Love’s Second Chance
by M.L. Buchman
-a Delta Force romance story-
“You really stepped in some shit this time, Alejandra Martinez.” She didn’t even know where to direct her fire. Or if she should fire at all.
Lying prone on the roof of the highest building in the area, a whole two stories, gave her the best vantage of the cesspool that had been her hometown for over twenty-five years. US-Mexican border towns sucked, especially when they were on the Mexican side. But she’d never found a way to leave it.
If she started shooting over the low parapet of aged adobe, they’d know she was up here and that could start to suck really fast. Of course another couple of hours up here in the midday sun baking her butt on an adobe grill and maybe she would be ready to shoot all of the assholes who had conspired to trap her up here. They’d gotten blood on her new jeans and sneakers, which was really pissing her off. At least it wasn’t hers.
“Next time you’re stuck in a street war and trying to survive, remember to bring milk and cookies. Or at least some water.” Good reminder, if she ever got out of this one. A six of cold beer sounded good too.
Life had been so much simpler twenty-four hours ago. She’d had a lover, a lousy-as-shit job—making it only a little better than her lover—and something that sort of resembled a place to be.
Now she had a cartel war surrounding the building she lay on top of, and her job was dead—her former employer had owned most of the blood she was wearing. Too bad her job had been to protect his stupid ass. He’d not only been stupid enough to piss off the Alvarado cartel that controlled all the contraband traffic through this town, he’d neglected to tell her he was also setting up the street gangs for a hard fall. They’d found out. Everyone wanted him dead and it was hard to blame them.
The steady crack of automatic gunfire and the hard thwaps of bullets impacting on stone and metal echoed up and down the streets below. These guys were using ammo like it was free. As far as she could tell they were either fighting over who got to claim taking the idiot down, or they were having a gunfight just for the hell of it.
“This town is really going down the toilet.”
“Wasn’t all that impressive to begin with,” a deep voice resonated from close behind her.
As she swung around, a big hand grabbed the barrel of her rifle, stopping it halfway to its new target.
There’d been no sound.
No warning. Not a creak or shift of the rotten roof timbers.
A big muchacho knelt close behind her on the roof. He was loaded for action. He held a combat rifle in one hand and her rifle barrel in the other as calmly as if it was the other end of an umbrella or something. Despite his light jacket she could see a pair of Glock 19s in twin shoulder holsters and would wager he had more ammo and another hidden carry or two on him.
A glance past him—the roof access hatch was still closed and latched.
“How the hell did you—” But then she recognized him and knew. “Hector Garcia? Haven’t seen your pretty face since Marina was still a virgin.” Which was close enough to never. Her little sister had probably seduced her first boy from side-by-side bassinets at the hospital and hadn’t slowed down since. At times it was hard to tell if she was a whore or just a slut.
Actually, Hector’s wasn’t a pretty face, not even the part that wasn’t covered by his wrap-around shades and a scruff of three-day beard that looked good on him. He’d broken his nose twice that she knew of, and now maybe a third time by the look of it. She still remembered the knife fight that had earned him the wavering scar from jawline to temple. His dark hair was long, the way he’d worn it ever since he’d lost an ear during a street brawl. He might be a mess, but Hector also looked really good. He used to be one of those slender and dangerous types. Now he was a powerfully wide and dangerous type.
And at the moment…she must look like shit. Just perfect.
She’d been riding guarda on a candidate for congress presently bleeding out in the middle of the plaza. What idiota campaigned in favor of building a wall on the Mexican side of the border to stop drugs and illegal emigration? That was American-style craziness. But he’d paid her more than she could make anywhere else even marginally legal—which meant he was also on the take in a dozen different ways and worried about it. She could have defended him against one or two shooters. But the two gangs duking it out on the streets below had brought them to his speech by the truckload. She’d dropped four before her sense of self-preservation kicked in.
Now Alejandra was really pissed about the blood on her. She’d also crawled through a shattered luncheon buffet on her way up to the roof. Total mess.
