A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. I can’t help but recall that quote as I look down at the several collections of photos Caroline has just sent me via text message of her and Brody at the fair. She really is a lucky girl, swept off of her feet by a man of impeccable manners and absolute adoration for her. He worships the very ground she walks on. A man sure to be a great father of the many kids Caroline has already fantasized about having one day. As I look down to the big rock he has just slid on her finger, I can’t help but let a large smile spread on my face. Caroline really has her life worked out. With a steady job here at the restaurant, a large flat to share with her now future-husband and a relationship filled with absolute trust and love, she really couldn’t hope for more. Except maybe that he wins her a cliche big bear while they are at the fair. I wouldn’t put it past him to do it without question anyway. Anything for his little dove.
The picture of the beautiful band surely can be said to be built up of a thousand words. Beautiful being one of the many and most prominent of the lot. The band is simple, flat and thin with a fairly small,white diamond in the center. It isn’t flashy or blingy, exactly to Caroline’s taste. If it was me, the man would probably have a bit of trouble. I would love it no matter what because a man I loved had chosen it. But my desired ring would be unique. Not the typical gold or silver or with a white diamond in the middle. Oh no, I want something daring and dark. That’s the way I am. I text her back a good luck and continue on with my work.
I work at Migliori , a well-known and very expensive restaurant with five stars meaning ‘best’ in Italian. It is simple yet very effective and,in my opinion, entirely true. It really is the best and I love the food here. Too expensive for me but I do occasionally get a taste of the delicious cuisine served here. Marie always sneaks me a quick spoonful before anyone can see.
Marie is a kind old lady in her sixties, overweight by a long shot but with that kind of motherly warmth that makes you want to tell her everything. Her blonde frizz of hair is short and in a bob but just long enough to be scooped into a medium size pony at the nape of her neck. She usually just keeps her hair that way unless it is a special occasion. She isn’t the cook but her son is and she can shoo him off effectively long enough to give me a few scoops of the delectable delight they call food. More like heaven on earth. Caleb is quite talented and around thirty years old with a wife and kids of his own. I guess that is why Marie enjoys my company so much, she misses her kid. She may interact with him on a daily basis and have him and his family around often but I guess it’s just not quite the same as them actually living with you. The bonus is the less mess I suppose.
I continue to wipe down the table and pick up the tip from the table, placing it in the pocket of my dress. That’s one of the many good things about working here, the tips. So many people pass through here everyday and a fair few of them have a spare twenty to give. We always fight to get to those tables first. I got a lucky one today, fifteen quid.
I don’t know what in the world possesses someone to disregard the usefulness of fifteen quid but it is not for me to question really. I just hope they continue to do so, so that I can continue to pick them up and use it to get new shoes or a new dress. All money is accepted here, dollars, pounds, euros ,etc. Business men rarely have time to change their currency as they travel so often.
I sigh wearily as I scoot around the table, picking up stray wrappers of what I presume to be off of a cigarette box. I wipe down the leather seats too and dry it off with a new large fluffy towel. The previous tenants of this table were brutes, raving mad and very loud. We had to offer them the VIP section as a way to get them out of earshot for the other customers safety. The problem is that the owner of this establishment called and said to have it ready in about an hour. That was about fifty minutes ago. I have never seen the boss before but to be honest, I’m not really fussed. At the end of the day he is just another customer to serve and another table to clean after use.
I quickly switch on the hoover to eliminate the stray glass shards that still remain from the champagne flute the previous customers shattered and walk around the room quickly with cinnamon air freshener.
Spotless and beautiful. The VIP room is quite withdrawn, situated at the back of the restaurant overlooking the ocean. It is not as softly lit and opulent as the rest of the restaurant and I highly suspect it was designed that way for business purposes. One wall is brick with a narrow landscaping mirror stripped along the top. The lights are a champagne orange and the chairs are leather and very comfortable. The room is beautiful and has the most astounding view of the ocean. Nocturnal lights are placed outside the window to illuminate the outside, subsequently lighting up the water.
It really is a sight to behold and if it wasn’t for my strict deadline to get the room ready I would have sat here for hours watching the ocean as it glimmered in the intense light bestowed upon it.
I quickly gather up my cleaning supplies in a large basket and leave the other cleaners to their intense dusting and wiping of the windows.
