Read The Muscle Part Three Online

Authors: Michelle St. James

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Women's Fiction, #Contemporary Women, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #New Adult & College

The Muscle Part Three (7 page)

BOOK: The Muscle Part Three
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15


T
hink we can trust them
?” Farrell said, voice low as he eyed Sanchez’s men scattered around the pool.

They were having one last meal before the raid on Diego’s shipment — or Lorenzo’s, as Sanchez liked to refer to it. Luca looked at Sanchez’s men. He’d developed an uneasy rapport with them in the four days since they’d opened fire on the Fuentes house. They weren’t friends. They would never be that. They were too different, and Luca knew their honor code was virtually non-existent. But he believed Sanchez would be true to their agreement, and he believed he could count on his men to hold up their end of the bargain when they met Diego at the dock.

“I think we can trust them with this,” he said. “Sanchez wants the drugs, and he wants to take Diego out of the equation as a message to anyone else who might be thinking about betraying a territory agreement. He doesn’t care about us, and he knows we’re connected. I don’t think fucking us would be worth the backlash.”

Farrell nodded. “Fucking Columbians.”

The words were incongruous when said with Farrell’s British accent, and Luca laughed. They sat in silence for a couple minutes before Farrell spoke again.

“She’s had a rough time of it,” he said, his eyes on Isabel standing cautiously by the food laid out on the bar.

Luca sighed, his eyes on her from across the terrace. “She has.”

She was as beautiful as ever in a long dress and sandals, her hair tied back into a conservative twist that only served to highlight her delicate bone structure and full lips. The dress revealed nothing to the casual eye, but he knew her body well enough to catch the hint of her hips, the taper of her waist, the full breasts that filled his big hands.

“Will she be all right?” Farrell asked.

“I don’t know,” Luca answered honestly. “I hope so.”

“Will she let you help her when this is over?” he asked.

“I hope so,” Luca said again, realizing for the first time how tenuous his future with her was. They hadn’t talked about it beyond getting Sofia to safety. For all he knew, she wanted to take Sofia and leave, put as much distance between them and the mess in Miami as possible, take some time to heal by herself.

Farrell sighed and took a swig of the sweating beer in his hand. “Women. They’re going to destroy us.”

Luca glanced at him. The words were uncharacteristic — Farrell usually steered clear of anything personal — but Luca wasn’t entirely surprised. From the moment he’d shown up at the house he’d seemed different. Still mostly silent. Still with the violent, frenetic energy that had always made Nico uneasy. But now there was something reflective in his eyes. Something that made Luca wonder what was going on with Farrell Black.

“You never told me why you’re in the States,” Luca said. “I thought you hated it here.”

Farrell studied the rim of the bottle. “Nothing wrong with America. I simply have my reasons for avoiding it.”

Luca lifted an eyebrow. “Women?”

Farrell grimaced. “Something like that.” He stared out across the pool, face pensive. “Have you ever wanted something so much you’d do anything to have it?”

“Someone, you mean?” Luca asked.

Farrell met his eyes, his gaze even. “Maybe.”

Luca looked at Isabel, laughing at something Marco said. “Yes.”

“And what do you do if you can’t have it?” he asked.

“You learn to live with it,” Luca said, thinking of the long months when Nico and Angel had been apart. But Nico hadn’t been living then. Not really. And now Luca understood. He would go on breathing without Isabel, but it would only be an approximation of living.

“I tried that,” Farrell said, draining his beer. “Didn’t bloody work.”

Luca hid his surprise. What kind of woman would it take to bring a man like Farrell to his knees?

16

S
he woke
up when the sun was just a promise on the horizon behind the house. A soft yellow light leaked in through the open balcony doors, and a salty breeze blew the sheers on either side. She expected Luca to be asleep, but when she turned her head she was surprised to find that he was wide awake and looking right at her.

“Good morning, sweetheart,” he said, reaching out to smooth back her hair.