Not usual at all for her to think about how she looked in the middle of a gunfight, but she and Hector had a past—even if it was a long-ago past—and her last shred of vanity had been drowned in reeking mole sauce and blood.
He let go of the barrel and she sat up to get a better look at him.
“Shit, woman!” He placed a big hand on top of her head and shoved her back down onto the roof.
Moments later a single bullet cracked by overhead. She’d drawn exactly the kind of attention she hadn’t wanted.
Hector rose quickly onto one knee, then swung his rifle up so fast she could barely follow it. No time to aim. No time for anything. He just fired: two shots, a hesitation with a slight shift upward, then a third. He dropped back down. “That should take care of that.”
She’d been a shooter of one form or another ever since she was little: possum as a kid, armadillos to put meat on the table after Dad had bugged out, and bad guys as a policewoman—until the drug lords made that too dangerous a beat. But she’d never seen anything even close to what Hector had just done. He’d barely even looked for the target. Maybe the sound of the bullet had been enough. Maybe for him. And she knew if she tracked down the corpse—for she had no doubt that’s all it was now—it would have two holes close together in the chest and one more in the head.
There was certainly no return shot whistling aloft from below.
“Sorry,” she should have stayed down.
“De nada! So,” Hector lay on the roof beside her. “You busy much?”
“You saw the body in the plaza?”
“That was my meal ticket. No major loss—wasn’t much of a lover either.”
Hector’s face darkened at her second statement.
She swung the butt of her rifle into his gut, aiming between a pouch of ammo and a Glock 19. She caught him hard enough to earn her an angry grunt.
“You been gone, hombre. You don’t get to judge shit.”
He shrugged one shoulder in agreement, but didn’t look much happier about it.
Well, neither was she. Especially not with Hector Garcia lying just inches away to remind her of how good her best lover ever had been.
The gunfire down on the plaza was dying down. Probably running out of ammo at the rate they were using it.
“Why? You got any bright ideas on how to keep me busy?”
“More than few,” his easy leer said plenty. But she still knew him well enough to know that sex wasn’t the only thing he had on his mind.
Hector had remembered Alejandra Rosa Martinez as a total knock-out, but that was nothing compared to what he’d found up on the roof.
He’d come back to his shithole of a hometown for a mission, not looking for her. Not really. In five years his life had totally changed—no reason to assume that hers had stayed the same. Or that she’d be real interested in seeing him. But a few questions about her had led him to the plaza, just as all hell had broken loose.
He hadn’t expected to walk into a gunfight, though four years in the US Rangers and another year as a Delta Force operator had let him see the patterns quickly. There was an obvious hole in the battle running from door to door.
The policia were wisely hanging back a couple blocks and waiting it out—though they needed a real lesson about how bullets skipped along concrete walls and he hoped they didn’t catch one. It was the reason that war zone photos always showed the US military walking up the center of a street rather than hugging the buildings.
But whatever sides were fighting around the plaza and up on the low roofs, the lack of action from the best vantage point spoke volumes. Somebody held the high ground, which meant they were defending it, but there was no sign they were using it. Someone smart—maybe like Alejandra. He got up to the second story inside the building, leaving only a few broken bones behind him. Not a one of them understood that it would hurt less if they’d just let go of their gun when he was ripping it out of their hands.
At a rear, second-story window, he’d managed to reach up high enough to loop his rifle’s sling over a protruding outside timber and used his rifle as a ladder to haul himself onto the roof. There he’d been confronted by one of the finest asses he’d ever seen.
How Alejandra had gotten even better looking in the years he’d been gone, he’d never know. It shouldn’t be possible, but it was true.
“You done here?” he nodded toward the plaza.
“Shit, you think?” her sarcastic tongue hadn’t changed one bit.
“Good. Got a job I could use some help on.”
“You show up out of the blue after five years and you suddenly need help from me? Hector, you’re an asshole. You know that, right?”
She snarled at him.
“Never argue with a lady when she’s right,” he threw one of her favorite sayings back in her face.
Her growl went deep and feline, but when he belly-crawled to the roof access, she followed.
