I had once thought that my life was the comic relief for the universe. Today, I was positive I had been right in my line of thinking. It was the only way to explain how I ended up sitting on the floor of my favorite Thai restaurant, surrounded by armed men and hostages.
It was my anniversary after all.
Every year for the last three years—four if you count the actual day I had met Lt. Salvador Delvecchio and he decided to keep me—something occurred that fucked up us spending our anniversary together.
On our first anniversary, Sal had been sucked into going undercover. To give the man some due, he had thought our anniversary was a week later than it actually was. That hadn't been the problem. That, I would have understood. It was him trying to hide what he was doing from me that caused our world to turn upside down.
He never made that mistake again.
Last year, Sal had been hurt on the job while chasing a perp. I had been hurt while trying to protect him, and then things got really interesting.
This time around, I had planned to skip all the bells and whistles—or sheer fabric shirt and g-string, in our case—and just let whatever happened happen.
This was not what I had in mind.
I glanced to the brown haired man sitting to my left. His blue eyes were as round as they could be, watching every little thing our captors did. With Lyn Philips being a police officer and all, that kind of made sense. He was probably watching so he could give a good statement later and help take down the bad guys.
A quick glance to my right showed that my other friend wasn't so wide eyed. In fact, his eyes were narrowed into tiny little slits. I had a sinking feeling he was seething with anger. That too made sense. Eddie Wu tended to get angry when people tried to cage him in. More than one idiot had learned that the hard way.
I was afraid these morons were going to learn it, too.
I just wasn't sure if it was going to be the SWAT unit Sal belonged to that was going to teach them that valuable lesson or the "alleged" mobsters that kept Eddie safe that were going to do it. Either way, these bumbling idiots didn't have a chance in hell.
My eyes rounded and snapped to the three armed men when my phone suddenly started playing the theme song from "Bad Boys". It was stereotypical to have that as Sal's ringtone, but "I want to sex you up" wasn't exactly appropriate.
I winced when the song snippet played again and again, drawing more attention than I really wanted at the moment.
I jumped and cringed back when one of the gunmen stopped in front of me. I wanted to reach up and break off the finger he pointed at me.
I swallowed tightly, the ball of nerves clogging my throat making it hard to breathe.
"Hurry the hell up!" the masked man snapped when I didn't move fast enough.
When he waved his very large, very black automatic rifle at me, I scrambled to my feet. I had seen enough weapons in my time to know that this idiots gun could not only take me out if fired, but half the hostages in the place.
"Give me your phone."
I pulled it out of my pocket.
"Will I get it back?" I asked as I gripped it tightly in my hand, not handing it over. I liked my phone. Sal had given it to me. It was neon green. "Because it has all my pictures and stuff on it, not to mention my phone numbers, and god knows I can't remember a phone number to save my life. It's just so much easier dialing one or two or seven or whatever. Don't you think?"
The dark eyes visible through the small round holes in the guy's mask widened briefly before filling with anger.
I always expect violence to happen when I'm being held hostage—or kidnapped or attacked by hit men or driving a car—but then when it does, I'm still surprised. When the man pistol whipped me across the face, I cried out, grabbing at my cheek, which hurt like hell.
A shaft of pain ripped through the side of my face, and for a moment, I wondered if my jaw was broken. I opened my mouth wide, feeling my jaw pop. Okay. Maybe not broken, but damn, it hurt.
I stared at him. Hard. "Why'd you do that? I was going to give you my phone."
My opinion of the man's manners didn't get any better when he grabbed me and dragged me over to the hostess counter where his two friends were standing. I much preferred the floor with the other hostages.
Well, truthfully, I preferred my penthouse, but I didn't think I was going to get my wish there, and it wasn't like I was going to invite these yahoos back to play Parcheesi.
"What is your name?" the man I thought of as the "chief asshole" asked.
Well, he kind of demanded.
That's what it said on my driver's license, and I had no problem sharing that bit of information. I was proud to be Lany Delvecchio. It was better than Lancaster Harris III, the name I had been born with.
Sal had christened me Lany when we met. He had made me a Delvecchio when we got married three years ago.
I went by nothing else.
Well, I went by caro, too, but only for Sal. And my parents and uncle called me Junior. I hated it, but long ago accepted it.
My eyes popped wider when the man held my cell phone out to me. I started to reach for it, but then paused, the wheels in my brain working over time. Hell, they were practically leaving skid marks.
"He just took my phone from me." I nodded to Mr. Meany. "Why are you giving it back?"
"I want you to make a little phone call."
"Oh hell no!" I took two steps back before spinning and running back over to where Eddie and Lyn sat. There was no way I was going to be the go between for these idiots.
As big as their guns were, Sal's were bigger.
"Hey!" the chief idiot shouted. "Get your ass back here."
I jumped when the man fired off a round into the ceiling, but that didn't stop me from returning to my spot on the floor.
They might have been idiots, but I wasn't.
I rolled my eyes at Eddie and Lyn as I crawled between them and sat down.
"I'm gonna shoot your ass if you don't get back here."
I shook my head vehemently. "Then you're just going to have to shoot me. I'm not making that phone call."
"He wants you to make a phone call?" Lyn asked.
"But he just took your phone."
"I know, right?"
It was nice to know I wasn't the only one that saw that as weird.
And somewhat counterproductive.
Just how unprofessional were these guys?
"Who does he want you to call?" Eddie asked.
I just stared at the man.
Eddie's eyes rounded as he sucked in a quick breath. "Oh no, you can't do that."
Chief Idiot stopped in front of me. I swallowed tightly when he pointed the barrel of his gun down at me. He held my cell phone in the other hand.
I shook my head. "I'm not making that phone call."
