Val was silent the entire way home, his demeanor was one that was intimidating and made me decide it was best to not speak to him. It seemed like Henrik was driving much slower, but I knew it was just my mind wanting desperately to get out of this vehicle.
Val’s hand was on his chin, scratching at his stubble but his eyes were cold from whatever was going on in that damn mind of his. Whatever he was thinking had him in a deadly state and I wanted out.
As soon as Henrik parked the car, I opened the door and stepped out but somehow Val was already standing in front of me, “Why are you always in such a rush?”
“I’m tired,” I lied.
“Well you’re going to need to stay awake for a while longer, we have things to discuss,” He stated as he headed towards the door that connected the garage to the house.
I reluctantly followed behind him, not knowing what on earth he had to discuss with me. I knew nothing about this nonsense of a life, yet here I was, being forced to discuss things that I didn’t understand.
Val kept a quick pace as he walked straight to his office which instantly made me feel sick, but I followed and he motioned towards the door, “Close the door, amore.”
As I closed the door, I looked towards Val and he was standing with his back to me, looking at a photo on the wall. A young boy with a stern look, it was a professional portrait that looked terrifying and something you would see in a horror movie.
Should I speak or just stand here while he examines the picture?
“Someone told Coilin where we were,” He suddenly said, turning away from the photo and looking at me, “Someone who I am stupid enough to trust is contacting him and telling him my every move. Which means he knows my plans...”
“Your plans?” I asked him.
“To kill him,” He answered casually, “I need to take him out before he takes his turn on me, but there’s someone on the inside telling him everything. You see, Elaina. There’s been months of planning up to the exact moment we make an attack and now I’d be stupid to walk into that type of danger now that he has any type of knowledge.”
It was true, he and I obviously had the same thought in mind that someone had told Coilin about where we were this evening.
“How are you going to find out who it is?” I asked him.
The question seemed to stress him out, his fingers gripping onto his thick, black hair, “I don’t fucking know. But you are not to talk to anyone about personal information. Are we clear?”
He was ridiculous to give me directions that wouldn’t apply to me, I didn’t know anything about his business plans but the only thing I could do was nod to let him know that I understood his point.
“You can leave now, I have an important call to make,” He told me, waving me off and instantly I knew he was in business mode. I could hear the beginning of his phone call as I headed out of his office, “Ciao Padre.”
[Translation: Hello father.]
I closed the office door and I could feel my anxiety rising, knowing someone in the house was working against Val. Even though I wasn’t Val’s biggest fan, I’m his wife and that makes me a target. If they’re against him, they’re against me.
It terrified me.
“Elaina!” Rafe smiled as he came out from the living room, “I thought I heard you and Val come in, is he around?”
“In his office,” I answered curtly before walking towards the stairs but Rafe stopped me again.
“I haven’t had a chance to apologize,” His words surprised me.
I stopped midway up the stairs and turned to look at him with an eyebrow arched slightly, “Apologize?”
I could see that Rafe was looking in the direction of Val’s office to make sure he wasn’t around before he walked forward so I could hear him, “When he locked you up for two weeks... I’m sorry that you had to experience that, although I know you’re a good person I hope you understand when I say that I, uh... I couldn’t do anything to change the outcome.”
I managed a sad smile at his words, he was so genuine and seemed so hurt by not being able to help me, but he couldn’t go against his boss. “It’s completely okay... I understand, Rafe.”
I didn’t have anything more left to say, I turned away and walked up the stairs, going straight to the bedroom. This day has been exhausting and all I could think about was sleeping at this point.
I’ve decided that any type of bonding time with Val was always going to be a bad idea, he would always make it about business or he’d ruin it somehow. After today alone I realized that I didn’t want to step foot out of the house if it meant that he’d be forcing me into situations like he did today.
There was no such thing as having a decent time with Val.
I’d barely managed to open my eyes the next morning and I had already known that it was going to be another serious day. Val was out of bed when I woke up and by the time I was ready, then down to the house’s main level, I could hear nothing more than Italian discussion taking place in the dining room.
There wasn’t a hint of English in the discussion so I had no idea what was going on, but as I neared the doorway to the dining area, a few people came in to view; Marco, sitting next to Stefano on one side of the table, while Val and Gustavo had their backs to me.
“forse è proprio il tuo problema proprio lì,” Marco said as he motioned his hand towards me in the doorway. I had no idea what he meant but I assumed that problema meant problem.
[Translation: Perhaps that’s your problem right there]
Val turned in his seat to looked at me and sighed heavily before looking back at his father, “Non ho preoccupazioni per la sua lealtà, padre.” He looked back in my direction again before motioning for me to come in, “Come here, Elaina. I’d actually like for you to join this conversation.”
[Translation: I have no concerns about her loyalty, father]
I suddenly felt uneasy but obeyed as I walked into the dining room and sat on the other side of Val, under Marco’s demeaning gaze.
“We were just discussing the rat in the house,” Val began to explain to me, draping his arm on the back of my chair and around my shoulders, “Could you explain to everyone what you heard that evening in the bathroom?”
He put me on the spot but I understood why. As of now I had been the only one who had directly heard the rumor, this mess had started because of what I had heard. Of course I had to tell Val, it isn’t something I could keep to myself.
“Well, speak up, girl,” Marco said impatiently.
“I uh...” I swallowed hard, feeling extremely intimidated by Marco, I hadn’t realized it was possible to be more frightened by someone other than Val, but his father definitely did the trick.
I was surprised to feel a soft kiss on my head and Val’s gentle words, “It’s okay, just take your time.”
What in the world was happening? He was seeming patient and kind. It was so hard to understand this man.
I kept my eyes on the table as I spoke, “I was in the ladies room when two people came in, they had a thick Irish accent, then they began to speak about how they had someone on the inside giving them information on the Acerbi’s.”