This guy is apparently a big deal, he must be if he has our boss sweating his head off. I’ve never really witnessed someone so anxious of someone’s presence. I guess he’s a bit overwhelmed because the guy who owns this place will be here with his business associates. It means he is more snappy than usual and also.. more sweaty. By the time they get here there will be a puddle forming around him.
I shrug and get changed into my black, off the shoulder dress. They gave it us and put it in our lockers for when special people visit and I guess these people classify. I grab my black six inch,strapless heels and pile my hair atop my head in a messily braided crown.
My makeup is already done and I just add red lipstick and pineapple gloss to finish off. I look good. I turn and make my way into the kitchen to see Marie. I see her in the corner of the room, her usual nape-style ponytail of blonde frizz sitting against her neck. Her doe eyes are tired but happy and sparkling with her readily shown mischief. She smirks at me as I walk in and plods over with as much grace as a melon.
‘Riley, you sexy motherfucker. I wish I still had your curves, all the men were after me in my day you know? Sweetheart of the town.’ She winks while rubbing her hands clean with a red tea towel. I roll my eyes, my grin barely concealed. She has told me this story many a time, scolding her husband occasionally and asking why she chose him of all the lads she had wrapped around her finger. You can tell she was once a looker though. Her facial features are all beautiful but yet don’t correspond well with one another in her old age. I’m surprised she still has her natural blonde hair while in her mid-sixties.
‘Yes Marie, I know. How is Silas?’ I ask, full well knowing that he has probably done something else to set her off this morning. Her eyes instantly gleam and she sets herself off on a rant, puffing occasional, heavy breaths. ’He’s being annoying, that’s how he is. The mutt can’t even put the toothpaste cap on. Can you believe that? The cap was nearly falling down the drain of the sink. Then what would we use? I tell ya, that man is one dumb bat.′
‘A dumb bat that you love nonetheless,’ I retort as I turn to start stocking up the heavy dishwasher with more cups and plates. Marie joins me, tossing the tea towel over one, large shoulder and bunching a few plates in her hands. ‘True, can’t get enough of the pillock. He does drive me up the wall though.’ I grin and turn to her, ‘I thought you always wanted an adventure Marie, I can assure you that no one other than spider man himself has seen the world from the side of a wall.’ I yelp as she whips the tea towel at me, hitting my elbow. ’Real funny, off you pop. You need to help with the customers out front. Packed tonight we are. Sing a song for ‘em. Stewart will calm down a bit.’
I nod, sighing as I think of the manager, Stewart. The boss. I still need to see if he has a puddle of sweat forming around him. ‘Hey,Marie? Why is Stewart so anxious, I mean, the owner is coming an’ all but he is practically making his own river of perspiration out there.′
‘Don’t know hun, can’t tell ya much except that he probably didn’t expect the boss to be around. From Italy he is. Runs his branch of hotels and restaurants from there. Probably shocked him, he is a billionaire after all.’ I nod , ‘Makes sense.’
I go out into the main dining area and make my way to the stage. I do many live performances here, saves them hiring different singers I suppose. I am mostly a singer and then a waitress and get paid double as well as tips.
I quickly grab a microphone and inform Jackson, the pianist, to play Evanescence, Bring me to life. It’s slow, intimate and in all actuality, quite hard to sing. Perfect for customers to listen to.
I hear the starting notes of the song and prepare myself as a few stares come my way. I take a deep breath before starting, letting the notes flow over one another perfectly. The slowness helps because I can draw steady breaths as I sing at the start. It starts to speed up a few more seconds in so I have to be ready. I hear Jackson break in with the harmony bit where Evanescence’s actual band members sing.
I hear the soundtrack of drums kick in and I start off, giving it my all. I watch as some ladies and gentlemen turn my way to watch the show. I continue on,closing my eyes and letting the words flow smoothly, waiting for the ending where I can go and get a glass of lemonade. I forgot to take a drink before I started and I severely regret it due to my dry throat.
The song gradually, finally, comes to an end and as I make my way off stage, I feel scrutinized by someone. Probably an overeager customer thinking I’m easy game.
When are those guys arriving anyway? Weren’t the boss and his associates meant to be here?
