Reckless (Bertoli Crime Family #2)

By: Lauren Landish

Still, as part of my father's businesses, this trip was necessary. The Porto Alege Mendosa family is powerful, but only within our little section of Brazil. Compared to some of the families in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, or especially Rio de Janeiro, we were nothing but backwoods hicks, rednecks with a little bit of money and a lot of cojones. In order to stay strong, we often had to mix our legal and illegal businesses. Then again, many families in Brazil needed to mix their legal and, technically, illegal businesses. Some of the best of them became politicians.

So I had to come to Seattle. There was a trade show being held over the next two weeks at the Civic Center, and of all the Mendosas, I was the one that not only had the best English, but also had the cleanest record. My father was known as a person of interest by Interpol, and while some of my brothers were not as well-known, they barely spoke any English, preferring to leave the boring, nerdy side of education to me and my sisters. Not that it was all I learned, of course.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we just got final clearance for landing at Seattle's SeaTac airport. For all of us in the flight crew, I'd like to thank you for flying with us today. Y'all have a great time, and see us again," the American pilot said over the intercom in his annoyingly Texas twang. At least my accent does not add syllables to words or just make them up entirely.

I sighed and made sure my seat was fully up and my things ready. I looked around at the collection of Americans next to me, and I had to shake my head. None of them knew how to dress. Still, I had to admit that after being in various airplanes for going on eighteen hours with layovers and other delays, I could have switched places with one of them and enjoyed a t-shirt and yoga pants. But I had places to go when I got off the plane in Seattle and social calls I had to make.

Those social calls, more than anything, irked me the most. You see, the purpose of my visit to Seattle wasn't just the trade show, which would reinforce my family's agricultural connections. We had a chance to make the sort of face-to-face connections that could lead to Mendosa beef being served in many restaurants in the United States, a market worth millions of dollars per year. But more importantly was the connection my father wanted to make with Carlo Bertoli. That was, if anything, more important than the trade show.

Like Seattle, Porto Alegre was a seafaring city, with lots of cargo going in and out of the port every day. That, combined with a very tourist friendly nightlife, left a lot of opportunities for men such as my father to make a living.

But to further our opportunities, we needed allies. The Bertoli family, with a hold on the Port of Seattle, could be a powerful ally. So my first stop in Seattle, even before I checked into my hotel, was the Bertoli mansion.

Thankfully, I'd cleared American customs in Dallas, the last stopover I had before flying to Seattle. I'd even had a chance to take a nap on the airplane, so I wasn't too exhausted when I stepped out of the baggage terminal and walked to the shuttle bus that would take me to the car rental counter.

At the counter, the clerk, a cute boy in that overconfident sort of way, tried to flirt with me as I checked out the Lincoln that I'd reserved. "So, uh, you'll be in Seattle for a while?"

I raised an eyebrow at the clerk, who blushed. "Sorry?"

The boy swallowed his nervousness and tried again. "Just . . . if you're free any night here when you're in Seattle, I was thinking that—"

"I don't think I will have the free time. But thank you," I said, cutting him off. I was trying to be polite, but I had other things on my mind. I didn't have time for a young man with an overabundant fascination with my backside, though it was one of my best assets. What is that American saying? Real women have curves. I have them, and I'm proud of them. We figured that basic truth out in Brazil generations ago.

Driving north toward what the car navigation system was telling me was my destination, I reviewed what I knew about Don Carlo Bertoli. He had taken over the Seattle area after his brother had been gunned down in a hit. In the ensuing struggle, he'd distinguished himself not only for his ruthlessness, but for his analytical mind. He'd quickly united the disjointed Bertoli troops under his command and enacted revenge on the men who'd killed his brother. He'd also taken care of his family, supporting both his sister-in-law and niece as well as his two sons. Widowed now, he ruled Seattle with a deceptively iron fist, in full control of the area.

I knew that Bertoli increased his family's power and had expanded in both the legitimate and illegal areas of business. He was a man to both respect and be concerned about. I couldn't be anything but honest with the man, but at the same time, I couldn't be an open book. If I did, I would certainly give him information he could use against the Mendosas.

I pulled up at the gate to the Bertoli mansion at just before five o'clock, looking up the driveway at the impressive building. I reached over and hit the buzzer button, and a male voice came back on immediately. "May we help you?"

"I'm Luisa Mendosa. I have an appointment to see Don Bertoli?"

I waited a moment, and then the man came back on the intercom. "Please pull up in front of the house. You will be met in the driveway."