Forbidden Paradise

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 11, 2019

Reads: 82

A A A | A A A

Submitted: June 11, 2019




Dylan loved boosting cars. Lo-Jack? No problem. High-tech security system? No problem. Only twenty-four and he was one of the best car thieves in Brooklyn. Riding shotgun, he leaned into the back seat of the Escalade. 

“C’mon man, puff, puff pass.” Dylan snatched the joint away from Zack who kept hitting the keyboard, entering all the codes needed for their next heist. A shiny, black Maserati. Popping that clutch would be sweet.

Dylan sucked in the thick smoke, letting it smooth out all the rough edges, as Gunner pulled alongside the curb of the busy Bensonhurst street. 

“What’s with the luxury car?” Dylan asked. “It’s usually Hondas and Toyotas.”

Gunner shrugged. Not a surprise. The guy was as dumb as a rock. Reason number one why he drove the backup car. 

“Looks like some kinda bait car,” Dylan dragged his hands through his hair, securing it in a leather tie. “But even the cops wouldn’t be stupid enough to set up that car in this neighborhood.

“It’s a test,” Gunner finally said while Zack, the unsocial tech genius with enough facial piercings to make people stare, concentrated on his laptop. 

“Test?” Dylan shifted in his seat. “I’ve jacked high-end cars before. Nothing to it.”

Gunner and Zack shared a look.

“What?” Dylan asked.

“Right. You get into them; they just don’t always end up where they should,” Gunner said.

“One time.” Dylan struggled to suppress the eye roll.

“Way more than one time.”

“Big deal.” Dylan rolled his neck to the right until it cracked. “Weasel got over it.”

“Not really.” Zack went back to his computer screen.

Gunner tapped on the steering wheel. “Weasel says you screw up again and you’re out.”

“Bullshit, I’m the best he’s got.” Dylan blew off the comment, but if Weasel turned him out, he’d be screwed, ‘cause no legit garage would hire a guy with his record. Having a steady job on paper as a mechanic also kept his parole officer off his back, and with the steady cash, maybe he’d finally get his Mom into a good rehab and off the junk. Memories of he and his sister huddled together in their trashed out apartment while his mother begged her strung-out boyfriend for another hit surfaced. He hadn’t been able to help her then, but maybe now he could—

“Don’t matter.” Gunner’s voice snapped him back. “He’s pissed, and you know how crazy that fucker can get.”

Gunner was right, Weasel was crazy, and Dylan needed the work, plus he loved cars. The purr of the engine, the whiff of the gas and motor oil. The love affair started in a work program in juvie and continued during his short stint in Rikers.

“So tonight I play it straight. I pop the car, drive it to the docks, you pick me up, and we head over to The Pit to get paid. Easy. No sweat.”

“No detours,” Gunner added.

“Right.” Dylan fisted the door handle and squeezed harder than necessary as he shot a look into the back seat. “You ready?”

Zack nodded, slapped the laptop shut, and tucked it under his arm. 

Dylan took one last puff, then handed the blunt off to Gunner. “See you on the other side.” 

They did their usual good luck fist bump, and Dylan stepped out onto the sidewalk.

He and Zack slipped into the car lot unnoticed in their head-to-toe black and easily found the Maserati. Thanks to Weasel’s sweet deal with the valet company, the attendant kept the keys and looked the other way, making it seem like a straight-up theft. 

“Fuckin’ beautiful, huh?” Dylan gave a low whistle as he circled the car. What kind of jerk-off would bring this car to an open lot? 

Zack worked his computer magic and a few heartbeats later the locks chirped. Dylan popped the hood, disarmed the security system, then slid into the driver's seat. He scoped out the interior. Black on black. Nice. He twisted under the wheel to dismantle the keyless entry. In less than a minute they’d be gone. In a few hours, the car would be crated for a trip out of the country or chopped down for parts. Either way, gone.


Dylan jerked around, smacking the side of his face on the steering wheel. “Shit.” He rubbed his cheekbone and tried to focus on the voice. The security lights backlit a girl with long, dark hair opening the passenger side door. The glare of the halogens made it impossible to make out her face.

“What are you doing?” She leaned into the passenger side. “Get out of my car, or I’m getting the valet.” 

The valet wasn’t gonna do shit since he was getting a nice cut, so Dylan went back to the wires. When the car turned over, he flashed her a look.