He unsnapped the latch without making a sound. She had her rifle ready to aim down when he opened the hatch. With a shake of his head, he warned her off.
He flipped the release and threw the hatch wide.
They both rolled away from it. Moments later, a half dozen wild shots cut upward through the hatch. One shooter. Off center to the right.
He aimed through the roof itself and laid down a short line of fire. Crawling across it earlier, it was clear that it wasn’t much of a roof. The rounds punched through easily.
Alejandra did the same from the other side and her angle looked good.
Hector rolled back and dove through.
The shooter was down.
Alejandra dropped in beside him, so close it was hard not to just grab her. With a toe of her boot, she kicked the shooter over. He’d been hit both front and back. She’d always been good, but somewhere along the way, she’d gotten even better.
“Alvarado’s eldest. They were both really pissed when I wouldn’t marry him. His dad, Miguel, is not going to be happy about this.” She nudged a boot against him again, hard to believe he was finally dead.
“Good,” Hector offered her a smile. “You can tell Miguel yourself when he finds you in his bed tonight.”
“That’s part of your plan for…whatever?”
It wasn’t, but he’d forgotten how much fun it was to tease her. For a second he thought she might try aiming her rifle at him again and he was ready for that.
Instead she kicked him in the shins. Hard.
Whatever Hector was into, Alejandra wasn’t interested.
But she was.
They scrounged lunch in the deserted first floor café while the gun battle finished dying off around them. They sat side by side in the cool darkness of the kitchen, their backs against the steel door of the walk-in refrigerator and good visibility of both approaches—each with their rifle across their lap. They’d found cold beer, but Hector had opted for water so she’d done the same.
“Where the hell did you go, Hector?”
“North.” The only thing north was the US.
His frown said he didn’t like that question. Not a bit.
She finished her empanada then nudged his ribs with the butt of her rifle.
“You told me to go. Said you’d kill me if you ever saw me again,” his face said that his second empanada tasted like bitter sand. He chucked it under the sink.
Alejandra thought back to the day he’d gone. She’d been furious with him for something, then he’d bugged out and she never had a chance to take it back. What was…
Marina! Her slut of a sister had bragged about taking down Hector.
“You weren’t supposed fuck my sister while you were with me.”
She opened her mouth, then shut it again. One thing about Hector, he never lied. He might keep his trap shut, but he never lied.
“Pissed her off some that I wouldn’t.”
Whereas her little sister lied about everything—and Alejandra always fell for it. Big sisters were supposed to trust their little sisters. But she’d described certain things about Hector that only a lover would know…or someone who’d spied on him making love. “Shit! I’m gonna strangle the little bitch.”
Again Hector’s indifferent shrug.
“So I tell you to go and you just do? No argument?”
“You had a .357 revolver aimed at my crotch. I’m not gonna argue with that. I know how good a shot you are.”
“And you don’t even try to come back?”
Hector looked over at her with those sad, puppy-dog eyes of his. She’d never been able to resist those. Six foot of tough hombre was not supposed to have window-to-his-soul kind of eyes, but he always had. “Without you, I had nothing here.”
And he hadn’t. His family made hers look like all the good bits of a Thalía telenovela.
“Five years.” Somehow they’d lost five years. “Five goddamn years.”
Hector leaned his head back against the refrigerator door and closed his eyes. Yeah, he’d abandoned her to this hell for five years. If she’d done it to him, he’d never forgive her. Shit.
Closing his eyes didn’t help.
Now he wasn’t seeing her long flow of softly curling black hair with just a hint of her grandmother’s dark gold, framing that perfect face. He couldn’t see the proud curves above her slender waist that he had so loved to bury his face in. But he could smell her: rich, dark, spicy—overlaid with drying mole sauce on her tight jeans. Like a mix of the lush bounty of the goddess Mayahuel and the fierce and deadly earth goddess Tlaltecuhtli. She had seemed that way ever since they’d sat side by side in primaria school desks and learned about the ancient Aztecs.