She smiled. “Good morning.”

Then she remembered what day it was, and she felt the smile fall from her lips.

He leaned over and kissed her, then smoothed the bridge of her nose. “Everything’s going to be okay. I promise.”

She shook her head against the crisp white pillowcase. “You can’t promise that.”

He propped himself up on his elbow. “Clearly you don’t know who you’re dealing with here.”

She laughed a little. “Nice try.” She sighed. “It’s not that I don’t believe in you. I just want to be practical, prepare myself for every eventuality.”

He rolled on top of her, his body smelling of clean linen and salt and the sex they’d had until the wee hours of the morning. “Then prepare yourself for Sofia. Because I’m bringing her home to you.”

There was so much certainty in his voice she couldn’t help but be swayed. Maybe it was stupid. Maybe she was lying to herself. So be it. She believed him. Believed in him. He had brought her this far. She would have faith that he would bring her the rest of the way home.

Fool,
a voice in her head whispered.

It was the voice of reason. Luca and the others were going to raid an enormous drug shipment worth millions of dollars. Even under the best of circumstances it would be dangerous. But this was ten vicious men on two sides of the same battle — and that wasn’t including Diego. Anything could happen, and she knew it was true even if Luca wouldn’t acknowledge it.

The thought sobered her further. She wanted more mornings in bed with Luca. More whispered secrets in the dark. More of him moving inside her, his body staking its claim on hers. The future was a big blank space. She had no idea where she and Sofia would live or what they would do next, but she knew that she wanted Luca to be part of it.

“What will happen?” she asked. “After its over.”

He started kissing her neck, working his way up to her ear where he nibbled at the lobe until she squirmed under him, already wet.

“That’s up to you,” he murmured. “What do you want to happen?”

“What do you want to happen?” she countered, gasping when he nudged open her thighs, pressed his erection against her swollen sex.

“I want this,” he said, pressing into her until his tip slid against her clit.

She opened her legs further, positioning herself for optimal pleasure under his cock. “I want this, too.”

He leaned down, captured her mouth with his as he centered the thick head of his erection against her opening. “When I say I want this, I mean I want it forever,” he said. “I want you forever. Do you think you can handle it?”

She swept his mouth with her tongue while her hands worked their way down his back to the tight muscles of his ass. “I can handle it.”

His expression grew serious as he gazed at her. She could never doubt him when he looked at her like that. His gaze was so full of love, full of all the certainty she felt when she was with him.

“Say it,” he said, sliding his cock against her until she writhed under him, desperate for him to fill her. “Say you want it forever.”

She moaned, wrapping her legs around his thighs. “I want it forever. I want you forever.”

He dropped his mouth to hers and kissed her deeply while he impaled her.

She cried out, grabbing his ass, pushing him all the way inside her. “Make me yours,” she gasped.

He lifted one of her legs onto his shoulder, slanting his body over hers so that he could drive every inch of his massive cock inside her, until she wasn’t sure if it was pleasure or pain she was feeling.

“You already are mine, sweetheart. You always were.”

17

L
ater that day
, Luca took the passenger seat in the lead car with Marco, Elia, and Farrell. Sanchez and his men pulled into position behind them and they made their way down the long driveway. He tried not to think about Isabel, pacing the house and waiting for word.

He’d been surprised when Sanchez opted to come along. He’d pegged him as a guy who liked to keep his hands clean, and god knew he had enough muscle to do the dirty work for him. But he’d shown up that morning with the others, even forgoing Kevlar when they’d suited up.

They were armed to the hilt, both with the weaponry Luca had stockpiled in the weeks leading up to the raid and with the arsenal brought by Sanchez and his men. Luca knew it was still no guarantee. They had no idea what they’d be up against. Normally, Luca would feel comfortable guessing his opponent’s motives and strategy, but Diego was a wild card made even more wild by his drug use and the bitterness that seemed to blot out all reason. Had he been good to Isabel, she would have happily supplied him with the money he needed for the business. She’d even offered to sign over half of it to him.

