Lisa Renee Jones
It was clearly a mistake to choose this location in Mexico that my father fondly called “the graveyard” to face off with my uncle. This warehouse is where he came to turn conflict into conclusion. And conclusion is exactly what we have.
Miguel is dead and so is my intended placeholder, Laslo.
I killed Miguel.
My “dead” father killed Laslo.
My dead father, who stands in front of me now alive and well. And while his thick, dark hair is more salt and pepper than it was when I last saw him, the lines framing his eyes a bit deeper, he’s looking fit and trim, and healthier than ever. My father was never a man who let himself go, never a man who indulged in the drugs he himself sold to others.
Apparently, the past few years were not spent six feet under.
He’s a ghost come back to life, too much like me for my own good. I dislike that about both of us to the point that I wonder if the smirk of satisfaction on his face isn’t about just that. Him wanting me to become the man who killed my uncle and buried bodies. He might be angry over my intended placement of Laslo as the face of the cartel, but he still believes he’s won. He’ll soon learn that, yes, I am the man he wanted me to be in too many ways. The man who willingly killed Miguel, but I will also not tolerate much from him. And I will kill him if he threatens what is mine.
This isn’t a happy family reunion.
There is no hugging and joy to be found for miles, certainly not from me. But on the other side of the coin, those who know how much I avoid all things my father and the cartel might think I’d be relieved at his return. Now, they would assume, he can run his own damn cartel but with him at the helm, there will be nothing but blood and bodies.
“Now what, hijo?” he asks, his weapon still in his hand, but then so is mine.
Hijo, meaning “son,” as if he has to drive home that point, but I am no son of his in any way but blood and looks. “I could kill you and no one would know any different,” I say.
He chuckles low and deep. “Now you sound like my son.” He points to the men to my right and then carries that finger around the room with a command, “Leave us.”
A few of the men obey. The rest hold positions on either side of me. Enrique, loyal soldier that he is, of course, one of those men. In response to this division of men, my father’s eyes light with something I can only call conquest. “They didn’t all line up with you, son. That’s a problem. That’s every problem you own right now. You should already own them by now. Not one of them should be loyal to me.”
He’s every problem for me right now, and most of my life, even when he was supposed to be dead. “They’re not loyal to you,” I say. “They’re afraid of you.”
“Why aren’t they afraid of you?”
I ignore him and focus on the men. I lift a hand. “Dehanos,” I order the masses in Spanish, which means “Leave us,” and then in English, “All of you.”
Every last one of the men obeys my command but Enrique, who hesitates but not out of disobedience. “Kane?” he asks.
I give him a nod, and while his jaw clenches with obvious disapproval, he does as I’ve commanded. As soon as I’m alone with my father, I step closer to him, “The lambs never run to the wolf. Those who are afraid of me for the wrong reasons went to you, and then ran away when given the opportunity.”
His lips quirk. “You do not disappoint, hijo. I almost think I can disappear again and let you run the show. ~Almost~. But then you tried to give it all away.”
“A front man would have sheltered me. A front man I could have controlled. That wasn’t your brother.”
“My brother took control when you did not.” His expression is pure contempt. “As for shelter, isn’t that why you have a bitch with a badge?”
If he’s trying to die, he’s on the right path. “Careful what you say next,” I warn, “or I might not give you the chance to retire properly. That woman with the badge is my wife.”
“Another mistake. She’s dangerous.”
“In all the right ways,” I say. “She’s also off limits. You touch her, or order anyone else to touch her, if she doesn’t kill you and them in the process, I promise you, I will bleed you out while you beg to die.” I motion to Miguel. “He found out the dead way.”
“Did he, now?”
“Yes, he did.”
“Does she know you disposed of the only man I’d ever let stand for me, outside of you?”
“Is he really who you wanted running your operation?”
“No. I wanted you, son. You didn’t step up, but as for Lilah, I’ll concede that in the moment, she’s useful. Her father will be governor. I’ll own him.”
“I’ll own him.”
He laughs. “Fair enough. Either way, owning him is what comes next.”
He’s not wrong, but my reasons for wanting to own Lilah’s father are about protecting her and destroying the Society. Reasons my father will not accept as readily as he will other versions of the truth. “Why do you think I needed a figurehead? Miguel acted a fool. He was going to destroy us all.”
He studies me with intense dark eyes. “Perhaps I underestimated you.”
“Just because it’s not your way, Father, does not make it the wrong way.”
He holds his hands to his sides. “I’m your figurehead.”
“You don’t have it in you to be a figurehead.”
“You don’t have it in you to do what is necessary to run this cartel, which is why you needed your uncle. Now you have me. And don’t you worry about the Society. Me and Pocher are like this.” He crosses two fingers together.
“What does that mean?”
“Don’t you worry, hijo. Daddy is here to save the day.” He holsters his weapon and says, “Let’s go sit for a meal. It’s only appropriate. I’m back from the dead. We need to decide what that means for you, me, and your lovely wife, Lilah.”
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