“You better get gone sweetheart, ‘cause we’re outta here.”

“No, no. You don’t understand.” She sounded more desperate than pissed. “You can’t take this car.”

Zack rounded the passenger side of the car, wrapped his arm around her waist and spun her around. She couldn’t have weighed more than a buck-ten, but she turned into a wildcat scratching and kicking Zack wherever she could make contact.

“Fuckin’ bitch,” Zack slammed her against the car and backhanded her.

The sickening sound of her head hitting the car made Dylan’s stomach clench and triggered all kinds of bad shit.

“Damn,” Dylan mumbled as he unfolded his body from the compact seat and came around the car.

“What the hell’s the matter with you?” Dylan pushed between them and glared at Zack. “Ease up.”

 Dylan sensed movement and turned in time to see her inching away from them.

“Oh no, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.” Zack grabbed her arm, then yanked open the passenger door and pushed her into the seat. 

“What are you doin’?” Dylan threw his hands up. 

“This bitch saw both of us so you better take care of her.” Zack slammed the door, then stood guard until Dylan slipped into the driver’s seat.

The V8 rumbled between them as he grabbed the shift and threw the car into gear. She might’ve been frightened but when she turned to him her defiant glare impressed him.

What the hell was he gonna do now, and what the hell did Zack mean take care of her. He’d never hurt a woman intentionally, and he wasn’t starting now.

Why did she even try to stop him before? The insurance alone would pay for a brand new car, but she acted like this was a matter of life and death. And now they were stuck in this car together and he had to figure out what to do with the little dark-haired beauty who could send his life straight to hell.

Shit! Why was every woman he came in contact with crazy?


No, no, no, this was bad. Lena’s breath came in gulping gasps as she tried to think. 

Taking her brother, Jonny’s car, and meeting up with old friends at a dingy nightclub seemed like such a great way to defy him after their fight. Bad decision, because the club was crap. After ducking into the ladies room to avoid a bar fight, she witnessed a very drunk couple having sex on the bathroom counter. So much for washing her hands. 

Happy to escape the club, and not able to find the attendant, she grabbed her keys off the valet board and ventured into the lot alone. Colossal, bad decision. Even she’d surprised herself by confronting the car thief but the impulsive side of her nature Jonny often warned her about, surfaced at the weirdest times. She’d realized her mistake too late and now she was locked in a car with a criminal.

The silence in the car unnerved her but what did you say when you were trapped in a car with a person who was sending your life straight to hell. 

“Fuck!” He slammed his fist against the steering wheel, and she jumped.

A few weeks ago she sat in a boring lecture hall listening to her law professor drone on about environmental law and now she sat corralled with a guy in low-rider black jeans and a tight, black t-shirt showing off his tanned, defined arms, and spider web sleeve tattoo. Even with the seat thrown all the way back, his six-plus feet of lean body seemed folded into the driver’s seat. 

He slammed the shift of her brother's very expensive, very off-limits Maserati into gear and zigged and zagged them out of the back lot.

He whipped his head in her direction. “You are a fuckin’ headache I don’t need.”

She held his gaze. Even though her brother tried to shield her now, her gritty upbringing ingrained enough street sense not to show fear. She zoomed in on his eyes. Grey, no silver, shiny silver like the wild fox showcased on the front of her Endangered Species and Wildlife Protection law book. Yes, that summed it up perfectly. Her wild car thief flirted with danger and would need protection if he kept this up.

She ventured a quick glance at his profile. Even in the shadowy car, she made out an angular face framed with a dark two-day scruff around the jawline and a tangle of brown hair held back in a leather tie. Half pirate, half Viking warrior.

“Are you kidnapping me?”

“Why, are you worth snatching?

Her over-protective, over-bearing, highest rated nightclub owner in Manhattan brother would probably dole out a hefty sum for my return. Until he found out she stole his car, that is. 

“What are you going to do with me?”

An extremely dumb question she really didn’t want answered. She was an eye witness to a crime and she didn’t need CSI or her many hours of law classes to tell her where and how this could end. 

“If you let me out I’ll forget I ever saw you,” she offered.

He made a snorting sound as he inched his way through traffic to the next light. When he pulled to a stop she tried to release the lock, then yanked on the door handle, but of course, he’d hit the master lock.

