“Spinelli is going to stay in constant contact with the inside team,” Jason explained. He was sticking to a small team going into the compound – himself, Max, Diego and Stan – with another team, headed by Milo, on the outside as backup. “Stan is coming with us to diffuse any issues with the security systems on site.” He stopped when the door opened and Sam came in. Jason saw the determined look in her eyes and knew he wasn’t going to like what she came here to say.
“I’m going with you,” she stated firmly.
Jason shook his head. He was right. And now he was going to have to turn her down – or at least make a show of resisting, as there was no telling Sam what she could or could not do. “No, Sam.”
“I’m not going to argue with you about this Jason,” Sam said. “It’ll only waste time Lorenzo doesn’t have and you won’t be able to change my mind. I’m going.”
Sighing, Jason looked around at the men gathered for some support, although he doubted he could get any – none of the men present wanted to go up against Sam right now.
“I think she should come,” Diego spoke up. “Sam is no amateur Jason, she’s just as good as any of us.”
Jason didn’t want to admit it was true, but he knew Diego was right. “Fine,” he relented. “You’re in.”
Sam nodded, silently thanking her nephew for backing her.
“Alright, we leave in an hour.”
As Diego passed Sam, he looked down at her. “Don’t make me regret this,” he whispered before heading to his room, he also wanted to find Lulu before he left.
“I know you’re not happy about this Jason,” Sam said as Jason approached her. “But I can’t just stay here while you go off to save my brother. I need to be a part of this.”
Letting out a breath, Jason put his hands on her shoulders and nodded. “I know,” he said. “And that’s why you’re going. But I just need you to be careful Sam.”
“You too Jason,” Sam said. Leaning up, she took his lips with hers in a deep kiss.
Lorenzo knew there was no way that Manny could get anywhere near Elaina. He knew Jason would have her too well protected to allow Manny anywhere near her. This was another of Manny’s mind games. Make him believe he could get onto the property and hurt his granddaughter.
Taking a couple of deep breaths and slowly letting them out, Lorenzo calmed his racing heart. It wouldn’t help for him to panic.
Once calm, Lorenzo groaned as the chains tightened and pulled him back to his original position.
“Daddy!” Elaina cried when she saw Jason. She jumped up from her coloring and ran to her father.
“Hey baby girl,” Jason said, scooping her up into his arms. “Are you being good for Lulu?”
Elaina nodded. “Yes Daddy,” she said. “We coloing,” she added, pointing to the floor. “Daddy wanna color?”
“I can’t sweetie,” Jason said. “I have to go on a trip, so I want you to be a good girl for Lulu, okay?”
“Where you go?” Elaina asked, looking at him with sad eyes. First her Poppi went on a trip and now her Daddy was going too. She didn’t like it.
“Just on a trip,” Jason said. “But I’ll be back before you have a chance to miss me,” he added.
“Poppi too?” Elaina asked hopefully, her eyes widening. “Poppi come back fwom twip too?”
“Yes, Poppi too.” Jason was going to make sure he was telling his daughter the truth.
Not wanting to intrude on the father/daughter moment, Lulu slipped out of the room to find Diego. She wanted to see him before he left.
“Hey,” she said as she walked into his room.
Diego looked up from the duffel bag he had been packing. “Hey,” he said. “I was going to come find you when I was done here.”
“Jason was talking to Elaina, and I didn’t want to intrude. You all set?” she asked, looking at his bag.
Diego nodded. He walked over to her. “I know you’ll be okay here, but I still want you to be careful,” he said, taking her hands in his.
“You’re the one who has to be careful, Diego,” Lulu said, squeezing his fingers in hers. “I know you have to do this and I would never ask you not too. This is your father’s life we’re talking about – and I know he would do the same for you in a heartbeat.”
“I know you’re worried,” Diego said softly. “I’m going to be careful. I promise you that.”
Lulu nodded, letting out a deep breath. She had never doubted Diego before and she wasn’t going to start now.
“Is it ready?” Manny demanded of Matt, his tech guy.
Matt looked up from the camera. “It’s ready,” he said. “All you have to do is sit in front of it and talk. Press this button when you’re done.”
