I fell to the ground instantly, holding onto my leg and screaming in pain. I could feel the blood on my fingertips, while my entire body burned. As I managed to look over my shoulder, I noticed Val who was leaning casually against his desk and watching me with his arms folded over his chest.
“You... you shot me!”
He rolled his eyes in response to me, “You’re overreacting again.”
The gun was in his hand, a simple silver shotgun. What kind of gun it was, I had no idea, but it was the one he had just shown me moments before in his holster. As he put it away, he began to step towards me but I started to back up against the wall in the hallway.
Footsteps were heard and Stefano emerged from the other room, “What the fuck happened?!”
When he noticed Val, his brows furrowed together but Val silenced him by raising his hand, “She’s fine, Stefano. You can leave.”
“Val, what the hell?” Stefano seemed enraged as he stepped towards his brother, ”You did this?!”
“Don’t make me tell you again, Stefano. Leave.”
Stefano looked down at me before glancing back at Val one more time, “You are not our father. You don’t have to be like him.”
His words stunned me for a second and I tried to make sense of it while he walked away but when Val knelt down to my height I became distracted.
“Does it hurt?” He asked me, a sinister smile appearing on his lips as his hand held onto my wrist, beginning to pull my hand away from the wound.
I nodded my head instantly, “Yes... I need a doctor. Please, Val.”
“You need no such thing,” He pulled my hand away and I flinched, “I have good aim, this is just a flesh wound. Nothing internal.”
Val motioned his head towards the wall and when I looked in the direction he was looking, I noticed a bullet hole. The bullet just grazed my skin which was exactly what Val had intended to do.
He was insane. What was his motive here? He intensively shot me, partially, but why?
I lifted my hand to slap him across the face but he quickly caught my wrist and began to chuckle, “You’re very easy to read... Slapping me would be a really stupid thing to do.”
“I hate you,” I managed through my deep breaths that held in any emotions that I was currently feeling.
I couldn’t show emotions here, it would only make things worse. Weakness made things worse.
“I don’t understand you...” I told him, slowly moving my hand to see blood covering my hand and dripping onto the floor, “Why would you do this to me? You don’t shoot someone to teach them a lesson.”
“It wasn’t a lesson,” He responded calmly, too calmly for my liking. “I told you to get our before I did something I regretted and you simply weren’t fast enough... However, I don’t regret it, so it seems like we’re on even ground.”
He was mad because I spoke up to him, something he obviously didn’t believe in so he retaliated by shooting me. It was a reaction I hadn’t expected but I shouldn’t leave any wiggle room for what I expect from Val. At this point, I expect anything from him.
He’s in desperate need of anger management, but it was something I knew that he would never do because this was exactly how his father wanted him and the way he wanted him to be for any undoings between other families.
I heard a door open and the sound of footsteps drew closer to us. It was more than one person and it seemed like the footsteps were coming from the direction of the front door but when the figures of Val’s mother and father came around the corner I was highly disappointed. Deep down I was hoping it would have been someone who could have helped me, perhaps Gianna or Rafe.
“Valentino!” Val’s mother raised her voice in horror as he stormed towards us quickly and knelt down to our current height, “Do not tell me that you did this.”
“Mama...” His tone was soft now, he was always so gentle with his mother and talked to her with a kind of affection I wish he spoke to me like, but I knew I would never receive.
Paloma only pointed her finger at him, “I am so disappointed in you. You are not this kind of man!”
“Good grief, Paloma. He isn’t a little boy anymore,” Marco commented, keeping his hands in his pocket and watching from a distance, “Let he and his wife work this out on their own. Obviously she crossed a line and Valentino is setting things straight.”
Paloma only shook her head, “Not like this.”
I was surprised when she put her arm under mine and helped me stand up, my leg still felt extremely stiff and painful, but the pressure I had been applying with my had was helping until I moved, “Agh...”
“Come with me, honey...” She carefully led me away from Val before glancing back at him once more, “I am ashamed.”
For the first time since I had the displeasure of meeting Val - marrying him, actually - he stood there and allowed someone to speak above him, a woman. He let his mom tell him what he shouldn’t be doing and he allowed her to express her disappointment without saying anything against her. I wasn’t used to this side of Val but I was well aware of the respect he had for his mother, it was something I couldn’t compare to but I admired beyond anything else.
Paloma is a strong and beautiful woman who has more power over Val than I ever thought could be possible, the way she handles him and his anger so flawlessly is something I cannot understand but thrive to do. She’s a kind, innocent woman among the dark, evil men that surround the family.
Paloma took me to the bathroom located on the main level of the house, it was large and also the first time I had been in this bathroom in particular. The house has various rooms and bathrooms, though I stuck to the one connected to my bedroom just so I don’t overstep.
She directed me to sit on the toilet seat and I immediately obeyed which seemed to be something I had been doing a lot of lately, but in Paloma’s case, she wasn’t nearly as intimidating as her son. I noticed her searching the shelves and once she found what she was looking for she returned to me and knelt down with the first aid kit in her hands.
“He is so much like his father,” She said in a quiet tone, taking out an alcohol wipe and ripping it open, “I never wanted him to be like this, I tried so hard to keep him from becoming like Marco but...”
Paloma drifted off, seeming so stressed by the thought of Val being like Marco. She was completely different and all she seemed to want was for her kindness to become a part of her sons, but it only happened for one of them.
