Beautifully Complicated

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Chapter 10: My Last

There was no time to waste, and Chloe didn’t have the patience for my beating around the bush anyway. I disclosed the truth of the Diamond Secret Society to her as swiftly as my accidental outburst to my new lover … and nothing in the free world could have prepared me for her reaction.

“Did I not tell you that I was with the CIA? Why in the hell would you not tell me about this?”

“Because some of your co-workers might be Diamonds! You don’t understand, Lo. These women are tied into everything! How are we going to go against that?”

“I don’t know, baby cousin, but we have to try. We have to try to do something because doing nothing is just not going to fly well with me. And the shit’s going to hit the fan real fast if we don’t come up with a plan, because Frank’s FBI family is out for blood right now, so somebody is going down for this. The federal government doesn’t take kindly to folks killing their own.”

“Damn! Now they’re going to be coming for us too?” Andreas whispered to me before I placed my hand over his mouth to silence him. No one knew about Andreas and I sleeping together let alone him having any reason to be at my house, and it was the wrong time for anyone to find out.

“Lo, you’re the secret agent! You’re the one with the government connections and all that. You tell me what to do.”

“No, Haze. This is your business. You know what to do more than I do.”

“What are you talking about?”

“You have to think, baby cousin! Stop acting like a helpless victim, use your head, and think. You have until tomorrow morning.”

“Tomorrow morning? What happens tomorrow morning?”

“Me and the rest of your staff are going to meet you at your shop bright and early.”

“Do you not remember the scene from tonight? You got everyone to walk out on me.”

“And now, I’m going to get them to all to walk back in for you, but you need to tell everyone the truth.”

“Does that include blowing your cover?”

“Now what good would that do?”

“It might make them all feel safer.”

“No, no, no. It will freak them all out, and the focus of the meeting will switch from us devising a plan to get justice for Frank … to everybody feeling betrayed and acting weird behind me being a government agent. Trust me, using me is not going to help you.”

My heavy sigh filled the air as I looked up teary-eyed to the sky. “Fine. Just call everybody and make sure they show up. I’ll … figure something out.”


Andreas was a godsend. His kind nature, and I’m sure a desire to have a repeat sex session, influenced him to ask if he could spend the night with me. I went to sleep snuggly wrapped in his arms, and woke up to him calling all of the clients scheduled for the day to offer them complimentary baskets. I was surprised by the way he handled each customer when they questioned why none of our escorts would be available. He could have told them the truth, that we were taking some time off because we had lost one of our own, but instead he creatively excused us … with a little more color.

We have been invited to an industry party that celebrates our line of work.

“A sex industry party?” I giggled once he ended his last call. “There is no such thing.”

“Not true. They have them overseas a lot, and my parents throw some here,” he told as my head jerked in surprise. “It’s not a sex industry party exactly. It’s a little more like Eyes Wide Shut.”

“Wait, your mom and your dad go to sex industry parties overseas?”

“Yeah.”

“And they throw sex parties here?”

“Yeah.”

“And you never thought to mention this?”

“Well, the parties have been mentioned but you normally say no to everyone going.”

“I’m sorry, what? What damn party is this?”

“The Serpents & Sirens party. This time Jade mentioned it. I can’t remember who brought it up before but …”

“Your parents are the ones who throw the Serpents & Sirens parties? How did I not know this?”

“My dad prefers to be discreet to anyone who does not work in our industry.”

“I’m sorry,” I shook my head, stunned, like I had been blindsided by a two-by-four. “Pause. When you say our industry, you mean like …”

“My parents are in the sex industry too, just like us.”

“What the f--?”

“Why do you think that I’m never fazed by the stuff we do at work? I’m used to it.”

“Okay, wait a minute. Did you tell your mother about my business?”

“No, of course not! I wouldn’t still be working for you if she knew.”

“Because …?”

“She’s tried her best to keep me out of it my whole life.”

“But you just said …”

“She wants me to be knowledgeable of the industry, like know that it exists and know what goes on here in Hollywood so I don’t get sucker punched by my surroundings, but she’s never wanted me to be anywhere near it. My dad has been wanting to take me to the AVNs for the longest …”

“The Adult Video News Awards?”

“Yeah! They go to the Entertainment Expo every year, but she’s so against it. She always says that it’s so easy to get lost in this life and she doesn’t want me to get the slightest taste of it. She sounds a lot like you actually.”

“Oh my God.”

“What? What’s wrong?”

“Your mother doesn’t want you anywhere near this lifestyle, but you ended up working in it anyway.”

“Well not intentionally.”

“And she has no idea.”

“Kind of ironic, huh?”

“Kind of dangerous! She’s going to kill me, and you.”

“Calm down. Mom doesn’t suspect anything, and she’ll never know. I would never jeopardize you or your business like that. And my dad, I mean, he wouldn’t care either way, but I haven’t told him anything. Besides, there’s nothing to tell. I don’t even work in the field.”

“Well thank God I never put you out there! Especially considering all of this! I mean, geez, Andreas. You didn’t think it was important for you to tell me that your mom and dad worked the sex circuit? What do they do anyway?”

