“Have a seat, Sateria,” Johnny said after everyone had left.
Sateria shook her head. “No. I want to go home.”
“Sorry. You don’t have that choice. You sit here and talk with me, or you don’t have a job tomorrow.”
Knowing he held her fate in her hands. Sateria sat. Johnny smiled. “Good. Glad that you could join me.”
They sat and stared at each other for a moment. Each one enjoying the sight before them. One more vocal than the other.
“You are very pretty.” Johnny smiled.
Sateria looked around the empty restaurant, a bit uncomfortable. “Thank you. But do you always go to such extremes to meet a woman?”
Johnny chuckled. “Not always. I haven’t faced a challenge such as you in a while. I will be honest and say had you fell in my lap the first day I approached you, we would not be here.”
Sateria rolled her eyes. Angry with herself for not seeing the obvious signs.
Johnny interrupted. “My goodness. Please stop calling me that. I can’t stand it.”
“Well, it is your name.”
“My name is, Aurelius Johnathan Gianopoulos Jr. In order for my mother to call on the right man, she called me Johnny. I am Johnny Gianopoulos. Johnny G or any variation you can think of. I am Mr. Gianopoulos during business hours, and that is the only time. I cleared the restaurant for you, Sateria.”
She sat and remembered the special treatment she received from Brad, and how much she adored it. She began to relax. “So now that it’s just us, you are Johnny?”
He smiled. “Exactly.”
Sateria returned his smile though deep within her something said be cautious. She ignored it.
“It’s about time I saw your real smile,” Johnny said. “So, can I take you to dinner?”
Sateria had relaxed. “No.”
Johnny was taken aback. “No?”
“No. You can treat me to dinner. The next dinner is on me.”
Offended. “Sateria, I will not allow you to do this. I pay for our meal or it is not at all. I don’t do Dutch either, so just get that out of your head too.”
“Well if you want take me to dinner, that’s how it is going to be. You pay for this one, I pay for the next.” Johnny sat silent for a moment, enjoying her honesty and charm. Sateria grinned. “I’m not a whore, remember?”
Johnny chuckled. “Of course not.”
Sateria relaxed enough to go out on their first date. Dinner at an expensive restaurant of Johnny’s choosing. The second date, totally paid for by Sateria, was simple. Fast food and a movie. The third date was a bit more extravagant. A private hotel room, wine and finger foods, in a hotel Johnny owned.
“Sateria, why won’t you let me touch you?” Johnny asked, his loins screaming at him.
She didn’t crack a smile to let him know she was serious. “I’m not ready.”
“But it has been months,” he said in a tone close to begging.
“No, Johnny. Not yet.”
As time went by, Johnny had almost forgotten about Venus. Sateria was the latest on his list and he had all intentions of conquering her before he took care of Venus and moved on with his life.
The fourth date. Summer in Chicago. They walked the pier, sampling the various foods that awaited them on Lake Michigan.
“Try this,” Johnny insisted.
Sateria smiled. “What is it?”
“Something from the lake, I think. It smells good though, right?”
Sateria laughed. “It smells like the lake. I’m not biting that.”
Johnny watched her laugh and decided that he couldn’t be more in love. Sateria was the one he’d been looking for all his life. Beautiful, intelligent, sexy. Venus was a thing of the past. Sateria offered him something he hadn’t seen in a while. His birthplace through new eyes.
Places he’d been and things he seen all his life, became new behind her eyes. It had been three months since their first date, and Johnny hadn’t made any attempts to sleep with her. Not sure why, but that day, he decided that the time was right.
“Oh come on!” He exclaimed. “Just taste it!”
Trusting him at this point she bit the odd looking fish on a stick. “Mmm. That is pretty good. What is it?”
Johnny laughed. “Hell, I have no idea.”
Sateria laughed and slapped him on his muscular arm. “You could’ve poisoned me!”
Johnny reached out, grabbed her around the waist, and kissed her deeply. He ended the kiss, and gazed into her eyes. “I would never do that…on purpose,” he said with a gentle smile.