And she was still that even now, squatting in a darkened kitchen waiting out the stupid shit going on outside: lush, dangerous, and so goddamn good to look at.
He’d landed his fair share of bar babes over the years. His ugly excuse for a face drew in as many as it put off. Not a one had been worth even half of Alejandra Rosa Martinez.
He shouldn’t have tracked her down; it was just messing with his head. She wasn’t essential to the mission—though it was a better angle than the one he’d thought up while planning back at Fort Bragg. His assignment was to investigate and assess, then call for what assets he needed. If he shifted his plan to include Alejandra, he had all he needed right here.
Reading the profile on cartel boss Miguel Alvarado had brought up too many memories, too much anger. He shouldn’t have taken the assignment.
Missions can never be personal. The commanders of Delta Force had beat that into his head again and again. Yet this time it was. His hometown. His family that had been destroyed. And now, in a file handed to him like a random draw, he knew why.
But he had tracked her down.
He thumped his head back against the refrigerator door.
Just walk away, Hector. You did it to her before, you can do it again. It’s safer that way. Better for her. Sucks totally for you. But since when was that anything new?
Even knowing the right course of action, Hector knew he didn’t have the strength to do it again. She was all the past he had. There was no way she could fit into his current life—she wasn’t exactly the patient housewife sort—but there was no way he could stand to pry her back out of his heart now that he’d found her. Not that he’d ever been able to.
“So, what’s Alvarado up to this time—other than gunning down my meal ticket? And why you?” Even her voice—he’d even missed the sound of her voice. He remembered it like yesterday.
Hector sighed. There was no way to resist having her by his side, so he should just give in. Even if it would only be on a mission.
“Miguel Alvarado is known for moving drugs and immigrants across the border. Pain in the ass, but the US has had plenty of bigger fish to fry.”
He could feel her shrug as a movement through the cool metal against his back.
“He’s gone a whole lot lower—human trafficking for the sex trade—and it’s time to shut his ass down.”
“Shit!” Her sound of utter disgust said that was news to her. “Why you?”
That was actually a hell of a good question. What he’d seen in the file back at Fort Bragg, intel and his commanders had certainly seen as well. His hometown—giving him the best knowledge on the ground. His family—he’d told the stories to the psychologists during induction testing into Delta. That had to be in his files. It didn’t take a genius to connect Alvarado and his own family. His family had worked as Miguel’s guns until they were picked off one by one. He’d probably have been in the family trade and dead by now too, if not for Alejandra threatening to shoot his balls off. Just him left now.
There was only one thing he’d never told the psychs about, one piece that had remained for him alone.
He opened his eyes and looked at her.
“Because, I’m the best bastard for the job.”
The best bastard she’d ever known.
And now he was going to be a dead bastard if she ever got her hands back on him.
Tonight’s plan had sounded so simple as they’d hashed it out. No unconsidered twists and turns. Whatever training Hector had gotten in the US, Alejandra saw it shine out of him. He brought up scenarios and variables like it was fact, not guesswork. His easy confidence had made it comfortable to believe and trust him despite his five-year absence.
She tugged against the heavy ropes tied around her wrists, but all it did was abrade her already sore wrists. His plan had been great—right up to the moment she’d stepped off plan and everything had gone to hell.
“I was not supposed to end up in Miguel Alvarado’s bed, Hector. That was supposed to be a goddamn joke.” But she had. The bedroom in Alvarado’s hacienda was lush. Dark wallpaper, leather and mahogany furniture, a massive California king bed with satin sheets…and a tie-down ring at each corner.
She still had her clothes on, but it was a good bet that wasn’t going to last.
Hector had been careful not to say anything about his life in America, but she’d listened to what he hadn’t said. No mention of wife or kids. No mention of anything except “work”. That’s all he called it: work. Not like it took magic powers to figure out what that meant.
The US didn’t send Border Patrol hombres south of the line. They were tough bastards, but they were strictly by-the-book types. The US military didn’t invade friendly countries. He’d shrugged off Miguel Alvarado’s drug trafficking the way no DEA agent would and she suspected that if Hector was CIA, he’d feel creepier.
