“Elaina, please walk with me to the backyard.”
I looked up from my dinner plate to Val who had me stunned by using the world please, it wasn’t a word I ever heard him use but I wasn’t going to sit and wait for him to get upset. He seemed in a pleasant mood, another thing that he rarely is.
Though I was unsure why he was in such a good mood today, I obliged to his request and stood from my chair to follow him outside.
“How did you sleep?” He asked me as we walked towards the back door.
It had been six days since my encounter with Coilin and discovering that Gianna was teaming up with him to get rid of Val. Every morning since Val would always ask how I slept or if I was well rested. Oddly enough he seemed protective but I knew under it all, it was a façade.
“I slept okay,” I answered him. Truthfully, I was restless. It wasn’t the thought of Coilin keeping me up, it was the thought of Gianna and her insane request for me to help her. Being under the same roof with her didn’t help either and just because I hadn’t answered her does not make this any easier.
The longer I kept this secret from Val, the worst it would be when he found out that I knew.
Val stopped at the back door and looked at me, the corner of his lip twitched upwards into a small smirk, “Well, I got you something. I know you’ve been distant and you lack communication here so hopefully this will help.”
I furrowed my brows, unsure where he was going with this but the moment he opened the door I knew what he had meant. There was a puppy running around, I recognized the breed as a Cavalier King Charles. The coat of the puppy was light brown and white, taking my heart the moment I seen it. I wasn’t sure why Val had done this, but I wasn’t going to deny the gift of unconditional affection either.
“Is it mine?” I asked him, not wanting to get attached if this was just another game of his.
He nodded his head, “Yes. He is.”
I beamed, unable to keep the excitement from radiating off of me now that I knew I had a puppy of my own. Someone to keep me company endlessly. Cautiously, I made my way into the yard, not wanting to scare the puppy off at first sight but he instead ran towards me.
Kneeling down, I took the puppy in my arms and enjoyed the kisses of affection he gave me, “You are so cute, aren’t you?”
“Have any names in mind?” Val asked me from behind.
I simply shook my head, “Not yet. I need to get a feel for his personality first.”
I tilted my head and examined the puppy running around in circles, chasing his tail. “How do you say friend in Italian?”
“Amico.” He answered me.
I smiled to myself, “Amico...”
The puppy looked up at me with a little head tilt as though he understood. It was settled then, his name was Amico which had a deeper meaning than anyone would understand. I had a friend now, even if he was a dog, he was my friend.
I spent most of the day with Amico, standing in the backyard and throwing a ball continuously. He turned out to be a great companion so I was grateful that Val gave him to me. I’m not sure what made him decide to gift me the dog, but I had no reason to complain. After everything that he has done to me, the least he could do is allow me to have a companion.
“Amico... Sit!” I attempted to get Amico to listen to my words, but the puppy was too overwhelmed and excited to listen to a word I said, “No, no, no. Sit!”
I heard slight chuckling from behind me and I looked to see Val leaning against the back door with his arms folded over his chest, “How is the training going?”
“Terribly,” I managed a small smile.
“It takes time, like many things.” He answered, pushing his body off of the wall and walking towards the patio steps where I was sitting, “When I had thought about the idea of getting you a dog for company, I began to wonder if you like animals to begin with.”
I looked at him, my eyes narrowed slightly as if to say that he was crazy for even wondering, “Of course I do.”
“No, what I mean is... How am I supposed to know if you’re a cat person or a dog person? I know everything about you, everything when it comes to what is written in documents. I know the details of your profile, your allergies or medical history, but when it comes to the things that make you who you are, I know nothing.”
It was true, I suppose. We never took the time to get to know each other in a way that taught us more about the interests either of us had. I didn’t know what Val enjoyed and he didn’t know a thing about me. Though he may assume he knows everything about me, his information only goes so far.
“I’m taking you out tonight,” He told me, not asking if I even wanted to go out with him, “Nothing business, but just you and I.”
“Call it what you wish,” He shrugged nonchalantly, “Wear something nice, I’ll make a reservation. I want to take this evening to get to know each other better, on a deeper level.”
I only nodded my head, unsure what sparked this interest in him. It made me feel uneasy because even though he said it wasn’t business, I felt like there was always a reason behind anything he did.
