Read Outside the Lines Online

Authors: Lisa Desrochers

Outside the Lines

Outside the Lines

Lisa Desrochers

InterMix Books, New York




An InterMix Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2016 by Lisa Desrochers.

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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-40953-8


InterMix eBook edition / January 2016

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are 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.

Penguin Random House is committed to publishing works of quality and integrity. In that spirit, we are proud to offer this book to our readers; however, the story, the experiences, and the words are the author's alone.


To every single one of you who takes the time to read this or any other book.


The On the Run series was the collaborative brainchild of some of the many amazing publishing professionals I've been so privileged and honored to work with over the last several years. When we were pulling together the bones of the series, all I had to hear was “mafia” and “witness protection” and I was totally on board. I want to thank everyone who had a part in shaping the Delgado family's journey.

To my omnipotent uber-agent Suzie Townsend, thank you for your enduring support of everything I write. No one could ask for a better champion in their corner. Thanks also to the entire New Leaf crew, who work tirelessly behind the scenes to keep us all afloat.

My most heartfelt thanks goes to Leis Pederson, editor extraordinaire, and the entire team at InterMix. I truly appreciate your faith in my hot Mafioso and his siblings, and all your hard work to bring his story to life.

Huge hugs to my family, who have supported me in all aspects of my life. I couldn't ask for a better group of people behind me. Especially huge hugs to my daughters, Michelle and Nicole, for providing constant inspiration, and to my husband, Steven, for the ear to bend and for providing sustenance to my starving children while I obsessed over my imaginary friends.

Thanks to my writing bud Katy Evans for your enthusiasm and encouragement. Nothing makes me happier than to get swoony emails after a beta read.

Writing can be tumultuous, with as many lows as highs, but there's no greater high than hearing from readers who've read and loved your work. It's because of you that people like me get to do what we love for a living, so there aren't words big enough to express my gratitude to each and every one of you for picking up this book.

And because my muse is a wannabe rockstar, I need to send a very special thank-you to the band that inspired Rob's story. I actually wrote this book in early 2014, just after Pearl Jam released their first CD in four years. “Sirens” was all over the radio, and when Rob crawled into my head and I began to understand that I had a true bad boy—as in a
seriously bad
person—who suddenly found himself in love with a woman who made him question everything he'd been raised to believe, I knew that was his song. So a huge thanks to Mike McCready and Eddie Vedder for writing the song that poured onto the page as Rob.

Chapter 1


Beyond the bluff, the ocean churns under roiling storm clouds, shades of gray blending sky into sea, teaming up like they have some kind of vendetta against us. The lanky palms dotting the bluff thrash against the sky as it begins its aerial assault, hurling vicious gusts of salt air off the endless, angry sea.

The scene rivals the war I left behind in Chicago. It seems even Mother Nature wants a piece of me.

A single black shutter, loose from its hook, thwacks back and forth against the timeworn gray shingles of the battered old house standing on the bluff in front of us, defiant against the onslaught.

My family's new home.

“This blows,” my younger brother, Grant, grumbles as he drags his long frame out of the backseat of the crappy Chevy we arrived in.

Guess it was too much to hope that the Feds would spring for a replacement for my Maserati.

“We'll get used to it,” I lie. I will
get used to this. Somewhere during the flight from DC to Tampa we obviously left orbit and touched down on an entirely different planet.

There's no question Grant blames me for this when he huffs out a derisive laugh and his hazel eyes narrow at me over the roof of the car. He's right, so there's really nothing I can say. I needed a major show of force right out of the gate to keep Pop's men in line and show the other side I'm not weak. Hits on one or two key guys would have done it. Now it's going to take a bloodbath to get back what's mine. I just need a few weeks to regroup—sort out who I can trust and who I need to make an example of—then we can all go home and pretend this little detour to hell never happened.

Grant's gaze stretches down the shore to our nearest neighbor, at least a hundred yards away. “What is this place anyway, someone's excuse for a fucking joke? When they said Florida, I was thinking sun and beaches and babes in bikinis.”

“The beach is right there.” I nod at the bluff. “Ulie will be on it in a bikini at some point, no doubt, so shut the hell up.”

“They sent us to fucking hell.” He shoves a hand through his short sandy waves, cuts me a glare.

On cue, his twin sister groans her agreement as she spills out behind him, tugging at the collar of her plain gray blouse. She's been pissed since the relocation team at the Witness Security Safesite and Orientation Center confiscated all her clothes and replaced them with a wardrobe that in no way stands out. Good for blending in . . . which is something Ulie is completely unaccustomed to.

But that was the point. They spent twelve days drilling our new identities and our cover story into our heads. They remade us and took everything from us that might identify us as Felix Delgado's heirs—except the one thing I guarded with my life. Or, five things, really. I feel in my pocket for the five birthstone rings that I managed to hide from the Feds and smuggle out of Safesite.

