Hello my dear readers! Enjoy this week’s edition. If you’ve missed previous chapters, here’s the directory! Enjoy!
For once, I was envious of Elena’s ability to tune out the real world. That and her sedatives. I could’ve done with a few of those.
Dinner had been marred with the news of a riot uptown. Faced with being fired by the union, a workers’ brawl had started two blocks up from where we were dining. Then it spread as people began protesting the police presence.
I’d watched part of it through a window of the restaurant as it raged down on the street two levels below us; completely aghast as chaos reigned and tear gas was fired mercilessly on the crowds.
While Teagan had advised taking me back to the Hacienda, Ryan had refused and finished eating without thinking much of the uprising. My suspicion was that he’d seen plenty of similar revolts and that this was of absolutely no shock to him.
What the hell was going on in this city?
Once we’d returned home, Ryan didn’t seem to understand my continued edginess. As Teagan discreetly hung back to give us privacy and slunk off into another hall, Ryan sighed. Placing a hand on my back as he escorted me to my suite, he murmured, “You’ve been quiet all night.”
“The incident left me… unnerved,” I admitted, wondering just what I should do. I didn’t dare let on to him what the woman had said; not until I spoke with Mortimer. If it got out that the rebellion leaders were eyeing me, I had no doubt those in power would either manipulate me further or outright kill me. “Is there a rebellion going on?”
He stared at me, expression inscrutable. “It’s nothing to worry about. It’s preposterous really; people wanting what they can’t have.” He touched my cheek. “You’re perfectly safe.”
Forestalling me as I went to question him further, he spun me around to pin me against the wall, caging me in with his arms. As my breath hitched, a smirk played at his lips.
“Now what is it I have to do to get your attention? I’m not used to being ignored… especially by such an enticing tease,” he murmured, his eyes taking on a predatory quality as he pressed a kiss to my neck. One hand dragged me closer by the waist.
Now he was closing in for the kill, looking to land himself in my bed. Unsure of what to do as he kissed his way upward, I just put my hand to his chest. “Don’t you think you’re moving a bit fast?”
I squeaked as he kissed me roughly, capturing my lips. The kiss was overtly seductive, telling me exactly where he expected the evening to head. Although the contact wasn’t by any means unpleasant, I kept my eyes open, trying to push him off.
Especially as his hand slid down toward my ass and pulled me against him so that I could feel the pressing bulge in his pants. While I didn’t want to have to deck him, I was rapidly running out of options otherwise.
“Ryan, let’s not,” I said, trying to get my mouth away from him.
But he wasn’t listening.
That quickly ended.
“Hmm… Isn’t this where the man’s supposed to make sure the lady is on the same page…?”
Ryan surfaced, likewise hearing Kit’s liltingly annoyed tone. I looked to the side, spotting Kit standing at the top of the third level stairs, watching us with disgust. My cheeks burned.
Ryan straightened, though not moving from where he had me pinned. “Mr. Arenciana, don’t you have a taco somewhere with your name on it?”
The atmosphere in the room solidified into unnatural stillness; a smoldering tension hanging in the air like the calm before a destructive thunderstorm.
Kit only smiled more cagily, much like a cobra coiled ready to strike. “Perhaps a hot chocolate would be more like it considering my ancestors were Aztecs. If they encountered an adversary, they’d cannibalize and drink their blood. Fortunately, I prefer more diplomatic pursuits…”
The words held such a violent edge that I inhaled sharply. His eyes almost glowed, focused on Ryan with raw enmity. “But then again, I can take a hint. Some people refuse to, even from a beautiful woman.”
Taking the opportunity as Ryan shifted to face Kit, I slipped out of his grip. Before he could stop me, I got in my room and shut the door in his face. Locking it and leaning on it heavily from the other side, I heard Kit laugh. “Perhaps there’s a taco with her name on it somewhere, too. Somehow I very much doubt she fancies a European cream puff considering she didn’t seem even remotely tempted by your… cannoli.”
My jaw popped open, almost wishing I could see the two of their faces as that bomb dropped. Especially as Ryan chuckled darkly, “You know, once the Tourney is over, it’ll be my honor to attend your funeral.”
If Kit came down the stairs now, I didn’t doubt that there’d be a fight. As it was, he ever so spitefully added, “It’s eating at you that she hasn’t jumped at your proposal, isn’t it? That she can see through you to what you really are.”
“I’d watch myself if I were you,” Ryan snapped out, his voice hard with restrained hostility. “Who knows when you could suffer an unexpected accident before game day.”
Kit laughed, the sound so deep that it sounded like a growl. “I’m quaking in my boots. G’night… Cream puff…”
As Ryan’s footsteps disappeared back toward the next hall, I hurried over to the outside balcony. Knowing that Kit was coming as I heard his footsteps, I called up to him. “Kit?”
His head come over the side, peering down at me angelically. “¿Si senorita?”
