Tess’ little hand in mine sent all sorts of sparks through my body. It warmed even my icy heart.
“Tess, sweetie,” I said, kneeling in front of Rosemary’s mansion. I hugged her tightly, though her arms just kind of flopped against my back like her heart wasn’t in it. “I’m going to take care of you. I’m going to teach you how to be strong.”
“Smurf taught me a lot of things,” Tess said, looking at the gravel driveway to the mansion.
“Who the fuck is Smurf?” I asked angrily, the words slipping out from between my teeth. I immediately caught myself and shifted my tone to be positive. “I’m your mother’s twin, and whoever this Smurf is, they don’t know you the way I know you. You’re going to grow into somebody so big and strong because of me.”
Curse that fucking idiot, Scorp. Curse my damn sister, too. Look at how weak they’ve made my child!
“Smurf is daddy’s girlfriend.” Tess smiled brightly, and in the moonlight, I could see tears welling in her eyes.
Tears of missing someone who was no good for her.
Well, I’ll eradicate that emotion from her. I’ll make her into exactly what she must become to survive this cruel, awful world.
“I see. Daddy’s girlfriend. I’m glad you two had a good relationship. Maybe we’ll see her one day.”
I held back a chuckle, knowing that Scorp’s bitch girlfriend was going to rot away either in jail or from that infection on her neck.
Either way, my Tess was most certainly not going to see Violet anytime soon. She would not see her father either, though I wouldn’t just let her know that right away.
She’s young. Only eleven. She is the perfect age to be molded, just as my father molded me.
I squeezed her hand.
“We’re going to have a marvelous life together, Tess.”
“What about Daddy?”
I turned on my best maternal voice and kneeled beside her. “Daddy is caught up in some bad things, I’m afraid. He has to deal with the consequences of those bad things.”
Tess blinked a few times. “Daddy was always nice to me.”
I pushed some hair from her face. “How could he not? You’re so perfect, Tess.”
At that, Tess beamed a wide grin.
Children, like most people, are so easy to manipulate. And soon, she’d be completely under my control.
Tess was the most important person in my life, and for more reasons than she’d ever understood.
I stood up and led her to the front door of the mansion.
She would be my legacy. All the pieces of my plan were falling into place. The chessboard was finally emptied of all its knights, pawns, and bishops.
Only a few heavy hitters remained.
When I take over our crime family, I now have someone to pass my legacy to. My niece. Someone who deserves it.
Somebody who is my blood.
And since this cursed body of mine can’t have children of my own, Tess is my savior. I could never control the underworld without a legacy child.
There are rules, even for those who break all laws and restrictions.
Rule number one dictates that power must stay inside the family.
The throne can only be passed onto blood.
With Elliot dead, that means I’m next.
But I need my legacy child, or I will be assassinated in my old age.
“Are we going to see Rosemary again?” Tess asked in her innocent tone.
The very weakness in her voice haunted me. When I’m through with her, she’ll be a warrior. She’ll be fearless of everything and will take anything that she wants from the world.
“We are. Rosemary loves to play with you.”
Tess frowned. She hated the way Rosemary treated her, and I had that working in my favor. Rosemary wanted Tess to be a toy, some kind of doll to live in the parlor with her.
But Tess shouldn’t be playing with dolls.
She should be learning how to load a handgun, and which vertebrae to slide a knife into to kill a man quickly.
Talking about Tess playing with Rosemary made me sick, but not as sick as watching Rosemary greet us at the front door.
“Oh, Tess!” Rosemary exclaimed, bringing Tess in for a hug that swept Tess off her feet.
I grimaced, watching as Tess gave a soft smile.
She’s a young girl, so of course she’ll love the attention. She’ll take to the fancy things after living in a rat’s hole with Scorp.
But try as Rosemary might, Tess will be the crime lord she was born to be.
Tess will be my legacy.
“Thank you, Olivia, for bringing Tess back to me.”
My nose scrunched.
This crazy bitch better not think she’s keeping Tess.
That’s my daughter.
I rubbed some coke on my gums to keep a buzz going as Rosemary walked into the parlor with Olivia and Tess.
“Ah, one big happy family, aren’t we?” I said, opening my arms wide and reclining on my armchair the size of a throne.
Great, my daughter was wearing a massive frown.
I leaned on my wrist. “Olivia. What is it?”
“Rosemary can’t have Tess!” she shouted, storming past everyone.
Oh, here we go. Both of the women fighting over this silly child.
But it’s better that way. It keeps them out of my business.
And Olivia needs to understand I’m preparing for her future. I’m getting everything set for her. She clearly wants Tess.
So she’ll need to earn her.
Nonchalantly, I waved my hand. “Rosemary will take care of Tess.”
My declaration was as strong as it was simple.
Olivia jabbed a finger at me. “Tess is mine. And that’s it.”
Rosemary smiled and weaved Tess’ hair into a braid while the girl dry-swallowed.
I rose from my chair, and everyone, even Olivia, took a step back.
I placed both my hands on Olivia’s shoulders and grinned. “My dear, don’t worry. We’re all one big family. Rosemary failed with Elliot, but she won’t fail in raising Tess.”
Rosemary nodded and continued to braid Tess’ hair.
Olivia’s fists relaxed, and I brought her forehead to my heart.
“We are all in this together,” I said, feeling Olivia’s torso rise and fall with heavy breaths. “And we, Olivia, were born to rule this world. There is much I need my daughter to do for that to happen. Rosemary will make a fine mother in the meantime.”
Olivia, her cheeks red, smiled. She offered a small bow.
“You’re right, father.”
Munozos exited the interrogation room.
Can’t believe I’m saying it, but he might be right. I knew something shady was going on in this town from jump street, and now me and the club were feeling it hard.
I got double-crossed once before, but it won’t happen again. I learned from my mistakes.
Still, Munozos has a point. If we’re going to bring down whatever is haunting Summer, then we all need to work together.
I leaned back in my chair, craving a cigarette or some whiskey.
No doubt I could work with a cop again.
But how the hell would I sell this to the boys down at the club?
And worse, how the fuck would Scorp take it?