Read the first chapter of BOLD TRICKS (TAT #3)

Pretty self-explanatory.…no?



The storm raged on and inside I was screaming.

I was sit­ting in a stolen Jeep with no roof, parked on the side of a dirt road beneath a waver­ing canopy that occa­sion­ally let a spat­ter­ing of rain pelt me in the face. Despite the warmth of the trop­i­cal night, I was cold and soaked to the bone in my muddy evening gown.  On one side of me was Cam­den McQueen, on the other was Javier Bernal. One more light than dark, one more dark than light. Both men had come for me. Both men had loved me. And both of them I had seri­ously underestimated.

There really wasn’t much time to sit around and try to get my head on straight. But after every­thing that hap­pened, I knew a panic attack was just wait­ing to devour me, to inca­pac­i­tate me, to take me out of the game. I could feel the fear buzzing through my veins, threat­en­ing to tear me up from the inside out. The fear of los­ing every­thing – Gus, my mother, my revenge, my pur­pose. I feared Javier and what he might do to Cam­den. I feared Cam­den and the way he’d changed toward me. I feared myself and the things I might do to try and make sense of it all.

We had only been in the Jeep for about ten min­utes, head­ing back to Ver­acruz, when I’d told Javier to park the car so I could have a moment. He reluc­tantly com­plied, find­ing an area beneath some mas­sive trees that shook from the howl­ing winds. Both men were star­ing at me and I could only look down at my hands as I rubbed them up and down against the mud on my dress, the cold­ness seep­ing into my palms. They both knew me, knew my attacks, and that alone had me scream­ing inter­nally, want­ing to run. I couldn’t even look at them. I couldn’t even accept the sit­u­a­tion. Javier and Cam­den. The three of us hav­ing to work together, let alone sit in a Jeep together with­out them killing each other. And I was in the middle.

My mind raced back to our escape. My mother. Dear God, my mother. I really never thought I’d see her again, let alone at a drug lord’s party but there was she was, serv­ing moth­er­fuck­ing cham­pagne. She was work­ing for Travis of all peo­ple, the man who poured acid down my leg when I was just eleven years old, the same man who my mother wanted to rob that night in Mis­sis­sippi. What the hell had hap­pened to her? After every­thing we had gone through as a fam­ily, after all the pain I suf­fered, the inquests from author­i­ties, the move to Palm Val­ley to stay with Uncle Jim and her even­tual aban­don­ment of me, why was she here with him now? And where was my father?

I swal­lowed, my throat feel­ing thick and debated on ask­ing Javier. He had known this all along, knew where they were. He’d even wanted me to kill them for some sick, divine pur­pose from that dam­aged moral code of his. This whole time he knew and he was using me.

I couldn’t even be angry at him over that, though. I should have known bet­ter, I should have expected this. I was so damn angry at myself for falling for his old tricks, for slip­ping into a past that would have been bet­ter  left buried. I hated myself for los­ing my faith in Cam­den and putting it in Javier instead, and hated myself even more for the dam­age I caused. That was another rea­son I couldn’t look at him. Every time I looked at Cam­den, I saw the ways he’d changed. He was stronger, tougher and more ruth­less. He was also hurt, scarred deep inside by what I’d done.  He now had the kind of scars that even his skilled hands couldn’t transform.

Are you okay?” Cam­den asked, his voice low. My knee was touch­ing his knee. My other knee was touch­ing Javier’s. I could feel them on either side of me, hear their breath­ing, both their bod­ies tense and rigid as we sat there in the dark­ness. This was so awk­ward. So fuck­ing awkward.

And from the looks of it, with Gus and my par­ents in the clutches of Travis Raines, my cover being blown, the three of us hav­ing to make our way through Mex­ico together, awk­ward was the least of my problems.

I nod­ded, still look­ing at my hands, even though I wasn’t okay. None of us were.

Javier sighed loudly. Some­thing about his tone made me look over. Some­how it was eas­ier to look at him, maybe because I didn’t feel guilt when I did.