I jumped as he leapt over the railing without warning and did a somersault in the process, landing effortlessly beside me in a crouch. He grinned, satisfied with himself as he straightened. “Wow. I’m getting good at that-“
Kit’s hands jerked up on reflex as a gun came over the side of the next railing. Teagan emerged from the doorway, eyes fixed on Kit. Then he spotted me, appearing surprised by my presence. “I knew it! You were in her suite earlier!” he accused, refocusing back in on Kit with aggravated scrutiny.
“She has a minifridge. I got her some yogurt and it needed to be refrigerated,” Kit said with boredom, rolling his eyes. “You gonna shoot me over that?”
“I invited him, Teagan,” I murmured, gesturing for him to stand down. The urge to laugh despite the situation was difficult to resist. The contrast between the two of them was laughable; Teagan making Kit look like a shrimp by size comparison. With Teagan well over six feet and Kit just over my height, it reminded me sharply of a chihuahua cornered by a much larger dog. One that refused to stop barking back.
“And where were you when she was being molested by the goose stepping Nazi wannabe?!” Kit demanded, predictably mouthing off.
“He did what?!” As Teagan’s gaze flickered over to me in question, I nodded. In an instant his expression turned to anger. “We’ll talk about the incident privately. I’ll be over here listening for if you need me, Aiyla.” He lowered the weapon, giving Kit the death glare. “As for you, use the damn door next time. I shoot first and ask questions later…”
Before another argument could erupt (and I was sure there would be one if I didn’t preempt it), I dragged Kit inside. He scoffed the whole way, chest puffed out. “Trigger happy, ain’t he?”
Not willing to respond to that, I shut the door and kicked my heels off. Kit sauntered into the room further in front of me, stretching with a yawn. “Had a full night?” As I didn’t reply, he muttered further, “Don’t tell me you actually wanted that slime bucket.“
“Is there a rebellion going on?” I demanded curtly, not in any mood for his babble. I turned, seeing his expression change. “I had a woman ambush me, saying she was sent by the Lynx.”
The oddest expression crossed his face before vanishing. “Did she? I’ve heard of this Lynx. Women swoon when they hear of his valor. He saved you the other evening, yes? What did you think?”
More than confused with his switch in tone and intent interest in my thoughts on the matter, I simply shook my head. “Cocky. Arrogant. Dead if he keeps this up.”
“Sounds like he’s got a thing for you, sending one of his people to see you,” he said, sitting on the arm of the couch. Then his eyes traveled lower over my dress. “And in a get up like that, there’s little doubt why.”
“Either way, it leaves me with a very large problem considering she threatened me,” I muttered, pulling a sweater on over it. I shivered, just thinking about the ordeal. “I help the resistance, I’m dead. If I don’t, they kill me. Either way I’m screwed.”
He looked at me sharply. “She threatened you? And what do you mean you’re dead if you help? They probably only meant to provide them with inside information.”
“My father is a figurehead, Kit. We’re controlled by a group of more powerful elites. A shadow government if you will. If they even suspect I’m sympathetic to this rebellion, they’ll get rid of me faster than you can blink,” I admitted with a shudder, not caring if he knew any more.
Kit’s eyes narrowed, taking it in. “A shadow government?”
“If the rebellion thinks deposing him is going to accomplish anything, they’re deluded,” I said, heading for the decanter of whiskey I kept on the counter. I needed it to calm my nerves. “The controlling powers will just replace him with another puppet. It’s what they do. If that happens, they’ll cut all loose ends. And me with them.”
He caught me before I could reach for the decanter, making me sit on the nearest chair. He took both of my hands, looking more troubled than I’d seen him before. “Drinking isn’t good with your health issues,” he said gently. “If you want something, I’ll get you the yogurt.”
I shook my head at the offer, looking at our hands. He sighed, perching himself on the arm of the chair next to me. “But I need you to explain to me what’s going on. You’re saying that your father has no governing power? None at all?”
“He may come up with ideas, but they’re all vetted by those in control. They give him orders; he carries them out,” I admitted, closing my eyes. “Once I graduated from school, I was dragged into all this. They warned me that any wrong move on my part could kill us all. Any wrong move on his or Elena’s part as well.”
All the blood drained from his face as I murmured, “If the rebellion comes to kill him, they’ll silence me permanently. There’s no winning.”
Unable to bear the look of fear on his face, I just looked at the ground. “If it gets back to them that the woman was looking to recruit me, they might even take action at the mere insinuation that I betrayed them.”
“Then we keep it secret,” he murmured, brushing my hair back and kissing the top of my head to comfort me. He sighed. “I won’t tell anyone. I promise I’ll keep your secret safe, mi vida.”
At those unexpected words, all my composure cracked. Having concealed my anxiety from everyone all night, those words were the break in my personal Hoover dam. All the memories came rushing back to me in an instant, reminding me of just what I’d lost. A sob broke free from me.
He jumped, not expecting the sound. He took my face in his palms, making me look at him. “Hey, it’s going to be okay. Don’t cry.“
“No. It’s just that my aunt always used to call me that,” I sniffled, trying to pull away to hide my weakness. I made sure no one ever got to see me cry. “Before she…”
Before she’d been ripped away from me. Before she left me in this mess; a broken wreck with no one left to turn to.
