I wasn’t sure where Val had intentions on taking me but at the same time I didn’t exactly care. I was getting out of this suffocating house and I hoped to make the most of it.
Anita had showed me websites for dresses this morning and after choosing one that was apparently appropriate for the occasion, I was fitted for it and Val made a call for it to be ready by the evening - which in anyone else’s world is an impossible request. But this is Val’s world and he makes the impossible possible.
I decided on a beautiful pink dress, it was far more elegant than anything I’ve ever worn before and the price tag wasn’t anywhere close to my price range. But Val had said I had to choose something from one of the three websites Anita showed me, and the gown had to be elegant, a non cocktail dress.
The neckline was a low cut but held my breasts so I didn’t show more than I was comfortable with, I’ve never been one to flaunt and I’ve never like wearing clothing that showed a lot of my body on purpose.
Summer clothes don’t count, I shouldn’t have to suffocate if a man doesn’t have to.
My style has always been modest and respected, this dress showed it well.
Now that I waited for Val to be ready, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision on everything. What if these heels began to kill my feet afterwards? My hair was done in a lovely updo with a few curls falling against my shoulders.
My thoughts were all over the place and there was no doubt in my mind that it was because I was so eager to get out of the house and see the outside world again. I knew this wasn’t a time for traveling, but I’ve never been to Chicago. Now I would be able to see it - and at night!
“Mio, ti sembra assolutamente stupefacente, il mio amore.” Val’s voice spoke from behind me which made me turn around quickly to face him.
[Translation: My, you look absolutely stunning, my love]
His eyes were wandering down my body as his fingertips touched his stubble in a thoughtful manner. I wasn’t sure if he had forgotten that I didn’t know Spanish or Italian, or whatever the hell language he was saying, but whatever he just said, I didn’t get.
“Uh... You too?” I responded, unsure.
Val only chuckled before reaching into the pocket of his pants and taking out a box, “I have a little something for you. I’d like for you to wear it this evening.”
As he stepped closer, I looked at the box and recognized the jewelry company. Val extended his arm for me to take the box from him and I did, nodding a little, “Thank you...”
I refrained from rolling my eyes at his naturally demanding behavior and I took the ribbon off, then the lid of the little box. A stunning diamond necklace was inside and it was unlike anything I had ever see, the most gorgeous necklace imaginable.
“Oh my goodness...” I glanced up at Val, “This is beautiful. It’s...”
“Exquisite?” He continued for me, “Let me put it on for you, it’ll look nice with your gown.”
I managed a little smile as he took the necklace and walked behind me, I moved the few curls that had fall on my shoulder and held them while Val moved the necklace around my neck, hooking it together in the back.
He kissed the back of my neck gently, “A beautiful necklace for an even more beautiful woman.”
It was a compliment, so I smiled. But my smile wasn’t real, but this time it wasn’t Val’s fault. It wasn’t something he said or did, it was the universe. Woman? I barely felt like a woman. I’m only eighteen and being a woman means being an adult which is something that happened to me so suddenly. I wasn’t a girl, no longer a teenager.
I’m a woman now. I no longer have the free obligations of a teenage girl, I now have the full responsibilities of a married woman and being referred to that made everything seem more clear and real to me.
I placed my hand over the necklace, feeling the diamond against my fingertips, “So, can you tell me where were going now?”
When Val circled around me, he took his suit jacket from the closet and pulled it on, “Just a social event. It’s good for business and forming connections.”
Val is basically taking me to an event with other mafia members, and event with God knows how many murderers and psychos. How does that seem normal to him?
“It’s time for everyone to meet my wife,” He added and I looked at him with a questioning look before he continued, “I haven’t had the chance to tell you because you’ve been such a brat, but being married to me gives you a great deal of power, Elaina. One day, I’ll be Capo and you’ll be the Italian Capo’s wife. People fear me, they fear you. Us.”
But I don’t want people to fear me, I’ve given no one any reason to be afraid of me. People would see me or hear my name, Elaina Acerbi, and instantly fear me because of who I was married to. Because of the name I was given the day I married Valentino, the man he was affected me so much more than just my life inside the house.
Val’s hand stayed on my waist the entire time except for when he grabbed us drinks from the tray that passed or shook hands with some men. The event he took me to was held in a very large building that seemed very luxurious to me. Amazing how criminals could book events like this without getting caught by law inforcement.
Everyone was dressed nicely but looked of high authority, it was extremely intimidating. I assumed everyone was armed, I knew that Val was because I seen him when he put his gun in his holster before we left.
“Ah, Valentino. This must be your lovely wife,” A male voice said and I noticed a tall, older man approaching us, “Mrs. Acerbi, shall I call you?”
“Elaina is fine,” I answered.
“Good to see you, Giovanni.” Val’s tone was still, it wasn’t happy nor did he actually seem like it was good to see this man, but then again; was Val ever happy to see anyone?
Giovanni’s eyes turned to me, “She is beautiful, Valentino. Youthful. And the blue eyes... Captivating.”
Suddenly I wanted to yank my eyes out of the sockets, this man didn’t just stare at me but he stared into my soul. It was terrifying.
“Keep your eyes from wandering on another man’s woman, Giovanni.” Val said to him in a threatening tone as his hand tightened around my waist in a possessive manner.
Giovanni chuckle and took a sip of the scotch that was in his hand, “There’s nothing wrong with looking, Valentino.”
“There is when you’re looking at my wife,” Val’s eyes never left Giovanni, continue to glare at him, “And I believe you’re married also.”
Giovanni shrugged nonchalantly and looked around the busy room, “My wife is just one woman.”