What?” I asked. I pressed my fin­gers into my thigh to keep my nerves from misfiring.

He tilted his head toward me and though the only light came from the glow of the Jeep’s dash­board and the far-off flashes of light­ning in the sky, I could see the gleam in his eyes. Unread­able, as always.

I’m just won­der­ing how long we’re going to sit here in a fuck­ing trop­i­cal storm,” he said sim­ply, a false smile spread across his face. “That’s all.”

Cam­den sat up straighter. “At least the rain should wash all that blood off your face.”

Javier’s eyes flicked over to him. “Are you sure you want me to help you get your fat Gus back? Because I think I’m the one doing you both a favor. Aside from sav­ing your behinds, of course. I don’t recall either of you thank­ing me yet.”

I exhaled through my nose. “Just give me a few min­utes. I need to fig­ure out the plan.”

Javier let out a dry laugh, rain run­ning off the tip of his nose, and eyed me incred­u­lously. “The plan? You’re not in charge of the plan, angel. If you want my help, then you’re doing it my way.”

Fuck that,” Cam­den spat out.

I finally had to look at him. His eyes were rag­ing beneath his glasses that reflected the dull glow from the car and he was grip­ping the door han­dle like he was about to break it in two. Oh god, I didn’t need this. But then again, it was partly my fault. Maybe I did need this.

Cam­den,” I said, try­ing to pla­cate him with my eyes, “please, let’s just…let’s just stay calm and think.”

I am calm,” Javier answered as Cam­den opened his mouth. “I need to go find my sis­ter, Vio­letta. That’s my goal first and fore­most. Then I’ll help you get to Travis and Gus.”

And my mother?” I filled in, dar­ing him to be honest.

He gave me a short nod, though he was look­ing off onto the dark road. “Yes…and your mother.”

Now was the time to ask him. Bet­ter now than never.

I took in a deep breath. “Where’s my father?  I didn’t see him at the party.”

He raised a brow and looked over my head at Cam­den. Why, I had no fuck­ing idea. I turned to look at Cam­den but he was star­ing back at Javier like he didn’t even know who he was.

Javier,” I repeated. “Where is my father?”

He frowned at Cam­den and looked back at me. His face went stony. “The man you call your father is dead.”

Every limb on me froze. My lungs sucked in warm air and raindrops.

Dead?” I asked, feel­ing like I was choking.


My father was dead?


Javier’s eyes soft­ened momen­tar­ily but only for a minute. “I didn’t know until I got here.”

I let it soak in over my bones. My father was dead.

The good parent.

The weak one.


With my mother work­ing for Travis, I truly was an orphan now.

Oh god,” I said, finally find­ing enough air. I leaned for­ward, try­ing to ward off another panic attack, and Camden’s warm hand met the small of my back, just enough to let me know he was there. His touch some­how strength­ened me. “Oh god.”

I’m sorry,” Javier said.

It took a few moments before I real­ized what he said.

I imme­di­ately whipped my head toward him. “No you’re not,” I seethed. “You wanted me to kill them. You sick fuck­ing bas­tard, you wanted me to kill my own par­ents. You brought me here for that. You are not fuck­ing sorry!”

Javier stared at me impas­sively, his fea­tures for­ever rep­til­ian, smooth and cal­cu­lat­ing. No emo­tion. No any­thing. How could I have even thought there was some­thing warm inside him?

You’re right,” he said, turn­ing his atten­tion back to the empty road. “I’m not sorry. I’m glad he’s dead. He deserves it for what he did to you. But I am sorry you feel this way, right now.”

Like I wouldn’t have felt worse if I killed them?”

He shrugged. “Obvi­ously now I know how that would have played out. Appar­ently you don’t hold the same grudges that I do.”

I felt like elbow­ing him in the nose again, see­ing it break over and over. But Javier was one of those men who could take the pain and make it work for him. He had too much of an advan­tage over us at the moment and he liked it when I hated him as much as he liked it when I loved him.

How did he die?” I asked, grind­ing my teeth.

I don’t know,” he said. “All I know is that he is one less per­son to hurt you.”