“I know how to use a camera, you idiot,” Manny snapped, annoyed by this boy’s supposed self-importance. If it became too annoying, the kid could be easily disposed of and replaced. There were more where he came from.
Matt left quickly. He had heard stories of Manny Ruiz, and he knew he shouldn’t have taken the job, but he needed to money. He’d just have to put up with the little man’s disrespect for a little while longer, and then he would take his money and disappear.
Alone, Manny adjusted his suit and sat in the chair in front of the camera, the remote he needed to start and stop the recording in his hand. Getting comfortable, Manny pressed the button to begin the recording.
Making sure Elaina was back with Lulu and her armed security detail, Jason finished packing what he needed and headed down to the living room. He checked his watch; they would be leaving in a little less than half and hour.
“Boss? Detective Lucky Spencer is here to see you,” Ricardo said as he stood in the living room door way.
“Let him in,” Jason said, wondering what Lucky could want.
“Jason,” Lucky said with a nod when he walked in. “I know there’s stuff going on with Lorenzo . . . Lulu told me,” he said. “What can I do to help?”
Jason looked at Lucky in surprise. “Are you here as a cop?” he asked.
“I’m here as a concerned older brother. Lulu is in love with Diego and she’s worried about him . . . and Lorenzo.”
“Then you can hang out here, make sure Lulu, Skye and Elaina are okay. Lainey Winters is also here helping.”
Lucky nodded. “Anything I need to know?”
Jason filled Lucky in on what he needed to know concerning Skye and Elaina. “I have a full security detail on grounds if anything happens. Ricardo, the man who showed you in, is in charge. Any problems come up, take Skye, Lulu and Elaina out of the house. Ricardo already has a route to a safe house mapped out and a car ready to go.”
Lucky was impressed, although he knew he shouldn’t be. “Good luck,” he said.
“Do you want some tea Skye?” Lainey asked, watching Skye pacing in front of the window. It was probably a good thing that the windows faced the backyard as opposed to the front of the house where Skye would see the team going to rescue Lorenzo leaving.
“No. I want this over and I want Lorenzo home,” Skye snapped, turning from the window. She sighed. “I’m sorry Lainey. I shouldn’t have snapped like that.”
“Don’t apologize,” Lainey said. “I know this has got to be difficult for you Skye. But you believe in Jason and Lorenzo. You know Jason will do everything he can to bring Lorenzo home to you and his family. And you know Lorenzo is strong. He will do everything he can to come home.”
Skye wrapped her arms around herself, feeling the movements of her babies under her hands. “You know, I thought love like this wasn’t for me. Sure, I’d been in love – or what I thought was love – but this . . . being with Lorenzo . . . is so much more different. I didn’t have to manipulate my way into his life, into his heart. We found each other when we needed a friend. That’s how it started. We became friends first. Lorenzo knew who I was, saw all of my flaws . . . and loves me for them, not in spite of them. We’ve always been honest with each other, right from the beginning.” Skye turned to the window again, not really seeing the manicured backyard and neatly tended gardens. “I could look at Lorenzo and knew I was safe, protected and cared for. I could look at him and know that no matter what I did, he would always be there for me. He wouldn’t judge based on the person I was or the life I led. Lorenzo never apologized for who he was. He laid it all out there. Sure, he protects his heart because it has been torn to pieces time and time again, but when he loves, he loved completely. With all that he is. I thought I would be overwhelmed by something like that, but I wasn’t.”
“It sounds like Lorenzo is the man you’ve been waiting for, looking for all of these years,” Lainey suggested gently.
A small smile crept over Skye’s lips. “He is. I never thought he existed. Or could exist. I spent so much time scheming and manipulating. I wasted time hating and plotting. With Lorenzo, none of that matters anymore. He has given me so much . . . and not just his love. He’s given me a sense and empowerment of who I am. A reason to want to change how I have always lived my life. And the chance to be a mother.” Her hands gently moved over her belly. “I never even considered being a mother, not after I had been in a horrible car accident and told I couldn’t have children. For me, that would never be a part of my life. And now, here I am, pregnant – with twins no less.” She turned back to Lainey. “I know I could do this without Lorenzo, but I don’t want to. I want to raise these babies with Lorenzo.”
