Who I Have to Be
“Where is he Franco.” My teeth gritted against each other. My arms dropped down by my side.
I could hear him in the background saying my name. Pleading for me to stop. It was fuzzy, kind of like I was hearing it in my subconscious. Hearing my name cross his tongue made my body want to turn at toss myself into his arms. But I had had enough playing fucking games. So I supressed every urge I had, every instinct I had to stop while I could.
Franco didn’t respond he just looked up at me with a sly smirk knowing full well he was starting to dig just under the surface of my skin. So I repeated myself one more time, hoping that it would get the point across that I wasn’t going to back down. “I said. Where. The FUCK. is. He Franco?”
I bent down pressing the palms of my hands into the armrest of the chair, getting just inches from his face. I mimicked his disgusting smile. His eyes shifted ever so slightly to make contact with mine until his face began to move near my ear. My hairs stood on end anticipating the words he was about to spit out of his mouth. I knew that whatever was about to be said would only open wounds that had just barely closed.
“Remember the last time you were this close to me I was in you, ripping you apart inch by inch. You were clawing at me to get off of you. I let you struggle you know. I wanted you to fight. I wanted to take away every last bit of dignity you fucking had left. You’re screams and pleads only turned me on more. Care to let me do that to you all over again love?” His voice whispered into my ear quiet enough for me to hear but loud enough for Adrian to catch. It sent shivers down my spine causing me to push myself away from the chair wanting to distance myself as far as possible away from the devil that sat in front of me.
Flashbacks threatened my mind. Pain radiated through my body at the thoughts of every wound he inflicted, at the cuts that finally were healed over after months. Every scar I received panged with a phantom pain that I hadn’t felt since Adrian sewed every laceration. What a sick bastard.
I planted my feet firmly shoulder length apart still a few feet away from the monster. Franco’s eyes glanced back and forth between Adrian and I, studying the reaction each of us had to his presence.
“Addi, upstairs. Now.” He knew I was starting to struggle. The Dominic bomb that had just been dropped on me and the flashbacks were beginning to be too much. But I was determined to push through.
“No.” I kept my eyes focused on Franco.
“So what is this a game of good cop, bad cop now? What Adrian? You’re not man enough to get the damn job done anymore that you sick your measily little girlfriend to do your dirty work. Bad enough you can’t even manage to kill one fucking person, now you have to have everyone else do your fucking work. Pathetic. You honestly think I’m scared of her? Just wait til Dominic gets his fucking hands on her. You think what I did to her was bad. He can’t wait to rip her body to fucking shreds. Tearing up that sweet pussy of hers until there’s nothing left to sell off that he’ll have no choice but to put a shiny new bullet in between those perfect fucking eyes of hers. Better yet, he’ll just toss her to her ex. Heard he’s been looking for you, Addi. ”
“Excuse me?” I was cut off by a hand pulling me backward.
“Addi. I said office. Now.” He wasn’t asking. There was a seriousness in his voice that actually concerned me. My body held it’s stance forward but my head turned over my shoulder to look back at him. His eyes pleaded me once more. Begging me to listen just once. But I couldn’t help myself.
“No.” I ripped my arm from his grasp before crossing my arms back over my chest to face forward towards Franco. “What do you know what my ex?”
“Why don’t you ask your boyfriend over there what else he’s been lying to you about.” A sinister laugh left his mouth until the blood pouring into his lungs caught up and a violent coughing attack interrupted his breathing.
My body froze. Daniel. How does Franco know he’s looking for me? How does he even know who my ex is. And what the hell is Adrian not telling me.
Adrian could sense my panic.
“Addi, would you stop defying me for one fucking second. Get the fuck upstairs.” I don’t know what it was this time. But in one second my gut told me to listen. I wanted my revenge, but at what cost. Adrian had better instincts that I had. He knew I was falling apart even when I didn’t know I was. It didn’t matter how hard I tried to keep it together Franco had a way of tearing down every protective wall I had built up.
I turned on my heels, my arms still crossed and made my way up the stairs passing Adrian with a glare. The heels of my boots clicking with every step I took. I didn’t try to make my steps light this time. Instead I pushed me feet into the wood harder, drilling every ounce of annoyance I still had through each step. Behind me I could hear the latch of the door locking into place followed by footsteps. I never bothered to look behind me. But I could tell that his large strides were skipping every other step to catch up to me. It didn’t matter I had already reached the top and I had no intentions of stopping in his office. He had others plans.
“Addilyn, look at me.” A hand sharply pulled at my wrist turning me around to face him.
“Why, why should I?”
“No.” I interrupted whatever he was about to say. My gazed reaching up to his eyes. Emotions passed through them flickering one at a time. There were too many I couldn’t figure out what he was actually feeling. That was something I was starting to get used to. He was the one person I struggled to read. “No Adrian. You lied, straight to my face. That was one thing. But now I find out you know much more than you’re telling me.”
