Read The Guardian Online

Authors: Keisha Orphey

The Guardian (18 page)

       No.  Impossible.  She was in Las Vegas.  Amos Jones and his drug lord boss had nothing to do with Las Vegas.  She’d heard rumors that Amos had been arrested several times since the Houston sting and she wasn’t the only person to testify against him. And those witnesses were all still alive.  Well, as far as she knew.   She hadn’t heard any different.  Not that she knew them personally.  Lafayette was small enough to know if someone had been murdered behind drugs.  Besides, it’d been ten years and her parents were still in touch with Lydia.   All were alive, but not well.  Edward would die of cancer or diabetes.  Not a bullet or a car running over him.  And Sylvia was still working like a horse, sewing and designing fabulous custom draperies.  Her brother Xavier had been married for nine years now to his wife Maria.  They had three kids, too, and were living in Alabama.  Happy, safe and sound.  Lydia had even moved her mom out of that house in Truman and built a large brick home for her just a block away from Edward and Sylvia.  There’d been ample opportunities to have any one of them killed, including Dawn.  She couldn’t leave her husband and kids for a man she hardly knew.  Who’s to say crazy and deranged wasn’t hidden beneath his godly exterior.   

       “I just … I just can’t, Nicoli.  Please understand.”

       Dawn started out of the room.

       “Will you at least take the money and move your family away from here?”

       She stopped dead in her tracks and turned to look at him. 

       “What?”

       “If you won’t leave with me, please take this money and disappear.  I’ll find you.   And when the time is right, I’ll come wherever you are and you can decide if you’ll have me then.”

       “I’m not afraid to die --”

       “If you care anything about me … at all … please take the money.  At least, I’ll have some sense of peace that you’re okay –“

       Her eyes darted to the bag and back at Nicoli. 

       “Please,” he begged.

       She did care.  Loved him.  Dearly.  This wasn’t just lust.  It was true love. 

      
He really cares. 

       She accepted the bag from his waiting hand and said, “I’ll take the money, but I won’t spend a dime.  I’ll give it back to you when you come back to me.  I’ll be waiting for you, Nicoli.  Don’t keep me waiting.”

       Before he knew what was happening, she was gone.  The most he’d wished for was to spend the rest of his life protecting her from Emilio and if he couldn’t have that, to just hold her all night until morning.

       But he couldn’t have either.   

       Nicoli watched Dawn’s taillights disappear into the blood red glow of the Las Vegas traffic and wondered if he’d ever see her again.

       He loved her more than he thought possible.

       Even more than himself.
                                                                        ¤     ¤     ¤
       The ground floor of the parking garage was nearly empty when Nicoli steered his Bentley into the
VIP ONLY
zone at 4 A.M.  Witching hour.  Only thing opened this late was a pair of legs.   Too bad, Dawn’s weren’t.

       He parked beside one of the casino’s luxury cars closest to the lobby entrance and turned off the engine.  The sultry sounds of Will Downing played conjuring up thoughts of Dawn in his mind.  “….before you go, make this moment sweet again….”

       Nicoli climbed out of the vehicle and neared the entrance.  A giddy couple twice his age exited, offering Nicoli a quick entrance into the private section of the lobby.   He thought nothing odd about the older couple leaving the hotel at this hour.  Only wished it were him hugged up with the woman who made his heart sing.

       If only for one night …

       With his hands tucked neatly in his pockets, Nicoli leaned back against the gleaming marble wall, closed his eyes and waited for the elevator.  He was near exhaustion, but if she were with him now, he’d be wide awake and his hands would be all over her, embracing her, touching her, wooing her.  That woman made him want to scream from the mountain tops when she should be screaming on the other end of his blade.  He couldn’t bring himself to hurt her.  Not even a hair on her head.  She was beautiful.  The loveliest he’d ever seen.  But so was Lizzie and she’d turned on him faster than a jackrabbit.  It was his fault, he’d said.  He let her in.  Should’ve never let her in.  He vowed never to do that again, especially with Dawn.  She would never know who he truly was, if he could manage to keep it from her.  And he would. 

       When the elevator arrived, the doorman greeted him with a smile and a nod.             “Good morning, sir--”

       “Presidential suite,” Nicoli responded dryly, cutting him off.  He was in no mood for conversation, especially with the late night doorman.