“You had to know that wasn’t gonna work.” His voice was grim and final. Like neither one of them had a choice.

Her heart pounded hard in her chest. She touched her cut lip, still feeling the sting of his partner’s hand.

“Thanks for getting that guy off me before.” Seemed odd her thanking him, but the way he stepped up and defended her against that creepy pierced-guy made her believe he wasn’t violent. Grand theft larcenist, but not dangerous.

Traffic crawled along the dark side streets clogged with people looking for parking on a Saturday night. Since he’d zoomed out of the valet lot, he’d taken it slow. Obeying the speed limit, and coasting to a slow stop at red lights with his eyes trained on the road in front of him.

“I didn’t expect a carjacker to be such a cautious driver,” she said.

“It’s not like the movies.” His focus remained on the cars in front of him.

“So, you’re not doing this because you saw too many sequels of Fast and Furious?”

He downshifted and smiled. The hardened criminal flashed the impish grin of a little boy. A tatted, lean, cagey little boy, but with an air of innocence. Like someone dropped him into this life of crime by mistake.

“This is the hardest part of stealing a car,” he said.

“Harder than breaking into it?”

“That shit’s easy. Getting it to the drop off is the dangerous part.” He cocked his head. “One minor traffic violation and you got a cop running the plates of your newly stolen car.”

“Did you know car theft is the number one street crime in New York?” she said.

His head spun in her direction. “No shit.”

“Eighty percent of all cars are never found, and almost all completely disappear within the first two hours,” she babbled. “It’s one of the most successful crimes.”

“Good to know.”

“Can be lucrative too.” The calming effects of useless knowledge and facts slowed her racing heart.

“What are you? A Jeopardy contestant.”

She smiled at his unexpected banter. “Second-year law student on summer break.”

“Great, so if I need a lawyer—

“You keep this up, and you’re going to need more than a lawyer.”

This would go down as the strangest night ever. A ride along with a guy, a really hot guy, stealing her car.

“So, how come you have such a hard-on for this car?” His rough, gravelly voice broke her out of her thoughts.

“Long story,” she said.

“Yeah, I got a lot of them.” He held her gaze until the traffic light changed.

“Just let me out.” She motioned to the sidewalk, then fidgeted in the seat. “Your friend never has to know.”

“Shitty neighborhood.” 

Peculiar. Her abductor worried about her safety. 

“When we get in front of the club, you’re getting out. Call Uber, call a friend, just get out of the car.”

His gaze softened and those silver eyes held her captive. She saw genuine concern and something else she couldn’t define. 

He eased the car to the curb and grabbed up her wrist in his big, calloused hand. “You’re never gonna see this car again, so you go back to whatever world bought you this flashy car and forget tonight ever happened.” He pulled her closer until their faces were only inches apart. “This is a dangerous business, and the guys I’m with don’t care about hurting women.” His silver eyes burned through her like lasers. “Forget me and everybody else you saw tonight.”

He released her hand, leaned across her, pulled the handle, and flung the door open. The heady scent of musk, male, and weed enveloped her, and when he sat back into the driver’s seat, her fingers spasmed against her thighs. They stared at each other for a few long seconds until she stepped out onto the sidewalk and slammed the door. She leaned down to get one last look at him, but he’d already merged into traffic. The deep rumble of his voice thrummed against her brain.

“Forget about me,” he’d warned.



Dylan pulled back into traffic, concentrating on his speed, staying in his lane, and not punching the gas pedal too hard. He’d had enough fuck ups tonight without him getting his ass tagged. He shifted his gaze to the empty passenger seat and shook his head. 

She was all of five feet two, but she fought off Zack without backing down, then jumped back into the car. She definitely had some street in her. Like when he grabbed her hands and pulled her close, she met his glare head on. 

Ballsy little thing, but something was off. Instead of the usual tits hanging out of a tank top, this girl wore black fitted pants and an off-the-shoulder top hugging her curves. Classy, not slutty. With hair so black and smooth it shone under the halogen security lights, and skin just the way he liked his coffee, creamy with a shot of espresso. Not his usual type at all, but oh yeah, he’d noticed.

Then it hit him. He didn’t even know her name. 