Instead Diego was at war with Sanchez, and he’d made an enemy of Luca as well. He was in hiding, probably low on money, making stupid mistakes like going after his colleague’s supplier.

Elia navigated the SUV onto the highway. Everyone was silent, but Luca was used to that. Small talk was usually kept at a minimum when you were about to put your life on the line, and all the planning had already been done.

The pieces of the game were in motion now. There was nothing to do but play.

They exited on Port Boulevard and continued to the Seaboard terminal. The raid wasn’t scheduled to go down until ten pm, but they needed to be in position long before that, waiting in the shadows for the container to be moved into place, and then for Diego’s arrival.

They approached a meaty guy in a reflective vest, but Marco didn’t slow down. A moment later, Luca understood why; the guy waved them through, looking nervously around for anyone who might be watching.

Luca sat back in his seat. Marco and Elia had taken charge of paying off the dock workers to look the other way while they got into position, paying extra to the nighttime guards who would have to be coincidentally absent when the shipment came in. Luca couldn’t help wondering how many times the guys had been paid — Diego would have had to bribe them, too, in order to get access to his shipment.

Good for them. They probably didn’t make nearly enough for the work they did.

Luca looked out the window as Elia navigated the car behind some shipping containers. The port wasn’t nearly as isolated as he’d expected. In New Jersey, there were warehouses to provide cover, stacks of containers six high to block you from view if that’s what you needed. This was just a giant parking lot jutting out over the water with less than fifty cargo containers lined up, none of them more than two high. It didn’t bode well for places to hide, and he was still scanning the area for potential cover when Elia turned off the car. Sanchez’s men pulled up next to them and they all filed out.

Farrell looked around, eyes shielded by his sunglasses. “This isn’t good.”

“Nope,” Luca said.

“Where the fuck are we supposed to find cover?” Elia said.

“Don’t worry,
hermano,
” Luis, one of Sanchez’s men said. “We’ve got it covered.”

“I hope so,” Luca said. “Because this makes it look like we’ll be sitting ducks.”

Sanchez snapped his fingers and spoke in rapid fire Spanish. It was too fast for Luca to grasp exactly what he was saying, but he got the gist of it; shut up and get moving. We’re exposed.

“Follow me,” Luis said.

Luca started walking, trying not to let his nervousness show. This wasn’t at all what he had in mind.

18

I
sabel paced
the terrace for the hundredth time since the men had left the house. She stopped, staring out over the water, rubbing her arms against the slight chill. It was only eight o’ clock. The shipment wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another two hours, which meant she probably had three — at least — before she would hear anything.

The anticipation was slowly killing her.

She wanted Sofia back in her arms. Home safe with her favorite toys, nodding off in the big bed while Isabel read to her. She wondered what kind of damage had been done to Sofia during her time with Diego. Whatever had happened, she would need therapy, and lots of comfort. Isabel would see that she got both, along with a change of scenery. They would start over somewhere with Luca. They would be safe and loved. With time, they would heal.

The thought lifted her mood, and she hurried into the house to get her computer. She would make a list of things she needed to do to look after her sister when she came home. It would keep her busy, prevent her from dwelling on the fact that any future they might have was in the hands of men with guns miles from home and on the brother who loved no one more than he loved himself.

19

L
uca looked
at the old school clock on the wall. Round and white, it reminded him of the clocks hanging in the few schools he’d attended as a kid.

It was nine-thirty, and they’d been holed up in the trailer since Luis had shown it to them hours ago. The sun had long since set. They’d been sitting in the dark for at least an hour-and-a-half.

Luca had to hand it to Sanchez. He’d said he would take care of the details, and he had, paying off the few administrative employees who worked on site to leave early and make sure the trailer they used for day-to-day business was empty. It was the perfect place to hide, even if it was a little small for all nine men.