“They have a film company that produces adult films.”

“Porno films.”

“Well … yeah. And they have a magazine.”

“Do they … Are they … Have they ever acted in those kinds of … films?” I nervously questioned as he chuckled.

“My dad is a director, and my mom, well … she used to be his assistant director. You know, they were a team, a real force to be reckoned with in the adult film industry.”

“Until?”

“Do you remember me telling you that my mom has had her fair share of divorces and marriages?” he asked as I nodded in anticipation. “Well, the reason her and my dad got divorced is because she cheated on him with one of their film stars.”

“I imagine that’s also why she’s not his assistant director anymore?”

“Exactly. And the reason her other three marriages after that failed are because, well, let’s just say she keeps looking for my dad in the wrong people.”

“Like her employees?” I hinted as he raised his eyebrow.

“Hazel, we are not going to be like that.”

“How do you know how we’re going to be? How do you know this isn’t some kind of sick, twisted mommy-issued phase that you’re going through right now?”

“Well, for one, I don’t have any issues with my mom. I might not approve of some of the stuff she does, especially the way she cheated on my dad, but they worked through it and they never let it affect their relationship with me, so it doesn’t affect me. The past is the past.”

“Just like that?”

“Hazel, my parents handled their situation very maturely. My mom owned up to her wrongdoing. She didn’t leave my dad to linger and question what was wrong with him or whether or not he did anything wrong. He knew he was a good man, and she knew she messed up, and they both knew that there was no coming back from what she had done. It was really just that simple.”

“Nothing is ever that simple.”

“Oh really? Then how can you explain your current situation with Lorenzo right now? When he walked out on you with Silvana, did you go running after him? Did you chase him out of the hotel room and beg for him to stay with you instead of her?”

“You know I didn’t.”

“And neither did my dad. He saw the situation for what it was, and he knew he’d never be able to forget what my mom had done. There was no point to acting like he could. Dad is very straight-forward like that.”

“And your mom? She didn’t beg him to stay?”

His head tilted as a slight smirk rose in the corner of his mouth. “She knew who she married, and she knew that if she wanted to stay married to him, she wouldn’t have stepped out in the first place.”

“But … wait. You said that your mom keeps looking for your dad in the wrong people. That means she still wanted to be with him, that she always wanted to be with him.”

“Yeah, and it also means that she misses him. Some people don’t know what they have until it’s gone, and when she lost dad for good, she realized that he was the only one she really wanted. You’re right. But it doesn’t change the fact that she stepped out, or the fact that my dad knew he deserved to be with someone who didn’t need to come close to losing him to remember that they wanted to keep him.”

“Why do I feel like you’re not just talking for your parents right now?”

“Because you can relate to what they went through. In my parents’ situation, you’re like my dad: the good-hearted, stable, and supportive spouse. Lorenzo is like my mom. Plain and simple, and much like her, he won’t realize how much he misses you … until the person he left you for causes him to suffer the same way you did … or more than likely, worse than you did. But will you want him back? I mean, do you want him to beg to have you back?”

“You’re going to ask me that question while you’re laying here with me in my bed?”

“You and your husband’s bed.”

“Ex-husband.”

“He didn’t sign the papers yet. Did he?”

“Why are you coming at me like this, Andreas?”

“Because I have the right to know! I already told you how I felt for you, how I’ve been feeling for three years.”

“I was married then. You can’t ask me to reciprocate feelings that I shouldn’t have had. What kind of woman would that make me?”

“I’m not asking for you to reciprocate my feelings; I’m asking if you’re ready to move on from your husband, or if I’m a rebound or a revenge roll in the hay?”

“Andreas, that isn’t fair. I didn’t expect what happened with us to happen. I don’t … I’m not entirely sure of how to navigate this.”

“It’s easy. You tell me where your head is at right now.”

“Is that a serious question? My head is everywhere right now! I have way to much going on to be thinking about what you and me are or aren’t going to be.”

“I’m not asking you about what we’re going to be.”

“Then what are you asking?” I screeched with my head in my hands. My eyes closed as I tried to remember how to breathe, and similar to my most recent moments of emotional instability, I felt a sensitive stroke across my back, and I began to breathe easier. “How do you do that? Every time I’m out of sorts, you touch me, and somehow I’m calm?”

His smile encouraged me to show my own. “Because I get you, and I know how to get to you, but I don’t want you to get to me anymore than you have … just so I look stupid when you get back with your husband.”

“Would it be better if I ended up with someone who wasn’t my husband?”

“Why do you keep stalling? What is it that you don’t want to tell me? That you don’t care about me? That you don’t want to be with me? Is that it? Because if it is, I can take it. I just want to know. That’s all.”

“I do care about you, Andreas. I’ve always cared about you, maybe a little more than I was supposed to. I wanted to protect you, to keep you from getting lost in this life and turning out to be like … like …”

“Like Lorenzo. It’s okay. You can say it.”

“Fine. I didn’t want you to get lost like Lorenzo.”

