The table was relatively quiet other than a few words that were spoke between Val and his father. I noticed Paloma glance at me a few times and when Anita delivered the food she stopped to speak momentarily. Other than that, I tried to say as less as possible, worried I would say something wrong.
Though the table was long, all four of us sat at one end. I sat on one side next to Val while his parents sat together on the opposite side.
“Elaina, darling.” I lifted my head to see Paloma’s gaze on me, “Do you have photos from the wedding yet?”
I shook my head, I didn’t have a phone anymore and Val was the one who had communication with the photographer I assume, “I’m not sure...”
“Actually, yes. They came in yesterday,” Val nodded towards his mother, “The photographer you suggested was amazing, mother.”
Paloma only nodded at Val and he stood up, leaving the room to get the photos which I hadn’t even seen yet. Marco didn’t seem please as he turned to his wife and spoke low.
Their eyes moved to me occasionally which didn’t make me anymore comfortable.
“Paloma, my love. Perhaps you can go with our son and assist him?” Marco suggested.
Paloma looked at him, her dark eyebrow arched with an unamused look, “It’s just photos, Marco. I’m sure he can manage.”
"Paloma.” His voice was more demanding this time, “Go help Valentino, I’m not asking.”
There was a moment of silence before Paloma pushed her seat out and stood up. She didn’t seem as though she wanted to obey Marco’s request, but she didn’t seem to have much of a choice. That’s how things worked around here, the men made orders and the women listened.
As Paloma left the room, I began to stand, “I’m going to see if Anita needs help in the kitchen.”
“Sit down, Elaina.” Marco told me, his tone cold and harsh sounding, “We haven’t had much time to get to know own each other.”
I sunk into my seat and looked at Marco with a blank expression, I knew that he had made Paloma leave so he could be alone and scold me for God knows what reasons, but still. This man was terrifying just to look at.
“My son, he can be difficult to handle. I’m aware of his... Temper problems, you may call it,” He nodded his head, “Perhaps you remember the evening the arrangement was discussed with your father.”
“He isn’t my father,” I responded to Marco, “And with all do respect, Mr. Acerbi, I wouldn’t say that Valentino has temper problems, it’s more like a split personality.”
Unlike Val who would chuckle darkly at my comment, Marco went with a more threatening approach to his response. He reached for a steak knife that was next to him and pointed it directly at me, “Have some respect! Vadim specifically asked that we keep you safe and if you paid any attention at all you would remember what I said that evening.”
I did remember what he said because even during the most terrifying time in my life, it gave me comfort.
“You said that I would be an Acerbi and that Acerbi’s value family over everything,” I responded quietly.
Marco smiled, it wasn’t a nice smile; far from it. He smile a devious and threatening smile that made me want to disappear right there.
“Exactly, tesoro. However, if you cause us too much trouble, I will not hesitate to kill you and make sure your body is never found.”
I could vomit and I would if I opened my mouth to speak. It was obvious where Val got his intimidating nature from.
All I could do was nod but because he threatened me, that wouldn’t stop me from trying to get my freedom back. I couldn’t stay here forever. This wasn’t my life.
“Elaina.” That was Val’s voice, he stood in the doorway with his mother, they both held a professional photo from our wedding.
It was the first time I had seen them and I could see how truly unhappy I was. Though I was smiling, it was only because I was told to. Val held the one with my back pressed against his chest and his hands on my waist while I looked up at him and he gazed at the camera with a dark stare. It was spine chilling. Of course his mother chose a nicer one, we were both facing each other and I was faking my best smile.
“I’m getting a larger one put above the fireplace, which do you prefer?” He asked me. He obviously loved the less welcoming one and it represented our marriage perfectly.
I pointed to the one he was holding, we both seemed so emotionless in the photo, “That one.”
Val smirked in response, “Just the one I was thinking. My favorite, actually.”
I ate some of my potatoes quietly as Val set the photos aside and everyone returned to their seats. As Marco cut his steak, I couldn’t help but remember his blatant threat to me. I shouldn’t be surprised, I’m sure Val felt the same way. They would kill me in an instantly and I knew that.
“Is it too soon to talk about grandchildren?” Paloma asked, surprising me by the question.
I was mid swallow when she asked and I began to choke on my potato. The last thing I wanted was to bear children for this monster. Val’s hand was on my back, smacking it lightly.
As I grabbed my glass of water, I quickly began to down the liquids, feeling my throat clear, “I am so sorry, Mrs. Acerbi. You really took me off guard...”
“Oh, honey. I’m the one who should be sorry, perhaps I shouldn’t pry.” She suggested and I wanted to agree but I knew I couldn’t.
“Nonsense, mother.” Val responded, “It’s never too early to talk about kids, we need to keep the Acerbi name going.”
“That’s my boy,” Marco raised his glass proudly.
Like hell I would have children for him. Never would my kids have his blood running through their veins, I would never burden them with such a thing.
Val and I had unprotected sex each time, I wasn’t on birth control and I knew he never had a condom on. One thing was certain, I needed to do whatever I could to prevent myself from getting pregnant.
Marco and Paloma left soon after dinner. I thought about approaching Val about the unprotected sex situation but I wasn’t sure how it would go, if he wanted to have protected sex I’m sure he would be.
Perhaps a simple conversation or something would do, but Val was anything but simple and just talking to him scared me. My own husband scared me.
“Elaina, we have some things to talk about,” Val said as he walked past the living room and stopped at the doorway, “Join me in my office. I'll have Anita making us coffee.”
I looked up from the book I was reading, maybe he wanted to talk about his mother’s crazy insinuation. I set the book aside and stood from the couch, following Val into the hallway.
