Valentino was awake at the crack of dawn, it still seemed slightly dark outside when the bed was moving and I was afraid to move. I thought my body would break or that we would touch me again.
I wasn’t sure which option would be worse but at this point neither seemed okay, neither was okay.
I kept my eyes opened slightly, peeking through my thick lashes as he moved around the bedroom. He disappeared into the bathroom for quite some time and the sound of water indicated that he was taking a shower. I was tired but I couldn’t sleep knowing he was awake, I barely slept last night and my body was becoming exhausted.
How would I ever grow accustom to this? The fear and unknown already seemed to be too much for me.
I continued to peek as the bathroom door opened and Valentino stepped out in his boxers briefs that showed everything that invaded me last night. He was a beautiful man with an ugly personality, he had a charming smile that hid cruel intentions and even more disturbing thoughts. There was nothing appealing about this man other than his pretty face and nice body.
He pulled on his pants and tightened the holster he had before walking to his dresser and took out a gun, placing it in the holster securely.
“Don’t think that guns are so easy to find, amore. This one won’t be in the same place twice,” He suddenly spoke and my eyes grew wide as he turned around to face me, “You didn’t think that I actually thought you were sleeping, did you?”
[Translation: Amore ▪ Love]
I stared at him as his confident brown eyes met my terrified blue ones, “I...”
“You know, I am trained to know when people are watching me,” He explained, even in a calm tone his voice never sounded the slightest bit soothing nor nice.
“I’m... I’m sorry for staring,” I managed, “I should have said something, I’m just tired.”
“We did have a busy night... Go back to sleep, we have a long day ahead of us,” He explained to me, “I’ll make sure Anita leaves clothes outside the bedroom door for you.”
I didn’t bother to ask who Anita was, that answer would come in time so I simply nodded my head. He didn’t leave, instead he walked to my side of the bed and knelt down, his prying eyes wandering my body as though he could see through the blankets that covered my petite frame.
“You felt magnificent last night...” I nearly flinched when he tucked a strand of hair behind my ear which caused him to smirk, “What did we learn about saying no?”
He enjoyed the fear I felt towards him and I was sure that was exactly what he wanted, the answer I gave him was not only the answer he wanted to hear but the truth, “To not say no...”
“That’s my girl,” I noticed a slight smirk before his lips collided with mine momentarily, “When I return, I’ll be showing you around and introducing you to the house staff... Don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone.”
Valentino stood up, taking a shirt from the closet and keeping his eyes on me while he buttoned it up.
“Where are you going?” I asked - it was a stupid question.
“To take care of business, however, for future purposes, I don’t answer to you, amore. The arrangement doesn’t work that way.”
The rest of the time while Valentino was getting ready, I stayed silent. I couldn’t ask a question because I wasn’t entitled to know anything and on the other side of things, talking to him was an intimidating situation to be in.
He left without another word and I stayed wrapped up in the blanket of the bed and my thoughts.
Valentino still referred to the marriage as an arrangement and although it technically was, it didn’t make the situation any easier for me.
The next time I opened my eyes the room was lit up from the sunlight and I was unfamiliar with actually seeing light shining in the room recently. While staying with Vadim the windows were barricaded and sunlight wasn’t something I could see until yesterday. I was grateful that I was only deprived for the week.
The only thing I’ve found appealing about this life with Valentino thus far was the uncovered windows. I could look out the glass and see the outside, I didn’t feel as much like a prisoner that way.
As I stood from the large bed, I wrapped the bed sheet around my body and walked towards the door, opening it just a crack to see if the clothes were delivered as Valentino said they would be.
Sure enough, there was a small pile neatly packed in front of the door and I quickly grabbed it before closing the bedroom door again. I observed it to find a white sun dress along with white undergarments.
Just as expected, they were my size.
I’d be stupid to expect anything less. I walked to the bathroom that was connected to the bedroom, feeling the area between my leg paining which was a clear reminder of the events that had taken place last night.