Now of all times was a terrible time to go out with Val, with the secret about Gianna hanging over my head I found even the simplest things, like speaking to Val, more difficult than usual so tonight would be impossible.
I stood in front of the long mirror, taking in every detail of the dress I wore. It was a gorgeous slim fitting red dress that fell to the ground beautifully but kept all my lady parts in place. The neckline was shaped like a V and Anita was kind enough to zip the back for me. I had matching red high heels that gave me an extra four inches in height, but even then I wouldn’t reach Val’s tall figure.
I admit that getting clothes here is rather exciting. When I need to choose what I want, I am given an iPad with clothing shop apps and I order whatever I want. Within the hour someone who works for Val picks up my order and brings it back to me.
For most women, this would be a dream come true. But the situation wasn’t like most.
I felt my dress being tugged at the bottom and I looked to see Amico pulling on it with his teeth, “Hey, what do you think you’re doing, mister?”
I leaned down to pick him up and he smothered me with kisses. The unconditional love of a pet is the most beautiful thing in the world.
Three gentle knocks came on the door and assuming that it was Val, I responded, “I’m almost done, you can come on in.”
However, once the door opened I was surprised to see Gianna step inside. She looked hesitant and I didn’t blame her, she had a lot of nerve coming near me at this point but even so, I wouldn’t tell her to leave.
“You look beautiful, Elaina.” She spoke softly but I didn’t bother to answer. I was angry with her, furious even. The situation she put me in was one that I have no idea if forgiveness will ever be an option. “Look, I really think we should talk about everything.”
“Please leave,” I asked, keeping my eyes in the mirror so I didn’t have to look at her directly.
Of course she didn’t bother to listen, instead she closed the door and took a step closer to me, “Elaina, I put my neck on the line for you. You know a lot and that’s only because I trust you so please do not fuck me over here.”
“Fuck you over?!” I raised my voice, having more than enough built up anger to lash out at her, “How dare you. I didn’t ask for this! I didn’t want to know your dirty secret but now I do and no matter how I handle it, I’m fucked!”
“Can you please keep quiet?” Gianna attempted to hush me, “You know how terrible Val is, he needs to be eliminated so when Coilin came to me with the idea...”
“You jumped ship?” I asked and shook my head in disappointment, “Stefano will hate you.”
“Stefano won’t know.”
“You think so? How clever do you think you are? These people know everything, Gianna. I’ve only been here for a few months but it doesn’t take a genius to know that.”
Gianna took another step closer to me and I seen her eyes become darker, something I never seen in her until this moment, “Do not make me regret telling you.”
I opened my mouth to speak but the bedroom door opened and both Gianna and I looked towards where Val stood, ”Oh mio ... Sembri stupendo."
[Translate: Oh mio ... Sembri stupendo - Oh my... You look stunning.]
My eyes shifted slightly, did he just say something about me being stupid?
“Uh...” I wasn’t sure how to respond because I had no idea what I was responding to.
"Stavamo parlando.” Gianna commented, her eyes directly on Val.
[Translate: Stavamo parlando. - We were talking.]
I felt beyond uncomfortable. I knew things that were happening in this conversation that even they didn’t know. Val had no idea that he was in the same room as the rat, the person trying to get him killed and he had no idea that his wife was keeping it from him.
"Gesù Cristo, Gianna. Togliti di dosso." Val muttered under his breath before motioning towards the door, implying that Gianna leave.
[Translate:Gesù Cristo, Gianna. Togliti di dosso. - Jesus Christ, Gianna. Get the fuck out.]
The body language said more than any amount of words ever could. Gianna hated Val and Val hated Gianna, the only difference was that Val haven’t attempted to get rid of Gianna because Stefano loved her. It made me wonder who the real monster was - the man putting aside his hatred towards someone for his brother’s sake, or the woman trying to murder her lover’s brother.
The door shut and by the time I escaped my thoughts Gianna was out of the room. I looked at Val and his eyes were on me shamelessly, “You look amazing...”
“Thank you,” I answered. Val looked the same as always, suit and tie like any businessman would wear, but for his kind of business his clothes usually got messy.
“We could just skip dinner and I could help you out of that dress,” He smirked and walked over to where I stood, resting his strong hands on my hips.
