Vandal's Bargain

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Chapter 2: Viviana

Mio Dio, Vivi, you had to go all crazy bitch on some hot stranger’s car, didn’t you?! I mentally berated myself as I led said stranger to my car. I couldn’t believe I’d mistaken his car for Dane’s, my slimy, lying, thief of an ex-boyfriend. Anger boiled up inside me at the thought of what he’d done to me, and I was only sorry it hadn’t been his ugly-ass car. I peeked over at the man whose car I had vandalized, wondering why he’d picked that car. He seemed to have much more style. He was dressed impeccably in a pitch black Armani suit, one that was obviously tailored to his solid body. Heat flooded my cheeks again at the memory of how it’d felt to be caught in his arms.

“My name is Jude, by the way,” he said as we reached my car.

“Vivana,” I supplied in response.

“Viviana,” he repeated slowly in his deep voice that had shivers running through my body.

I nodded mutely, turning to unlock the car, and was startled when his arm reached up and opened my door for me. I mumbled my thanks and slid in, watching as he went around the front to the passenger side. I suddenly bit my lip in realization that he was going to have a bit of a difficult time fitting in my car. I had all my worldly belongings packed in the back of my car, so the passenger seat had gotten shoved all the way to the front. It wasn’t like I was expecting to have any passengers, much less a built, 6’2” man.

He opened the door and bent down, raising an eyebrow at my backseat. “Do I want to know?”

I stifled a laugh. “Um, probably not. Sorry about that.”

He shrugged, then started to fold his body into the space left for him. I had to literally bite my cheek in order to not burst into laughter at the site of him with his knees to his chin in my beat up Volkswagon, but I managed to stay in control.

“Just uh, let me know where to go.”

“Head towards the city. It’s pretty easy, so I’ll give you directions as we go.” I thought I saw a smile twitch on his lips, but it was gone in an instant so I dismissed it.

The ride was quiet, giving me plenty of time to overthink about this arrangement. On one hand, I didn’t know this guy at all and there was no way to be sure he wouldn’t just kill me or keep me as some sort of sex slave or something. I glanced at Jude out of the corner of my eye, taking in his strong jawline, covered in a short and neatly trimmed beard. His beard matched the color of his hair, a dark rust of an orange color that set off his blue eyes perfectly. The way his muscles tensed under his clothes every now and then had my eyes lingering on him more than was safe while driving. I suppose if I have to be a sex slave to anyone, it might as well be somebody gorgeous, I thought to myself with a small, wicked smile.

Despite the initial fear of going home with a strange man, something about him was comforting. Maybe it was the look in his eyes when he’d caught me, or maybe it was the fact he hadn’t taken me up on my obvious offer to pay him back with my body. I trusted him, which surprised me, given my recent history with men.

Did I really have a choice in the end though? I don’t know if it was a god somewhere looking out for me, but Jude’s offer to let me cook for him as payment was a damn miracle. I couldn’t even be upset that he’d demanded that I live in his home. Yesterday, I’d lost everything but the couple hundred bucks I happened to have in my wallet. My job was gone, my home, my life’s savings, and my piece of shit boyfriend. Wasn’t too sad about the last one, since he was the reason I’d lost everything else. I’d bought a hotel room for last night after shoving as much of my stuff into my car as possible, and until now I’d been too pissed to really take in the fact that I had nothing.

“Take the next right.” Jude’s deep voice broke into my thoughts and I did as he directed. I’d been too caught up in my thoughts to realize we were in the heart of city.

I turned into what looked like a private parking garage, pausing at the kiosk asking for a badge to scan. I looked over at Jude and saw him holding out a badge to me, a polite smile on his face. I took it and scanned the badge, handing it back to him before driving through the lifted gate.

“Is there anywhere in particular I should park?” I inched the car forward, waiting for his response.

“There’s another two levels of this garage, and if you go up to the top one it’s usually pretty empty.”

I nodded and drove the roundabouts until we got to the top level. I was surprised to see that it was only about a third of the size of the other two levels, and that all five of the cars up here were in the hundreds of thousands of dollars range.

I was never very good at hiding the reactions on my face, and I heard Jude chuckle next to me when he caught sight of my wide eyes, taking in all the gleaming chrome and different colors.

“I know, they’re a little ostentatious. But I like fast cars.”

I looked over at him sharply, disbelief on my face. “These are all yours?”

“What would you think of me if I said yes?” He somehow managed to look collected and in control, even scrunched up in the passenger seat of my car.

“I would think that you have more money than is healthy. There’s no reason to own so many cars! You can only drive one at a time!”

He laughed, but was nodding his head. “Then maybe I should thank you for ridding me of the Audi.”

Embarrassment heated my cheeks again as I parked in a far corner of the garage, away from the expensive cars. There was no way I was going to even breathe on another of his cars.

“You should, actually. Pezzo di spazzatura comunque." I mumbled the last part, calling the car a piece of junk.

"What was that?"

"Hmm?" I looked over at Jude innocently, then opened my door to get out. Once we were both out of the car, he came around to stand in front of me.

"What did you say, when you were speaking Italian. It didn't sound very nice." His proximity to me was throwing me off, making me nervous. I licked my lips, and couldn't help but notice the way he followed the movement with his eyes before meeting mine again. "Well?"

"Uh, I was just saying that the orange color of the car doesn't seem like you."

I tried to keep my face clear, hoping he'd believe me. His eyes narrowed as he studied my face, and I could almost see the wheels in his head turning, trying to figure out if he should trust what I was saying was the truth.

"For some reason, I don't believe you. But I suppose it's not entirely important at the moment."

I relaxed at his words, grateful for the respite. He stepped back, allowing me some breathing room again. I moved to my trunk, where I put a suitcase which I'd shoved full of necessities when packing all my shit. It'd get me through a week at least, giving me time to find somewhere to store everything and sort through what I'd be able to keep at Jude's place for my time there.

I tried pulling it out, but honestly it was really heavy. Thinking back now, I'm sure it was the adrenaline of rage that'd been coursing through me at the time that had made it possible for me to lift this thing and get it in my car.

All of a sudden a wall of heat was at my back, and long arms reached around me to grab the sides of the suitcase, pulling hard once and dislodging it. I stumbled back, completely pressed against Jude's front as he helped me get my suitcase out. The sound of the wheels hitting the ground echoed through the garage, but I barely heard them.

I was still trying to get over the feeling of being completely enclosed in his arms for the second time that night. He'd had my body covered in goosebumps from the simple touch, and I was mentally cursing my body for betraying me. I was here to work, not to fuck.

Though that wouldn't be so bad, my errant brain helpfully supplied. I shook my head to get it back on track.

"Let me get that for you," Jude offered, arms still around me and hanging onto the giant suitcase.

"No, I'm fine thanks." My voice was not as strong as I was hoping it would sounds, and I was glad I wasn't facing him so he couldn't see the cringe on my face.

"Viviana," he said sternly as he came around to look at me. "This thing weighs twice as much as you, probably. Just let me help you."

I opened my mouth to protest, but the clench of his jaw told me he wouldn't back down. I would usually fight it, but at this point I didn't have the energy for that. I let go of the suitcase with a heavy sigh.

His eyes gleamed with triumph, and I wanted to say something but I kept my mouth shut. I'd gotten myself into enough hot water for the day, so I followed Jude to the elevator, wishing for this nightmare to just end.

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