Rose tried to look around as the two big thugs dragged her towards what looked like any other lovely home. There had been a few similar ranch-style homes in Piney Point. Except for all the iron bars.
When she had arrived at the meeting point, four men had been waiting for her. She was still trying to place their leader. The man looked vaguely familiar, though where she knew him from, she was uncertain.
Two dark wooden, steel-reinforced doors that looked like something out of a medieval castle opened. The men pushed her through. Even though it was mid-day, the hallway that stretched out before her was dark. Only weird candles surrounded by what looked like family photos gave off light. Though she could see more light at the end of the tunnel as it were.
She was scared. Hell, yeah, she was petrified. Nothing in her fucked up life, not even those months in the public spotlight after Gerald’s crime came out, had prepared her to face the leader of a drug cartel. A man who had young girls kidnapped, and… She could not think about that now.
They shoved her the last few feet into that light. She stumbled and fell. She felt pain slice through her knees and the palms of her hands. She closed her eyes. She thought about praying to Miss Rose’s god for help, but why would he listen to her now? With all the shit that was going on in the world, if he didn’t care about that, then what was one woman and her daughter.
Instead, she focused on the only happiness she had known. That one night and these past weeks with Chad. She knew that as hard as it was, they had made the right decision for her to come alone. These men had torn the truck apart, looking for anyone or anything she might have brought with her to help.
She knew it would be a few hours before any of the others crossed the border. Even then, Chad and that Ryan guy were probably too recognizable to come as far as Torreon. At least until Jaycee and Laura brought in the federal agents. If they were even able to convince that hardass, by the books U. S. Attorney to help out. If whoever was the leak in his office or the feds did not tip off Garcia first.
There were so many what-ifs. But there was one thing that Rose was determined about, Grace was getting away from this place – safely. No matter what. With that thought in mind, she lifted her head.
If she had been expecting some crazed lunatic, hyped up on drugs, waving a gun, and referring to it as ‘my little friend,’ she would have been shocked at the non-descript man who sat in the wicker chair in front of her. He looked like any number of early-middle-aged men at the hundreds of charity events she had attended. She could have had a cocktail with this man and never known it.
“Welcome to my home, Mrs. McBride.” He looked to the younger man who seemed to be the leader of her captors, “Roberto, bring our guest a chair. Did you not recognize my younger brother?”
Rose turned her head as the man brought forth an ornately carved wooden chair. He smiled down at her as he held out his hand and helped her up. “Hermano, Stephen was not the ideal step-son.” He nodded his head just slightly as he helped her into the plush velvet seat.
Why had she not seen it earlier? Of course, that was the connection. Bobby, Stephen’s friend from boarding school. She remembered that they had stayed in touch. Even when they went to different colleges. So, it had been her step-son that had started all this?
“We are a little busy right now, preparing for a wedding. So, I’ll cut straight to the chase, Mrs. McBride. Where is my money?” Diego Garcia drew her attention back.
She shook her head, “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Mr. Garcia. But I don’t know anything about any of this. As I’m sure your brother could have told you, my husband did not take me into his confidences.”
“Sí, so Roberto has said. But since your husband refused to cooperate… Before his accident. And since he went to such trouble to hide you and the girl away from your government and us, then obviously you meant more to the man than we thought. Men don’t withstand that much pain unless they are protecting something they care deeply about.”
She shook her head; while she had often wondered if there was more to Gerald’s accident than it appeared, the man’s words did not add up. “Our marriage was not a love match. My father arranged it before his death. He bartered his virgin daughter to save his failing business.”
She thought she saw something flicker across the younger man’s face but had no idea what significance, if any, those words held for the man that had once spent holidays in her home. Hell, he had played with her daughter when she was a baby. Rose fought down the pile at that thought.
“Yes, I am well aware of that fact. As I am of the fact that your daughter is not McBride’s.”
She inhaled deeply, unable to hide her shock at that revelation. It was the younger man that filled in the missing pieces. “After his little sister was born, Stephen was worried that you might have another child. A son who might take his place. He did not give a shit if the old man cared about or spent more time with your child, but the idea that anyone would take what he considered his, now that worried him.”
“He got drunk and confronted his father one day. Gerald just laughed at him, told him there would be no more children because he had a vasectomy after Stephen was born. Were you aware that you and that bastard bitch were cut out of his will?”
“No, but if you know that Callie is not Gerald’s, I don’t understand. What makes you think that he would tell me anything?”
She noticed the older man nod his head, and suddenly her hands were drawn behind her. Held firmly in place. Her face exploded with pain as Bobby backhanded her. That young boy who had more than once visited her home was not to be seen in those cruel eyes and features. It was almost as if he enjoyed it, inflicting pain.
It was his brother who spoke from somewhere far away. “That is what we assumed, what kept you and the girl safe when it would have been so easy to take her from that posh school. One of my agents could have flashed his federal badge and walked out of there with the child. But we did not believe the old man would care. We do not make many mistakes, but when we do, we fix them. As Roberto handled his.”
The next blow was to her stomach. She was afraid then that she would die. She could not breathe; the pain was so intense. And when she finally did, it hurt almost worse than the punch to her midsection had.
“As I said, Mrs. McBride, people do not withstand pain for someone they do not care for. And we know how much that girl means to you. If you do not want her to end her short life as a street whore, taking on any man with a few pesos to spare, then you’ll tell me what I want to know.”
She could barely see the man now, her eye must be swelling, or perhaps she had a concussion from that first blow. “Don’t you think I would have told you from the moment I arrived? If I knew anything…”
She felt the hand around her throat. At first, it merely rested there, lifted her head up to meet eyes that she had once thought so innocent as the boy played with her baby. Now they were cold, expressionless, a killer’s eyes.
The hand began to tighten as the man spoke, “As my brother said, when we make mistakes, we correct them. Will you beg for your life? For your daughter’s? The way that your step-son did in that small cell.”
The blackness slipped in from the sides. A blessing, perhaps. Rose’s final thoughts were that the others had no idea what they were dealing with.