He glanced at Farrell, then at Marco and Elia through the darkness. They were alert in spite of the hours they’d spent crouched on the floor. A look at Sanchez yielded the same result. He sat on the floor with his men — maybe he wasn’t a prima donna after all — who held their weapons at the ready, all except Luis, who manned the window with binoculars, waiting for the giant cranes to start unloading containers from the ship that had been docked at the port since they arrived.

Luca sat up, stretched his legs and crawled to the window. “Have a look?” he asked Luis.

He looked at Sanchez, whose nod was almost imperceptible. He handed the binoculars to Luca.

Luca lifted them to his eyes and got his bearings, then started scanning the harbor. There were lights on over the container ship, and it looked like the crane was in motion, the men moving around it dwarfed by the sheer size of the ship and the equipment around them. Luca watched as the crane started moving, picking up one of the containers like it was a plastic toy instead of a multi-ton metal box loaded with cargo.

“They’re moving,” he said, passing the binoculars back to Luis.

The other men rose to a crouching position.

“Take cover behind the containers that are already in place,” Sanchez said. “We will wait there for the drugs — and for that
ano
, Diego.”

They filed out into the darkness and fanned out around the trailers, Sanchez’s men taking cover behind a cargo hold on the left while Luca led his men to the right. He had no idea where the crane would drop the new containers, but they had a container number from the spread sheet he’d found on Diego’s computer. They would have to check them all until they found it.

He leaned against the container that shielded them from activity on the dock while Elia looked through his rifle sight.

“Crane’s coming this way,” he murmured, moving back into the shadows.

They listened as the sound of it drew closer, the clang of metal hitting the dock reverberating through the air. The whir of the crane receded as it moved back to the ship for another container.

“Do we check it now?” Marco asked.

“Stay put,” Luca said. “Diego will tell us which one it is.”

The crane repeated its actions several more times — releasing a container under a spray of light, turning back to the ship, the area around them falling back into shadow until the machine returned. They heard the distant shouting of men on and around the ship, but no one came near them. Luca didn’t know if it was sheer luck or if everyone had been paid off, and he didn’t care. All that mattered was finding Sofia and bringing her back to Isabel.

By the time the tenth container was dropped, Luca had started to wonder if they’d made a mistake. There was no sign of Diego, and Elia’s rifle sight told them the ship was almost empty.

“Where is he?” Elia muttered staring into the binoculars. “This is the last one.”

“Just be patient,” Luca said.

He dared a glance at Sanchez, still hiding behind the container across from them with his men. His gaze was like ice, and Luca knew they were dead if Diego didn’t show up. Sanchez was only here to get the drugs — and to make Diego pay for reneging on their agreement. If he didn’t get what he wanted out of the deal, it was over for all of them.

He looked back at Elia as the sound of another container being released echoed through the docks.

“I think that’s the last one,” Elia said as the crane’s engine faded, then disappeared. “They’re shutting off the lights on the crane.”

“Just sit tight,” Luca said. Diego would be here.

He had to be.

Everyone stayed put, the silence every bit as loud as the crane had been. It was almost half an hour before they heard the sound of an approaching car. They got to their feet, flattening themselves against the container with their weapons at the ready.

“What do you see?” Luca whispered to Elia.

“SUV. Incoming,” Elia said.

“Just one?”

“Looks like it.”

Luca leaned out to look at Sanchez and held up one finger. Sanchez spoke briefly with Luis, then nodded.

“We can handle one,” Luca said. “How many men?”

“Three, all armed,” Elia said, still looking through the rifle’s sight.

“Any of them look like Fuentes?”

“I don’t think so. No… wait. There he is. Just got out of the back.”

“So three plus Fuentes?” Luca said.

“That’s all I see.”

Luca leaned out to make eye contact with Sanchez and held up four fingers. Sanchez nodded and spoke to his men.

“Get ready,” Luca murmured. “We’re going to have to move fast. Take them by surprise.”