You are so fucked up,” Cam­den mut­tered, his hand tight­en­ing on my back.

Javier merely grinned at that, his teeth white in the dark­ness, tak­ing no offense at all. “What­ever I am, you need me more than I need you. And because of that, you’ll do as I say.”

Sounds like a deal with devil,” I told him.

My, my, angel, how quickly you’ve changed your tune now that this tat­tooed ape is back in your life.” He eyed Cam­den. “You know, just because you’re here now, doesn’t mean you’ve won anything.”

I only came to get Ellie back,” he said, his voice quiet but full of ani­mos­ity. I knew that Cam­den was keep­ing him­self on a very tight leash. I also knew that when he didn’t, well, I didn’t have to look long at Javier’s bruised and blood­ied face to know what happens.

Oh, of course,” Javier said with delib­er­a­tion. “But is she really back?”

Javier, shut the fuck up,” I said. “If you’ve got a plan then tell us what the plan is, because the longer we sit here argu­ing, the fur­ther Gus gets away from us.”

He slowly looked back to me. “That has been my point all along. Are you able to think now? Is your lit­tle attack over? Because I know what worked last time you—”

Get on with it,” I cut in. Nei­ther Cam­den nor I needed him to fin­ish his sen­tence. The last time I had a panic attack around Javier, we ended up hav­ing sex in an orange grove. I was vul­ner­a­ble, dri­ven by lust, des­per­ate for clo­sure and lured back into my own past. I had a mil­lion excuses for why I fucked him but what both­ered me the most was that at the heart of them all, I did it because I wanted to. I needed to. Now, look­ing at him, know­ing how much he had and hadn’t changed, I hated myself for being so weak, hated my body for betray­ing me so easily.

He held my gaze and I knew in the dim he could make out the raw anger in my eyes. He was think­ing, won­der­ing how much more he could toy with me. He now had the abil­ity to get a rise out of both Cam­den and I any­time he wanted. He was a man with too much ammo, but per­haps he’d always been that way. He stock­piled it like a squir­rel prepar­ing for winter.

He shifted the Jeep with a lurch, caus­ing me to fall into Cam­den, and pulled the vehi­cle back onto the dirt road, the rain whip­ping us as it con­tin­ued to fall in heavy drops. We sped in the direc­tion of Ver­acruz, where the city lights were cast­ing a dull orange glow on the bot­toms of the storm clouds.

The first step is to get rid of this car,” Javier said, his mouth set­ting in a grim line. “They’ll be look­ing for it.”

There’s always Jose,” Cam­den said.

I looked at him incred­u­lously. “You have Jose?”

He gave me a small smile. “The car’s a bit bat­tered but yeah I have Jose. It brought me and Gus down here. All your stuff is still in the trunk.”

Thank god, because all my other stuff was in the hotel room that I wouldn’t be return­ing to. The only thing I had on me was what fit into my clutch purse: Eleanor Willis’s pass­port (which was pretty much use­less now since Travis knew it was a façade), some makeup, a few pesos and that was it.

Right,” Javier scoffed. “I’m sure the car isn’t want by a few peo­ple either.”

You mean other than you?” I asked.

He grunted. “The past is the past. We’re bet­ter off get­ting some­thing more incon­spic­u­ous, don’t you agree?”

We’re get­ting my stuff out of the car, at least,” I told Javier.  “You can add that to your plan.”

He made another dis­agree­able sound but didn’t argue. “Fine. Get your stuff. Get a new car. Head to Mex­ico City to check on Violetta.”

I frowned at the men­tion of his sis­ter. “Check on?”

He nod­ded. “I’ll tell her to get out of town, go to Mar­guerite or Alana’s in Jalisco.”

And she’ll lis­ten to you?”

He bit his lip for a sec­ond. “She knows what hap­pened to Beat­riz. She’ll listen.”

Who is Beat­riz?” Cam­den asked.

Javier shot him a look as he brought the Jeep onto the main high­way. “None of your fuck­ing business.”

