After a late birthday lunch, Lorenzo led the group out into the front driveway. He had gotten a call just before they sat down to eat that his gift for his son had arrived. He had instructed the delivery to be stored in the garage until he gave the signal.
The lunch, prepared by his mother, was a small feast in itself – all of Diego’s favorite foods and desserts. Everyone was relaxed and enjoyed themselves, something Lorenzo had wanted for his son. Diego had lost a lot in his short life and Lorenzo had wanted his birthday to be a day of peace.
“Where we go Poppi?” Elaina asked as she skipped down the stairs, her tiny hand in his. After her wake up call this morning, she had helped Diego to clean up his bed and then managed to put away her fair share of chocolate chip pancakes at breakfast. He knew a couple of guards who were probably exhausted after chasing around after a very hyper-active little girl.
“It’s a surprise,” Lorenzo said, looking down at her. She was the image of her mother, with her father’s eyes. Every now and then his breath would catch when he looked at her.
“For Deego?” Elaina asked, looking up at him and swiping some hair out of her eyes. She had refused to wear it held back, letting her dark locks fly around her head.
Lorenzo nodded as he signaled to a guard that it was time.
“What are we doing out here, Pop?” Diego asked, moving to stand on his father’s other side.
“You’ll see,” Lorenzo answered criptically. After much research, Lorenzo had decided on the sleek, dark gray sports car with tinted windows. It was fully loaded with all the features he knew his son would want.
Not sure what to expect, Diego’s jaw practically hit the driveway when the hottest car he had ever laid eyes on rolled to a stop in front of them. He turned disbelieving eyes to his father.
Unable to hide his own excitement any longer, a smile broke out on Lorenzo’s face. “Happy Birthday, son,” he said, clapping Diego on the shoulder.
Finally finding his voice, Diego looked from the amazing car to his father. “This is mine?” he asked, not sure if he had figured it out right. There was no way his father would dangle something like this in front of him and then take it away.
Lorenzo laughed and nodded. “It’s all yours,” he said, pushing his son toward the car. “Go on, check it out.”
In a daze, Diego reached out and touched the car – yup, it was real. His eyes took in the dark gray color, shining under the mid afternoon sun. The rims shined a bright silver and the tinted widows reflected back his own shocked image. He stepped back when the driver’s side door swung open and Milo climbed out.
“Man, you are lucky,” he said to Diego, holding the door open and tossing Diego the keys.
His shock wearing off, Diego jumped into the car – his car – without hesitation. Milo shut the door as Diego started the engine.
Leaning over, Skye said to Lorenzo, “We might have to alert the authorities once he’s on the road with that thing.”
Diego gunned the engine, then slid the window down. “This car is amazing!” he exclaimed.
“Wait until you get it out on the road,” Lorenzo said. At his son’s quizzical look, he shrugged. “Someone had to take it out for a test drive.”
Diego gunned the engine again, then looked at Lulu. “Come on, we’ll take it for our own test drive,” he said.
“What about the rest of your gifts?” she asked, although she was practically bouncing on her toes at the prospect of being able to ride in that car. It was the definition of power and beauty.
Diego looked to his father.
“Go on,” Lorenzo said, waving Lulu to the car. “But be careful. We’ll be here when you get back.”
As Lulu jumped into the passenger seat, Diego said, “We won’t be long.” Then he slid up his window, gunned the engine and peeled out of the driveway.
As everyone headed back into the house to wait for Diego to return, a honking horn had Lorenzo and Jason turning back around. “We’ll be right in,” he said to Skye and his mother. Sam carried a now sleepy Elaina – finally coming off of her sugar high and stuffed with a hearty lunch – into the house for a nap.
Lorenzo met the car as it pulled up and Diane Miller stepped out. “Now, if that was Diego in the sports car, I guess I can expect a call about another speeding ticket in the near furture,” she said with a wry smile.
“Probably,” Lorenzo responded sheepishly, as Diane had handled his own ticket when he had tried out the car. “I didn’t know we had an appointment.”