"Do you understand that I have a gun pointed at your head?" As if to prove his point, the guy pressed the end of the barrel to my forehead.
Tears sprouted to my eyes. As brave as I tried to sound, I wasn't. I was shaking in my Dolce & Gabbana boots. They had been a present from my mother. They were slate gray.
I tiled my head back just far enough to see into the guy's eyes, which was all I could see of him through his mask. "I do understand that you have a gun and I don't want to die, but if you force me to make that phone call, somebody is going to die and it's not going to be me."
"Well, I can't make that phone call," Eddie insisted when the masked man glanced at him. "This place would turn into World War III. No one would survive." Eddie shrugged. "Well, I would, but it's doubtful anyone else would."
He was probably right.
"I'm not making it," Lyn insisted. "Can you imagine the ribbing the guys would give me if I had to call in a hostage situation? I'd never live it down."
Lyn was right. He'd get a lot of shit if he was the go-between in a hostage situation. The guys on Sal's SWAT team were great guys, but they were still guys. The brain to mouth filter didn't always work.
"Somebody is going to make this fucking phone call or people are going to start getting fucking shot. Now, who the hell is it going to be?"
Okay, the chief idiot was pissed. I got that, but really... "Do you talk to your mother with that mouth?"
"Yeah, he does," replied one of the gunman.
Good god, it was a woman under that mask.
"He's been swearing like that since he was five years old."
I blinked up at the chief idiot. "Dude."
Eyes so narrow, Lany could see them through the mask, the gunman waved his gun around. "Why are we even discussing this? I want someone to make this fucking phone call."
"Ask nicely," Lyn said.
"And apologize to your mother," I insisted as nodded my head toward the masked female. "You should be ashamed of yourself, talking like that in front of a lady."
The woman in the mask snickered.
The gunman raged, turned the gun and shot Eddie in the leg.
"Eddie!" I rolled to my hands and knees and started putting pressure on the bleeding wound. "Lyn, I need something to stop the bleeding."
"On it." Lyn jumped up and raced to the back of the restaurant despite the three gunman standing there.
"You're going to be okay, Eddie." He had to be. As son of one of the city's—allegedly—most notorious mobsters, not to mention nephew of another prominent—but also alleged—mobster, if he died, there wouldn't be a sidewalk in the city that was safe.
Eddie wasn't crying, but I could see that he wanted to. His lips were pressed together so tightly, they were white. His hands were clenched.
"It doesn't look like it hit the bone." I hoped that would make Eddie feel better. "It's a through and through."
"This is going to screw up my art show next week."
"Oh, Lyn and I can help," I said quickly at the fallen look on Eddie's face.
It was an art show. How hard could it be? It wasn't like we had to paint the damn things.
"Hey!" Chief Idiot shouted. "You do remember who has the gun here, right?"
"Man, you screwed the pooch this time, dude." I shot the gunman my dirtiest glare. "We tried to warn you, but you just had to go and prove how much of an idiot you were, didn't you?"
"Who the fuck are you?"
I didn't have the time to explain it.
"Give me my phone." I held out my hand until the guy handed it over. I knew he expected me to call the police negotiator, blah, blah, blah.
He was in for a big disappointment.
I dialed the one person I knew who could save us all.
Sal was good like that.
"Hey." Crap, he was mad. I could hear it in his voice. "So, these guys in here are really stupid. They shot Eddie."
I glanced up when Lyn came running back with some towels. The man slid to a stop next to us and dropped the towels into a pile on the floor next to Eddie. I immediately grabbed a couple and applied pressure to the bullet wound.
"Have you been injured, Lany?" There was a thread of violence in that question.
"No, I'm okay." Sal worried.
I frowned when my smile sent a wave of pain through my cheek. "The guy did pistol whip me, but I don't think anything is broken."
"Which one hit you?"
"Um..." I glanced over. All of the gunman were wearing the same gray zip up overalls and black knit ski masks. I'm sure they felt that would keep their identities secret.
Like I said, idiots.
"I think he's the brother of the chief idiot. He's shorter than the main guy, but not the female, who is the mother of the chief idiot, so this might be a family endeavor."
That was my Sal, a man of few words.
"He wanted me to call and negotiate, but I didn't think that was a good idea. Then he shot Eddie, so all bets are off." I glared up at the gunman who was staring at me with wide eyes. "You can come in and shoot them now."
"We'll be right in, caro."
I hung up my cell and slid it into my pocket.
"It's okay, Eddie. Sal and the others will be right here."
"Good," Eddie gritted out through his clenched teeth.
"Lyn, would you make sure everyone is sitting on the floor by the wall, hands clasped on top of their heads? I don't want anyone hurt in the crossfire."
"I'll take care of it," Lyn said as he got to his feet and hurried over to where the other hostages were sitting. Within moments he had them moving back against the far wall.
It wasn't rocket science. SWAT, a pissed off husband, and guys with guns. Someone was going to get hurt. I wanted to make sure those that needed not to get hurt, didn't. Those that needed a serious time out were on their own.
"Stop!" The head gunman shot into the ceiling. Again.
"Would you knock that off," I griped when one of the female hostages cried out. "You're scaring people."
The guy waved his hands wide. "This is a fucking hostage situation. What part of that don't you understand? I am the one with the gun. I give the orders. You follow them. That's how hostage situations work."
I rolled my eyes dramatically.
"Why are you not listening to me?" The guy stomped his foot. "I have a gun. You're supposed to be scared."
He seemed totally confused as to why Lyn, Eddie, and I weren't trembling in the corner along with the other hostages.
Lany pointed to the rather large SWAT commander who stepped into the restaurant behind the gunman. "He's scarier than you are."