Sam smiled when she heard Elaina’s high-pitched squeals as she stepped out onto the patio and set a plate of cut fruit on the table. “Where’s Jason?” she asked when she didn’t see him.
“He had to take care of something,” Lorenzo answered, grabbing a chunk of pineapple from the plate.
Sam arched an eyebrow at her brother, planting her hands on her hips. “And that something would be . . .?” she asked.
Lorenzo didn’t look up at her as he chewed and swallowed. “Business,” he said.
“That’s really helpful, Lorenzo.” Sam rolled her eyes.
“You know I can’t tell you,” he said. “And pouting won’t work, either,” he warned her.
“Fine,” Sam gave in with a shrug. There was no use needling – she would just ask Jason herself later.
Lorenzo shook his head with a laugh. When he went to swipe another chunk of pineapple, Sam swatted his hand. “Hey!” He pulled his hand back.
“It’s not just for you,” Sam admonished him.
“Come on Sam, you can’t just bring pineapple out here and then tell me I can’t have it – you know it’s my favorite.”
“It’s also Elaina’s,” Sam pointed out. “If you want more, go get it yourself.”
When Sam turned her back to watch Elaina chase after the soccer ball, Lorenzo snatched another pineapple and popped it into his mouth.
“Lorenzo! I saw that!” Sam exclaimed.
With the fruit in his mouth, Lorenzo couldn’t defend himself, so he just shrugged innocently.
Swatting him upside the head, Sam huffed. “You are so going to get it.”
Grabbing her wrists, Lorenzo twisted her around, used his foot to knock her feet out from under her and lowered her to the ground.
Sam screamed as Lorenzo tickled her. “LORENZO! STOP!” she gasped in between squeals of laughter.
Swallowing the food in his mouth so he wouldn’t choke, Lorenzo shook his head. “No way! That’s what you get for hitting me!”
Wiggling on the patio floor, Sam managed to free her hands, swing around and kick out at her brother.
Lorenzo managed to avoid the kick, barely. Grabbing Sam, he scooped her up, tossed her over his shoulder and stepped off the patio.
“Lorenzo Alcazar! You put your sister down this instant!”
“Sorry, Mama, but she’s going to pay!”
Esmerelda shook her head as she watched Lorenzo carry Sam toward the pool.
“What’s going on?” Skye asked, stepping out from the kitchen.
“The father of your unborn children is acting like a child himself. I might as well get some towels.” Sighing with a shake of her head, but a twinkle of amusement in her blue eyes, Esmerelda headed to the downstairs bathroom.
Skye stood in the doorway to the bathroom she shared with Lorenzo, watching as he peeled off his wet clothes, dropping them onto the floor in a sopping heap. “You know you were asking for it,” she said, her eyes sliding over his well defined back and the shifting muscles as he moved.
“She started it,” Lorenzo said, looking at her over his shoulder.
Skye rolled her eyes. “What are you, three?” she asked with a shake of her head. “I can only imaging what the two of you were like when you were younger.”
Lorenzo chuckled, unbuckling his pants and dropping them to the floor with his shirt. “It’s not the first time I’ve dunked her. Poor girl had to learn to swim or drown.” He picked up a towel and rubbed at his hair with it.
Leaning against the door frame, Skye ran her eyes up and down Lorenzo’s powerful body. She could never get tired of looking at that body. Her fingers itched to touch him. It had been too long since they had been together. “Well . . . how about I make it up to you?” she asked with a suggestive lift of her arched eyebrows.
Stopping in the process of slipping on his robe, Lorenzo turned to her. He hated to disappoint her. “I’m sorry, Sweetie, but I can’t,” he said. “I have some calls to make.”
“Oh, okay,” Skye said, looking down.
Lorenzo stepped over to her, lifting her chin with his finger. “Hey, I love you. I want more than anything to be with you. And it’s not just business that has me declining.” He dropped his hands to her belly. “We want you to make it as close to term as possible. Dr. Lee has already cautioned us from . . .”
Pouting, Skye’s lips quirked up a little at the corners. “I know . . . and I guess Sam deserved the dunking when she tried to kick you –I’m going to have to talk to her about that.”
Lorenzo laughed, kissing her gently. “Just don’t do it near the pool.”
“Are you afraid I’d sink like a rock?”
“I’m not going to answer that one,” he said, sidestepping her swatting hand. “Hey! I’ve been hit enough today!”
When Skye turned from the bathroom, Lorenzo reached out for her. “Where are you going?” he asked, following her, adjusting his robe.
“To the kitchen,” Skye answered over her shoulder. “You’re babies want a snack.”