“Your mother seems lovely,” I commented genuinely, I really did like Paloma. Unlike everyone else around here she seemed kind and it was almost like a breath of fresh air.
Val nodded his head, keeping his expression blank, “She’s very special.”
It seemed like he meant what he said but when he spoke with no emotions it was hard to believe his words. How could someone believe a thing he said when he show little to no emotions? The only emotions I ever seen from him was his smirk when he was impressed but it was nothing more than a devious response.
His hand pressed gently on my lower back as he guided me into towards his office, opening the door. The light was off and oddly enough anytime he allowed me in the forbidden areas of the house, aside from the basement, I felt accomplished.
“I actually wanted to talk to you also,” I spoke softly as we entered his office just as Val flicked on the light switch.
I gasped at the sight before me, three people kneeling down with bags over their heads and their hands tied behind their backs. They began to squirm when the light turned on and I quickly fell backwards against Val’s chest.
His arms grasped my hips and I heard him chuckled against my hair, “Since my men can’t handle you I decided to deal with you myself. It’s time for your punishment, Elaina.”
“I thought we were past that?” I looked up straight him, feeling my legs shaking as I attempted to get out of his grip. What was he going to do to me?
“So naive...” He muttered under his breath as he kicked the door to his office shut and finally let me go, ”Sweetheart, why would I let you off with bad behavior? It would just give you the impression that you could do it again.”
He put emphasis on the word sweetheart and I began to shake my head vigorously, “I won’t. I swear... I’m so sorry.”
“You will be,” He said simply as he walked to his desk and opened the drawer. He seemed focused as he took out a silver gun, I didn’t know what kind of gun but I knew what it was and that it’s silver, “Have you ever shot a gun before?”
Val’s eyes met mine as I shook my head in response. He had to be crazy to think that I ever used a gun, I’ve made it clear how I feel about his lifestyle.
“I want to teach you some day,” He told me, “For protection. We’ll go to the shooting range and I’ll show you the basics. But for now, I’m going to introduce you to these three idiots kneeling before me.”
I bit hard onto my bottom lip, wanting him to dismiss me and say that I was free to go but instead he took off the first bag, “I won’t tell you names because I know you’re sensitive and believe it or not, I do have somewhat of a heart.”
The smile Val gave me sent chills down my spine. He’s pure evil and he knows it, he doesn’t have a heart.
The first bag revealed a middle aged man, he was gagged and sweating, looking terrified. I covered my mouth with my hand and closed my eyes tightly but Val stood behind me, “Ah, ah. Eyes open, you need to pay attention.”
The man stared at me with watery eyes as though he were begging for help but even if knew that there was nothing I could do to help him. If I said anything, I would only make things worse.
“Let’s get a little personal, I won’t give names because my wife here gets a little attached... To everyone but me, that is.” Val’s eyes roll was clear and he walked away from me, standing behind the mortified man, “Let’s talk about his family. He’s married... How long has it been? Eight years?”
The man kneeling slowly nodded his head and I noticed a tear roll down his cheek.
“Not only does he have a beautiful wife, but he also had two children. Boys. Five and one.” Val seemed to know a lot about his man but before anything else was said, he pulled the bag off of the head of the second man kneeling, “Numero duex. This not so fine gentleman is twenty-three and got married only four months ago, no kids yet.”
What was the point of all of this? He wouldn’t tell me names but he was torturing me with facts about these men’s lives, it was terrible. The second man looked just as scared as the first, only he was younger. And then came the third...
“I bet you’re wondering about him...” Val smirked at me.
“Do not cut me off, Elaina,” His tone became rough and when I closed my mouth he continued on, introducing the third and final man, “This man has no one other than his grandfather and dying grandmother who adores him, he would give them anything which seemed noble, doesn’t it? But there’s a catch to each of these men, they all have one thing in common.”
I took another look at each of them, I assumed all ages were between 23 to 35 so maybe their youth was something they had in common, “What is it?”
“I’m happy you asked that,” He began to walk back over to me and placed his firm hand on my shoulder, “They all fucked me over and you know what, Elaina? I don’t like when people fuck me over.”
Oh god, no. This wasn’t going to end well. I could tell by his tone that something bad was going to happen but I wasn’t sure why he was calling this my punishment when he was going to be calling these men out. Possibly because he knew it would hurt me to see the pain he inflicted on them.
“Guess what, baby? You have a big decision to make...” Val moved his lips to my ear and whispered low, “Only one of them isn’t going to make it out of here alive and you get to choose who that will be.”
My eyes grew wide at his words, disgusted and shocked that he was putting that decision on me. I couldn’t and wouldn’t choose to take a life.
I began to shake my head vigorously, “No! No... I’m not... I can’t do that...”
Suddenly my face was turned to look up at him and he was looking down at me with a stern look on his face, “I think you misunderstood. I didn’t ask you, it isn’t a choice.”
My lip quivered as my eyes began to fill with tears. I couldn’t choose to kill someone, it would be as though I were killing them myself, “Val...”
“Don’t make me bring your loved ones into this...” He surprised me with his response. He knew about Kira and he knew my mom, I didn’t want them hurt because of me, “What will it be; the man with two young children and a wife, the newlywed, or the man who's adored by his dying grandmother?”
Casually, Val twisted the gun around his finger impatiently before stopping and looking at me with an amused smirk. As he extended the gun towards me, I furrowed my eyebrows, “W-What? No... I-I don’t want to touch that...”
I assumed that he had killed many people with that same un and I didn’t want my hands anywhere near it, but the low rumble that sounded from Val’s throat indicated that he wasn’t having it, “But you’re the one who’s going to pull the trigger.”
I can’t believe what I had heard him say. He was going to make me kill somebody.