“Lulu! Lulu, where are you?” Lucky called out as soon as he walked into the Alcazar living room. “Lulu!”
“Detective, I am going to have to ask you to stop yelling,” Milo admonished, catching up to him. “Jason’s little girl is upstairs.”
Lulu came hurrying down the stairs. She had cleaned up and changed into a pair of sweats and t-shirt of Sam’s that Milo had found for her. “Lucky, what is going on? What are you yelling for?”
Lucky strode over to his sister and grabbed her arm. “Let’s go, you’re leaving,” he ordered.
“Excuse me? I’m not going anywhere,” Lulu exclaimed, pulling her arm out of her brother’s grasp.
“Lulu, were you or were you not just involved in Diego’s beating on the docks?” Lucky asked, exasperated at his sister’s stubbornness.
“Yes, I was there when four men ambushed us and three of them beat up Diego and one held me. How did you know about that anyway?” Lulu asked, glaring at her brother. There was no way in hell anyone was going to make her leave Diego now. He needed her.
“One of the nurses called when they saw you,” he explained. “But by the time I had gotten there, you were gone. Now, like I said, you’re leaving.”
“And like I said, no.”
“He’s right Lulu, you should go.”
Jason rubbed his face once again. He was still at the hospital. Sam was in with Skye and Dr. Lee and he was waiting to hear what was going on. He was also waiting for a report from Max on what the team had found so far.
Looking up, he saw Lainey heading in his direction. He sat up. “Dr. Winters,” he said.
“Hi,” Lainey greeted. “Is something wrong?” She could see how tense he was – could pick up on it from down the hall. She had stood and watched him a moment. Watched his body language.
“There’s some stuff going on,” Jason said noncommittally.
“Is it Elaina?” she asked patiently. Lainey knew it wasn’t always easy to get information out of Jason unless he volunteered it.
Jason shook his head. “No, she’s fine. I brought Skye in earlier. She fainted. Sam and Dr. Lee are with her now,” he explained, nodding to the room across the hall from where they were talking.
Lainey looked at the door he indicated and then back at him. “What about Lorenzo?” she asked.
“He’s unavailable at the moment,” Jason said.
Lainey knew an aversion when she saw one. “I see,” she said with a nod. “Is it that bad?”
Jason looked at her. He was trusting this woman with his daughter’s mental well-being. And what was happening was sure to affect Elaina soon – especially if it all turned out to be true. “Yeah,” he said. He moved a little closer, lowered his voice and explained what was going on.
“Tell me what I can do to help,” Lainey said.
“Are . . . wait . . . twins? Are you sure?” Skye asked, shocked. This was the last thing she had been expecting for Dr. Lee to say.
Dr. Lee nodded. “Yes. Sometimes one hides behind the other and even their heartbeats can match.”
Skye swallowed again. Twins? Then she looked at Sam as tears pooled in her eyes.
Sam squeezed Skye’s hand and looked at Dr. Lee. “Do you think we could have a minute? Skye’s just a little overwhelmed.”
“Of course,” Dr. Lee said and left the room.
“You’re going to be okay Skye. And so will those two beautiful little babies,” Sam tried to reassure her. She didn’t want Skye getting upset and causing her blood pressure to climb again.
“If it’s all true Sam . . . if Lorenzo really is dead . . . his son and daughter will never know the wonderful man he is,” Skye whispered, the tears sliding down her cheeks unchecked. “And if he’s out there somewhere, he could be hurt . . .” She looked up at Sam. “Lorenzo doesn’t deserve this Sam. He’s a good man, no matter what anyone else thinks. He’s dedicated to his family, Sam. This isn’t fair.”
Sam covered Skye’s hands with hers. “You’re right Skye. This isn’t fair. Not to you or these babies or to Lorenzo. But this is the life Lorenzo leads. It may not totally be by choice, but he’s in and there’s no getting out. This won’t be the first or last time something like this is going to happen Skye.”
“What are you saying Sam?” Skye asked, sitting up a little straighter. She slid one of her hands out from under Sam’s and wiped her cheeks.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful Skye . . . but you knew who Lorenzo was going into this. I just want you to make sure you know what you’re getting into.”
