Unveiled (Vargas Cartel #2) (9 page)

BOOK: Unveiled (Vargas Cartel #2)
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He reached for my hand, shaking his head. “Hattie, I had no idea.”

I lifted the gun and waved it in front of me. “I shot him. Blood splattered all over the trees, and I stared into his dead eyes. I’m a murderer.”

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “You’re not a murderer. It was self-defense. Nobody could claim otherwise.”

I shrugged. “A technicality.”

He rubbed his hand back and forth over his lips. “I never wanted to hurt you. You make me sound like an asshole.”

“You did that all by yourself.”

“Dammit, Hattie. If I had any idea what would happen, I wouldn’t have agreed.”

“Then you’re a fucking idiot. What did you expect when you used me as collateral in your father’s sick cover-up ploy?”

“That I’d find a way to make you love me again. That you’d see how much I love you and give me another chance. That you’d realize I’d always be there for you.”

“Yeah, and how did that work out for you?” I snarled through clenched teeth. Every word out of my mouth fed my anger. I felt like a wild animal about to sink my teeth into my prey.

He bowed his head. “Not as expected, but maybe with more time—”

“No,” I screamed. My hand itched to pull the trigger. Crazed thoughts rolled through my mind one after another. I was a lunatic and Evan was delusional. “Never. We’re done. The next time you fuck with my life, I’ll kill you. I won’t even hesitate.”

He closed his hand over the barrel of the gun, and I jerked it away. Our eyes locked. Did he ever love me or care about me? Why couldn’t he understand how his selfishness nearly destroyed me? He said he didn’t mean to hurt me, but I didn’t believe him. I gawked at him, momentarily fooling myself into thinking if I looked hard enough, I’d be able to unravel his convoluted thoughts, or make sense of the madness, but I didn’t see anything.

“Let me earn your trust again,” he whispered, eyeing me carefully.

Bitterness whipped through my body. “I don’t trust you. I’ll never trust you. You don’t understand the difference between the truth and a lie. You’re a pathological liar and the son of a pathological liar. There’s no hope for you.”

“And you trust him?” he sneered.

“Who?”

He paused for a fraction, shifting his weight to his heels as he contemplated his answer. “Ryker Vargas.”

I gnawed on the inside of my cheek. “It’s none of your business. My life doesn’t concern you.”

“I don’t know what he did to you, Hattie, but you can’t trust him. I regret inviting that sick fuck into our life. He changed you. You’re not the same anymore.”

I dropped my hand to my side, and the gun brushed against my leg. “No shit,” I mocked. “Imagine that. My boyfriend arranges to have me abducted by a drug cartel, and he questions why I’m not the same naïve person when I return home.”

“He’ll destroy you.”

“He’s not going to hurt me.” I dropped my voice to a whisper, questioning the sanity of my words. “I trust him to keep me safe.”

“Safe?” His eyebrows scaled his forehead as he moved his head from side to side. “What do you really know about Ryker Vargas?”

I tipped up my chin and smirked. “A lot more than you do, and he wouldn’t lie to me, unlike you and your father.”

“Are you serious?” he countered, his voice dark, dripping with venom. “We’ve known each for a long time. You’re a smart girl. Think about what you’re saying. He’s the son of a drug lord. He has multiple identities. Do you know how he makes most of his money?”

“As a campaign bundler,” I answered with a smile, trying to cover the thread of unease in my voice.

He snorted. “No. That’s just his little side hobby to mask his real identity. He’s a political fixer.”

“A fixer,” I echoed. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“He’s a backroom operator who cleans up inconvenient messes for the privileged people who can afford his services.”

“What kind of messes?”

Evan smirked, his brown eyes inky and narrowed in malice. “Dead bodies that need to disappear. Money transfers between criminal organizations and politicians. Bribing judges. Bribing lawmakers. All jobs a lawyer can’t handle without stepping over the line.”

Pain boomeranged through my body, and my upper eyelid twitched. “I don’t believe you.”

“How do you think my father found him? Why do you think he facilitated your abduction?”

“I don’t care,” I answered, stepping around him and walking to the door. I needed to get away from Evan and clear my head. “Just stay out my life. We’re done.”

My words didn’t come out as forceful as I had wanted, but I couldn’t find the energy to care. In the last few minutes, the anger had drained from my body. Undoubtedly, some amazing closing comments would float through my mind in a few hours, but at that instant, the right words eluded me.

