S E V E N T E E N
When I saw her first, in person, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Mia Romano looked far from a rescued woman; in fact, she looked like someone right out of opulence. Dressed in a Dior sheath dress with a matching pair of Jimmy Choo heels and a Chanel bag, she was indeed the golden girl of Chicago. But there was something in her—a careful amalgamation of innocence and wickedness that laced her features.
Mrs. Romano took the mic, spoke her lines and the people around her ate the words like some fucking unicorn candy.
Wealthy socialites fluttered around her like bees over honey, and the organizers left no stone unturned for her hospitality as well as for security guards she brought with her.
I believe the people cheered, clapped, and praised even more when she smiled and handed over the seven figures cheque for the welfare of the homeless women and betterment of Chicago.
It almost made me gag.
This money—this dirty money of the Romano—was stained with the blood of the innocents. And among them, were my mother and infant brother.
What despised me further was Mia Romano herself—she was a victim once, tortured by men like Viktor. And now here she was, basking in the glory of his illegal wealth and affluence.
Mia might not be crucial for my plan, but she was a vital piece on the board game. You can’t reach the King until you weaken his fort.
Inhaling sharply, I clutched the handle of the bag and walked in her direction. A handful of steps away from her, a suited man abruptly blocked my path.
“I am from Sun-Times. I have an appointment with her,” I said, flashing my identity card and plastered a fake smile.
“Wait here,” he clipped. He fished out his phone, typing something into the screen, and frowned for several seconds.
When he looked up, the displeasure on his face was as clear as day. “The meeting was with Clara Jenkins, and you are not Clara Jenkins.”
“Yes,” I tried to explain. “I work under Miss. Jenkins. Unfortunately, she couldn’t—”
“Leave,” he said gruffly, cutting me in.
I stood my ground, looking over at Mia, sitting with her back towards me. There was no way I could let this opportunity go sideways. It took me three days to set this whole thing up—from making it impossible for Clara to attend this meeting to persuade her to send me instead.
Now or never, I whispered under my breath.
Shoving the armed guard aside, I stormed into her direction, as I cried out, “Mrs. Romano, if I could have a word with—”
Before I could finish, the brute got to me, hauling me back by the forearm, growling in her ears. “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
Infuriated, I was about to punch his face and let him know who I was when the authoritarian voice rang out. “Vincent.”
The brute stopped at once, standing ramrod straight as if someone had just shoved a rod up his ass, although his grip on my forearm didn’t loosen.
Mia walked towards us in graceful strides, her eyes fixed on me in recognition. How much does she know about me?
I quickly tried to smile. “Mrs. Romano, there’s been a miscommunication. If you’d give me five minutes of your time, I’d explain,” I implored.
Mia nodded briskly, and then her gaze flickered over to the brute. Within a moment, he let my arm go, taking a few steps back. Looking at her, I wondered how much power she held over these men. These armed brutes around her—they weren’t just protecting her; they respected her and regarded her as supreme.
I noticed, unlike her husband, the impassionate Viktor Romano, she could mask control better. Her soft, feminine features, impeccably perfect hair cropped into a lob—it portrayed something powerful.
She might not have been a player, at least not the way her husband was, but she was, most definitely, playing her own.
“I believe your five minutes has already begun,” she said, snapping me out of my thoughts as I realized I was staring at her.
“Yes, sorry. As I was saying, Miss. Jenkins was supposed to come over for a chat with you, but something urgent came up, and she sent me. If you wouldn’t mind Mrs. Romano, we can carry on the arrangement,” I pressed.
“Alright,” she agreed, slowly nodding her head. “But we can only have the conversation in the car. I have to be somewhere.”
“Sure.” I smiled wide and followed her suit. “My name is Lilliana,” I said, walking beside her as we got to the car. She didn’t say a word, or even flickered a glance and climbed into the Aston Martin as another suited man bowed and opened the door for her.
Mia took her phone out and handed it over to the man in the shotgun seat, ordered, “Check with the software, Luca. It is not getting connected to the network.” She reclined back and then turned her head to the side, waiting for me to begin.
“Firstly, thank you so much for your time, Mrs. Romano,” I began, and pressed the button on the voice recording device. “Your contribution to rebuilding the church in the South Side was extremely generous. Were you involved in philanthropic causes before your marriage to Mr. Viktor Romano?”
She smiled, without humor or kindness, took the device from my hand and turned it off. “If you are done playing journalist, can we get to the point now, Lilliana?” she asked calmly, dropping the device into my lap.