He sat in a shroud of darkness, contemplating the nights events. The man was seated behind a dark, mahogany desk yet he wasn’t facing it, rather, choosing to turn his back to it and face the waves that graced its behind. The sea was restless and domineering tonight, waves crashing upon waves in a disorganized stupor, causing large crashes of water to upend itself, roaring its salty spray upwards in all directions. The waves were tense, a storm was brewing in the mans head and it was as if the waves were preparing for its flight, sending the message loud and clear with it’s aggravating assault of liquid, splashing upon beaches and covering windows. Catching boats stupid enough to still be out at this hour, carrying bodies and trinkets thrown to the sea along the forceful currents underlying the chaos above.
It was nights like these that he found the most peaceful, the most authoritative. It calmed him tonight to see the turmoil in his head stretching out above him in the most violent and belligerent of ways. Exactly reflecting him. The churning in his head, the aching in his heart and the indecision caught between both.
He held one single cigar in one hand and a glass of cognac full to the brim in the other. The cigars fading embers of light paired with the storms occasional flashes of thunder were the only sources of light in the otherwise shadow-filled room.
A flash of lightening struck, blinding white light crashing down, accompanied by a booming clap of reverberating sound. The single flash lit up one side of the mans face, for one moment you could see the stranger in the shadows.
The man was tall and lean in stature, muscled for definite and surely mature in both body and mind. His eyes were quick, orbs of a fiery mix of bronze and green, circled by a halo of black outlining its colour. These eyes were unique no doubt, intelligent and fast, deadly even. Any one looking through their hazy blaze was sure to see that. The coldness in them was undeniable, impossible to refuse. These were eyes of absolute sin and lethal passion, filled with the training and ability to execute the most abhorrent of tasks.
The mans jawline was sharp, straighter than any ruler. His cheekbones defined, concealed barely with a dark, tidy five o’clock shadow that fell upon him ruggedly, ruthlessly even. His hair was dark, blending in with the shadows around him like it belonged there. His Italian heritage was clear, prominently so.
The man was defined, a daily workout must have been the cause. There was no way a man could be so perfect. So domineeringly godlike. A creature of the night masquerading as an angel of light.
His hands were strong, average in size but surely intimidating should you find yourself on the receiving end of any blow. A ring adorned his right hand, chunky in some ways and beautiful in others. The band was thin yet stretched far in an oval over his knuckle, silver in colour and in the middle was a white square. It could easily be mistaken for a diamond or any other gem. Anyone within the top of the Mafia knew what it was though. It was a container, opened by a small key as small as a pin head. A drop of his wife’s blood was meant to fill the space, turning it a blood red.
This had gone on in his family for generations, albeit a tradition out of formality. Every capo had one. This particular capo had expected to never have that space filled, to always leave it a crystal white, as clear as the lightening illuminating its features.
But the tables had turned.
He had seen the most beautiful of creatures while dining with his associates this evening. This woman was defined, curvaceous in every sense. He was sure that every word in any dictionary in the whole world could not comprehend her true beauty.
Her hair was divine, brunette and blonde mixed together to make the most warm and homely blended result. Strands had fell around her head in a waterfall. It glistened and shined in the restaurants dim light, like a halo. Her skin was exuberant, exuding a honey-filled glow. Tanned to perfection.
Her body was slim, petite and delicate. It took every modicum of sense for him to not just grab and kiss the daylight out of her. He could get away with it, he knew, the reason for his hesitation was logic. He needed everything set up. He needed to be ready. Prepared.Everything about her screamed goddess. Of what he was not sure. There was so much to choose from; Goddess of beauty, Goddess of strength, Goddess of power. There were so many possible answers to that question.
Her eyes haunted him, they floated in his mind tauntingly, almost teasingly. Her eyes held so much, a combination of blue and violet that captured him. On stage she had closed her eyes as she rocked her body to and fro as she sang. He wanted to shake her senseless until she had the good grace to open those beautiful eyes again.
The lyrics were beautiful but her voice was more so, absolutely transcendent.
He was sure that the colour of his ring would soon change to a crimson red, filling every inch of the gem and his heart. He couldn’t get her out of his head, she would be his no matter what. She would be his wife. His beloved.
She was his.
He had made his decision and no one could change it; not now, not ever.