Not once did I kiss him. Not once did I actually want him to touch me or evade my body the way he did, but he did it anyway without my consent. I felt disgusted with myself because even though I knew I couldn’t prevent him from what he did to me, I still felt responsible somehow. Maybe I could have done more.
I stood in the shower with the hot water rolled down my skin. As an eighteen year old girl, I had always thought my first time would have been different. The pain was something I expected, not the regret that followed. It wasn’t until the skin on my fingers began to wrinkle that I stepped out and decided it was time to face the day ahead of me.
Was I allowed to leave the bedroom? For all I know the door could be locked.
But it wasn’t.
I opened the door and everything appeared so much brighter than it was than the night before when Valentino and I arrived after the wedding.
“I was getting worried that he killed you,” A voice said, causing me to jump.
When I turned around I noticed the same girl from the wedding last night, Gianna. Valentino didn’t seem to like her which made me wonder why she was here.
She must have noticed the startled look on my face because she was quick to apologize, “I’m sorry... I was kidding, I know he’s horrible but he’s taken this union very seriously for... well, business.”
“Who are you?” Was all I could manage to say.
Gianna answered with the most obvious answer possible, “Gianna. We met last night.”
“I know... I just... Do you live here?” My voice was stuttering but there was so much to take in, so much to worry about. I had no idea who I was allowed to talk to or not.
She nodded her head and ushered me out of the room, “Yes. This is Val’s home but Stefano lived with him along with some of the other men for safety. After Stefano and I got together I became a part of the deal, unfortunately for him.”
“Were you and Stefano...” I realized I was prying to much before I finished. I abruptly stopped and shook my head, “I’m sorry, never mind.”
“If you mean a part of a union agreement, then no.” Gianna gave me a sad smile, “Stefano is younger than Val which means Val is to be capo. It’s his connections that matter, not Stefano’s as much. We met on our own.”
I followed behind her slowly as she began to walk down the stairs. If she had a choice of being a part of this life, why in the world should she willing be here?
“It’s a story for another time,” She responded as if she read my mind.
It was strange, Gianna seemed normal but in a world like this there was no way anyone could be normal.
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked her as she stopped walking, “I mean... Another question aside from the one I just asked.”
She turned to look at me, raising her eyebrows and nodding her head, “Sure.”
“Last night... you said that Valentino is a monster, but doesn’t Stefano do the same thing?” The thought had been playing on my mind for since the moment she said it. I knew he was a bad man, but coming from someone he knows just made it all the more real.
Gianna ran her fingers through her black hair, biting her lip hesitantly, “Elaina, I didn’t mean to ruin your perspective on Valentino. I just assumed you would know since you know what he does for a living.”
“That wasn’t my question...”
“Stefano? I mean, yeah. He’s dangerous too, but Val is different...” She shrugged her shoulders, “He’s next in line to be leader and he shows it. He’s far more ruthless and malicious than most. I can’t really say anything else.”
I hate that word. It’s terrifying. Last night was nothing compared to what I knew would come in the future.
The sound of the front door opening caught my attention and Valentino walked through the door with Stefano and two other men. His eyes landed on me instantly and Stefano walked to Gianna, greeting her with a kiss.
“Elaina, you look lovely,” Valentino said to me.
“Thank you,” I responded softly.
“I see the dress fits,” He commented as he approached me, “The rest of your clothing has arrived and are in the delivery truck outside. Let me change and we’ll begin our tour.”
All I could do was nod, until then I could wait here in the company of Gianna, she seemed to be the most genuine person I could be around at this point.
He disappeared up the staircase and the the other men I was unfamiliar with left the room as well. Stefano stayed at Gianna’s side and in a perfect world they seemed like an ideal couple, aside from the fact that he was a killer.
“See? I told you that you would have a female friend here eventually,” He commented towards Gianna with a charming smirk.
Stefano seemed nice compared to the devil I was forced to sleep with every night, he actually seemed to care for Gianna and that was something I wouldn’t experience in my life ever again.
“Thank goodness. I was getting tired of all the men here,” She joked before looking back at me, “We’re going to get lunch. Do you want to join us?”
