The night before Maximus left
Sitting on my kitchen counter I picked up a slice of apple and ate slowly, I was too tired and sore to eat anything more filling.
“Have you seen my shirt?” Maximus called from my room.
Looking down at the only clothing I’m currently wearing I winced. “No?!”
It’s weird to think that Maximus will be gone for a couple months starting tomorrow, or the minute he leaves my apartment tonight.
Currently, I’m not sure where the two of us stand. Of course, after Anthony gives me the ‘casual isn’t casual for long’ speech, Maximus comes in talking about how we are anything but casual. It gives me comfort knowing I’m not the only one wondering about us, wanting casual and more.
But it also scares me. I don’t want to love someone and be left open, vulnerable for them to hurt. Max is a great man, but he is a mystery. I chose him to be casual with, not build a life with.
I mean he is leaving for months tonight. Not boyfriend material there.
“You are many things Stella but I didn’t think you were a thief.” Max came out of my bedroom wearing his pants, jacket over his shoulder and his perfect torso open for me to admire.
Batting my eyes, I ate another apple slice. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
He gave a low chuckle, one that made me shiver. Stopping in front of me, he placed his jacket over the counter then moved his hands to tug on his dress shirt that I’m currently wearing. “You stole my shirt.”
Shrugging I drape an arm over his shoulder, letting my hand reach up to play with his hair. “I needed to put something on and this was there. I’ll give it back before you leave.”
Max gave a low hum and kissed me. I jumped when his hand slapped my ass and he leaned away. “Fine, but only because you look sexy as sin wearing it. Is it okay if I make myself a coffee before I go?”
“Of course.” Max smiled, kissing me one more time before walking over to my coffee maker. “What time do you have to leave tomorrow?”
He turned grabbing the coffee pot and began filling it with water. “I need to be at the airport at 430 tomorrow morning.”
“430 am?” I exclaim looking at the clock. “Max, its past eleven! You should be asleep already!”
I watch Max pour water into the machine and start it up, my kitchen soon filling with the smell of coffee. “I’ll sleep on the airplane.”
Crossing my legs, I ate another piece of apple. “Where are you going first?”
“Italy.” Max turned leaning against the counter to look at me. “Have you ever been?”
I scoffed shaking my head. “No, I wish, I actually have never left the US.”
“Really?” He asked wide eyed. “Not even to Canada?”
Shaking my head, I shrugged. “Barely even left California, I know it’s sad.”
Reaching over the counter Max picked up a mug and poured himself the ready coffee. “One day, I’ll take you to Italy.”
Smiling I jumped at the idea. “Oohh can we go to Venice. Is it worth the hype or is it not?”
He shrugged pouring milk into his coffee cup. “Went once on a family vacation, it’s gorgeous but when I take you to Italy that city would be a day trip. Florence is where I would take you, that is a gorgeous city.”
My chest warmed watching Max acting relaxed in my kitchen. “What’s so special about Florence?”
“It’s absolutely gorgeous with amazing architecture, history, art. I’ll buy you fresh flowers every morning before breakfast.” There was soft expression on his face, like he was remembering a happy memory.
“How many times have you gone?” I tried to hide my smile, hoping that he wouldn’t see it and shut down.
He let out a sigh, an unknown expression crossing his face. “Once, when I was fifteen. It was a family vacation with my brothers and parents. I was a classic teenager and fought going, had a new crush named Daisy so I wanted to stay. Fought tooth and nail, was an ass to my mom. But when I got there I fell in love with the city, bought my mom flowers to make up my behaviour.” Something dark shone his eyes. “She was murdered a month later.”
My smile broke. “Max, I’m so sorry.”
Maximus took a sip of his coffee and put on a fake smile. “Anyway, you would love Florence. You could bring your favourite gown that you showed me, I would bring you to a venue where you can look stunning.”
Taking the hint to move on I didn’t ask any questions and instead put on a warm smile. “I’d be honoured but sadly my favourite dress got sold. Some asshole came in and bought it last week. Based on how expensive his suit was I can say the dress will be worn to a gala, but it sucked.”
He gave me another smile taking a sip of coffee. “I’m sure you will have a dress, one you design or one bought in Italy.”
Chuckling I nod. “Good point. I could only imagine how dashing you would look in a tux.”
“We would be the best-looking couple.” I got a wink from him making me laugh. “You would love Italy. It’s going to happen so make sure your passport is up to date.”
Rolling my eyes, I nod. “Fine, but I won’t hold you to your promise. I don’t need shiny things or big trips to make me happy. What’s it like having siblings?”
“You are allowed to be pampered and they are a pain in my ass.” He snorted. “I have two brothers, one older and one younger. Love them but God they drive me nuts.”