I looked down, unsure how I felt about his flirtatious behavior, “I really am hungry.”
A feeling was all throughout my body and I was no stranger to it. I realized I was feeling an extreme amount of guilt, so much that it was unbearable almost. I couldn’t look Val in the eye for fear of faltering and letting him know everything, even now I had kept the secret for too long.
“Then dinner it is.”
Val didn’t take dinner lightly. We never went to a random restaurant in Illinois, instead he ordered the private jet to take us to New York City where his favorite restaurant, Ginacoli Steakhouse, was located.
Already I had learned that small fact about him.
The ride on the jet was quick, it only took us about an hour and fifteen minutes to arrive. For some reason Val seemed like a different person, but in a good way. I could have sworn he even smiled a few times. It was strange that his smile gave me giddy feelings, after everything that he did to me, I couldn’t help but be happy when he smiled.
It was the estrogen inside of me. Val is a highly attractive man and even through his hateful acts, my body is unwilling attractive to the man. Biting my tongue or pinching myself couldn’t keep my mind off of how gorgeous he is, so I refrained from bruising myself without purpose.
The restaurant was stunning beyond compare. There were hanging lights in the dim room and the waiters and waitresses walked around professionally with fancy towels draped over their forearms.
“See anything you like?” Val asked as I skipped the menu.
Nothing on this list was anything I’ve ever ate before. Everything was fancy and overpriced, so I had no idea what to order, “Truthfully, I have no idea.”
“The Risotti is a perfect appetizer,” He suggested.
I nodded my head, “Okay... I’ll get that and a cheeseburger.”
“You’re out on the town and can have anything your heart desires and you choose a cheeseburger?” He asked me.
I lifted my head to look up from the menu, “If I were on death row and had the choice to have one last meal, I would choose a cheeseburger.”
Val chuckled, his brows furrowing in surprise, “Is that so? You’re a weird one, aren’t you?”
“Back home there was this little diner called Clay’s. They served the best cheeseburger in the world,” I told him, remembering all of the times I went and had dinner with Kira at Clay’s. I suddenly began to wonder what happened to everyone back home. My family, my friends... Are they looking for me or did they just give up and move on?
Val leaned forward with his elbows on the table and his eyes stayed perfectly on mine, “I don’t understand why you’re hung up on people that haven’t even looked for you.”
I fell silent, hurt by his words even if it were the truth, “How do you know they haven’t looked for me?”
“For god sakes, Elaina. I would know, trust me. Your mother knew this was going to happen all along and did fuck all to stop it,” He seemed to be getting annoyed but that should be my place. “Your mother is engaged to that drug addict boyfriend of hers and your best friend is on a vacation to Cuba. So tell me, how is that going to help find you?”
A piece of my heart had been ripped from my chest when he said that, he had obviously been keeping tabs on them and if that were the truth, no one seemed to care about me being gone, but it didn’t make sense. They were my people, the ones who loved me and were always there for me.
“You know nothing,” I retaliated my anger towards Val.
“I know more than you do.”
I looked away from him, knowing that if I didn’t he would see it in my eyes that I was shattered. The thought of no one caring made me emotional and I refused to let him have that power over me.
“Don’t cry over people who don’t cry over you.” His words stung me and when I looked at him again, he was staring at me contently, “Your mother knew when Vadim was coming for you, and so did your best friend. It was set up so no one would be there but you.”
“You’re lying.” I argued, but he wasn’t. I could see the truth in his eyes now matter how sad and pathetic that made me.
“Kira knew for a long time what your story was, your mother told her when she confronted her about your inability to go out of state. She kept quiet because only and idiot would fuck with the Mafia, love.”
“Stop!” I stood up from my chair, not caring about the looks that I was getting around me. I couldn’t sit and listen to this any longer, it was too much too soon. Without a word I scurried off into the ladies room and locked myself into a stall.
As I leaned my back against the metal door I finally caved and allowed myself to cry. I wasn’t crying because Val was being cruel, I was crying because I knew he was being honest. The night I was taken, Kira was supposed to meet me and stay the night to watch movies, but she cancelled last minute. It may seem coincidental but Kira never cancelled.
This entire time I was waiting and hoping that someone was coming for me, only to find out that the ones I loved were part of my disappearance.