He glanced at the dashboard clock. A little behind schedule, but not too bad. Going around the block on a busy Saturday night in Brooklyn took almost twenty minutes. Thank fuck he finally convinced her to get out of the car. Although he could’ve easily overpowered her, the need to protect her hovered over him. Crazy shit he couldn’t get straight in his head. He eyeballed the clock again. A few more blocks and he’d be down on the docks and done.

A maze of abandoned warehouses, narrow alleyways, and lousy lighting camouflaged the garage. During the day it was shut up tight, but at night the place came alive with mechanics stripping the cars down. He loved the whole process. Overhauling the chassis, changing them up, tricking them out. 

He eased up to the metal structure with three oversized garage doors. He hit the speed dial number on his phone, and a few seconds later the door creaked its way open. Another guy dressed in black appeared, and Dylan climbed out of the car and nodded.

“You’re late,” one of Weasel’s Russian goons grumbled as he approached the car.

It didn’t matter when he brought him the cars; he always said the same thing. Dickwad only knew two words in English.

“I guess it’s good you brought car at all.”

So, he knew more than two words. He was still a dickwad. And Dylan didn’t appreciate his annoying smirk. Wasn’t his fault that the last job was a bangin’ Porche that was just begging to be opened up on the highway. And yeah, Atlantic City was a little far, but he never meant to lose the car in the parking garage. Things just got a little complicated. The kind of complicated that came from a hot craps table, a little weed, shots of Jack, and a needy blonde with legs that went on forever. Never did find the car, but the blonde did find his phone at the bottom of the hot tub. Un-fucking-believable weekend.

Dylan sauntered up the deserted pier. He turned back once and, like magic, the car had already disappeared into the metal warehouse never to be seen again. 

The lights of the SUV shone in the empty lot as he trudged over the cracked cement. He yanked open the door to Gunner’s narrowed eyes.

“So, what’d you do with her?” Gunner asked.

“Nothing.” Dylan slammed the door.

“That rich bitch knows what we look like,” Zack yelled from the back seat.

“She ain’t gonna say anything,” Dylan patted his pockets looking for his smokes, then sighed when he came up empty.

“How do you know?” Gunner shifted the gear into drive.

“I got a feeling about her.” 

His street smarts said she knew better than to run to the cops.

“Yeah, ‘cause you got great instincts when it comes to women.” Gunner pinned him with an accusing stare. “Like the meth head you let move in with you?”

“She had some issues.” Even he didn’t understand his addiction to saving needy women.

“She spent more time in your bed with other guys than with you,” Gunner shot back.

“I’m telling you this one is gonna collect her insurance money and forget it.” He hoped, ’cause Zack was right. She’d seen them up close and personal and picking out their mug shots would be as easy as stealing her car.

Zack banged on the headrest. “What’d you do, fuck her into submission?”

Dylan spun around, ready to remove one of Zack’s piercings. “You really are an animal.”

Shit, now all he could think about was her straddling him all hot and wet and ready to go. Digging her nails into his shoulders and riding him hard in that bucket seat. His hands balled up into tight fists. He definitely needed to check himself.

 “I’ve seen you screw ‘em in the back of a bar,” Zack countered. “But I guess we should just be glad the car showed up at all.”

“Yeah, the last time you were getting fucked and sucked in AC, and we had to listen to Weasel bitchin,” Gunner added. “He was up our ass for two days.”

“Blow me.” Second time tonight someone assumed he would mess up. 

“You should’ve said that to her.” Zack laughed around his comment.

“Shit, man, I don’t like it,” Gunner said. “That bitch could have us by the balls.”

“And Weasel sure ain’t gonna like it,” Zack added.

Dylan whipped around and grabbed Zack by the neck of his t-shirt and twisted. “You keep your fuckin’ mouth shut about this. You get me?”

Gunner grabbed Dylan by the shoulder and slammed him back into the passenger seat. “All right, settle down,” Gunner barked. “Dylan’s right. Keep your damn mouth shut unless you want Weasel shorting us.”

Zack mumbled his agreement in the back seat, but Dylan’s heart hammered in his chest. No way he wanted a psycho like Weasel knowing about that girl.


Gunner and Zack slid into their usual booth at The Pit, while Dylan elbowed his way through the crowd, glad to be away from both of them. Ear-splitting rock music blared out of scratchy speakers as topless dancers made love to the pole. Harsh, purple lighting hid the worn carpet, and stained, upholstered booths, while casting murky shadows over the guys crowded around the stage.