Chuckling I slowly look him up and down. “I can see you being the middle child.”
“Says the only child.” He retorted.
“Hey!” I laugh. “Technically Anthony was my step-brother for a year so I wasn’t always an only child.”
He put his empty cup down. “Yeah, that doesn’t count.”
“What? Yes, it does!”
“Yes, he and I carpooled to school.” I giggled at his facial expression.
Max rolled his eyes walking over to me. “That doesn’t count. Having a sibling is when you would die for them and be the one to kill them at the same time. Trust me, there are some days I would hug a brother and other days I wonder how long I would be able to lock them in the basement for.”
“Oh my God!” My head rolled back from laughing. “Please tell me you have never done that.”
Looking back to him I caught his self-satisfy grin. “Romano.”
“You locked one in the basement!” My hand was now on my stomach from laughing so much. “Why?”
Maximus shrugged. “He told my dad I was sneaking out of the house at night.”
Shaking my head, I struggled to breathe from trying to picture him as a juvenile sibling. “So?”
Max was now in front of me, wrapping my legs around his waist. “So? I got in trouble and grounded with extra tutoring lessons. My little brother broke the code so I put him in the basement. It wasn’t like I locked him in a cellar, it was a finished basement…. but I could control the lights from outside the door.”
“Wow, you being a petty sibling.” Shaking my head, I wrap my arms around his neck and played with his hair. “How long was he there.”
Maximus laughed and cringed. “Romano is a quiet withdrawn guy, it’s normal for him to be by himself. Especially when he was a teenager.”
Scowling I narrow my eyes. “Maximus.”
He winced. “Two days.”
“As I said it was a finished basement, he had food and water.” He laughed and I tugged on his perfect, soft hair. “He was fine and he never ratted me out again.”
I hated that he was leaving tomorrow. And as cheesy as it sounded, I didn’t hate how happy and relaxed I felt around him. “Still, your poor brother locked in a basement for two days.”
Maximus tugged on his shirt I’m wearing. “Oh, don’t feel bad for him, he has done plenty to get me back.”
Shaking my head, I continue running my fingers through his hair. “Your horrible.”
He gave me a guilt smile and leaned his face down. “It’s time I get my shirt back.”
Our lips melted together and I sighed wanting nothing more for this night to never end.
A loud bang woke me from my memories and brought me back into my dark reality. No longer was I in the comfort of my apartment with a man who makes me smile. Instead I’m strapped to a chair, shivering in a cold room and wondering if this breath will be my last.
I swallowed thickly, my mouth was painfully dry and tasted like vomit. I winced after swallowing, I didn’t want to think how bruised my neck is right now but based on its throbbing, it’s bad.
Shivering in my chair I slowly bring my head up to look at who came in. It was the one who injected me.
He’s a young man in his low twenties with dark hair and black eyes that reminded me of someone but I couldn’t place who.
My head dropped from exhaustion and I had to focus on my breathing. “How long was I out?”
Brusto stopped in front of me. “Long enough.”
A dry chuckle escaped my lips. How long can someone last without food or water? How long can an unborn child last when their mother is suffering?
As quickly as the thought of losing the child came, I dismissed it. I can’t think that way.
“Drink.” The man gripped my chin and tilted it up, a bottle of water rested under my lip.
The moment the water touched my dry lips, I gulped it down greedily. I needed every last drop of it despite the pain when using my throat. All too soon I finished drinking all the water and the bottle disappeared.
My head fell back down and I breathed deeply, the water sloshing in my stomach.
Before I could fight it, the gracious water I was given was now on the floor in front of me.
“Cazzo.” Brusto muttered with a sigh. “Eat this slowly.”
He took out a Cliff bar and gave it to me, the bites small hoping that it will stay in my stomach.
Brusto turned to leave and I knew what I had to say to save my child’s life. “I’m pregnant.”
He stopped, slowly turning back to look at me. A moment passed before he came to squat right beside me, leaning close as if he didn’t want someone to overhear. “You are pregnant with Maximus Sorrentino?”
Nodding I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. “Yes, please get me out of here, you wouldn’t kill a pregnant woman, right? I don’t have money to pay you but I uh I can sell my store and pay after, please.”
He took a slow breath. “Have faith and keep your mouth shut.”
With that he stood up and walked out of the room making me gasp for air feeling another panic attack.
Feeling my stomach roll I forced myself to lean forward and I threw up on the floor again. My body shook as fear gripped its cold hold on me, my situation dire.
I haven’t seen Max in months nor have I heard from him. The only thing that will save me is a random stranger and the hope he turns on his boss.
I closed my eyes thinking about how that doesn’t give me much hope. “I’m so sorry little one.”
It wasn’t long till everything went dark once again.