He just needed to prepare for her arrival.
‘Hey, you can go an’ handle the seating arrangements an’ I will give the bill to the unruly gentlemen instead, besides I’m a committed woman, I ‘ave the ring to prove it,’ Caroline offers, gazing at the simple,elegant band wrapped around her ring finger. I sigh, looking over towards the gentlemen on table fourteen. They have been a riotous bunch this evening, not in volume or in gesture but in their open checking out of women. Their gaze continues to travel over me particularly many a time and I’m not sure if I could handle taking their bill to them. I smile gratefully at Caroline, ‘Thanks a bunch Cali, I’ll owe you one.’
I dust the imaginary lint off of my creme, woolen crop top and dust down my pants with the heels of my clammy palms. Caroline offers me a wink while grabbing a bill book and grabbing the bill before its finished printing fully and then slapping it inside the tightly bound white, leather book.
I shake my head as I tie my hair into a high ponytail, flipping my bangs behind my ears. I quickly grab a bunch of menus, stacking them neatly in my hands, before making my way over to the stand. Luckily there is no one there waiting for a table at the moment. I quickly arrange the menus in an orderly fashion and scan my gaze around the restaurant.
The large room is relatively spacious, filled with smooth, glowing lighting and bright, golden colours that give the space a clean and opulent vibe. Circular tables adorned in gold trimmed, white tablecloths are laid out impressively across the room and regal, throne-like chairs are scattered around every one of them.
The cutlery is silver, probably solid, and the tables are all equipped with softly lit candles that give off a dim glow.
I find the grandness of the place calming as it is familiar to me and I let a small smile grace my features before turning back to the standard issue machine before I log in using my employee code.
It comes up with a lists separated by a split screen, one labelled taken/ reserved and the other named free.
I look up as a man walks in, accompanied by a flurry of men -all in suits of expensive quality. The leading man catches my attention immediately, it’s hard for you to not draw your gaze to his intimidating form. He walks with confidence and power radiates off of him, gaining the attention of a few other dining couples as well as my own.
His authority is thick, laid on brick by brick with no cracks in sight, I feel like I should be kneeling or something. His dark hair is styled to one side with a sparse amount of wax. The face of this man was anything but friendly, easily menacing and most definitely frightening to say the least.
His body is mature, muscled beyond definition and crazily toned. As if noticing my scrutiny, his eyes fly towards me, his roaring combination of green,black and hazel clashing dangerously and shooting towards me. Good god! I’m terrified.
I watch as he takes slow steps towards the counter and as he does, he rests his hands on the counter, showing off a chunky oval ring with a squared diamond in the center. Now that is unique!
‘How can I help you?’ I ask, trying to get rid of him as soon as possible before my act of confidence crumbles to the ground like sand through fingers. He raises one perfectly sculpted eyebrow as he scans me, ‘You don’t know who I am?’
His toned voice washes over me, a husky rumble taking over and a clear Italian ascendancy in his tone. It is now my turn to raise an eyebrow, ‘Never seen you before in my life, if I had to take a gander then I would assume that you and your followers are quite wealthy, expecting to be well known an’ all, which for all I know you probably are, just not to me. Not a fan of the tabloids, they exaggerate and lie to much. If you’ve been here before then I haven’t seen ya, probably ‘cause I didn’t serve you. So no, don’t know you at all,’ I smile, shaking my head in amusement and wiping down the surface with a cloth.
′ I’m Giovanni Rossi, owner of this restaurant.′
I pause and look up to him with a large grin, ‘Well you’re the one making Stewart nearly flood us out with his sweat, nervous around you he is. He’ll probably flop around like a chicken once he finds out you’re here. Better warn Marie quick before he knocks her off her feet. I trust you can find your way to the VIP area?’ I stare at him for a second before swiveling on my toes and walking in the direction of the bar, feeling his penetrating stare stabbing into my back.
I swing open the door and speed walk to Marie as she is stacking up pots into the large, industrial dishwasher. She sees me coming and gives me a smile, returning to her task.
‘Marie, thought I would give you the heads up. That Italian guy is here with his business pals, quite scary looking, attractive but intimidating as fuck. You’ll know him if you see him, thought I would tell you before Stewart comes around flashing his wings and flapping aimlessly about.’
