Home > Mexican Heat (Crimes & Cocktails #1)(14)

Mexican Heat (Crimes & Cocktails #1)(14)
Author: Laura Baumbach

Poor gullible Gina. SFPD had staged that attack outside Gallery of Jewels so Gabriel could gain Botelli’s trust, and the ruse had worked.

She couldn’t really be that oblivious to the position she was putting him in, so she had to be drunker than even Gabriel had realized. Botelli must have seen it as well. He thumped Gabriel on the back, gripping the nape of his neck and shaking him lightly in a show of indulgent dominance. “Don’t let his pretty boy face fool you, Don Sanchez. Giovanni is one of my best men. He can be trusted. He knows what would happen to him if I couldn’t trust him!” Botelli laughed loudly. Gabriel managed a weak smile as the others—with the exception of Sanchez—belatedly joined in. It was clear that Gabriel was the last person in this room Sanchez was letting Gina out with. Which suited Gabriel fine, because a night spent babysitting Gina would be a total waste of opportunity.

“I’m sure he is.” Unsmiling, unbending, Sanchez dismissed the idea of Gabriel. “However, as I cannot spare the time to accompany her, my fiancée will go with my most trusted lieutenant. Miguel!”

Gabriel hadn’t seen Ortega approach—hadn’t seen him for the last hour or two except from a distance—but suddenly the man was standing right next to him, that spicy hint of lime and aftershave alerting him even before he turned.

“Si.” Ortega’s eyes met Gabriel’s coolly.

“Gina wishes to visit the dance clubs tonight. You will accompany her in my place, amigo.”

“It will be an honor,” Ortega responded.

“Wow!” Gina giggled. “How about in that case we all go together?”

Gabriel glanced at Ortega, who returned his look.

Ortega said in a lazy, untroubled tone, “By all means, let him tag along if it will make the señorita more comfortable.”

The compromise shouldn’t have been necessary, but Gabriel spoke stiffly. “Whatever Mr. Botelli wants.”

“What about what I want?” Gina complained. “I don’t know these men. I don’t know Ricardo Montalban here.” She pouted at Ortega.

Feeling Ortega stiffen, Gabriel permitted himself the tiniest smirk.

“Gina! Behave yourself,” Botelli snapped, the good-humored mask slipping for a moment. She glared at him, looked at Sanchez and giggled.

Gabriel wasn’t sure what she found so funny. Sanchez was watching her, smiling a genial smile that sent ice down Gabriel’s spine. Not because Sanchez seemed annoyed—because he didn’t. Once again, he seemed faintly entertained by Gina’s bad manners.

Gina swayed forward again, and Gabriel reached out to stop her from teetering right over. “I’m missing my party,” she informed her brother. “It’s supposed to be my night, isn’t it?”

 

“Gina, you better show some respect to Mr. Ortega,” Botelli said shortly. He turned to Gabriel. “Take the Ferrari, Gio.”

Gabriel nodded.

“Make sure she gets back here in the same condition she left in, capisce?”

Drunk off her ass? That shouldn’t be a problem. Gabriel nodded again, touched the shoulder holster beneath his jacket in a sort of my-gun-is-at-your-service gesture. Botelli went for that kind of Hollywood crap.

Gina looped one arm around his and the other around Ortega’s.

“And what do I call you, Ricardo? O? The Big O?” She giggled again. Ortega murmured something smooth and noncommittal.

Oh yeah, it was going to be a long night.

Botelli laughed that oily laugh of his. “Italian women!” He handed Sanchez a fresh flute of champagne, raising his own glass in salute.

As Gina drew Ortega and him toward the ballroom doors, Gabriel heard Botelli saying, “My sister is a passionate girl, but she’ll make you a good wife, Don Sanchez. Have no worries on that score.”

And Sanchez replied, “I know Italian women, amigo. My first wife was Italian.”

First wife? That was news. There was no mention of any wife in Sanchez’s folder. Gabriel was too far out of range to hear more, but he made a mental note to check on it the next time he called his captain.

 

The front drive of the Botelli mansion was clogged with expensive sports cars and inebriated wannabe A-listers. A couple of morons had just discovered their horns and were blasting them into the foggy night. Exhaust fumes and alcohol floated on the breeze.

“Gina, come on! Drive with us!” shrieked the red-haired daughter of a prominent Snob Hill family, waving from a yellow Lamborghini.

It was like a VC Section 23153 epidemic waiting to happen.

Laughing, Gina released Gabriel and Ortega, starting toward the open door of an Audi TT.

“No, no, Señorita Botelli.” Ortega caught her arm and drew her back. “G has already called for your car.”

“Huh?” Gina blinked up at him, and then at Gabriel. “Oh, yeah.” She waved to her restless entourage and called out a few unhelpful comments.

Botelli’s black Ferrari came roaring up, screeching to a halt a few inches behind a Mercedes that had its hazards flashing and windshield wipers going—to the hysterical amusement of its passengers.

The Botelli chauffeur jumped out and tossed the keys to Gabriel, who caught them one-handed.

“Are you sure you’re not over the legal limit?” Ortega asked Gabriel.

Gabriel gave him the look that froze perps in their tracks. It seemed to have zero effect on Ortega, who lifted a dismissing shoulder.

“Don Sanchez frowns on the abuse of alcohol or the use of illegal substances within his organization.”

Gabriel snorted. Don Sanchez was in for a rude awakening when he married Señorita Botelli. All he said was, “I don’t work for Don Sanchez.”

 

“No?” Ortega was smiling.

What a pleasure it was going to be to put this arrogant asshole behind bars.

Happily oblivious to any hostile undertones—or overtones, for that matter—Gina inquired, “Do you like to dance, Mr.

Ortega?”

They were making their way across the velvety grass to the Ferrari, Ortega doing yeoman’s duty keeping Gina from pinning herself into the lawn with those crampon heels of hers.

“I do, yes.”

“Because G doesn’t.” Gina sounded like this was one of the great tragedies of her young life. “You wouldn’t think so, but he’s actually very shy.”

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