Ulie fists a hand into her long, dark hair to keep it from whipping into her eyes so I can benefit from every watt of her scorching scowl. “Why couldn't we go to Miami? At least there's a decent fashion school there.” Her disdain-filled gaze turns on the two-story house, and I'm surprised the worn shingles don't erupt into flaming tinder. “What are we supposed to do here? There's nothing.”

“It will be fine.” I jam the car key into my jeans pocket, fish out the house key.

If I said it
fine, that would be a lie. We're so far from fine I don't even know what fine looks like at this point. Pop secured witness protection for us kids as part of his plea bargain last year when he flipped on the head of our rival organization in exchange for a lighter sentencing on his racketeering conviction. I'd never even considered taking it until some cocksucker sent a thug into my family's home to kill us. But now that we're out of Safesite and I have some room to maneuver, it
will be
fine. I'll send out some feelers, find out who ordered the hit on me and my siblings, and make them pay.

will be

“I can already feel my IQ dropping,” Ulie mutters, but it's nearly lost on a gust of wind.

“Don't be such a snob, Ulie,” Lee says as she climbs out of the passenger seat and flicks Grant's ear. “And shut up, Grant. You're not helping.” She elbows past him, slips into the backseat, where our littlest brother is tucked into the corner, grinding his fists into his eyes as he wakes up from the ninety-minute drive from the airport to the remote island of Port St. Mary.

I climb three wooden stairs that groan under my weight onto a covered wraparound porch that looks over the ocean. Just as I duck under the eaves, the squall swirling around us opens up and unleashes its substantial load. Fat drops pelt the roof over my head and ping off the Chevy.

“Shit!” Ulie screams. She and Grant bolt up the stairs behind me. Lee hauls Sherm out of the car and shelters him under the hem of her blue cardigan as they run for the porch.

My four younger siblings stand dripping on the porch behind me as I push open the door and scan the dark interior of our new home. Flat gray light slants through the window with the loose shutter, revealing a decent-sized living room with a large brick fireplace to the left of the door. White sheets glow out of the gloom like ghosts, draping what are obviously a large sofa and two chairs. To my right is a door to what appears to be a bathroom, and beyond it, a staircase starts up from the living room, disappearing through the ceiling to a second floor above.

Not quite the family mansion.

I reach out and flip a switch on the wall. An overhead light in the open kitchen beyond the living room flickers to life. The cabinets are stained dark with glass fronts, the counters are gray Formica, and the appliances look beyond old. A rectangular island with three wooden barstools separates the large kitchen from the living room. To the right of it is a kitchen table with six chairs. The floor and stairs are all hardwood, worn by years of sand tracked in from the bluff outside.

“Wow,” Ulie says from beside me. It's not a good wow. It's more of an
Are you serious?
wow. I know this because it's exactly what I'm thinking.

“This place is great,” Lee says, a little defensively. She ushers Sherm into the living room, yanks the dust cover off the sofa with a quick jerk of her wrist, like a magician unveiling a rabbit that has materialized out of thin air. There is no rabbit. Just an overstuffed blue-and-green-plaid sofa, which she plants Sherm on. She wipes the raindrops off his face with the sleeve of her sweater and smooths back his windblown hair. The WITSEC consultant wants all three of us guys to grow our hair longer, and Sherm's already hangs in his eyes in thick brown clumps. “It has a ton of character.”

Grant slams the door behind him, rattling the windowpane in the center. “It's like we walked into a scene from fucking
Courage the Cowardly Dog

“Do you mind?” Lee says, cutting him a look and tipping her head at our nine-year-old brother on the sofa.

“And what does that even mean?” Ulie snips, crossing to the kitchen and systematically opening cupboards, behind which stacks of dishes and rows of glasses catch the light and wink out at us.

Grant rolls his eyes, moves deeper into the room, plops down next to Sherm. He grabs his little brother in a headlock and gives him a noogie. “You know, the Middle of Nowhere?”

I watch Sherm. There's no giggle. No smile. He doesn't even try to squirm out of Grant's grasp. Something's really wrong with him. I've pushed what happened our last night at the house out of my head, but he obviously hasn't developed that skill yet.

I grab the rail, start up the stairs. “You're welcome to go back to Chicago anytime, Grant.”

I barely catch the “Fuck you, Rob” that follows me up the staircase, but I really don't give a shit. He's going to have to learn to deal right along with the rest of us. I do hear Lee's, “For the love of Pete, Grant! Will you
watch your mouth around your little brother?”

,” he mutters.