“You and I don’t. My appointment is with Jason and Sam,” Diane informed him. She turned her attention to Jason. “I figured you and Sam would want to go over the draft I’ve drawn up for Elaina’s adoption. If we go over it now, I can get it ready for the two of you to sign the day you’re married.”
“I’ll get Sam,” Jason said and trotted up the stairs.
Diane leaned on her car, crossing her arms over her chest. “I’m sure Diego was excited to see the car,” she commented.
“I don’t think excitement is the right word . . . I don’t even think there is a right word,” Lorenzo said, basking in the way he was able to make his son so happy. “Is there a problem?” he asked when Diane didn’t respond.
“You tell me,” Diane said, her eyebrow arched. “I know this is a special day for your son . . . but don’t you think something like this would draw the Ruiz brothers out of hiding?”
“Have you heard something I haven’t?” he asked, moving beside her and leaning against the car himself.
“Officially? No,” Diane said. “But you seem pretty relaxed.”
“We have the Ruiz situation under control,” Lorenzo said, looking up at the house.
Diane nodded. “I won’t ask for details,” she said. “In fact, I am going to go into the house and see if I can steal one of the wonderful pastries I’m sure your mother has prepared.”
The corners of his blue eyes crinkling with a smile, Lorenzo nodded. “Help yourself. Just beware if Skye is picking, you don’t want to lose a finger or two.”
“Noted,” Diane said as she pushed away from the car and headed into the house. She would grab a snack and wait for Sam and Jason in the front parlor.
Manny was pacing again. He had never been the silent quiet twin. He wanted to act, not wait. He couldn’t understand how Mateo could be so patient – must have been the years spent in jail and then the seminary.
The longer they waited, the longer Alcazar and Morgan would have to be able to plan. They needed to be the ones to strike, to finally put an end to the Alcazar/Morgan Organization once and for all. Manny wanted to prove that Alcazar wasn’t as powerful and untouchable as he appeared. Everyone had a breaking point. And Manny wanted to be the one to find it, expose it, and use it.
But Mateo didn’t see it that way. While not exactly ridiculing Manny’s past attempts, Mateo said it was pointless to try and break men like Lorenzo Alcazar and Jason Morgan. They weren’t men who ruled with their emotions. He also pointed out that the major loss both men suffered – the death of Alcazar’s daughter, who was also the mother of Morgan’s child – only made them stronger. Where the two men had been at odds for years, this tragedy had only brought them closer together – forming an even stronger organization than they had been apart. He also pointed out that it was impossible to destroy them from the inside out. Just listening to Mateo talk this way made Manny begin to wonder if there was any point in continuing with their plans.
Mateo disagreed. He figured that if you couldn’t destroy them through loved ones and you couldn’t get to them from the inside, then the only path left was tot ake the heart, the center of the organization out head on. Go right for the gold. Eliminate both Lorenzo and Jason at the same time – then there would be no one left to run things . . . it would all fall apart. Mateo figured there were many interesting and creative ways to accomplish this and he had spent a lot of time determining which would be best.
They were only going to have one shot at this – there would no second chances.
Manny was pulled from his thoughts by his brother’s voice.
“Our offer has been accepted,” Mateo said from the doorway, a feral gleam in his eyes. “Our plans can now move forward.”
Spinelli’s fingers flew over the keys as he was able to access more and more information. It had taken some time, but he had managed to find a way into the Demented Duo’s finanical records undetected – a person victory.
It seemed that the surmises of Stone Cold and Mr. Al, Sr. were correct. The Demented Duo were in fact laundering money – acting as a go between for whoever they were working for and the actual place where the laundering was being done, and they were reaping a large profit from it. The trace on the money’s origin was still running.
As page after page was being downloaded, printed and saved, Spinelli came across another transaction – a transaction in the amount of hald a million dollars was being prepared for a wire transfer to another account. He flagged it, want to see where it ended up.
Diego coasted the car to a stop in front of the house. The car handled perfectly. He still couldn’t wrap his head around the fact that this was his.
Lulu laughed as she watched him. “Are you planning on sleeping in here tonight?” she teased.
“I just might,” Diego said with a slow nod of his head, his fingers gliding over the steering wheel. “This car is amazing.”
