Author: C.J. Roberts

“Admitting you want Rafiq out of your way doesn’t give me a reason to trust you,” Caleb said in hushed tones. “Why would you need me to do your dirty work?”

“Appearances, Caleb; they’re everything. I’ve had plans to get rid of Rafiq cleanly, without inciting the loyalty of our mutual friends. However, I’ve been watching you…and the girl. I know what love can do to a man and I know how desperate you are.”

“Fuck you! I’m not desperate!”

“Aren’t you? I wasn’t sure at first. When you allowed the girl to play at my party, I thought your loyalty to Rafiq knows no bounds. But I saw how it affected you, how jealous you became. I know you took her virginity. Did you think you found all the cameras?” Felipe smiled smugly. “I didn’t have to come to you, Caleb. I’ve put myself and Celia in a compromising situation and I don’t do it lightly. I’m offering you vengeance. I’m offering you a chance to live out your days with Kitten. Do you want it, or not?”

Caleb thought about everything Felipe said. Felipe knew everything between him and Livvie and hadn’t said a word. Caleb knew nothing about Felipe’s plans until now and the fact he’d offered the information himself only solidified his trustworthiness. Caleb had nothing left to lose and everything to gain. “Lead the way,” he said.

As Caleb followed Felipe down the dark wooden stairs, he contemplated pushing him. However, he’d made up his mind to hear what the man had to say. He could always kill him after. Caleb reached for the light and turned it on as they descended.

He thought of the last time he had been down here. He’d strapped Kitten to an exam table and watched her play with her pussy. He smiled to himself.

When they arrived at the bottom, Felipe pointed to a chair near the wall. “I’ll need you to sit there and I’ll need to tie you up.”

Caleb’s steps faltered and he reached for his knife. He held it out in front of him, blocking the stairs, “You’ve lost your fucking mind if you think I’m going to let you tie me up.”

“Don’t be a child! Your anger makes you stupid and I don’t need you acting rashly. What I have to tell you is going to boil your blood and I can’t have you loose in the house!” Felipe shouted.

“Tell me what you have to say! Or you die now! I’m tired of your games, Felipe,” Caleb said.

Felipe’s eyes shone with fury as he held up his hands and backed away from Caleb. Abruptly, he reached behind him and pulled out his gun. “Sit. Now.”

Adrenaline surged through Caleb’s veins, but he knew he was at a disadvantage. He’d played directly into Felipe’s hands. He weighed his options and was horrified to discover they were few and ended in his death. His only true concern was for Livvie.

“Swear to me the girl is safe,” Caleb whispered and he realized it sounded like a plea. It had been a long time since Caleb had begged for anything.

Nothing left to lose, Caleb. Fuck your pride.

“I swear it,” Felipe said evenly.

Caleb swallowed, “You can keep the gun on me. There’s no need to tie me up.”

“Come inside and sit down. I’ll leave you free, but if you attempt to get by me, I will shoot you, Caleb. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” Caleb said and did as Felipe asked.

“Did Rafiq ever tell you how his mother and sister died?” Felipe asked.

Caleb’s heart felt like it might burst clear out of his chest. His mind was fixated on Livvie, on seeing her again, on getting her to safety. Felipe’s questions seemed strange and Caleb suddenly wished he’d never agreed to listen. “Vladek killed them.”

“Did you never wonder why?”

Caleb had wondered, many times, but Rafiq had explained it all away by saying Vladek had been a criminal, simply passing through and fixated on his sister. “Get to the point!”

Felipe sighed heavily, “Very well. Rush me if you must, but keep your mouth shut and listen. Rafiq killed them.”

Caleb’s face contorted in disbelief, “You’re lying!” He stood and took a step forward. He stopped when Felipe drew the hammer back on his revolver.

“Sit down! It’s only the beginning,” Felipe’s accent was thicker when he was angry. Caleb sat. “I met Rafiq and Vladek in the 80’s. The two of them were dealing in stockpiled Russian weapons. My boss at the time was accepting shipments from them in exchange for cocaine and heroin. Over the years, all of us became…friends. Rafiq and Vladek were especially close.”

Caleb felt dizzy, but he maintained his bearing.

“The stockpile eventually dwindled, but by then, Vladek had become the heir to his father’s company in Russia. His father and brothers…met with an unfortunate accident. Anyway, things were good for a while, but nothing good lasts forever, as they say.”

“Again!” Caleb shouted, “Get to the fucking point!”

Felipe smiled, “I’m tempted to put a bullet in you, Caleb. Shut up!”

“Rafiq’s father died, leaving him in charge of his mother and sister. Rafiq loved them very much and doted on them, especially his sister, A’noud. We were all young men, then. Young men are stupid. Vladek stuck his dick where it didn’t belong.”

Caleb felt as though he’d been hit by lightning. “Rafiq’s sister,” Caleb said. Memories were strange. No matter how much time elapsed, or how a memory could change, a person still trusted their own mind. Caleb, the boy, had trusted Rafiq implicitly. It only made sense for Caleb, the man, to trust him as well. Still, the information, while surprising, was not damning or life changing. Caleb could understand why Rafiq would be angry.

“Yes,” Felipe said. “When Rafiq discovered his sister was pregnant and Vladek was the father, he strangled his sister in a murderous rage.”

“I don’t believe you!” Caleb hissed. Rafiq wouldn’t murder his own family, no matter how angry he might have been.