She looks up from her work with a frown, ‘Stewart will be off his head he will, better tell him quickly before he fires you.’ I nod, flashing her a grin before spinning around in search for Stewart. I go to his office first, he must be in there. I come upon the single oak door fast and I swing it open to see Stewart staring at his laptop with a lustful gaze, I don’t even want to see what’s on that screen.
He looks up quickly, a scowl quickly overtaking his earlier expression, ‘Riley, what the fuck? You should knock before entering here, do you want to lose your job?’ His tone is demanding and full of anger. His face is splotchy with redness and his eyes have squinted, ′ No sir, thought I would let you know that the Italian dude is back, you know, the owner?′
I gain his attention immediately, his eyes snap open and his face becomes anxious, full on petrified more like. ‘Already? Oh no, he’ll have my head for not greeting him at the door, shit! Who talked to him, escorted him in I mean?’
‘I did, Caroline was giving out the bills while Alissa and Alejandro manned the bar. We have the other waiters and that giving out the food and Jethro is also dealing with a few unruly customers and escorting them out, why?’
‘You!? You aren’t even wearing your uniform, did you greet him wearing that?’ He practically screams at me, tearing at his thinning brunette locks in frustration. ‘Fifteen of our staff are stuck in traffic so we’re a little strapped for help. I couldn’t get changed without wasting time,’ I reply, frowning at his sudden explosion.
‘Get changed, which VIP room are they in?’
′ Dunno, I left them to walk there themselves so that I could come and get you, he didn’t seem to mind, not that I really stuck around for a reaction like.′
His eyes nearly bulge out of their sockets, ‘You what!? Oh no, dear god. He’s gonna kill me,’ he looks up , frantically meeting my gaze, ‘I better get to him quick.’
‘Okay, go then. I’ll get changed and send Susie to go and get his order, she’s quite quiet, they shouldn’t have a problem with her.’ He only waves hand in response before flying out of the room, his fast steps booming as her runs away.
I sigh and shake my head in dismay, good grief he was tense!
I walk out and tell Keith to send Susie to get that mans order, he simply nods, continuing with his chopping of a carrot before sliding it into a large pot, flinging a tea towel over one shoulder and heaving the pot over to the burners on the opposite wall before setting off in search of her.
I make my way to the locker room, grab my black pantsuit and shove it on, taking out my hair tie and letting my hair loose around my shoulders. I add a black choker and some black heels as well as some nude lip gloss on my slightly chafed lips and doing a quick waterline, cat eye and mascara. I don’t have time for much else, at least I don’t need foundation. The top of the pantsuit is transparent but detail covers up the most important parts like my nipple and such.
I grab my brush and run it through my hair quickly and flipping it to one side, adding Eau de toilette behind my ears.
I make my way out of the kitchen, set on going back to seating customers but am halted in my tracks by a hand on my shoulder. I turn to see Susie behind me, pale as a ghost, ‘Boss wants you to serve him and his party, no one else.’ I frown, wondering why on earth he would want me of all people. ′ Sure, thanks Suze, are you okay? You look as white as the frost on my windowpane.′
She nods unconvincingly, ‘Yeah, a little under the weather.’ I smile, cupping her face, ′ Go home Suze, I’ll handle Stewart and double my load, we’re understaffed but it’s better than having a sick person in here, go. You’re pregnant, I can tell. Don’t deny it. I’ve noticed over the past few weeks so you can’t say I’m not observant. Leave my dove, fly free,′ I chuckle, waving my arms about theatrically.
She doesn’t protest, she just nods and mouths a thank you as she walks away.
I make my way into the main seating area, taking a left and going into the maze of corridors on another sharp turn. I highly suspect them to have taken up residence in the same room as last time and due to the voices I hear, I assume I am correct.
I open the door, stepping inside and everyone’s gaze turns to me, including Stewart’s. ‘Sorry, one minute. Stew? Susie had to leave, she was going to be sick, absolutely horrendous state she was in.’
He narrows his eyes, ‘I never said she could leave.’
