an Eagle Elite Novella
by Rachel Van Dyken
This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters, and events are fictitious in every regard. Any similarities to actual events and persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental. Any trademarks, service marks, product names, or named features are assumed to be the property of their respective owners, and are used only for reference. There is no implied endorsement if any of these terms are used. Except for review purposes, the reproduction of this book in whole or part, electronically or mechanically, constitutes a copyright violation.
Copyright © 2014 RACHEL VAN DYKEN
ISBN 13: 978-09905793-35
Cover Art by P.S. Cover Design
“AX?” I KNOCKED on his bedroom window and waited.
Fear gave into panic as I knocked harder the second time. The sound of glass breaking in the house behind me made my palms sweat. I could still hear my parents fighting. It was always the same with them; my father wanted to be more than just an associate. A made man, that was his dream. To become a made man for the De Lange family. One of the worst families in the American mafia. They didn’t play by the rules anymore and my dad wanted to be a part of their game — rules or no rules.
I knocked harder. “Ax, please, it’s Amy.”
The screaming got louder. I fought the urge to cover my ears as I glanced back at the house. Slinking further into the shadows I wrapped my arms around myself and shivered. I hated Chicago. As soon as I was eighteen I was going to move. I wanted to be warm; just once in my life, I wanted to be warm.
The chill of fear and death surrounded me, had choked me from birth until now. I was seventeen. I only had one more year, one more year and I was running away. Ax said he’d help me, though I wasn’t sure what he could do since he was nothing but a mechanic.
Teeth chattering, I knocked one last time and prayed he was home. I’d already tried his cell, but my call had gone straight to voicemail.
Finally, I saw a shadow move in the window.
And then I saw his face.
It was always like the first time with Ax. He had sharp defined cheekbones, a strong jaw, full lips meant for kissing — though it’s not like I would know; I was his friend, nothing more. He was beautiful. Like the prince from a storybook. I’d always thought of him as my own personal prince and he’d always laughed it off saying princes in the stories never worked on cars and had grease on their faces.
“Amy?” He jerked open the window; his shirtless body stole my breath away as his muscles flexed to push the last part of the window up. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? Why the hell do you have a bruise on your cheek?”
“Too many questions.” I forced a watery smile. “Can I stay here tonight?”
He sighed, his shoulders slumping over with sadness, guilt, pity? Who knew? “Amy, this has to stop, why don’t you just move in?”
“Right.” I laughed. “Move in next door with the enemy.”
He rolled his eyes. “Just because I’m related to the Abandonato family does not make me the enemy. I’m not in the business, neither is Pops. You know that.”
“Help?” I held up my arms.
Laughing, he reached over the ledge and hauled me into his room. His warm chest was all I needed; he was all I needed.
“Same fight?” He set me down onto my feet. I fought the urge to sway into his arms, to lie and say I tripped. Just being in his embrace made me forget about the pain on my cheek… and the accompanying pain in my heart due to the fact that my dad had hit me…again.
Ax steadied my shoulders with his hands then softly grazed his fingertips over my face as he reached up and touched the bruise. “I’ll kill him.”
“With a wrench?” I teased pulling away, even though that was the exact opposite of what I wanted.
“Ames…” Ax swore and ran his fingers through his messy dark brown hair. “Hitting you is not okay. It’s never okay for a man to touch you in a violent way. I don’t care if you yell in his face, I don’t care if you kick him in the junk and pull a freaking gun on him — it’s never okay for a father to touch his daughter in a way that isn’t an expression of pure love and devotion.”
“Nice words…” I bit down on my lip to keep myself from bursting into tears. “They sound pretty… a little too pretty for someone like me.”
“Amy.” Ax gripped my chin with his hand. “You deserve more than nights crawling into a loser’s house just because you have to escape your dad.”
I jerked away. “You’re not a loser.”
“I’m not exactly a winner either.” His lips twisted into a smirk “But I’m glad I’d get your vote for Homecoming King if it came down to it.”
I rolled my eyes. “How’s work?”
“It’s work,” he said in a serious tone. Something flashed in his eyes before he looked away and pointed to the bed. “Right or left?”
Rolling his eyes he asked again, “Right or left?”
“I can do this all night, Ames.”
“Funny, me too.” I crossed my arms and grinned.
He burst out laughing. “Fine, you can have part of the middle, and I’ll just try not to fall on the floor, but no promises.”
I moved towards the bed. “If I hear a loud thunk I promise not to scream.”
“Right, it’s just my head shaking hands with the nightstand, no big.” He winked and pulled the covers back. “Need something to sleep in?”
“Uh, yeah.” I looked down at my jeans and white t-shirt self consciously pulling it over my stomach. My dad always yelled at me for wearing skanky outfits but it wasn’t for lack of trying to wear normal clothes. We had no money, and I didn’t exactly have funds for shopping. How was it my fault I hit a growth spurt?