Under his breath, Lorenzo muttered, “That excuse isn’t going to work in a couple more months.” Then he dodged the pillow that came flying his way.
He stuck to the shadows, his dark jeans and t-shirt blending in, his ice blue eyes watching the man standing on the docks. Armando Cavales was known for his accuracy and getting the job done. Jason had never gone up against him before, but he knew of the man’s reputation. It preceded him.
Jason’s hand clutched his gun, the silencer screwed into place. In a case like this, with a man like Cavales, talking was not going to work. Cavales was ruthless, killing for the sport of it, the enjoyment he got out of it. He was a man Jason watched. A man who had to pay for the lives he needlessly ended.
Watching the man, he appeared aloof, unconcerned with his surrounding, but Jason knew that was a ruse. The man was alert, on guard. The light gray tailored suit he wore hid not just the bulk of the man’s frame, but the weapon at his back.
He waited. He needed to make this count – there would be no second chance. The first shot had to count. So he waited. He watched. He let his senses take over. Listening for voices, for passerby who might stubble upon the situation. He didn’t need witnesses or innocent bystanders injured. All he heard was the lap of the water against the wooden pilings and the clink of metal on metal as his mark jiggled loose change in his pocket. His blue eyes took in the man’s stance, the shadows edging the docks. He picked up the scent of the salt water of the ocean, the sweet smell of nearby trees and the tangy scent – most likely Armando’s cologne. He adjusted his grip on the gun in his hand. The cold metal and heft of the weapon. The difference between himself and the man he was targeting was that Jason didn’t kill for the hell of it. When Jason pulled the trigger, there was a reason behind it. He was protecting those he cared about. He was protecting an innocent person. He was eliminating a predator. But when a man like Armando Cavales killed, he was doing it for fun. For the sport. For money.
Shifting his weight, not making a sound, Jason made his move.
Armando looked at his watch – again. He was supposed to be meeting the Ruiz brothers here to finalize some plans, but they hadn’t shown up. He shook his head. He knew those two were unstable, had known for a long time – there were stories circulating about them within his circle.
Pulling out his PDA, Armando checked his private account. The money had not been transferred yet. They hadn’t specified when he would get the money, just that it was ready to be wired to him. Most he worked for paid him when the job was done. And if he didn’t get paid, no big. Wiping out Alcazar and Morgan would propel his status in the underworld – making him an even more sought after assassin.
Slipping his phone back into his pocket, Armando adjusted his collar, glanced at his watch. He wasn’t going to wait anymore. He was going to get the job done and move on. He would deal with the Ruiz brothers soon enough.
Sliding on his sunglasses, Armando turned and froze. He hadn’t heard the man approach. Hadn’t heard him get this close. And that was his mistake. He stared into the cold blue eyes, not finding anything resembling emotion. The stories about this man were true.
Armando could have reached for his weapon, but there was no point.
“How long are you going to be gone?” Skye asked as she watched Lorenzo move around their bedroom, tossing some things into an overnight bag.
Lorenzo stopped and sat on the couch beside her, taking her hands in his. “I’ll be back by tomorrow evening, I promise.”
“Why do you have to go?” she asked. “Can’t Jason go? Or Max? Why you?”
He knew Skye wasn’t normally like this. Something was going on. “Skye, talk to me. What’s on your mind?”
“Lorenzo, I’m seven months pregnant. We’re lucky the babies have made it this far already without coming early. But we’re so close. What happens if I go into labor and you’re not here?”
Lorenzo sighed. “I know you’re scared, but you and babies are doing fine, Skye. I’ll be back by dinner tomorrow.” He didn’t want to go, but he had a closer relationship with the Di Marco organization, having worked with them for many years. He needed them to understand where he stood with their support of the Ruiz bothers – and it had to be done in person. He had already contacted Angelo Di Marco and arranged the meeting. “I’m only going to Manhattan, Skye. If anything happens – and it won’t,” he said before she could interrupt. “I have the jet and can get back here quickly.”
Skye slid her hands from her, pushing them through her deep auburn hair. “I know I’m being irrational, but I can’t help it, Lorenzo. I never thought this would happen to me. Falling in love with a wonderful man, becoming a mother – to twins no less! I couldn’t bare losing any of it.”
Moving closer to her, Lorenzo gathered her in his arms. “You’re not going to, Skye,” he whispered. “You and these babies mean so much to me. I would never do anything to jeopardize that. In order to keep you and our children safe, I have to do this. Please, understand that.”
Leaning her head on his chest, listening to the beat of his heart and the rumble of his words in his chest, Skye nodded. “I do understand that, Lorenzo,” she said, lifting her eyes to look at him. “And I love you even more for it. I guess I’m starting to feel some anxiety.”
