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Tears Of Salvation: Chapter 24


“This feels familiar,” Demitri mutters as we sit in the safe house in Columbia again.

I held out a week before I followed Isabella, and now I’m back to square one, watching her.

I’m staring at the tracker that shows Isabella at her own safe house. Suddenly the marker begins to move, and I dart to my feet. “She’s on the move.”

Demitri gets up and follows me out of the house. He’s been glued to my side since I lost my shit, watching me like a damn hawk.

“I can go by myself,” I mention even though I know it’s pointless.

Demitri shakes his head and opens the passenger door. Once we’re inside the vehicle, he says, “Not with Sonia’s people crawling all over the place.”

Even though Sonia’s in hiding, business is continuing as always. She’s put a man named Oscar in charge. He’s the usual scum of the earth.

“You can’t throw a stone without hitting a cockroach around here,” I mutter.

I start the engine and then steer the SUV toward the vacated house where Isabella seems to be heading.

I park down the road from the vacated house where Isabella keeps her motorcycle so she won’t see us. We only have to wait a couple of minutes before a van pulls into the driveaway.

“That’s the same van we’ve seen at her safe house,” Demitri mentions.

Then both our heads tilt to the side as we watch two people get out of the vehicle. I grab the binoculars and bringing them to my eyes, I get a better look at the other person.

“Woman. Either late teens or early twenties,” I murmur. “Also Latino.”

Just then, a car turns up the street and dims its lights. “Fuck.”

Demitri and I move, rushing out of the SUV, and then I’m running straight for the car as I yank my gun from behind me. I raise my arms, and stopping in the middle of the road, I take aim. As soon as the fuckers are close enough, I fire a shot that shatters the windscreen.

Men spill from the vehicle, scattering like roaches. My barrel tracks the driver, and then I pull the trigger, dropping him to the pavement.

Demitri guns two down.

“Is that all of them?” I ask.

“Yes, but yours is still moving.”

“Just like a fucking cockroach. Chop off the head, and the fuckers still keep going,” I mutter as I stalk to where the man is trying to drag himself into the shadows. Coming up to him, I fire two more shots. “Die already.”

When I turn around, it’s to see Isabella walking into the road, her gun drawn and ready at her side. Seeing her is a sucker punch to my heart as I tuck my weapon into its place behind my back.

“What are you doing here?” she calls out.

“Making sure you’re safe,” I answer.

“You tracked me?”

I begin to walk toward her and only stop once I can see her clearly and am close enough to touch her. It doesn’t escape my attention that I don’t have a gun pointed at my chest.

Then a breeze picks up, and her scent washes over me, making my heart constrict.

“If you don’t want me knowing where you are, you should take off the engagement ring,” I say, praying she won’t.

Isabella lifts her left hand and looks at the ring. “Should’ve known.”

“And don’t forget the tracker on the motorcycle,” I add.

Isabella’s eyes snap to mine, and then we stare at each other.

“You look good,” I murmur.

“It’s only been a week.”

“A week too long.”

Isabella shakes her head at me. “You should leave.”

“Who’s the woman?”

“None of your business,” she bites out, instantly going on guard and giving me a look of warning.

Okay, it’s someone who means a lot to Isabella.

“I’m not leaving,” I say. “Sonia’s men know you’re here.”

“I can take care of myself.”

I nod. “I know, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not leaving.”

Isabella glares at me. “You’re infuriating.”

The corner of my mouth lifts. “So I’ve been told.”

She turns away from me and begins to walk back to the house.

For a moment, I hesitate, but then I call after her, “Isabella.”

She stops and gives me an annoyed look. “What is it now?”

Pushing through, I ask the question that’s been gnawing at my soul, “Did I force anything on you?”

Her eyes narrow on me, and it makes my heart stop, then she says, “You wouldn’t be alive if you did.”

My eyes drift shut as intense relief spreads through me.

“Go home, Alexei. I’ll meet you there before the attack.”

Opening my eyes, I focus on Isabella, and then honesty spills over my lips, “It’s not home without you.”