As nice as that did sound, I had to wait for Valentino, he didn’t seem the slightest bit patient or understanding. I shook my head and gave her a polite smile, “Thank you for the offer, but I’ll probably have lunch with Valentino later.”
It wasn’t until Gianna and Stefano walked away that I realized how alone I felt here but I had to grow thicker skin and handle it.
I gazed around the foyer, the house seemed nice to say the least. Hardwood floor and it seemed like the walls were professionally painted with surprisingly no visibly indents or damage. I had expected to see damage, but I was clearly wrong. Photos were hung but not of family, they were paintings that made the house look all the more elegant.
I stared at a painting, it was impossible to not get lost in it. A cottage, a lake nearby and a field that would last for days. It was gorgeous. The painting captivated me and in such a terrifying place in my life, it seemed relaxing.
“Curious, are we?”
I jumped at the sound of Valentino’s voice and turned to seem him standing behind me. I hadn’t even heard him approach me but I simply nodded, “The paintings are beautiful...”
He placed his hand on my lower back and ushered me towards a door, “Let me show you around... I want you to know the staff and the boundaries.”
“Boundaries?” I questioned.
“Where you can and cannot go,” He clarified as we entered the kitchen. It was large, but stunning. It seemed as though it was recently renovated or maybe it always looked in amazing condition like the rest of the house.
An older woman turned around from the kitchen sink and smiled at Valentino, “Valentino, tesoro. Hai fame? Posso farti un po ’di cibo.”
[Translation: Valentino, tesoro. Hai fame? Posso farti un po ’di cibo. ▪ Valentino, sweetheart. Are you hungry? I can make you some food.]
Valentino began to respond in Italian, of course I wouldn’t understand a single thing they were saying to each other which was extremely uncomfortable.
A moment later they began to speak English and Valentino motion towards the woman, “Elaina, this is Anita. She’s our maid, but also a member of this family. She had worked for my parents before working for me.”
I smiled at Anita, “Nice to meet you.”
“You as well, sweetheart.” She returned the smile and it seemed as genuine as I could hope, “The dress looks lovely on you.”
“Thank you,” I looked down at the dress before returning my gaze to her, “And thank you for bringing them to me.”
Valentino nodded his head, “I have to show Elaina the rest of the house, but we will take you up on that lunch offer later.”
I hated being pulled away from human contact, to me, Valentino wasn’t human.
He showed me around the house, telling me that the basement and his office is off limits unless told otherwise. I didn’t question even though I was curious, mostly about his office, I never was a fan of basements anyway.
He briefly introduced me to his right hand man, Gustavo, who seemed to be very close who him and I assumed was his best friend if people like Val had best friends. He also introduced me to Raffaele and Diego, but there was no conversation at the time as Val stated that the tour was on the top of his agenda.
On the end of the list was the back yard which Valentino spoke so highly of. He opened the back doors and as we entered the backyard it seemed to ascend quite far. The lawn was extremely green and surprisingly, there were some rose bushes. Though, he didn’t seem like a rose type of man, that were gorgeous. A single tree stood in the yard and a fence surrounded the yard around six and a half feet high.
“Wow...” I was at loss for words, I wanted to spend forever out here but I would never be that lucky. I had other obligations to attend to, such as pleasing Valentino.
Valentino walked ahead of me towards a fountain that was placed in the center of the yard, “I thought you would appreciate it.”
“What are the boundaries here?” I asked him, wanting them to be made clear before I fell in love with this area.
He simply shook his head, “No boundaries. This area is secure, you can come here as you please.”
He turned to face me and I nodded my head, “Thank you.”
I was crazy to think that this was progress, it seemed like maybe somewhere inside of that heartless exterior that maybe Valentino was showing me some kind of gentle behavior. I was wrong, it wouldn’t last but I was so desperate to have any kind of hope that I took whatever I could.
The moment we shared in the backyard with him allowing me to go there whenever I wanted to felt like a genuine moment, but I would later realize that even the smallest gesture came with a price and that not a single part of Valentino was kind.