       Accustomed to the service expected of the rich, his comeback tone affirmed he meant no harm.  He was simply doing his job.  “Right away, sir.”  He pressed a button on the panel.  The shiny elevator doors slid closed and within seconds, it whizzed upward quietly.  Not even a sound of the hydraulics could be heard. 

       On the twenty-fifth floor, the elevator doors slid open.  Nicoli reached in his pocket, withdrew a wad of bills, and handed the door man a crisp twenty.

       “Have a good day.”

       Nicoli didn’t respond.  He didn’t have to.  His money talked.

       The elevators closed quietly leaving Nicoli alone in the empty corridor.   A mix of teal and lilac adorned the hallway handsomely.  A dazzling crystal chandelier suspended above reflected off the smooth Italian marble floor stretched out before him.  Classical music whispered through invisible speakers.   And as he walked toward the mahogany double doors of the presidential suite at the end of the hall, a peculiar feeling came over him.  He was being watched. 

       Followed. 

       Hunted. 

       He almost turned around, but fatigue forced him to slide the key card into the slot and move inside.

       Bright fluorescent light cut through the darkness like a knife as he opened the door and allowed it to close softly behind him.  He could still taste Dawn on his lips, still feel the warmness of her enveloped in his arms, hear the beat of her heart against his own as their bodies embraced in the night.  He yearned for her.  Wanted her more than he'd ever wanted anyone.  He knew with all of himself he'd never been so sure, and what he was feeling, he'd never felt before.
       Not even with Zora.
       He never loved her.  Their relationship was a matter of convenience and security.  She was Emilio’s granddaughter, but Emilio loved her like his own child.  Trusted Nicoli with her safety and with her heart.  And when he discovered Zora was pregnant with Nicoli’s baby, he was elated when she told him they were naming the unborn girl ‘Marian’ after his deceased wife, then as soon as he found out that she’d miscarried, he felt that he’d lost Marian all over again.  He banished Zora from all of Mexico, allowed his men to rape her, and leave her for dead in the desert.  But Nicoli knew none of this and it didn’t matter.
       His heart was in the hands of another woman.
       But melded with his lust for Dawn was something sinister and disconcerting.  He pictured himself standing on the beach beside Emilio, gazing in the distance, agreeing to murder her.  And now, the love he felt for the mark drove him crazy.  He didn’t know if he wanted to love her for the rest of his life or drive a knife through her heart.
       He did know that she wasn’t the first or the last person he’d receive a contract on.  As far back as he remembered, all he ever wanted to do was make Emilio happy.  He was not careless in carrying out the contracts.  Sure, he had fun with the marks.  Who wouldn’t?  But Dawn was different.
       Anticipating a hot shower, Nicoli peeled the tailored shirt from his body and allowed it to fall to the floor.   Toned chest muscles glistened in the dim light.  He lumbered lazily toward the expanse of picturesque windows overlooking the Las Vegas strip.   A sea of flashing lights swarmed below.  The MGM beamed a brilliant emerald glow in the distance.  He gazed at the people - the couples - sharing loving moments at the Fountains of Bellagio as choreographed sprays danced to “My Heart Will Go On”.    He pictured himself and Dawn among them and recalled the loveliness of her features, remembered the laughs they’d shared less than an hour before.  Her smile warmed his heart and the smell of her …. Oh, the very essence of her made him drunk with passion.  He’d recoiled watching her leave; knew she was headed to the arms of another man – if only those arms were his arms.  The very thought of Dawn’s husband receiving her tortured him, pained him tremendously in every way.
       She saw his adoration for her in his eyes, was attracted to him from the moment they’d met, yet she’d shied away as if fighting any emotional attachment.  “…how many days a week do you work out?” she’d inquired when they first met, obviously noticing his athletic physique, yet refraining to compliment him.  Was she playing hard to get?  Or was she simply not interested?  Of course, she wanted him then.  Any woman would be a fool not to.  Her coolness made him want her that much more.
       Habitually, he bit his bottom lip pondering the moments they’d shared.  Oh, how he wished she was wrapped in his arms at this very moment; to smell the fragrance of her hair, caress her soft skin…
       An erection bulged in his tailored pants.  He carefully braced a hand against the window as if steeling himself for the woman - for Dawn - magically appearing on her knees before him.  She unzipped his fly.  Massaged him.  Relieved him.  His free hand circled the back of her head.  Her warm, wet mouth was exactly what he’d imagined it would be.  Exactly what he’d yearned for since he’d laid his eyes on her.
       His prey.
       A moan escaped his lips as he imagined himself inside her now.  Slowly, he stroked, relishing every second of the bond they now shared.  Her body received him.  Devoured him.   Goosebumps rose on his skin; not from the erotic fantasy, but at the sudden crackle of leather in the dark corner.
       "When you’re done with the whore, I’d like to give it a whirl." William’s voice bore through him like fire.
       Nicoli clenched his jaw tight and lowered his head in defeat.  He released the hold of his genitals and casually regained his composure.  He refused to face him, embarrassed, but more so timid William would see Dawn’s kiss lingering on his cheek.  Instead, his gaze remained fixed on the tourists loitering on the street below.  “My Heart Will Go On” had ended.  The sprays were jutting wildly now to the tune of “Boogie Fever”.  Couples danced while others scurried about at the wee hour like little worker ants laboring tirelessly for their queen …
       Like he had for his king.

