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ON THE RUN SERIES
#1 Outside the Lines (Robert & Adri)
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I want Lee to know, no matter where she goes, I will find her.
At the thought of her betrayal, rage rises up and wraps like an iron cloak around my heart, threatening to crush any bit of humanity left there. I close my eyes and hold my breath until it passes.
And I see her as she was before everything that came after—that first day of business law class at Kellogg, nearly two years ago.
She was starting her first year. I was in my second. I was already seated near Angela Bagglio, who I had a passing interest in due to her loose family ties to the Delgado organization. Her brother was a wiseguy wannabe, little more than a glorified gofer within the Delgado machine. But I’d discovered, sometimes it was the smallest details that led to the largest victories.
When Lee Delgado sashayed into the classroom, I’d like to say I was unaffected. I’d like to believe I was in complete control of everything that happened then and after.
But I’d be kidding myself.
Her bright hazel eyes surveyed the room, and when they caught for a second as they passed over me, I felt a shift in gravity itself. There were times reading nuances in expressions and actions was all that came between me and a slug in my head. That hitch in her perusal of the room left no doubt she was aware who I was.
From that second on, I was helpless to take my eyes off her.
Her sandy brown waves cascaded over the shoulders of her cream-colored silk blouse to an open collar that hung loose, revealing a hint of cleavage. Her burgundy pencil skirt hugged the round curves of her hips and ass and ended above the knee, giving me a glimpse of a pair of toned thighs and calves. She had a killer body and knew it. I had to respect a woman who knew her strengths and wasn’t afraid to use them to her advantage.
She took a seat in my row, but on the opposite side of the classroom. I was barely coherent when the professor started lecturing. I couldn’t tell you the first thing he said.
As she listened, she lifted a hand and combed through her waves with her fingers, separating out a strand and twirling it around her finger. A rush shuddered from my tailbone up my spine to my brain, and even though I had no clue why, that was the moment I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay away.
The rest, as they say, is history.
If she thinks she can hide from me, she’s got another thing coming.
Mob controlled gambling has always been a huge racket, with better payouts because we don’t pay taxes like the legal betting sites. Back in the day, bookies were involved and actual cash changed hands. Now nearly everything is electronic. Bets are collected directly from our clients’ online accounts and payouts are distributed back into them. Payout is calculated after each event based on outcome versus the spread. It’s one of the parts of my job that I truly enjoy. I’m always in the program, tweaking and modifying. But, suddenly, the week before Christmas, two days after Lee and I returned from our weekend in Aspen, I noticed the spread didn’t factor anymore and our payouts went through the roof. I thought maybe I’d screwed something up and tried to get into the program to check it. Ended up throwing my laptop against the wall when my pass code wouldn’t get me in.
It took me the next two days, and the fact that Lee wasn’t answering my texts or calls, to put together what had happened. Though I’m not sure exactly how she managed it, I know it had to have been her who hacked into my program and changed the payout ratios. I’ve looked at it from every angle and there are no other feasible possibilities. And it makes sense. I had an ulterior motive when we started hooking up, and I had no doubt she had one of her own. But as we got deeper into each other, things shifted and I lost focus. I let down my guard and gave her too much, and she took advantage of the opening.
I knew I wouldn’t be seeing her over the holidays because her siblings were all coming back to the family home in Wilmette, just outside of Chicago, for Christmas. It took me another day to decide I had no choice but to go there.
But when I got to the house, the place was swarming with cops and Feds, and yellow police tape was strung across the pillars at the front door. The reports the next day said it was believed the Delgados had fled to Europe after a “gangland style attack” on their home.
The online gambling leg of our business has been bleeding cash at the rate of nearly a hundred grand a month since Lee fucked with the program. Every month it gets worse as word spreads of our big payouts. The guy who designed and encrypted the program is dead; a casualty of my father’s wrath when he made the mistake of telling Victor he’d corrected a system glitch that had cost us a couple hundred grand over the first year of implementation. I’ve done everything I can to break Lee’s pass code, but considering the illegal nature of the account, and the fact that I couldn’t enlist anyone who might report back to Victor what happened, my resources to resolve the issue have been severely limited.
So I put my time and energy into another avenue. Finding Lee.
Like everyone else in Chicago, I assumed that my father was responsible for the contract on Lee and her family. I talked to his guys. Tried to see if any of them had a bead on the Delgados’ location. I couldn’t find anyone who was even looking.
So, as much as I dreaded it, I went straight to the source.
I was dead to my father. He’d made that clear. But that day, for the first time since I’d crossed him, Victor looked at me with pride in his eyes when he asked, “You purchase that special delivery for our friends up in Wilmette?”
And that’s when I knew it wasn’t us. It’s also when I knew I was a dead man unless I could find a way out of this mess on my own.
So I looked harder for Lee, dug a little deeper into the Delgado family tree. I didn’t find her, but I managed to stumble on some other useful information during my search. And then, finally, the stroke of luck that led me here: Rob showing up in Chicago.
I’ve been able to keep everything under the rug since she left, but underground betting has always been the Savoca business’s bread and butter. If Victor or anyone else in the organization discovers the hemorrhage of cash that our gambling ring has become, it’s my head my loving pop will want on a spike.
I told the guys I had some personal business in Vegas; gave Al a direct order to park his ass at my apartment and not to move until I got back. I took a flight to Vegas, and from there, traveled to Florida on an ID I pinched off of a guy we rolled in Little Italy for not making book. He’s dead now, courtesy of Al, so he won’t be divulging my alter ego to anyone.
My family doesn’t know this particular alias. They’d have a hard time tracking me. Once I find Lee, things should move pretty fast. But I have to find her first.
So here I am.