She looks at me for a moment longer, and then she disappears behind the van.

As I pass the house, I glance at the property, but there’s no sign of Isabella or the other woman.

When we get back to the SUV, I pick up the binoculars and scan over the property.

“She better get out of there before the cops come,” Demitri mentions.

“She should have another five minutes,” I say, and just then, the shed door opens, and Isabella pushes the motorcycle out. It takes her a while to kickstart the engine, and then she climbs on.

The van starts, and it has me saying, “I wonder who the other woman is. Isabella had a strong reaction when I brought her up.”

“Could be her partner,” Demitri guesses.

“Would explain what happened to the girls. The woman probably moved them before we got to the safe house.”

I begin to smile because it’s good to know Isabella’s not alone out there.

“Feel better?” Demitri asks.

“Yes. I needed to hear that from her,” I admit.

It also means I still have a chance to get Isabella back.





It’s been an agonizingly long week since I unexpectedly saw Alexei in Columbia.

‘It’s not home without you.’

I stare at the engagement ring on my finger. I’ve tried to take it off but couldn’t.

My thoughts are inundated with Alexei.

Who is he?

The ruthless head of the bratva? The assassin who kills without a second thought?

Or the man who looked at me with devotion while he worshipped my body?

I’m still struggling to align the devil with the man I fell in love with.

Maybe it wasn’t all a lie?

Maybe… just maybe, Alexei does love me?

What will you do then, Isabella?

I shake my head.

“Let’s go for a walk on the beach,” Ana suddenly says. “The fresh air will be good for you.”

Nodding, I climb to my feet, and as I leave the house with Ana, the thoughts of Alexei follow me.

It’s time for Ana and me to head to LA. The shipment of weapons Alexei ordered must’ve arrived by now.

As we reach the stretch of sand, I don’t even glance at the waves lapping at the shore.

“We need to travel to LA,” I say.

Ana’s quiet for a moment. “Are you sure we can trust them not to kill us the moment we’re there?”

I think for a while, and no matter what scenario runs through my mind, the end is always the same. “Alexei won’t hurt us.”

“He’s already hurt you,” she mutters.

“Not physically.” I glance at Ana. “We’ll be safe. I won’t let anything happen to you.”

A smile tugs at her lips. “I know.”

For a while, we walk in silence until Ana picks a spot to sit down. I make myself comfortable next to her and glance around us to make sure we’re safe before I turn my gaze to the clear blue water.

Ana begins to draw random patterns in the sand, and keeping her eyes lowered from mine, she admits, “I thought you were an angel.”

I frown, but she doesn’t see it.

“When you… when you pulled him off me, I thought you were an angel that came to take me to heaven.”

Goosebumps spread over my skin as my eyes lock on Ana’s face.

This is the first time she’s brought up that night, and I’m holding my breath, hoping she’ll continue and purge the burden weighing so heavy on her.

“I lived with my mother in San Antero. Men broke in, and… they just shot my mother before we even had time to process they were in the house.” Ana’s voice lowers to a whisper. “That’s when I was taken.”

Feeling Ana’s sorrow, I want to hold her, but I keep still, not wanting her to stop talking.

She lets out a sigh. “It feels like another life… the time I had with my mother.”

Unable to stop myself, I place a hand on her back. Ana leans into me, and resting her head against my shoulder, she stares at the ocean.

“I didn’t know this part of the world existed. I didn’t know there was such horror out there.”

I move my hand to her arm and give her a squeeze.

Then Ana’s body shudders, and she lets out a sob. When she turns and buries her face against me, I wrap my arms around her and press my mouth to her hair.

“I can’t… I can’t even think of it,” she cries.

“Shhh… it’s okay.” I brush a hand up and down her back.

Ana pulls away, and her tearful eyes meet mine. “I can’t lose you, Isabella. You’re all I have, all that stands between me and the demons.”

I lift my hands to her cheeks, framing her face, and then I look deep into her heartbreaking gaze. “You won’t lose me. I’ll always protect you.”