I blink a few times, processing his words before I laugh, ′ Okay, sure. I’ll be sure to let the hospital know when she is rushed to hospital after fainting that you overworked a pregnant woman and risked hygiene in the kitchen. Do you want me to call her back or....?′
He continues to glare at me but backs down, ′ No that’s perfectly alright Riles, tell her to have the week off, didn’t know she was knocked up,′ he fakes a smile, using a nickname as if we are close friends. I just smile and turn back to the men that are silently observing our dispute. Stewart leaves.
‘Do you want to order now or do you need more time to decide gentlemen?’
‘No that is fine Miss..?’ A blonde man speaks, eyeing me cautiously. ‘Riley Thomas,’ I respond, tapping the gold name badge I pinned to me on my way up.
‘So what is it that everyone wants?’
I quickly jot down the orders thrown at me by the eleven men.
‘And you Mr Rossi?’ I glance up, catching him silently observing me from his position at the head of the table. A cigarette graces one hand and he puffs on it slowly, releasing a stream of smoke all while keeping his gaze locked with mine.
‘What would you recommend Riley?’ I pause as his coarse voice melts over me, sliding down my back and making me shudder slightly.
‘It all depends on your likes Mr Rossi, seafood would be a good one but I much prefer the Spaghetti and Bolognese, much more to my taste I suppose. Being an Italian man though I suppose you must be quite fed up of that particular dish.’
‘Not at all, I would like that with a side of garlic bread and a salad, neatly dressed without radish if you will. A whiskey to go with that also and a prawn appetizer as we wait for the foods arrival.’
I nod, feeling his cold, emotionless stare piercing through me, trying to rip through my thoughts.
‘Absolutely Mr Rossi, anything else?’
‘Please stop calling me Mr Rossi, a beautiful girl such as yourself should not trouble yourself with such formality, Giovanni to you.’
I frown but comply, ‘Anything else Giovanni?’ I look around the room, watching as all of the men throw confused and intrigued looks between Giovanni and myself. Looking absolutely shell shocked, they shake their heads.
‘No thank you Riley.’
I nod and walk out, clutching my notebook to my chest with all my might.
I tremble slightly,my knees buckling and my breathing intensifying.
He scares the living daylights out of me.
The man was once again in a cloud of darkness, it enveloped him, seeping into his pores and leaking across the whole room. Silence was accompanying it, a deadly silence, the type of silence you get just before something happened. The calm before the storm.
The waves were still on this night, no spray of wild, tenacious waves or roar of blistering wind. The thunder was gone too, letting the darkness be and concealing the mans features once more, giving him anonymity from the moons scarce glow. The mist had rolled in tonight, a dark blanket of black and grey smog, smoldering the sky and snuffing out the light of the stars, barely letting the moon peer through at all. The air was cool and tinged with the fogs dark shades and the cities noise had ceased to a quiet hum from his position.
The breeze was light, blowing southward softly, trickling past unheard and unseen. Predatory, like how the man was tonight. He was calm but on edge at the same time.
He wanted his future wife here now but he had seen his fix of her today and that soothed him slightly to know that she was well. He could very well have taken her already but he had decided to get everything prepared, her clothes and her lotions, her makeup and jewelry, her favorite snacks and books. Everything would be given to her there, at his mansion, in his home. In her home. In their home. He had, had interior designers all over the place fixing up anything he thought she wouldn’t like, he had expanded the closet and added extra furniture and necessities in both his room and bathroom.
Everything would be ready for her arrival.
He was ready to make her his, as soon as his eyes had been graced with her beautiful sight, her path hit a curve ball. One that she could never set straight. She was his as much as he was hers.
He would never let her go, he knew that. It both unnerved him and settled him. He knew that she was only a fragile lady, his delicate flower. He needed to be careful with her. He needed to know she would be taken care of fully.
The sight of her in that pantsuit today set him on edge, he was ready for her to fly to their home in Italy, to have her to hold at night and to kiss in the day.Nothing could stop him now.
His men feared him, he was revered and one of the most powerful men in the world, if only she knew. He was the capo of the mafia. The boss of all bosses. The king of all kings.
And kings always get their treasures one way or another. Be it bloodshed or willingly given.
A phone rang behind him in the gloom, piercing shrilly through the silence that was now receding back into the shadows, ready to return at a moments notice.
‘Sir, everything is ready.’
He smiled, his angel would be home with him by tomorrow nightfall.