He didn’t. Hector cut a solid, steady hole in the world gone to shit.
US Special Operations Forces. Green Beret, Ranger…one of those types. Except they’d sent him in on his own. A true specialist. Now she knew how he shot the way he had. Delta Force. No one else operated alone, could do what he did, and made it look so goddamn easy.
He hadn’t just gotten out…he’d gotten way out and done good besides.
Alejandra fought back the burning in her eyes. For some brief fantasy moment, she’d thought there might suddenly be a way out for her as well.
She tugged at the rope, knowing it was futile.
Today had also offered a lousy as shit lesson about revenge.
Hector had gone for some supplies he’d stashed out of town—and she’d gone for Marina. If she’d laid low, like he’d said, she wouldn’t be here.
Instead, slamming open her sister’s door without knocking, Alejandra had found her with a man, of course. Except this one had Marina gagged and was holding a gun on her. The wide terror of her sister’s eyes had made Alejandra hesitate for the wrong second.
Someone grabbed her from behind, and before she could fight him off, Marina’s captor had simply cocked the hammer of his pistol and put the barrel against Marina’s temple. Then he’d smiled at Alejandra.
Hector had told her what Miguel Alvarado was now into, cross-border human trafficking for the sex trade. She wasn’t a damn bit pleased that she and her sister were getting to see that first hand.
The two of them had been herded into an underground holding area with two dozen others. By the light of the lone dim bulb, Alejandra could see enough of their coloring and features to tell that most were Guatemalan or Oaxacan—at least half were underage. Refugees no one would ever miss except for the families back home waiting for news that would never come. In the stuffy, crowded cell, Marina had told her that the man who had captured them had been a pissed off ex-lover, one of Alvarado’s men, who she’d dumped for being too rough.
They were the only locals waiting to be shipped off.
“My timing seriously sucks,” Alejandra looked once more at her reflection in the mirrored ceiling above the bed. Miguel Alvarado was a kinky bastard.
He’d come to survey his “cargo” earlier. He’d merely grunted when he spotted Marina. But when he’d seen Alejandra, his smile had gone evil. That was how she’d ended up tied to his bed.
So much for hope.
Now it was just a question of how awful the ending was going to be.
Any time in the last five years, death wasn’t that unexpected. She’d known her life expectancy in Mexico stank.
But for one brief afternoon, there’d been hope. The loss of that was now doubly devastating.
It had taken Hector six hours through the sweltering afternoon and until well past sunset to track Alejandra. He’d lost ten years off his life when someone had finally dared to tell him that she and her sister had been taken away—bound. That had cost him half the time, finding that first step.
No other Delta Force assets in the area, nor any that could be in place fast enough.
He got on the radio with the intel boys, but this wasn’t America—security cameras didn’t hover above every street corner. However, they had been tracking a pending shipment of women. The challenge was not only to rescue the shipment, but to nail Miguel Alvarado red-handed.
Hector’s plan had been to screw up the night’s logistics badly enough to force Miguel to take a personal and very visible hand. He was too well connected to turn him over to the Mexican authorities, but once across the border, there were other ways to deal with him. They needed him alive, at least long enough to reveal his whole network.
But now Alejandra was gone and the paths had all led here—the massive hacienda several miles out of town. He’d dumped his beater vehicle in a handy arroyo and run the last few miles overland. The adobe wall around the massive compound was topped with glass shard and razor wire. Miguel had always been a rich bastard, but clearly he’d reached new depths that he’d needed to turn his home into a fortress.
Hector slid into the compound, only having to leave two guards down for the count. No dogs, which was a mistake, though there were ways of dealing with them. Just made his job easier. Miguel used to keep pit bulls, until they’d mauled one of his sons.
Hard floodlights blinded guards and cast hard shadows.
The security cameras within Miguel’s compound weren’t well placed—there were plenty of blank spots where they could be avoided. But they acted as excellent signposts guiding him on which way to go—the more cameras, the more important the area was to Miguel.