“Sounds good,” Elia said. “They’re approaching one of the containers. Looks like they’re getting ready to open it up.”

“Then it’s go time.”

Luca made eye contact with Sanchez and held up five fingers, then counted down on them as the men readied their weapons. When he was down to nothing, he raised his gun and moved out from behind the container as Sanchez and his men did the same.

“Freeze! DEA!” Luca shouted, hoping to throw Diego and his men off balance enough to buy a few extra seconds.

There was a mili-second of a pause, then Diego ducked behind the container in front of him while his men started shooting.

Luca kept his eyes on Farrell and the others in his peripheral while they fanned out, stepping behind the containers to shield them from the spray of bullets ringing out through the shipyard. The noise worried him. They’d paid off the guards, but that didn’t mean someone else wouldn’t hear the exchange of gunfire. He figured they had five minutes, ten at most, to wrap it up.

“Cover me when they’re done shooting,” Luca said.

Farrell shook his head, his eyes unreadable in the dark. “No way. I didn’t stay in this town to stand behind you. Elia and Marco can cover both of us.”

Luca nodded.

“Cassano! I know that’s you,
carnal.
Nice try with the DEA though.”

He recognized Diego’s voice and knew they’d been made. It didn’t matter. They didn’t have names now. They were on the battlefield, and the battlefield was the great equalizer. There was no rank on the battlefield, no affiliation. There were only men.

And all men could bleed.

As soon as Diego’s men stopped shooting, Luca moved out from behind the container in a crouch while Marco and Elia fired in the direction of Diego’s men to keep them from firing back. It was dark, but he’d seen Sanchez’s men move out at the same time. They exchanged another round of gunfire with Diego and his men, waited until it was quiet, and moved again, forming a circle around Diego and his men by using the containers surrounding him as hiding places. He had no idea how much they could see, but they were outnumbered.

And now they were also backed into a corner.

He lifted his rifle to his eyes and activated the night vision, then scanned the area. Diego’s men were easy to spot, all of them behind one container in a cluster of red heat. He scanned the area around them and finally found Diego two containers away.

Figures. He was working his way back to the car, ready to bail on his men.

“Want to help me take this sick bastard down?” he asked Farrell.

“Why else would I be here?” Farrell asked drily.

He motioned to Sanchez and his men that they were going after Diego, then gestured for them to take the remaining three men. He waited for Marco and Elia to start firing again to move, then hurried around the container. Farrell came around the other side, the two of them working in practiced concert as they closed in on Diego. They were almost to him when he made a break for the car.

Farrell went to the left while Luca went to the right. Diego made it to the car, but Luca got there before he could shut the door on the driver’s side. He tried to fight right up until the moment Farrell slid into the passenger seat and put the barrel of his AK up against Diego’s throat.

“I’d stop moving if I were you,” he said in his proper British accent. “I’ve heard these things have a sensitive trigger.”

Luca would have laughed if Sofia’s life wasn’t as stake. He dragged Diego out of the car instead.

It was controlled chaos around the containers. Diego’s men were on the ground, hands behind their heads. Sanchez’s men and Marco and Elia had their weapons trained on them, but they didn’t look in any hurry to run. Sanchez and Luis were cracking open the lock on one of the containers. They disappeared inside a moment later.

Luca lifted Diego off the ground by the front of his jacket. “Where is Sofia, asshole?”

“Let me go,” Diego said. “Then I’ll tell you.”

“In case you haven’t noticed, you have a gun pointed at your head. You’re not exactly in a position to negotiate.”

Diego laughed, and Luca was taken back to his violent outbursts and manic mood swings. “I have what you want. That makes me in control.”

Luca cracked the butt of his weapon against Diego’s face. “Do you feel in control right now?”

Diego touched his hand to the blood dripping down his forehead. “You want Sofia. I want to go free. Give me what I want and I’ll tell you where she is.”