Suddenly Sateria felt something different about Johnny. His usually romantic kiss held something different this time. She was almost sure what it was, but she didn’t dare ask. She wasn’t ready for another man to love her, but she was just about positive that this is what he was feeling.
Sateria pulled away from him slowly. “Come on. We’re gonna be late for the concert,” she took his hand and lead him from the pier.
They went and enjoyed some jazz in the park for a few hours and then went back to her small apartment. Sateria dropped her keys and purse on the table and headed to the living room to turn on the television. Johnny closed the door behind him, and followed shortly behind her.
As many times as he has been in her apartment, he couldn’t stand it. He suddenly felt the need to buy her a present.
“Babe, how much longer until you’ve saved enough for your new furniture?”
She shrugged, watching the news. “I don’t know. I haven’t really shopped for it in a long time. Why?”
“Will you let me buy you a present?” he asked sitting down next to her.
She turned and glared at him. “Are you serious?”
Johnny nodded. “Yes.”
She had been saving for her furniture for a long time, and well if she let him buy it for her, then she could use her saved money on something else. Some new clothes perhaps. She didn’t want him to just do it just because he could. She was still convinced he was trying to buy her.
“Well, only if you make it a gift for a special occasion. Like my birthday or something. Otherwise, no.”
Johnny grinned. “Wonderful. So on our next date, we’ll go shopping.”
He gently stroked her cheek and went in for the kiss. She allowed him to kiss her as she always did. He was a very good kisser, and she appreciated it. Brad, though good looking was an adequate kisser, and her champion in bed.
“Babe,” Johnny whispered. “Please, let me make love to you. I won’t hurt you. I’ll be gentle, I promise.”
Sateria had only been with one man in her life, and she was in love with him when they made love the first time. Brad was her first. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to let go of that memory just yet.
“Johnny, I don’t know.”
“Why?” he whispered, giving her soft kisses on her neck.
Sateria hesitated. “I have only been with one man before, and well he loved me.”
Knowing her feelings for Johnny were growing, she still wanted to hold on to the memory of her first love. Johnny pulled back and stared at her. She saw it again. He was going to tell her something that she wasn’t sure she was ready to hear, but there was no way to stop him from saying it.
Johnny smiled and held her hand. “And you are absolutely certain that I am not in love with you?”
“Well, you haven’t told me that you are, so I have no idea how you feel.”
Johnny sat up straight and looked her dead in the eyes. “Sateria Murphy, I am in love with you. So very much. I have been very patient with you so I don’t drive you away from me, but I can’t stand not being able to express how I feel. Please. Let me make love to you…tonight.”
Brad didn’t have to ask to be with her. The feelings between them were mutual. They didn’t even discuss it hand. It just happened. Sateria faced something she hadn’t faced before. She wasn’t sure how to handle it.
“Johnny, I don’t know. I’m a bit confused.”
“I’ve always thought that love making should come natural. I mean-”
“I shouldn’t have to ask, I should just go for it?”
Sateria nodded. “Yeah.”
Johnny shook his head. “I don’t want to mess up. So out of respect, I ask. When you say no, I accept it. But I’m not willing to accept it anymore. I want you to feel what I feel for you, tonight. Sateria, don’t say no. I won’t hurt you, I promise. I will take my time, but don’t deny me anymore. I can’t take it.”
Sateria sat and thought about the offer on the table. She cared about her new man, but still was in love with her last. If she allowed Johnny to take her, would her feelings instantly change? Sateria had guarded her heart since her break up. If she let Johnny touch her would her feelings towards Brad disappear? She didn’t know, but she thought about what Kyra had been saying to her over the last few months. Johnny did seem to care deeply for her, and maybe what he said, he actually meant.
She turned to Johnny and replied, “Okay.”
So shocked, he had to be sure of what he heard. “What?”
Sateria smiled. “Yes. We can.”
Johnny grinned widely, gently grabbed the nape of her neck, and pulled her in for a kiss. His hands began to explore her body, and she allowed it. Reminded of how wonderful it was to have a handsome man touch her again, Sateria let her inhibitions go and was free.
