T H R E E
L I L L I A N A
As I sat by the bed, enjoying the ramen as my lunch for the day, I wished I had learned a little bit of cooking by now to survive all by myself. As it turned out that I had only mastered how to swing a knife at another human and not very successfully at chopping vegetables.
“This man is going to break my bed even before we do anything on it,” I muttered under my breath, munching on the hot noodles.
Dominic Romano’s six-feet-plus muscular body was twisting and turning on my bed. The pain-killer was beginning to wear off, making him writhe and thrash in pain while the bed creaked under the weight of his solid muscular frame.
Putting down the bowl of noodles on the floor, I stood up and retrieved the syringe from the cabinet and pushed into his arm. The guttural groaning died down within seconds and lured him back to unconsciousness.
Replacing his bandages every twenty-four hours was a task bearing me down tediously while he was passed out peacefully. All I wanted to do was gut him like a fish instead of tending his wounds.
“How is he doing?” Andrew asked in a hushed voice.
I wanted an update on how desperate Viktor had gone in search of his brother, so I asked him to come over knowing Dominic wouldn’t wake up sooner. It turned out that every man on Romano’s payroll was combing the street from him.
“He’s alive, for now.” I shrugged. “Did they find anything on the accident spot?”
My eyes never left Dominic’s sleeping form as I stared at him mindlessly.
Andrew shook his head. “They are convinced that Vittelo is behind the attack. In fact, Viktor blew up one of their factories as an act of retaliation. He is behaving like a raging bull who is ready to kill anyone and everyone.”
I huffed a laugh. “His brother is missing, and he is behaving like a Mad Hatter. What about all those times when his father killed the family of other people? And left them alive inside a burning house, just for the sake of revenge?”
“Lilliana,” Andrew said in a kind voice. “Don’t let him get under your skin. Ever. You have waited for this all your life. Don’t let him win.”
For a second I shivered, as the picture of the burnt dead body flashed before my eyes, and I was pulled out of the daze.
“I would rather die than let him or his family succeed this time,” I whispered like a vow. And turned to him. “Thanks for the update. You can leave now. He might get up at any moment.”
Without another word, Andrew got up as I heard him shuffle away.
“Sam...Sam...my...” Dominic mumbled in a throaty voice, along with some other incoherent words.
I stood by his side as my fingers closed around his nape and titled up his face. Pressing the mouth of the bottle of water to his lips, I made him sip the liquid carefully. His eyes kept fluttering open and close, but ultimately he passed out once again.
I woke up with the same nightmare I had for the past fifteen years. The burning house, the scream, the dead bodies and stench of the burnt flesh. Bathed in cold sweat coating every inch of my skin, I shrugged off the covers and got off from the couch.
I peeked inside the only bedroom of this apartment where Dominic Romano was still fast asleep or unconscious and left the door slightly ajar. Satisfied, I turned on some deafening loud music to silence the riotous train of thoughts. Later in the day, I was trying a hand in the kitchen, when all of a sudden, a loud thud from the bedroom startled me. Marching towards the source of the sound, I realized that the devil was finally awake.
“Thank fuck you’re awake,” I said, struggling to make the voice cheerful.
He blinked a couple of times as he adjusted his foggy vision, and then his gaze swept down my body. For a second, I thought of gouging out his lusty eyes for looking at me like I was some piece of meat. And when he opened his mouth, the thought of murdering him then and there intensified.
“Who the...hell...are you?” he croaked.
And just like that, I lost it.
Breathing in and out a couple of times, I muttered, “You need rest. Don’t try and get up.” And marched out of the room because it was impossible to breathe the same air as him and not go nuts.
Once again, he slept all through the morning. It was around evening that he flitted back to the land of the living, whining in pain.
“It will hurt. The bruises are still fresh,” I said, my voice level.
“Where am I?” he croaked out. I could feel the questioning gaze seeping into the pores on my skin.
“Chicago,” I replied without looking up. “You had an accident.”
Finally, I glanced up to meet those deadly blue eyes I detested all my life. It looked all the same to me - Dominic, Viktor, Alessandro.