Inside the garage, Hector found a trio of hot sports cars (all red)—including a Ferrari that looked like it would be an awesome ride. Further in were a half dozen heavy pickups and SUVs appropriate for transporting a personal militia, and a battered American school bus.
Even as he watched, he saw a line of women and children being led up to it from some underground cellar, but not onto it. Instead, hatches in the yellow sides were opened up and the women were made to crawl inside.
Everyone knew that school buses weren’t set up to carry luggage underneath like a Greyhound. To any but the most careful inspection, it would appear empty except for the driver who was bound to have some “legitimate” excuse for crossing the border.
They loaded the right side first. Just before she crawled into the rearmost compartment, he recognized Marina Martinez. The years had been far less kind to her than they had to her sister. There was still a beauty there, but now it looked hard and strained. She also looked terrified. He didn’t recognize anyone else.
When the guards finished and moved around to load the other side, he slipped up and unlocked the rear hatch.
He clasped a hand over her mouth to silence her, then repeated his question.
“Miguel took her,” she whispered carefully. “You have to save us. You must—”
“Shh. Too many guards here. I’ll come for you later.” Before she could protest, he lowered the hatch and relocked it.
And there wasn’t time to stop the shipment—he had another priority now.
A quick drop-and-roll beneath a black Chevy Suburban was all that saved him from discovery.
He had the beginnings of an idea and began putting it in place as he slipped deeper into the shadows.
Miguel seemed disappointed that she wouldn’t scream. His hard slaps only served to piss her off and make her jaw hurt. Fine, as long as he didn’t break it—so that she could chew off his face if she got the chance.
He made all sorts of threats and boasts—most having to do with fucking her to death just to teach her a lesson. Apparently rejecting his now-dead son, as well as his job offer to be a shooter for Miguel’s illegal operations had really pissed him off. It was hard to tell which had made him angrier.
Too smart to risk freeing her hands or ankles, Miguel used a steak knife to slice away her clothes.
“First me. Then the knife,” he wielded it down near her waist. “Don’t worry, Alejandra. It will be fast. I have other business to see to tonight as well.”
He stripped and knelt above her. Alejandra braced herself for the worst. She wasn’t going to cry or beg, not for Miguel’s benefit. There had to be more horrid ways to die, she just couldn’t think of what they were. She wouldn’t cry for him, but inside, where her heart ached, she would cry for what she and Hector might have had.
She closed her eyes as his hot breath landed between her breasts.
“First, I’m going to—” then he squeaked.
Alejandra opened her eyes and couldn’t make sense of what she was seeing.
Miguel’s eyes were wide with shock.
In the mirror above the bed, she had a bird’s eye view of the baddest, angriest warrior she’d ever seen.
She’d thought Hector had looked heavily armed and badass this afternoon. Now he was something else. A pair of night-vision goggles had been pulled up onto his forehead. He wore a vest that hung with two pistols, dozens of magazines of ammo for both pistols and rifles, as well as grenades and flashbangs. His puppy-dog eyes now belonged to a full-grown Doberman—a really pissed one.
And she couldn’t see his rifle, not all of it anyway. The muzzle appeared to be jammed well into Miguel’s ass. The angle was such that if Hector fired, the round would miss her, traveling up through Miguel’s body and out the top of his head. She might get splattered with his brains.
She was fine with that.
“Lose the knife.”
She thought she knew all the moods of Hector Garcia, but she’d never seen him so angry, so focused in her entire life.
Apparently, neither had Miguel. The blade clattered to the floor.
“Sideways, slowly, until you’re lying facedown on the bed. You so much as brush against Alejandra and you’re a dead man.”
Miguel edged carefully away. The rifle moved with him.
“You okay, Alej?”
Ah-lay. A name she hadn’t heard in far too long. She couldn’t say all of the things that welled up inside her, didn’t dare let them out in the world yet. Digging deep, she found something else. “Could do without the goddamn ropes.”
Keeping his rifle shoved someplace dark and nasty, he pulled out a big military knife and slashed her bonds.
