The Bad Things

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Epilogue: Twenty Years Later

ACE’S POV

Mom stopped me in the hall. “Ace, where were you last night? You look a mess,” she said as her eyes swept over me.

“Where is Dad at?” I asked.

She sighed. “He’s in the study, but I wouldn’t go in there, Ace. He’s unhappy with you. You were supposed to be preparing your speech last night.”

“Stormy is going to help me do it, Mom. Don’t worry. I’ll still get it done.” I pecked her cheek.

Mom chuckled and caressed my cheek. “Grandpa is here too. You look and act so much like him,” she said and smiled. She walked past me and headed for the foyer.

I turned eighteen a week ago, and it was my turn to take the chair soon. My older sisters Nina and Natalie wanted to be the head of designing clothes for our clothing stores. Stormy would be graduating from law school soon, and I would help her open a law firm. My other siblings were still a little young to pitch in much. My father, Andrew Garcia, had been on edge about the chair exchange because there was so much that happened in that short amount of time. Part of me figured he thought I wasn’t ready, but I was.

“Dad,” I said when I entered the study.

“Boy, where the hell were you? Your mother was worried sick,” Dad said.

Grandpa chuckled. “And so was your father.”

Dad rolled his eyes at my grandpa Ace.

“Just calling it like I see it, son,” Grandpa said.

“Hey, Papa,” I said and smiled.

Dad’s phone rang. He grabbed it and spoke in a slur of quick Spanish. He hung up and pointed at me. “Stay put. We need to talk, but I got something to take care of first.”

“Yes, sir,” I said. I plopped down beside Grandpa. “So, how’s it going?”

Grandpa shrugged. “I’m still kickin’.” His eyes gazed around the room, and he smiled. “Many memories in this room.” His eyes stopped on a picture of him and Grandma in their younger years when Uncle Angel was still a baby. Grandpa frowned, and his forehead creased.

“Are you okay, Grandpa?” I asked and leaned closer to him.

He swallowed hard and nodded. “Boy, what I would give to be with your grandmother right now. But I’m just happy that she went out from old age and didn’t die at a young age. I’m satisfied with dying of ripe old age.” Grandpa forced a smile, but the truth of his words clouded his eyes.

“I’m sorry, Grandpa. It must be hard. We all miss Grandma too.” My grandmother, Aria Garcia, died about a month ago from old age. She went peacefully in her sleep while Grandpa had been out of town on business with my dad. “Can I ask you something?”

Grandpa looked at me with blurred eyes. “Hmm?”

“Do you ever regret some of the choices you made when it came to her?” I asked, feeling awkward.

Grandpa smiled. “Girl problems?”

“There are these two girls. One likes me, but I’m not into her, and the one I like doesn’t seem to be into me, so I sort of slept with the one that I’m not into,” I admitted. “That doesn’t make much sense, does it?”

Grandpa chuckled and shook his head. “Boy, if you could possibly sound anymore like me at that age. . .” he trailed off. “I believe history repeats itself sometimes.”

I smiled and waited for his answer.

“I don’t regret anything with your grandma. We made our fair share of mistakes with each other, but it made us stronger and more understanding of each other. You can’t force a girl to like you, but don’t assume that she doesn’t. Women have a way of hiding those things to avoid getting hurt.”

I sighed. “Dad thinks maybe you blame him for what happened with Grandma. Like if he hadn’t dragged you out of town, she might still be alive. Do you feel that way?”

“Your dad didn’t drag me anywhere. I don’t do things I don’t want to do. I’m stubborn like that. I think knowing she died while I was away made it easier. I think if I had been the one who found her. . .it would have been harder,” he said. “I carry her in my heart every second of every day, and when it’s my time, I hope to be with her again. It’s hard going home and her not being there, but it’s part of life. We live, and we die. Grandma and I lived a long, fulfilling, happy life together, and that’s all a person can really ask for.” Grandpa smiled and seemed genuinely pleased.

“You definitely created a long bloodline,” I teased.

Grandpa smirked.

I pursed my lip as I debated something. “There will never be anyone like you and Grandma. You know that, right? You two are legends to the Kings. I mean, you two pretty much rewrote the book and made it your own.”

Grandpa winked and smiled. “But that’s all it takes to be a true legend, boy. You got to be willing to fight for what you want and what you believe, even if that means breaking the rules and rewriting them.”

