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Will was exhausted as they drove up the circular drive to the Garcia compound. He was not certain what time it was exactly, but probably after midnight. They had been gone more than twenty-four hours. Driven probably close to two-thousand miles with only a handful of stops for gas, food, and toilet breaks.

But it was not the physical exhaustion that beat at him. It was the mental and emotional strains of the past few weeks. Yes, he knew now that none of this had been for naught. Not only had they confirmed that it was the Garcias who were behind McBride, but he had found his cousin. Though Will had yet to lay eyes on Bebe, he had no reason to doubt Roberto’s words.

The man smiled at him before turning in the driver’s seat. “Wake up, ElizaThornberry.”

He hated the way this man was niggling Callie about her part in this mess. Sure, she had done something stupid, but hell so had he. Loads of them. At the moment, he felt there were perhaps too many to count. Still, he had kept his promise to his grandmother. He had found Bebe.

But things were even harder now. Not only did he have to find a way to get Mercy and himself out of here, but Bebe, Callie, and probably her mother too. The odds were definitely against them. And he knew that no matter what Roberto Garcia said, they could not trust him. Not if it came down to their lives or his ambitions. His mother and brother had seriously underestimated the man.

“Callie, I mean Grace, we’re here now.”

She shook her rainbow-colored head, “So what?”

“We go see my brother, sweet cheeks,” Roberto got out of the car and opened the rear passenger door.

“Is he as big a dickhead as you?” Will smiled at the girl’s moxie. He knew she must be terrified, and she had every right to be. Even he did not want to think about what would happen to her, or Mercy, if he failed.

“Bigger,” Roberto shoved her towards the same dark entryway that they had walked through that first day.

This place gave him the creeps. All of it with its steel bars and thick adobe outer walls. But this walkway especially. And that altar or whatever the fuck it was made his blood run cold. As if he could feel some evil emanating from every candle and photograph.

Someone must have notified not just Diego Garcia but Consuela as well. Both were seated on that patio that overlooked the central courtyard. The older woman was still dressed and fully made-up. But Diego wore silk pajamas of some sort. He only nodded his head at his younger brother.

“Here she is. Callie McBride.”

“And you’re sure that her mother will follow?”

Roberto laughed as he nodded his head, “She’s her only child. What mother wouldn’t?” The pointed stared that passed between the man and his own mother was not lost on Will. Was that what was behind all this? The young man’s ambitions were just another ploy to gain his mother’s love and approval?

“Take her to Esmerelda until the woman gets here.”

Will tensed at the mention of the woman he had learned was the madame, for lack of a better word, at the brothel. Sure, he realized that if he failed… He would not think about that now. But he needed to figure out some way of changing the man’s mind until he could plan their escape.

But that was a daunting task. While Will was confident that Cassie McBride and the man they were staying with would follow, he wished there was some way to reach the others. There had been no opportunity to stop in the desert just outside of Torreon. And while it was only a few miles away, there was no chance he would be able to get there unnoticed. No, they were on their own with this one.

But before he could come up with a plan, Roberto began to speak with his brother and mother. This time in Spanish. “If you want her mother to be cooperative, that’s not the best place.”

Diego was obviously displeased and started to wave his brother away, but the man would not back down. “Think about it, Hermano. If you place the child in the brothel, even if she is protected, her mother will not trust you. You need Cassie McBride to believe that you will keep your word and let them go if she cooperates.”

The older man paused, his face scrunched for a moment. “So, where do I keep here? I won’t have her here. Anna might grow attached to her, and when this is over…”

“I understand. What about Mercy? Our sister has been caring for Papa. Why couldn’t she also care for the girl?”

“And your black whore?” Consuela grimaced. Will fought back the urge to lunge at the older woman. He had never hurt a woman. But that one… Besides, to his knowledge, none of them were aware that he spoke Spanish. He could not allow his expressions or actions to give that advantage away. They had so few.

“Mama is right, Roberto. Constanza Dominguez and her Papa arrived today. In three days, you will marry the girl. Your whore has to go.”

Will felt those words to depths of his soul. He knew that ‘has to go’ did not mean sending his cousin to another brothel away from this man. Their intention was clear – they meant to murder Bebe. Three days, if that. And with Cassie McBride only a few hours behind, he was running out of time to come up with a plan.

Roberto Garcia did not even glance his direction. He merely bowed his head to his mother and brother. “Even more reason not to place the girl with Esmerelda. I’m assuming that Rafael brought men with him and that they will need entertaining until the wedding.”

Diego nodded, “And that girl, your whore, was sent back there already. Let her earn her keep the way she was meant to. You will not disappoint this family again. Is that understood, Hermano?”

“And don’t think you can help that woman escape. Just because our father fucked her mother does make her our sister. When her usefulness is over, she will join your little friend and that girl where they belong. Let them be of some use to us, or they can die alongside the agent and the McBride woman.”

“You have always been too soft-hearted, too romantic. Like your father, you think with your cock,” Consuela accused her youngest son. “But I have always looked out for this family, and I will now too. Now that the girl is back in the brothel, where she belongs, I will deal with her.” The older woman turned and kissed Diego’s cheek before standing and walking across the courtyard.

Diego stared at his younger brother, “Alright, I agree. For now. Take the girl to that woman. But Mama is right. I won’t have Rafael Dominquez learning about your infatuation with a whore. Constanza is his only child, and the man will do anything to see she is happy.”

“And I mean it, Roberto. In three days, Tio Manuel marries the two of you in the village church. And you will be the perfect husband to the girl. The ideal son-in-law to the old man. We have worked too hard and too long to build this alliance. When that old man dies, and he will, sooner rather than later, Chihuahua will come under our control too. I won’t have you messing this up the way you did with the McBride shit. Do we understand one another?”

“Perfectly, Hermano.”

“Then get the girl out of here. Take her and that damned agent out of my sight. I want to get back to my wife.”

Roberto bowed his head as Diego rose and followed the same route their mother had taken moments before. Then he turned back and motioned with his head for them to follow him. Once they were safely back in the car and headed back to the small apartment in the village, where they had been staying, the man turned towards Will. “I know you understood every single word of that.”

Will nodded, noticing Callie clutching his jacket tighter about her shoulders and scrunching into the corner of the back seat. “I was not expecting this so soon, but I promise you, I won’t let anything happen to Bebe.”

He did not dare say what he thought aloud, not with Grace listening. But it was obvious that their ‘benefactor’ was as powerless as he was to protect Bebe from further degradation. And if he did not come up with some plan, soon Grace and Mercy would become their victims too.

He sent a prayer heavenwards. Not to the god that had obviously forsaken him, not that Will could blame him. Faith like his grandparents’ – some unseen force – had never been his strong suit. But his Grandma, Etta Mae Williams, now he could see her standing toe-to-toe with Consuela Sanchez de Garcia. He could sure use some of her help right now.

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