Lorenzo kissed the top of her head. “I’ll call as soon as I arrive in the city,” he promised. “And again when my meeting is over.”
“You better,” Skye said, sitting up. “You are taking someone with you, aren’t you?”
“I am,” he said. He had learned after his last excursion that he couldn’t go without a guard. Even he needed back up. He shifted as his phone vibrated in his pocket. Pulling it out, he flipped it open and looked at the incoming text message:
Jason finally arrived on the estate after discarding Cavales’s body. He rotated his shoulders as he pushed open the front door and stepping inside. It was quiet. He had already spoken to Lorenzo, who had taken Max with him to talk with the Di Marco’s about their involvement with Manny and Mateo Ruiz. Lorenzo believed they didn’t know what the brother’s alternative plan was. Jason had agreed. He had also agreed that Lorenzo had to be the one to go and talk to them face to face. Alberto Di Marco was not a very trusting man and only dealt with a few bosses, Lorenzo being one of them.
He had promised to keep an eye on things at the house, picking up on Lorenzo’s worry over Skye being anxious about him going out of town. After a long hot shower, Jason planned on heading over to the main house to check on her, maybe grab a snack and see what Esmerelda had going for dinner.
Climbing the stairs to the second floor of the house he shared with his daughter and Sam, Jason approached Elaina’s door. Her room was empty. Heading to his own bedroom, he found Sam lounging on the bed flipping through a magazine, her back to the door.
Quietly, Jason stepped into the room, not wanting to disturb her. Quiet moments around here were few and far between. As he approached the bed, Sam’s quick movement had him pinned down on the bed, a knife to his throat.
“Jason! What the hell are you doing sneaking up on me!” Sam exclaimed, her dark eyes wide with surprise.
Jason’s own eyes were wide. “I wasn’t sneaking, I was trying to not scare you,” he tried to explain.
“Good work,” Sam snorted. “I could have slit your throat.”
He knew she wasn’t lying about that. Sam had some amazing skills and she was quick to employ them. Grabbing the wrist of the hand still holding the knife, Jason flipped them over on the bed so he was now hovering over her, both arms stretched over her head. “What’s got you so spooked?” he asked. “And where’s Elaina?”
“She’s napping at Lorenzo’s,” Sam told him, not bothering to squirm out from under him. She liked where she was just fine. “She had an eventful afternoon. I’ll explain later,” she added at Jason’s questioning look. “Anyway, Skye’s a little on edge about Lorenzo being out of town and since he refused to tell me where you were . . .”
Sam was definitely a woman who knew how to take care of herself. “So why are you here all alone while everyone’s at the main house?” he asked, looking down into her deep brown eyes. He was careful to keep most of his weight off of her slight frame, but he could still feel the heat of her body against his, feel her full breasts pressing against his chest. He swallowed, suppressing the growl that rose in his throat.
Sam had seen the shift in his eyes, the way the blue darkened and became stormy. She felt her own breath hitch and her body react to him. “Well . . . I figured you would come here first after your mystery errand . . . and I wanted to take advantage of the alone time.”
Pushing up off the bed, Jason stripped off his t-shirt, dropping it to the floor. Then he moved to the bathroom.
Her eyes sliding over his tightly muscled torso, Sam sat up, licking her lips. “Hey, where are you going?” she asked.
“I need a shower,” Jason said. He looked over his shoulder as he shed the rest of his clothes. “I could always use the company.”
Lorenzo nodded as he was led into a large office. He took a moment to look around. A little too Godfather for his taste, but he supposed it served a purpose. He approached the large, ornate polished wood desk, stopping at a respectful distance.
“Ah, Lorenzo,” Alberto greeted as he turned in his plush leather desk chair. “It is good to see you. Please, sit.”
Lorenzo sat in the chair opposite the desk. “It’s good of you to see me on such short notice,” he said. “I just wish it was under better circumstances.”
“You mentioned on the phone that you had concerns about an association of mine,” Alberto said. “I understand your reluctance to go into detail over the phone, but I must I admit that I am curious.”
Sitting back, Lorenzo crossed one leg over the other. “I am here about Manny and Mateo Ruiz,” he began, not wanting to beat around the bush. He had promised Skye he would be back by the next evening. Although he was hoping to head back sooner than that.
“What about them?” Alberto asked, sitting back.
“What do you know about them?” Lorenzo asked, not giving up too much. He needed to know what Alberto knew, needed to know what Mateo had told him. It wasn’t a stretch to assume Mateo was now the one calling the shots.