“So, if I pushed the Kings in a different direction, do you think people would be angry?”

“Without a doubt, but don’t let that stop you because if something as petty as other people’s anger can stop you, you’re going to spend your life getting beat down in the dirt. You do what you have to do. We all have to face repercussions. It’s not about that. It’s how we deal with it,” Grandpa said. “You’ll find your way, and if you’re fortunate, some girl is going to come along and push you in the right direction.”

I took in the words he spoke and clung to his advice in a way I never had before. Everything he said rang with such fierceness and certainty that it couldn’t be doubted or questioned.

Grandpa stood up as Dad walked into the study.

Dad tilted his head at Grandpa. “Are you leaving, Dad? We thought you might stay for the party.”

“I have to run home and get ready.” Grandpa hugged Dad before he walked out of the study.

Dad turned to me and sighed. “Have fun last night?”

“I don’t remember last night,” I said truthfully.

Dad shook his head. “You need to get your head on straight if you’re going to take the chair, Ace.”

“My head is on straight, okay? I fucking slipped one night. I went out and got drunk with my friends because I was upset over this—” I stopped and grimaced.

“Girl,” Dad finished.

My eyes flickered to Dad. “How did you know that?”

Dad shrugged. “I know girl problems when I see them,” he said and chuckled. “Go get ready. The party will start soon, and you need that speech ready, or you’ll have to wing it.”

Stormy walked into the study. “Hey, Dad.” Stormy hugged Dad and turned to me. “Ready for that speech?”

“Ready as I’ll ever be,” I said and rolled my eyes.

***

Dad craned his neck and stood on his toes as he looked through the crowd of guests in the foyer. “I don’t fucking get it. Grandpa should be here by now.”

“Maybe we should go find him,” I offered.

“You two can’t leave,” Mom said as she approached. “What’s going on?”

“Just keep everyone distracted for a while, bebé. Ace and I are going to run over to Dad’s place. He should have been here, and he’s not answering,” Dad said.

Mom’s eyes widened with worry. “Okay.”

Dad pulled his keys out of his pocket as we rushed out to the garage. We climbed into his car, and he peeled out of the garage. Dad drifted as he took corners of the driveway too fast. Neither of us said a word, both of us feeling the same concern.

My phone rang. The name Angel flashed across my phone. “Hello?” I answered.

“What’s going on? Abigail said you two left to go find Grandpa,” Angel said worriedly.

“We haven’t made it there yet. I’ll call you when we know something,” I said. I hung the phone up.

Moments later, we drifted into Grandpa’s driveway and jumped out of the car. We were in such a hurry that we didn’t bother to close the doors of the vehicle. Dad jiggled the doorknob, but it was locked.

“Don’t you have a key?” I asked.

“Not on me,” Dad muttered.

“Move back,” I said. Both of us stepped back. I took a deep breath, charged at the door, and kicked the door off its hinges. The door clattered to the floor. “Grandpa!” I yelled as we walked inside.

We searched the entire house. The last room we checked was his bedroom. I swallowed hard as I reached for the doorknob. I already knew what I would find. Dad buried his face in his hands and rubbed his face fiercely.

I entered the bedroom in no real hurry to see what was on the other end of the door. Unfortunately, my suspicion had been right. My grandfather, Ace Carlos Garcia, laid on the bed as unmoving and unchanging as stone. He held something to his chest. Tears built in my eyes as I got closer. I took what he had carefully. It was a picture of my grandmother, Aria Marie Garcia.

Somehow, even in death, my grandfather looked peaceful, just as if he had been asleep from a good dream.

***

Weeks passed since my grandfather’s funeral. Dad wasn’t in good shape the first week. Grandpa left all of us a letter, and I hadn’t read mine, but I would be when I reached my destination. My car slowed to a stop in the parking lot of the beach. Grandpa and Grandma brought us here often when we were kids. Grandpa once told me that he and Grandma spent much of their time here too. The beach wasn’t busy today. A couple in the distance were walking along the shore, and another guy in the opposite direction had his dog on a leash.

I sat down in the sand near the water and opened the envelope in my hand, and unfolded the letter.

