The last month had been quiet – at least where Manny was concerned. He had disappeared. But both Jason and Lorenzo knew that they couldn’t let their guard down. There was too much at stake. So going on that feeling, they had a team of men whose sole duty was to locate Manny and keep tabs on him. So far, there had been no word. And that kept both men on their toes – not to mention the many female members of their growing family.
Sam had recovered from her detainment by Manny and was as determined as Jason and Lorenzo to track him down and make him pay for what he did – not just to her, but to Elaina as well. It was all the two men could do to keep her from going out there looking for the maniac herself.
Elaina seemed to bounce back pretty well from her ordeal, although she had nightmares and often ended up in Jason’s bed – not an ideal situation for Jason as his little girl rolled all over the place and was a kicker, as he found out in the middle of the night the first time she slept with him.
Skye continued to have high blood pressure issues that had Lorenzo constantly worried about her – and it was starting to drive her a little crazy, although she tried not to show it. Her most exciting moment had been when she woke up one morning to find a well defined bump and most of her pants and skirts no longer fit. Skye never thought that that would make her so happy.
Lulu had become a daily fixture at the house as hers and Diego’s relationship started to change and bloom. And of course Spinelli made that whole situation entertaining for those watching. Lorenzo didn’t know how Diego hadn’t killed the kid already.
Lorenzo sent his mother home with a full security detail – he was not taking any chances of leaving her vulnerable and giving Manny the opportunity to strike. It had been great to have her there, but he felt that with all that was going on, she would be more comfortable back at the Villa.
Carly and the boys remained on the property – which always added to the excitement factor around there. It was a wonder Lorenzo and Jason were able to run their organization and keep everyone safe.
Elaina wandered into her Mommy’s room. She was bored. Michael, Morgan and Deego were in school. Her Daddy was at work with her Poppi. Skye was resting and Elaina couldn’t play with her baby because it was not ready yet. So she had no one to play with.
Finding her Mommy in her room, Elaina climbed into the big, comfy arm chair by the window, plopping into the corner with a heavy sigh.
Sam stopped putting away her laundry and looked over at Elaina. She knew there were people on Lorenzo’s staff who could do that for her, but she liked to take care of her own things – kind of reminded her of when she was on her own on her boat. And she didn’t mind being domestic, it gave her a sense of belonging – not to mention keeping her hands and mind busy so she wouldn’t go searching for Manny. “What’s wrong sweetie?” she asked Elaina.
Elaina siged again. “I bored,” she said. “No one to play wif.”
“Well, I’m here,” said Sam with a small smile for the little girl. “I can play with you.”
Elaina curled up tighter in the corner of the chair and shrugged.
Leaving the clothes on her bed, Sam joined her on the chair. She knew Elaina was still having nightmares and often ended up in Jason’s bed – which meant Jason wasn’t sleeping too well. Sam hadn’t admited it, but she often had nightmares herself. And she wished she could just as easily crawl into Jason’s bed and draw on his strength and confort.
“Mommy?” Elaina said in a small voice. “Is the Ugly Man take me?”
Sam pulled Elaina into her lap, hugging the little girl to her. “I know what happened was very scarey. It was scarey for me too,” Sam said, brushing Elaina’s hair off of her face. “But I don’t think he’ll come back and try to take you again.”
Elaina looked up at Sam with her big eyes. “Daddy say he tect me.”
Sam smiled again. “Yes, your Daddy is going to protect you. He loves you so much. And so do I. I will protect you too. And so will Poppi and Diego and everyone here.”
Cuddling further into her Mommy’s lap, Elaina stuck her finger in her mouth. Sam looked down at her and recognized that as Elaina being tired. She just held her tighter and rocked her gently to sleep.
Jason rubbed his face for the tenth time since entering Lorenzo’s office. He was tired. Elaina had spent another night in his bed, meaning he hadn’t gotten much sleep. It wasn’t that Elaina stayed awake all night, she fell instantly back to sleep, but she moved a lot in her sleep – and kicked. Jason had spent a few days limping after being awoken the first night by a sharp kick to the groin by his little angel. After that, Jason tried to stay at the edge of the bed – a couple of times even sleeping in the arm chair by the bed and then slipping back into bed before Elaina woke up in the morning.
“Long night again?” Lorenzo asked as he looked up from the latest report from the team he had on Manny.