“Do you remember anything?” I can’t have you losing your memory now. You need to remember what you did, what your family did and then face what is coming for you.
“Yeah,” he groaned a bit. “The only thing I can’t remember is, how the fuck I landed up here?”
Despite my iron-clad resolve, the glare broke through.
“This is because I had to drag your ungrateful ass in here,” I snapped angrily and stood up. “I should have left you by the roadside.”
I was sure pretty sure I was going to stab him with the scissors in my hand, so I chose the easy way out and started storming out of the room.
“Wait.” The dark voice sounded darker as he called out.
Turning around, I stood there for a moment.
“Who are you?”
I am your death.
“None of your business. Get well, and you can leave,” I answered.
His face broke out into a smirk. “Are you a criminal?”
Talk about irony. “Criminals don’t pick up stray wounded dogs from the road to tend them.”
And just like that, he snapped, too. The facade of an injured man slipped away, overtaking the ruthless animal that he actually was. He forced himself to sit up on the bed only to fall back in a jiffy as the body gave away. Baring his teeth, he managed to prop himself against the headboard. Watching him lose the temper or grappling wasn’t the best part; it was when he realized he was stark naked that he actually lost his shit.
“Where are my clothes?” he snapped.
It was my turn to smirk back. “Relax. I didn’t take your virginity.”
The tick in his jaw went up as he closed and opened his eyes, glaring daggers. “You have no idea who I am,” he gritted.
Let’s play dumb for now, Dominic. Because it is you who is going to ask this question again and again.
“You mean a rich spoilt brat who got sloshed, drove his rich-ass car into a tree and almost died without a care in the world? Yeah, I get it pretty much.”
The calm facade returned slowly. “Why the fuck did you save me then?”
For a moment, I felt like the game had already begun. We were already chewing out each other with words, and it would be one hell of a miracle if I didn’t strangle him to death before his time.
“Told you, I have a thing for stray dogs.”
“You little bitch,” he grunted.
Lunging forward in a purposeful, half-ass attempt, I tried to slap him when he caught my wrist in reflex and twisted. The pain shot up immediately but it wasn’t anything I could not tolerate. In fact, the pain reminded me of everything all over again.
“Aagh! Fuck you, you asshole!” I shrieked, faking it.
Our bodies were dangerously close, the rebellious gazes clashed against one another. I was almost losing it when I quickly gathered myself and pretended to wince in pain like some meek girl against a bad boy.
The fierce hold on my wrists vaguely relaxed as he apologized and asked, “What’s your name?”
“You ass –”
Dominic cut me in. “I know my name. What. Is. Yours?”
“Lilliana,” I said. The voice sounded so small and odd in my ears, it felt strange.
“Lilliana,” he echoed slowly. “Thank you.” His eyes gestured towards the bandages.
I held my wrists slightly up, snickering, “You have a funny way of showing gratitude.” And quickly pulled away from him.
“Maybe you should try holding your tongue next time you speak with me.”
“How about I strangle you in your sleep?” I wasn’t kidding.
“I need you to do two things for me. Get me my clothes and a heavy-dose painkiller.”
“I am not your little bitch to run errands for you,” I spat out. Why did he think every woman on earth was at his beck-and-call?
Being the bastard he was, he pulled me towards him and yanked my hair like I was some whore ready for him to use. “You get me what I want, and I will be out of this house in no time. You try and mess with me; I will kill you before you can even blink. Have I made myself clear, Lilliana?”
The threat didn’t faze me a bit. This was Dominic Romano. He knew two things in my life to get what he wanted—seduction or threat. Unlucky for him, I wasn’t ready to bend my will with either of those tactics. But for the time being, I played along, trying to be the scared little mouse.
Once I nodded in acquiescence, he nodded. “Good.” And then let me go.
Slamming the door behind me and hurrying out of the house, I tried to calm the rabbitting heart beating against my ribs. Dominic didn’t scare me—my own self did and the fear of failure. What if this man—this devil—inside the bedroom manages to defeat me? Not even I had an hour-lengthy conversation with him, and I was losing my mind to the point of insanity. In every step, he was disarming me, and without even trying.
