FIVE

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When they all returned after eating, energetic and eager to learn more, Virginia finally acknowledged that these young men and women were serious. She felt a sense of pride as she looked over the motley crew. Maybe this will work, she thought.

She retrieved her nightstick from the car, using it to illustrate the next concern—what to do in situations where a knife was drawn. The nightstick and escrima stick had one thing in common. Their length provided an extension to the body, allowing one to stay far enough back but still have the upper hand in a confrontation. Target points on the forearm and upper leg were demonstrated, where a direct blow could debilitate a hand or bring the subject to his knees. She emphasized that these weapons could cause serious damage and should be used only if the situation warranted it. They practiced different scenarios, playacting under her direction.

As far as guns were concerned, she instructed them to back off, remember as many details as possible, and let the police handle the rest.

At five P.M. she called it quits, satisfied that they were now much better equipped to deal with any conflicts compared to when they had walked into the gym that morning. They set up a schedule—training sessions would be held once a month if everything worked out to her satisfaction.

When the last of them had left, Dominique came over and stood beside her at the door. "Those are some bad-ass moves you have." He worked his left shoulder with some arm circles. "Man, I'm going to be sore tomorrow."

"Oh, sorry, I—"

"Nah, it's all cool." After throwing a few shadow punches, he relaxed and placed his hands on his hips. "Just try not to brag about wiping the floor with my ass. It won't do much for my street cred."

She would have smiled but for the concern weighing her down. "I hope we are doing the right thing, Dominique. The true test will be how they handle themselves"—she pointed to the busy street—"out there."

)l(

Bruce watched the pair of them on screen. He'd almost choked on his morning coffee when she had first taken the big boxer down to the mats. For the rest of the day, whenever possible, he'd stayed glued to the gym monitors—for informational purposes only, of course.

He knew exactly what they were up to. It was a dangerous game those two were playing. The Chilvatis were not going to be happy. Nor was his boss. His eyes flicked to another screen. There he was, the man in question, still in his office, hard at work. It was all the guy did lately.

Bruce's focus went back to the feminine form thrown into shadow by the glare of the gym windows. Defiant little pain in the—

An image flashed in his memory: Her, standing in the middle of Mark's bedroom, wearing lacy black lingerie, the flush of embarrassment pinking-up her cheeks.

He rubbed at his temples, wishing there were a delete button on life's experiences, or at the very least, a rewind option to take him back to that night, that moment when he should have planted his feet and waited on the other side of the bedroom door.

With a few strokes to the keyboard, the day's file was copied, and he headed up to the house for dinner.

)l(

From his parking spot across the street, Gus added the last two morons leaving the gym to his total headcount before directing his attention to the woman by the door. His view inside was somewhat obstructed by the large storefront windows that had lost their seal and gone foggy. Just as well. It helped minimize the ugliness of all the flyers and hand-drawn pictures taped to the inside of the glass with little concern for curb appeal. Likewise, the pawn shop next door and the unit beside it with the flapping sign spelling out LOANS in giant letters added their own level of gaudiness to the streetscape.

Gus wiped his palms across the fine silk of his gray slacks, wishing he'd brought some hand sanitizer. Coming into this neighborhood always made him feel grimy. "What a dump," he muttered.

"The place is a lot nicer than it was."

Enzo's voice in his ear only added to his irritation, gnawing on his patience worse than a Taylor Swift remix with screaming goats. He pulled on his shirt cuffs, feeling every stitch of every seam drag along his skin. "Yeah, well, no matter how much paint and air freshener you use, an outhouse is still an outhouse."

"The gym is doing well. There's a waiting list for the classes. In a couple more years, it'll be in the black and she can reinvest some of those profits back in the place."

Gus whipped his head around to the man sitting beside him. "What the fuck? Should I drop you off so you can apply for a job?"

Enzo shrugged. "I'm just saying—she's not going anywhere." He pointed to the large group disappearing down the street. "I had a feeling she was behind this. Our customers don't like confrontations. Business is already hurting."

"Oh, she's going somewhere. She's going down—six feet down to be exact. Stupid bitch should have heeded my warning."

Enzo's snicker was even more grating than his voice. "Do you think Augustus will go for it?"

Having to get approval from the old man darkened his mood, and Gus closed his eyes, trying to calm the ever-present feeling of paranoia that grew stronger with each passing year. Being diagnosed with mild schizophrenia hadn't helped calm his anger issues, and it certainly hadn't made him feel any more secure. But there was no way in hell he was taking any antipsychotic medicine. Doctors were way up there with cops on his stupid list. He reached into his suit jacket for his cell and hit up his contacts. As he waited for the line to answer, his gaze went back to the woman across the street.

"What is it, son?"

Augustus sounded as disinterested as he always did when they spoke. Over the years, as the success of the Chilvati Group grew, so too did his father's desire to distance himself both mentally and physically from where he had started out. Gus could remember a time when his father had been brutally powerful, merciless in his treatment of those who dared to cross him. Now he had grown soft, his punishments delivered through corporate lawyers and financiers. It was pathetic.

Patience, Gus said to himself. Soon it will all be mine. "We have a problem with Lieutenant Robins."

"Lieutenant Robins," his father repeated dully. "And who exactly is— Ah, yes, the pretty one."

Of course the old whorehound would pick up on that. Gus drew his eyes down her body one more time. He'd met her only once, out on the street after a raid at his restaurant, the night she'd told him to stay out of her district. She was a looker, no doubt about it, but looks weren't what did it for him. It was her guts he had to admire. He liked gutsy women—they were harder to break. But eventually, they all did . . . unfortunately.

A bored sigh came across the connection. "Let me guess . . . Is the lieutenant still trying to worm her way back into our CEO's bed?"

All of Gus's senses fired up, and he sat a little taller in his seat. Well, wasn't this news. He enjoyed getting inside of a person's head—mind fucking he liked to call it. All it took was learning their weaknesses.

And he had just discovered hers.

Cops. Always so fucking naïve. "No," Gus said, trying to keep his excitement to a minimum. "It's much worse than that."

END OF CHAPTER FIVE

That does not sound good, does it? You are going to see a lot more of Gus this time around. Get ready. You're probably not going to like him. 

Big news coming in the next chapter. Please vote, comment and share! I appreciate all the support!

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