Jason nodded and dropped down into the chair on the other side of Lorenzo’s desk. “I was hoping we were getting past the worst of it,” he said with a sigh. “I’m thinking of having Lainy Winters come and talk to her. Whenever I try, she doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“Has she talked to Sam?” Lorenzo asked, closing the folder of the report and leaning back in his high-backed leather chair.
Jason shook his head. “No. I’ve tried to reassure her that I would never let that happen again, but I’m not sure its helping.”
Lorenzo studied his friend. Jason was tired. “You need to sleep Jason. It’s dangerous for you to be this tired – we both know that. How about Skye and I take Elaina for a couple of nights.”
It sounded like a good idea to him, but Jason wasn’t sure. “Skye needs rest Lorenzo, not having Elaina in the bed with the both of you, because that’s where she’s going to end up,” he said. “I want her to feel safe enough to sleep in her own bed, even when she has a nightmare.”
“I’ll talk to Skye, but I know she’ll be all for it,” Lorenzo assured him. “Elaina needs to know we’re all here to protect her.”
Jason thought about it a moment longer. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll bring her over after she has dinner.”
With that settled, Lorenzo opened the report again. “Juan’s team hasn’t found anything new. Stan has been tracking Manny’s bank accounts – which have been depleted by us – but there’s been no activity and nothing new popping up in over seas accounts. Wherever he is, he’s laying low for now. Licking his wounds.”
Jason picked up the report and flipped through the pages. “What about activity within the family? Could he be piggy-backing off of one of their accounts? Hiding money with them?”
“Could be,” Lorenzo said with a nod. “I’ll have Stan look into it.”
Continuing to scan the sheet, Jason nodded. “Also have him check into any new purchases of compounds or safe houses. Manny has to be hiding somewhere, thinking we won’t find him.”
“He’s probably hoping if he lays low long enough we’ll let our guard down,” Lorenzo commented, opening another folder. It was Max’s security report. “Max has increased security on the property as well as at the warehouses and here,” he said. “He also had Spinelli go over all electronic secutity components – including firewalling all of our systems.”
Jason looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “You know, I never thought someone like Spinelli would be useful around here.”
Lorenzo nodded in agreement. “Tell me about it. He may be very . . . strange . . . but he’s become a big asset.”
Which was surprising to the two men, as they were sure Spinelli and his strange way of thinking and doing things would have gotten to them, but it hadn’t – too much. Sure, there were times when Lorenzo wanted to ring the kid’s neck or when Jason just had to walk away because he was getting a headache.
“So having Spinelli at the house hasn’t been too stressful for Skye?” Jason asked, tossing the folder with the report on Manny back onto the desk.
“She actually enjoys him,” Lorenzo said with a shake of his head. “He doesn’t stress her out and he’s willing to do anything for her. I think that’s the part she enjoys the most.”
Lorenzo couldn’t help but smile. “With the way Spinelli is constantly all over Lulu, I’m surprised he hasn’t tossed him out on his butt,” he said.
Jason could see how Diego and Lulu’s relationship was changing and developing, how they were going from friends to something more. It was nice. Lulu didn’t seem put out by the way Diego lived. She supported him and was there for him.
“Lulu is the only reason he hasn’t,” Lorenzo said. “Speaking of relationships, how are you and Sam doing?” he asked.
Jason raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked.
Lorenzo sighed. “Come on Jason. I’m not blind. You and Sam mean a lot to each other – I saw it even before she and Elaina were taken. Why do you keep holding back with her?”
Jason sighed and rubbed his head again. He doubted Lorenzo would let him use the excuse of being tired to get out of this conversation. “You know why Lorenzo,” he said.
He did. “Alright. I know you might feel like your cheating on Jessica somehow, but that is not true Jason. No matter how much I tried to deny it, I know how much she loved you and you loved her. But she’s gone Jason. And you are allowed to have feelings – even love – someone else. I know its not easy – I’ve been where you are. Not wanting to move on when you’ve lost a woman that meant the world to you. You’re in love with Sam and there is nothing wrong with that.”
“Being in love with Jessica is what got her killed. And having the feelings I do for Sam got her taken with my daughter. I can’t – I won’t – put Sam in the same position again,” Jason said.
“So what are you going to do Jason, hide your feelings? Fight off the love? Jessica was killed, not because you loved her or she loved you, she was killed because a couple of psychotics had a vendentta against us – whether or not you and Jessica were together. Sam was taken because Manny was looking for an upper hand – not because you love her. Stop hiding Jason. You can’t help who you fall in love with. And you can’t fight it.”
