We drove for an hour or so before my horse voice broke the sound barrier like a whip.
“How do you know Alex?” His eyes left the road for a moment and met mine.
“I came to know him through his arms dealing business. His- your father and my grandfather worked together for a bit too. I happened to be in the same trade before I got out for a more- profitable route.” I nodded and took in his vague words.
“What made you leave guns?” The question that left my lips shocked me as much as it did Niel. I should have probably shut up and been grateful that someone nice had come along.
A quick apology left my lips before I blushed a red hue across my cheeks and chest.
“There’s just more money in selling shell corporations,” at first I was blown away at his honesty but if he knew our family’s dealings then what did he have to hide that I didn’t? Being the accountant, the bank, the red and green light on the financial side for my brothers for the last five years, my hands as covered in gun residue as my brothers.
“What do you do for the Rossi dynasty?” a grin hid behind that blazing goatee and his jaw flexed as he sped up to make an exit off the main highway.
“I’m just a secretary.” the same grin hid behind my lips.
We pulled into a Hilton Suites parking lot and he chose a spot rather far away from the door. My eyes scanned the rather empty lot. When my gaze met his, he unbuckled his belt and turned to face me.
“Would you like to stay in the car as I go in and get the rooms taken care of?” he must have expected the long pause that hung in my throat. “I can assure you that you are safe.” that silence hung for another minute before I asked.
“Can I call Alex?” my thoughts and emotions were still raw and swimming. I was numb but I was relieved to be away from Johnathan. Most of all I was ashamed. I’m a fighter and I let myself be taken by this monster again.
He must think I’m a tragic wreck. He hasn’t asked what happened besides what I had chosen to tell him. He knows I’m on my period. He’s going out of his way to take care of someone he’s never even met before. My scrambled thoughts halted at the sound of his phone unlocking.
My fingers wrapped around the iphone X and my fingers shook as I typed in those ten digits. The ringing started as Neil got out of the car to stretch.
Every ring had my chest beating harder and faster. I’ve never been more scared to talk to Alex in my life. He was the king of the Rossi dynasty as Neil had put it. He was blunt, ruthless, smart, but he was a family man. He wasn’t the kind to cry, not even when a stroke took daddy years ago.
“Ross.” his voice stern and flat. There was a pause before my voice overlapped his as he repeated the same greeting.
“Alex. It, its Lo-” my hands shook almost too much for me to hold the phone in my ear.
“OH MY GOD! WHERE ARE YOU?! ARE YOU OKAY? HOWIE IT’S LO! SHE’S ON THE PHONE!”
“I’m fine now. I’m with uh, Neil Flynn. It was Johnathan, he took me from work… I don’t even know what day it is… I’m coming home… I-” I couldn’t say anything else but I didn’t need to. The tears said it all and my shoulders heaved as sobs took over my upper body. It was almost calming to have someone close, Neil had opened my door to check on me.
“Neil Flynn?! How the hell-?” Neil must have heard Alex’s confusion when he held his hand out for the phone.
“Hey brother, I wish this was under better circumstances but- yes she’s with me. Uh huh. She’s in good physical health. We’re stopped to get her some clothing, food clean up and all…” he turned his body away from the car. “We’re about three and a half hours from the North End. She seems pretty worn out man. I don’t know what happened. I didn’t ask. I found her on my old arms dock, ya know the one. Security couldn’t see the vehicle that dumped her off but she was there all night man.” The rest of their conversation were short answers. Affirmatives and negatives. Finally happy my family knew I was alive, my mind waves, that were tsunami in proportion finally settled to low tide rhythms. My eyes drifted closed and I was lost in a dark restful sleep.
When my eyes finally broke the seal of dry and sandy sleep I heard two voices that filled my heart. I sat up in a queen size bed, covered in clouds of soft white sheets. My arms threw off the covers remembering the red river between my legs. But there were yellow cotton shorts on my hips and a matching tank top laid over my torso.
“Hey little chick!” Howies arms grabbed me and squeezed tight and it’s never felt so good to be crushed. His long lean frame sat next to me on the bed and the sandy feeling left my eyes as a few tears filled their place.
“Howie!” I buried my face in his shoulder and that cologne did me in.
“Hey Lo…” My eyes darted back open and met Alex’s tall broad frame, his black shirt neatly tucked into gray slacks. Hands casually in his pockets and his tilted head had a full grin painted on, ear to ear.
“Alex I’m sorry-” he held up a hand and walked to the other side of the bed and sat down and planted one kiss on my temple.
“Oh it’s so good to see you home, little chick. You know this isn’t your fault. I’m gonna kill that man. Whatever he thinks is love, whatever you felt will be gone in the bottom of the bay soon enough.” I sat up a little straighter when I saw Angelina walk in the door. The hotel room bright as morning light flooded in from the curtains. How long did I sleep?
“Lo! Hey honey!!” Angelina was Alex’s wife. She was so sweet to me. She held up a plastic bag and shooed the men away from my bed. The guys stood and she sat next to me. “I changed you. Don’t worry. You were so tired when I got here. And I took care of the situation. But here’s some stuff the hotel didn’t provide.” she winked at me and motioned to my lap with her hand.
“What’s this?” I opened the bag and inside was a hair brush, deodorant, tampons and Advil. I smiled and took out the Advil and dry swallowed two tablets. My muscles ached and the bruise on my thigh was bright blue and purple from where the belt had made contact. I had to swallow hard to push that thought out of my racing mind. The panic threatened to crawl back up thinking about Johnathan even though two of the strongest men I’ve ever met stood mere feet from me. I knew they were both packing heat. They wouldn’t so much as take out the trash if they didn’t have weaponry nearby. Alex’s preference being a Desert Eagle .50 cal pistol and Howie hid his Beretta M9 well on his skinny self. I prefered a Sig Sauer myself. But it was home locked up safe. The one time I would have needed it.
My attention came back as the door cracked open and my hero walked in. Neil Flynn, what a name. What a man. I didn’t notice until now how handsome he was. Not my usual type which was stocky with dark hair and eyes. Boxers, usually.
“I’ll be heading off now brother. The room is taken care of. Stay as long as she needs.” he took Alex’s hand and shook it tightly and they embraced with loud pats on the back. Howie quickly came over and offered the same farewell. They exchanged a few more words before his gaze met mine as I stood on shaky legs, he took a few steps forward in my direction.
“Take care of yourself Loreina.” I swallowed, my mouth now dry. I stood with my hands still full of toiletries but I stopped, my feet longed to meet him for an embrace before he left but I couldn’t.
“Thank you Neil…” I wanted to say more but, what to say without turning into a babbling idiot? This total stranger made a huge impact on my life with one gesture. I owed him for the heart that now raced in my chest.
He nodded without another word and turning on his heel gracefully, he departed.