Stefano leaned forward slightly, seeming genuinely concerned about this information, “They didn’t see you?”
I shook my head, “No... I was in a stall and before they opened it, the gun fire started from the main hall.”
“Did you get names?” Gustavo questioned.
“The man referred to the girl as Keela, she only called him father,” I answered.
Val gave his father a knowing look, “The bitch you tried setting me up with. Someone in this god damn house is speaking with them behind our back and once I find out who, I’m going to kill them.”
“Slowly and painfully, my boy.” Marco added.
I looked at Val, his chest was heaving with anger and I noticed that his hand was rolled into a fist. Already he was ready to kill someone but I was sure that he knew that finding the rat wouldn’t me that simple, “You can’t travel...”
His brows furrowed as he looked at me, “What are you talking about?”
“They said something about having limited security when you travel?” I asked him to confirm, “They said that you and your father are going out of town to collect unpaid debts soon...”
“Next month...” Val spoke, knowing exactly when they were supposed to go.
His father looked just as angry, standing from his chair and kicking it behind him as he stormed out of the dining room.
“How the fuck are we supposed to get our debts if someone is fucking us over?” Gustavo mumbled in an agitated tone, “There’s dozens of people here. We’re not going to find out who it is.”
Gustavo had a point, there was at least thirty men on security, aside from Val’s close men; Stefano, Gustavo, Rafe and Diego, there was multiple other’s that I didn’t even know all the names of or even formally meet. Then there were the driver’s, Henrik, along with about fifteen others.
It seemed impossible to find a rat in the middle of a crowd so big, like a needle in a haystack.
“I guarantee you that the person in this house that will be dying won’t be me,” Val responded casually before standing from his chair and reaching for my hand, “You’re coming with me.”
What I wanted to say was ’Oh god, do I have to?′ But what I actually said was, “Okay.”
He led me out of the dining room and we took a different route than usual, heading towards the backyard. It was refreshing to get some air after the tense conversation inside.
“Everyone in that was in room, they’re the only ones I trust one hundred percent,” Val said suddenly before he glanced over at me, “My father and brother, we’re blood. That’s instantly a no brainer, and Gustavo might as well be blood.”
I wasn’t sure about Gustavo, he seemed like he had a stick of dynamite up his ass that was ready to explode at any minute.
“What about me?” I couldn’t help but ask. It was no secret that we were only married due to a deal that had been made, so he had no reason to trust me.
His answer surprised me, “I trust you. You wouldn’t have told me what you heard if you were hiding something, am I right?”
I nodded my head quickly, “Of course. I wouldn’t let you walk into danger if I knew better.”
“And why is that?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’ve done terrible things, I’m not a good person,” He stood in front of me and cupped my face in his hands, “To you, especially, I’m not a good man. Yet, you warned me about something that could potentially be a huge game changer.”
His words had me silent but the time he finished. There was no wrong in what he sad to me but even though I considered to set him up just yesterday, but when it came to him getting murdered, I didn’t have the heart in me to be responsible for someone’s death. Regardless if it was Val’s or not.
I looked up at him, unsure how I could respond. Even the truth seemed like too much right now. We didn’t have a real relationship, it’s just the kind of person I am that gave me a reason to tell Val the truth.
“I just wouldn’t be able to not tell you information that could kill you,” I finally said to him, “That would make me partially responsible.”
Val chuckled, looking away as he laughed, “God forbid you be responsible for knowing about someone’s death...”
“You know I’m not like you,” I responded quietly.
“I’m very much aware, love.” He told me once he looked back at me, “I admire that about you, the innocence, I mean. Of course I wish you could hold your own, but I like getting a taste of something sweet.”
“Sweet?” I questioned, holding a giggle.
“I’ve endured plenty of salty women in my life, I don’t need anymore of that,” He was looking down at me like he was at ease, something I’ve never seen in him, especially at a time like this. If anything, now was the time he should be stressed.
When I noticed that he was leaning down, I knew he was coming in for a kiss and for the first time since we’ve been together and I’ve been sober, once his lips touched mine, I willingly kissed him back.
Something inside of me just felt like I needed the affection from him, even if it was just a kiss and it was from someone as hateful as Val, I needed to feel affection in some kind of way so reciprocating it felt easy. Natural, even.
Once Val pulled away, he stared down at me and I could see the wheels turning in his head. Something I hated.
I didn’t want to know what he was thinking because I never knew what to expect from him, the last thing I wanted was for him to ruin a seemingly decent moment - a rare occurrence here.
But he did.
He tucked my hair behind my ear, “You’re going to help us find out who the rat is.”
“What?” I spat out in a shocked tone. There was no way I would be able to considering I barely spoke to anyone in the house, “No... I’m not comfortable with that. They’re in the house, they’ll know.”
“You won’t be talking to the rat, love. You’ll be talking to the Irish since Coilin is so fond of you,” Val added, returning to his business tone as he stepped back, all types of affection leaving his body which gave me another reason to believe that he was bipolar.
“You’re using me as bait?” I asked him, shocked by the suggestion but also terrified at what the outcome might be. There was a high possibility that it wouldn’t be good.
Val simply waved me off, “Don’t be ridiculous. Bait is an absurd word to use. I’ll have you wired so you don’t have to worry.”
Frustrated, I ran my fingers through my hair while Val headed towards the house, “Don’t I get a say in this?”
“You’re my wife, Elaina.” Was his response, as if that was his way of telling me no.
I didn’t get a say in if I wanted to be the bait for getting them information from the Italians, I was far from comfortable with it but I was quickly forced into it.
Meeting Coilin the first time face to face was by far one of the most intimidating experiences of my life and I would have hoped that Val would have been more protective, but I should have known better.