‘What you are saying is there’s a possibility. It’s my girlfriend’s birthday and I’d love to surprise her.’
The travel agent flushed under my charms as I smiled at her from across the desk.
‘Maybe, but you would need to book it today. There are only two seats left on the flight.’
I handed her my credit card with a broad smile.
‘I knew you could do it,’ I eyed her name badge with interest. ‘Beth.’ She tapped away on her computer, refusing to meet my eyes.
‘I need the names on the passports please.’
After it was all booked, I slid the envelope into the inside pocket of my jacket, stepping outside into the crisp New York air. I lit a cigarette as I watched the tourists snapping photos of everything- the street signs, the sidewalk and even the damn sky. I noticed a girl watching me with interest from the corner of the street, her long red coat billowing in the wind. I felt my heart slow as my eyes took in her slender frame, her waist length black hair loose around her shoulders.
It couldn’t be her.
I released the smoke I held in my mouth slowly as she gazed at me, her hand covering her mouth in shock.
We stood like that for what felt like an eternity as until I noticed a man standing by the side, suited accordingly. He followed her gaze to me as his eyes flickered in recognition. He whispered something in her ear as she nodded blankly, letting him guide her to a waiting limousine by the sidewalk. He closed the door, before making his way towards me.
Michael Salvatore, youngest brother of Lucia, son of Verno Salvatore. He had the same caramel coloured skin as Lucia, his blue eyes framed by thick dark lashes.
‘I didn’t realise you were back here Leonardo.’ I winced at his use of my full name. He grasped my hand in both of his tightly, his dark eyes studying me intently. ‘You should join us for dinner this evening, so we can extend our gratitude for your help in Winterburg.’
This wasn’t an invitation, it was a command, and I recognised it as such.
He nodded as he made his way back to the car, turning back to me briefly before he opened the door.
’Bring your amante.′
My eyes met his as he sent me a chilling smile, before climbing into the car. My blood ran cold as it sped away, the dark windows preventing me from seeing the passengers.
Gretchen cannot be part of their world. Ever.
My phone buzzed in my pocket as I answered it gruffly.
‘Hey beautiful. It’s so fucking good to hear your voice. What are you doing tonight?’ My heart soared as she apologised for having made plans with Nicole, a girl from her class.
‘Baby, I’ve got some business to attend to.’ She fell silent as she always did at the mention of business, something I’d not mentioned in a while.
‘Is it Verno?’ She whispered, the fear evident in her voice.
‘It’s nothing to concern yourself with, my love. Just enjoy your evening with your friend, and if its not too late I will call you when I get home. It will be simpler when we live together.’ I smiled then, knowing mentioning our living situation would distract her.
‘Cal, I would love to live with you. You said not in New York.’ I could almost see her pouting as she sighed.
‘You’ve got what, two years left at school? Then that’s it, we can live anywhere you want. But here, I live in Brooklyn. You know I don’t want you too involved with my work here.’
I was met with stony silence and I sighed.
‘I’ll call you after. I love you.’
I heard her voice soft in my ear whisper, 'I don't care how late it is. Love you more.'
I ended the call and stared up at the sky. I was not looking forward to this.
Four hours later I found myself driving up the long driveway, leading to a mansion set far back, surrounded by trees and water fountains. To the left of the property five black cars were parked in a neat line, as a gardener tended to the flowers beside them. Security was tight here, and I would place my bets that even the gardener was heavily armed. Looks could be deceiving. Having left my gun at the front gate with security I felt exposed, but confident that if needed I could look after myself to an extent. If they wanted me dead, I would be by now, that much was certain. I sighed as I slid out of the truck, reaching into the cab to get my suit jacket from the hanger, knowing appearances mattered with this family. A burly man stood guard at the front door, his eyes boring into me as I walked forward, his hand on his gun.
'Leonardo Cape. Here to see Michael.'
He pressed the button on his ear piece and spoke in fluent Italian, not taking his eyes from me once. I heard the words 'blond punk.' and tried to hide the anger from my face. I knew some Italian, and this dude had just insulted both my appearance and intelligence. He nodded and opened the door for me, the smell of authentic Italian food wafting out, making my empty stomach grumble loudly. It was known you didn't show to an Italian dinner without a ferocious appetite, and I had made sure I was ravenous. I stood in the grand hallway, my stomach churning at the memories this place held.
'Leonardo. Where is your amante?' Michael walked down the sweeping staircase, his arms opened wide as he greeted me.
'She sends her apologies. She is a student so had prior commitments.' My mouth ran dry as his eyes narrowed. It was disrespectful to not come, I knew that, but until I had no further choice, she remained in her world for as long as possible.
'That is a shame. I was so looking forward to meeting her.' I followed him into the dining hall where a large table was set for dinner, and I counted four places. The room had incredible paintings hanging, worth millions. I nodded at them appreciatively and took a seat opposite Michael as he gazed at me with interest.
'So tell me how you came to be back in New York without any prior authorisation.' Despite the words being spoken softly I knew the family were not pleased.
I swallowed as I heard the swishing of fabric announce Lucia's entrance to the room, and I immediately stood. She was as breathtaking as ever, her hair curled to perfection as it sat around her shoulders, her honey deep green eyes meeting mine as I felt the breath leave my body. I had not seen her since that fateful day where she nearly lost her life. I bowed my head as she regarded me coolly.
'I heard what you did.' Her silky voice was as enchanting as ever. I bowed my head as I felt Michaels eyes watching us carefully.
'I am so sorry I didn't do it sooner.' I whispered hoarsely, meaning every word. She had been my girlfriend, and she had been on the brink of death after an attack. Her eyes softened as she spoke.
'I knew you were there. I knew if you could have done something, you would have. It was the only comfort I had, knowing you were there.'
I felt at a loss for words as I gazed at the floor in shame.
'I was scared. I was fifteen.' I managed to say as Michaels voice cut through me like a knife.
'Can you only imagine how scared Lucia was? Also fifteen. Alas, we shall not dwell on such matters now. It has been dealt with, and my father seems to believe you have redeemed yourself, but it would not be fair to say all of us feel the same way.'
'As you said Michael, it has been dealt with, and my word is final on the matter. Leonardo is our guest, so behave appropriately.' The voice was quiet, the words cloaked in the old Italian accent.