“What the fuck!”

Mercy sat bolt upright in the chair. She shook her head to clear the confusion of sleep. For a moment, she was not even sure where she was. She looked around the room.

The house where she had been caring for Ignacio Garcia for weeks. The man slept in bed. While her half brother, Roberto, paced next to it. Except something was wrong. Terribly wrong. He looked like he could kill.

“This is how you care for my father?” He screamed at her as he practically charged the chair. Before she could react, his hands were threaded through her hair. Roberto tugged until he pulled her from it. Tears streamed down her face from the pain and fright. He dragged her towards the sleeping man.

That was when Mercy realized. Ignacio Garcia was not sleeping. His skin was funny shades of gray, blue, and purple. Though his eyes were closed, his mouth hung open.

Though the pain was almost excruciating, and she left a chunk of her hair in Roberto’s fist, Mercy used all her strength to pull away from him. She covered her mouth as she ran from the room to the bathroom next door.

She had not eaten much yesterday, but what little she had, she projectile vomited into the toilet. A bit missed its target, but at the moment, cleaning vomit from the bathroom tiles was the least of her worries.

Of course, they all knew this was coming. The man’s health, mental and physical, had been in decline for years. These past few days, Mercy had watched him go downhill fast. But this could not have come at a worse time. With the others somewhere out there, she had hoped the man would hang on long enough for them to escape. But now…

She was down to dry heaves when she felt the cloth pressed into her hand. “Are you okay?” Mercy tried to force a reassuring smile onto her face as she looked up at Callie McBride.

But it seemed they had run out of time. Would Diego keep her here to care for Cassie McBride and this girl? Or would she, perhaps even the girl, find themselves in that place alongside Bebe? Her hand covered her lower abdomen; it was for sure that her brother would kill this baby’s father. She tried to think of some way to get a message to Will. But unless Bebe came today, that was impossible.

They could not expect any help from Roberto. Not with the way he was acting. It wasn’t her fault. She had been up all day. How could they expect her to stay up all night to watch the old man sleep? They were the ones that canceled the night nurses because they didn’t want anyone to see Callie or Cassie McBride.

“How’s your mother?” Mercy tried to pull herself up from the floor, but this pout of nausea was worse than usual, and it left her weak. Grace held out her hand and helped her to stand. She smiled her thanks to the girl. Hoping the news was good. If they had to make a run for it, she did not want to leave the woman behind.

The girl looked down at the floor, “Still, sleeping.”

Maybe a better plan would be for them to sneak the girl out alone? She would stay with Cassie McBride. And hope for the best? It was unlikely this girl could locate whoever was here for them in time to save them.

Before she could say anything else, another face appeared in the doorway. Her younger brother seemed to have composed himself. But she trusted Roberto even less than before.

Mercy struggled to hold back the tears. When she had found out that she was a big sister, it had been the best present, like a dream come true. She had always hated being the ‘baby.’ And idealistically, she had seen only the good in this man. She had almost convinced herself that he was different from Diego and his mother. He was intelligent, educated, and handsome. He could aspire to so much more than this.

But those dreams were shattered. Between the things she had learned from Will and how he had treated Bebe, Mercy could no longer deny the truth. Roberto was no different from the others. Perhaps worse, because he hid behind this veneer of civility that Consuela and Diego did not bother with.

“I’m sorry.” He held out his hand. Mercy wanted to push it and him away, but she did not dare. Even if she could not trust this man, she too needed to keep up the show. So, she took it and allowed him to help her to the living room.

Cassie McBride began to stir. She turned over on the sofa and gripped her midsection in pain. Grace was by her mother’s side in an instant. Helping her to sit up, propping pillows behind her. “Is everything alright, Mercy? Have you come back to finish what you started, Bobby?”

Mercy had only heard Bebe call him that. Then she remembered that Will had explained how her brother was best friends with Stephen McBride. It was the link that the government had been missing. They had simply not been looking far enough back for the evidence they needed.

“I’m sorry about that, Cassie. Honestly, I am. I never wanted any of this to happen. If Stephen and his father had just…”

“I don’t want to hear your excuses. You had choices. You were smart, Bobby.” The other woman gave voice to Mercy’s own thoughts and feelings. “You could have gotten away from this. You could have gotten a job at any Fortune 500 company. Had a real career. Not drugs, kidnapping, and murder.”

Cassie looked at her daughter for a long moment before she turned back to Roberto. “But you chose this. You chose to kill your best friend. Why? Why, Bobby?”

The man hung his head for a long moment. Mercy thought perhaps Cassie’s words even got through to him. But when he looked up, the mask was back in place.

“We don’t have time to discuss the whys.” He half-laughed, “Hell, I’m sure it would take even the best shrink years to unravel that minefield.”

Roberto turned to face her, “I am truly sorry that I over-reacted, Hermana. We knew this was coming. It is just the timing. This could not come at a worse moment.”

She was one to laugh sardonically this time, “Tell me something I don’t know.”

Roberto Garcia came to stand in front of her. His hand gripped her shoulders, and Mercy wanted to pull away in disgust, but she forced herself to remain calm as she stared into the dark eyes of the man who only moments before had attacked her.

“We have to keep this quiet.”

Mercy shook her head and feared that she would once more need to race for the bathroom as memories of the smell and green-black decomposing body in Anna’s apartments flashed through her mind.

“Just for today.” He gripped her shoulders tighter and almost shook her. “There is another party tonight to celebrate my marriage to Constanza Dominguez. Then tomorrow morning, we take our vows in my uncle’s church in the village. If we can keep this from Diego and my mother, it buys us time.”

“I meant what I told you. I am going to help you and Bebe get out of here.”

“And them? Are you going to help the McBrides escape too? Because I’m not leaving without them.”

He released her and stepped back. Roberto looked from her to the girl to the woman lying on the couch. He began to pace and run his fingers through his dark hair. The silence was as pregnant as she was as they waited for several long moments. As the other woman had been just a couple of days ago. Her eyes met the girl’s green ones, and Mercy did her best to smile reassuringly.

Just when she was about to give up hope, he turned back to face her. “Yes. I’ll help them too.”

Mercy nodded her head. She knew that she should be relieved. And for his benefit, she acted like it. But she had long since awoken from her childish dreams. She knew better than to trust this man’s words any more than Diego’s. She certainly was not going to entrust him with the news they had learned. No, Roberto’s loyalty lay with his familia.

No, worse, this man only thought of himself. Not his family. Not Bebe. Not her. Not even this Constanza that he spoke of. Roberto Garcia only looked out for number one. And Mercy had no doubt if it came down to a choice between his ambitions and their lives, Roberto would betray them without a thought. Perhaps there was enough decency left in him that he would regret it later, but that would not stop him from doing whatever was necessary to protect himself. Each and every time.

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