Though he could have easily taken her where they sat, he wanted to make their first time memorable, so he carried her to her bed and gently removed her clothes. He was gentle at first in order to gauge her pain threshold. Would he have to hold back every time they were together? Or could he one day let loose and show her through his love making how he really felt about her? That first night was the test. Ten minutes in, he decided to go for it to see if she would object. She didn’t.
The following morning, Johnny awoke to an entirely different woman. Sateria wanted to touch him constantly, and he of course didn’t object. They spent the entire weekend making love, each time more intense than the last.
Very early Monday morning, they lay in bed holding each other. Sateria listened to the sound of her alarm and was immediately annoyed.
“Do I have to go to work?” She whispered in his ear. She rolled over and pressed the sleep button. She waited on his reply knowing he was still in control of her employment destiny.
Johnny turned to her. “Yes, you do.”
Sateria moved away and clicked her teeth. “Why?”
She got out of the bed, walked around to the other side of the bed, smiled, and kissed Johnny gently on the lips. “You are the best lover I’ve ever had. I want to stay in bed with you forever.”
Johnny smiled. “Well, you can’t. Now let’s go take a shower. We both have to get to work.”
Johnny rolled out of bed and stood up. “Come on, babe.”
Sateria clicked her teeth. “Okay.”
They showered and got dressed. Before they walked out of the front door, Sateria was thinking of her wonderful weekend, and wondered if it was going to be the last.
Not wanting to sound like a love sick teenager, she wondered, “So…does this weekend make it official?”
“It? You mean us?”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”
“Well, I suppose it does. I did tell you I loved you.”
“Heh. Yeah, you did.”
“Does that make you happy?”
Sateria nodded and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you.”
“Would you like me to drive you to work?”
“Not today. I don’t want everyone to ask nosy questions about us. Kyra is already going to give me the third degree. We were supposed to go shopping this weekend.”
Johnny chuckled. “Okay babe. I’ll see you later.”
He kissed her goodbye and they went their separate ways.
Johnny went home, changed his clothes, and went to his office. It was there his team was sitting waiting on him.
Surprised to see all of them, he asked, “What are you all doing here?”
“We were worried about you,” Apollo replied. “We haven’t seen or heard from you all weekend.”
Johnny shrugged. “I know that.”
“What were you doing?” Jayden asked.
Johnny chuckled, took off his suit jacket, and hung it in the closet. He poured himself a glass of orange juice, and sat down at the head of his conference table before he answered.
“I think I may have found the first Mrs. Gianopoulos.” He sipped his juice.
Pheonix was surprised. “I thought Venus was gone?”
Johnny grinned. “She is.”
Jayden smiled widely. “Oh, I bet I know who it is.”
Johnny shook his head. “No you don’t. And maybe you will never know who she is. This way we can keep her out of our business, and I won’t have to worry about killing her if we break up.”
“You’re not going to let us meet her at least?” Apollo asked.
“Well, not right now. We have a job to pull off first. After the heist maybe.”
“Aw, come on Johnny. We’ll be nice,” Troya said.
“I said maybe. We’ll see how I feel about it in a few months.”
“You keep changing your mind, Johnny,” Pheonix replied, grinning.
Johnny took another sip from his glass and chuckled. “I do? Sorry. I guess what I am trying to say is let me think about it. We are gonna be pretty busy, and I don’t want her to get caught up in our business so soon.”
Apollo chuckled as well. “But you just said you think you may have found your wife.”
Johnny’s eyes widened. “Did I say that? Now come on folks. Enough about my personal life.” The boss got serious. “Next week we are off to Vegas. In 1978, it seems that a member of the Lucchese crime family robbed a Lufthansa jet transporting eight-hundred seventy-five thousand in raw uncut diamonds. There was some cash too, but I am not aware of nor do I care about the amount. The diamonds however are a different matter. They weren’t found until a few months ago. A descendant of one of the family donated the diamonds a museum, so next week we are going on stakeout.”
“What museum?” Troya asked.
