Fiction Series: Playing With Fire - Chapter 8
Mrs. Camren peeks inside Paxton’s office. Big Pax is sitting at his desk. Cruz and I are sitting opposite him. The twins are sitting at Paxton’s bar and Isaiah is in a chair looking out the window.
She eases the door open and folds her arms across her chest. We all turn to face her. Her hair is wet. She’s wearing a black floor length dress. It flows freely with her movements. “Are the men working or do I have to do everything myself?”
Big Pax chuckles. “Lani, we’re doing whatever makes you the happiest.”
She smiles. “Good. Come to the basement in an hour. I have something I’d like for you all to see.” She turns to leave but turns back. “Mario, Miguel, Isaiah… you come with me.” My brothers all jump up and head towards the door. Anticipation is written on their faces. They disappear following Mrs. Camren. I look towards the empty doorway.
“You should let it go.” Cruz interrupts my thoughts.
I look at Big Pax and back at Cruz. “Let what go?”
“Anything regarding Noelani.”
A smile threatens to form on my lips. I clear my throat. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Cruz and Big Pax share a look. “Sure you don’t.”
“She’s married to your brother…” I look at Big Pax. He stands and walks over to the bar.
Cruz follows him going behind the bar. He reaches down and pulls out an almost empty bottle of bourbon. “I’m only going to warn you once.” He pours three glasses. I make my way over to the bar. Big Pax sips from his glass. I take mine in my hand and look attentively at Cruz. He continues. “If you haven’t already, don’t.”
“If I haven’t… what?”
“Brother.” Cruz stares at me blankly waiting for a response.
“Nah, I’m just trying to figure out what you trying to say…”
Big Pax finishes his glass. “If she doesn’t kill you, one of my sons will.” He motions to Cruz for a refill.
My mouth opens but before I can speak Cruz interjects. “She belongs to no one.” He refills our glasses. “If you fall for her, you will regret it.” He downs his drink, shakes his head and moves towards the door.
Big Pax mirrors his son throwing back his drink. I finish my drink and follow. “She’s married to your brother…” I repeat myself.
Cruz lets Big Pax pass and puts his hand on my shoulder as I near him. “He’s married to her… If it helps at all, just know her love and her wrath feel surprisingly similar.” He walks out of the room ahead of me.
I wipe my hand over my face and my mind drifts to what I’ve seen of Mrs. Camren so far. If her love feels like her wrath, I want to know what it’s like.
A few moments later we’re walking down a long corridor in the basement. We pass several doors all secured with digital lock pads. Finally, Big Pax stops and puts in a code. The door opens revealing a huge room. The shit is incredible.
“Impressed?” Cruz takes in my expression.
“Hell yeah. My whole house can fit in this bitch.”
“There’s more… Come on.” Cruz urges me to follow him. I hadn’t even paid attention to the security team hard at work organizing weapons and product. The men acknowledge Big Pax and Cruz as we make our way through. We pass the tables and I find myself standing in front of what appears to be a maze.
“What the fuck is this?”
“Express yourself properly.” Mrs. Camren appears beside me.
“My ba---I’m sorry.” I adjust my tie. “What am I looking at?”
I’m interrupted by my brothers’ laughter as they burst through the entrance to whatever we’re standing in front of. They’re each holding a different type of assault rifle.
“Yo, y’all trash.” Mario bends over trying to catch his breath. “Lani, I ain’t trying to be on neither one of these niggas teams when we leave tonight.”
“Fuck you, I almost had your ass. If Isaiah hadn’t tripped the fucking alarm, we would’ve had you.” Miguel falls on the floor trying to loosen the vest he’s wearing over his shirt. Isaiah is laughing but he looks disappointed.
Mrs. Camren goes to him. “You’ll be fine.” His smile becomes genuine and he shakes his head. He turns around and sits next to Miguel on the floor.
“You flipped the training ground?” Big Pax turns his attention to Mrs. Camren. “Yes. I had the team map out Nuri’s house so we could be familiar with what we’re walking into.”
“Are you kidding?” Excitement overcomes me.
Mrs. Camren is amused. Cruz goes to the entrance and looks inside. “Lani, this is good. Let’s run two teams through before we head out tonight.” He looks at me. “Actually, three teams---Enrique, Cruz, and I’ll take the last one.”
“What am I doing?” Paxton joins us. Novia follows closely behind him.
Cruz greets his brother with a smirk. “We’re about to show these young men what war looks like before we take them out tonight.”
Paxton smiles. “Let me grab my vest.”
Novia stands alone awkwardly. I move towards her. “Novia.” Mrs. Camren calls her name. She looks at me and walks pass without saying anything. I follow her and lock eyes with Mrs. Camren.
“Choose which of your brothers are with you.” Cruz hits me in the arm. “Umm… Isaiah.” Cruz looks from me to Isaiah. “No, choose between Mario and Miguel.”
“No, Isaiah stays with me.” I object.
Cruz voice is low. At first I’m confused but then I understand why. “Isaiah will distract you. If you send him with Paxton, you’ll both come back alive.”
I look at my baby brother. “Well, he should stay behind with Big Pax. If he can’t be with me, he should stay.”
“He’ll go with me. Actually, I’ll take him and Mario.” Paxton returns adjusting his vest.
“Even better. I’ll take Miguel. Enrique you’ll go alone with our security team.” Cruz tosses a watch at me.
Mrs. Camren calls for the attention of the men in the room. Big Pax stands beside her. Novia stands just behind her. “Memorize all you can as you work your way through. This isn’t about Enrique or Novia. This is about our legacy. Nuri overstepped. It’s our job to remind him who we are.”
Cruz steps forward. “Okay, …in three teams. My team will secure the basements. We’re taking everything we can find.” He points at Paxton. “Brother, take your team upstairs. Secure the bags, files, safes… you know the drill.” Paxton nods. “Enrique, your team secures Nuri.” I nod.
Paxton looks down at the watch on his wrist. It’s identical to mine. Isaiah and Mario watch him closely. He looks up at Mrs. Camren. “Lani, whenever you say so.”
“This is just a drill but treat it like the real thing.” She looks at her watch. “Whoever isn’t for you… is against you.” She starts the time on her watch. Paxton and Cruz take off into the mockup of Nuri’s house with their teams following them.
I hesitate for a moment catching Novia’s eyes and as she looks away a piercing feeling sends a shockwave through my chest throwing me to the ground. I claw at my chest trying to catch my breath. Tears run from my eyes. The last thing I see is Mrs. Camren standing over me holding a pistol. Her dress flows out beside her. My team stands behind her looking down at me. “What the fuc---?”