In The Shadows

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Ch. 2: Been Complicated

Home has always been complicated for me. They’ve always treated me like a porcelain doll that when mishandled, it will shatter into a million pieces and will no longer be able to be placed back fully. They’ve always told me that I was precious just like a princess. And I was—a princess. It was just that I was never given the chance to prove myself worthy of the title because they never wanted me to place myself in danger.

Oh, how they’ll lose their shit when they find out. Only Caio and my ex, Fletcher, knows and even the two of them have given me hell the second I told them what my job was. They did not take it as easy as I’d hoped they would.

Living in a dangerous world has always made them paranoid and to stop that paranoia from growing, they’ve sent me to the outside world with a different name than them.

They’ve made me live in the shadows.

“Welcome home, miss,” one of the maids greeted and proceeded to inform me that everybody was already in the dining room, waiting for me. The guards nodded at me and took the two suitcases on my hands, telling me that they’ll place them in my room.

Ah, home sweet home.

The beige walls, marbled floor, wooden staircases, endless hallways leading up to different rooms, tons of men and women with guns strapped to their waistbands—I definitely missed seeing those things. Two maids stood by the huge doors to the dining room and when they saw me coming up, they immediately opened them without my say.

The second I stood before my family, they all jumped from their seats and ran to me.

It was Caio first, circling his arms around me. Not much has changed with my brother since the last time I saw him about a year ago. He still kept his red hair short and those blue eyes of his never lost spark in them which was a relief. Though he had mom’s hair and eyes, the rest of his physical appearance was all from our dad. It was the same with me—I had dad’s dark hair and silver eyes but my average height, small nose, and heart-shaped lips definitely belonged to mom. At least, from what she used to look like before her surgery.

“You okay?” He whispered to me as he let me go. Even if we just talked two days ago and had done our usual bickering, he would still ask me that concerning question whenever he knew that I had just done my job.

I just nodded, letting the next person take me in their arms.

It was Fletcher. He may be my ex-boyfriend but first and foremost, he was my best friend first and so we went back to that relationship afterwards. He brought me off the ground and spun me around and I laughed with him when he did it. His hair was different—still chocolate brown like his eyes but longer and in a manbun.

Aunt Lina greeted me next, wrapping those arms of hers around my neck. Her blonde hair was curled like the usual whenever it was dinnertime and her deep blue eyes brightened at me as well as her wide smile. She didn’t even get to tell me that she missed me because before I knew it, I was pulled into three sets of arms.

Mateo, Dante, and Enzo. All three were Aunt Lina and Uncle Alessandro’s children. Mateo, their eldest which was on the same age as I am, definitely took Uncle Ales’ features with the green eyes, dark hair, and smile while Enzo, the youngest in our family as a seventeen-year-old, took more Aunt Lina’s. Dante was a mixture of both as the middle child—blonde hair, green eyes. He was two years younger than Mateo and I.

“Alright, boys, give my Principessa to me.”

See? What’d I tell you? They even call me a princess.

They let me go and I ran to my father, grinning at him like I was the most innocent girl in the world. “I missed you, dad.”

“Me too, Principessa,” he said, pressing his lips onto my hair. Even muffled and living most of his life in here, his Italian accent never faded. “We missed you.”

“Okay, don’t hog her, Nick,” Uncle Ales, my father’s brother, spoke, pushing him aside and wrapping his arms around me. “Your parents weren’t the only ones that missed you, you know.”

“I know, Uncle Ales,” I laughed again, patting him in the back.

Soon as he unwrapped himself from me, I walked over to my mother who hopped into my arms like a rabbit. Mom has always been a hard-ass but when she showed love like this, it meant that she wore her heart on her sleeve at this time.

For a second, I thought that she would continue being emotional but then she slapped me at the back of my head, cursing at me in both Italian and Spanish. It had the same meaning in different languages—I was an idiot for not calling back and if I would call back, I wouldn’t spend more than five minutes. I was also selfish. It was basically a repeat from what happened a year and a half ago when they ordered me to come home.

Rubbing the back of my head, I gave her a blank look. “Mom, you know I can call child services on you. This is abuse.”

“No, idiota,” she rolled her eyes at my joke while the others chuckled. “What’s abuse is my chancla hitting your ass until you have the brand imprinted on your skin.”

“Ah, that one really is abuse,” I smiled and I knew she was also fighting it. Soon, she gave in and returned my smile and hugged me again. “I missed you too, mom. Sorry I wasn’t able to answer you call. I was busy with the whole travelling thing. Moscow was as you said, beautiful.”

It wasn’t a complete lie. They would have my head if they find out that I was just five hours away from them for the past two weeks. I did go to Moscow and took many pictures as proof, said that I was going to stay there for the next two months before coming home. As far as they knew, I just came home to the country hours ago and drove myself straight here.

Her eyes flashed worry in them. I didn’t have to turn to the rest of the people in the room to know that they shared her worry. It was an indication that the death of Anatoli reached to them. Based on the information I had gotten, he was well known and worked for one of the dangerous Russian mobs. I just didn’t know if the Russian family was a business partner to them or an enemy.

Not a second later, she masked whatever negative emotion she was feeling and forced happiness in her. “Come on, let’s eat and tell us what activities you did this time.”

I made up some bullshit that they all bought easily as we ate some rib-eye steaks and potato salad. Caio and Fletcher knew better, sure, but they too thought that I was in Moscow, only in for a different reason. All they knew as of my job and what it entailed, not where I would be and who I would kill. It was easier that way. They didn’t get their prejudice involved and plus, I would definitely be killed just for telling the two of them who I was.

After I answered their question and showed them some pictures that corroborated my story, they went ahead and discussed meetings and plans on the business front. Caio was the CEO of the company, Fletcher was the CFO, and Mateo was the CMO. The three of them ran the business and shared information well to the rest of the family but that was it.

They didn’t talk about our true business because I was in the room. You’d think Aunt Lina wouldn’t be part of their world too but because she worked for mom before Uncle Ales and dad met her, she was accepted to listen in after they got together and married. They really kept me out of anything that had to do anything with them.

Hell, what’s worse is that Enzo was a part of it too. Enzo. A seventeen-year-old who was still a senior in high school was taking part of the illegal shit my family did.

It’s why sometimes I didn’t want to be here. I appreciated spending some time with them—they’re my family, how could I not? But knowing that they would never let me in no matter how much I push made me do my thing whether it would be dancing and going into competitions at eighteen or deciding to join an organization to become an assassin that was paid to kill people in a decent amount of money.

Home.

It has always been complicated.

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