time since I sat down, her eyes met mine. Something in her eyes told me that I was in trouble. Her gaze fell from mine.
“You know, I think getting married on Halloween would be kind of cool,” I said and shrugged.
“Really? I mentioned that a couple of weeks ago, and you didn’t answer,” Abigail said as she stared at her plate. “Um, you know what? I think we’re going to put it off a little while. Andrew has a lot on his plate right now.”
The entire mood in the entire room changed by her words, especially mine. A sinking type of feeling washed over me. It felt like my heart dropped into my stomach. This isn’t what I want. It isn’t what I meant to happen. I love her, and I want to marry her.
“Excuse me,” Abigail said politely and smiled at my parents, but the smile was forced. “I need to give Stormy a bath and get her down.” Abigail grabbed Stormy and left the dining room, with all of us staring after her.
Two butlers on each side of the large wooden double doors opened the doors for Abigail and closed the doors behind her.
As soon as the doors closed, Dad cleared his throat. “Andrew,” Dad said.
I took a ragged breath and looked over at him. I knew what he wanted. I stood up, swallowed hard, and walked out of the room with Dad behind me.
Dad closed the study door behind him harder than necessary. “Boy, what the hell is going on with you?”
I spun around and got defensive almost instantly. “What the hell do you mean me? I’ve done nothing wrong,” I spat. I threw my arms in the air and let them drop. “Why the fuck do women got to read into every little thing a fucking man does, huh? Answer me that.”
Dad pursed his lips, and humor danced in his eyes. His entire demeanor changed. “Hm,” he hmphed and chuckled. “Buddy, all women are like that. I really hope you’re not just realizing this.”
I raked my hands through my hair in irritation, but no words came out of my mouth.
“Andrew, we all know that you have been pushing this wedding date back, but none of us can understand the reason. You do love her, don’t you? It sure as hell seems like it. I don’t think I understand because I never once got cold feet about marrying your mother. As a matter of fact, I was and still am probably a little obsessed with your mother.” Dad tilted his head side to side and chuckled.
“Of course, I love her. Maybe too much,” I murmured. “I want what is best for them, and sometimes I don’t feel like I am. Not only that, but I’m a fucked-up person with a very fucked-up life. I don’t know how to trust someone to stick around. Maybe. . .” I trailed off.
“Maybe you’re afraid she will leave you one day?”
“Well,” I said and shrugged. “Why the hell not? Everyone else did. All my life, I believed I wasn’t worthy of anything or anyone. Being dead would be better than being Hayden Crowley. The monster. The boy who killed his family. I’ll forever live with that and the fact that I didn’t save them. I can’t just turn it off. The cops cleared me, but I know a lot of people still think I did it.”
“You’re not Hayden. You’re not even the same boy who landed on our doorstep months ago. Hayden is gone, and you need to bury him once and for all. You never were that person, Andrew. You were dealt something horrible, but you have to get past it, or you won’t ever trust Abigail or anyone for that matter. Boy, if you’re marrying that girl, you have to trust her a hundred percent.”
I nodded and shoved my hands in my pockets. “I guess.”
“Women are pretty simple, Andrew. You have a good woman. Any fool can see that. She loves you and her daughter. She works hard and can’t stand sitting for a long length of time. She’s smart, strong, brave, and caring. But your woman has to know that you love her and truly want to be with her. She needs to know that she can trust you and that you trust her. You have to be good with her, and you can’t shut her out, or you will lose her.”
“How many times did you go through this with Mom?”
Dad chuckled and wiggled his eyebrows. “Buddy, your mother was a pain in the ass. She’s stubborn, hard-headed, and she can’t stand lies or dishonesty. There will never be another woman quite like her, and she was worth it. Your mother and I never had it easy. You better get your ass upstairs before you don’t have a bride.”
“She’s pissed at me,” I muttered and sauntered for the door.
Dad chuckled. “Better pull your head out of your ass really fast then.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I muttered.
As I started up the stairs, I noticed my mother making her way down them.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Were you with Abby?”
Mom smiled. “I think you better go talk to her.”
The last few weeks hadn’t been easy. We rarely saw each other, and if we did, it seemed to be right before we fell asleep. Transitions like this were huge and weren’t easy on the ones involved.
Part of me wondered if I should get a cup to protect my nuts. As brave as I was, I wasn’t too brave when it came to my future wife—that is, if she will still marry me.
Abigail sat on the edge of the bed and stared out the window as if she was in a trance. Her position didn’t change the slightest from my entrance.
Abigail jumped slightly and looked up at me. “Oh, hi.”
“Hi,” I said. “I would have come up sooner, but I was talking to Dad.”
“Your mom was in here.”
“I kind of figured that.”
Abigail gripped the blanket and stared at down at it. Her eyebrows were knitted close together.
“Bebé, I didn’t mean for it to seem like I didn’t. . .”
“Like you didn’t want to get married?” Abigail’s eyes locked with mine. A heavy judgment clouded her eyes.
“It’s not like that—”
“It’s not? Andy, you cringe at the word wedding.”
“I don’t like big events.”
“You don’t want to talk about the wedding at all. Aria and Andrea have been all over me about a wedding date, but every time I ask you, you act as if I never spoke. It’s okay if you don’t want to get married, Andy, but I wish you hadn’t asked me if you weren’t sure—”
“I am sure,” my voice came out louder than usual, and an awkward silence followed.
“I don’t think—”
“You’re wrong, Abby. I’m sure that I love you. I’m sure that I don’t want anyone else.”
“Don’t tell me that there is nothing wrong. I know you better than that,” she said stubbornly.
I sauntered over to the bed. I put my hands on each side of her thighs, and my face hovered over hers. “It’s hard for me to accept the idea that someone as incredible as you could love someone as screwed up as I am, okay? I was scared that you would leave me because everyone has left me or hurt me.”
Her lips parted, and she shook her head.
“But that was stupid,” I continued. “I trust you, and I think if you were going to leave me for being screwed up, you would have by now. So, I’m going to stop being worried or indecisive about getting married. I love you. I’m going to marry you, and nothing is going to get in the way of that. Halloween.”
“Okay, but you’re not allowed to wear some dorky costume, no costumes at all,” she murmured and smiled.
“First of all, if I were going to wear a costume, it would be far from dorky. Secondly, I’m a little disappointed about that because I was hoping you would go as a stripper,” I said and wiggled my eyebrows.
“Andy!” Abby squealed and smacked my chest.
“What?” I said and backed away.
She pounced off the bed like a tiger and tackled me to the floor.
I grabbed her wrists and flipped us. She laid on her back with her legs wrapped around my waist and her hands locked in one of mine. “Ever since you told me about the stripper thing, I have been dying for a lap dance.”
She threw me off her I helped her off the floor. Her hands pressed against my chest, and she pushed me into one of the chairs then disappeared into the closet.
“Bebé, I was only kidding. Don’t be mad,” I called. I started to get up, but the music started to blare through the Bluetooth sound system in the bedroom.
When Abigail walked out of the closet, I fell back into my seat in shock. “God damn,” I grunted and licked my lips. She came toward me in nothing but a thong. A few feet away, she got down on the floor and crawled toward me with an innocent expression, and every time she wore that expression, it put me in a different kind of mood. “You’re naughty as fuck.”
She smiled as she pushed my legs apart and crawled into my lap with her breasts in my face.