Chapter Three

Stepping out of the car, Aiden scanned the darkness as he followed the two sombre-looking suited capos. As he approached the entrance to the Spanish-style Malibu villa, he watched the unblinking, stationary security cameras curiously. He knew Rafael Hernandez well enough to know that his security was as good as Fort Knox and seeing the cameras had been turned off was troubling. 

 “Wonderful for you to visit. It has been too long, my friend.” Rafael said. Aiden shook his extended hand and was instantly pulled into a manly hug. 

“You've been working out, I see,” Aiden said, clapping the grey-haired gentleman on his back.

“Of course! How else do you think I keep up with all my fine young ladies,” Rafael said, directing his hand for Aiden to take a seat.

Aiden sat in the ornate wooden armchair and waited for Rafael to sit. He hated small talk, but with Rafael Hernandez, it was a must. Aiden had learned the first time he had accepted a contract from him that business was never discussed until Rafael thought there had been enough chatter.

“How are you keeping, my friend?” Rafael said.

“Good. I haven’t been as drunk as I would have liked or had as many women, but we can’t have everything,” Aiden said. 

Rafael roared with laughter and clicked his fingers. A long-legged brunette carrying a small tray with two glasses of whisky sauntered to him, then backed away with a blown kiss after handing the men their drinks. “Another snap and I can have a line of women for you to choose from. What do you say?”

Aiden laughed out loud and shook his head. “My dead friend, they would run a mile at the thought. Besides, you know me well enough to know that I’m all work and no play until the job is completed, of course. Until that moment, I will leave the fucking of beautiful women to you.”

“You see, this is why I like him,” Rafael said to the capo on his right. “He understands the business he is in. He also knows that his handsome face doesn’t compare to my Spanish blood. My wolf friend and I have women falling at our feet for two very different reasons. They want me in their bed, and you, my friend, you make them drop dead, he laughed. “Come, let us discuss something in private.”

As soon as Rafael had spoken, the atmosphere changed to dangerously tense. Rubbing his nose against the scent of distrust that radiated around the room, Aiden stood and scanned the room. Nothing seemed unusual, but something told him to be cautious.

Stopping at a wooden door at the side of the kitchen, Rafael took a leather pouch on a short piece of string from around his neck. Aiden watched as Rafael opened the pouch, pulled out a key, and unlocked the door. 

“You saw the security cameras are off, I trust?” 

Aiden heard the lock hit home as Rafael spoke.“I did. It’s not like you, Raf. Wanting to see me at night, too? What’s going on?”

“I will tell you, my friend. Sit.” Rafael poured whiskey from a decanter and handed Aiden a glass. “There is something amiss with my staff. It would seem that I can no longer trust someone, and as I don’t yet know who that is, I can’t trust any of them. This is the only secure room in the villa. Soundproof, bulletproof, and hidden blockers to prevent any electronic devices from working.”

Aiden raised an eyebrow but waited for him to continue. “The cameras are off for your protection. I asked you to come tonight to reduce the risk of you being seen. Nobody but myself, the woman who served the drinks and the two capo's in that room, know you are here. It’s bad enough that I am under surveillance. I don’t want you being brought into it, too. That said, I do have something that I need taking care of.”

“And nobody outside of this room knows about this problem, I take it?”

Rafael shook his head and sat opposite Aiden. “Being me is hard. People expect things and think they can take advantage of me. In the beginning, I had nothing but my name. People learned to fear me, and a few even loved me, but now they work to break me. This problem must be taken care of delicately. If not, it will cost me everything.”

“The trial, I presume?” Aiden said. He had heard that Rafael was facing a hefty prison term, but he had thought the charges would have been dropped by now. He had faced trials before, but nothing ever stuck. 

“There is a witness,” he nodded. “Nobody has ever dared to stand against me but this person, she comes along and thinks she can do what she pleases. She thinks she can ruin my life without consequences. I cannot have that. I have built my reputation on removing such issues, but she is out of my reach.”

“She's in the program, isn’t she?”

Again, Rafael nodded. “She is like a bait on a line, dangling before my face but just out of my grasp. If any of my men go within looking distance, it comes back to me. This is why I need you, my friend. You are the best there is in your line of work.”

“What do you have on her?” Witness protection cases were awkward, to say the least, but Rafael was as close to a friend as Aiden had; besides, business was business. 

“Her name is Charlie Garcia. She’s twenty-seven and has been moved to the south of England.”

“England! They’re determined you’re getting nowhere near her, aren’t they? What did you do?”

“I killed the people she loved. If she testifies, I go down for life. I have many enemies in prison, Aiden. Too many to count. I will be dead before they have the chance to lock the cell.”

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