Dear Ace,

If you’re reading this letter, that means I have passed away. I wanted you to know that I don’t want you to be sad for Grandma or me. We lived a long, happy life together, and that’s all we truly desired. We were proud to watch all of you kids grow for so long. Your letter is one of the most important because you’re taking the chair. That chair is special, Ace. It can make or break a man. Stay true to yourself, and don’t let greed empower you. I have faith in you that you will live to be legendary just like Carlos, Grandma, Me, Angel, and your father—maybe even more so. Just remember one thing, there will be much to come, good and bad things, but you can handle it, for you are the grandson of Ace and Aria Garcia.

Love Always,

Grandpa

My eyes flickered to the sky, which was growing darker by the minute. I smiled, grateful for my grandfather’s final advice to me. He always had something to say that made me really stop and think about who I am and where I’m headed.

“Hey, Ace,” a soft voice murmured.

I jumped slightly in surprise. “Scarlett?”

“What are you reading?” she asked as she sat beside me and scooted close enough that her perfume struck me like a bolt of lightning.

A shiver rolled down my spine, and I clenched my teeth. “Oh, um, nothing too important,” I said and stuffed the letter back into the envelope. I could kick myself for sleeping with Scarlett’s twin sister. They were fraternal twins, and I didn’t like Sierra’s personality or physical looks the way I did Scarlett.

Scarlett’s black hair blew behind her as she stared curiously at me with baby blue eyes.

I considered that maybe she knew the truth about Sierra and me, but I couldn’t bring myself to ask. It didn’t matter, right? It was just a one-night stand.

“Do you want to go for a walk?” she asked. Her eyes dangerously manipulated mine. Her blue crop top made her eyes pop, and her skin stood out. Her shorts stopped at the upper part of her thigh, and my eyes lingered there without being able to help it. “Or not. . .” she trailed off awkwardly and gazed away.

Damn it, Ace! You’re going to blow your chance, dumbass! “I’d like that,” I said quickly.

Her eyes locked with mine. Uncertainty and surprise darkened them. Her hair blew wildly around her face sticking to her thick red lips as she stood up. She pulled her hair away from her mouth.

We started down the beach and remained quiet, at first. Scarlett stepped closer to me and gave me a sad smile as I talked about my grandfather and how he passed away. Her hand rubbed against mine. Without thinking, I took her hand in mine.

Scarlett stopped and looked down at our hands. She turned to face me and stepped closer. She had to crane her neck back to get a good look at me. “Ace, I missed you since school got out,” she admitted and blushed slightly. “My dad never lets me go anywhere, though. Most of the time, I have to sneak out.”

“Who is your Dad?” I asked curiously.

“Rob Rivera,” she said. “He owns a bunch of different businesses around Los Angeles. The only time I can get away with going out is if he’s not home and he’s too busy tonight to notice I’m gone.”

“Rob Rivera? As in Ricky Rivera’s son?” I asked. My eyebrows knitted together.

“Yeah, how did you know?” she asked. “You must have heard what he did. . .” she trailed off and shivered.

The cluelessness in her eyes took me by surprise. I realized that Scarlett and Sierra must have no idea who their father really is, but I do. It’s impossible not to know those names because they lead the Mexican Mafia, and the Mexican Mafia is our oldest rival.

I dropped her hand like she electrocuted me. “Shit, um, you know what? I forgot I have this dinner meeting with some important business partners. I really need to get home and get ready for it.”

“Business meeting?”

I sighed. “Yeah, I took over the family business, and it’s been chaotic. I’d love to stay, but I can’t.” I leaned in closer to her and pecked her cheek. My mouth was dangerously close to hers, and for a moment, I hated the thought of never getting this chance again. My lips desired so badly to connect with hers. But the Latin Kings have an important rule, one so absolute that the person could be thrown over for it. It’s the only reason the family could throw you over. You can’t hold a relation or crawl into bed with anyone associated with the Mexican Mafia, and I have already broken the rule. “Bye, Scar,” I said.

“Bye, Ace,” she said. She stayed frozen in her tracks as I strode away from her. As hard as I tried not to, I couldn’t help but steal one more desperate glance at her. First and foremost, I’m Ace Carlos Garcia the second, the king of Latin Kings, and this wasn’t acceptable.

THE END

~ Acknowledgements ~

This book wouldn’t have been possible without the fans of this series. A big thank you to anyone and everyone who has read this series.

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