“The Mob Museum. It’s not a very large building. It used to be an old courthouse and post office. It just recently opened, so this means you don’t get to drop any matches. Too much history in this museum. I don’t want to destroy any of it.”
“So how are we going to cover our tracks?” Pheonix asked.
The following day, Johnny went to Venus’ old condo. He nodded at the doorman and went up. The last time he was there, he didn’t take the time to examine the condition of the place. He went back to the bedroom and noticed the carpet was old, and so was the tile in the bathroom.
He went to the kitchen and examined the appliances. He decided to replace them as well. The more he thought about it he decided to just give the place a total make over. First he had to find out two things. Sateria’s favorite color and the phone number of an excellent interior decorator. He sent Sateria a text message.
What is your favorite color?
Sateria felt her phone in her apron pocket buzz. She finished up with her customers, put their order in, and replied.
No reason. I just wanted to know something about you that I didn’t know.
LOL! Johnny, what are you up to?
Nothing. So are you free to go shopping tonight? I was thinking we could start on the bedroom furniture first.
You said you were going to wait until a special occasion before you bought my furniture.
I didn’t say I was going to buy it tonight. I just want to see you, and I think it would be fun. I wanna see if you have the same great taste in furniture as you do men.
LMAO! You are silly. Okay it’s a date.
Shall I pick you up?
From my place. I will be home by six.
I’ll be there.
I’ll be waiting.
I love you, Sateria.
See you tonight, Johnny.
He greeted her with a smile and a gentle kiss. He put his hand on the small of her back, and walked her to the passenger side of the car. Johnny owned a total of five cars. All of them luxurious, and expensive. His car of choice for that day was his late model Maybach Exelero. A multimillion dollar car, black with dark gray interior and red trim.
He opened the door and helped her in. Johnny closed her door and went to get in himself. Johnny pulled away from the curb.
“You look beautiful.”
Sateria smiled. “Thank you. So, where are we going?”
“Mig and Tig.”
“Never heard of it. I hope they have some nice things.”
“It is an independent small furniture boutique. You like independent shops don’t you?”
Sateria nodded. “I do.”
“Very good. You will like this one. It is the place where I bought some of my furniture. They are a bit pricey, but you don’t have to worry about that. Just pick out something you like. I’ll be sure you get it say, on your birthday?”
“That’s fine. I appreciate this babe.”
A devious smile played at the corner of his mouth. “You’re welcome.” Sateria had no idea what he planned to do for her.
She sat next to him and watched the sights as they made their way to their destination.
“After we finish, wanna go grab a bite to eat? I’m a bit hungry.” Sateria’s stomach growled quietly.
“Sure. Want anything in particular?”
“Steak sounds good.”
“Steak it is.”
Johnny thought this was a good time to bring up his trip. Hopefully she wouldn’t flip out on him. He cared deeply for her, but she had yet to reveal with her mouth how she felt about him. This bothered him a bit, but he was patient for this long, he could wait to hear the words he was sure she was soon to say.
“Babe,” Johnny started. “I have to go out of town next week.”
“Really?” Sateria said, turning to look at him. “How long will you be gone?”
“About a week or so.”
“Where are you going?”
Johnny couldn’t tell her where he was really going to be. He wanted to keep his secret for as long as he could.
“Oh, I’ve never been to L.A.”
“It’s a very busy city. Much like here. One day, I’ll take you. I own a house there that has its own private beach. We can go and make love on the beach if you like.”
Sateria’s smile grew wide at the thought of him touching her. “I would.”
“Good. It’s future date then.”
Johnny was surprised she didn’t grill him about what he was going to be doing, nor did she ask to go with him. This was new to him. Venus would have insisted on going with him if he were going to be gone longer than a day. Johnny, relived to have her out of his life, but she was still running around loose. He had figure out how to find her.
Sateria walked into the store and was instantly in love with everything. Johnny stood back and watched her admire the fine things in the store. They walked around for a while when Johnny reminded her why they were there.
“Babe, I know you like all of this, but the bedroom set, remember?”