“Were you arranged?” I asked her suddenly, feeling too comfortable but instantly regretting my overstepping.
Just as I asked, Paloma placed the alcohol wipe on my wound and I nearly jumped but she stopped me, “I’m sorry, but I assure you that this will help...”
I closed my eyes, trying to ignore the pain I was feeling as Paloma cleaned my wound and I was suddenly thankful that it was only a flesh wound and there was no bullet in me.
“We weren’t arranged like Val and you,” She answered me suddenly, still looking only at my wound and not at me, “Our family were friends, though Marco and I agreed together to get married. I did have some control, but there was a lot of pressure from my father as well.”
It seemed similar, not identical to our situation but similar enough. I had so many questions for Paloma but the last thing I wanted was to do was upset her by imposing in her personal life.
She took bandages from the first aid kit and began to carefully wrap it around my lower leg, near the calf where the bullet had hit across, “Marco has always been extremely possessive and controlling. He worked very hard to make sure Valentino and Stefano followed him in that manner... Although I tried to sway them, it was impossible giving the amount of time he allowed me to spend with them.”
“Allowed you?” I questioned her. The way she stated it frightened me, like Marco wouldn’t let Paloma around her kids nearly as much as she should have been.
She looked at me and managed a small smile, “Well, he spent a lot of time training the boys... We spent Sundays together only. But it isn’t like I didn’t get to see them on training days - just not as much.”
I felt sad for her, she was a good mother who just wanted the best for her children but because she married into the mafia she didn’t get nearly as much time or say in their lives as she should have. Someday that would be me, I would have kids for Val and he would do the same thing to me, I wouldn’t get a choice in anything.
I kept my head down, unable to help but be completely honest with her, “I don’t want this life...”
Paloma lifted her head and looked at me, “Honey...”
“He’s horrible,” I felt my cheeks burning and I could care less than I was breaking down in front of Val’s mom at this very moment. She had witnessed just how terrible her son is, I didn’t need to say it for her to know, “He’s just... terrible to me. He hits me a-and I’m not happy.”
I began to wipe the hot tears the covered my now soaked cheeks. It was amazing how quickly I’ve went from relatively calm from a complete mess. Thinking of the life I had to look forward to with Val made me miserable and knowing just how much he’s like his father gave me a hint of what I had in store for me.
I felt Paloma’s hands on my face and I blinked away my tears to see her more clearly. She gave me a sympathetic smile, “Sweetie, I know that there’s hope for him somewhere. His father is... You know, Marco loves me. But this business takes them over. Valentino is new to having to love or feel, it’s Marco who made him this way, but if his father can love, I assure you, so can he.”
I didn’t believe it. Val was incapable of love.
I managed to pull myself together after my sudden meltdown, but I still didn’t believe Paloma’s words. Part of me wondered if she had any idea what her husband and son had planned by sending me in the center of their conflicts with the Irish, but I didn’t dare mention it.
Marco appeared in the doorway, no emotion showing in his face and I knew that Paloma was correct when saying that Val was like his father, “It’s time to go, Paloma.”
“We just got here.”
“We’re leaving,” He repeated, “Our son can take care of his own business. Stand up and let’s go.”
Paloma gave me another glance, “Be strong, darling.”
I managed a small smile and nodded my head, “Thank you, ma’am.”
She stood up and walked over to Marco. He was quick to place his hand on her waist and guide her out of the restroom, disappearing from my sight.
I shifted my wait from the toilet seat and onto the bathroom floor, sitting there for a length of time that I had no idea of. But I took in the silence and reminded myself of what Paloma had been telling me. Staying strong is far from easy when I was dealing with physical abuse constantly but I had no other choice but try.
I leaned my head against the bathroom wall, staring at my bandaged leg and not bothering to look towards the doorway when footsteps emerged. I knew it was Val by the way he walked so heavily against the floor.
Suddenly, he sat on the floor next to me and when I didn’t look at him he began on talk on his own, “I’m aware that I have slight temper issues, Elaina. I won’t blame it on the way the I was raised, but it is who I am. I think that teaching a lesson is the best way to get things through someone’s head but it doesn’t work with you like anyone else.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant but I didn’t look at him. He was an idiot to think sweet talking would make things okay.
“All I know is how to get what I want by aggression and inflicting pain,” He explained further, when I looked over at him his expression was cold and emotionless but it seemed like he was having an internal battle, “My mother hates it but she didn’t do a damn thing about it.”
“About what?” I asked him weakly, unsure why I had spoke to him but then it was clear - my curiosity had gotten the best of me.
His eyes averted towards me when he answered, “About the abuse. My father was never kind towards us. He beat me like it was a hobby and that was it. But do you know what, Elaina? It made me strong. Look at me now and look what I’ve become because of how ruthless my father made me.”
“He didn’t make you ruthless, Val...” I commented as I carefully helped myself stand from the floor, groaning from the pain in my leg. As I stood at full height, still short compared to the tall and muscular man that Val is, I looked down at him still sitting on the floor, “He made you completely heartless.”
No one in their right mind would do half of the things that Val did as a scare tactic, he thought it showed strength but it was his personality. He cruel and heartless personality. He was mean - worst than mean, he was nefarious and damaged beyond repair because of how Marco made him grow up and see things.
There wasn’t a single ounce of feeling or emotion in Val’s body, being called heartless didn’t even seem to bother him possibly because he knew it was the truth.