“Bella. Would you let me explain?”
“Do I even have a choice? I’ll hear it one way or the other.” I knew he wouldn’t stop until I heard his version.
“Bella. I didn’t know about Dominic. I didn’t know until this morning. I had an inkling. Franco confirmed it right away. He wanted me to know. I didn’t even have to torture it out of him. He’s trying to drive a wedge between us Addi. He’s trying to shake me, us, this family.”
It made sense. Adrian had no reason to lie to me about that. But about Daniel…
“You wanna fucking cough up the rest of the information you’re hiding from last night or do I need to go down there and catch you in another damn lie?” I could feel my face boiling with heat. I had never been truly angry at Adrian until now. It was an unfamiliar feeling. I felt betrayed. He was someone I thought I could trust, that would protect me. Turns out he’s no better than the rest of them.
“Addi…you don’t-” his hand slid down to place mine is his. His other hand came to my cheek. His eyes saddened with regret, while his mouth looked like he wanted to vomit from holding in whatever he was hiding.
“Save me the bullshit Adrian.” I batted away his hand from my face. “How the fuck does he know about Daniel?”
“Bella… you’ve been involved in this long before you even had a choice.”
“What?” I was confused. I shook my head side to side slightly. Was he trying to say what I thought he was?
Adrian’s face dropped to the floor, hanging heavy; a sigh leaving his mouth. His eyes were closed or focused on the floor, I couldn’t tell which. My stomach began doing flips. Now I was the one that wanted to vomit.
“Daniel.. He’s- He’s…” Another sign left his mouth. As it did his eyes shifted back towards mine that were now laced with the fear of the words that were about to escape his mouth. “Addi. Daniel is one of Dominic’s men. Always has been.”
I should have been terrified. Knowing my ex was part of the mafia all along. But I wasn’t. Shocked yes. But I was enraged. To me it was just another reason to take a step further into this world. It was one thing to let a man like Dominic tear this family apart and threaten my life. It was another to know that Daniel was involved. It made sense honestly. His attitude, his character. But it changed nothing. In fact it made me more pissed off.
“Okay.” I said it like it was nothing. Because it wasn’t. Not yet at least. I didn’t have time to break down and cry. I didn’t have time to be weak. I couldn’t afford it. This family couldn’t afford it.The only thing I could afford to be was furious.
“Okay? That’s it?” Adrian looked at me stunned. “You’re not… upset?”
“Nope. Does it change anything? Nope. Did you lie to me. Yes. Did you keep the truth from me. Also Yes But honestly, I don’t have time for petty ass arguments. I don’t have the energy to be pissed off at you. The only person I have energy to be pissed off at right now is Franco. Not to mention I can understand why you lied, why you didn’t tell me the truth. Just another way of you trying to protect me I guess.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“What’s gotten into you Addi?” His eyes changed from regret to concern. “This isn’t you.”
“Actually it is. It’s who I have to be now. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an asshole in the basement that needs my attention.”
I tried stepping around him. But his reaction was too quick pulling me back by my hand that he still held on to.
“No, no, no. Not so fast. It’s who you have to be?” He mimicked my words ending it with a question. “Says who? Not me. Not Alex. Not Adam. Not Amelia. This is not you Bella.”
Our shoulders were squared up as I turned my head to look at him through the corners of my eyes.
“We both know it’s who I need to be. I won’t make it out alive at the end of this war if I stay the sweet innocent girl I used to be. I can’t keep getting pushed around. I can’t keep letting you and everyone else in the line of fire while I take a step back. Because eventually you could be taken from me and I won’t have anyone else to protect me except myself. Now, do you mind?” He didn’t reject my comments but rather pulled back on my hand once more this time pulling me into his chest. My free hand braced itself on his pec muscle that I could feel twitched under the pads of my fingers as his arm brushed my lower back to pull me in closer to him. His grip on my hand loosened bringing it up to his chest to match the placement of my other one freeing his hand to push a loose strand of hair out of my face before cupping my cheek. I could feel the pressure of his forehead resting against mine as my eyes closed from the comfort of his embrace.
I couldn’t stay mad at him. It was truly his way of protecting me and trying to keep me out of this. Because apparently his thick head still could not process how deep I was dragged into this.
“I will always protect you Bella. Always. Until my dying breath. And even after that I will find a way to keep you safe.” My eyes fluttered open to find his staring back. I could feel his fingertips moving to encapsulate the back of my neck and in one swift motion the light pressure on my neck brought my face to his until I could feel familiar warmth of his cracked lips pressed against mine.