“Oh Johnny, look at this sofa. It’s beautiful.”
“Babe, come on. Let’s get your bedroom set picked out. And I just want to let you know that price is no object. Pick out what you want.”
Sateria hadn’t bothered looking at the price on anything. It didn’t even register that she was in one of the most expensive furniture stores in the city. Her eyes widened, and she replied, “Really?”
Johnny nodded. “Yup. It is going to be your birthday present after all.”
She grinned and hugged him. “Thank you, baby.”
His stomach growled at the same time as his mind went to the bedroom.
Sateria laughed at his growling stomach. “Hungry?”
“Yes. I thought you were too.”
She kissed him on the cheek. “Okay. Let’s hurry. I can’t have my man walking around on an empty stomach.”
They went to the bedroom section of the store and Sateria was instantly in love with one bed, and only one. It immediately caught her eye and she didn’t even want to look at anything else.
It was a queen sized bed. White. High back leather headboard. Leather frame with dark wood feet. It was gorgeous.
“Johnny, I love this bed. What do you think?”
“Babe you haven’t even looked at anything else.”
“I know that. I don’t want to see anything else. I like this one. What do you think?”
Johnny approved of her choice but he gave her a suggestion. “I also like it. However, I think a king would be better.”
“A king won’t fit into my bedroom. Well it would, but there would be no room for anything else.”
“True. Are you certain that this is the one you want?”
“Oh yes. And look at these side tables.” Sateria ran her hands along the hand carved honed white marble arabesque side table. “They are beautiful.”
After they spent a lot of time in the vicinity of the bed, a sales person came over to speak with them. It happened that Johnny knew the woman who was going to help them. He saw her coming and placed his finger over his lips. She understood.
“Welcome to Mig and Tig. My name is Megan. How may I help you today?”
Sateria was still busy admiring her future bedroom set to worry about the sales staff. She allowed Johnny to do all of the talking.
“Hello Megan,” Johnny said. “It seems my lady friend has fallen in love with this set. I’m almost certain she wants it.”
“A very nice choice. This is a part of a Japanese imported collection. We also carry living room pieces if she is interested.”
“Another day perhaps.”
“Well, we can order this bed for you and you will have it at the longest, fourteen weeks.”
“That’s perfect,” Johnny said, remembering her birthday was in about three months. “And the side tables? How long for delivery on those?”
“They have a shorter lead time. I can have those delivered in about eight weeks.”
“Can we have everything delivered all at once?”
“Very good. I will be back in a couple of days to place the order.”
Megan nodded. “I will be here.”
Suddenly out of curiosity, Sateria asked the price of her new set. Johnny was offended. Especially after he told her not to worry about price.
“Babe, don’t worry about how much it’s going to cost. It’s a present.”
“No, Johnny. I want to know.”
Immediately upset, Johnny didn’t want to disappoint her. He allowed Megan to answer the question. “Well before delivery, the price will be about 7500 dollars.”
Sateria shook her head. “No. I can’t let you buy this for me.”
“Babe, I can afford it. I only want you to enjoy it.”
“No, Johnny. We can continue to look at a different store. I don’t want you to spend that kind of money on me even if it is a present.”
Johnny sighed. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. Let’s go eat. I’m hungry.”
Johnny turned and winked at Megan. “Okay babe. Whatever you want. I’m sorry to have wasted your time, Megan.”
“It’s okay, sir. I hope your lady finds something to her liking.”
“Thank you. Come on, Sateria. Let’s go.”
They left the store and went to get dinner. They enjoyed each other as they ate, and afterward went back to her apartment and made love until the wee hours of the morning. Tired and sore, she rose from her bed and got ready for work. Johnny kissed her and told he would see her later.
Johnny went home to shower and change clothes. Before he left home, he sent a text message to Apollo.
Meet me in my office in thirty minutes.
Thirty minutes? It’s my day off and I’m just getting out of bed.
Okay, okay. See you then. Don’t bitch at me about the way I look.
Just get there. We need to talk.
On my way.
