Authors: Maegan Beaumont
Tags: #thriller, #victim, #san francisco, #homicide inspector, #mystery, #suspense, #mystery fiction, #serial killer, #sabrina vaughn, #mystery novel
Promises to Keep
Â© 2015 by Maegan Beaumont.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
First e-book edition Â© 2015
E-book ISBN: 9780738744827
Book design by Bob Gaul
Cover design by Kevin R. Brown
Cover images: iStockphoto.com/26969505/Â©sundrawalex
Editing by Nicole Nugent
Midnight Ink is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Beaumont, Maegan, 1975â
Promises to keep/Maegan Beaumont.âFirst edition.
pages; cm.â(A Sabrina Vaughn novel; #3)
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For Goofy: who loves ya?
Goose does, and don't you ever forget it.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Cofre del Tesoro, Colombia
There was blood on
Not a lotâjust a drop or twoâbut it bothered him. He licked the pad of his thumb and rubbed.
Should've bought the black pair â¦
“I'm sorry, am I boring you?”
Looking up, he found Alberto Reyes staring at him from behind his desk with the small glittering eyes of a snake.
He shrugged and kept rubbing. Reyes continued to stare. After a few moments the spot came clean and he dropped his foot to the floor, giving the man his full attention.
“As I was saying â¦ I'm a fan of your work,
I find your brutality quite beautiful.” Reyes studied the pictures he had fanned across his desk as if he were trying to choose his favorite among them. He picked up one and held it close to his face, tilting his head to the side. “You're knife work is exceptionalâabsolutely no hesitation, just â¦ exquisite.” Reyes placed the photo on top of the pile and got back to watching him.
Michael folded his arms across his chest and made himself smile. “I don't get paid to hesitate, Reyes. I get paid to deliver messages, and I've delivered yours, so â¦” He stood and pinned the smaller man with a look that said he'd rather not discuss his knife skills.
“Ah, yes, so, you have,” Reyes said. He opened a side drawer on his massive desk and pulled out a large manila envelope. It bulged from all sides, its contents barely leaving room to seal it. “Your payment, as agreed.” Reyes placed it on the desk and set his hands on top of it, barring Michael from taking it. “But first, I have a matter I'd like to discuss â¦”
Michael stifled an eye roll. Taking a trip to the window, he looked out across the compound. The helicopter that had brought him here sat on its pad, waiting to take him back to the mainland. A small fleet of speedboats bobbed along the surface of the distant ocean. In front of them, a long stretch of white sand seemed to mold itself to the water's edge.
He'd never been to the beach in anything but fatigues. Never laid in the sand without his eye pressed to a scope, finger resting on a trigger. He now felt the weight of the life he'd chosen pressing down on him, rooting him in place. He dug his hands into the pockets of his fatigues, brushing a finger across the photograph he kept there, and took a few deep breaths. He missed his parents. He missed his sister.
But his parents were long dead, and Frankie? Well, she was better off without him.
Thinking of the man behind him, Michael let go of the picture. Alberto Reyes always had a matter to discuss, business to conduct. A year ago he'd been nothing more than a lieutenant in his cousin's cartel. It was his single-mindedness that allowed him to climb to the top of Colombia's drug trade in a matter of months. That, and the fact that Reyes had hired Michael O'Shea to kill every rival he had, starting with his own cousinâthe one kill Michael would've made for free.
“I don't think there's anyone left, Reyes. Pretty sure I killed 'em all.”
“So you have.” Reyes chuckled. “I admire your work ethic,
âso few of our generation understand the dedication required to not only obtain power, but to keep it.” Reyes stood and joined him at the window.
“I don't want power.” Michael wanted his money so he could get the hell out of here.
“Any other man I'd call a liar, but you â¦ you, I believe.” Reyes wagged a finger at him. “I take pride in finding a man's weaknesses. Yours are few and far between. Your fees are outrageous, but I've seen the way you live. You care little for money. You kill for drug dealers but abhor drugs. You take women, but never the same one more than a few times, so no attachment is ever made.”
He thought of Reyes's cousin, Mateo Moreno. His blood and brains sprayed across the courthouse steps. The kick of his rifle against his shoulder a split second after he'd taken the shot. “I got what I wanted.”
“Revenge is a powerful motivator, but for a man like you â¦ Killing my cousin was more of a
than an actual
to kill Mateoâto put right what he'd done to the Ramos woman and your brethren. Your
are much â¦ softer.”
Michael could practically see the forked tongue peeking out from behind his teeth. “Is that so?” he said, a trace of East Texas creeping into his drawl. “Right now, what I'm wanting â¦ it don't feel too soft.”
Reyes laughed. “This is why I like you,
. You have no fear. I made a study of youâof what you wanted. It became an obsession of sorts.” Reyes smiled like they were friends. “I almost gave up. But then I realized that it isn't about what you want; it's about what you can't have.”
For some reason, Michael's thoughts turned toward the photo in his pocket. The baby sister he'd probably never see again. Frankie.
“I want you to work for me. Exclusively.”
Michael's hands curled into fists. He was like a cheerleader with too many dates to the prom. They all wanted exclusivity. To keep him as a pet. “No thanks. I'm a free spirit.”
Reyes laughed again, clapping him on the shoulder like they were lifelong friends. “But aren't you curious? You don't even know what I have in mind for you.”
He'd heard it all before:
Come, be my personal
Stand at my right hand and slit the throats of my enemies â¦ blah, blah, blah
â¦ He shrugged and returned his attention to the faraway ocean. “Doesn't matter. I don't do exclusive.”
“I want you to protect my daughter, Christina.”
He turned his face from the window. “Excuse me?”