“I’ve only had contact with one brother, Mateo,” Alberto confirmed. “He told me he and his brother were rebuilding their family’s empire and were looking for allies. I didn’t promise them anything, but decided to test their abilities. See, I have knowledge of the Ruiz family. I knew to be cautious.”
“And so you had them launder money for you,” Lorenzo supplied. He waited for Alberto’s nod. “Have you heard from either brother lately?”
Alberto thought a moment. “No,” he said. “But I have a scheduled call from them tonight.”
“It won’t be coming,” Lorenzo said. “Unless they contact you to ask for bail.” He went on to explain what the Ruiz brothers had been up to and where they were now. “We were able to keep your name out of their dealings, the police will not be able to trace where the money originally came from, and I doubt Mateo will want to give up your name in exchange for a lighter sentence.”
“You don’t want them serving time,” Alberto said, watching Lorenzo. “That would be too easy and there would be a chance they could get out and come after you and your family again.”
Lorenzo nodded. “True,” he said. “I’m calling in a favor. I want the Ruiz brother’s eliminated. I would prefer to do it myself, but their deaths would be traced back to myself and Jason Morgan and we can’t have that. But we are willing to work with you, behind the scenes, to take them out. Whatever you need from us, we will provide.”
“I know a few good men I can put on the job,” Alberto said.
A slow smile spread over Lorenzo’s lips. “Just don’t call Armanda Cavales . . . he’s out of commission.”
“Where’s Diego?” Skye asked when she walked into the dining room for dinner. Jason and Sam were sitting in their usual places, looking quite relaxed. Elaina was in between them slowly sipping her milk. Esmerelda was just putting the last platter on the table. Skye’s eyes shifted to Lorenzo’s place at the table – empty.
“He and Lulu went out tonight,” Sam informed her. “How are you feeling?”
Skye sighed and sat down, shrugged. “Tired,” she said. “Have you heard from Lorenzo?” she directed to Jason.
Jason nodded as he spooned a small helping of peas onto his daughter’s plate. “About fifteen minutes ago,” he informed her, giving Elaina a stern look when she mad a face at the peas. “Eat them,” he told her. “He said he would call you after dinner,” he said to Skye.
Skye nodded. Lorenzo had called her earlier when he had landed in New York City, making her feel a little better about his not being there. She reached for the baked chicken.
“Icky peas, Daddy,” Elaina complained, picking up one between two fingers. “No want!”
“Their good for you,” Jason said to her. “Eat them.”
“Why good?” Elaina asked, looking at her father.
Skye bit her lip to keep from smiling, seeing Sam do the same. How could you explain why peas are good? “You know what Elaina? I used to hate peas, too, but I found a great way to make them taste better,” she said.
Elaina looked at her with interest.
“Sam, can you please pass the Italian dressing?” Skye asked. Once she had it, she motioned Jason for Elaina’s plate. She poured a little bit over the peas, mixed them together, and then handed it back to Jason.
Elaina looked at the plate. She scrunched her nose and lips, grasped her spoon and scooped some up. She slowly brought the spoon to her mouth and took a tentative taste. Then her eyes popped open. “Yummy peas!” she exclaimed, scooping up more.
“See, I told you,” Skye said, smiling at Jason, you shot her a look of thanks.
Dinner continued uneventfully. Half-way through dinner, Sam looked over at Skye. “Are you okay?” she asked, noticing how Skye had been rubbing her ample abdomen most of the meal.
“Yeah, their just a little active right now,” she said, taking a bite of salad. “Probably just missing their Daddy.”
“Sye, when babies come?” Elaina asked, working on her second helping of peas.
“In a couple of more months,” Skye said.
Elaina looked at Jason. “I help wif babies, Daddy,” she said. “Poppi say so.”
Everyone finished dinner to Elaina’s chattering about the babies and what she wanted to do with them – including sharing Goldie with them.
Not wanting to miss Lorenzo’s call, Skye decided to head upstairs to lie down a little bit. The babies had not settled too much by the time they had finished dinner.
Sam helped Esmerelda to clear up the table, put the left-over away, and load the dishwasher while Jason cleaned up Elaina. When Jason came into the kitchen after letting the little girl loose to play a little bit before getting ready for bed, Sam turned to him.
“I think we should stay here tonight,” Sam said to him as she stacked dishes.
“Why?” Jason asked.
“I don’t know. Diego will be out with Lulu late, I’m sure. Lorenzo won’t be home until tomorrow evening . . . Skye just seemed unsettled,” Sam explained.
Jason nodded. “No problem,” he said. “I’ll grab some stuff from the house.”