Thirty minutes later, the two men faced each other for the first time that day.
“So what’s up?” Apollo asked.
Johnny moved from his desk to his large window that looked out on the lake. “Any word on Venus’ whereabouts?”
“I’m going to remodel the condo.”
Turning to Apollo to be sure he understood his words, “It isn’t her place any longer, but yes.”
Turning back to the window in an effort to hide his thoughts, “No reason. It’s just time is all.”
Apollo stared at his closest friend. “Nope not buying it. You are gonna move your new girl in there, right?”
Johnny nodded. “You know me well don’t you? Yeah, I am. She doesn’t know it. It’s a surprise for her birthday.”
“So you made me leave my house looking like shit to tell me this? We could have talked about this on the phone.”
“You can go home and clean up in a minute. I just wanted you to hear what I had to say in person. And I swear if you tell a soul, your ass is mine.”
Johnny moved across the room and looked out of the windows that faced downtown. “Do you remember the waitress from the Grand?”
“The pretty one with the green eyes?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
“Yeah, what about her?”
Johnny turned to his friend and didn’t say a word. Apollo suddenly understood.
“Jayden was right. It is her. The woman that could be your wife?”
“Yeah,” Johnny nodded. “She is the most…she is wonderful.”
Apollo watched his friend pace his office at a loss of what to say about his latest interest. “Aurelius Johnathan Gianopoulos Jr., you are seriously in love this time.”
“I am. Don’t tell anyone. If anyone gets to meet her, it will be you. I mean really meet her. You already know who she is. But I am willing to let you get to know her.”
“After the job.”
“Yes, after the job. Don’t tell Jayden. He will freak the hell out. This is just between me and you.”
“So what about Venus?”
“Things haven’t changed. Stalk her if you see her. Kill her when you find her. But she has to die.”
Apollo nodded. “Okay,” he replied. Still confused why he was sitting in his bosses office so early on a morning he didn’t really need to see him. “Johnny, do you have something you really want to talk about or did you just bring me down here to see how fast I could move?”
Johnny shook his head. “It’s the latter. By the way, you do look like shit.”
Apollo smirked. “Thanks.”
“You will like my new girl. I promise. She is not in the least attracted to my money. We went shopping last night and when she found out that her birthday present was almost eight thousand dollars, she made me back off the purchase.”
Apollo smiled a crooked smile. “But you really didn’t. You are gonna buy her hearts desire anyway.”
“You know I am. Also get her out of her neighborhood and her tiny apartment, if I can. I need you to find me an interior decorator in two days.”
“Do it. We don’t have but a few days before we go to Vegas. I want to get the plans for my girl’s new place in order before we leave. I told her I would be gone for a week and a few days. You know as well as I do, we have to stay until the stakeout is finished. Who knows how long that will take?”
“So you just want me to find a good decorator.”
“Yup. Two days. I want them in the very seat you are sitting in by 2 pm, two days from now.”
“You know my taste. Don’t send me any trash. I want the best.”
“Okay. Will do.”
Apollo left Johnny’s office, and he thought about what Johnny told him. What waitress? There are plenty pretty ones in there. I just hope he’s not talking about the one I have my eye on.
Two days later, Johnny had a decorator sitting in his office.
“Her favorite color is blue. The bedroom will be white. I have already seen the furniture that is going to go in there. The rest of the condo will have lots of her favorite color, no matter the shade. Understood?”
“Sir, the bedroom furniture that you spoke of, contemporary?”
“So I know how to decorate the rest of the place.”
“Okay. I’m going on a trip in two days. I will be out of pocket for at least a week. Tomorrow we will go to the condo so you can see it. Her favorite color is blue. Did I mention that?”
“Yes sir, you did.”
The kitchen is to be stainless steel. Beyond the bedroom and the kitchen, you have total control.”
“I will try not to disappoint you.”
“Better not. Or your commission will be significantly less than we discussed.”The following day, Johnny and the decorator went to the condo to get measurements. They shook hands and parted ways. Johnny decided to wait to call the contractors in to do the renovation when he got back.