Outside Desimond’s house I park the car. Looking around I notice a group of men loitering on the street watching us.
Desimond unbuckled from her passenger seat. “Thank you for dropping me off again, sorry I had to stay so late.”
Her head ducked making me look up to her house, something told me she wasn’t a fan of being home. Looking back to the group of men I unbuckled myself. “I’ll walk you to your door.”
She winced. “You really don’t have too.”
“Nonsense.” I mutter opening my door, grabbing my purse and stepped out.
Walking Desimond towards the house she looked to me, my fondness growing with her each day. “Thanks again Stella.”
Smiling I side hug the girl. “Don’t mention it. If you ever need me, call.”
Desimond gave a smile and we walked up the steps to her building, her body stopping suddenly. “Something is going down. You never see that many Sorrentino men about.”
Sorrentino? As in Maximus Sorrentino?
“What?” I turn to where she was looking.
I watched a large group of men in finely pressed suits walk away from a near-by building towards a line of SUVS.
One man in particular drew my attention. I could spot him anywhere, even in a sea of men who wore the exact same suit as him. But that confidence, that demand of respect, that pull was there. He strode over to the car and I couldn’t pull my eyes off of him, everything about him called to me.
“Maximus?” I asked unable to help myself from my own curiosity. What would he be doing in this neighborhood?
The man stopped, his entire body tensing while he turned around. I sucked in a breath when I made eye contact with Maximus. His face was hard and his eyes narrowed when he saw me, a pair of eyes that didn’t hold warmth but coldness.
No emotion, no kindness.
I sucked in a breath looking at this Maximus. The mask over his face made my spine tingle and give me goosebumps. He has never pinned me with a stare that made me want to shiver from fear.
Taking a breath, I turned back to Desimond who stared at me in shock. “You know one?”
Un-nerved from what I saw, I place my hand on her lower back pushing her up the stairs. “Come, let’s get you inside.”
The door to her place opened showing an older woman. Her makeup was smudged and the house had a weird smell I couldn’t place. “I was about to see if you were at the bus stop. Thanks for dropping her off.”
I smiled at the woman and hugged Desimond. “See you Monday.”
“Bye, if you don’t know who they are, maybe you should listen to Kingpins. Or watch that documentary, ‘Fear City’.” Desimond winked before escaping inside.
Shaken from this neighborhood, I started back down the stairs focused on getting to my car. The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. Why did Desimond talk about the Sorrentinos as if they were the boogiemen?
Feeling multiple eyes on me, my hand slipped into my bag, my fingers clutching onto the taser inside. My skin trickled with the hairs on my body standing up, the sound of footsteps behind me.
I was a few feet from my car but someone was directly behind me.
My hand gripped the taser tightly and I spun around to hit whoever was there. I was about to tase them when a hand gripped my wrist preventing me from following through.
A very pissed of Maximus now stood in front of me blocking my assault.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” He ordered, that coldness in his presence making me step back from him.
This isn’t my Maximus.
This is someone entirely different, someone I want to get away from.
The taser got taken out of my hand giving me the chance to slip out of his hold.
Realizing what he said, the fear disappeared, replaced by anger at his command. “What I do, is none of your business.”
He ignored me, his arm wrapping around my shoulders pulling me towards my car. “Give me your keys.”
I push away from him, not getting far with his strong arm around me. “What the hell is your problem?”
Taking another step back, the space quickly disappeared and Maximus reached into my bag taking my car keys. “You shouldn’t be here. I’m driving you home. Now.”
I couldn’t help the scoff that came out. “Do not order me what to do Maximus. What the hell are you doing here if it’s so bad?”
“Maximus!” A man yelled over to us, the command in his voice making me shiver.
Maximus took a sharp breath and ticket his jaw. My eyes went over his shoulder where the men he had been walking with were waiting.
The man in front of me turned to the one who called out and responded by yelling back in Italian. Before I could say anything, I was upside down and over Maximus’s shoulder.
How dare he!
“Put me down!” I shouted hitting his shoulder, a second later my car door open and I was dropped onto the passenger seat.
Before I could get out Maximus slammed the door shut and was on the other side in the driver’s seat with the doors locked.
“You did not just man handle me into my car!” I shouted at Maximus who started the car and sped away making my body hit the seat from the speed.
He took a turn with a clenched jaw, my hand going onto the door to stop myself from flying around. “Buckle up.”
I scowled at his tone but did what he said. “Oh no, you don’t get to manhandle me and order me around. Pull over!”
