Absolutely furious that she had to take the tip offered, though she didn’t want it, Sateria put three hundred dollars in her savings account, paid her bills, and bought some new clothes. The two hundred she had left, she spent on her best friend. She treated Kyra to a few dinners, and even paid her cell phone bill. Since there was no way to give the money back, she decided she would do what Charlotte told her to do. Enjoy it. She got a huge thrill of helping one of her friends, and she did appreciate being able to buy some new clothes.
Johnny couldn’t get Sateria out of his mind. Who would have thought that he would have been so attracted to an average waitress? He knew deep down, people didn’t get to choose who they were attracted too. That came from a higher power. A power he believed in, but knew there was no way he would spend eternity in peace. Because of the life he was currently leading, Johnny’s afterlife was hot and painful, yet he kept on doing what he wanted to do.
This particular night, Venus insisted on spending some time with him. Johnny was still at a loss as to what to do with her. He didn’t want her anymore, yet he couldn’t kill her. He was stuck.
Johnny sat in his living room sipping on a glass of white wine and waited on Venus to make her appearance. Just as he finished his glass of wine, the doorbell rang. Johnny got up to answer it. There she stood, all five foot three of her, in a gorgeous red, short, low cut dress, waiting for Johnny to open the door.
His favorite color was red, and a large breasted woman in a red dress that left little to the imagination was one of his weaknesses. Johnny paused and held back the erotic thoughts that entered his mind. She was his girlfriend, and he could have her anytime he wanted her, but he was curious why she demanded to see him. Johnny opened the door.
“Hey babe.” He backed away and let her in.
Venus stepped in the door. She looked him in the eyes and kissed him gently on the lips. Venus then moved past him and sat down on the couch.
Knowing that she was going to ask for a drink, he moved to his bar. “What can I get you, my dear?”
“Johnny, you already know what I want. Why do you have to ask?”
Thinking she might change something about her, be a little bit more spontaneous, he was disappointed. “Vodka tonic coming up.” He poured himself another glass of wine at the same time and joined Venus on the couch.
“So, what did you want to see me about?”
“Us. I want to talk about us.”
“We’re fine. What about us?”
“I want to know why you have been ignoring me lately.”
Johnny was shocked that she actually noticed. “Ignoring you? I haven’t been ignoring you,” he lied.
Venus sipped her drink. “You plan a job, and I don’t hear from you for days. This is not how we started off, Johnny.”
“It was different when I met you, Venus.”
“Well, let’s just say there are now six members on my team where up until a few months ago there were only five.”
“I don’t understand.”
Not wanting to let her know he should have kept his life a secret, he hedged. “You are the sixth member of my team.”
“Johnny, you are my man. We agreed to share everything. What I want to know is why all of a sudden you are ignoring me. If you don’t want me anymore just say it. I’m a big girl.”
Johnny glared at the gorgeous woman next to him, and he couldn’t manage to get his mind off of sex. “That you are. But I’m not ignoring you. I’m just busy right now, Venus.”
“If I am a part of your team, shouldn’t I be busy too?”
Johnny attempted to sway her thoughts elsewhere. His were. He reached up and gently stroked her cheek. “I want you, Venus.”
Offended he was still ignoring her, she slapped his hand away. “I didn’t come over here for you to fuck me, Johnny. I want some answers, and I want them now. If I am a part of the team, I should be in on meetings.”
Johnny stood up and with his glass in his hand and turned his back to her. “Not everyone knows you are the sixth member of the team.”
Venus squinted. “What?”
Johnny turned to her. “You heard me. Not everyone knows you are the sixth member of the team. And really, you aren’t. The only reason I call you that is because you know what we do.”
Surprised. “So I’m not really a member of your team?”
Johnny sighed. “Venus, you are a member of my team simply because you are my girl. No other reason.”
She tilted her head to the side and asked, “Really?”
“You don’t have the skills or talent to be a part of my secret life so to speak. You are not a thief, you are a beautiful woman, and honestly, that’s all.”
“So I’m stupid.”