Reyes's handsome face split in a grin reserved for putting people at ease. Michael had seen him use it on rivals and underlingsâusually right before he had them fitted for a Colombian necktie. “This is a dangerous life, my friendâone I've chosen, but Christina is innocent in all this. She has no choice. I would never be able to live with myself if the decisions I've made caused her death.”
Reyes was saying the right things, making the appropriate gestures of concern for his only daughter, but Michael didn't buy it for a second. Reyes cared for no one but himself. Providing for his daughter's safety was a means to an end, nothing more.
“So you hire an assassin to play babysitter?” He eased his shoulder from beneath Reyes's hand.
Well, aren't you Ward friggin' Cleaver â¦
“Who could be better? My business takes me away from home more often than I'd like. Those who would seek to harm her would never dareânot if it were
who guarded her,” Reyes said, leaning in and speaking softly. “You are the only thing they fear.”
He tipped his head toward the window, a
nice try, asshole
smile on his face. “You built this fortress on an island, fifty miles from the mainland. I think she's safe.”
Just then the study doors flung open and in ran a little girl, no more than four or five. She clambered at her father's feet, black pigtails bouncing wildly in a jumble of corkscrew curls. The little girl climbed up Reyes's leg and he lifted her into his arms, settling her against his side.
“Christina, what have I told you about barging into my office when I'm with friends?” He chided her gently, but Michael had a feeling that it was all for show. An act.
The little girl looked confused. “Not to. But you saidâ”
“It is no matter. Since you are here, I'd like you to meet a friend. His name is Michael,” Reyes said, turning the girl in his arms so that Michael could get a good look at her. Chubby cheeks framed by those riotous curls. A pair of chocolate brown eyes stared back at him. She reminded him of Frankie. The Frankie he knew, not the one who'd grown up without him.
“I'm Christina.” The little girl held out her hand and he took it, giving it a gentle shake.
He looked past the girl to her father, who watched the exchange with the satisfied smile of someone who knew he'd won.
Michael looked at the
woman sitting next to him. Her name was Pia Cordova and he was going to kill her father.
“What's the matter, baby?” Pia said in his ear, relying on proximity rather than volume to make herself heard over the frantic pulse of music that flooded the club's VIP lounge. “Don't you like me?” She gave the front of his shirt a light rake with her manicured nails. He imagined she was trying to turn him on, but she was doing a piss-poor job of it. He made himself look at her, forced a leering smile onto his face. She was beautiful, in a bleach-blond, fake-breast sort of way. The only child of one of Europe's premier arms dealers. She'd have been his type a couple of years agoâeager to please and easy to forget.
These days he'd rather stick his dick in a bear trap.
As it was, he could barely look at her, let alone do what came next. A sharp kick was delivered to the bottom of his foot. He shot a glare at his partner. Ben had a woman in his lap and his tongue down her throat and still managed to give him a
hey, assholeâget with the program
look. Time to nut up and do his job.
He leaned into Pia and smiled. “
isn't really the word I'd use to describe how I'm feeling,” he said in heavily accented English. Nuzzling her neck, he pressed his lips to the tender spot behind her earlobe. “Let me get you a drink. Vodka?” He tilted his chin at her empty glass.
Her lips curved into a predatory smile as she took his hand, running it up her smooth, naked leg, pushing his fingers beyond her skirt's too-short-to-be-decent hemline while she licked at his earlobe. “Getting me drunk isn't necessary,” she purred.
With Ben still giving him the stink-eye, Michael forced his hand higher. “I want to take care of you â¦” His other hand caught her chin as he lowered his lips onto her open mouth, kissing her until she was splayed against the black leather couch they sat on, panting.
Standing, he grinned down at her for a moment before he turned and headed for the VIP's private bar, shouldering his way in. He got the attention of the same bartender he'd been using all nightâa petite blonde with a pixie cut and sly brown eyesâand held up two fingers. As soon as she saw him she nodded, continuing to mix the drink for the waitress who was waiting next to him.
“I thought it was you, but I was unsure.”
Michael secured a puzzled look on his face before turning. “Do I know you?” he said in the same thick German accent he'd been using all night, giving the man behind him a remote smile, his gaze straying to the long raised scar that slid down the side of his face into a hook near the corner of his mouth. It gave him a perverse satisfaction to know that the mark hadn't faded over time.
The smile returned, causing the scar to crinkle. “Come on, I won't ruin your game. I just wanted to say hello,” the man said. “It's been too long.”
Not nearly long enough.
Michael looked past the young man in front of him. Two armed
guards were standing a few yards away, and he smirked. “I see
Daddy still won't let you cross the street by yourself,” Michael said, sufficiently knocking the smug look off the man's face. “What are you doing here, Estefan?”
“My father's businesses have grown in your absence,
,” Estefan said with another self-satisfied smile. “I am his second-in-command these days.”
“Good for you,” he said with a disinterested shrugâas if he hadn't been keeping tabs on Alberto Reyes and his ever-growing reach. As if the idea of killing both Estefan and his goons wasn't fighting to take precedence over the job he was currently working.
His bartender slid two drinks across the bar. A Kettle One and a water, both on the rocks. The water was marked with a lime wedge, but she tapped a manicured finger against its rim, just in case, and he smiled at her. Pia's vodka had enough Rohypnol in it to tranquilize a horse.
Michael reached into the breast pocket of his suit to pull out a thick stack of bills held together with a wide silver clip. He peeled off a few hundred Euros. “Pour Mr. Second-in-Command whatever he wantsâthe rest is for you,” he said, picking up his drinks before he turned and looked Estefan full in the face and gave him a wink. “See you around, kid.”