Lulu wasn’t going to argue with that. Diego had driven out to the countryside and really opened up. Her heart was still thumping in her chest from the ride. “We can always go out again later,” she said. “Now that you’ve had time to enjoy your gift from your dad, I want to be able to give you mine.”
Diego turned his head and raised his eyebrows at her. “Is that so?” he asked with a suggestive smile.
Swatting him on the arm, Lulu laughed. “That’s not what I mean,” she admonished him, her cheeks flushing.
Leaning over, Diego snaked his hand behind her head and pulled her close, bringing her mouth to his. He kissed her deeply, parting her lips with his, drawing it out as long as he could. Pulling back, he gently tucked a strand of blond hair behind her ear. “Maybe we can continue that later,” he whispered.
As he climbed out of the car, Lulu took a moment to regain her composure. She didn’t think she had ever loved any man the way she was in love with Diego. In just this year alone they had gotten so close . . . she remembered a conversation she had had with Skye about her feelings for Diego . . . maybe she was more ready than she thought to take this relationship further.
When the door opened, Lulu took the hand Diego offered her, letting him pull her to her feet. She leaned up on her toes and lightly brushed her lips over his. “I think maybe we will,” she whispered against his lips.
“So all that’s left is for us to sign the papers?” Sam asked, twisting her fingers together in her lap, hidden under the table they were sitting at in the dining room.
Diane nodded. “And we can take care of that once you legally become Mrs. Morgan,” she said, organizing the papers and her notes and returning them to her briefcase.
Sam nodded, her teeth knawing on her lower lip.
“Sam? Are you okay?” Jason asked, looking over at her. He had noticed her playing with her hands while everything was being ironed out as far as custody and the terms of the adoption. Now she was biting on her lip – a sure sign she was nervous or uncertain of something.
Sam nodded, but didn’t look at him.
Diane excused herself, giving the two of them time to talk.
Once alone, Jason turned to Sam, taking her hands in his. “What is it?” he asked.
Sam looked up into his eyes. He was worried, she could see it. “I don’t know, Jason . . . all of a sudden it hit me . . . I am going to be responsible for a little girl, she’s going to depend on me . . . do you think I can do this?”
Jason smiled. “Yes. You have already been a mother to Elaina. She loves you Sam, and just as importantly, she respects you and your authority. In all sense of the word, you are the only mother she knows . . . we’re just going to make it legal.”
He was right. She had been Elaina’s mother since the day Jason brought her home. She had stepped into the roll without hesitation. There was no reason for her to be balking now. Taking in a breath, she let it out. “I’m being silly,” she said.
“Never,” Jason told her. “When I found out I was going to be a father . . . I was speechless. And as Jessica’s pregnancy progressed and I got to hear Elaian’s heartbeat for the first time . . . see her through the sonogram . . . it wasn’t real until I held her in my arms. I will forever miss Jessica. And I will mourn the fact that both she and Elaina were robbed of the opportunity to know each other. But I’m doing what I need to do for myself and for Elaina. I’ve fallen in love with an amazing woman. And she loves my daughter as she were her own. I consider myself very lucky.”
Unable to stop her tears, Sam felt them slide down her cheeks at Jason’s words. “And I’ve fallen in love with a man who is strong, and intelligent and has just a caring heart. A man who loves me for me, who trusts his daughter with me. It’s a heady thing.”
Jason understood completely. A lot of the same things had gone through his own head when Jessica had told him she was pregnant. “I want you by my side, Sam. I want us to continue to raise Elaina together. Watch her grow up, encourage her to become whatever it is she wants to become.”
Sam could see it now. “Going to school for the first time . . . her first best friend . . . her first date . . .”
Jason stopped her. “I never said anything about dating,” he said. “We’re not going there.”
Sam shook her head. “Jason, it’s already going to be hard enough for her with Jason Morgan as her father and Lorenzo Alcazar as her grandfather.”
“Good. That’s the way it should be.”
She punched his arm. “Then it’s a good thing I’ll be around,” she said.
Jason rolled his eyes. His daughter was not even three yet and Sam was already planning her dating life. There was no way he was ever going to be ready for that.