Skye’s well shaped eyebrow rose. “Are you implying that I can’t handle this life? That I would try to change Lorenzo to suit my needs?”
“No. No, that’s not what I’m doing Skye . . . well, not completely. Lorenzo has been hurt by women who thought they could accept who he was. Who were more attracted to the money and power than to who he really is. I know that’s not you Skye, but with the current situation . . . you could change your mind.”
“I’m not exactly an innocent in life Sam,” Skye said with a hard edge to her voice. “I am no shrinking violet when it comes to danger. I know exactly who Lorenzo is, Sam. And yes, at one time I might only have been after him for the power and money . . . but I’m not. I love Lorenzo – all of him. The good parts and his faults, because God knows I have many of my own.”
Sam smiled. “I know Skye,” she said. “I just had to give you a reason to keep yourself from falling apart over this. You are carrying my new niece and nephew and in Lorenzo’s temporary absence, I need to make sure you’re all okay.”
“Lorenzo is lucky to have a sister like you Sam,” Skye said. “And Jason and Elaina are lucky to have you in their lives.”
Sam smiled. “I’m the lucky one,” she said. “Now, you need to get some rest. I’m going to find Jason and tell him what’s going on and see if he has any news yet.”
Skye nodded and watched Sam leave. Then she looked down at her growing belly. “You’re Daddy is going to be so happy,” she whispered. “And he’ll be home soon. I know he will. We’ll be the family he deserves.”
Lulu turned to Diego. “Don’t you dare,” she said hotly, her eyes flashing. “Don’t you dare push me away Diego Alcazar.”
Diego sighed and walked the rest of the way down the stairs. “It’s too dangerous for you to be involved Lulu,” he said, knowing she wasn’t going to give an inch. Truth be told, he wanted her by his side, but it wasn’t fair to her if he just assumed she would stay. He needed to give her an out. It had to be her choice.
“I am not going anywhere,” Lulu stated firmly, crossing her arms over her chest and staring down both Diego and her brother. “I am old enough to make my own decisions. And I am deciding to stay.”
“Lulu, you shouldn’t be caught in the middle of a family issue that isn’t yours to deal with,” Lucky said, trying to get through to her. “The whole situation is dangerous. So much has already happened and I do not want you to be the next casualty just because you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Look, I get that you’re both worried. I do. But I know what I’m doing.” She turned to her brother. “Lucky, I’m not that little girl who you had to protect from the monsters under her bed. I can handle my own life. And Diego,” she turned to him next. “You need me. If not as backup then as support. For all you know, you just lost your father. I am not going anywhere.”
Diego didn’t think he could love her anymore than he did in that moment. He had been wanting what his father had with Skye . . . and he did have it and so much more. Swallowing past the swell of emotions, Diego nodded. “Then by my side is where I want you,” he said.
Lucky stepped forward. “You listen to me Alcazar,” he said, getting in Diego’s face and blocking his way to Lulu. “Anything, and I mean anything at all, happens to her – it’s your head that’s going to roll.”
Diego stared into Lucky’s eyes. “Understood,” he said, not even blinking. It was obvious how much Lucky cared about his sister – it was how he felt about his niece and his own soon to arrive brother. “I’ll hold you to that.”
Lulu shook her head once Lucky left. “I can’t believe him!” she exclaimed. “And you!” She whirled on Diego. “You ever do that again and I am going to make you suffer in ways you can’t even imagine.”
Diego’s eyebrows rose, almost disappearing into the thick mop of curls that flopped over his head. “I think I’m going to have to hold you to that as well,” he said before pulling her into his arms. She had been right. He needed her. He needed her support if it were true and his father were really dead.
Everything was fuzzy. His head. His vision. His mouth was dry – his tongue feeling like it had turned to cotton. How long have I been like this? He wondered, forcing his eyes open, forcing himself to blink past the blurriness.
Not waiting for his vision to fully clear, Lorenzo pushed himself up. He needed to assess any damage and work through it. He refused to be weak and vulnerable – it was only going to get him killed.
Groaning and fighting off a strong wave of nausea, Lorenzo made it to a full sitting position. His head swam and he needed a moment to regain his equilibrium. Breathing in and out evenly, Lorenzo pried open his eyes and looked around.
