Home > Rebel (Dead Man's Ink #1)(11)

Rebel (Dead Man's Ink #1)(11)
Callie Hart

“Sweet. He must have squared everything away quicker than expected.” We rap my knuckles against the tank as I pass Cade’s bike—still warm. Inside the clubhouse, there are no celebratory shots of Jack being passed around. The place is full, nearly every single member of the club seated at tables, some parked on the edge of the pool table. There are a lot of stern looks on faces. Arms folded across chests. I spot Cade immediately, leaning against the bar. The look on his face speaks volumes.

“What? What happened?”

Cade speaks three words:

Raphael Dela Vega.

Before he’s finished saying them, before he’s had a chance to personally bring my world crashing down around my ears, I already know it. I already know my uncle is dead.

REBEL

“I called it. I didn’t have any other choice.” Cade closes the door to my den behind him, shutting out the steely looks of the Widow Makers crew—there are twenty-three people gathered out in the bar, because they all knew before I did: we are at war with Los Oscuros. Cade saw my dead uncle’s body lying in the snow, and he handed over that bullet, just like I would have done. Except I would have given it to Raphael straight between the fucking eyes. “You okay?” Cade asks, as I slump into the seat at my desk.

No other member of the club would ask me if I was okay right now. They’re hard men, who deal with their issues the hard way: silently. Cade, on the other hand, has known me since I was eight years old. He knew me before all of the goodness got torn out of me. He knows I am not okay.

I just shake my head, staring down at the gun I’ve drawn from my belt without realizing and am now holding in my hands. “How did he die?”

“I don’t know.” Cade’s ominously silent for a moment. “But there was a lot of blood.”

I close my eyes, trying to fill my lungs with some air. It’s not working. “Okay.” I inhale. Exhale. Nod my head. “Okay.” The second time I say it, I’m closing a door. Ryan Conahue is dead. There’s nothing I can do to bring him back now, but there are a number of things I can do about his death. My first instinct is go take this fucking gun, climb onto my bike, ride all the way from New Mexico to Seattle, and torture that motherfucker until he begs to die. “Do you know where they’re staying?” I ask. “Hector and the others?” It’s not just Raphael that needs to die. His boss is the one who ordered Ryan’s death. He is as guilty, if not more so.

“They’ve left Seattle,” Cade says. He places his hands on the back of the chair he should be sitting in, leaning forward. “They’re back in L.A.”

Back in L.A. That means Raphael’s hightailed it straight to his boss to tell him the good news. Hector’s been pushing for bloodshed ever since he moved up into the States. He wants our business. Well, that’s not strictly true. He wants our gun and drug business. He’s done everything in his power to take that business from us, but our clientele is loyal. And paranoid. They don’t trust new faces. Now we’ve drawn swords, as it were, Hector must think he’s going to wipe us out. Give the gang lords we deal with no other choice but to deal with them instead. This whole clusterfuck of a situation is political, mixed in with the fact Ryan was in a position to send Hector down the line for a very long time.

“You know this isn’t your fault,” Cade says softly.

I somehow manage to tear my gaze away from the gun, so I can look up at him. “And how the hell have you come to that conclusion? I told him to stand his ground. I told him we’d fucking protect him!”

Thankfully Cade doesn’t say another word on the subject. He knows the dangerous glint in my eye. He knows when I’m on the very brink of a total meltdown, and he knows better than to give me the final push. This is my fault. No two ways about it.

My friend drops his head between his braced arms for a second, sighing. “This might be nothing to concern ourselves with, but Raphael had a girl with him.”

“What do you mean, a girl?”

“Just some young thing off the street by the looks of things. Nice clothes. Had that moneyed look about her.”

“She wasn’t one of his crew?”

Cade shakes his head. “She was terrified. I told her to say she was a virgin.”

That’s potentially one of the only things that will save a girl once Hector’s guys get their hooks in them. Hector may want my guns and coke, but his main area of interest lies in human trafficking. A beautiful virgin is worth more than a whole shipment worth of AKs if you sell to the right buyer. “I wanna see this girl. You got footage?”

“I got something. Not a very clear picture, though.” Cade pulls a thumb drive out of his pocket and tosses it to me. I slot it into my computer, opening the file as soon as the device registers. Cade is right—the picture is for shit, but it’s good enough to make out the shape of a woman, walking down a darkened street.

The woman stops, turns, watches something farther down the street.

“That was us,” Cade tells me. “We knew Ryan was in the area. We were looking for him.” His face creases into a look of remorse. A look that worsens as Ryan’s figure appears on the screen, a meter from the girl. He frightens her. She staggers back, and he falls to his knees in the snow.

My heart rises up into my throat. I understand why Cade looks so fucking guilty now. They missed my uncle by mere seconds.

My eyes feel dry; I don’t think I’ve blinked since the footage started playing. Ryan holds one hand up to the girl—a plea for help if ever I’ve seen one. The stance of the girl, the way she’s holding her own hands to her chest, makes me think she’s going to run from him. But she doesn’t. She surprises me and takes a step forward. More dark shapes appear on the screen—Raphael and his friends. I watch the girl getting grabbed. I watch those fuckers dragging Ryan back into the alleyway. And then there’s nothing.

“She was going to help him.” I hear myself say the words, but they don’t really register. Not until I find myself saying them again. “She was going to help him.” I take a deep breath. “So now we need to help her.”

ALEXIS

Ramona is a tall, slender woman with the traces of what might once have been a hair lip. If it was, her surgeon was very talented. Raphael hands me over to her with a clipped and considerably angry burst of Spanish, and then I’m whisked away. The woman has to be in her late twenties, though the tired look in her eyes gives her the appearance of someone much older.

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