The truth is, Lee
been a mother to this motley crew. She was only eighteen when our mother died five years ago and despite the fact I'm a year and a half older than her, she was the one our younger siblings looked to when they needed a parent. Especially when our father began to pull away and lose himself in his vendetta. Sherm wasn't even in school yet, and the twins were snarky sixteen-year-olds, but Lee took it in stride and never complained about her increasing responsibilities. She and I were superclose back then, and even
relied on her way too much.

But that all changed a few years back.

At the top of the stairs, I push open the first door I come to. It leads to a bedroom with two twin beds and a dresser. The door across the hall opens into a white-tiled bathroom with a pair of sinks and a tub with a green shower curtain. Beyond, through doors on either side of the hall, are two more bedrooms, both with double beds.

Just as I turn to head back down, I notice a small door that nearly blends into the dark paneled wall at the very end of the hall. I feel around and find a latch at the top. When I pull it, the door opens. I duck under and wedge my six-foot-three, two-hundred-and-thirty-pound frame into the tight space. I follow a narrow set of stairs around two tight corners to a four-foot-by-four-foot room of windows, battened down against the winter. The door across from me rattles against the storm. I shoulder it open and step out onto a third-floor widow's walk with a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree view.

I push the door closed before the wind rips it from its hinges, move slowly along the narrow walkway, holding the carved wooden rail against Mother Nature's attempts to claim me for sea and sky. The storm outside rivals the one brewing inside me. I lift my face, let the cold rain sting my unshaven skin.

All I had to do was hold the business together for a few years, until Pop got out of lockup. The guys swore loyalty to me when Pop went into the pen—said they'd stand behind me like I was the old man.

They were standing behind me, all right. Locked and loaded.

These guys might not be brain surgeons, but they're not stupid either. They see an opening, they're going to take it. In their eyes, “the kid” taking the reins of the Delgado organization was an opening they could drive a Mack truck through.

Dog eat dog.

Or more likely, it was our mob rivals. There are plenty of them, but if I had to put my money on just one, it'd be Oliver Savoca. Pop took his dad down, put him in lockup for the foreseeable future. The Savoca clan can't let that stand and save face in Chicago. It makes sense that this was their payback.

Until I know for sure who contracted the hit that nearly left me and all my siblings dead in our family home on Christmas eve, I'm helpless.

“God fucking damn it!” I slam my fist into the shingles next to the door. My knuckles come away with a gash, and blood trickles down the length of my fingers. So I pound it into the house again, putting my bloody fist right through the shingle this time. I punch the house over and over until the back of my hand looks like raw hamburger.

Pain is something I understand. I can get my head around it. It calms me down. I lean my hands into the rail, hang my head between my shoulders, watch the rain wash away the bloody evidence of my meltdown, and try to see our way out of this.

I've been just on the edge of losing it since this all started two weeks ago, but I can't risk my siblings knowing that. We're holding it together by the most tenuous thread. It wouldn't take much to snap it. Lee might be the parent to this crew, but I'm the one who will need to keep them in line if we're going to have a prayer of surviving this.

Which means I need to keep my shit together. I've never had the luxury of showing weakness or fear. Everything else about my life might have just gotten turned on its head, but that hasn't changed.

I haul in a deep breath, straighten up, peer through the lifting gloom at our surroundings. We're on high ground. A short distance from the front of the house, the bluff drops sharply twenty feet or so to a narrow swath of beach, which is currently under siege by the rising sea. In every other direction, the sandy earth slopes gradually away from our house on its perch over the ocean. There are a few scrubby shrubs here and there and some tall palms dotting the edge of the bluff. Otherwise, nothing but sand. This is good—easier to defend if it comes to that.

I'll feel better when I have the solid weight of my Glock in my hand.

I duck back inside with the intention of retrieving it from my luggage in the trunk of the Lumina. Before I'm even to the door at the bottom of the staircase, I hear the twins squabbling. I brace my hand against the doorframe and steel my nerves before opening it on the fray. I don't have the patience for this. Parenting is so not my forte, and at twenty-one, these two shouldn't need to be parented anyway.

You'd think, since Ulie and Grant are twins, they'd look something alike. They don't. Ulie is a female version of me and Sherm, with Pop's thick brown hair, olive skin, and brown eyes. Grant and Lee ended up with Mom's sandy waves and hazel eyes.

“Why should the girls have to share a room?” Ulie shrieks, throwing her hands in the air, as I swing the door open. “You and Sherm are the youngest. I think
should have to share!” Ulie wields the fact that she's fifteen minutes older than Grant like a weapon whenever it suits her purpose.

sharing a room with Sherm,” Grant shoots back. When he turns and sees me, he scowls. “This place is way the fuck too small, Rob.”

I shove him against the wall with a hand to the solar plexus. “Lee told you to watch your mouth,” I say low in his face, “so I'd suggest you make a concerted effort to do so before I ask you much less nicely than she did.”

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