It’s one of his sis­ters,” I quickly told Cam­den. “Travis mur­dered her.”

Of course he did,” Cam­den said with a sigh, lean­ing back into the seat. I finally had the strength to watch him for a few moments. The wind was ruf­fling up his dark hair, his glasses reflect­ing the lights of the few cars on the high­way that were brav­ing the storm. His jaw was strong, lips full but held together tightly. I knew he was tor­mented but I didn’t know by whom. Was it Javier?

Or was it me?

He took his glasses off and wiped the rain off of them with the sleeve of his tuxedo he had got­ten for Travis’s party. It took effort, his bril­liant blue eyes winc­ing with pain. His shoul­der was still messed up from being shot.

Do you have any more of your pain killers?” I asked him.

He closed his eyes and nod­ded while he slipped his glasses back on. “Now’s not the time. I’ll deal.”

Well you cer­tainly dealt with Javier’s face,” I said. It slipped out before I had a chance to take it back. I wasn’t about to start pro­vok­ing the mon­ster but it was eas­ier said than done.

And pro­voked him I did.

Javier’s grip on the wheel tight­ened and he slammed on the brakes so we went skid­ding across the high­way. I screamed, the tires squeal­ing beneath us, as we came to a shud­der­ing stop on the shoul­der and he flipped it into park.

Jesus!” Cam­den yelled. “Are you try­ing to kill us?”

Javier imme­di­ately whipped out his gun so it was in front of my face and pointed it at Camden.

No. Now I’m try­ing to kill you,” Javier sneered, star­ing down the bar­rel of the gun.

Then fuck­ing do it,” Cam­den said, his eyes blaz­ing, meet­ing the challenge.

You shouldn’t tempt me,” Javier countered.

My eyes darted between the two of them and the gun. It wavered slightly, betray­ing Javier’s smooth exte­rior. He was damn angry, angry enough to do some­thing stu­pid. He didn’t need Cam­den egging him on.

I raised my hands slowly, care­ful not to touch the gun that was inches away. I spoke care­fully, try­ing to keep my voice from shak­ing. “Please, please, Javier, Cam­den, let’s just…let’s just calm down.”

Shut up,” Javier said, his eyes flit­ting to me and back to Cam­den. “This is all your fault.”

How is this my fault?” I exclaimed and then real­ized it was. I needed to keep my mouth shut. We all did. I looked between the two of them and said, “Okay, I’m sorry. It is my fault. Obvi­ously we’re not get­ting any­where if we can’t get along.”

Javier’s grip tight­ened on the gun. “This isn’t a mat­ter of get­ting along, angel.” He licked his lips and nod­ded at Cam­den. “Tell me, Cam­den, how did you man­age to escape from your ex-wife and the mighty Vin­cent Madano?”

Cam­den frowned at him, his jaw tens­ing. “How do you know about that?”

Javier grinned. “I read it in the news­pa­per like every­one else.”


I have to say, I’m impressed,” Javier went on. “Vin­cent Madano is not a man you can just mess up and walk away.”

How well do you really know them?” I asked Javier, remem­ber­ing that Cam­den had said some­thing about it all being a set-up, that Sophia and her broth­ers, and pos­si­bly Javier were all in on it. The exchange, the kid­nap­ping – it was all for show. All to get me away from Cam­den and maybe to put Cam­den in danger.

It must have been dri­ving Javier crazy to have Cam­den here with us. Cam­den could not be caught that easily.

I know them well enough,” Javier said. He loosed his grip on the gun, shook the rain off of it and put it back in his waist­band. I exhaled in relief. “But I sup­pose that’s nei­ther here nor there at this point.”

I was sure that Cam­den wouldn’t let it go that eas­ily. Just how deeply was Javier tied to his ex-wife and her broth­ers and why? But Cam­den only gave Javier a final glare before turn­ing his atten­tion back to the dark­ened farm­land we had stopped beside.

Let’s just get Gus back,” he said and pressed his lips together as if to pre­vent him­self from say­ing some­thing else.

Javier watched him for a few moments before putting the Jeep back into drive and return­ing us to the highway.