“I didn’t say that.” Johnny stood staring at Venus wondering why he was justifying himself when he knew he was really done with her. Perhaps he just wanted her the way a man wanted a woman at the time, and he didn’t want to ruin his chances. “Babe, you aren’t stupid, it’s just…”
Holding his true words back, he didn’t have an answer for her. He didn’t love her, but he didn’t want to hurt her feelings either.
“Just what, Johnny?” Venus had come to his house to break up with him, but Johnny didn’t know it. Johnny shook his head. “Fine,” Venus said, abruptly standing. “I’m going home. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.”
“Babe, what does that mean?”
“It means you have pissed me off. I don’t want to talk to you until you are ready to tell me the truth.”
Venus nodded. “The truth. What do I really mean to you? That is the answer I’m looking for. If you can’t give me that then well perhaps we need some time apart.”
Time apart. Johnny began to get nervous. Every second she was away from him was a chance for her to go to the cops with all of the information she had on him. Venus had information on at least five of Johnny’s past jobs. Stuff that would land him in prison for a very long time. But would she rat him out? Johnny wasn’t sure, but if she did, she would give up her carefree lifestyle by her own hand. Perhaps she wouldn’t go to the cops, but she could obviously use her position to her advantage, Johnny wasn’t happy with this. Maybe he would just let her go. A bit of cash on the side would certainly buy her silence.
“Time apart. How long are we talking about?” He moved close enough to touch her. “Five minutes?”
Venus shook her head. “I’m not playing with you this time, Johnny. You either give me what I want, or I’m leaving you.”
“Leaving me? Why?” Not that he really cared, he was just curious.
“I’ve already told you. I want to know why you have been pushing me away lately.”
Johnny knew what he had to do. “Okay. Not a problem. Come to my office tomorrow and I will tell you.”
“Have I ever lied to you?”
Venus smirked. “Not that I’m aware of.”
Johnny moved closer to her and pulled her into him with his free hand. Venus looked into his haunting green eyes. Johnny’s loins were on fire, and he was not about to let her get away from him that night. He turned on the charm and gently caressed her cheek. This time, she didn’t slap his hand away.
Johnny spoke softly but with conviction. “I have always told you the truth, babe. I may not have told you things on purpose to keep you safe, but I have never lied to you.”
With his soft touch and soothing voice, Venus’ body suddenly woke up. She allowed him to continue to touch her. When Johnny felt her body relax, he went in for the kiss. She forgot why she’d really come to see him, and allowed him to take her. Johnny put everything he had into making love to her. He made up his mind long before the first article of clothing came off that this was gonna be the last time he would be with her.
The following day, Johnny waited patiently in his office for Venus to arrive. He sat there with Apollo sipping brandy. He seemed a bit on edge, but Apollo knew why.
“So tell me why is she coming to see you again?” Apollo asked.
“She wants to know why I have been ignoring her.”
“Well we both know why that is. So what are you gonna do?”
Johnny sipped his drink and set it down on the desk. He ran his finger around the rim of his glass and answered, “What I have to.”
Apollo’s eyes widened. “Really?”
Johnny nodded, and sipped more of his drink. “What else can I do? She knows too much and I just can’t let her walk out of my life. If so, I’ll certainly go to prison.”
“You mean we’ll go to prison.”
“Yeah, there is that. So I’m sure you won’t object if she can’t talk anymore.”
“Not at all,” Apollo shook his head.
There was an uncomfortable silence between the two of them for a moment, and Apollo still didn’t have all the answers to the questions going in his head.
“So, what time is she gonna get here?”
Johnny looked at his watch. “In about five minutes.”
“So you want me here? Cause honestly, I don’t want to be here.”
“Only until she gets here, then you can leave. Just in case I do get caught, I don’t want you to be implemented in her murder.”
Apollo sipped his drink. “Thanks. I appreciate that.”
“So until she gets here, let’s talk about our next heist.”
Apollo sighed. “Johnny, you said we were gonna chill for a little while.”
“I did. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it.”