This can’t be good, he thought as he took in the semi-dark room. There wasn’t much to look at. Four concrete walls – he must be in a basement of some sort; a single cot he was currently sitting on, no windows and nothing else. Not much to work with.
Knowing it wouldn’t be there, Lorenzo checked his pockets for his cell phone. He had it when he boarded the plane. But it was gone now. He had no way of reaching help – although he probably wouldn’t have gotten a signal anyway.
Letting out a breath, Lorenzo ran his hands through his hair, wincing when he felt a bump on the back of his head. What happened was still fuzzy, but since he was obviously a captive, he knew who was behind this.
“Everything’s ready,” Antonio informed his boss. He watched that manic smile appear on the other man’s face and repressed a shudder.
“Good,” Manny said, resisting the urge to rub his hands together. There was no way he could lose now. He looked over at Johnny. “Now the real fun begins.”
Milo nodded as he showed Lainey into the living room. “Elaina is up in her room,” he explained. “I can bring her down here if you would like.”
Lainey smiled at the young guard. “Thank you Milo, but if it’s okay, I’d rather meet with her in her room.”
After Jason had explained as much as he was able about what was going on, Lainey offered to swing by Lorenzo’s house, where Elaina was being watched by several armed guards, and check on her.
“Not a problem,” Milo answered. Jason had called, stating he was giving Dr. Winters access to Elaina and that whatever she felt was safe for Elaina was good with him. Dr. Winters knew to call Jason if something came up and to use the guards that were on duty.
Thanking him, Lainey followed Milo up the stairs. This was the first time she had been in Lorenzo Alcazar’s house – and she was definitely impressed. The house was both homey and stylish – something she hadn’t thought someone of Lorenzo Alcazar’s stature would be able to achieve at the same time. Although she didn’t know too much about him, she had thought of him as somewhat distant and cold. She was going to have to start amending those thoughts.
Lainey could tell they had neared Elaina’s room; there were at least four large, very armed men in the hallway. Two were outside a closed door and the other two were at either end of the long hall by a window. All access points covered. She waited while Milo explained who she was and why she was there. Then she slipped into the room.
“Hi Elaina,” she said with a smile when she spied the little girl sitting on her bed, surrounded by stuffed animals, a picture book open in front of her.
The bedroom itself was definitely a little girl’s dream. It was done in pinks and whites. Stuffed animals of all types, sizes and colors held court around the room. Elaina’s bed dominated most of the space – a large canopy. She smiled when she saw the pile of pillows on either side – sure that was Lorenzo’s defense against his little granddaughter rolling out of bed.
Elaina looked up, her eyes widening in recognition as she smiled. “Hi Lainey!” she said happily, scrambling off her bed and running over. “What you do here?”
“I came to see you,” Lainey said, squatting down to the little girl’s eye level. “And I’m glad I did! This is a beautiful room!”
“My Poppi made it for me,” Elaina said proudly. She then took Lainey’s hand and gave her tour, pointing out her favorite toys and stuffed animals. Then she pointed out the window. “Goldie sweeps there,” she said, indicating the stable. “I twied, but Poppi say she no sweep in my room.”
Lainey would have paid to see that one. “I bet she likes sleeping there,” she said. “Maybe later you can introduce me to Goldie. I would love to meet her.”
Elaina nodded happily. “I happy you here,” she said.
“Why is that?” Lainey asked. She guided Elaina back to her bed and waited until the little girl was settled before sitting next to her.
“I haf no one to pway wif,” Elaina said. “Daddy out. Mommy Sam out. Sye out. Deego out. No one weft to pway wif.”
Lainey was pretty sure Elaina was not aware of what was going on. And that was the best thing. From Jason she had learned how close Lorenzo and Elaina were – knowing that her grandfather could be dead and she would never see him again would devastate her. Lainey had decided that nothing should be said to Elaina until they knew what was going on. There was no reason to traumatize her if it turned out Lorenzo was okay. And Lainey hoped that he was.