We sat in unbear­able silence as we made our way into Ver­acruz, yet it was safer than say­ing any­thing. I felt like we were a word away from incin­er­at­ing each other. Cam­den only spoke up to give direc­tions to where he had ditched Jose.

Unfor­tu­nately it was a bit too close to Travis’s com­pound for com­fort. We pulled down a quiet res­i­den­tial street only a few blocks away, the leafy trees blow­ing wildly in the wind, the rain hav­ing thank­fully dropped off. The sound of heli­copters buzzed in the distance.

Javier eyed the sky and I asked, “Are those his or news choppers?”

He nod­ded sub­tly. “They’re his. The news wouldn’t dare cover this.”

Turn right down here,” Cam­den told him and we came down another street, this one more nar­row, with the trees block­ing out the street­lights that were few and far between. This was still a well-to-do area, though the houses were smaller and spaced fur­ther apart, all behind tall gates and walls. I did note that it was a dead-end road, which meant there was only one way out if some­thing were to hap­pen to us. We couldn’t be too care­ful, not with the chop­pers cir­cling in the dis­tance, their spot­lights occa­sion­ally light­ing up the sky.

There she is,” Cam­den said, point­ing to the end of the street where jun­gle seemed to have taken over and there were no street­lights. I could barely make out the shape of the car in the darkness.

She?” Javier asked, eye­brow cocked. “Its name is Jose.”

Cam­den shrugged. “Guess she’s a cross-dresser.”

Javier sighed, shak­ing his head in dis­gust, and pulled the Jeep up to it. “Let’s make this fast.”

We hopped out and it was only now that we were closer that I saw what Cam­den meant by “battered.”

Holy shit, Cam­den!” I cried out at the sight of the poor vehicle.

What the hell did you do to my car?” Javier yelled, his hands thrown up in the air.

The GTO had the paint scraped off all along one side, the win­dows on the driver’s side were all shot out, the driver’s side mir­ror was miss­ing, the front was totally crunched up with only the right head­light intact.

Your car?” I asked Javier once I man­aged to look away from poor Jose. “What hap­pened to the past being the past?”

Now’s not the time to argue seman­tics,” Cam­den inter­rupted us. “She’s bro­ken but she’s a sur­vivor.” He fished the keys out of his suit jacket and tossed them at me. “Just like you.”

I caught them and he held my eyes for a moment before walk­ing past me back to the Jeep.

Javier scoffed, though I didn’t know if it was for the state of the car or Camden’s com­ment, and made his way to the trunk. He bumped it with his fist. “Come on, let’s get her open.”

I was about to hurry over to him when Cam­den sud­denly said, “Fuck.”

I spun around and looked at him. He was frozen in the act of tak­ing off his jacket, his good arm free, his head cocked upward, eyes search­ing the sky. The sound of the chop­pers had got­ten louder and over the tips of the wav­ing trees I could see the spot­light in the sky, the blades whirring.

Yeah, no kid­ding fuck,” I said. I turned to Javier and quickly ran over to him, try­ing to get my keys into the trunk of the car. I kept fum­bling, miss­ing the lock just as the wind blew my hair back and we were lit up by the spot­light, the heli­copter com­ing closer. We were in their sights, no doubt about that. We had been spotted.

Hurry up!” Javier yelled at me before rip­ping the keys out of my hands.

Cam­den hit the side of the Jeep with his fist. “There’s no time!” he yelled. “We have to go!”

No!” I yelled back as Javier got the trunk open. “Not with­out my stuff!”

Sud­denly the ground in front Cam­den started explod­ing with bul­lets as a steady stream of them came off the approach­ing chop­per. We all cried out, dirt fly­ing everywhere.

Javier quickly slammed the trunk shut. “Then we’re tak­ing Jose. Get the fuck in!”

