Authors: Laura Marie
Gustavo began talking to one of the officials and passed over the passports. The higher-up eyed her, giving her a small smile before solely focusing on Gustavo. Her insides shook with fear as she looked forward. Just across the road was considered official U.S. soil. She would be home in her own country in a matter of seconds. The anticipation was unnerving and emotional. She swallowed the tears and took a small breath, unable to take a full one yet. Not until they were safe.
Elloisa noticed that the higher-up and Gustavo had a quick conversation with little nods. Her throat was so dry she wanted to cough, but she didn’t want to bring more attention to herself. Her stomached growled. It had been a long time since she had eaten. As Gustavo spoke to the officials, Elloisa glanced around her. Another security officer eyed her suspiciously. In fact, it appeared as if he snarled at her. That bad, creepy feeling consumed her as she instantly thought about Armando. The guard nodded his head, and Elloisa followed his line of sight towards another guard. That one was speaking on a cell phone. Uncertain of what to do, she moved closer to Gustavo, and simultaneously, he took her arm as the sound of a car approaching caught her attention. It was black with tinted windows, a Mercedes, and she swallowed again as the headlights turned on. Squinting against the glare from the lights, Gustavo pulled the Jeep across the security check and up the road. He parked behind the Mercedes. “Let’s go,” he told her then quickly took her hand and led her towards the car.
She was grateful that he held her close. Exhaustion was kicking in, and even she was amazed that she hadn’t passed out yet. She knew she couldn’t. At least until she was certain that she was safe.
He guided her by the arm, the back passenger door opened, and a second later, they were all driving down the highway.
* * * *
The smell of the leather upholstery mixed with perspiration and cologne filled her senses. By the looks of the shadowed beards that appeared on each of the men’s faces, they had been waiting for her and Gustavo awhile.
Two men sat in the front seat, and Gustavo and another man sat on either side of her in the back.
The men eyed her then smiled. She wondered what the hell was going on as she glanced back toward the guarded posts at the border. The tinted windows blocked a clear view. She leaned closer to Gustavo and whispered.
“The guards at the posts—”
“It’s okay. You’re safe now,” he whispered back.
The man in the passenger seat spoke on a cell phone.
“Yes, sir, he got her across. She’s safe, and she’s with us. Okay, sir, we’ll continue to follow the plan.” He hung up the phone.
Gustavo pulled off his hat and jacket.
Elloisa pulled off the habit and looked at Gustavo. They exchanged a meaningful look. She was grateful he was with her, but he seemed unemotional that they made it across alive.
* * * *
“Hey, Montoya, great job, and just in the nick of time, too. He’s on her tail and too close for comfort.”
“Miss Givani, I’m Agent Franks. This is Agent Perkins.” He motioned towards the driver. “That’s Agent Monroe, and you’ve already met Special Agent Montoya. We work for the Drug Enforcement Agency. You had us all worried for a while, ma’am. We never thought you’d try and escape on your own, never mind make it across those mountains and that desert. Very impressive.”
“No thanks to any of you!” she blurted out, and they appeared taken aback by her anger.
“What do you suddenly want from me, and where are you taking me?” she demanded. Gus cleared his throat and looked at her with his eyebrows raised. He thought she was pretty damn tough for such a petite little thing. She was obviously in great physical condition and must be strong as hell to survive more than a year as Armando’s prisoner. If she really was. Gustavo still questioned her sincerity. Was she a prisoner, or did she enjoy his company?
It annoyed him to think about her with Armando, and the thought of the man touching her, possessing her, really pissed Gustavo off. Now that he had been by Elloisa’s side during her escape, he felt a bit possessive himself. He took a deep breath and tried to eliminate the foolish thought by focusing on the other agents.
They explained their investigation a little and tried to make her more comfortable.
* * * *
“We’re headed to the airport then to New York,” Agent Franks stated, and she eyed each agent, not bothering to hide her scrutiny. They were dressed casually, in jeans and sweatshirts. Each of them carried a sidearm, just like Gustavo.