Her clothes were in tatters. She went and found some others stashed in a dresser: women’s, a wide variety, some close enough to her size. Bastard.
She came back and picked up the knife Miguel had dropped to the floor and shifted around until he could see her holding it close by his nose.
“How would you like to fuck a knife, Miguel? Be glad to hold it for you. I’ll put you down just like I did your rabid dog of a son.”
“I need information first,” Hector had to slow her down. Not that he could blame her. He felt the same way.
To find Alejandra after all these years and then to come so close to losing her again made him sick. What Miguel had planned for her…the fury rose in a wave that threatened to choke him.
But the 75th Rangers had taught him how to rechannel fury, saving it to focus on the battle moment. Then Delta had taught him how to turn hot fury into cold, until it was a finely-honed weapon.
It didn’t take long to get Miguel to spill everything: hierarchy, contacts, combinations to safes, and passwords to his computer. He’d tossed Alejandra a recorder and she’d held it close to his mouth to make sure they didn’t miss a thing. How she didn’t rip his face off in the process was one of the most impressive displays of restraint he’d ever seen.
Before he let Miguel get dressed, he yanked his rifle free, and shoved a small breaching charge for blowing open locked doors up the guy’s ass.
“See this?” he held the remote up close for Miguel to see. “One press of the button and you explode from the inside out. We clear?”
Miguel nodded hurriedly.
Hector tossed the control to Alejandra who caught it one-handed, then looked at him thoughtfully but didn’t say anything.
On their way back to the garage, the three of them walked as if everything was okay, Miguel imperiously waving guards aside. They made a few stops along the way. A small knapsack was soon filled with the contents of Miguel’s safe, though Hector didn’t bother with the cash. Instead he left an incendiary for whoever opened it next. They picked up Miguel’s laptop and smartphone along the way, dropping them into foil bags to avoid anyone tracking them.
In the garage, the bus and most of the SUVs were gone.
“Tell me you have a plan, Hector,” Alejandra had picked up several weapons along the way until she was almost as heavily armed as he was. It looked damned good on her. “My sister’s out there somewhere.”
Hector loaded Miguel and his files into the trunk of the Ferrari—thankfully he wasn’t a big man. Then Hector hit him with enough morphine from his Delta med kit to keep a horse down for a day.
He and Alejandra slid down into the soft, black leather of the bucket seats.
Yes, he had a plan. But he had a mission to finish first.
From the start, Alejandra decided that she was really glad that she was on the same side as Hector. He definitely put the bad in badass. And then he kept getting better.
In the Ferrari—which was one of the coolest rides she’d ever had (it grabbed low and yanked her ahead like a sexual shot)—they’d caught up to the bus and the escorting SUVs close to the border station.
Hector had simply waved a hand out the window as they passed, for the SUVs to keep following the bus. He’d slipped in ahead of them all just at the border.
Whatever ID he showed the border guard had certainly gotten his attention. After a few whispered instructions, the guard let the Ferrari and the school bus roll through.
Hector stopped the car before the bus was fully out of the border crossing control lane, trapping it there.
The SUVs had hung back at the last moment, truckloads of armed guards didn’t just roll through border crossings.
Hector pulled out a remote control just like the one he’d tossed to her earlier. He had trusted her—trusted her to not kill Miguel unless they needed to, and to do it in an instant if it became necessary. He’d been right on both counts. No one had ever known her as well as he did.
“I didn’t want to risk getting them mixed up,” then he flipped up the cover on the activation switch of the one he held, offered her an evil grin, and pressed down on it with his thumb.
The three SUVs still on the other side of the border thumped hard, brilliant light shining out all of their windows. Remote control flashbangs.
In moments, the Mexican border patrol, rifles raised, had everyone out of the vehicles and lying on the asphalt, along with a big enough stack of weapons to make sure they spent a long time in prison.
The next moment, their own vehicle and the bus were surrounded by the US Border Patrol.