Them talking about that girl like she was some skank pissed him off, but he didn’t know why. Something about the way their eyes locked just before she got out of the car. Like she was searching for something. She’d have to look a long time to find anything good in him. But damn if it wouldn’t be fun letting her try.

Like you’re ever gonna see her again, asshole. 

Almost getting doused by some drunk’s beer snapped him back to reality. He needed to focus on getting their money and getting gone. 

Finding Weasel was easy. He held court at his usual table in the back corner. His real name was Viktor, but he looked like a weasel, which was what most people called him, of course not to his face. With the amount of coke he did, his moods were erratic, and his temper was volatile. He was covered in tattoos and always wore black, which included wrap-around sunglasses, that he wore day and night, inside and out. 

Weasel ran one of the biggest chop shops on the East Coast for Yuri, the head of the Russian mob. Weasel’s cousin and leg-breaker, Igor, stood to the left eating a burrito. He was always eating. How else could he maintain his three hundred pounds? Even from this distance, a combination of body odor, smoke, and Mexican food made Dylan’s eyes water. Now he watched him chew open-mouthed and then wipe the remnants onto the back of his hand. Dylan felt sorry for the burrito. 

 “How’d it go?” Weasel focused on the smoke from his ever-present unfiltered Camels while he flicked his black dragon cigarette lighter.

“Everything’s where it should be.” 

Weasel lowered his sunglasses and squinted at Dylan through sunken, bloodshot eyes. “No slip-ups?”

“Nope.” Dylan held his gaze. Didn’t matter that Dylan towered over him and outweighed him by thirty pounds. Crazy always won out, ‘cause crazy didn’t give a shit.

“Good. That car is special to Yuri.” Weasel slid the glasses back up his nose, then took a drag off the Camel. “Hate to see something unfortunate happen.”

So he’d screwed up a few times. Zack lived for the pipe and Gunner could barely string a sentence together. It was him that kept it all together and Weasel knew it.

Igor handed him three envelopes stuffed with cash. He opened each one and did a quick count. Weasel was notorious for shorting them.

“What’sa matter?” Igor asked around a wad of food. “You don’t trust us?”

“Just making sure.” 

What Igor lacked in agility he made up for with a six-inch switchblade. Rumor was he enjoyed carving people up and removing his fair share of tongues from guys who snitched.

Igor shifted his weight, but Weasel held up his hand. “Be available.”

Dropouts had limited job offers and working for Weasel sure beat flipping burgers at Mickey D’s or wearing the orange aprons at Home Depot, but he stayed far away from Weasel’s main moneymaker—Drugs. Carrying a gun was not for him. Too crazy. 

He slid into the booth next to Gunner and handed over the two envelopes. They also checked the contents, and Dylan wondered if they were checking him or Weasel? Dylan downed the untouched shot in front of him, then nabbed the joint dangling between Gunner’s fingertips. 

The owners of The Pit must’ve owned every cop in the precinct ‘cause they didn’t even try to hide the illegal activities. All the drugs you could smoke, snort or swallow circulated around gangbangers, drug dealers, and pimps. Three guys at the next table did lines while a cocktail waitress wiggled her ass on one guy’s lap.

Dylan hit the smoke, loving the burn as it slid down his throat and into his lungs. “I’m heading out.”

Gunner nodded toward the stage. “You passing up all this hot pussy?”

“Yeah, maybe you’ll finally have a shot.” Dylan wiggled his tongue at him just to piss him off.

“Fuck you,” Gunner grumbled.

Dylan stood, stuck the weed between his lips, and stuffed the envelope into his waistband. Gunner held out his hand for the joint, but Dylan sucked in two deep drags, finished it off, then tossed it into the dirty ashtray.

“You’re a real dick,” Gunner shouted over the driving bass.

“Yeah, I know,” he threw over his shoulder.

Dylan crossed the street and walked four blocks south where the doorways were littered with homeless huddled together for warmth. The reconstruction of Brooklyn hadn’t reached this far nor did he think it ever would. City officials didn’t care about the people who eked out a life in the crumbling row-houses lining both sides of the street.

He climbed the decaying cement steps leading to his mother’s front door, and a clawing dread slithered through him. He opened the envelope Weasel gave him, removed half the cash, and stuffed it in his pocket.  He then resealed the envelope and stared at it. His sister, Cheryl, would say he was a fool and that their mother would blow the money on drugs, a deadbeat boyfriend, or both, but no matter how screwed up, she was still his mother, so he slipped the envelope through her mail slot. 