He went for the driver’s seat as Cam­den came run­ning over, tak­ing my hand and pulling me to the pas­sen­ger side. He shoved me into the back­seat, telling me to lie down, and barely got in the car him­self before Javier was gun­ning the engine and dri­ving the car back­ward. I could feel the wheels spin­ning for grip beneath my head and tried to sit up just as the sound of more bul­lets filled the air. I was tossed back down as Javier put the pedal to the floor and turned the wheel, the sheer power of the rear wheels grind­ing until we did a 180 until we were fac­ing the right way. The chop­per was now directly above us and I could feel the wind its blades cre­ated flow­ing through the smashed win­dows, the spot­light blind­ing me.

Hang on,” Javier said, “this is going to get ugly before it gets better.”

He pressed down on the gas again and the car roared loudly before it lurched for­ward and we were all pinned back to our seats from the force. This is exactly why I loved this car. I just hoped he was stronger than he looked at the moment.

We raced down the street, the chop­per in hot pur­suit, the whir of blades and bul­lets gain­ing on us. I leaned for­ward between the seats, reach­ing for the glove com­part­ment, wav­ing my hand at it when I couldn’t reach. “My gun, give me my gun!”

Cam­den gave me an odd look but opened the com­part­ment and handed me the gun that was thank­fully still in there. It wasn’t my colt .45—that was in the trunk still—but it would do.

What are you doing?” Cam­den yelled as I quickly checked the clip and slammed it back in.

She’s being a good girl,” Javier said, just as the trunk was bom­barded with bul­lets, sound­ing like metal fire­works being set off. “Fuck!” he yelled and swerved, try­ing to lose them, as I attempted to lean out of his win­dow. I wedged myself up against the back of his seat and faced behind us. The wind whipped my hair around, the spot­light blind­ing me, but I man­aged to keep the gun aimed upward at the heli­copter. I had no idea if this would work like it did in the movies but I fig­ured it was bet­ter than just sit­ting in the back­seat and doing nothing.

Only prob­lem was, Javier kept swerv­ing and throw­ing me off bal­ance and the chop­per kept mov­ing out of my sights. You’d think that would mean that their bul­lets weren’t any closer to hit­ting us but that wasn’t quite the case. One hit the trunk again, a dan­ger­ously close call, just as Javier brought the car spin­ning around the cor­ner and on to another road.

Where do I shoot?” I screamed above the noise. “The fuel tank?”

Shoot the fuck­ing per­son who’s shoot­ing at us!”

Right,” I mut­tered. All I could see against the light was the out­line of the chop­per, not any­one inside. Still, there was a faint red glow when­ever the gun went off so I just aimed there, fir­ing off a few rounds and hop­ing they went somewhere.

Sud­denly the wind­shield in the back of the car was hit and I screamed as it exploded into a mil­lion shards of glass. Obvi­ously I hadn’t hit the gun­man yet.

Keep shoot­ing!” Javier yelled as he brought the car around onto another street. We were leav­ing the hid­den, res­i­den­tial hills of the wealthy and into the more open and busier sub­urbs of Ver­acruz. It was well lit and now there was traf­fic we had to con­tend with.

The chop­per ducked down lower and sped up as we slowed to nav­i­gate around the cars on the road. The sound of horns, irate yells from dri­vers, and screech­ing tires filled the air. I took aim once more and fired again and again, hop­ing it would hit at least the wind­shield. But the heli­copter came closer, the wind from the rotors shak­ing my arm like jelly, its land­ing skids almost com­ing down on top of us until Javier swerved the car to left and the chop­per had to rise quickly to get above a tall semi-truck in its path. I took the time to grab my arm with my other hand, try­ing to steady myself, to ignore the cramp in my lower back, the pres­sure of the door frame against my shoulder.

Come on, Ellie, I told myself as the heli­copter came back again, much faster now and much lower, as if it didn’t give a fuck anymore.

Drive faster!” I yelled but wasn’t sure Javier could hear me over the noise. I took in a deep breath, try­ing to see past the hair fly­ing in front of my face and started firing.

I fired and fire but it just came closer and closer.

And then there was a dull click.

There were no more bul­lets left in my gun.

And my other clip was in the glove compartment.

We were fuck­ing screwed.

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