Authors: Cristina Grenier
Tags: #mob romance
A man’s clothing, his stepfather had told him, was a reflection of his soul. An unkempt appearance suggested a lack of inner peace – Giorgio, of course, being the foremost authority on such matters. Ever since the man had instilled upon him the importance of one’s presentation, it had been a concept that stuck with him – and probably would long after his stepfather’s death. His pinstripe silk slacks and gleaming shoes practically screamed the kind of wealth many would kill for.
And Vicente had. Over and over.
It wasn’t, he often mused in his precious few hours alone, as if he could do nothing else with his life. His mother had been proud to send him to one of the top universities in Rome, where he had double majored in politics and linguistics. He had once believed he might use those skills to help him travel the world, learning about each land as he experienced it.
Those aspirations had been stolen from him by Giorgio’s ambition and ruthlessness. He had, of course, enlisted Vicente to use his skills to further their family influence throughout Italy and worldwide. His fluency in French, Spanish, Italian and English had been pivotal in more than a few transactions they had carried out.
Vicente was one of Giorgio’s most educated – and thusly, most lethal – tools.
Though the Sicilian lights were still bright, the streets were deserted. No one decent was around at this hour. Why would they be? They knew this was the time of night when thugs and thieves roamed the streets.
And it was times like these, in the darkness, with the wind rushing past his face as he drove down the side of the mountain, that Vicente felt most acutely alone.
Though he knew he would never be able to escape the stretch of his stepfather’s arm, when his mother had been alive, things had been different. Amya had seen the softer side to her husband, buried under layers of ruthlessness and tradition. She had calmed him when no one else could, and even as she had watched her son being turned into something beyond her grasp, she had comforted him.
They were family, she had told him, smearing blood along his brow as she held him in the aftermath of his first assassination. What more did they have than each other?
And now she was gone, and Giorgio’s reign of terror went on unchecked.
Over the years, however, Vicente had slowly numbed to the horrors placed before him. Blood no longer seemed so sacred, and those who pleaded for their lives now earned not even the courtesy of a second glance. If Giorgio’s will demanded it, the task was done without question – and the hollow emptiness within the assassin only grew with each year that passed.
His apartment was an ornate, sprawling suite on the sixth floor of one of the newest buildings downtown; and from its windows he could look upon the Mediterranean ocean miles beyond. Out there, he knew, was what he had always longed for. Freedom and adventure untouched by the danger of his current profession. Everything he needed was provided for him by his stepfather, and so he had never truly known what it was like to make his own way in the world.
It was an idea most men would shun so close to their thirty fourth birthdays, but Vicente found himself longing for the opportunity. He knew the extent of his own cleverness and guile. Perhaps he would make an apt businessman or politician…
Stepping into the expanse of his meticulously clean bedroom, he kicked off his loafers before laying back on the bed, folding muscular arms behind his head. It was times like this, where, alone, he could dream of what might have been in a world without Giorgio.
Since his mother’s death, he had, numerous times, wondered why he could not blame her for the man he was. It was she who had elected to marry Giorgio – to tear him away from the true father he barely remembered and introduce him to the Don’s twisted world of violence and espionage. Of course, she had done it for love.
There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind that Amya had loved her husband deeply. Perhaps she’d even thought she might be able to change him one day. Her premature death, however, had stolen any and all opportunity for such a thing and embittered the very man she had so adored.
She had left Vicente alone; and while he could not fault her for bringing him to Giorgio, he could certainly blame her for hiding from both of them the poisonous cancer that had eaten her alive from the inside out.
She had been selfish, the assassin told himself over and over. If only she had mentioned something to him, he could have paid for the foremost doctors in the field. They could have cured her. But, Amya had never been the type of woman to want others to make a fuss over her. The trait carried over, even, in to life and death matters. Before they had discovered the extent of the disease within her, it had been far too late.
Though she had passed over five years ago, the pain was still a fresh wound – a blessing to Vicente who found that he felt less and less the older he grew. Pain helped him to remember that he was indeed alive, and not just an extension of his powerful stepfather.
In a few hours he would be summoned again to the man’s side and sent to remove another obstacle from his path. While he had no idea where that journey would take him, he only knew that it would end in death – and, perhaps, he was too far gone to care.
It was four in the morning. Perhaps four thirty – Grace had no inclination to check the clock next to her bed. All she knew was that it was entirely too early for her phone to be ringing. She had precious few friends who would deign an emergency important enough to ring her at such an hour, and that narrowed her possible caller to down to only one person.
Someone she had no desire to speak to when she was only just barely awake.
Rolling over with a low groan, Grace shoved her phone under her pillow, muffling its buzzing as she attempted to go back to sleep. She was afforded perhaps ten minutes of silence before her phone went off again. Cracking open an eye, the young woman scowled into the darkness, allowing the phone to continue to ring beneath her pillow for a good thirty seconds before she yanked it free to answer sleepily.
“Sweetheart, you speak to your father like that?” The man’s thickly accented Bostonian tone only irked her more. It was something she had never picked up, despite being born and raised in the city. But of course, if her father was the poster boy for the average Bostonian, she had always strived to be his antithesis.
“Dad, it’s four in the morning. Too early for guilt trips.”
“I’m sorry honey, I’m sorry. I was just up and I thought I needed to call you. We haven’t spoken in a while and I wanted to tell you I miss you.”
He missed her.