“So did you keep me close to protect me from getting caught up in this life, or because you didn’t want to lose me to it like you lost him?”

Another sigh escaped my lips in frustration. “Why do you push so hard?”

“Why do you keep trying to live in denial? Isn’t that how you ended up in this position in the first place? Denying the truth about what was going on in your life? Denying how you really felt about something? Denying what you really wanted? When will you realize that avoiding your truth is not going to keep you from having to deal with it eventually?”

“So what, you want me to own up to being scared out of my mind? You want me to tell you that I am afraid to make a wrong decision that could get everyone I love and care about killed? Or do you want me to admit to the fact that I am paralyzed with an abnormal lack of comfort in your comparison of me to your mother?”

“Hazel, I said that you are not my mom, and that we will not be like my mother and father. We will be like Hazel and Andreas, and right now, Andreas needs Hazel to figure out what she is going to tell the rest of her employees because we’re supposed to be meeting with them in less than an hour.”

“Well number one, we can’t drive in together.”

“Why not? We did before.”

“Oh you mean the day I had to act like I had you pick me up when we ended up having sex in the shop?” I prompted as he beamed. “What possible reason would we have to travel together today?”

“Uh, you were distraught because everyone left, and I saw you home. Besides I don’t think that will be the first thing out of anyone’s mouths. Chloe’s telling them there is a plan. You need a plan. And you also need to figure out how we’re going to deliver all these complimentary baskets if we’re all supposed to be taking the day off for this sex industry party excuse I gave.”

I felt my eyes flash open, wide with an idea. He took notice, and suddenly I knew exactly how I was going to get us all out of this mess. “All the clients you called that were scheduled for today, did they okay being sent complimentary baskets?”

“I mean, for the most part, yeah. We only do a half day on Saturdays anyway. Why?”

“We’re going to need to call them back. I think it’s time for a surplus of gift cards.”


When Andreas and I pulled into the parking lot of the shop, I was beyond grateful to see all of my living employees at the front door. The somber look on their faces, however, made me want to melt into the pavement. There wasn’t much to be said as we all walked in, but as soon as everyone got comfortable, I knew I could count on Chloe to start things off.

“All right, so what are we doing here, Haze?”

“Yeah, did you hear anything about Frank’s murder?”

“Wouldn’t it technically be voluntary manslaughter?”

“Oh, you take a couple of law classes and all the sudden you’re an expert?”

“I’m going to school to be a lawyer. That’s more than a couple of classes, you moron.”

“Alan and Reed,” I stepped in. “Nice to see that the two of you are still at it. Listen, the truth is … I don’t know if Frank’s death was accidental or not. What I do know is … there are certain people who are hellbent on covering it up.”

“Like who?”

“Why would someone want to cover up a murder?”

“Because the person responsible for it is very important to some powerful people, and his success means more to them than the death of a prostitute.”

“That prostitute was your damn cousin.”

“Hold up. I’m still stuck on how loosely she just threw that word out there. Is that how you feel about us, Mrs. Donato?”

“No, Ana, but that is how they think of you, of us. But, if we all work together, I think we can change that.”

“And in plain English, that means …”

“We’re going to collect more information for The Vault, and instead of taking it to the police or the tabloids, we’re going to personally hand it to investigators at the FBI and the CIA.”

“FBI and the CIA? You know people that work there? Is that why people are coming after us?”

“No, of course not Sebastian, but it’s how we can stop those people from coming after us. If we get the right kind of information, information to implicate the right people …”

“You mean the wrong people?” Chenoa corrected as Chloe eyeballed me.

“We can set ourselves free and write our ticket to do whatever the hell we want when this is over.”

“You mean like pay off our college tuitions?”

“Like go on a shopping spree?”

“A shop – Autumn, do you not already go on shopping sprees?”

“Can we get out of this line of work like you’ve been talking about doing?” Talia innocently asked. Other eyes followed along asking the same question. Mine traveled down to my cousin, who returned my gaze with a faint nod.

“Yeah, honey. We can all get out of this life if we want to, but we all have to do one last delivery. One huge delivery. Are y’all okay with that?”

“What are you asking us to do?”

“Go to the Serpents & Sirens party.”

“What?”

“But you’ve objected to that every time I told you Martin Hillard mentioned it to me!” Jade exclaimed.

“You’re right. I have, because I thought it would be too much for all of you.”

“How? We have sex with people damn near every day … professionally.”

“But do I ever have y’all take part in orgies?” I reminded them as they shook their heads. “Well that’s what we’re about to do, but the one thing I’ve been trying to keep y’all from is the one thing that’s going to get us out of this world. But I won’t write that check for you. If any of you want out, you have to tell me if you want in on this delivery. This is the only shot we’ve got. Now, who’s in?”

That moment …

After I spoke was the most brutal …

Standing there …

Waiting for someone else to speak …

Searching the silence for a sound.

And when Chloe stood to her feet …

My head fell in disappointment.

But when she walked up to me …

And hugged me so tight that my back cracked …

My eyes closed in relief.

She had given her stamp of approval, and everyone co-signed by standing along beside her.

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