“This was taken the first time ever I met Lion. I was twelve, and I trusted him right away. He came here, to Mexico, one summer. He helped my father get a visa into the country. They set up deals together. They were almost partners—Lion ran shit in the United States, and my father ran Mexico. That was the order, plain and simple, and it worked.”
I look up at him slowly, but I can’t read his eyes. Not behind those dark sunglasses.
“Read the back,” he murmurs.
I flip it over and there are words in red ink. Holy shit. It’s Daddy’s handwriting. Sloppy and masculine. I remember it well. Mom hated it.
The words are: Keep this with you forever, kid. And always stay strong.
That’s all it says, but I can hear Daddy saying those words, almost like a whisper in my ear, echoing.
“He gave this to you?” I muster.
He nods, just barely. “Proof enough?”
It is. This one picture alone shouts a thousand words. There is love buried in the ink. There is respect. These men were close. Draco looked up to him; I could tell. The way he’s leaning toward him, but still making sure his Dad is close.
“Are there more?” I ask.
“Several, in my father’s storage.”
Grunting pulls me from my thoughts, and I look up to see Diego and Guillermo carrying a naked Henry to the SUV. Draco touches my cheekbone, and when I look at him again, his sunglasses are gone.
“He wanted this, Gianna. You hate me for some of the shit I do, but it’s time to stop fighting it. This is what I do. It’s how I live. I’m done with these games. I’m not trying to hurt you anymore.”
I nod, swallowing hard. “Then don’t hurt me.”
He lets out a deep breath when I hand him the picture back. He tucks it into his back pocket again and then presses a hand on the small of my back, guiding me back to the SUV.
“You still don’t trust me,” I say when we’re halfway there.
He doesn’t answer, because he doesn’t trust me.
“No more bullshit,” he says, voice firm and deep.
I start to speak when we’re closer to the SUV, but just as I open my mouth, something booms, and the ground shakes around us. Gasping, I look to the right and see that the silver Mercedes has exploded. Fire shoots up, smoke billowing in the air instantly.
Guns cock, and the guards begin to shout as they rush around the cars. Guillermo and Diego drop Henry on the dirt path in a heartbeat, rushing for the vehicles.
But in a matter of seconds, the second car explodes too, sending three of the guards flying back into the field of blue.
A scream slips out of me as I’m tackled to the ground.
Draco is on top of me, panting hard and heavy. The thorns from the flowers prick me in the back and under my arms and I cry out from the pain, but my cry is muted when another explosion happens.
This explosion deafens me. It’s closer. My ears ring and Draco’s eyes are squeezed tight, his teeth gritted together as he tries to tolerate the noise. Flames build up behind him, aiming for the sky. The thorns feel much sharper now, piercing into my skin.
I think I’m crying. Screaming. I don’t know. I can’t tell.
It hurts. Everywhere.
Draco’s eyes grow wide as he finally hops up, but crouches quickly to stroke my chin. He’s shouting something but I can’t hear him. He then turns in a matter of seconds, drawing his gun and rushing away.
I hear my moans now. I see the dirt path only a few steps away and I roll toward it, my legs and hands getting stabbed, my face getting nicked and sliced, until I land on the dirt, free of the thorns.
I lift my hands up in the air. They’re covered in blood.
Then I look at the cars. They’ve all been blown to pieces. Some of the debris surrounds me. Something heavy and warm runs over my belly and I look down, spotting Silvia slithering over me, making her way through the flowers again, disappearing into the blue.
Too shocked to panic, too hurt to scream or cry, I try and sit up, pushing on my bloody hands. The dirt stings the punctures, but I make do. A shadow hovers over me as I struggle to stand, and he shoves me right back down to the ground.
He steps over me, his feet outside my head now, sneering down at me.
I don’t know this person.
He’s new, and he’s not one of the guards. He grabs my arm and hauls me up, starting a run through the field while tossing me over his shoulder.
All of my pain subsides, the adrenaline of terror flooding me all over again. I can hear men yelling. I can hear Draco shouting, furious, trying to figure out what the hell is going on.