“I’m sure you can’t wait to see your family,” Agent Franks stated, and Elloisa shot him a look as if he’d insulted her.
“What did you say?”
“Your family, Miss. They will be thrilled to know you made it across.”
“My family is dead,” she replied, and Gustavo heard her voice crack. The agents eyed one another. Gustavo was shocked at her response. He turned towards her.
“Elloisa, what are you talking about? Your family is alive.”
Elloisa covered her mouth with her hand. The tears emerged and Gustavo heard the deep swallow she made in her throat. “Mathew…Daddy…Ma…” She couldn’t complete her sentence.
“Yes, Elloisa, they’re all alive and well,” Monroe added and smiled.
She cried out, covering her face in her hands. She sounded like she couldn’t breathe and was gasping for air. She was weak, exhausted, and news like this was shocking.
Gustavo spoke to her. His tone was soft and consoling.
“Calm down, Elloisa, it’s all right. Everything is going to be just fine,” he told her and she dried her eyes, tried to regain her composure as she stared straight ahead out the windshield.
No one spoke for a few moments.
“He told me they were dead…that they were all dead, there was nothing…no one to come back to. My God, it’s been…My God!” she whispered. The sound of her cracking voice bothered him.
Everyone in the car was silent, including Gustavo. His heart ached for Elloisa and the fact that she had thought her family was dead. Armando had tricked her, or at least that’s what she wanted them to believe. Trust never came easy for him, and it wouldn’t change because of this woman sitting next to him.
He looked forward as the car came to a red light. The other agents looked just as taken aback at Elloisa’s outburst of sadness and shock.
He glanced around the area, noting their location, which wasn’t quite the route he thought they should be going. If they continued straight, they would be circling back towards the Mexican border.
“Where are you going?” he asked Perkins who was driving.
“Yeah, where the hell are you going, Perk? We’re supposed to be headed north,” Franks said, but Perkins ignored him and made a quick left then a right.
“Stop the fucking car,” Franks yelled, and Gustavo pulled Elloisa closer to him.
“We’re being followed,” Perkins finally responded, glancing into the rearview and side mirrors.
Gustavo took in his demeanor, and his gut told him the agent was lying. Gus looked behind them and to the side of them. They just passed the center of town and were headed to the outskirts. There wouldn’t be any cover if there was gunfire.
“Stay in the city!” Gustavo yelled.
Suddenly a low rider appeared around the corner in front of them. “Look out!” Franks yelled as Perkins nearly hit the vehicle head-on.
Shots were fired. Men were pouring out of the vehicle firing upon them.
Elloisa screamed as Gustavo shoved open the passenger door.
“Stay down!” he yelled as the other agents returned fire, except for Perkins, who had been instantly shot and killed.
* * * *
Bullets hit the building in front of them. Innocent people on the streets yelled and screamed. The innocent people scattered around them as Gustavo pulled her along with him between two buildings.
Concrete and stucco flew through the air, hitting Elloisa and Gustavo as they ran for cover.
She gripped his hand tightly as he pulled her along with him and away from the gunfight.
Elloisa’s heart pounded in her chest, but she kept up with Gustavo and ran side by side with him.
“Fuck if I know. We’ve got to get you off of the street.”
Elloisa looked around them. “There!” she pointed to a small indoor mall with numerous clothing stores, restaurants, and boutiques.
“There’s only one way in and one way out,” he countered.
“But there are clothing stores. We need disguises, to change clothes so we can get the hell out of this town.”
In the distance, they heard sirens, and the gunfight was over. He pulled her into the alley just as the tires squealed and the car headed towards them.
After pulling Elloisa into a little cove between a rack of clothing and the wall of the store, he pressed his body against hers and covered her head. There was barely enough room for them as Elloisa sucked in her breath and held it. “Oh God, Gustavo,” she whispered and he held her tight as he watched the low rider slowly drive through the alley.