       “How long have you been out?” Nicoli asked calmly, when he really wanted to ask:  Why aren’t you dead?

       William turned the lamp switch.  The room beamed to life.  A king-sized bed draped with a white down comforter was centered on the 3-step platform.  Oversized upholstered chairs sat in opposing corners at the base of the rise.  The room was easily eight hundred square feet making it easy for William to hide.  

       “Oh, you know … long enough to know the girl’s still alive.” 

       With crossed legs, he was lounging comfortably, his arms snaking the length of the chair’s back.   A snide grin spread his lips.  The show ended abruptly, but he was a happy man.  The handsome performer came into view and had all but bowed before him exposing his rear end.

       As men had in prison.

       “I’m taking care of it—“

       Nicoli recalled the eerie feeling of being watched, stalked even, as he neared the suite entrance.  Remembered the urge to dart back down the hallway and return to the elevator.  Recalled the gut wrenching gnaw in his stomach of being watched by deadly eyes when he was with Dawn earlier that evening.    

       “Really?” William chuckled.  “You are taking care of
it
or
her
?”

       He knew and now he was toying with him like a pit bull dallies with a kitten before tearing it to shreds.   Nicoli considered rushing for the door but he didn’t stand a chance.  The man was much stronger and faster, yet he’d sounded more like a faggot than a man with bulging muscles.  He was a monster who’d spent ten years at Allenwood Federal Penitentiary for killing thirty-eight people including a federal prosecutor.  A big muscular man like that getting a hard-on looking at men’s asses doesn’t happen overnight.  Nicoli was sure of it.  How’d he miss that?  They had done so many
jobs
together and he’d never suspected it.  But there were many things about William he’d never suspected … wasn’t there?  Nicoli remembered the disgust he’d felt when he learned William had killed his own parents and young brother.   Now, he faced that same evil in the privacy of his hotel room.  That’s when he knew he’d have to kill Dawn in front of William or risk being killed himself.

       He got a whiff of William’ cologne.   It was expensive.  Foreign.  He’d managed to break out of a maximum security prison, travel twenty-five hundred miles, and enter Nicoli’s hotel suite… undetected.  

       The man had a plan. 

       His heart started to race.  What did he know?  Did he see them standing close enjoying one another’s company? Had he watched Nicoli open doors for her, give pecks of affection on her neck?

       “Wonder what your doddie would say if he knew his little soldier boy was making googly eyes with the mark.”

       “I’ve called him a dozen times and he has yet to call me back,” Nicoli straightened.  “He sent you?” Anger flowed through his veins now. “Please go,” he swallowed hard.

       William gave a dismissive snort, casually stood and made his way toward Nicoli.  “You’ve never been one of hospitality, have you?  Zip your fly,” he gestured.  “Your cock is showing.”

       And before Nicoli could attempt to dress, William raised the clip point blade from behind his back, and with one quick motion slashed upward across Nicoli’s chest, severing his carotid artery.  Pink flesh poked through caramel skin.  Blood spurted like a fountain.

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