Thank you wonderful newsletter subscribers. As promised I’ve put together 2 excerpts from Bad Uncle (Family Portrait Book 5) especially for you. You also get a bonus peek because I love ya!
Haze switched his thoughts to Adriana. Every fiber of his being was in love with her and he was tired of hiding it. He and Carys had talked about it on their way to New York, and she made a valid point of saying that he and Adriana were both consenting adults and her parents couldn’t stop them from seeing each other. She encouraged him to go to Adriana’s parents, and if Adriana truly loved him, she would forgive him. Haze was hell-bent on professing his love for Adriana to her parents. He’d planned his speech and was ready. He was ready to apologize for sneaking around behind their backs and was willing to take whatever consequences they dished out. He was willing to do whatever it took to finally be with Adriana in the open.
He walked briskly through LAX. His mission, while he still had the courage, was to head to Banovic Manor. He texted his roommate, Chellon, to pick him up at the airport. Haze could hardly wait to get to the outside a few yards in front of him. With his eyes set firmly on his finish line, he dodged people coming at him from all directions; then just outside of Starbucks, L’Wren DaCosta bumped into him, spilling some of her ice-cold drink down his pant leg. As the liquid penetrated his pants and touched his skin, it slammed him into the present.
“I am so sorry, I wasn’t paying attention,” she apologized.
“It’s okay, neither was I.” He dusted the liquid from his pants.
“I’m so sorry, let me …” She tried to wipe it off.
“Don’t worry about it. It’s okay. Lemme buy you another one.” Haze looked at her for the first time and she looked familiar, but he couldn’t place her.
“No, no, no, it’s fine. I am so clumsy!”
“You’re Kevin’s girlfriend.”
“I knew you looked familiar. Have we met?” L’Wren asked.
“Haze. I work for the Banovics, part time, but I’ve seen you at Bacchanal Jake’s.”
“L’Wren. Nice to meet you,” she introduced herself.
“Yeah, you too. You coming or going?”
“Just coming back from New York City. I presented one of my designs at Fashion Week.”
“No way! I was just coming back from there. I had a gig at that event.”
“Do you want a ride? My roommate should be here any minute now.”
“Kevin’s picking me up.” She beamed; it was obvious to Haze that she was very much in love with Kevin by the way she lit up when she mentioned his name.
L’Wren and Haze walked and talked about the shows. Once outside, the conversation flowed easily. They were so engrossed in conversation that they didn’t notice a black SUV pull up a few feet away. Two men got out and walked towards them.
“L’Wren?” one of the men asked.
“Kevin sent us to pick you up.”
One of the men relieved her of her bags. Haze had an uneasy feeling as he watched the man who spoke lead her away by her elbow.
“Bye, Haze.” She smiled. “Nice to meet you.”
Haze faked a smile, but his gut told him that something was not right. He saw them open the backseat door for her and he started walking towards them. One of the men noticed and quickly got in with L’Wren and they hastily drove off. He memorized the license plate as he dialed Kevin. At the same time Chellon pulled up and Haze spotted Kevin’s vehicle in traffic several cars behind.
Haze dropped his bag and ran towards Kevin’s vehicle.
“Hey, man!” Chellon called as he got out of his vehicle.
Kevin spotted Haze and lowered the window on the passenger side. “What’s going on, Haze?”
“Two guys just grabbed your girl, I think.”
“You shitting me, right?” Kevin looked at him in disbelief.
Chellon caught up to them.
“Kevin, I’m dead serious.” Haze told them everything that happened and gave him the license plate of the vehicle, and Kevin sped off, honking his way through traffic.
“We should call the cops. I’ve got the license plate, they could help.” Haze looked for both vehicles, but they had already disappeared.
“No, man, Kevin’s got this,” Chellon replied. Just then an airport security guard started to hassle them about leaving their vehicle unattended.
Haze sat in his car outside of the high school that Adriana attended. He was early and classes were still in session. It made sense to him why she didn’t want to tell her parents about them. He’d also sensed that she was hiding something, and now he knew. All those months she’d played him for a fool. She made him fall in love with her. What kind of sick game was she playing?
He went over their times together and wondered if she had been honest with him but he heard what he wanted. Was he so desperate that he imagined that she was older than she really was? The bell rang and the girls came out in their uniforms. He saw them scatter off in different directions; then he spotted Adriana. She was in uniform, her raven hair was in a single long braid down to her waist, and her blue eyes shone as she talked and laughed with one of the girls. Haze looked at her as if seeing her for the first time. She looked fifteen; why didn’t he see it before?