INS agents gathered up all of the women and children. A very small team in an unmarked black SUV emptied the still-unconscious Miguel and his files out of the Ferrari’s trunk. Their eyes had gone a little wide when she handed over the remote trigger on the breaching charge, and told them exactly where it could be found. Then they were gone.
She and Hector turned to watch as the INS began reassuring the frightened women and children. One was handing out blankets, another with water bottles, and even a few stuffed animals for the youngest to cling to.
“Should I give your sister a contact number? Though I’m not sure if someone that sexy should be allowed into the US.”
“You are a bastard, Hector. I’m the one you’re supposed to be calling sexy.” But it was hard to put any real heat behind it with the way he was smiling down at her.
Then she thought about it.
Hector was offering to give a contact number to Marina. It would be his contact number, to call if Marina wanted to reach Alejandra. That meant that whatever happened next, she herself would be with Hector. Discovering that the tiny shred of hope that had nearly died during the evening wasn’t so tiny after all just blew her away. That was way better than being called sexy.
“Sure,” Alejandra managed after a deep breath to make sure her voice was steady. “She is my sister after all.”
He pulled out a slip of paper, wrote his name and a phone number on it and then handed it to her. At his nod, Alejandra stepped into the crowd of women being corralled onto the bus by the INS agents, this time into the seats rather than the hidden compartments.
She couldn’t think of anything to say. Some fit of Marina-jealousy had cost her five years of being with Hector. But it would have been five years in the hell that was a Mexican town on the wrong side of the border. Now she was on the north side of the border next to a top US military soldier. It wasn’t up to her to understand how this screwed-up world worked, but she would absolutely make the best of it.
Alejandra handed the slip of paper to her sister. Marina might be a sex-crazed maniac, but she immediately understood what it meant for both of them.
Marina’s “Sorry” was the only word that passed between them as they hugged, but it was a long hug and her little sister’s smile wished her joy.
Alejandra waited until they were loaded and gone, waving as the bus disappeared into the night.
She turned and saw Hector leaning against the hood of the Ferrari, his big arms crossed over his chest. He’d shed his weapons into the trunk. The black t-shirt that had been under his vest showed just how wonderful his chest had become over the years.
Alejandra stepped up until she was standing between his wide-braced feet.
“East or west? Your choice, Alej.” His deep voice was as soft as the darkness.
“What’s waiting for us?” He didn’t flinch at the us. Instead he unfolded his arms and slipped his hands onto her waist. It was the first time they’d touched in five years and it felt as if they’d never been apart.
“To the east about a day’s drive is Fort Bragg, North Carolina. If you’re interested, my unit is starting a testing course for new inductees in a couple days. I already called in and got you clearance while you and your sister were talking. I swore up and down that you’re a shoo-in. Which is a safe bet because you are. The test is brutal, but I got no doubts.”
Alejandra leaned up against him and his arms came up around her. It was the best place she’d ever been.
“And to the west?” she could barely speak past how tightly he was holding her.
“About a ten-hour drive out of our way is Las Vegas. They’ve got these twenty-four hour wedding chapels. Again, if you’re interested.” She couldn’t see his smile because she had her nose buried against his chest, but she could hear it.
Once more that surge of everything she wanted to say to him shot through her. She dug down and sought for something that would keep his ego in line. That would let him know that she wasn’t that easy. That he couldn’t just sweep back into her life after five years and change everything in a day.
Except he already had. A job, the best lover, a team to belong to. A home. He had changed things; he’d made a dream she hadn’t even known about come true.
She looked up into his beautiful eyes, knowing now it was something she’d get to do for the rest of her life.
“Uh-huh,” he sounded pretty damned pleased with himself at her response pointing them west.
“But isn’t that in, like, a normal car? That is a Ferrari you’re leaning against.”
This time he smiled along with his grunt of satisfaction.
She didn’t bother answering yes before she pulled his face down and kissed him.
Their love was so big that it didn’t need to be said.
Copyright © 2017 by M.L. Buchman
Published by Buchman Bookworks, Inc.
Cover and Layout copyright © 2017 by Buchman Bookworks, Inc.
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved. This is a work of fiction. All characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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