A Little Lie
It had been over a week now since I had spoken to Adrian. The only interactions we had were over the dining room table stealing quick glances at each other hoping the other wasn't going to notice.
I had a hard time wrapping my head around everything. His words ringing in my head "we're in the Mafia...". I didn't even think that they still existed. And I definitely had no idea what it actually entailed either. Drugs? Money? Sex trafficking? Weapons? My mind flowed to worst case scenario. He tried to explain everything to me.
"We're in the Mafia Addi."
"Addi, I'm not a good person. I've killed more people than I can count. I've tortured people. I was raised into the Mafia. My father was the boss before me and my grandfather before him in Italy. With my father's death I was required to take on the responsibility of capo being the eldest son."
"Please tell me you're fucking kidding me. The Mafia? Adrian. This is a damn joke right?"
"It's not Addi. I promise. Adam is my second command. Alex is my third. The majority of my cousins are involved too. We deal with a multitude of things and when you have had time to let all of this sink in I will answer any and every question you have about all of this okay?" A silence fell over the two of us. This time however, it was not a comfortable one. A wall of tension was suddenly built in front of me, keeping my distance from the man who just spilled a massive and dark secret about himself and his family.
"Addi we only kill those who we need to. I've only tortured those who deserve it. That's why that basement exists. I've never once killed or harmed an innocent person, I promise you that. You have to believe me." HIs eye glazed over with a sadness I had never seen in him. Maybe it was regret for telling me, wishing we could just go back to how things were moments before cuddled in each others arms. I didn't know how to handle any of this.
A loud sigh released from his lips forcing his shoulders to finally relax down from the built up tension. "Listen," he said rubbing his hand across his forehead while the other one balances just above his hip. "Take your time digesting this. I told you this because I trust you Addi. And you deserved to know. I promise I won't talk to you, touch you, even breath in your direction until you are ready for me to do so okay?" And with that he walked out leaving my jaw dropped to the floor attempting to pick up the pieces of my life by myself from the bomb that just exploded in this room.
"I've killed people Addi, I'm not a good person." If those words would have been said to me a year ago, hell even three months ago, I would have agreed. But I couldn't shake the feeling that it wasn't true. The feelings I had when I met Adrian and his family were nothing like the feelings I got when I met Dominic. My gut wasn't screaming at me to run. Actually it was telling me to do the opposite. For the first time my body, every inch of it, was telling me to fight, to fight for him. I knew that no matter how bad of a person he thought he was and no matter what he had done, or would need to do in the future, Adrian was not evil. He was not the enemy.
It killed me to sit across from him at the table staying silent. I would find myself frequently getting lost staring into his eyes; day dreaming about running my fingers through his messily put together hair, caressing his cheek and his facial hair, daydreaming about what it would be like to kiss him. My body was slowly forgetting what his touch felt like and every nerve in my body was screaming for just a little more. He was like a damn drug. I took one small hit off of him that night and I was now addicted. If I felt like that with just his arms around me, his fingers brushing against my skin, what was it going to feel like when his lips touched mine? What was it going to be like when those lips I so desperately needed against mine trailed down my neck, down my chest, kissing the outline of my abs, lightly kissing the tops of my hips daring to get closer and closer to my....
I snapped myself out of that thought practically drooling as a few loud knocks came to my bedroom door.
"Come in." I had only hopped it was him. I wanted it, no I needed it to be him. My heart started to flutter as the butterflies began chasing after each other in my stomach at the thought. But it was only Amelia. My expression quickly dulled, not that I wasn't always happy to see her. She had given me space over the last few days. No doubt it was because Adrian had told his siblings that he told me their family secret and ordered them to give me space. It was unlike Amelia to leave me alone, Alex too. They were starting to be more like family to me than just strangers that I now lived with. So it was odd none-the-less that they weren't glued to my side like they usually were during the day when they weren't "working" (whatever that now entailed).
"Hey beautiful." a whisper behind the door spoke up.
"Hi Am, what's up?"
"I've been worried about you. I haven't seen you down stairs in a few days really." She said sitting on the edge of my bed close to me. The weight of her small frame made the bed dip down just enough. I cuddled up to the blankets a little more and closed the book I was working on.
"I guess I'm just trying to wrap my head around some things, you know?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Just responding to you love."
"Oh, don't give me that bullshit Amelia. I know he told you to stay away from me after what he told me. I may not get your life, but I'm also not dumb."