He was confident that they were well-hidden, but his heart still pounded in his chest.
“Shhhh…” he whispered above her head as the car filled with Hispanic men passed by the alley with guns pointed out the windows.
From where he stood, he could see the red bandannas signifying a local drug gang, Los caminantes de noche, or night walkers. They were known to do their dirtiest work at night.
Why were they after Elloisa?
They were silent until he could no longer hear or see the car. Moments later a police cruiser passed.
Elloisa was crying. He felt the wetness against his chest and her heart pounding against his ribs. She was scared and rightfully so. The incident they just experienced was too fucking close and exactly why he wanted to get her to New York his way.
He rubbed her arms and caressed her hair.
They locked gazes as a gentle breeze pressed between them.
“I’m not going to make it home, am I?” she asked in a quivering voice.
Gustavo cupped her face between his hands, tilting it up towards him.
The sight of her red, swollen eyes and quivering lip pulled at his gut. She was a strong woman, but this latest attempt on her life would surely break even the strongest of people. Even he was angry, frustrated, and about at his wits’ end.
“Listen to me, Elloisa. I will get you home. You will make it to see your family, I promise you.”
She closed her eyes, and the tears rolled down her cheeks. She was a gorgeous woman, and the thought of kissing her lips, taking some of her fear away, entered his mind. He closed his eyes and willed the desire away. He couldn’t get that close to her. He was a soldier, and this was only an assignment.
Using his thumb to wipe away the stray tears, he smiled at her.
“I am good at what I do. All you have to do is listen to me and follow my orders and we will get out of this. Okay?” he asked, and she nodded her head.
Gustavo pulled her close against his chest, hugging her one last time. He knew it was a stupid thing to do, but considering that his body and mind wanted to do more than just hug her, he gave in to the little moment of pleasure.
* * * *
“If she gets across, Armando, do you want me to kill her?” Avalar asked over the phone. He leaned back in his chair and smiled at the possibility of having Elloisa in his custody. Crazy thoughts went through his mind.
“No, I don’t want you to kill her. I want her alive. If I have to, I will cross the border and come get her myself. Isn’t anyone capable of killing the agents and bringing me back my woman?” Armando asked. He was angry and Avalar knew it. Elloisa was his world. There was no man other than Ramos that was allowed within sniffing distance of Elloisa. Avalar couldn’t blame him. She was quite the specimen of femininity. And so very intelligent and obviously resourceful.
He would take pleasure in capturing her and having some fun. Perhaps Avalar would let Armando think she was dead. He laughed to himself.
“What about the factory? Any updates on when production can start? I’ve invested millions as it is,” Armando asked.
“It’s looking real good. I think we’ll be in business by the end of this week. I’ve been pushing.”
“I hope so. It’s taken enough time. I’m losing money, and now I’ll have to spend more if your people can’t get me my Elloisa back.”
“We will try our hardest, Armando. I have some men patrolling the borders. Any sign of a young woman traveling alone, and they’ll notify me.”
“Good. Keep me posted, and in the meantime, plan on me arriving within the next few weeks. I’d like to resolve this issue myself.”
* * * *
The last twenty-four hours had been emotional torture for Mathew’s family. As the news broadcasted information on the massacre in Mexico, they began to lose hope that Elloisa survived.
Jack turned up the volume as the broadcaster repeated the information.
“It is confirmed that fifty men and ten women were killed in this bloody massacre by a gang called the Rojo. Violence has increased across the border between US and Mexico since the separation of the Rojo from a smaller drug gang. It is believed that the Rojo gang has one of the largest cartels and that the cartel expands all the way through Central America. The Mexican government has confirmed similar occurrences on a much smaller scale where migrants running the gauntlet faced extortion and death. Sometimes their family members in the States are called to pay ransoms to save these emigrants lives.”