“Loreina, want a cup of coffee?” Gray held out a mug and I smiled and took it from him. The guest house was a little dated. I could tell Neil never came out here but the furnishings were well cared for. I stood to add a tad more cream and to check out the view from the living room window. As I flung open the curtains I gasped. The snow was easily five feet deep. Gray appeared behind me, apparently as surprised as me to see the sight.
“It’s beautiful. I just wish I was home to enjoy it with my brothers and Angie.” he nodded and placed a hand on my shoulder.
“So. I got a call a few minutes ago,” I turned and looked at him as we both sat on the couch. “Angelina had the baby. She’s not doing so great. Baby Daniel is doing well though. She delivered at home.” My heart sank as joy spread through me. Angelina has been such a good friend to me over the years, I wanted to be able to be there and help take care of her and the baby.
“I’m so glad they made it though. She had that baby early. She was due next month.” he nodded and took a sip of coffee. He sat the mug down and leaned back with a heavy sigh.
“Alex is a wreck. Poor kid. Hardly an adult himself.” I nodded knowing he had watched and helped guide Alex through the transition after our dad died from a loyal and strong son to the leader of a major legacy.
“I wonder where Howie is in this mess-,” My words were cut short as we lost power. I held my breath and prayed it came back on with a generator. A few seconds passed and nothing. “I’ll call Neil.” Gray pulled out his phone and flipped on the flashlight.
“Loreina, hey. How’s the guest house?” I smiled, as a shiver ran down my spine. How does his voice make me feel this way?
“Well, um, our power just went out. Do you have a generator out here? I could go out and start it up.” He laughed and I heard a glass hit a counter a little too hard..
“No I don’t. That guest house is getting flattened in the spring. If it’s alright, I’ll come down now to help you and Gray move up to the main house? I have generators for the first and second floor. You can stay in the extra bedrooms here.” I chewed my lip as he hung up not leaving me a choice but to move to the mansion that sat to our East.
“Let me guess, were moving up to the main house?,” I nodded blushing as he smiled a huge shit eating grin. “Loreina, it’s none of my business but, you like him. Don’t you?” Oh God. Please don’t do this to me Gray. I raised my hands and ran them through my long black hair.
“Gray, Um you can’t tell Alex please. Especially not now…” He nodded and his smile grew wider and we went to collect our things from the kitchen. “We kissed earlier today.” He just nodded, confirming his suspicions. I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t lie to Gray. I respected him too much both as my bodyguard and my friend. He was family. He was like my uncle.
“I won’t say anything but you’re playing a dangerous game. His grandfather is not going to like it if you pursue a relationship with him…” my mind wandered trying to remember if he had ever mentioned his grandfather to me before when there was a knock on the door.
Gray opened it and let the man in. He grabbed our bags and loaded them onto the back of the ATV. I stepped out into the snow storm and saw the second one had a man on the front. He turned back and I saw that flaming red beard against the snow falling from the sky.
He motioned with his head to the seat in front of him. I laughed and climbed on. He revved the engine and took off. My screams and giggles drowned out by the loud horsepower under us, dragging us through the snow. We drove up to the back of the house but he kept driving as Gray and the other guy parked and got off. Gray waved me goodbye as I turned back to look at Neil who was focused on our course. My hands wrapped a little tighter around him as we stopped at the tree line of his property. A few trees parted making a wide path for us as we took off into the woods.
We finally stopped at a clearing where a river bank stood frozen in front of us. We got off the ATV and walked a little closer. I turned to look at him as his gaze drifted down the frozen flow in front of us.
“This is so beautiful. Does it always freeze over?” He met my eyes with his. Not focused on my question at all.
“Loreina. I have to be honest with you. I kissed you earlier today and that was very out of line. Unprofessional. I want to apologize.” I was taken back. I thought he had felt the same spark I had. That’s what he said. He couldn’t stop thinking about me. Was he changing his mind?
“I- I-. Neil I would be lying if I said I’m not attracted to you. We can keep things casual if you want. Whatever you think is appropriate. Like you said, you’re not my boss!” I bent down and grabbed a handful of snow, quickly packing it and throwing it at his chest.
