School of Fish (Fish Out of Water #6) - Amy Lane

Prologue

Unexpected Cargo

At a gas station in Victoriana, California, which is literally the middle of the goddamned desert….

ACE ATCHISON watched the RV pull away from the gas station across the two-lane highway from his garage with flat eyes, Jai, his employee and giant ex-mob muscle at his side.

“D’ya see that?” Ace asked grimly.

“Da,” Jai said, voice also grim.

They’d been taking a break when the RV had pulled into the gas station. The vehicle—old, decrepit, gasping like a fish swimming in smog—had probably left parts strewn across Highway 15 heading from LA to Las Vegas. The guy who’d gotten out of it was possibly in his thirties, but they were thirty the hard way, and he moved like… well, a killer.

Ace and Jai had experience with killers. They’d each crossed that line when the situation had been dire, but it wasn’t a habit for either of them.

This guy moved like he’d shoot a baby because the stroller crossed his path. Ace and Jai had been leaning against the minivan they’d been working on. The family who owned it was across the street at the Subway, getting lunch while Ace and Jai tried not to let the thing die here where there wasn’t even a fucking hotel. They saw the killer open the door, shout something harsh into the RV, get gas, and then go into the mini-mart/food court for a soda, probably because that thing didn’t look like it had any AC.

And the guy had left people sweltering inside it.

As they watched, the tattered yellowing draperies that covered the back window rustled, and two faces pressed against the glass.

Young faces, dirty, and then those faces moved, and two more appeared. And then came two more. And two more.

While Ace and Jai watched, they must have seen twenty faces. Kids, maybe fifteen at the oldest, peaked, terrified, all of them looking out into the sunshine like it was going to be their last chance to see freedom and space.

“You know,” Ace drawled, keeping his fury inside. “I don’t think that man is actually related to any of those children.”

“I would doubt that very much.” Jai kept his voice neutral, but Ace knew Jai had essentially been given to Ace because while he was a very good man, he was not necessarily a good mobster. Jai was not a fan of people who abused the innocent any more than Ace was.

But God, Sonny had barely survived their last adventure. Not that he’d gotten hurt, but Ace had gotten captured, and Ace’s boyfriend… well, Sonny didn’t do well when Ace was in danger.

Because Sonny’s childhood had been a nightmare, just like that of those kids in the RV.

And that decided him.

Ace swallowed. Most of the time, he kept any illegal activities limited to defending or sustaining his immediate family. But this was evil in a way that ate a hole in his stomach.

“Should we take the SHO?” he asked, talking about the souped-up racing machine he and Sonny had built from sweat and tears and the last of their savings from their time in the service, after they’d bought the garage.

“Nyet,” Jai muttered. “He is a coyote, not the main mobster. We take a car we can make disappear.”

They looked at each other. “Ernie’s,” Ace decided. Ernie didn’t technically live with them anymore, but he was still part of the family. Burton, his boyfriend, still went on missions, and Ernie came and stayed in Burton’s old safe room when he did, going home only to bake and to feed the cats. Burton was on an op now. Ernie was adamant he wouldn’t be gone long, and Ernie was a witch and knew those sorts of things.

“Da,” Jai said, and both of them pushed off the minivan.

“Sonny!” Ace called toward the small house that sat off to the side of the garage. “Sonny, Jai and me have to go handle something. You need to come out here and finish this damned minivan.”

Sonny had gone inside to start dinner, because it was getting near closing time, but he popped out of the house like he’d been waiting for Ace’s call.

“The hell?”

Sonny Daye was a small blond man, slender, muscular, mean as a rattail dog. Ace strode up to his lover and gave him a short hard kiss on the mouth, and he melted under Ace’s touch.

“We’re taking Ernie’s car to go stop something bad. We may need Burton to bail us out. And that family needs their minivan ’cause they’ve got three kids and this is no place

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