One Month Ago . . .

Stalking into the apartment, rage is all that consumes my very being. Once I got off the phone with Félix, I’d thrown the woman I chose for the night to the side and told her to get lost. All thoughts of relaxing after coming are gone. Not at the news, my boss informed me of. I threw on a pair of jeans and a T-shirt as quickly as I could and drove the short distance to Désirée’s apartment building.

Désirée has been taken. The thought of someone hurting her is like a knife to my chest.

My heart tightens and feels as if thousands of knives were striking against it.

How did this happen? The girls always have security on them. Even when they’re home. There’s something not right about this. No one should’ve been able to get past the security of this building. I know this because the DeLancy’s own it. Not that the girls know. Félix keeps a tight lock on things like this, so his sisters don’t realize he’s constantly looking out for them. It’s why I don’t like the fact someone was able to get past the cameras being manned by our men who work in the building.

Stepping over broken glass, I scan over the room—emotions only Désirée brings out in me try to take over. There’s blood everywhere, and I can tell she put up a fight before they got the upper hand.

Désirée might be petty and doesn’t look like she can do much damage, but I know the truth. She has the knowledge to defend herself because I taught her alongside her sister, Sabine. It was one of the stipulations for her going so far away from school. She needed to know how to take care of herself.

My gaze lands on Félix and his brothers standing near the kitchen, talking as my boss’s eyes come up to meet mine.

“Boss,” I greet him gruffly, locking down my emotions. He doesn’t know how I feel about Désirée. No one does. I’ve made sure to keep that to myself.

I grew up with the Delancys. Félix has been my best friend for as long as I can remember, and with him came the rest of his brothers and sisters. Their mom, before she died, became a second mother to me, and the same goes for Sabine, Désirée, and Olivia. I became just as protective of them growing up.

But the older Désirée got, I noticed in her what no one else did. The fact she was beautiful unlike any other with her jet-black hair coming down well past her shoulders, and she’s far kinder than anyone else I know. Where her sisters seemed to have tough skin, she didn’t. Over time she learned to fake it, but again I can see the truth in her eyes. Désirée needs to be cherished like the treasure she truly is.

“Malcolm, need you to check the security cams. See what you can find,” Félix demands when I make it to him.

“Already on it. Called Léon on the way, and he’s at the office checking from the main feeds,” I say, nodding. “I’m not chancing that the feed here wasn’t tampered with.”

Léon Gardet is my right-hand man. Just as I’m Félix’s. He’s also my cousin and one of the few men I trust. The others are standing in this very room.

“Good.” Félix nods and shows me a sheet of paper. “Also need you to look into the man who gave this to Rémy. His name’s Dimitri Savary.”

Frowning at the mention of the name, I try to place it. “Why’s the name sound familiar?”

“He’s Deanna’s brother,” Félix sneers and shakes his head. “I want to know every damn thing you can find on him.”

I nod in agreement, not saying another word. I understand the rage boiling inside my boss and the tension rolling off him at the mere mention of that woman’s name. Deanna did enough damage while alive, and now her brother’s come forward to start more shit.

My cell rings in my pocket, and I step back from Félix. Reaching into the front pocket of my jeans I’d thrown on, I pull out the phone to check the screen finding Léon’s name flashing.

I swipe my finger across the green icon and bring it to my ear. “Have you found something?”

“Joey and Martin were on duty tonight. The feed shows them walking out of the building and leaving,” Léon states jumping right to it. “Fifteen minutes later, men dressed in black come in. All of them keep their heads down—hoods in place to keep their faces concealed from the footage. The camera’s on Désirée’s floor caught sight of them getting to her door, picking the lock, and stepping inside. Maybe ten minutes later, they’re all stalking out of there again. One of them was carrying Désirée’s slumped form over his shoulder.”

My body tenses further with each word, and by the time Léon finishes, I’m surprised my phone isn’t broken from the grip I have on it.

“Get Joey and Martin to the office and in the cells,” I order and hang up, shoving the phone in my pocket before facing the four brothers.

“Joey and Martin,” Rémy mutters, curling his lip in disgust.

“They’re dead” comes from Nicholas.

“Those bastards are going to suffer for their part in all this,” Tristan snarls, slamming his fist on the counter.

“Don’t worry,” Félix states far too calmly, but I know it’s his way. He’s well past pissed. He’s enraged, and the monster within comes to the surface. Men on the street fear Félix because they have every right to. Delano DeLancy trained his son to be who he is himself. “Those two will die slowly as I find out why. But first, I want them to sit for a bit and think about what sorry excuses they’ll come up with. I also want the rest of the men in the cells to bear witness. No one, and I mean no one crosses me.”

I nod in agreement. His decision is exactly what I’d do as well. See where Delano taught Félix, my best friend and boss, taught me. He could have made any of his brothers his right-hand man, but he didn’t. He picked me. That doesn’t mean the other three don’t have their hand in what we do. They just don’t handle the bloody portion of it all.

Turning on my heel, I don’t look at the devastation of Désirée’s apartment. It’s seared into my brain.

“Don’t worry, Désirée, I’ll find you. One way or another, I’ll bring you home,” I mutter under my breath as I step into the hallway. “And when I do, I’ll make sure no one harms you again.”

Tags: E.C. Land Crime