“Wait,” he called after me. “I found a pregnancy test hidden in the bathroom cabinet.”

“So what?” I clutched the cold metal door handle in a death grip to steady my shaking hands. I had wondered if he found it, and I just got my answer.

“Are you pregnant?”

My shoulders sagged. Another blow and my battle-weary heart would shatter like glass. “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

He moved closer to me, his footsteps a faint shuffle against the dark hardwood floors. “It wouldn’t matter to me. We’d figure it out. If that’s why you’re with him, you don’t have to—”

“No need to fall on your sword, Evan. Like I said, I don’t want anything from you, except for you to leave me alone.” I slammed the door behind me without looking back, enjoying the jarring finality of the sound. I wished I could believe this conversation would be the end of Senator Deveron and Evan’s meddling in my life, but I wasn’t a wide-eyed, gullible woman who believed in fairy tales, unicorns, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not anymore.

A toxic mixture of melancholy and fury wrapped like thorns around my chest, twisting and twisting until I couldn’t breathe. I had always known there was more to Ryker than his front as a campaign bundler. He was intimately familiar with the inner workings of the Vargas Cartel. He knew how to use a gun. He knew how to fight dirty. Part of me hoped if I ignored reality, it’d go away. We could ride off into the sunset and pretend none of it existed. A big happily ever after, but I guess people didn’t get those in real life. Real life was full of half-truths, disappointments, and out-and-out lies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

Ryker

 

I was so sick of this shit. This was it. My last job. When my business cell rang at six o’clock in the morning, I didn’t want to answer it. I wanted to stay with Hattie. Fortunately for my asshole client, I never quit in the middle of a job before, and I refused to start now. It’d leave the possibility of another enemy, and God knows, after the fallout with Senator Deveron, I had one more enemy than I needed already.

I parked my car one block from the gym where Representative Houser exercised from six to seven thirty every weekday. His routine never varied, which benefited people like me. I always cautioned my clients against being too predictable. It gave bad actors openings to take advantage of you.

I grabbed the black baseball cap from the passenger seat and put it on, pulling the brim down low enough to disguise my features on any cameras. I walked around to the side of the building where Representative Houser exited the building. I didn’t understand why he didn’t use the front door, but I refused to question my luck.

Representative Houser opened the door, his head down staring at his phone. What a jackass. For someone over his head in backroom deals, he should pay more attention to his surroundings. Backroom deals had a way of going bad quickly, at least in my experience.

Before he turned the corner to the parking lot behind the building, I wrapped my arm around his neck from behind him, eliminating the possibility he’d get a good look at my face.

“What the hell?” he yelled, scratching my arm.

“Shut the hell up and listen.” I removed my gun from the holster under my coat and pressed it into the side of his head with my free arm.

“What do you want? My wallet is in my back pocket. Take it and leave me alone. I won’t call the police.”

“I don’t want your fucking wallet.”

He elbowed me in the side, and I rammed him face first into the brick wall. “Try that again, asshole, and you’ll have a lot of explaining to do when you show up at work tomorrow with a black and blue face.” I was tempted to do exactly as I threatened. He wouldn’t be the first member of Congress to make up a story to explain getting the shit beat out of him as a result of his double-dealing.

“Don’t do it. Don’t hurt me,” he said, sniffling like a fucking baby. “Just tell me what you want.”

A dark, bitter laugh escaped my mouth. “I’m definitely going to leave you with a few bruises, but if you cooperate, all of them won’t be on your face.”

“I’ll cooperate.”

“Then, why are you planning to vote for the cyber security bill tomorrow?”

He groaned. “Tell them I’m sorry, but I changed my mind. I can’t help your client. I’m getting too much pressure.”

I grinded my gun against the back of his head and tightened my arm around his throat. “It doesn’t work that way. You took their money.”

“I can’t do it.” He shook his head. “I’m getting squeezed from both sides and I need to go with my conscience.”

“You don’t have a conscience.” I banged his head against the wall again. Blood splattered on my shirt, and the metallic odor flooded my senses. Fucking hell. I’d have to burn this shirt. “You solicited and accepted bribes from both sides.”

“I didn’t,” he protested, spitting a mixture of saliva and blood near my feet.
Asshole.
“I would never do that.”