After a few more jobs he’d take his money, get her straight, then ditch Brooklyn, and put all this bad shit behind him. Maybe he’d think about his future. Even get a legit job and finally have a shot at something good.  

Like his sassy, mystery girl with the ebony eyes. He imagined running his fingers through her thick, dark hair. Feeling her hands roaming all over him. Yeah right, he’d never get that lucky, ‘cause class and trash never mixed.


Lena called an Uber and made it back to Jonny’s Upper East Side penthouse just after midnight. During the ride, her mind flipped in all sorts of directions. The guilt of taking Jonny’s car without permission gnawed at her, but then having the car stolen by a flat-out car thief who worried about her safety? Crazy. 

His voice alone pushed every one of her sensual buttons, and his haunting silver eyes would be the main attraction of her fantasies for days. She marveled at the way his rangy, agile body commanded the small space of the car, yet she never felt threatened. She almost got the impression that he didn’t even like what he was doing. Strange.

 She unlocked the service door of the penthouse and slipped in through the kitchen.  Perfect, on a Saturday night Jonny would still be at the club and his wife Cheryl, and their baby would probably be asleep. 

 Already a few weeks into her summer break, she knew the floor plan, and lights weren’t necessary as she tip-toed down the back hall that led to her bedroom. She’d settle into bed, and try to concoct a story for Jonny while also coming up with a valid reason why she took his car in the first place. Difficult yes, but not impossible. She’d been coming up with believable stories since high school, and now at twenty-two, she’d mastered the art of deception. 

Jonny, like most men, just wanted to hear “Yes.” Didn’t matter if you meant it, didn’t matter if you were listening, didn’t even matter if you followed through with what you agreed to. As long as they heard the magic word, “Yes.”

She passed the master bedroom and the nursery, then entered her bedroom, flipped on the light and gasped. Her hand flew to her chest. She lost her footing and slammed her back against the wall. “Geez, what the hell?”

Jonny sat stone-faced in the chair across from her bed. Quiet, tense and ready to pounce. Like a cobra kept too long in the basket.

Okay, deep breaths, stay calm. “You scared me to death. Why are you sitting here in the dark?”

“Waiting for you.”

“You could’ve waited in the living room.”

“Nah, I knew you’d sneak in the service entrance.”

Deny and divert, and say “yes” to whatever he wants.

“It's only twelve thirty, so let's not get into the curfew thing again.” She faked a yawn. “I’m exhausted.”

Jonny stood, and his six-foot frame seemed too big for the room. He moved forward then circled around her.

“Wasn’t bad enough you took my two hundred thousand dollar car without permission, but then you park it in an open lot in Brooklyn.”

“How did you know where—”

“Shh!” Jonny raised his finger and continued. “And then the car gets jacked right out of the lot.”

Her eyes widen. “How did you know that?”

“When the tracking system was dismantled I got an alert on my phone.” Jonny rubbed at his temple. 

“Do you know where it is now?” She lowered her eyes, afraid to hear the answer.

“Whoever did the job was a pro.” Jonny’s lips twisted into an evil grin. “But don’t worry I’ll find him.”

Lena swallowed hard. Yes, her brother ran a legitimate nightclub in Manhattan, and yes, he did everything by the book, but no, he hadn’t given up his street ties in Brooklyn. A quaking fear consumed her, and for a split second she contemplated coming clean and pleading for the thief’s safety. 

He leaned in and lifted her chin with his forefinger. “What happened to your lip?”

“High-heel mishap.” She pointed to her three-inch stilettos, and when he rolled his eyes, she congratulated herself on her quick thinking.

“Do you know what could’ve happened if you caught the carjackers in the act?”

Actually yes. That wild streak you’re always warning me about made me jump in the car and take a drive with the number one thug. A thug with a bangin’ body and the most unusual grey eyes. 

She smiled. Not good.

“This isn’t a joke,” Jonny’s voice raised enough to hear his frustration. “I don’t understand you. I’ve tried to give you everything. Everything I didn’t have. Everything . . .”

And her mind blanked. Jonny was off on his ‘everything’ speech. And she was grateful, but did being grateful mean she still had to obey him? That he could still monitor her every step and make comments on her choices? No.

