Book 6 in the 82nd Street Vandals Series
This series must be read in chronological order, to avoid spoilers
The mute twin.
The strange brother.
The broken one.
I’d been called so many names over the years. None of them mattered. My mirror cared more than I did. But he never treated me as less. None of them did. My brothers were the Vandals. They didn’t always understand, but they never judged and they always had my back.
I would always have theirs.
They were my life until Starling came to us. Quiet. Hurt. Broken. Those words were tossed around along with stubborn, fierce, impossible, and beautiful. I’d studied her from afar for years, but to have her close changed everything.
Trust. Acceptance. Understanding.
She colored in all my missing pieces. My other half needed her too. We all did. She fought her way back to us, continues to fight to stay, and more she fights for us.
My name is Rome Cleary. Starling is ours. She has always been a part of us, even when she didn’t know our names. We will always come for our own.
Book 6 in the 82nd Street Vandals Series
The warehouse was busy—busier than I’d seen it in a while. There were trucks parked inside and out. Rats were moving to offload. There were stacked pallets waiting to be loaded. The doors were wide open, letting in the cold air, but the sun was shining and it was kind of a perfect day.
Rats had died that day and it had shifted the atmosphere around all of them. Liam had paid for their funerals. He’d also given money to the only one who also had a family; it turned out he’d had a girl and she was pregnant.
That just made me feel awful. Rome tugged my hand when I drifted, pulling me back to the present. He nodded toward his new vehicle and ushered me into it. They all seemed to have new cars, but I also thought this might be one of Liam’s. It was an SUV and in the same dark blue as one of his sports cars.
“Do I get to know where we’re going?”
Rome studied me for a beat. “Can it be a surprise?”
He nodded, then we were pulling out and driving. We didn’t stay close; in fact, he pulled out onto the highway like Jasper had when we were going to the resort. Then again, he’d also mentioned Liam, so maybe we were going to meet him.
That could be fun.
The sun filling the car was actually kind of nice, and I closed my eyes, soaking it up. When we slowed down, I lifted my head to see where we were. He’d chosen an exit that was away from the city. Not quite the suburbs, like where Ms. Stephanie lived, and not the coast, where Jasper and I had gone.
We passed a lot of storefronts. A couple were really cute, like something out of an old movie’s main street. When we finally pulled off, we went through an entrance into what looked like an old circus or carnival. I suppose they weren’t traveling.
“Liam bought it,” Rome said and I blinked.
“He bought the fairgrounds.” He pointed to a long wall with brought colors painted all along it. “First place that paid me to paint.”
“That’s yours?” It was gorgeous. The wall had to be several yards long. Every inch of it was painted with people, balloons, families, and more.
Then his smile faded as wheels squealed over the cracked black top. He jerked his gaze upwards, then ahead, as a half dozen cars surrounded us forcing him to slam on the brakes.
He frowned as he stared out at the people exiting the vehicles. Men mostly, all dressed in black suits and black ties. All wearing sunglasses and armed to the teeth—or at least brandishing guns. It was like something out of a movie, only we were right in the middle of it.
“Get out of the car, O’Connell,” one of the men shouted. “Now.”
Glancing behind us, I stared at the equal number of people who were now pointing those guns at us. The man in front raised his gun, and it was locked on Rome.
“Don’t make me repeat myself.” His voice carried a vaguely encouraging note, almost ominous in its intensity. Did he want us to run? Or did he just want to shoot us?
Rome cocked his head to the side, his gaze fixed on the guy speaking. Made sense, he was the one in charge. Or at least, I thought he was. Ice water poured into my veins. Did we fight? Did we get out? Did he try to ram their car?
I didn’t actually have a gun with me. I’d kept it with me at the clubhouse, but I didn’t think to bring it out here. Note to self, bring one next time. Never going anywhere without one again.
“Stay,” Rome said, after a prolonged moment where I forgot to breathe. Stay?
He raised his hands, showing both palms before he dipped one to unlock his seatbelt. Then he opened the door. “Stay in the car,” he repeated.
Every protest died unspoken on my lips as he slid out and then shut the door. The locks engaged automatically. The engine was still running. Rome stared at the man.
“I’m out of the car.”
“Don’t be a smartass.” The guy transferred his attention to me. “Get out of the car.”
“No,” Rome answered for me. Was there a gun in the car? It was one of Liam’s, right? The guys all had weapons. Then again, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever seen Rome with a gun. I had a knife. But I wasn’t that good with it—but I would have to reach to get it.
Moving right now didn’t seem like the best idea. I definitely didn’t want to get Rome shot.
“Mr. O’Connell, this is not a negotiation.”
“You said for me to get out of the car,” Rome told him, his tone almost as bored as it was plain. “I am out of the car. Your instructions did not include her.” He motioned toward me.
The guy nearest him swung his gun, but he never actually hit Rome. In a move I barely comprehended, Rome caught the swing and slammed the weapon back into the guy’s face. Blood splattered the car and the ground. When it was over, Rome had the gun and the guy was on the ground.
But he didn’t point it or shoot it, it just hung from one of his fingers like an accessory as he returned his attention to the “leader.”
My pulse hammered in my ears.
“Don’t,” the man ordered abruptly, but it was the guy approaching my door who stopped. The gun in Rome’s hand was pointed over the hood of the car and I would bet he was pointing at the guy approaching us. “Mr. O’Connell, I’m prepared to be reasonable. Communication is the key here. So let me be absolutely clear with you. There are only two ways this is going to end.”
At his pause, Rome said, “I’m listening.” Though if I hadn’t seen his lips move, I would have thought it was piped in because he was so still, and that gun was still pointed at the guy near my door.
“Excellent. This standoff ends in one of two ways. Each results with you accompanying us. How you accompany us is the only matter to be decided. Because unless you possess the skill to shoot all of us at once, you and your girlfriend will cooperate and get in the car. Or we will load your wounded body into it while we leave her corpse here.”
He sounded so very reasonable.
“I’m afraid we are on a tight schedule. Negotiation is not an option. So, what is your decision?”