Thirty minutes after Venus was supposed to arrive, Johnny and Apollo still sat waiting on her. Johnny, already nervous about what he was going to do, began to get upset. He was a man who lived his life by precise timing and extreme order. If he said eight o’clock, he meant it.
He glanced at his watch. “Where is she?”
“Maybe she fell asleep.”
Johnny shook his head. “Well she should have set her fucking alarm. You know I don’t like to wait.”
Apollo also late for an appointment looked at his watch. “Johnny, I gotta go. I’m late.”
“Late for what?”
“I have a date with a cute little honey I met a few days ago.”
Johnny was curious. “Really? You gonna keep this one?”
Apollo chuckled. “I just met her, but I doubt it.”
Johnny grinned. “As usual. When are you gonna find a steady girl?”
Apollo shrugged. “Don’t know.”
Johnny suddenly remembered why they were in his office in the first place. He got up and poured his third snifter of brandy. “Go on. I’ll wait for her alone.”
“You sure? I can call and reschedule.”
“Nah. Knowing you, she’s probably sitting outside some fancy, expensive restaurant half starved.”
“We’re going to Spiaggia, unless you want me to stay.”
“Nice choice. Nah, go on. I’ll be fine.”
“Call me and let me know what’s going on.”
“You know I will. Go on, get outta here.”
Apollo stood and left his boss’ office.
Johnny sat down for a moment, and looked at his watch. Where is she? He picked up his cell phone and dialed her number. No answer. Two hours and fifteen phone calls later, Johnny was more than upset. Venus’ no show messed up his entire evening. He decided to go and find her. After all, it was her fault that he missed his dinner and his baseball game.
Driving to her Michigan Avenue condo, the doorman greeted him with a smile. Johnny didn’t smile but nodded and stormed past him. He stood in the lobby and called Venus again. No answer. He caught the elevator to the 20th floor, went to her door, and knocked. Venus didn’t answer. He put his key in the door and opened it. At this point he hoped she was there with someone else so he would be justified in killing her. Crimes of passion were normal, and sometimes given a light sentence. Though that would not be the reason for killing her. Only Johnny and Apollo would really know why.
Pushing the door open, he was surprised to find the entire living room devoid of furniture. He walked from room to room to find the condo empty. Venus was gone. Instantly angry, he left the condo, locking the door behind him. He made his way back to the front of the building where he questioned the doorman.
“Excuse me. Do you know Miss Knight?”
The doorman smiled. “Ah yes. Very nice young lady. I was coming on shift when she told me goodbye.”
Johnny raised an eyebrow. “Goodbye?”
“Yes. You didn’t know. She moved out of her place today.”
Johnny’s face was hot with anger. “No, I didn’t know. Is she going to sell her condo?”
“Well, she did mention she was going to rent it. She told me she was moving to a larger place.”
“Did she say where?”
“No sir, she didn’t.”
Johnny reached in his wallet and handed the doorman twenty dollars. “Thanks.”
The doorman smiled. “You’re welcome and thank you, sir. Have a nice night.”
Johnny nodded and went to his car. Before he pulled off, knowing Apollo was probably busy; he sent him a two word text message.
Sateria woke from her dream sweating and frustrated. She’d dreamt of Brad and the last time they were together. Angry with herself for allowing her feelings to linger this long, she decided Kyra was right. It was time to move on. Sateria closed her eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but she couldn’t get Brad out of her mind. She looked at her alarm clock armed and ready to go off at eight am, it was four in the morning. Damn it! She turned on her television and watched an old movie until she was relaxed enough to fall asleep.
Johnny couldn’t sleep. He was home pacing the floor waiting on Apollo’s response to his earlier text message, and wondering where Venus could have gotten off to. Chicago was a huge city, and she could be anywhere. He thought he might use some of his connections to try and locate her, but in truth he was glad she was gone. The only thing that still bothered him is that he let her in on his secret. He decided that when he found another woman, no matter how beautiful, no matter how much he cared for her, she would never know what his side gig was. The government knew he was a real estate giant, and that is what his new chosen one would know him as. No matter how awesome the sex, no matter how good her company was, she would never know that his true wealth came from his life as a jewel thief.