I punched him in the kidney. He’d be lucky if he weren’t pissing blood tonight. “Don’t lie.”

“I’m not. I promise. I changed my mind. It’s as simple as that.” He repeatedly nodded, as if his word meant something. It didn’t. He had his head shoved so far up the asshole of corruption, he couldn’t see the truth if it kissed him on his shit-stained lips.

“So the hundred fifty thousand dollars that mysteriously landed in your Cayman Islands account five days ago was just a coincidence?”

“How do you know about that?”

“You accepted a bribe to kill this bill from one of the top cyber security firms that also happens to have one of the most infamous hackers on its payroll. Figure it out, dumbass. A few clicks of his more than capable fingers and he uncovered everything. It took him less than thirty minutes.”

He craned he head to look at me, but I crammed his face into the wall.

“Don’t turn around,” I growled. “Keep your eyes glued to the wall and you’ll be just fine.”

“Okay, okay,” he whispered. “What am I supposed to do? Either way I vote, I’m fucked. You’ll kill me, and I don’t want them as an enemy either.”

“Oh, I won’t kill you.” I lived in the shadows, but I wasn’t a murderer. I only killed in self-defense.

“You won’t?” he said, his body drooping with relief. What a pansy.

“No. I have something far worse planned.”

Tremors wracked his body, but I didn’t have any compassion for him. He tried to play both sides. One bribe wasn’t sufficient. Greedy bastard. “Return their money. Unwind the deal.”

“I can’t. I spent the money.”

“I know you did. I know all about your gambling habit.”

“You do?” he mumbled.

“Yes. I know you have a nice pay to play scheme going. I know you finance a half a million dollar a year gambling addiction by accepting bribes from anyone and everyone. You’ve been bought and sold so many times, you’re worse than a dollar hooker.”

“Only if their interests align with my beliefs.”

“Your capacity for self-denial is almost as pathetic as your inability to control your addiction. What would your constituents think if they found out that while you preached about the need for more laws to stop the erosion of social norms and morals, you couldn’t stop yourself from placing bet after bet all funded in some roundabout way by the American taxpayer?”

“I tried to stop,” he mumbled, snot dripping down his face. It turned my stomach.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what you tried to do. Save it for the media when I expose you for the piece of shit you are.”

“No. No. I’ll find a way to unwind the bribe. I’ll come up with the money, and I’ll vote against that bill.”

I stood behind him as the seconds ticked by, letting him wonder if I believed him. If I’d allow him to go.

“Fine,” I finally said. “But if you double-cross my client again, or if I even hear a single whisper you plan to vote for that bill, all of your dirty secrets will be on the front page of every major newspaper and website in excruciating detail, and not just your habit of taking bribes to fund your gambling addiction.”

“I don’t have any other secrets.”

“You do…lots of them, and I have the pictures to prove it.” I dropped my arm from his neck and slipped my gun into the holster around my waist. I pulled a rope out of my pocket, looped it around one of his wrists and tied the other end to the dumpster. “Wait here ten minutes and then you can leave.”

When I was back in my car, I dialed the number of my contact at the cyber security firm.

“It’s done.”

“Good. The second half of your money will be wired to your account when the bill dies on the House floor tomorrow.”

“Perfect.”

“We have another job for you. It’s in your inbox.”

“No thanks. As of tonight, I’m out of business.”

The man chuckled. “You’re retiring? We both know that won’t happen.”

Hattie’s golden eyes flashed through my mind. I couldn’t live this type of life and have Hattie too. Even though we had an unconventional start, I wanted to make this work. “No. This time I’m out.”

“Okay, you know how to find me if you change your mind.”

I disconnected the phone call without responding. I had no intention of changing my mind.

Twenty minutes later, I opened the door to my apartment. Rever sat on the couch, his eyes glued to the television while he stuffed his face with pizza.

“I guess Hattie’s not here.”

“Nope,” he answered without turning his head.

“When’d she leave?”

“Less than five minutes after you.”

“Did she leave a note?”