“You want me to treat you like an adult, but when I ask a simple question you storm off and take my car.”

Now, she regretted coming home, but she’d wanted a real summer job at the club, and to get closer to her big brother, but she guessed from her psychology classes that their similarities led to their constant arguing.

“But I don’t give a shit about the car. I was worried about you, especially after I figured out it was jacked.” 

Even if his controlling ways were in her best interest, they still drove her insane.

“You don’t know the streets, and maybe that’s my fault.”

He’d sent her to live with their aunt and uncle in Queens after their parents died to shelter her from his life. Yet, he always came to her school plays and taken her out on weekends to movies and street fairs while he lived in horrible conditions and struggled to make something of himself. Then when the club took off, he’d paid for the best private schools, college and now law school. 

“I know I’ve sheltered you, but after mom and dad died . . .”

Their parent's death was another issue between them. Every time she’d asked about the unusual circumstance of her parents dying only hours apart, Jonny closed down, or gave her some generic excuse.

“You’ve done everything right, and I’m not gonna let you screw it up now.” He rested his hands on her shoulders. “Do you know what I’m trying to say?”

“Yes.” She nodded, really meaning the word and not using it as a weapon against him. “But I do want a job at the club this summer.”

He drew his lips together and narrowed his eyes, and for a second she feared another fight.

“Fine, at least then I can keep an eye on you. But you’ll work in the office, not on the floor.”

She’d envisioned herself wearing the cute t-shirts and short skirts all the female bartenders and hostesses wore, but after taking his car and then getting it stolen, she didn’t have much to bargain with.

“Yes.” And that ‘yes’ lacked sincerity but it was only May, and maybe when he calmed down a bit she’d cajole him into letting her hostess. 

He enveloped her in his strong arms and kissed the top of her head. Something he’d done since she was a little girl. Jonny frustrated her, but he always kept her safe and secure. Like nothing bad could happen as long as he was around.

“I’m sorry I took your car,” she mumbled into his chest.

He stepped back and frowned. “Don’t worry I’ll make sure that asshole knows whose car he jacked.”

She recognized the familiar tone. It said ‘you fuck with me, I’ll fuck you worse.’ And again she feared for her mystery thief because although Jonny didn’t talk about it, he knew some dangerous people.

He smiled down at her. “You’re the image of Mama.”

The mention of their mother always carried regret. The few pictures Lena treasured, showed a beautiful Cuban woman smiling back at her with high cheekbones, thick, straight black hair and ebony eyes. She always detected a hint of sadness behind her mother’s gaze. A story untold, or a secret hiding deep in her mother’s soul.

Maybe she romanticized her parents because she was so young when they died, but the cold, impassive way Jonny dismissed her questions led her to believe the family closet overflowed with skeletons. A closet she vowed to open before the summer ended.


Two days later, Dylan was jolted awake by the sound of his apartment door splintering.  He swung his legs over the side of the bed, blinked himself awake and focused on the two strangers dominating his small, crappy room. One looked like a gorilla in designer clothes, and the other had the dead cold eyes of a snake.

“What the hell?” He sliced a look toward the window. He contemplated going down the fire escape, but the guns under their open jackets stopped him cold.

“You Dylan?”  the big one asked.

He hesitated then nodded, and as snake-eyes ransacked his rickety bureau, the gorilla ran his hand under the mattress. When he found the money Dylan stashed, he held it up and nodded to the other one. Then he grabbed his jeans off the chair and threw them at him. “Get dressed.”

“Can I at least take a leak?” They looked at each other confused. Apparently, they had a job to do, and this question wasn’t included. 

The big guy shrugged and said, “Make it fast, and don’t lock the door.”

Bathroom lock? Dylan laughed to himself. In case they hadn’t noticed this wasn’t the Hilton. 

He closed the door, relieved himself and decided he was screwed. The small window above his head leading to the air shaft wasn’t going to help him, but he sure wouldn’t mind firing up the half-smoked joint he had left on the ledge last night. Somehow he didn’t think these two would wait while he took a few puffs. He zipped up, snatched a t-shirt off the floor, pulled it over his head, and left the bathroom. 