“Dad!” I heard a familiar voice said from a short distance and Gianna appeared, giving Giovanni a hug.
“Ah, my girl. You look lovely,” Giovanni kissed her head and looked around, “Where is Stefano this evening? He’s usually right behind you.”
“He’s talking with his friends near the entry way,” Gianna looked over at me and smiled, “So you’ve met Elaina.”
“We’re actually about to head elsewhere,” Val commented before nodding towards Giovanni, “I’m sure we’ll catch up again.”
“It was nice to meet you,” I said softly before walking away with Val.
Val was walking in a quick stride, muttering under his breath, “That man... I cannot stand him.”
I rushed to keep up with him, staying at his side, “Well, you did a very good job at showing otherwise.”
His eyes narrowed towards me and he didn’t crack a smile, nor did he look the slightest bit relieved, “That family is bad nefarious, Gianna included. Stefano may be blinded by her but she’s just like her father; conniving and manipulative.”
That was something I doubted, Val was certainly meant to be precarious of everyone giving his situation, trusting wasn’t a strong point for him simply because it was dangerous for him to trust just anyone.
“Her father is... intimidating,” I commented as moment later, deciding to use a word that wouldn’t later come back to bite me in the ass. It was the truth, surely Gianna would admit it also.
Val’s eyes were elsewhere as though he were scoping out the room but when I looked I noticed that he was still watching Giovanni’s every move, “You don’t have to worry about him, you’re an Acerbi, you’re protected.”
If that was supposed to give me some sense of comfort, I missed the memo. Perhaps I didn’t understand the importance of everything in this universe or the Acerbi name, but if this room if filled with five hundred mobsters, surely they would be able to take out two people no matter what their last name is, right?
It just seemed like logic.
“I wonder if Gianna knows that her father has a wandering eye...” I said to myself.
I hadn’t realized that Val was listening until he responded, “Don’t think about saying anything. It would only cause trouble.”
I nodded slowly, “Of course not.”
I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked over to see Gianna standing behind me, “Let me introduce you to some friends. It would be nice for you to meet some people.”
“Yeah, oka--” I stopped myself and looked back at Val, hesitating, “Can I?”
His gaze lingered on Gianna, not seeming enthused about the idea, “Your friends aren’t the most influential of people, Gianna.”
She folded her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow at Val, “I don’t think they could be much worse than you, Val.”
Val looked down at me and spoke low so only I could hear, “Five minutes. I don’t want you far.”
“Alright...” I agreed before turning to Gianna and walking away with her.
As we got a safe distance away, she scoffed, “What a control freak...”
Surprisingly, Val hasn’t been horrible tonight. He seemed almost human, and although he has been horrible in the past weeks, I felt like complaining tonight would somehow jinx the good behavior I had received from him tonight.
“Your father seems nice,” I commented, attempting to change the conversation even though my comment was more of a lie.
Gianna simply smiled and we reached a young girl, “Brenda, this is Elaina, Valentino’s wife.”
The girl, Brenda, seemed blown away and she smiled at me, “Valentino’s wife? Wow... It’s nice to meet you. You’re very pretty.”
“Thank you, so are you.”
She took a sip of her wine and rested her free hand on her hip, “I’m not going to lie, I never thought Valentino would settle down. He just isn’t the settle type.”
Of course no one knew that this was a union, except for family. Other than that everyone thought we were madly in love.
“I suppose some people just need the right person to come along,” I answered, giving her the best smile I could muster up at that point.
Brenda seemed to be more of the gossip type, willing to stir up trouble. I learned quickly that she was a chatter, and not about her life; but about the lives of everyone else.
“That man, he’s something else. I’m surprised you reached his expectations, or haven’t even run away yet,” She continued before Gianna nudged her to stop.
Gianna shot Brenda a glare and for the first time I noticed the kindness leave Gianna’s eyes, “Cut it out. She isn’t just the wife of Val, she’s also Vadim Vasiliev’s daughter, so unless you want your throat slit I suggest you treat her with respect.”
I was silent, unsure what I could say in a moment like that. Gianna sounded like Val, almost. She pointed out my connection to the powerhouses so people wouldn’t offend me and I couldn’t help but question he kindness towards me now. Was it for the right reasons?
“Vadim Vasiliev? Well, aren’t you just a lucky little one,” Brenda giggled, sounding sadistic. I felt like I was being taunted intentionally but I was also on high alert so maybe I found myself overreacting, “Your husband is soon to be the Italian Capo and your father is the Capo of the Russian mafia, you have quite the power, don’t you?”
I shook my head, seeming at loss for words. This girl didn’t understand that I didn’t ask for any of this, that for eighteen years I was raised away from this then suddenly forced into this lifestyle, “No... I wouldn’t say that...”
“Honestly, Brenda? You can’t keep your mouth shut?” Gianna rolled her eyes and took my arm, “Let’s get some appetizers.”
She began to drag me away from where Brenda was standing, taking me away from the situation but I couldn’t exactly forget everything that was said; it was near impossible.
“Ignore her, okay? She’s always had a crush on Val,” Gianna told me as she began to walk with me to where the appetizers were.
I stopped and looked around for Val, for once I actually wanted to see him.
And then I did.
Standing by the wall with a woman, she had blonde hair and wore a tight red dress. That wasn’t what confused me, it was her hands and where they were place. Her palms were on his chest and playing with his tie while she smiled sweetly up at him.
Val had his eyebrows raised at her and her hair fell against her shoulders when she tilted her head flirtatiously.
Whoever she is.