I never wanted him to pull away. Everything surrounding us faded away. It was as if we were the only two people in the world. Shocks of electricity passed through my veins causing my knees to buckle under me. I pressed into his lips harder, craving the closeness despite the fact that there was no room left between us. My fingers snaked their way from his chest to wrap around his neck in order to prop myself up on my tip toes. Don’t stop, please don’t stop.
Mid kiss he inched his lips away from mine. “Addi, baby. Protecting you includes you not going anywhere near Franco. Do you understand me?” And just like that the singular moment of bliss was washed away with his words.
I pulled myself from his grasp remembering that there was still a war to be fought. “I told you he’s mine Adrian…” I could feel my eyes darken. The sweet girl he brought out in me pushed into the depths to make room for the fierce woman I needed to be.
“And he’s going to keep saying everything he can to break you down Addi. He already started it. I saw the way you flinched near him. You froze for a moment dealing with whatever flashbacks the sight of him conjured in your mind. I won’t let you go down there again.”
“I’ll be fine Adrian.” Because I had to be.
“No you won’t be. I know you. You know… You keep telling me that you want to be part of this fucking messed up life Addi. Fine. If that’s what you want than it’s going to be under my fucking terms and my fucking orders. And this is a fucking order Addi. You are not going back down there again. Fucking Period.”
“Okay but hear me out-” I opened my mouth to continue but his power stricken voice drown out my meek words.
“I said no Addi.” His eyes were dilated with anger towards me. His fist were pressed against his hips scolding me like a child I was sort of acting like who didn’t know any better for herself.
Acting timid was going to get me nowhere. It was time to start finding the inner strength I knew I had and showing him I could handle this life.
“FUCKING HEAR ME OUT DAMN IT.” he wants to scold me like a child, I’ll act like one. Let’s see how many tantrums I can throw today. “You won’t get a damn thing out of him Adrian. You fucking know I’m right. And you know he has information we need.”
“What’s your point Addi?”
“Let me try damn it.” I could see his mouth opening to object. But I cut him off before he could start. “Stop. Fucking let me finish. He’s part of your damn family. And I will guarantee you that he was raised with the same torture techniques that you were raised with. Am I fucking right so far? He knows what to expect Adrian. He’s prepared for every possible thing you plan to do to him. Every technique you have is superficial. I would know. That bastard gave me front row fucking tickets to that show. That shit will not force him to open up. But...he still thinks I’m this meek little girl afraid of any touch from a man. He thinks he shouldn’t be scared of me, but in reality any man in his right fucking mind should be afraid. I may not have been raised into this. I may be new to all of this. But what that asshole did to me, what Daniel did to me, no woman should ever have to experience.” I paused giving him a chance to speak but nothing came from his mouth.
“Listen. Both you and I both know I have extensive education on human anatomy. And we both know that that kind of information could benefit us. I know where to precisely place a damn knife to ensure that it would miss any major blood vessels and organs but bring more torture than your superficial cuts and leave him fucking begging for me to stop. Not to mention I know medications that you’ve never even heard of before that will leave him psychologically fucked up and drained. And if that doesn’t give us what we want, then at least he got what he fucking deserved and I got my revenge on the bastard. And you can kill the ass for all I care. You owe me this much Adrian, you know that.”
His arms crossed over his chest as one hand came up to cup his mouth while he internally debated. He knew I was right. And even if I wasn’t what was the harm in trying?
“Fine. Under my conditions.”
“You have five minutes with him. You will not be in there without me at any point. You will not physically touch him, at least not yet. I want to see his reaction to you. Understand?”
“Yes.” For some reason my heart fluttered like a kid in a candy store that just got their way.
“If this goes how you want it to, I will consider furthering your idea. But under my discretion and not today. Deal?”
“One more thing. If and when it comes to that point, you will not kill him, do you hear me? I will never put you through the emotional trauma that comes with that task.” I didn’t know if it was the concern in his voice or the new found attitude I had developed but part of me really wanted to rip his clothes off.
Those were easy terms to agree with, at least for today. I would try to rework the conditions tomorrow. But I pleasantly agreed. “Okay. Do my five minutes start now?” He silently nodded at me with a small smirk to his lips like part of him was proud of who I had become or maybe he just really wanted to tear my clothes off. I would take either really.
Like the giddy child I felt like I rushed back down the stairs hearing his slowed footsteps behind me. My hand reached for the handle but I paused. My head turned to find him directly behind me. His hands brushing my shoulders. I could feel my heart rate pulsate through my chest. Breath Addi. Calm down.You got this. I couldn’t tell if I was nervous or excited. Maybe a little of both?
“At any point you want to back out you just walk away baby okay?” Ha. Back out? Not in a million years
With one last breath in I turned the knob and pushed the door open.
“Franco. Let’s talk.”