Her smile disappeared when she spotted his Toyota Rav4.
“Haze.” She looked in through the passenger window.
“Get in. Your dad sent me to pick you up,” Haze said icily without looking at her.
Adriana got in and sat quietly. She placed her books on her lap and buckled her seatbelt. Haze drove off without saying a word.
The tension in the air was so thick that Adriana felt that she couldn’t breathe.
“My love, I can explain,” Adriana said quietly.
“Don’t call me that.” Haze gritted his teeth. “Don’t EVER call me that!”
“I’m sorry, Haze.” Adriana felt her heart ripping out of her chest. She had never seen him so angry.
“You lied to me, Adriana! For months you fucked with my feelings for your own personal enjoyment.”
“I love you,” she cried.
“Shut up! You don’t know what love is! I fucking loved you, Adriana!” A tear rolled down his cheek. “I wanted a life with you! I wanted a future with you!” He slammed his fist on the steering wheel.
Adriana saw his knuckles turn white as he gripped the steering wheel.
“Did you laugh at me? Did you tell your little friends what you were doing to me? Did you tell them that I almost fucked you?”
“Don’t say it like that! You make it sound dirty!” Adriana wept openly.
“I’m a pervert or pedophile.” More tears rolled down Haze’s cheeks.
“I lied because I love you, and I was afraid that if you knew the truth, you’d leave me.”
“Yeah? Well, I guess you’re right about something.”
“I don’t ever want to see you again, Adriana. When you get home, tell your parents I quit. Tell them why I quit; tell them YOU BROKE ME.” Haze pulled up to the curb in front of the gates of the manor.
“Haze, this can’t be over. Please, Haze, please try to understand,” Adriana pleaded. She tried to touch him, but he flinched.
“I can’t, I don’t want this to be over. You have to believe that I love you. I love you more than anything.”
“GET OUT, Adriana!” he shouted.
“NO! I’m not leaving. I don’t care who knows.”
Haze got out of his car and started walking down the street. Adriana got out and ran after him.
“I love you, Haze, please!” she cried and Haze turned away.
She stepped in front of him and forced him to look at her. “I know you love me. I know what we have is real.”
“It was all a lie.”
She held on to him. “No, baby, it wasn’t. I promise I’ll be good. I’ll tell you everything. I’ll never keep anything from you. I promise.”
Haze pried her away from him. “I have to go.” He walked back to his car and Adriana watched him drive away. She sank to the sidewalk and sobbed.
Bacchanal Jake’s would not be opened to the public for another eight hours. Among the upturned chairs and bar prep work still to be done, Kevin Banovic and Victoria Johansson went over the fine print of their new partnership. She was his new silent partner at Jake’s. She’d put up the money to buy him freedom from the organization they’d worked for. Now Kevin was free to run Jake’s as a legit operation, he could finally be the kind of man that L’Wren and his parents expected him to be.
“How does it feel, partner?” Victoria smiled.
“Thank you! I don’t know how to repay you.” Kevin hugged her.
“You’re my best friend, Kevin, that’s payback enough.”
They heard the front door open. “Love what you did to the place.”
Kevin recognized the voice instantly. It was a voice that he’d heard a million times over the phone, his worst nightmare.
Kevin charged violently towards the tall, handsome, dark-haired man in his mid-thirties. He stopped in his tracks when he heard two gun clicks. One from the bodyguard guarding the door and the other behind him, from Victoria.
Victoria had her gun pointed at the intruder and the bodyguard had his gun pointed at Kevin.
“I never miss,” she said seriously.
“Now, now, children, put your toys away.” The intruder looked at his bodyguard and he lowered his gun. “You too, quick-draw McGraw,” he directed at Victoria.
Victoria lowered her gun only when Kevin gave her the signal to.
“This is between me and my nep–” Before he could get the rest of the sentence out, Kevin rammed his fist into Adrian Banovic’s face, knocking him flat on his back before jumping on him and landing a few choice punches. Adrian blocked a few punches and managed to flip Kevin over. Both men jumped to their feet and sparred.
Blood poured from Adrian’s mouth. “Is this any way to greet your uncle?”
“You kidnapped my girlfriend!” Kevin lunged at him, but he moved out of the way.
“Grasshopper, I taught you better than that,” Adrian taunted.
“You’re right.” Kevin sideswiped him and landed his elbow on Adrian’s neck, taking him down to his knees. Kevin had him in a fierce headlock that prevented Adrian from moving without breaking his own spine.
“That’s enough!” Victoria shouted at them and Kevin released him.