“If you leave me alone, I’ll cut you in on some great stuff.” He hated to just give it away, but if it saved his ass. “You guys smoke? I got bootleg cigarettes. All brands. Or Johnny Walker Blue. Still in the box. Or how about some Rolex knockoffs?”

“Shut-up, and move it.”

As they hustled him out of the apartment, he saw his junkie neighbor crack his door and peek out, but he sure wasn’t getting any help there. The people in this building knew better than to get involved.

Snake-eyes pushed him so hard he ricocheted off the wall like he was in a pinball machine, then braced himself against the rickety wooden banister. They hustled him out onto the sidewalk where the muscle head grabbed him by the front of his t-shirt and practically lifted him off the ground as he tossed him into the back of a shiny, black Navigator.

Two weeks outta lock-up and he was sprawled on the back seat of a luxury SUV trying to figure out what these guys wanted. He tried to sit up, but an arm the size of his thigh pushed him back down and warned. “Stay still, or you’ll regret it.”

Dylan shifted his eyes to the backdoors. When they stopped for a red light, he lunged. Right side locked. Left side locked. It was worth a try, but this time he was rewarded with a smack that made his ears ring. 

“Stop fuckin’ around,” Snake-eyes growled.

Dylan slumped against the seat of the most jacked SUV in the city.  Maybe he should tell these assholes that their Navigator’s computer system was easy as shit to bust and if he had a few minutes, he’d steal it right out from under them. 

His head kept spinning and the way this douche was driving made him feel like he might puke. They would love that. Last night’s beer and Taco Bell all over their gleaming new SUV. They’d probably beat the shit out of him just for fun. 

What the hell did they want with him anyway? He offered them a closet full of booze, cigarettes and hot jewelry, but they weren’t interested. It had to be the car. Nah, he doubted that either one of them could even fit into that car.

His head had stopped spinning, but his stomach lurched with every turn, and when they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge and headed north on the FDR he was really confused. Why would anyone on the Upper East Side give a shit what he did in Brooklyn?

 He guessed he was going for the famed “ride” that every gangster movie included. Only this wasn’t a movie, this was his life. Twenty-four and it was all over. He’d never flown on a plane and only traveled as far as the Jersey shore. Never had a real girlfriend, unless drunk sex with strippers counted as a relationship. He’d always prided himself on being able to talk his way out, fight his way out, or just plain run out, but not this time. This was bad, real bad.

His sister, Cheryl’s face, popped into his head. She didn’t even know he was out of lock-up. She’d tried to connect with him, but he’d ignored her calls. She had a new life and a new baby with Jonny Vallone and a huge penthouse on the Upper East Side. She sure didn’t need his shit coming down on her. Now he’d never get to thank her for somehow managing to keep a roof over their heads, and food on the table when their mother did her disappearing acts.  He’d never get a chance to apologize for being a huge screw-up, and making her worry. All she sacrificed, and for what? To end up identifying him on a slab in some freezing cold morgue.

 They took the 59th Street exit and weaved the Navigator into midtown, then made a sharp turn into an underground garage. They twisted through the spiral turns of the garage and jolted to a stop. Fuckin’ great. His last minutes were gonna be five levels below ground with a bullet in his brain. 

They grabbed him out of the back seat, dragged him into a service elevator and flanked him on either side as he sized them up. He was taller than one of them, but they both outweighed him by about fifty pounds. Size didn’t matter though when you were strapped and these guys had some serious weapons under their jackets.

A short few minutes later the elevator door opened into a glitzy office. They shoved him over the thick pile carpet until he stood in the middle of a black leather and chrome decorated room. Dylan righted himself, and then shrank back a half-step when a door opened on the other side of the room.

“Ohhh, shit,” Dylan mumbled.

“Yeah kid, you’re fucked,” Snake Eyes snickered behind him.

 Jonny Vallone sauntered into the room, and he didn’t look happy. And from the way these two gorillas were acting, he’d done something to piss him off. Dylan knew all the street gossip about Jonny, and although his club was straight up, he’d been a scary fucker back in the day.

  His dark eyes were cool and detached as he raked them over Dylan. 

“I had a feeling it was you,” Jonny finally said as he walked around his desk. “You stole a car two nights ago.” It was more a statement than a question.


Shit, of all the bad luck. He’d jacked Jonny’s car. Owner of Beyond Paradise and still connected in Brooklyn. Not to mention, his brother-in-law.

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