“Ah. I – oh, to hell with it.” He plunked down onto the chair beside me and took me in his arms, hugging me to his chest. I wound up crying on his shoulder, too far gone to stop as he rubbed my back to comfort me. “Just let it out. Cry on me all you want. I’ll bet that bastard cream puff would get upset over your ruining his shirt, eh?”
He murmured, stroking my hair to attempt to soothe me as I cried, unsuccessfully trying to stop. Every time I just about put a stopper in it, another wave of pain would wash over me. He snatched a tissue from the box on the coffee table to dab it under my eyes. “It’s going to be okay.”
“No, it’s not,” I whined, beyond consolation. “This shouldn’t be my life. I belonged back in Cataluacan. It’s all my fault!”
“What’s your fault?”
“My aunt, she…” I swallowed hard, realizing he didn’t know what I was talking about. I shook against him, thinking about it. “She as good as raised me. But when I graduated, my parents demanded I come back to live here, decreeing I’d never see her again. They wouldn’t tell me why. When I resisted, they sent a security team a night early to drag me out. If I’d gone along with it peacefully, then we’d still have been there. The usual security team wouldn’t have left that night and…”
The horror washed over me all over again, reliving how the news had been broken to me.
“She was murdered,” I sobbed, feeling his arms constrict around me in response. “Burglars broke in and killed her before burning the house down. They must’ve seen us leave and thought there’d be valuables.”
Shaking so hard that the chair was vibrating, I choked out, “My aunt – my fault – everything I do always ends up wrong…“
“No, not your fault,” he murmured to me sorrowfully.
“She always told me to be myself, but I can’t anymore. She wouldn’t even recognize me with what they’ve done to my face!”
“Your face?” he asked, tipping my chin up to him.
I sniffled. “They made a plastic surgeon change… get rid of my freckles and suck all the fat out of my face. Since I always spoke to her in Spanish, I had a certain way of talking. So they got me a dialect coach to change how I spoke. They even changed my name a second time.”
Seeing the sympathy in his eyes, I shook my head and tried to move away. “Trust me, Kit. You don’t want me. Everything about me is one big lie-“
As he spoke that name, I just froze. He dabbed the tissue under my eyes gently, a new knowledge burning in his gaze. “Señora Lola’s niece, Leila, right? Señora Lola Clarita in Cataluacan?”
“How – how did you know to call me that?” I said, voice coming out with a rasp. “My aunt was the only one who ever did. Elena insisted Leila was a common name, so she initially called me Aiyla instead.”
“Because I knew her,” he said softly with a sad smile. “Used to deliver her groceries in the morning as a kid. She bought vegetables and herbs from mi tia’s garden. They were friends so Señora Lola would always give me a cookie and some milk before I left. She would tell me that I ought to stay so I could meet her niece when she came home. But I never did.”
As Kit pulled a wallet from his pocket, I was astounded as he showed me a singed photo. It was a picture of Lola and me from when I was fifteen. “When I found this in the ashes of the house, I decided that I’d try to find her dear Leila to return it someday. I never could until now because I’d been looking under the wrong name.”
He pressed it into my hands. I held it gingerly, afraid it’d fall apart in my fingers. I traced the edges reverently, treasuring it. Beyond words, I just looked at him.
“You don’t look altogether that different,” he insisted, tucking my hair behind my ear. “But there’s something you should know about her murder. She wasn’t killed by burglars.”
My heart felt as if it stopped in my chest when I heard those words. My stomach dropped like a lead weight before fire took over my veins, anger sparking in my soul.
“Then who?” I demanded, my voice coming out almost guttural with rage.
Sadness clouded his features. “The police. I had forgotten her order for the day and went back to deliver them. The sun was going down as I came around the corner and I saw the blaze in the sky. Then I saw the house was on fire.”
He paused, hesitating as I hung on every word. “I tried to get in to see if she was inside but the door was locked. Looking in the window, I saw them. They shot her point blank. She’d been threatening to tell the world something if you weren’t brought back to her. I don’t know what.”
Air wouldn’t come into my lungs. I couldn’t breathe. Time seemed to stop in my mind as I processed what he was telling me, almost wishing the former lie I’d known to be the real way she died. This truth was even worse, knowing that it’d been a hit.
“I got away before they noticed me,” he whispered in a broken voice, still watching me intently. “Hid as they left. The head of your father’s police at the time drove away. Haynesworth’s father.” His face saddened further. “I couldn’t understand why the presidente would be interested in Señora Lola… until now. Now I know the truth.”
He looked at me squarely, chilling anger clear on his face. “He made sure you could never go back. So he alone would have control over you. Your father murdered her.”
And that’s it for part eight! Ending on a bit of a cliffhanger this week, but I want to her your predictions for the next chapter. A new side of Haynesworth was revealed tonight and a terrible revelation unearthed.
Until next Friday, you’ll have to wait and see what happens. Stay tuned…
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