“You will Skye. I’ve seen how Lorenzo is with you. How he is with Diego and Elaina. He would never abandon you or those babies. I know Lorenzo will fight to come home.”
Deep down, Skye believed it too. It was what was keeping her from falling completely apart. That and the two little lives she was responsible for. It was no longer just about her anymore.
“So, do you want to play outside?” Lulu asked.
Elaina shrugged from her position on the window seat in her room.
“We can go and visit Goldie. I bet she would love to have a nice juicy carrot about now,” Lulu suggested.
“Lulu,” Elaina said, turning around. “Why Poppi no come home? Why Daddy and Mommy Sam go?”
Lulu sat next to the little girl by the window. “You know your Daddy has gone on trips before right? And your Poppi?” She waited until Elaina nodded. “Well, this is just like those times. And like all those other times, your Poppi, and your Mommy and Daddy will be back soon.”
Elaina thought about it a moment. “Why Sye sad?” she asked. “She have two babies, but she sad.”
Lulu bit her lip. “Skye misses your Poppi and can’t wait to tell him about the other baby. I bet he’s going to be really happy and so surprised. What do you think?”
Elaina nodded. “Lulu, can I go to garden and pick tuwips for the babies?”
“You know what? I think that is a wonderful idea!”
Spinelli saw that he had mail. Clicking on the tab, he brought up his email page. Not recognizing the address the message was coming from, Spinelli ran it through a virus scanner – one that he designed on his own. There were no problems with it, so he opened it.
“Talk to me,” Stan said into his phone.
“It is the Jackal,” Spinelli said.
Stan rolled his eyes. “What do you have?” he asked.
“Demands from the Denizen of Evil have come through,” Spinelli reported. “I have sent it your way. It is imperative that Stone Cold sees it at once.”
“I’m on it,” Stan said as he tapped away at the keys of his laptop. Once he had the program accessed he looked up to find Jason. “Jason. You need to see this,” he said, locating him sitting next to Sam on the other side of the cabin.
Jason walked over to where Stan was sitting at a low table. “What’s going on?” he asked.
“Manny just sent in his demands,” he said. “It’s a video – not a live feed though.”
“Play it,” Jason said, sitting next to Stan on the couch.
“I hope you are paying very close attention, Mr. Morgan – the very survival of Lorenzo Alcazar depends on it.”
Sam had moved over to stand next to Jason. Everyone was quiet as they waited to hear what Manny’s demands would be.
“The first think you will do is to return all of the money you have stolen from me, with interest, of course. Once I have confirmation that this is done, I will contact you with further instructions.” The screen went blank.
“That’s it?” An astonished Sam asked. “All of this just to get his money back?”
But Jason knew it wasn’t that simple. “No, that’s not it, Sam,” he said. “It’s just the beginning of his demands. He’s going to wait and see how well I can follow directions, then he’ll move on to his next demand.”
“And if you don’t give him the money back?” Sam asked.
“Then there might be more of what we witnessed earlier on the live video feed,” Jason said, not looking at her.
Sam shuddered as images of Lorenzo’s back being whipped by a masked man flashed in front of her eyes. “So, how are we going to get around this?”
Jason looked at Stan.
Stan shook his head. “That money is long gone,” he said, knowing Jason knew this. The money they had taken from Manny’s accounts had been distributed, anonymously, to various charities.
“Can you make it look like the money has been put back?” Jason asked.
“Sure can,” Stan said. “Just give me a little time.”
“How much time?”
“Half hour tops,” Stan replied, already tapping away at the keys.
The whipping had been bad, but this was worse. Lorenzo wasn’t even surprised – Manny was a sadistic freak.
Lorenzo gulped in a breath of air, his body tense. He had lost count of how many times he had been shocked with teeth jarring volts of electricity from the long metal pole his masked tormentor had been prodding him with.
When he got out of this, and Lorenzo vowed he would, he was going to make Manny pay for all he had done. And not just to him, but also to everyone he loved.
Payback was going to be a bitch.
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