At six in the morning, Johnny was still pacing the floor. He sent a text to Apollo asking what he was doing. Apollo didn’t reply until and hour later.
What do you think I have been doing? Damn man, it’s seven in the morning.
I need to talk to you in person.
What’s going on?
Venus is gone. I thought I told you that last night. Didn’t you read my message?
I did, but I was a bit busy.
Get here when you can. I’m at home.
Obviously. I’ll be there in an hour.
See you then.
After the doorman announced that Apollo on his way up, minutes later, Apollo was ringing Johnny’s doorbell. He looked out of the peephole to ensure it was who he thought, and opened the door.
“Hey,” Apollo said.
“Hey,” Johnny replied and moved to his living room.
Apollo closed the front door behind him and followed Johnny. Apollo immediately noticed that Johnny was in the same clothes from the night before.
“Did you sleep?”
Johnny went to his bar and poured himself another drink. “Want something?”
Apollo shook his head. “Naw.”
Johnny sipped his drink and continued to pace. Apollo had seen his friend like this before.
“What’s on your mind?” Apollo asked.
Johnny paced a few more steps. “Why do you ask that?”
A crooked smile played at one side of his mouth. “Well first, you are pacing around here like a mad man. Second, you are dressed in the same clothes from yesterday which means you haven’t slept. What is going on?”
“Two hours after you left I went to look for her. Her place was empty.”
“I don’t know. That is what has me so freaked out. Maybe she went to the cops.”
Apollo thought about the woman he knew. In his eyes, Venus loved money too much to give it up on a whim. “Maybe not.”
Johnny sipped his drink and continued to pace the floor. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? Maybe not. I can’t live my life on a maybe. We have to get rid of her. I won’t last two minutes in prison.”
“Johnny, you need to get some sleep. Go to bed and think about it afterwards. Right now you are not in your right mind.”
Johnny glared at Apollo, shocked. “What is wrong with you? Did you not hear what I just said? There is a woman running around loose with our secrets. We have to do something.”
Apollo watched Johnny drink and pace. “We? I said it before. Your girl, your problem. You should have killed her the last time you laid eyes on her. If you had, she wouldn’t be running around loose with our secrets. But I don’t think she will betray us. At least not yet. I think she’s after something.”
“Maybe, but what?”
“Something that you have plenty of. We just have to find her to be sure.”
“She lied to me, Apollo. She has never done that before. I can’t trust her now, and I will never again. When I see her again, she will be dead for sure.”
Apollo watched his leader pace the room nervously. “You seem mighty sure of that now. Not just a month or so ago you wanted me to kill her. What’s changed?”
Johnny stopped pacing and faced his friend. “I no longer have control of her actions.”
Johnny and Apollo sat and conversed about Venus a bit more and other things. Across town, a particular alarm was ringing well pass ten minutes.
Sateria rolled around in the bed fighting sleep, prepared to call in at any moment. Then she thought of her beautiful new furniture. She shut off her alarm and rolled out of bed. Dragging herself to the bathroom, she turned on the water to the shower, and after a few minutes, managed to get in. A hot shower was all she needed to wake up. Suddenly she was in work mode. Prepared to go in, tackle the tough customers with a smile, and earn twenty percent tips when she could.
That day she was on her normal lunch shift, working her normal station when she noticed Johnny come in the restaurant. She remembered how arrogant he was, which bothered her, yet he was determined to leave her an enormous tip. Perhaps he meant well, but Sateria did not appreciate it. Maybe because at the time she was not aware of his extravagant spending habits. But she was not going to take tips away from a hundred other people just because he wanted to leave her a huge one.
She watched as the hostess sat him at her station. Sateria rolled her eyes in disgust, yet continued to smile. She was not looking forward to talking to him again. Johnny made his way to his table and sat. It happens that she was waiting on others at the time. Johnny sat at a table to her right. With dread in her heart, she smiled at her customers she attended to.
“Will there be anything else?” She asked, grinning.