“You can’t make a move yet Manny. It’s too risky.”
Manny wasn’t listening. He never did. He did things his way – and he wasn’t going to stop now.
“Damnit Manuel! Are you listening to me?”
Manny turned to the man. “You may have been a trusted advisor to my father, but you are not mine. I did not come here for your so called guidance,” he snapped at him.
Emilio pulled himself to his full height. “You would do well to listen to my guidance Manuel. I have served your father for years and he has built his empire on my guidance and advice.”
“Just remember who killed him,” Manny said in a low tone. “He and Javier were weak – and yet I am the one still standing. Remember that.”
Emilio nodded and left the room.
Once alone again, Manny turned back to the window. The paradise he was hiding in was boring him. He never cared much for the beautiful landscape – not like his father and brother. But they were weak. Always had been. He wasn’t weak. And never would be. He might have to lay low now – but that wouldn’t last long. He was not going to let Alcazar and Morgan beat him. Never.
Jason walked into the house. It was quiet, but it was a good quiet, not the scarey quiet of the people he loved not being there. Climbing the stairs, Jason looked for Elaina in her room, but didn’t find her. Trying to not let his head run away with him – thinking that Manny had returned and taken his little girl from him – Jason continued down the hall and stopped in the doorway to Sam’s room.
There they both were. Curled up in the chair under the window. Both of them sleeping. Jason just stood there and watched them a moment. He could have lost them both. And he knew in that moment that he wouldn’t be able to go on if he did. Sam and Elaina were his life. And he would do anything to protect them – even if it meant giving up his own life.
“Skye, what are you doing?” Lorenzo asked when he found her in one of the empty bedrooms – the one across from theirs.
Skye turned. “Hi,” she said with a bright smile as she kissed him. “I think this will be the perfect room for the baby.”
Lorenzo couldn’t help smiling as well. He knew Skye had been sick most of the week and it was good to see her up and happy. She was practically glowing as she moved around the room. As she stood by the window – with the afternoon sunlight coming in – how it lit her hair in a blaze of red and gold, how it etched her porcelin profile, how her hands rested on the now obvious bulge of her stomach. Lorenzo knew this image would be forever emblazoned in his mind.
Skye turned back to him. “What?” she asked, seeing the way he was watching her.
“Nothing,” Lorenzo said, walking over to her. “Just thinking how amazingly beautiful you are.”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if I was throwing up right now,” Skye said, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“You’re always beautiful to me,” Lorenzo said, wrapping his own arms around her waist and holding her close, the bulge of her belly pressing against him. “Knowing you and our child are safe. Being able to hold you like this. And to plan our child’s furture. It’s all I want. And yes, this room would be perfect.”
Skye smiled again and then moved out of his arms. “I want to start ordering furniture, I have some catalogs I want to go through.”
“It’s good to see you feeling well,” Lorenzo said with a smile. “And since you’re feeling okay, I was thinking of having Elaina stay here for a couple of nights so Jason can get some sleep.”
“She’s still having nightmares?” Skye asked, worried.
Lorenzo nodded. “And still ending up in Jason’s bed. He needs some rest and maybe a change of scenery for a couple of nights will help her as well.”
“And give Jason and Sam a chance to be alone,” Skye added with a mischeveous look in her eyes.
“True,” Lorenzo said with a nod. They did need some time alone. He wasn’t going to argue that.
“So, since we both agree on that point, I want to show you some of the furniture I was looking at,” Skye said excitdely, grabbing his hand and pulling him into their bedroom.
Once inside, Lorenzo pulled Skye into his arms, walking her back toward the bed. “Actually, there’s something else I would rather do right now.”
“Come on Diego, he’s not that bad,” Lulu said as she followed him into Kelly’s after their last class.
“He’s annoying Lulu. The way he’s always hanging around you,” Diego complained as he sat down across from her.
“You’re jealous,” Lulu said in amusement. And found she was actually flattered by it.
“I am not jealous,” Diego insisted. “I just don’t like the way he hangs on you all the time.”
Lulu just shook her head and picked up her menu. Over the last month – since Sam and Elaina were brought home – Lulu had tried to take Skye’s advice when it came to her relationship with Diego. Spending time with Diego with that in mind, Lulu realized that she did want more with him – but wasn’t sure he did. He had already been with two people who hadn’t been able to handle who he was. Niether BrookLynn or Georgie were able to accept the life he led. But Lulu was learning each and every day that Diego was so much more than his last name.