"I never said you were." she giggled a little bit at my attitude. I'm sure it was new to her. She was used to me being quiet and shy still, not vocal and blunt about everything. I guess that was just the new me coming out.
"What do you want Amelia?"
"I kind of missed you that's all. You really haven't been downstairs too much and when you are you kind of avoid us like the black plague."
"I'm not avoiding you Am. I'm avoiding him." my eyes shot down to my hands. I was still trying to figure out my feelings towards him. I didn't even know what feelings I had for him for starters. "Am, can we have like a girl talk for a second. Even if it involves your brother who apparently is also your boss? Or would that be too weird?"
"Not weird at all. Tell me what's on your mind."
"I know you know that he told me about the...business. I know he's trying to push me away. I get he doesn't want me involved, he doesn't want me getting hurt. He keeps telling me that he's not a good person. But I don't believe him. There was this moment at the hospital where Dominic was unconscious. I was holding pressure on a wound just taking in everything about him. I mean, he was extremely handsome but there was something I couldn't explain there. He didn't even have to be awake, he didn't even have to speak. I knew it in my gut that the man laying under the pressure of my hands was evil, he was ruthless. But from the moment I felt Adrian's arms wrap around him in the basement I just knew. I knew that he was going to change my life. I knew he cared, that he was sweet, and loving and genuine. Do I completely understand what you guys do? No, not even in the slightest. Do I want to understand? Yes actually I do. Does part of me want to be involved with you, him and the life you guys have? I'd be lying if I said no. Do I think that Adrian is some monster he's making himself out to be? Not a chance in hell. I've seen his eyes Am. He may be done bad things, he may be a god damn Mafia boss but that doesn't make him a bad person. Does that make sense?"
"Dear lord Addi..." Her head found her hand and her fingers began pinching the bridge of her nose like she was getting a headache.
"How close did you get to him Addi?"
"What do you mean?" I was taken aback by her anger at the matter.
"The minute he brought you up to this room I saw that way he looked at you. That look has only grown deeper and darker the longer you've been around, not that I don't love you like the sister I never had. But I told him to back off. You cannot be involved in this life Addi. And I know how irresistible my brother can be to the ladies. I mean shit, he may be my brother but he is fucking handsome as hell don't get me wrong. I knew you would fall for him and as your friend I didn't want you getting involved. So, I'll ask again. How close have you guy gotten?"
"The night he told me everything about the Mafia I had fallen asleep on the couch. He carried me over to bed. I don't know how long I had been asleep after that but the nightmares started again. He came in and woke me up and he tried to leave after he knew that I was okay and safe. But I pleaded him to stay. I was and I am so tired of being afraid Amelia and at that moment I was terrified. The minute he touched me everything just... everything just faded away. It just felt right. Like, oh I don't know how to explain this. Here. Everytime he saves me from myself, from Franco and from each and every nightmare I have I get a little part of myself back. I feel a little more whole again, not the broken mess Franco and Daniel left me in. Adrian doesn't just see me as scars and past trauma. He doesn't pity me. He embraces my past and doesn't run from it. I don't flinch at his touch. The only time I ever did was the first night after the basement. But when Alex and Adam touch me I still do and I never understood why because they're like brothers to me. But the world just feels right when I'm with Adrian. I feel safe. I feel like anything is possible. He makes me feel like I don't need to be afraid anymore. He's the first guy I've never been hesitant to trust. I just blindly put all of my trust into him. I told him everything Am. I told him about Daniel and what he did to me and how much it fucked me up. He looked at me like I was a damn goddess after that. It's killed me not being near him. But I know all he's going to do is push me away again if I attempt to get close. I don't want to deal with that pain."
"Oh my god Addi..." the corners of her mouth started to creep up until every wrinkle she had was shown from the smile on her face.
"You're fucking in love with my brother."
"What- No I'm not. I can't be. I barely know him."
"Addi, sweetheart. I love you, you know that right. So I'm going to say this to you once. I know you've never been in love. You've never been with someone who can treat you right. Adrian dropped a motherfucking bomb on you. And you didn't even hesitate. You just want to be right back in his arms. You want to stand by his side no matter what he's done. Addi, Adrian had never told anyone what we do. He had never trusted anyone with that information. It could get you killed if you were to open your mouth to the wrong person. I see the way you look at him when you think that no one is paying attention. And I've seen the way he looks at you when you aren't paying attention. I've been scolding him since day one. He's been in love with you just like you've been in love with him the moment you woke up from your hell. Neither of you will admit it though.