Round two, I mumbled to myself and walked back.
With a tray of food, the clothes I had to bloody wash and the medicine he requested for, I walked into the room after some time. I tossed the clothes at him and slammed the tray on the bedside table. “Your food and painkiller,” I said and pointed at the tray. “Eat, get dressed and get out of my house.”
“Lilliana,” he called out with certain genuineness in his voice.
I acted irritated as I spun around. “What?”
“It was rude of me to speak to you like that.” So he was trying to play nice now?
“Call me if you any need help with the bandages. And there’s the bathroom,” I said and motioned towards the corner.
There was no need to show him because he would have spotted it anyway. This bedroom was probably smaller than the bathroom he had back at his mansion.
“You’re seriously going to storm out?” he asked in disbelief. Dominic Romano wasn’t used being ignored. Women flanked around him like he was a royal prince. But unlike those women, I was deliberately assaulting his fragile ego. Turned out, he did have a weakness.
Even Achilles’ had a weakness, Dominic is just a devil, I thought.
“Listen Mr–” I paused for a moment, his name was on the tip of my tongue as I reined in. “What’s your name?”
“Dominic,” he said, but didn’t reveal his surname. Everyone in Chicago knew the last name if not their faces. He could have used it to threaten me any way he wanted, but he was a strategist—just like I knew. He didn’t trust me–for obvious reasons–and smartly played safe.
“Ok, Dominic,” I said, politely, “you should leave.”
“I want to know you.”
The moment I thought I figured him out a bit, he would throw me off-balance the very next second. “Huh?”
“What do you do, Lilliana?”
“None of your business.”
The smile he flashed was chivalrous. “It is my business to know about the woman who was so kind enough to look after me for the past couple of days.”
“A couple of days?” I laughed in disbelief. “It’s been five fucking days, you idiot!”
“What? I was out for five days?” Gone was that chivalrous charm now.
It was time to poke the hornet’s nest, I decided. “Yeah. I kind of thought you won’t make it initially. I would have taken you to the hospital, but there was no identity on you. Plus, it was an accident case. PD would ask too many questions.”
I knew he would not be satisfied with the explanation at all, just like I had planned. The smokescreen around my identity would draw him closer.
“Thank you,” he said, pretending to accept my answer. Just like I thought. But before I could get the next word out, he stood up with the support and let the cover from his body slide down intentionally and standing there buck naked.
“What the-” I squealed and spun around, covering my eyes. “A little warning would have been nice,” I muttered.
“You already undressed me. Why are you feeling shy now?” I heard him challenge with a chuckle.
Fuck my life. “The clothes were torn and bloody. You wanted me to keep you like that for five fucking days? Besides, I had to bandage the wounds,” I retorted, facing away from him.
“I am beginning to think ‘fuck’ is your keyword of the day. Anyway, you can turn around,” he said. And when I did, I saw him directly popping the medicine into his mouth with water.
“You can’t take the painkiller in an empty stomach.”
“My body will adjust. I would really appreciate one last favor. Do you have a car?”
I didn’t, but I wanted to drop him off wherever the damn location was. “No. But I am using my friend’s so, yes.”
“Great. Drop me at Sapphire. I’ll tell you the address on the way.”
Of all places, he wanted to go to a strip club? I knew he wouldn’t want me anywhere near Romano Mansion and for good reasons, but the club was the last place I had expected.
“What’s Sapphire?” I asked with pretention. This was one of the elite clubs owned by his family, and Dominic was a regular. He fucked almost all the women in there and rarely in his own bedroom.
“Strip club,” he stated, buttoning his shirt.
“Pervert,” I muttered in genuine disgust.
Once I dropped him off, I deliberately parked where the cameras were placed. I knew Viktor was always paranoid, and he would, undoubtedly, look into my details. The length this man was ready to go for the sake of his family was beyond insanity. Then I realized I was no better.
I quickly texted Andrew to watch out for Viktor because I knew he would show up within half an hour or so.
As I watched Dominic limping his way into the club, I muttered, “We will meet again, very soon.” With that, I drove off.