“I’m not letting you go until I know Sofia’s safe,” Luca said. “And I’ll beat it out of you if I have to."

“I’d be more than happy to help,” Farrell said, eyes gleaming in the dark.

“Hear that?” Luca asked Diego, landing a punch to his face. “You better start talking.”

Diego shook his head, spit onto the pavement. “Not until you let me go.”

Luca was losing his hold on his temper. Sofia was out there, maybe alone, probably scared. Isabel was home, waiting to hear that Luca had kept his promise. And this bastard had hurt them both. Would keep hurting them if Luca didn’t stop it. He was hardly aware of moving in Diego’s direction. The next thing he knew he was landing punch after vicious punch to Diego’s face, all his rage at what Diego had done to Isabel contained in the fist he drove into his nose, his jaw, his cheekbones. He was vaguely aware of the crunching bone under his hand, the wet slap of muscle on meat, but he had no idea how much time had passed when someone finally pulled him off Diego.

“Leave him alive enough to talk now,” Farrell said casually.

Diego was barely moving, moaning on the pavement.

“Did you get what you want?” Sanchez asked, joining them from the container they’d just inspected.

“No,” Luca said, breathing through his rage. “I didn’t.”

“That’s a shame,” Sanchez said, inspecting Diego dispassionately. “I did.”

“That wasn’t our deal,” Luca said.

“Maybe not,” Sanchez said. “But it is not my fault he’s not talking.”

Luca turned away, stalked to the relative privacy of the shadows, his mind rebelling against everything that was happening. They finally had Diego, and he wouldn’t tell them where Sofia was. Sanchez wanted his turn with Diego, and Luca had no doubt that Diego wouldn’t be alive to give them Sofia’s location when Sanchez and his men were done with him.

And there was no way in hell he was going back to Isabel without her sister.

He stalked back to Sanchez and nodded toward the open container, indicating that he wanted to speak in private. Sanchez joined him while Farrell and Luis kept an eye on Diego, still on the ground.

The container was cavernous, boxes stacked to the ceiling, all of them labeled COFFEE — FAIR TRADE CERTIFIED.

Luca turned his attention back to Sanchez.

“I need to get the location of the girl,” Luca said softly. “She could be in danger. She could be alone, with no one to feed her or free her until Fuentes comes back.”

“I am very sorry about that.” Luca was surprised to find that Sanchez did look sorry. “But that is not my problem.”

Luca sighed. “I know. And you could take Diego right now and I wouldn’t blame you. But I’m asking you for some help here.” He searched his brain for an argument that would move the other man. “Do you have a sister?” His face remained impassive. “Kids?”

A flicker of interest.

“If someone had them, someone who would hurt them or starve them or leave them in the cold, wouldn’t finding them be more important than revenge?”

“If they were my blood, yes,” Sanchez said. “But this girl is not my blood.”

“But she’s someone’s blood, and she’s already been through too much. Just… let me pretend to let him go. We’ll tell him he has to leave the country. I have people who can track him. Good people. The best. They can tell you exactly where he is, and once I have the girl, you can do whatever you want with him.”

“How do I know you will honor your word?”

“Because you’ll cut off my balls if I don’t. And because I don’t want any part of this anymore. I just want to save this little girl and live a life where I don’t have to fucking look over my shoulder anymore.”

Luca held his breath while Sanchez considered his offer. Finally, he nodded and walked away.

“I will expect your call, Mr. Cassano.”

Luca wasted no time returning to Diego, still sprawled on the ground.

He knelt down, pulled him up by the front of his jacket. “Good news,
carnal.
You get to go free. But only if you tell me where Sofia is — and only if she’s safe and sound.”

“How do I know…?” he croaked out through split lips.

Luca faced him toward Sanchez’s men, now locking the container. Another SUV had appeared. Diego’s men were loaded into it, and a moment later, both vehicles started out of the parking lot. They would be back for their cargo. They would need a much bigger car.

BOOK: The Muscle Part Three
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