“No, that will be all,” said a tall man in a green shirt.
Sateria took their menus and put their food order in. Before she left the chef’s station, she glanced at her next customer. Johnny sat alone at his table, almost in anticipation of seeing Sateria again. She could feel that he wanted to talk to her. She didn’t want to talk to him. Sateria turned to her left to see who the hostess was. She clicked her teeth as she saw the new girl. Damn it. Sateria took a deep breath and moved to Johnny’s table.
“Welcome, Mr. Gianopoulos.”
Johnny looked up into her subtle green eyes. “Thank you, Sateria, was it?”
“Yes sir. How may I help you today?”
He immediately noticed her standoff attitude. He didn’t want her to reject him. He wanted her. However he was the boss and intended to remind her of that.
“I will take the usual.”
“Mr. Gianopoulos, it is still lunchtime. Perhaps we can make you a cheese steak instead.”
Johnny’s eyes almost fell out of his head. After all he’d done for her, for more reasons than one, she still insisted on defying him.
“No,” Johnny said glaring up at his waitress. “Filet Minion, please. Medium well, with green beans and a baked potato.”
Sateria didn’t respond this time. Angry that she had to pull the cooks out of their normal routine, she placed his order. Minutes later, she returned to his table and placed his food in front of him. As she put his plate on the table, Johnny reached out and touched her hand.
It was almost as if the energy from his body, jumpstarted hers. She did not feel the same energy from any man since Brad. She didn’t pull away as her instincts told her to do. Johnny admired her hands and slowly followed her arm up to her face. When their eyes met, Sateria slowly pulled away.
“Let me take you to dinner.” Johnny was almost breathless.
Sateria shook her head. “No.”
A slow smile crept up on his face. “Fine. You should know that I get what I want in most situations. I only want to take you to dinner, Sateria. No strings attached I promise,” Johnny lied.
Sateria stood and stared at him, aware that not only were her customers watching, her co-workers were as well. She shook her head.
“Why?” Johnny asked in a tone close to begging.
“I am aware that you are accustomed to you using your power and getting your way, Mr. Gianopoulos. Tell me. Have you ever asked any of my female co-workers to dinner?”
Johnny’s attraction for her went up a few more notches. He stared her in the face and replied, “Because no one else in this restaurant excites me the way you do.”
Sateria didn’t know whether to grin or slap him. Johnny was as handsome as her beloved Brad. Handsome men lit her on fire at the smallest glance. Now she had one wanting to go out with her. She didn’t know what to do. Should she accept? If she did, she might be seen as easy. If she refused, he might think she was stupid. She didn’t know.
“Mr. Gianopoulos, I would appreciate it if you would keep our relationship the way it should be in this setting. I’m at work, and I would like to be seen as a woman who is here to work and not a whore.” Johnny chuckled. “I’m serious.”
The same crooked smile appeared on his face again. “Are you saying that whores don’t work?” Sateria’s anger shown on her face. Johnny backed off. “Well then. I will ask your manager to close the restaurant right now. We’ll call it a power outage. That will keep others from coming in. I will wait until the last table has finished their food, then we can talk. You are the only reason that I am back here so soon. I usually eat here once a week with my friends.” Johnny looked to both his left and right. “Do you see either of them?” Sateria shook her head. “Well then. Please go get Charlotte for me. I would hate for you to be seen as a whore.”
Sateria stormed off and went to get her manager.
“What is it now, Sateria? It seems that ever since you met Mr. Gianopoulos, you come to see me more often.”
“He wants to see you.”
Sateria nodded. “Yes, again. And just in case you were wondering, no, I haven’t done anything wrong, so save it.”
Charlotte nodded and went to Johnny’s table. “Good afternoon, Mr. Gianopoulos. What can I do for you today?”
“I was wondering if we could go into your office and chat.”
“Aren’t things to your liking?”
“Of course they are. I just need to talk to you in private.”