Rever picked up a bottle of beer and took a long pull. What happened to his vow to stop drinking? I guess it lasted as long as his bullshit about us being a family. Typical Rever. He’d never change. He only said and did things if they benefited him. He had the emotional depth of a puddle. At least I had my mom to give me a semblance of a real family. From what I knew of Rever’s mom, she lived a separate life, pretending the ugliness of Ignacio’s world and her son didn’t exist. I almost felt sorry for Anna Alvarez. Then again, between Rever and whoever Juan Alvarez had lined up to marry her, Rever was probably the better choice.

“I didn’t see one, but then, I don’t really give a shit about her.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

Rever set his empty beer bottle on the coffee table. “Lots of things.”

“Care to elaborate?”

Rever stood up and folded his arms across his chest. “I’d love to.”

“Then get on with it,” I said unenthusiastically, preparing myself for another one of Rever’s tantrums.

With his hand on his hips, he paced back and forth. “Anna’s still stuck in Mexico. We haven’t made any plans to rescue her. I’ve been holed up in this apartment for weeks.”

“Your doing, not mine,” I interrupted.

“Whatever.” Rever’s hands sliced through the air. “But do you know the most fucked up part of what’s happening right now?”

I rocked back on my heels as I glanced at my phone. I didn’t have time to listen to Rever’s dramatics tonight. I needed to find Hattie. I didn’t want her living at Vera’s house. She wasn’t safe there until I wrapped up this mess with Senator Deveron. “No, but I have a feeling you’re about to tell me.”

“You’re fucking up your life, and you’re going to take the Vargas Cartel and me down with you.”

My head snapped up. “What the hell are you talking about, and since when do you give a shit about the Vargas Cartel? You were ready to sell Ignacio down the river a month ago.”

“I’m talking about Hattie fucking Covington.”

I recoiled and my lips curled up, baring my teeth. “She’s none of your business.”

“She’s my business now that Senator Deveron is crawling up your ass because you refuse to leave her alone. She must have one hell of a pussy because you keep going back.”

In less than two seconds, I launched myself across the room and fisted his shirt in my hand. “Don’t talk about her. Don’t say her name. Don’t even think her name.” The minute I decided to go to war with Senator Deveron, I chose Hattie over everyone and everything, including my family, but I couldn’t pretend I didn’t feel divided by the whole thing. I had ripped my heart out of my chest and discarded the half belonging to my family. It sucked. “Do you understand?” I barked as I shoved him onto the sofa.

“You’re making a mistake. A big fucking mistake.”

My chest heaving, I glared at him as anger coursed through my nerve endings like a live wire. “It’s mine to make. I don’t have to answer to you.”

“You’re right, you don’t, but both of us know a woman like Hattie doesn’t belong in our fucked up world. At least Anna knows what she’s getting with me. She’s a part of our world. Hattie doesn’t have a clue. You’ll break her.”

I curled my hands into fists and stuffed them in my pockets so I didn’t pummel him until he was bloody and bruised. He was right, and that thought made my hands tremble and my gut swirl with bile. Hattie had seen a glimpse of my world, but I’d sheltered her from darkest side of the Vargas Cartel while she was in Mexico. “I’m not part of your world.”

He snorted as he shook his head. “You’re lying to yourself if you believe you’ve washed your hands of the Vargas Cartel. It won’t happen. Ignacio will find a way to reel you in, and once you’re in, you’re in for life. Trust me. I’ve experienced his twisted manipulations first hand. He’ll fuck you five ways to Sunday without blinking an eye.”

“He may screw up sometimes and be overbearing, but he loves you.”

He raised his hands in the air. “If he loved me, he’d let me make my own decisions. Live my own life.” He shook his head, his lips twisted into a distorted line. “Not even embezzling money or threatening to expose Ignacio’s deals with corrupt politicians severed his hold on me. He’s given you some breathing room, but it’s all an illusion. He’ll pull back the veil of compassion soon enough, and you’ll end up just as bitter and fucked up as me.”

I inhaled a deep breath, fighting back the resentment hurling through my veins like acid at the thought of Ignacio sucking me into his world. “You don’t know anything,” I countered, even though I feared it might be the ugly truth. I fought fate for over a decade, and I had no intention of giving in any time soon.

“Fine, you keep living in your reality, and I’ll live in mine. You might as well do it as long as you can.” Rever turned up the volume on the television.

I stalked to the front door and snagged my personal phone off the entry table. “I’m going out. Clean up this shit and be in the guest room by the time I get back.”

BOOK: Unveiled (Vargas Cartel #2)
11.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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