I hoped Ax didn’t notice the blush on my face. I was ashamed that I couldn’t even afford to go to Walmart.
I was even more ashamed that my father blamed me for his inability to stop gambling.
“He a made man yet?” Ax asked once we were settled into bed.
“No.” I wrapped my arm around his chest, my usual position when I spent the night. “And it’s not like things would get better even if he was, but you aren’t supposed to know any of that. It’s not like the mafia smiles on people who know their business.”
He snorted, his body tensed. “Right.”
“I mean it, Ax. I can’t lose you.”
“I’m a mechanic, hardly a threat.” He kissed the top of my head. “Now try to sleep.”
I closed my eyes and took a relaxing breath just as a loud gunshot rang my ears, jolting me awake.
“Stay down.” Ax pushed me against the bed, his body hovering over mine. His entire face changed from calm to rage in that instant. His muscles flexed as he reached into the nightstand and pulled out a .45.
“Ax?” I whispered. “Why do you have a gun?”
“Shh.” He held the gun to his lips. “I need you to be quiet.”
I nodded, tears already pooling in my eyes.
Another gunshot rang out and then his bedroom door flew open. It was his older brother Sergio. “Time to go, cover’s blown.”
The door slammed shut as he took off as quickly as he had appeared.
I stared at Ax.
He stared right back.
More bursts of light. Fear rippled through my body as I stared at Ax even harder, too shocked to do anything else. His gaze was calm…collected.
And then Sergio was back in our room, slamming the door behind him. “So we have to go to plan B. They’re pissed
Cursing, Ax flew off me, grabbed another gun out of his nightstand, and started throwing stuff into a duffle bag.
“She comes with us,” he barked.
“She’s a De Lange,” Sergio spat. “She sure as hell is not coming with us.”
“She’s not like them,” argued Ax. “He hits her. She needs to come.”
The sound of male voices yelling had me running into Ax’s arms. He kissed my forehead just as I was jerked away from his arms.
“No!” Sergio said in a stern voice.
“Yes!” Ax pulled me back. “We’re not leaving her. She stays I stay.”
The bedroom door burst open and it seemed everything happened in slow motion as a man held up a gun and pointed it towards Ax.
Bang! The gunshot rang out.
Ax stumbled. “Take her Sergio. Protect her. I’ll cover you. Just take her.”
With a curse Sergio pushed me out the window then followed.
“Ax!” I screamed, but Sergio covered my mouth.
Just as another bang rang out, lighting up the once dark bedroom.
Sergio pulled out his cell. “Pick up at The Spot, thanks Nixon… I owe you.”
“What about Ax?” I tried to fight against Sergio.
“Either he’s dead or he’s going to be.” Sergio pushed me down the alleyway, keeping to the shadows. “And it’s your fault. Never forget, it’s your fault my brother’s dead. But what should I expect from the De Lange bloodline? You were born to kill… born to die.”
My world shattered that day.
I lost my best friend.
I lost my heart.
And buried it right along with his body. The boy who hadn’t been who he said he was — the boy who’d protected me from my own family.
The boy who took two bullets for me and paid with his life.
Bang, Bang was the new soundtrack to my life.
Welcome to the Mafia.
5 years later, Chicago
THERE WAS ONLY ONE reason for him to call me. One reason and one reason only, other than him losing his damn mind that is.
The minute he’d sent her away from me, he’d sealed his fate.
“You’re dead to me!” I screamed, punching him in the face over and over again until blood caked both my knuckles and his face. But Sergio did nothing, simply took each punch as if he deserved it —we both know he did. After all, he’d sent my best friend away and made it impossible for me to reach her lest I put her in more danger than she was already in.
“I love her.” My voice was hoarse. “I love her!”
Sergio wiped the blood from his lip and let out a heavy sigh. “And I love you.”
I shook my head, not trusting my voice.
“It was you or her,” he said slowly. “My brother or a girl I hardly know. A De Lange… someone we’ve never been able to trust from a family who’d sell their own souls to Satan just to get ahead in this life. I made the call you were too weak to make.”
“I was weak because I damn near died protecting her!” I roared.
“Right.” Sergio nodded. “And now it’s my turn to protect you.”
“I will never…” My voice shook. “Never forgive you for this.”
“I don’t expect you to.”
Neither of us moved. It was the end of our brotherhood, the end of our family. Our mom was dead, our father in prison… that left just me and Sergio… blood thirsty cousins to the most powerful mafia family in the US.
Over a woman.
“Go into hiding,” Sergio barked tossing me my passport. “Off the grid. I’ll make it happen. Just one thing.”
My head snapped to attention. “You think you’re in a position to ask a favor?”
“You’re still blood.” His teeth clenched, damn near snarling. “One day your marker’s going to get called. When the boss needs you, you will come running, or you’ll die in your sleep.”