The door slammed behind him. Mateo glared over his shoulder. “One phone call, Ruiz. Make it count.”
He had been here before. He knew the rules. The hierarchy. He had survived once before – he would survive again. But he didn’t plan on being here that long anyway. By laundering money for the Di Marco Family, he had secured a get out of jail free card for himself and his brother. Now was the time to cash it in.
Picking up the receiver, Mateo punched in the number for Alberto Di Marco’s private line, he was not going to waste his time going through insubordinates. Leaning back in the metal chair bolted to the floor, Mateo put his legs up on the metal table, waiting for the line to be picked up.
The phone on Alberto’s expansive desk rang. His eyes on Lorenzo, he lifted the receiver. “Di Marco here,” he said as way of greeting. Raising his brows at Lorenzo, he indicated it was the call they were waiting for.
“I do not understand, Mateo,” he said, feigning ignorance of the situation. “What happened?” He listened to the man’s explanations. “Well, I am grateful you kept my name out of it . . . your discretion will be rewarded. You and brother sit tight, I will see what I can do from my end . . . very well,” he said.
He ended the call, replacing the receiver, looking to Lorenzo.
His business done for the night, Lorenzo returned the apartment he kept in the city. He wanted to call Skye before it became too late. He had heard the worry she had been trying to mask in her voice when he had called earlier.
Removing the jacket of his suit, Lorenzo loosened a couple of the top buttons of his shirt, sitting on the black leather couch. Leaning his head back, he pulled out his cell phone, flipping it open and dialed Skye’s cell number.
“Lorenzo?” her voice came through the line on a sigh of happiness.
“My meeting just ended,” he told her. “I wanted to check in before you went to bed.”
“I miss you,” Skye said. “When will you be home?”
He picked up some anxiety in her voice. “Skye, is everything okay?” he asked, sitting up on alert.
“I’m fine Lorenzo,” Skye assured him. “These two just don’t seem to want to settle down tonight.”
Still not completely settled, Lorenzo leaned forward. “I will be home as soon as I can,” he said urgently.
“Lorenzo, we’re fine. I’m just tired. I don’t want you to rush. You’ll be home tomorrow as planned. Just call me when you head to the plane.”
He closed his eyes a moment. He had one more meeting mid-afternoon tomorrow before heading home. “Alright. Then I will see you tomorrow my love.”
Diego held Lulu in his arms, her head resting on his chest, the two of them wrapped around each other and in the blankets and sheets of his bed. He gently stroked her long blonde hair, dropping a gentle kiss to to the top of her head. She had been quiet for a while. He looked down at her. “Are you okay?” he whispered.
Lulu lifted her head to look up at him. “I’m wonderful,” she whispered back. “That was wonderful, Diego . . .” she trailed off as she caught his lips with hers.
Diego groaned softly as he parted her lips with his, tasting her again. His body stirred as the kiss deepened. He moved over her, supporting himself on his arms. As he trailed his mouth from Lulu’s sweet lips down the side of her throat, the door to his bedroom slammed open, hitting the wall behind it and the light snapped on.
“Sam!” Diego exclaimed, rolling off of Lulu and shielding her with his body. “What are you doing?”
“I could ask you two the same thing!” Sam admonished them. “We don’t have time for this right now – something’s wrong with Skye, we’re taking her to General Hospital.”
Grabbing his jeans from the floor, Diego pulled them on, getting out of bed. “What happened?” he asked.
Sam shook her head. “I don’t know, I think she’s in labor, but her water hasn’t broken. Jason is getting the car. Esmerelda is going to stay with Elaina. Meet us downstairs.”
She quickly left the room to help Jason with Skye. Diego found a shirt and pulled it on. He turned to Lulu. “Can you stay here with my grandmother and Elaina?” he asked, finding some socks on the floor and his work boots.
Lulu sat up, clutching the sheet around her body. “Of course,” she said. “Diego, I’m sure Skye and the babies will be fine.”
Diego took her hand in his. “I hope so,” he said. “Call my father. He needs to be here.” Then he rushed out of the room.
The insistent ringing of his cell phone woke Lorenzo. He sat up, reaching for the phone on the night table. “Alcazar,” he said. He listened for a moment and then practically leaped out of bed, grabbing for his clothes. “Tell her I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
Snapping the phone closed, Lorenzo pulled on his clothes, moving out of his bedroom. He banged on the guest bedroom door. “MAX!” he yelled through the door, pounding on it again. “MAX!”
When the door was swung open, Lorenzo wasted no time. “Get dressed, we’re going home. Something’s wrong with Skye and the babies.”
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