“Oh, Miss Rossi, that was a very bad idea!” his face lit up and he ran and hid behind a tree. As he formed one of his own, larger than mine and he tossed at me as I ducked behind a leafless bush. It hit my thigh and I yelped in laughter.
“I grew up with Alex and Howie, you sir, will be a piece of cake!” I returned fire and hit him square in the shoulder. He grabbed his chest and gasped a fake pain. I moved my position closer to his as he ran past me and got me in my back. I spun and charged him, head on. He caught my arm and pulled me in. He wrapped his arms around me and held down my hands.
“You’re good ma’am. But I’m better.” his hands tickled my sides and I laughed so hard I ran out of breath. When I finally stopped putting up a fight he let me have a little room in his arms but didn’t let me go. I turned to look at him. His eyes fell to my lips. I took in a breath as he kissed me again. His warm lips brought feeling back to my cheeks and made me forget how cool out it was.
“You’re very confusing Mr. Flynn.” I broke the kiss, resting my forehead on his and he shrugged. What did he actually want? He said this wasn’t a good idea with his words but his actions screamed otherwise.
“Listen… I don’t mind fooling around, dating, committing, but I have to know what you want. Your words and actions don’t match up…” he let out a sigh and let me go. I missed his embrace the moment he stepped back and ran his gloved hand through his hair. It’s like he’s heard this before. Or ran the conversation through his mind one too many times.
“Why? Why do you even want a gangster’s kid?” I threw my hands out in frustration. “I don’t live in your world. If our businesses hadn’t ripped their shells away from us, we would have never seen each other again after the day you found me on the dock.” I shook my head and took a few steps away from the tension growing. He filled the gap back in and part of me was glad for it. When was the last time someone expressed an interest in me? I couldn’t even remember.
“You are not a gangster’s kid. You hold a dynasty with your brothers that makes grown men quiver at the name. You are powerful. You are smart. Beautiful. You are spunky. I thought about you many times after I took you home. I played a few scenarios in my head about how I could bump into you again. I couldn’t think of a single one. Maybe that’s why I was so open to the idea of our families working together. I can’t explain it but I knew I’d see you again Loreina Rossi.” My eyes stung with hot tears. No one had ever called me beautiful except daddy. And the comments about making sure he would see me again, that made my heart race.
I stepped away, putting some distance between us. I fidgeted with my scarf as the cold sank deep into my skin and muscles. I crossed my arms and tucked them into my sides.
“What if I just take you on one date? Let us get to know each other outside of business. We don’t have to tell anyone, if it doesn’t work out no one will make it weird for us.” I chewed my lip. What is it like to be in a relationship that doesn’t terrify me? Make me lose sleep at night? Make me fear my own shadow when I’m home alone? How do I act normal with another man? Do I even know what would attract me to another person? I didn’t want to drag my insecurities out from the box I had them tucked away into, under lock and key.
“I will think about it,” I whispered, and those words seemed to satisfy him. “Can we go inside now? Its freezing, Gray will come looking for me soon.” He nodded and we trekked back over to the ATV.
His demeanor changed as he inspected the tire tracks in the snow.
“Get on, we gotta get out of here.” I didn’t have a chance to question him as we got on and cranked it up gunfire sprayed the trees around us. Wood chips sprinkled us as they all missed.
On the back this time, I held on tightly as he cut and turned the wheels, this way and that. It seemed to be working. We broke the tree line quickly and he hit the gas giving it all it had towards the house. His guys must have heard the gun fire because they formed a long loose wall, all armed and ready. Two men parted allowing our vehicle through. They returned fire as we rounded a corner and stopped once out of their sight.
“That door-” he pointed to the small back door, I swung my leg over the seat and started to run. “Loreina, stop! You’re bleeding.” His words seemed to fade as my legs went limp and met the cobblestone beneath me. I suddenly couldn’t take a deep breath, I heard Gray’s voice but it sounded so far away. The ground below me felt like I was floating in a pool. Two arms picked me up and tossed me over a strong shoulder as the white snow covering the ground faded to black.