I felt something hot and cold washed over me at the same time. “I am sorry, I don’t understand…”
The smile evaporated from her face, taking over something akin to astute. “Pretend one more time, and I will have the driver stop the car and escort you out.”
You got to be fucking kidding me! The girl, Mia, was a victim of drug abuse and trafficking a year ago? What did Viktor do to her—some brain and personality transplant?
Her voice turned all professional, far from the honey-dripping tone she used in public. “I don’t know how you got your colleague or senior swapped, but congratulations that you cleared phrase one. But let’s get one thing straight, Lilliana—you are sitting in this car has nothing to do with your talent of being in the wrong place at the right time. You are sitting here because I allowed you to. So I suggest you make the most of it before I change my mind.”
I quickly gathered my wits. “So why did you allow it?”
“As I said, you have a talent of being in the wrong place at the right time.”
“Being in the wrong place at the right time did your brother-in-law a lot good than you’d agree,” I quipped.
She absent-mindedly rolled the wedding ring on her ring, the giant diamond gleaming against the sunlight, beaming through the glass windows of the car. “Your interest in my brother-in-law has been quite fascinating. Although I am not entirely surprised. Dominic has a charm for women.” The words felt as if someone poured acid into my ear. Instantly, rage swept over me. But Mia continued poking my wound. “But you must be special, Lilliana—you saved his life, after all, took care of him for days. Thank you, our family is indebted to you.”
I underestimated her. I underestimated Mia fucking Romano.
And it was probably the biggest mistake I made in my entire existence.
In one sentence, she thanked me, made me look like a slut spreading myself for Dominic, and put me down beneath her. Even her husband wasn’t capable of that for all I knew.
My fingers firmed around the voice recording device on my lap. “Oh, it’s alright, Mrs. Romano, you don’t have to thank me again. Your husband had already thanked me personally when he dropped by my apartment one day,” I told her, smiling.
The look in her eyes one of anger, and I was sure the words pierced like shards of ice. Mia quickly recovered and forced a smile, crossing one leg over the other. “Did he?” she retorted, nodding profusely. “Of course, I should have known. Viktor is not a man who forgets an act of kindness towards his family. I hope my husband was more than generous in expressing his gratitude.”
Mia Romano was far polished than her husband; she played dirty by staying clean and held her crown on her head with grace. Right now, she was giving me second thoughts for this rendezvous.
“He was, indeed. In fact—”
My words were sharply cut in. “TAKE THE FUCKING LEFT, NOW!” The man in the shotgun seat yelled at the driver, making both of us steer our attention, as the tires screeched.
Mia leaned forward, concerned. “Luca, what happened?”
“There’s something wrong,” he informed. “The phones don’t have the network. The radio signals are jammed. I am taking the shortest route to the mansion.”
Mia turned to look back and around. “Anyone following us?” she asked.
“No, ma’am. I am trying to establish contact with Boss, and as soon as—”
He didn’t quite finish the line before the car banged with a truck out of nowhere.
“GET DOWN!” someone yelled, I wasn’t sure if it was a male or female voice, but I felt Mia yanked me down by the collar of my dress as she reached below the seat to take out something—a gun.
Bullets pelted on the glass but didn’t make it due to the bulletproof shield.
“DRIVE, DRIVE!” The man, Luca, yelled again as the car hit the gas. He kept shouting instructions into the radio, which emitted broken voices.
“HOW MANY, LUCA?” Mia asked.
“So far, four men. Two of them are heavily armed,” he responded.
It wasn’t the first time that I heard of gunshots, but I had never been ambushed. A part of me had wished that Dante has nothing to do with this attack, or my cover would be blown right away.
Unfortunately, the car didn’t make it too far before the tires screeched to a halt by force.
And right then, I knew, I was FUCKED.
And it’s a SURPRISE UPDATE!
I am truly grateful to all you wishing me a healthy recovery, and I apologize for not replying personally or getting on with the comments. I was feeling slightly better today and thought of editing a chapter. Compared to TMP, TMN is going really slowly and I feel it’s killing the momentum. I would try to speed up the updates during this holiday week.
Coming to this Chapter 17, did you enjoy it? I told you guys that Mia was going to have a strong presence in this story, evolving as the Queen she was meant to be, and here it was.
Do you think Mia or Lilliana would be unscathed by the next chapter?
Please vote, comment and review for my story if you have like it.