Ana hugs me, and then she whispers, “I love you.”

My eyes drift shut as her words piece some of my heart back together again. “I love you too.”

It’s the first time I’ve said those words to a person, and no one’s more deserving than the woman I call my sister.

“If we really need to go to LA, I’ll go. I’ll follow you wherever you go,” she says as she wipes her cheeks. Then, taking a deep breath, she admits, “I trust you.”

My lips curve into a smile, and then a weird sensation skitters down my spine. I glance around us for the source.

It could be Alexei.

Not wanting to take the chance, I get up and help Ana to her feet. “Time to go back. We’ve been out here for too long.”

I keep glancing around us as we quickly walk toward the house.

“Something wrong?” Ana asks, her eyes darting around us.

“No, I’m just being careful,” I answer. “Don’t worry.” As I say the words, I move my right hand behind my back, and my fingers wrap around the hilt of the gun.

I place my left hand on Ana’s back so I can grab hold of her if we’re suddenly attacked.

My senses are on high alert until I finally push Ana into the house, sealing the security door shut.

“What’s going on?” Ana asks.

I shake my head.” I’m not sure. It could just be Alexei watching us.” I head to the basement and bring up the security cameras we have around the property.

Ana and I take a seat, and then we wait to see if anyone approaches the house.

Not even seconds later, a car slowly passes by the front of the house, and then three men approach from the side.

Ana stiffens next to me, her voice fearful as she whispers, “Isabella.”

I get up, pulling my gun from behind me. “Seal the door behind me.”

“Wait!” Ana points at the screen.

My eyes snap to the monitor. One man’s already down, and I watch as another drops. The third begins to run but doesn’t make it far before he slumps to the ground.


Just then, movement by the wall grabs my attention, and I watch as Alexei jumps over, running for the security door.

My body moves, and I race up the stairs. I slam into the security door, then quickly put in the code to open it, and then Alexei fills the narrow hallway, shoving the door shut.

His eyes lock on mine. “We have to move. Now. Demitri’s holding them off.”

“Ana!” I shout as I turn to run back to her. “We need to leave. Clear the systems.”

Alexei grabs hold of my arm, and then I’m yanked to his chest, and his arms wrap around me. I hear him take a deep breath, and he presses his mouth to my temple. Precious seconds pass before he lets go of me.

His hand lingers on my arm as our eyes meet, and the sight of him alone rips through my heart, never mind feeling his touch.

Then he gently nudges me. “Go.”

I dart away from him, and as I race down the stairs, Ana looks at me, stark panic on her face as she feverishly types to wipe the computers clean.

“It’s going to be okay,” I assure her as I grab my backpack, shrugging it on. I check the clips of my Heckler & Koch and Glock, then set the timer for a device that will initiate a fire to burn the house down.

“What can I do?” Alexei suddenly asks, and Ana startles so bad, she forgets about the system and jumps up from the chair.

I hold up a hand to stop Alexei from moving and approach Ana. Her eyes dart to my face. “It’s okay. Alexei won’t hurt you.” I pat against my chest. “I’m here.”

Ana darts away from the wall toward me, and a second later, she comes to a skidding stop next to me, grabbing hold of my shirt at my side. Her fingers dig tightly into the fabric.

I walk to the system and finish the shutdown procedure, then turn to Alexei. “You just startled her.”

Alexei’s eyes move to Ana. “Nice to finally meet you, little one.”

Ana just nods, her eyes locked on my side.

“I love a reunion as much as the next person, but we really have to get out of here.”

I activate the timer, then help Ana put on her backpack. “Stay behind me,” I say, and she nods. “If anything happens to me, you run as fast as you can.”

Ana’s face pales, and then she meets my eyes and shakes her head.

I don’t have time to argue with her as we rush to follow Alexei back to the security door. “Is it clear, Demitri?”

I can’t hear Demitri’s response, but then Alexei gestures to the door. “Open it.”

I do as he says, and as we abandon the last safe house I had, the realization hits that even after everything, I still trust Alexei.


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