“That a threat?”
I scowled. “Then let’s just pray The Family doesn’t need my help anytime soon, yeah?”
My body jolted as the gates to the mansion opened. Five years and my marker had finally been called up.
My number… announced.
My identity no longer a secret.
I pulled the sleek Mercedes to a stop in front of the massive stairs leading up to the house and slammed my hand against the steering wheel. Memories of Amy made it damn near impossible to breathe, to hold in the emotion. I hadn’t kept that end of the promise to my brother. I’d checked in on her… and every time I did, he found out and threatened me again. I did it anyway, because I had to know she was safe. But the last two years, I hadn’t heard or seen anything. So when Sergio called and said I was needed, I didn’t hesitate. If she was in Chicago, I was going to find her.
I opened the door, got out, and slammed it behind me, then walked slowly up the stairs. The door to the house opened, making a creaking noise. Sergio stood there in a white t-shirt and fitted jeans. He’d always projected power… from his chiseled features to his screw-you attitude. His long dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail away from his face making his jaw look sharp… like a target ready for my fist.
“How was the drive?” he asked smoothly. His accent barely recognizable since last time I’d seen him. We’d both worked hard to get rid of our accents, apparently some harder than others.
He smirked. “Well, after today, I’m sure that word will be forever etched from your vocabulary.”
“Yeah, why’s that?”
He grinned. “It’s good to have you back brother.”
I snorted and looked down licking my lips. “I’m back because of Family.”
“No.” Sergio sighed. “You’re back because of her.”
“Whatever.” I tried to push past him but he grabbed my arm and shook his head slightly.
“Not here.” He closed the door behind him. “We won’t discuss it here.”
Two hours later and I found myself wanting to get so drunk I couldn’t see straight.
“No!” I barked, self consciously tugging at the ends of my hair with my right hand. “I’m not doing it.”
“You are.” Sergio sat down next to me. “Look, I know it was bad but the De Langes have a new leader, a woman… believe me when I say she’s scary as hell but she’s related to us now… married to Chase, the boss’s right hand man. I had to come out of hiding. It’s time for you to come out as well.”
“No.” I clenched my jaw until the irritation eased. “Besides, what would I come out for?”
“My brother is dead to me… he sent my best friend into foster care when she had a family… me,” I spat. “Try again.”
Sergio cursed, his Rolex snapping my attention from the whiskey to the light flickering off it. “The money.”
“I have more than enough money.”
“Our father is in prison, my closest cousin died that night, and even though I’m sure Nixon’s a stand up guy, he just made peace with the one family that tried to destroy us.”
“She’s a De Lange,” Sergio whispered. “You know you’d do anything for her regardless of her unfortunate bloodline.”
I cursed and tossed back the rest of the drink; it burned all the way down my throat. I’d dreamt of her every night. When I had thought I was dying I called for her. When I found out I was actually alive, I had searched for her.
And when I discovered talking to her would put her in more danger…
I stayed away.
Even when her foster family was less than kind to her.
When I saw more bruises.
I stayed away.
But I always watched from a distance… I watched, and I died a little each time someone was cruel and I was unable to rescue her. Laughable, when the man who destroyed everything in her precious life — wanted to be the hero. When she turned eighteen and left Chicago, I’d lost track of her. Over the past four years I’d built a damn Jericho around my heart… convincing myself that just like my brother she was dead too. It was better that way. Easier. At least that’s what I told myself when my heart hurt too damn much to think otherwise.
Gripping the glass with my hand, I slammed it down onto the table and started to get up.
Strong hands gripped my shoulders slamming me back down into my chair.
Sergio looked over my head and scowled while simultaneously paling. “Campisi…”
“Sergio,” the smooth voice said from behind me.
Campisi. I knew who it was. You’d have to be dead not to know who the new young Cappo was. He was around twenty-six, killed his own father, took over the Campisi Family and left a trail of dead bodies in his wake. But it wasn’t fear that kept me nailed to that seat, more like morbid curiosity.
When he took the chair opposite me and ordered a beer I almost laughed.
He was young.
So freaking young.
And huge, let’s not forget huge. I wasn’t a small guy by any means, but he could seriously give me a run for my money. With cold blue eyes and a nose that looked like it had been broken and reset at least a dozen times, I knew he wasn’t the type of guy I wanted on my bad side.
Unfortunately, he was also best friends with Nixon, the boss of the Abandonato family — my family. It helped that he was married to Nixon’s sister.
The drama of their lives was not anything I wanted to be a part of.
I wanted freedom.
But freedom… always came at a cost.
And I was fresh out of that type of payment.
“You will come out of hiding.” Campisi spoke softly. “Or I’ll kill you. Those are your choices.”
I was silent for a minute… watching his expression, though he didn’t seem irritated, just mildly amused at my hesitation. “And if I choose the bullet?”