However, I'm going to tell you the same thing that I keep telling him. Back off. I know you're feelings are telling you to run to him, to be with him. But you need to think about all of this first. If you get involved with him that's it. Your life is in danger. You will have a target on your back. Life is not going to be easy loving him. So think about this wisely before you jump to a damn decision because you're life could literally depend on what you choose to do. You can either back off until we take care of Dominic and walk away from all of this and forget it ever happened and carry on with your life. OR, you can love him, stand by his side, get involved in our work and have your life threatened daily. I love you Addi, I don't want to see you hurt in anyway."
"That's just it Am. If I turn my back on my feelings I am hurting myself. If I tell him how I feel I'm risking my life. Either way ends up with some kind of fucked up result. I can't turn my back on him Am. He's it. He's been it. Maybe you're right. Maybe I love him or maybe I'm falling in love with him. It's an easy decision. I am part of this family. I have been from day one. You guys are the closest thing I've had to family in a very long time. I would be crazy to walk away from all of this."
"I can't tell you what to Addi. If that's your decision than I will support you. I'll do more than support you. I will always have your back, do you understand me? You are my sister and I love you so much okay?"
"I love you too Am. Thank you for just... listening I guess. I know everyone keeps trying to push me away but I can't leave you guys. Ive grown too close to all of you. You've given me the family I though was taken away from me a long time ago."
"Babe, I will listen you anytime you need me to. I will always be your shoulder to cry on, got it? Now. It's still early in the day. How about you and I go do some shopping?"
"Sure....Hey Am. I have one last thing. A question I guess."
"What is it?"
I bowed my head almost in shame thinking about what I was about to ask her but I needed to ask it. "I know I've already said it before to you and Adrian. But I am so damn tired of feeling scared; feeling unprepared. Can you and Alex train me? I'm sure with this Mafia life comes some badass combat skills. It would make me feel better."
"That one you're going to have to ask Adrian love. But yes, if he agrees I would help you in an instant. And yes, the job does come with 'badass combat skills'. I've known how to fight since I was very young. Come on, get dressed let's go spend an unnecessary amount of money."
I had followed Amelia around to a countless amount of stores where she bought items I was almost positive she didn't even need, but rather wanted. She was like a kid in a candy store with unlimited funds pulling whatever she liked off the rack without even looking at the price tags. Well, that answered that question I guess. They definitely had no shortage of money.
I had kept quiet the majority of the time together. She knew I was still trying to process everything. We were on our way back when she finally spoke up.
"Alright, Addi. You've been far too quiet. What's on your mind?"
"Nothing." I responded without effort not wanting to admit what was on my mind. I kept my gaze looking out the window watching the city turn into countryside.
"Oh that's a ton of shit and we both know it. Addi, you are like my sister. Earlier today you spilled your guts and now you're all shy and quiet again. You know you can talk to me about anything? Now, what the hell is on your mind, talk to me."
"I just don't- I don't know. I don't understand all this Mafia stuff. I think that's why I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around all of it."
"What do you want to know?"
"Are you sure I can ask you all of this. Won't Adrian get mad for you telling me?"
"Well you're going to find out one way or another. Who cares where you get the info from?"
"Oh, okay. Ummmm. Okay first question. Are you involved with everything? You seem a little separated from you and your brothers."
"In a way, with certain things, yes. But there is a lot of it that Adrian won't let me be involved in. I had to practically beg him to let me join. It was always an unspoken rule that the women never get involved."
"Yep. What else?"
"Well how is all the money made? Clearly from your shopping habits money isn't an issue." I giggled pointed at the amount of bags in the back seat.
"Drugs, guns, weapons. That's what most mafia's dabble in and we have a small part in those illegal fairs. That use to be all we were involved in until Adrian took over when Dad died. He knows that part of our life we will never be able to get rid of. But now he has multiple clubs, bar, and restaurants all over the US that are a big part of our income. I don't think he ever really liked the drama that came with the illegal side of the business. Other gangs take part in prostitution, sex trafficking, and brothels. My brothers despise the gangs that take part in the torture of women. They actually try to shut them down when they run across them."
"Dominic? He's the leader of another gang?"