Charlotte led the way, and Johnny followed close behind. The entire wait staff stopped what they were doing and watched as the owner and the manager went to her office. They wondered what was going on only for a moment and then got back to work. Sateria took a deep breath and wondered again if she was going to be fired. She hoped not. She went to her newest customers to take their order. On her way to put their order in, Kyra met her.
“What’s going on?”
Sateria attached the order to the turnstile and turned to her best friend. “He asked me out.”
Kyra’s eyes were wide and her mouth fell open. “No way!”
Sateria rolled her eyes. “Don’t make a big deal of this, Kyra. I’m not going.”
Kyra couldn’t believe her ears. “Not going? What is wrong with you girl, are you crazy?”
“I’m not ready.”
Kyra chuckled. “Really? I think you are. You’re just scared.”
“I’m not scared of him.”
“I didn’t say that you were afraid of him, but you are afraid of getting your heart broken again.”
Sateria rolled her eyes and attempted to walk away. Kyra grabbed her by the arm. “Don’t walk away from me. For once you are gonna listen to me.”
“No, I’m not.” Sateria attempted to walk away again.
Kyra grabbed Sateria’s arm this time and didn’t let go. “Brad is gone. I know you still love him, but it is about time you let him go. Mr. Gianopoulos owns this restaurant. Why in the hell wouldn’t you just go out with him?”
Sateria was afraid to let Kyra look her in the eye, so she turned away. “I don’t know.”
Kyra squinted. “Sateria look at me.” Kyra patiently waited until Sateria met her gaze. “This man has money, and all he wants to do is go out on a date with you. I want you to say yes. Who knows what can happen?”
“I do.” Sateria thought of Brad.
Kyra still had a hold of Sateria’s arm and she growled. “No you don’t. He’s not Brad, Sateria. Fucking let it go.”
“I can’t.” Sateria pulled away from her friend’s grip and went to help the next table.
Kyra watched her best friend hurting. She shook her head and went back to her own customers.
Charlotte’s office door closed behind Johnny, and he sat in her chair. He looked around at the paperwork on her desk and saw how disorganized it was.
“How can you get anything done with this desk in such a state?” he asked, picking up a payroll statement examining it.
Charlotte was as nervous as she always was in a closed door meeting with her supervisor. She smiled gently. “It’s an organized mess.”
Johnny raised his eyes. “Yet still a mess. There is no order on your desk. Clean it up.”
Johnny moved through the payroll statements on Charlotte’s desk and he came across Sateria’s. He held it in his hand and examined it for a moment before he spoke. “So Sateria got her bonus?”
“Yes, she did.”
“From her attitude toward me today, I would say that she didn’t appreciate it?”
Charlotte shook her head. “No sir, she didn’t. She wanted me to take it back, do an adjustment, and reverse it.”
“Of course you refused.”
Charlotte nodded. “I did.”
“Good.” Johnny continued to look at Sateria’s statement and continued. “I am going to make some phone calls, and then we are going to have a power outage.”
Confused, Charlotte replied, “What?”
Johnny looked up. “When I get off of the phone, you are going to inform the entire restaurant that we have had a power outage, once the power actually goes off, of course. You are to inform your staff not to let anyone else in, and when the last customer has finished their meal, all but Sateria and the kitchen staff can leave. The kitchen will be clean before anyone who works in the kitchen can leave. I don’t want the health department breathing down my neck.”
Suddenly concerned Charlotte replied, “Mr. Gianopoulos, we are going to lose a lot of money if we do that. Dinner is coming up in an hour.”
“Don’t worry about that. I can afford to lose a few thousand dollars.”
“So, what do you want me to do?”
Johnny glared at Sateria’s pay statement some more. “Tell me where the junction box is, get back to work, and give this woman a raise.”
Charlotte nodded, told him the location of the junction box, and left her own office. Johnny made his phone calls and slipped out to the back of the building.Minutes later, things played out just the way he’d planned. Within thirty minutes, the last customer was leaving. Charlotte informed the staff that they could have the rest of the night off with pay, and let them all leave. Soon after, she went out of the back door herself and locked it. Sateria found that she was alone with an extremely handsome man who she now knew meant what he said.