Maximus’s hand gripped the wheel tight. “Do you have any idea where you were? The type of people who are in the building down the street? The type of people in that neighborhood!”
“Yes! That’s why I drove my seventeen-year-old worker home instead of letting her take the bus and I had a taser!” I shouted.
He scoffed. “The one I was able to disarm so easily out of your hand? What great protection Stella.”
My fist balled at his audacity to be judging me right now. “What was I supposed to do? Let her take the bus alone or ask for a police escort to her house?”
“You call me!” He yelled slamming the breaks at a red light.
I want to get out of the car but that seems childish. This is my car! “I don’t need you to decide if I can do something as simple as dropping off an employee and I certainly don’t need you getting angry and manhandling me because I don’t do what you demand on spot.”
Maximus’s chest went up and down, his focus at the moment was deep breathing. His body slowly loosening from the exercise, the car didn’t move despite the light turning green.
Slowly Maximus turned to me, that hard face now replaced by one that held regret. “I apologize for how rough I talked to you and for tossing you into the car. I tend to get serious and controlling when people I’m close to are in dangerous situations. Little over protective.” He said carefully, every word he said being chosen with precision.
My eyebrows raised in surprise to his explanation. “You are good at self-assessment.”
Maximus chuckled adjusting his seat to look ahead and began to drive again. “My brother makes us do evaluations of ourselves every month.”
I still scowled at him despite the intensions and the fact he was right about how bad it is in that neighborhood. “I don’t need a price charming to come to my rescue at the mere thought of danger.”
“Good thing I am anything but.” He teased, the Maximus I’m familiar with now in the driver’s seat. But I couldn’t get the image, the tone of the man he previously was out of my head.
Not letting his charms affect me I cross my arms. “No. Don’t try to be all charming and think I will forget how you threw me into my own car. I’m not interested in a man who switches from being a warm charmer to someone who is possessive. That becomes a fine line of man and relationship you’re in, a dangerous line.”
His hand moved to unbutton his suit, pain flashing across his face from what I was saying. “I would never possess you Stella. I shouldn’t have reacted the way that I did, but you are too innocent to be seen around that area. The people would take you in a moment, I acted more in fear that you were in danger and I let it run me. For me, I was scared at what might happen to you. I had to get you to safety.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, but not the behavior.” I let the car fill with silence, my mind trying to understand what had happened. “Why were you there?” I whispered unsure if I wanted to know.
He glanced over. “Business.”
“You do business with people who would hurt anyone walking to their car?” He has always been a gentleman to me, is that wrong? Is the darkness that was proven to me by that cold exterior a part of that neighborhood?
He gripped the wheel tighter shaking his head. “Fuck no, we use them and detest them. Our family doesn’t stand for hurting civilians and we remind them of that.”
The questions in the back of my head spun around. “What do you do Max?”
He turned to the nickname whilst pulling up to a building. “Do you really want to know?”
I didn’t say anything. What was there to say? I don’t have time for a relationship let alone with someone I find has questions surrounding him. Nor does he.
But right now, it isn’t about that, it’s about whether I’m safe and who I’m sharing my bed with.
The car moved pulling into a basement lot where Maximus parked the car. “Listen I can’t tell you what I do. But never feel that you are in danger with me. I may not be an angel but I work with the right devils. I would never hurt innocent people.”
“Your speaking in riddles.” I muttered looking into his dark eyes.
His hand softly cupped my cheek. “I should not have acted that way with you, I will never hurt you, never control you, never cross a line with you. I’m not that type of man, nor do I wish to be. You are safe with me.” He shut the car off, both of us calming down from our adrenaline rush. “Come on, let’s get to bed, it’s too late to be arguing.”
Looking around I jump out of the car not recognizing my surroundings. “Where are we?”
“My penthouse apartment.” I spun to him, he buttoned his suit and locked my car.
“Seriously?” I cocked my hip causing him to chuckle walking around the car to me.
Maximus gave me a grin and stopped in front of me. “It’s late, I want to sleep with my gorgeous woman. If it was presumptuous, I’ll take the couch.”
There was something he wasn’t say in his eyes, some other reason why he didn’t take me home. Sighing I closed my eyes, exhaustion filling me. I haven’t slept all week and I doubt I will tonight since I heard my mother is in town to see my Nanna.
“Fine.” I said opening my eyes. “But if you try order me or man handle me I will take back my taser and use it on your cock.”
His eyes darkened and I was pulled into him. “Little pain is good. I won’t order you tesero, not unless you beg me to.”
I hated myself for being wet.