"Yes. Dominic has been trying to put us all six feet under for as long as I can remember. He's one that deals in anything illegal he can get his hands on including women."
"Do you actually have to kill people."
"Yes. Unfortunately that's part of the job at times. And Adrian he... he tries to do that job to protect us from the burden it brings with it. But at some point in our lives we have all killed someone."
"Addi. We don't kill people that don't deserve it. We kill people that have done wrong, that will keep doing wrong; that hurt the people we love, that have done immoral things."
A silence fell between us for a few minutes. It didn't feel awkward though. I could tell that Amelia wanted to tell me something more but she hesitated and quickly closed her mouth exhaling heavily out of her nose. I let my mind drift for a second. All I could see was his face. How was I not surprised when Amelia told me that he would do the dirty work to protect his family from the hurt it causes. He may have killed, he may have tortured people, but deep down he was a damn good person who had a heart and loved his family. Even in this fucked up life they lived, he still showed them he loved them without ever having to say it.
I leaned the side of my forehead on the cold glass of the car's window. Amelia was looking like she was still having a mental debate about telling me something. Finally her mouth opened up.
"Addi I need to tell you something."
"It's about Franco. After Adrian pulled you from downstairs, he regretted letting Franco walk especially after he watched the footage of what Franco did to you. I've never seen Adrian so irate before. Adrian took one look at you and he knew he had to do something. According to some of our guys that stayed with Franco, he was going to come back for you Addi. He wasn't done with you. And he was threatening to turn you over to Dominic in exchange to be let in with his gang. Adrian was livid. He tried hunting him down, he was going to kill him for what he did to you and what he was threatening to do to you. But Franco ran. We assumed he ran to the protection of Dominic anyway. We think he's been giving Dominic information about you, about us and the house and our daily routines from what he could remember. Addi, I'm sorry I should have told you but I figured if you didn't know you wouldn't freak out."
She was right. She shouldn't have told me because now I was in full freak out mode. I didn't know if I was freaking out because Franco was going to come back for me, or because Adrian was going to murder him. Honestly, I'm not surprised that Franco ran to Dominic. He may have been a grown man but he acted like a child, especially when he was disciplined by Adrian. The threat of Dominic just became a little bit more real. I felt utterly unprepared.
The rest of the way home Amelia and I sat in silence again. I was having a harder time wrapping my head around Franco and Dominic than the whole mafia thing. I needed to talk to Adrian. I needed him to let me train with Amelia and Alex. I was tired of feeling like a damn damsel in distress. I wanted to be able to save myself this time if Adrian's protection over me failed.
We pulled in the driveway and I didn't even wait for Amelia. I hastily walked into the house I now considered more of a home to me than any other place had. I knew where he was going to be. I hadn't been down to that room since he saved me. Most of the time I didn't want to be reminded of where I came from and what was done to me. But now, now I wanted to feel that fire inside of me; the anger that place gave me. It made me feel strong. It made me want to fight back. I marched down to his study. I knew where it was but I had never seen it to its full extent. I took a deep breath and took each step down to the room one step at a time, second guessing if I was sure I wanted to do this.
The room was darkened. There was only one floor lamp on in the corner and another on his desk. The room was full of maroon and grey hues making it look darker and smaller than it actually was. A massive bookshelf stood behind a plush chair in the corner of the room. SO.MANY.BOOKS. I reminded myself that eventually I would have to come down here to see what I had for reading options. His desk was massive, made from finely carved wood. It looked old, like it had been passed down from generation to generation. Papers were scattered all over it spilling numbers on them that I had a hard time making sense of. Behind the desk was the door. The door that opened to the gateway of my hell. The door that lead to the beginning of this. The beginning of me falling in love with a man who saved me, who has protected me from the minute he laid eyes on me, a man who was the leader of a gang, a mafia. Irate feelings surfaced in my veins at the sight of the door. My fist quickly clenched shut digging my nails into the palms of my hand. My jaw tightened as the muscles in my face and cheeks twitched from rage. I wanted Franco's damn head on a stake. I wanted him to feel what I felt. I wanted every inch of his dignity taken from him.
My eyes quickly fell on Adrian. My breathing hitched for only a second. My heart fluttered in my chest making my hands relax and my jaw loosen. Just one look at him and I felt peace. I felt safe. I missed him. Although, I would never admit it and I'm sure he wouldn't either. We hadn't spoken in a week and I craved to hear his voice. I wanted to feel his hands run through my hair again. I wanted to feel the calluses on his palms as he cupped my face bringing my lips closer to his, but stopping just shy of touching. I wanted to see the desire in his eyes, the longing he had to be with me.