“Don’t interrupt!” Felipe said. “It will all make sense to you in a few minutes. Rafiq’s mother tried to protect her, and she met the same fate. Rafiq was riddled with guilt and he blamed Vladek. Rafiq was out to find him, but Vladek was gone, so he went after their business contacts.”

“How do you know all this?” Caleb asked. He was increasingly suspicious.

“My boss wouldn’t help him, so he came to me. In exchange for what I knew, he helped me rise to power. I’ve always been an opportunist, Caleb. I thought he would lie in wait for Vladek, but what he did instead was…. Well, I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Caleb snorted, “I still don’t see what this has to do with me. Rafiq lost his temper – he wasn’t himself. Vladek still deserves to die.”

“It has a great deal to do with you, Caleb,” Felipe said.

Caleb studied Felipe and the unease in his eyes set the hair on Caleb’s body on edge. “What did he do?” Caleb asked, and for the first time, a tendril of pure fear raced down his spine.

“Vladek had been a bit of a ladies’ man. Women swooned over his blond hair and blue eyes, but I remembered he once spoke longingly about an American woman he’d met at college. She’d left him suddenly and V had said she was the one who got away. I pointed Rafiq toward her.” Felipe paused, apparently lost in thought.

Caleb had heard enough. Felipe had said nothing to sway Caleb’s loyalty and Livvie was waiting upstairs. Their time together had dwindled to a few precious hours and he was done wasting them. “So, Rafiq was a killer long before I knew him. So what?” Caleb stood, “Keep your secrets, Felipe. And keep mine as well, at least until tomorrow night. I promise to do the same.”

“She had a son!” Felipe spat. “The splitting image of Vladek: blond hair, blue eyes.”

Caleb slowly sat back down. He swallowed bile and broke out in a cold sweat. He didn’t want to hear anymore. “Wait. Stop.” He waved his arm.

“No one knew. Not even, Vladek, I think. When Rafiq couldn’t find Vladek, he went after the boy as a means to flush Vladek out.”

Not fucking true. He’s lying, Caleb. Kill him. He’s lying!

Felipe didn’t relent, “Vladek went deep into hiding. He had heard about A’noud and knew Rafiq was searching for him. He never came to claim his son, even after Rafiq put him to work in a brothel.”

“Stop!” Caleb said.

“No!” Felipe insisted, “The truth, Caleb. Hear it.”

“It doesn’t make any sense! He’s the one who saved me,” Caleb insisted.

“All he’s done is claim Vladek’s son for his own and use him to carry out his ultimate revenge,” Felipe whispered.

Blond hair. Blue eyes.

Images of Vladek flashed through Caleb’s mind. He was older, and his hair had turned grey, but his eyes were blue.

He’s Russian! They all have blue eyes!

Caleb had always wondered why he’d been taken. Why he’d been dragged so far away from home to be a whore. Why Rafiq would save him and not the others. Why?

“You’re saying…” Caleb couldn’t get the rest out. It was too unspeakable to even consider what Felipe was saying. Caleb’s chest felt tight and his stomach churned.

“He left you there, Caleb. You were his revenge. Everyone knew it. The war came and he left you there to rot. No one crossed Rafiq after that, not once they knew what he was capable of. Even criminals love their families, their children.”

Caleb felt himself burst open like a dam. Every emotion, every memory involving Rafiq sifted through his mind. There was nothing Rafiq wouldn’t do to have his revenge. Nothing. Caleb fell to his knees and vomited. For the first time in years, Caleb cried. He couldn’t stop. He screamed and he cried. He heaved for breath.

He rescued me. He clothed me. He fed me. He calls me brother.

“Liar!” Caleb cried. He reached for his knife and lunged toward Felipe, intent on cutting out his lying tongue.

Chapter Twenty-Three

Caleb woke. His head hurt, but it was nothing compared to the pain inside his chest. He pushed himself back onto his heels and raised a hand to his head. It came away bloody. He stared at the blood on his hand. There had been so much blood on Caleb’s hands over the years.

He sobbed.

“He left you there, Caleb. You were his revenge. Everyone knew it. The war came and he left you there to rot. No one crossed Rafiq after that, not once they knew what he was capable of. Even criminals love their families, their children.”

He wanted to tell himself there was absolutely no truth to what Felipe had told him, but he had to admit…it was possible. Rafiq had lied to him about how he knew Vladek. With all he and Rafiq had shared, Caleb couldn’t think of a reason for Rafiq to keep such a thing from him. Unless he had a very good reason.

Vladek is my father.

Caleb shook his head. He couldn’t think about that.

He looked around the room and saw it was empty; Felipe was gone. Caleb had gone toward him with his knife, intent on killing him, but his anger had made him sloppy and Felipe had struck him with the gun. The fact he didn’t shoot Caleb only gave him more credibility.

Caleb wished he’d pulled the trigger, but he knew why Felipe had left him alive. He wanted Caleb to find Rafiq.

No! I can’t.

He hunched over, the pain was too much to bear. There was no way he could possibly survive this betrayal. His entire life had been a lie. He had not been abandoned. He had not been rescued. He’d been taken from a mother who loved him and had tried to protect him by running away from Vladek. He’d been kidnapped by the only real father he’d ever known.


Rafiq had cared for him. He’d taught him how to read, how to speak five languages. Rafiq had stayed up late and spoken with Caleb because he’d known about the nightmares Caleb used to have when he went to bed alone. He’d taught him how to defend himself. And the entire time….