Like hell he missed her. The man missed the last dollar he’d spent more than he missed his own goddamn daughter. He’d driven her into twenty thousand dollars’ worth of debt for a college education he could very well have afforded - because he loved her
“Dad, it’s late.” She managed, rubbing her tired eyes in agitation. “This couldn’t have waited until the morning?”
“Actually, honey, there was something else I wanted to talk to you about.”
Of course there was. He wanted something. Ignacio Trellis never called his only daughter unless he wanted to ask her for a completely unwarranted favor. He hadn’t been present while she’d been growing up and now, all he wanted from her was a way to further a business that didn’t benefit her in the slightest. “There’s this thing tonight that I’m having for some of the guys I work for. Very swanky –it’s going to be down at
was Boston’s premier lounge and restaurant for Boston’s moneyed elite. While Grace didn’t know if she would call her father a member of the elite, he hobnobbed with the best of them through some skill that she had yet to completely understand. In this manner, he kept abreast of the city’s most exclusive events and managed to worm his way inside. It was a quality that had impressed her mother and always repulsed Grace.
She hadn’t the patience to mix with people who were under the impression that they were better than everyone else. Her father, however, lived for it – and wanted her to as well. “Dad, I’m not going to another thing with you. Ask mom.”
Her mother would be thrilled if he asked. Disillusioned with her life and convinced that she was always meant for something more, Alyssa Trellis had followed her husband into every scheme he’d concocted, and when loss after loss had come close to bankrupting him, the stress had taken its toll on their marriage and her mother’s youth.
Though the woman had yet to hit sixty, lines carved deeply through her face and her formerly lustrous mahogany hair was lifeless and speckled with gray. Though Ignacio had made it clear that he preferred woman of a younger ilk long ago, the two remained married and Alyssa jumped the moment her husband asked her to attend any function with him.
Which was rare these days.
No, that duty he relegated to Grace –for reasons she’d rather not contemplate. “Sweetheart, the guys wanna see a fresh face. Not that your mom’s not still smokin’ for her age”, a more scathing lie had never left the man’s lips, “but I like showing you off. You know you’re my diamond.”
And he wanted to show her off to an army of
who no doubt only attended his pretentious functions in hopes that they would eventually make off with her. Grace made a face at the prospect, shaking her head even though her father wasn’t present to see her do so. “Dad, no. I don’t want to be paraded in front of all your pervert clients. I’m busy.”
“Oh, Gracey, come on. Don’t be like that.” The whining edge in her father’s voice made her wince. How was it that even though
was the douchebag, he always managed to make her feel like the guilty one? “They’re not perverts. What man doesn’t appreciate a pretty young woman? And you’re beautiful, darling. I should know because I made you.”
The biological process was pretty much the only thing Ignacio could take credit for on that count. In every other respect – from her appearance to her profession, Grace had taken pains to ensure that she was nothing like her father. He was the man who had tried to hustle her classmates out of their lunch money when he came to pick her up from school and hit on friends she brought home for sleepovers.
Disgusting, by any stretch of the imagination.
However, he was still her father; which was why, try as she might, she couldn’t quell the pride that swelled in her chest at his compliment. There had been a time when she had still been small and ignorant of the kind of people with whom her father had spent his time. Then, when he’d called her sweetheart and baby – when he’d professed that she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, it had made her the happiest girl in the world.
Vestiges of emotion from those times still haunted her – every time her father baited her with situations like this one.
“When is this thing, Dad?” She couldn’t believe she was actually considering this. After the last time, when one of Ignacio’s associates had groped her within full view of her father and he’d said nothing, she’d sworn she was through. Apparently, it seemed that she still hadn’t had enough abuse.
“Tomorrow, honey. Well…it’s 4am. So later today.”
She was totally not prepared for this. However, luckily enough for Grace, she had a prior engagement – one that she absolutely could not break. “Dad, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to say no. I’ve got a thing at six, and-”
“That’s perfect! Our little get together doesn’t start until nine. That will give you enough time, right?”
Barely. If she rushed through dinner afterwards and caught an expensive taxi downtown –for which she was sure her father wasn’t going to reimburse her – she could just make it. She should just refuse him flat out and tell him to go fuck himself. But if she knew her father, no doubt he would soon have her mother on the phone begging her to make peace with him.
And that was the last thing she wanted – especially at this hour.
“Ok, Dad, alright. Fine. I’ll be there.”
“Awesome, sweetie.” The triumph in his voice was palpable. Ignacio Trellis was a man used to getting what he wanted. So much so that losing set him into fits of childish anger that could last for days, despite the fact that he was fifty six. “I’ll see you later then. Oh, and wear that silver dress with the low neckline. The guys like you in that one.”
He hung up, leaving Grace staring at her phone as if she was fit to strangle it. Who the hell asked their daughter to wear a low cut dress? She was catering to sleaze balls, every last one of them.
But now she had given her word, so she’d be expected to come.
Exhaling a hot breath of frustration, the young woman sat up in bed, reaching over to switch on her bedside table lamp to illuminate her small bedroom.
Her place wasn’t on the large side of the spectrum, and her rent was a bit high, but Grace had never been prouder than the day she had finally been able to move out of her parents’ household and into her own apartment. Their constant back and forth – her mother’s constant pandering to a man who had given up on her long ago…it had disgusted Grace for as long as she could remember.
Though by her sophomore year in college, she’d been making enough working her ass off at two jobs to be able to afford a room and roommates, Grace had refused to settle. She’d wanted her own place – to wind down and escape from her parents and anyone else who might be itching to invade her privacy.