I was so caught up in my daydream I hadn't even realized that I had made it down to the bottom of the stairs and I was currently just leaning against the door frame with my hands crossed over my chest staring at him pacing back and forth in the room studying a piece of paper. I quickly snapped out of it remember the real reason I came down here.
"Can I help you Ms. Artell?" He said not even taking a glance towards me.
"Wow, so formal Mr. DeLuca. I'm surprised you even decided to talk to me." I couldn't help the amount of attitude that came out. It only took me a short time to realize how pissed off I was at him for just up and leaving after dropping a damn bomb on me and then refusing to talk to me for over a week now.
"Why wouldn't I?"
"Oh gee, I don't know maybe because you've been ignoring me for a week now."
"I have not been ignoring you."
"Fine. Tell me one thing you've said to me in the past week."
"Pass the butter, over breakfast.If I do recall corretly."
"Are you serious? That does not even remotely count. "
"What do you want Addi? Why are you down here?"
"I wanted to ask for a favor."
"And what would that be?"
"Amelia told me about Franco, about Dominic. Honestly she answered a lot of my questions that I had after you just up and left my room that night. I want you to train me."
"No, out of the question."
"Excuse me? Why not?"
"Because I said no Addi."
"Adrian, I am so fucking sick and tired of being a god damn damsel in distress that needs to be saved by someone else. Just teach me some of the necessary skills I need to protect myself."
"I said no Addi, that's final."
"No, it's not. You know Franco will come back for me and Dominic will too. I need you to do this for me. I know you care about me. I know there is something between us. I know you want to protect me. This is protecting me. Please." I pleaded. I felt useless. I didn't think that I was asking too much out of him. He didn't even have to do the damn training himself. I'm sure Alex, Adam and Amelia would gladly help me.
"There's nothing between us Addi." He spit out, rage was in his eyes. Clearly pissed off at me and whatever he was dealing with prior to me joining him. "I don't care how much you plead or beg my answer is still fucking no. GET.IT.THOUGH.YOUR.FUCKING.HEAD." His last words were spoken through grinding teeth.
"Oh that's fucking bullshit and you know it." He had officially brought the bitch out in me. I wasn't going to back down this time. Maybe it was this room burning a fire underneath me or maybe I was finally finding myself but I wasn't going to take this shit from anyone anymore. The first part of protecting myself was to start standing up for what I believed in. "We both know that you didn't do everything you did for no fucking reason. We both know that you weren't going to kill Franco because you just felt like murdering someone that day. We both know the way you looked at me, the way you held me. And I know how much it fucking killed you to tell me your family's deep dark secret. Even though I know you were doing it because you were trying to fucking push me away to keep me out of all this. Well guess what baby, I'm in it whether you fucking like it or not. The minute those two fucking idiots put a price on my head to capture me, I was involved. So you can either leave me fucking unprepared for when they do come for me or you can give me the damn skills to defend myself so maybe this time I don't get kidnpped and fucking raped again. Choice is yours." I started to turn around to go back upstairs. I felt like steam was coming off my head. My face was burned with anger and my cheeks turned one color, red. I was done with this conversation and how irrational he was being. Before I left I needed to get one last jab in. "You know even after you told me about being in the mafia, I still never thought you were a bad guy, no matter how hard you tried to convince me. I knew it in my gut that you were a good person who has done a few bad things. I genuinely thought you had a heart, that maybe you even loved me. But then again, people tend to prove me wrong all the time. Guess you aren't as good of a guy as I thought."
I had no problem walking away after that, slamming my bedroom door after me when I finally reached the comfort of my room. Tears began pouring down my face without warning. I didn't even know why I was crying. I flopped down on the bed burying my head into one of my pillows. I wanted to scream. I wanted to rip someone's head off.
I laid face down for a few minutes, slowing down my breath trying to let the rage pass. But it never did. I needed an outlet for it. I needed something I could do that would help me channel all the emotions I had, all the emotions I've kept to myself over the last few years. I needed to channel my hurt into anger into physical contact. I knew what I needed to do.
Adrian may have said no to me, but they don't need to know that. A little lie never really hurt anybody, right?