Whoever is inside the home shoots back at the men, unloading several rounds, forcing the mafia's attention back on the farmhouse. With their backs to me, I land several more bullets into the men as they use their vehicles to shield them from the onslaught of gunfire coming from the first floor of the house.
Bodies litter the unpaved driveway. Undoubtedly, more men will come, searching for Lucy and her family.
There's silence from inside the house. The gunfire ceases when the mafia is no longer shooting at the farmhouse.
"Lucy!" I shout into the darkness and cautiously head toward the farmhouse. I don't intend to get shot, but I don't know what she's told her sister about me or who is brandishing the weapon that saved my ass when I was getting blasted. "It's me–Nikita," I say. "I'm here to protect you."
"Don't take another step!" a male voice shouts back at me. "Or I'll shoot you."
Who the hell is that?
"It's okay." Lucy's voice is soft and reassuring as I hear her tell the man inside that I'm not dangerous to her.
She's too trusting.
But I won't hurt her.
There's a brief exchange between them before he says, "You can come inside, but not with your weapon. You hand over your gun at the door."
I don't like the terms, and I have half a mind to shoot the asshole stopping me from entering the premises. But he was protecting Lucy from the gunmen, and it wouldn't hurt to have another trained assassin when the mafia returns, because they aren't going to leave Lucy alone until they get what they want. It doesn't matter to them that she doesn't have it. The bastards are persistent.
"Fine," I say and grumble. I remove the clip and bullets from my gun. I head toward the front door, and the wooden stairs creak and groan under my weight. I'm not sure how much longer the farmhouse is inhabitable. Bullets litter the walls. At first light, the damage will be more obvious and apparent, but we shouldn't stick around until sunrise.
The mafia tracked Lucy. I need to get her back to New York, where I can protect her.
I unload the clip and barrel before I hand over my weapon, making it worthless to the man guarding the door. "Who are you?" I ask, glancing him over. He's not mafia, bratva, or any other organization I recognize. If he were a fed or a cop, other agents would be crawling around the premises.
Lucy stands just beyond reach, her arms folded across her chest. Another young woman carries a young child in her arms. That must be Lucy's sister and Zion, Lucy's son.
The house is dark, making it difficult to see more than an outline.
"What are you doing here?" Lucy asks.
The gentleman ignores my question in favor of Lucy's.
"Coming to bring you and your family home," I say. "It's not safe in Chicago with the mafia after you."
"And you can protect her?" the man standing beside the door asks.
"Better than you can," I sneer. "We're going home."
"I'm not leaving my sister or my son behind." Lucy takes a step backward toward her sister.
She's already thrust them into danger by involving her sister and bringing her son to Chicago. "Fine. There's enough room on the private jet to return to New York."
"You're not taking them anywhere," the man says.
Lucy's sister hands the little boy to Lucy and stalks up toward the strange man at the door. She seems to know him as she rests a hand on his arm. "We can't stay here, Declan."
"Then, come back to Breckenridge with me," Declan says.
"Isn't that where you're from?" I ask, shooting a look in Lucy's direction. "If I have that knowledge, so does the mafia. They'll be waiting for you with men in Breckenridge the minute you step foot in town."
"What am I supposed to do?" Lucy asks. She cradles her boy. He's not the least bit asleep. His eyes are bright and wide as he clings to his mother, his arms around her neck and legs around her hip.
I'd be concerned if he wasn't terrified after what they'd just endured.
"I can protect you back at the compound," I say. "You work for me, Lucy. We protect our family." I'd promised her a job at the club; that makes her an employee.
Declan's eyes tighten as he glances me over. "You're Russian Bratva." There's disgust in his voice. He's appalled by who I am. But he doesn't know anything about me.
"And you will never know what it's like to have brothers who will support you. We need to leave now." I pin Lucy with my stare. "The mafia will bring reinforcements. They'll send more men to this location when they don't deliver you back to their leader."
Lucy emits a heavy sigh. She has to know that I'm right.
"Nikita is right. We need to change locations, but I can protect the girls," Declan says.
"Lucy is coming back to New York." I'm not going to argue with him. It's non-negotiable. "If you want to play boy scout and tag along, be my guest."
He scoffs at my suggestion. "How about we let her decide?"
Declan and I both turn our attention to Lucy. Her gaze is hesitant as she glances from him to me and back again. "We need to put an end to this," Lucy says. "I'm not going to spend my life in hiding, pretending to be someone else, always having to look over my shoulder."
"We can protect you," Declan says. "This is what I do for a living, work as a bodyguard, help with private investigations, and security work. I have an entire team that can protect you."
"I'm going with Nikita," Lucy says. "And I'm taking Zion with me."
"Your sister needs to come too," I say.
There's no chance I'm leaving Lucy's sister behind. She'll never forgive me if something happens to her.
"My name is Katie," the girl says and steps closer to me, standing toe-to-toe. She's a few inches shorter than Lucy, but the background check I ran stated that she was older by a couple of years. There's a fire behind her gaze, a determination that warns me she's not making my life any easier. "And I'm going to Breckenridge with Declan, where he can protect me."
"You're not any safer with him," I say, glancing in Declan's direction. He did manage to hold down the fort until I showed up. But that doesn't mean he'll be lucky again. "The mafia will come after you because you're important to Lucy. Anyone Lucy cares about is in danger."
Katie opens her mouth and quickly shuts it with a heavy sigh. "I'm not leaving Declan's side. I go wherever he goes."