Max glanced over at Diego sitting beside him in the large black SUV. No one wanted to believe that this was anything less than a set up. He didn’t want to arrive at the crash site and find physical proof confirming Lorenzo’s death.
“You don’t have to worry Max, I’m not going to fall apart,” Diego said, breaking the tense silence that had filled the vehicle. “My father is stronger than this,” he continued. “And unfortunately, Manny is not stupid. He would gain nothing by killing my father now. He knows the organization will not break down with his death – my father built it that way. They’re holding him captive as some sort of leverage.”
Max nodded as he navigated the car. Over the last couple of years, he had watched Diego grow into the mature young man he now was. There was a lot of Lorenzo in him. “I’m sure you’re right Diego.” After another moment, Max looked at Diego again. “You know, you’re father would be proud of you Diego.”
Tearing his eyes from the road, Diego looked at Max and nodded. “Thanks Max. That really means a lot to me.”
Max nodded in return and returned his attention to the road.
Diego let out a breath, swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat. He meant what he had said to Max, he was not going to fall apart. He was going to remain strong and in control. People were depending on him. He wanted to make his father proud. Refocusing his thoughts, Diego consulted the map.
“There’s a turn-off in the next three miles,” he informed Max. “From there it’s just another five miles to the site.”
Max nodded to indicated he heard and understood.
Diego settled back in the seat. He could do this. He had to do this. For himself. For his family. For his father.
Spinelli’s jaw dropped as he was finally able to break through the firewall and find the source of the email. “Yes!” he whooped, throwing his arms into the air. “You couldn’t hide for long evil doers.”
Hitting some more keys, totally focused on his task, he nearly jumped out of his seat when he heard a voice behind him.
“What happened?” Lulu asked curiously.
“Blonde One!” Spinelli gasped, regaining his composure. “The Jackal did not hear you approaching.”
Lulu smiled. Sure, Spinelli was strange, but sometimes she found the way he spoke and his devotions endearing. It was a nice change every now and then. “I’m sorry Spinelli,” she said. “I was wondering if you’ve heard from Max or Diego yet.”
Max and Diego had left a while ago to check out the crash site once the location had been determined. They had been gone for almost two hours already and she was getting worried.
“Not yet Fair Lulu,” Spinelli said, turning his attention back to his computer screen.
“What are you doing?” she asked, looking over his shoulder.
Trying to focus on what he had to do and not the fresh, perfect scent of the beautiful creature standing behind him, Spinelli cleared his throat. “Ummm . . . the Jackal has just broken through the Nefarious One’s defenses.”
Lulu raised an eyebrow. “Wow,” she said. “So what now?”
“Now, the Jackal scouts around the systems and see what havoc he can wreak.”
Lulu nodded, impressed. She pulled up a chair and sat next to him. Watching Spinelli work his magic was better than staring out the window, cell phone clutched in her hand waiting to hear from Diego.
“Everything’s ready,” Antonio informed Manny when his boss walked into the room. “Do you want me to get him?”
Manny shook his head. “Not yet,” he said. “Have Rodrigo pump the room first. He’ll fight if you go in there – and that won’t be any fun. We need to have to advantage.”
Antonio nodded and left the room.
Manny walked over to the window and then turned to Johnny. “Now you’ll see how much fun it is to break a man as formidable as Lorenzo Alcazar.”
The pounding in his head had finally stopped and he had been able to get to his feet without feeling as if he was going to hurl any second.
I need to find out a way out of here, Lorenzo thought. He didn’t know where here was, but he had to fight. He needed to get back to Skye, to his family. They needed him and he needed them.
Pushing his hands through his hair, wincing slightly, having forgotten about the gash on his temple. He wanted to sit back down, but forced himself not to. He needed to keep on his feet, keep moving and focused. If he sat down, he wasn’t sure he’d be able to get back up again.
Pacing back and forth, Lorenzo forced his mind to keep moving. A hissing sound had him lifting his head to the ceiling as the room started to fill with a gas.
Lifting his shirt to cover his nose and mouth, Lorenzo tried not to breathe whatever was being pumped into the room. His head started to spin again. He couldn’t keep his eyes open. No matter how much he fought, the darkness too him over again and he collapsed to the concrete floor.
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