Lulu jerked her eyes from the menu and to Diego and Georgie, who were both looking at her. “Oh! Ummm . . . what?” she asked, trying to get her bearings.
“Are you ready to order?” Diego asked, looking at her curiously.
Lulu looked back down at the menu again and then up to Georgie. “I’ll have the grilled cheese with fries and a Coke.”
Taking the menus Georgie went to fill the orders.
“Are you okay?” Diego asked once they were alone. “You seemed pretty far away.”
“Just thinking,” she answered with a shrug.
“Pretty heavy thinking. Anything in particular?”
Lulu bit her lip. This didn’t seem to be the place to tell Diego she wanted to explore a deeper relationship with him. “Nothing that can’t wait,” she said.
“Are you sure?” Diego asked with concern. He and Lulu had been friends for a while and he could tell something was on her mind.
“Im sure,” Lulu said, flashing him a bright smile. Their food arrived just then and Lulu focused on it, hoping he would drop the topic for now.
Seeing that she didn’t want to talk about whatever was on her mind – Diego decided not to press her on it, for now.
“Mommy, why I go to Poppi’s?” Elaina asked as she watched Sam pack a bag for her.
“Because your Poppi and Skye want you to spend some time with them,” Sam said as she folded a pair of pajamas and put them into the little bag.
“Like sleepover?” she asked, grabbing her teddy bear and handing it to her Mommy to put into her bag.
“Just like a sleepover,” Sam said, tucking the bear inside. “Why don’t you pick out a book that Poppi can read to you later.”
Elaina slid off of the bed and went to her little bookshelf. She pulled out her favorite book and brought it back to Sam, who put into the bag and zipped it up. “I have bad dweam, Daddy come?” Elaina asked.
Sam turned to Elaina and crouched in front of her. “No. If ou have a bad dream, Poppi and Skye will be there. Not Daddy.”
“Why?” Elaina asked, her eyes widening and her lower lip trembling. “No want Poppi! Want Daddy!” she yelled, stamping her foot and running out of the room.
“Elaina!” Sam called, getting up and following her. That little girl could sure be stubborn.
Elaina ignored her Mommy and ran down the stairs – even though her Daddy had told her not to run down the stairs – and into his office. “Daddy!” she cried, throwing herself at his leg and holding on. “No go Daddy! I no go!”
Jason looked down at his daughter and then at Sam, who was in the doorway. “What happened?” he asked, lifting Elaina into his arms. She clung to him and buried her head in his shoulder. “No go,” she whispered. He could feel her tears against his neck.
“She asked if you would be there if she had a bad dream and I said no. That Poppi and Skye would be there instead,” Sam said, reaching out to rub Elaina’s back, but Elaina moved away from her.
“No Mommy! Bad Mommy! Mommy make me go away!” Elaina said angrily.
Jason saw the hurt in Sam’s eyes. Sitting down on the couch, he detatched Elaina from him and made her sit next to him. “Elaina, that is not nice,” he said sternly. “Now I want you to apologize.”
Elaina crossed her arms over her chest. “NO!” she said stubbornly.
“It’s okay Jason,” Sam said, seeing there was going to be a stalemate between father and daughter. “She’s upset.”
“That is no excuse Sam,” Jason said, turning back to his daughter. “You are going to sit here until you apologize and then I will make sure to tell Poppi and Skye there is no dessert tonight. That was not nice to say.”
“I no go!” Elaina said again. “No leave Daddy!”
Jason sighed. “Elaina, I know you’re scared and I know you have bad dreams, but your Poppi and Skye will also keep you safe.”
“Why Daddy make me go away?” Elaina asked in a small voice, tears pooling in her eyes. “No leave Daddy. Ugly Man hurt Daddy.”
Sam understood and went to kneel in front of Elaina. “Do you think if you leave that the Ugly Man will come back and hurt your Daddy?” she asked gently.
Sam took Elaina’s hands in hers. “I’m going to be here with Daddy. Will it help if I promise to take care of Daddy and protect him?”
Elaina looked at her Daddy and then back at her Mommy. Then she nodded. “I sorry Mommy,” she whispered, sniffling and wiping her nose.
Same pulled Elaina into her arms and hug her tight. She looked at Jason.
“Thank you,” Jason mouthed to her, rubbing his daughter’s back – his hand coming to rest over Sam’s.
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