“Armanda Cavales. I am glad you were able to get here so quickly,” Mateo said as he greeted their guest. He stepped aside for the other man to enter the house.
“I was in the city,” Armando explained. “And I was intrigued by your propsal.”
Mateo directed Armanda to the den, which he had turned into his base of operations. “My brother, Manny Ruiz,” he introduced.
Armando nodded to the man, then turned his attention back to Mateo. “You didn’t go into all of the details of what you wanted done.”
Mateo moved to sit at the desk, leaning back and fixing his dark eyes on the man in front of him. Armando was definitely had impressive figure. Standing at 6’5” in height, he was made of pure muscle. Even with his size and height, Mateo knew the man was quick and efficient in what he did. He could come up behind a man and snap his neck with little effort before the victim even knew he was there. He was that good. Mateo knew he was the right choice.
“I need you to take out two targets,” he began. “And they need to be taken out as close to the same time as possible. If one is left alive, that’s the end. There are no second chances to get them again.”
“Who are the targets?”
“Lorenzo Alcazar and Jason Morgan.”
Armando nodded slowly. “Jason Morgan’s reputation preceeds him. He is heralded as an excellent shot, a man who gets the job done. And Lorenzo Alcazar has been described as being lethally quiet. A boss who doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty.”
“You sound as if you admire them,” Mateo speculated.
“If you don’t admire and respect the skills of others then you’re as good as dead in this business,” Armando countered.
“Well put,” Mateo conceded. “Yes, these two men have a reputation, I will give you that, but they need to be knocked down a few notches – preferably six feet under . . . if you get my drift.”
“I do,” Armando nodded, relishing the challenge being laid before him. “How do you want it done?”
“That’s up to you, as long as it gets done and neither man is left standing . . . or breathing. It won’t be enough to injure them. They both need to be dead. And I am prepared to wire half a million into your accounts.”
The money added to the allure of the challenge. “I’m in.”
“Yes!” Spinelli punched his fist into the air. The information he needed to nail the Demented Duo was in and now he could move forward. Pausing in his victory, Spinelli sent a text message to Stone Cold’s phone:
DD LND $ 4 DI MARCO FAM
PD 1/2 M$ CAVALES ??
With the message sent, Spinelli concentrated on his next task – making sure all of the information got to the proper authorities. Anonymously, of course.
Jason looked down at his phone, accessing the new text message there. He read it over, then looked up at Lorenzo sitting across the table from him. They were now in the backyard where Diego and Lulu were playing with Elaina, trying to teach her the finer points of soccer. Skye was napping and Sam and Esmerelda were somewhere in the house.
Lorenzo saw Jason’s nod. He pulled out his own cell as Jason forwarded the message to him. He looked it over then hit reply:
Lorenzo rolled his eyes, hit reply:
WHT DO U WNT 2 DO?
A small smile tugged at the corners of Jason’s mouth.
TAKE HIM OUT
Jason flipped his phone shut and stood. He quietly left the backyard, following the path back to his own house. He had some preparing to do and knew Lorenzo would keep an eye on Elaina and let Sam know what was going on.
Details set, Armando left the house. Manny walked him out, then returned to the den. “Do you really think he’ll be able to do it?” he asked his brother.
Mateo didn’t look up from some papers he was looking over. “If I didn’t think he could I wouldn’t be paying him half a million.”
Manny rolled his eyes. “I don’t see why we couldn’t just do the job ourselves. Why give all the glory to an outsider? He doesn’t have the same stake in all of this that we do.”
Sighing, Mateo leaned back in his chair. “It will be known we executed the hit, Manny. We will get all the glory and finally be able to rise above the destruction of the Ruiz Family. We’ll be able to rebuild, be even stronger than our father was. Keeping our hands clean at the moment will only ensure that rise.”
Manny shook his head and would have argued further if the front door hadn’t come crashing down and shouts of “Police! Don’t move! You’re under arrest!” following by pounding feet.
It all happened so fast, neither brother had time to react. They had no idea what was going on, but both knew to keep their mouths shut as they were cuffed, mirandarized and led from the “borrowed” house.
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