“I agree with your choice of woman.” Looking up from paperwork I watch Esperenza stroll into my office. “Stella is stunning, intelligent and genuine. I see myself approving of her for you.”
Raising my brow, I looked at her sceptically. “So, you did go meet her. Cazzo cousin. Did you behave?”
My cousin rolled her eyes. “Of course.”
“Does she know who you are?” Glancing down at my phone I looked to see if I had any messages from Stella that mentioned meeting a family member.
I put my phone away seeing I had no messages and watched Esperenza sit down. “She doesn’t know about our connection. We chit chatted when I was getting a dress fitted from her.”
“You chit-chatted?” Slowly anger began to spread in my veins, I love my family but they need to back off.
Esperenza shrugged. “I asked about her life and she told me about being knocked up. Can’t give you a transcript, she talked to me not you.”
Burying my anger, I shake my head. “Esperenza you can’t use your grift skills on my woman to get her to talk to you. She is the woman I’m getting to know and who is carrying my child. She is not a part of a con for you to toy with, imagine what she would think if she knew you were using her. I’m trying to convince her I’m worth taking a chance on!”
Esperenza took an even breath. “I wasn’t toying with her, I went to her store for a dress and the girl was bubbling with anxiety and I can see the overthinking in her eyes. We only had a simple conversation in a theoretical sense.”
I ran a hand over my face trying to think how Stella will respond when she finds out she casually met my cousin who she apparently vented to. Shock then anger would be my firecracker.
Looking out the window I thought of Stella and I. “We’re taking it slow, can’t spook her.”
A snort brought me back to Esperenza. “That girl needs to talk to someone Maximus, she needs someone who understands one hundred percent what her life is and what it is going to be.”
Esperenza gave me a sympathetic look. “She needs someone to talk to about her mafia baby-daddy. You told her about the mafia, right?”
I nodded. “Yes cousin, I have told her about the mafia and what being with me entails. We covered that after Carnellio and now we are going on dates to get to know each other. For her to see me.”
My fingers tapped on my chair. I had only gotten rid of my brothers and now here is my cousin. I swear, if one more person tells me what to do about Stella, I’m breaking a rule about shooting family.
“Maximus, Stella can get to know you all she wants but that doesn’t help her visualize what her life with you will be like.” Esperenza took a pen from my desk, putting it through her hair to make a bun on top of her head. “She knows you are an underboss, heir to a mafia empire and that it’s a family. But that doesn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t understand this world. She needs to understand what that means before her head explodes. Bring her to meet the family.”
Shaking my head from this day I let out a loud groan. “Did everyone get a bloody memo to give me their opinions of Stella and I today.”
She gave me an apologetic smile. “Lorenzo and Romano?”
I hummed nodding. “Yeah but instead of asking her for dinner to make friends, they wanted her to give a DNA test over dinner with a side of legal agreements.”
“Yikes, you know your brothers look for everything to go wrong unlike you.” She said crossing her legs.
I dragged a hand over my face not interested in hashing this out with another person today. “I’m a good judge of character and Stella isn’t out to get me or us. People need to remember she isn’t in the mafia world; I need to treat her gently so I don’t scare her away which I will do by shoving my mafia family in front of her over roasted pork.”
Stella and I have barely gotten back to being ourselves around each other, putting my brothers in front of her might make her run.
“Listen you can slow her into it all you want but you know she needs to jump in. There is no time for processing, there is only time for overthinking.” Esperenza leaned forward placing her hand on my arm.
Closing the laptop in front of me, I knew she was right. To truly understand my life, Stella needs to meet the people who are a part of it. To see that the mafia isn’t some movie but a real family.
But I’m not ready for that.
Not ready to risk her walking away from me.
Esperenza squeezed my arm. “You don’t have to do this alone. Invite her for dinner and don’t worry, I’ll ensure your brothers are nice.”
I barked a laugh. “Might need to threaten them.”
Esperenza chuckled getting up from the chair and headed to leave, stopping when she opened the door looking over her shoulder. “Anastasia read her cards.”
With that my cousin stepped out of my office leaving me to let out a puff of air. Of course, Anastasia would take the time to read Stella’s cards. I have no faith in Tarot cards, I don’t understand what I’m supposed to get out of them. Some use it to think about their lives but what would it mean about Stella?
Anastasia doesn’t know her, how can she read her future?
Losing to my curiosity I got up from my desk and headed out of my office, walking in the direction of the library.
Stepping into the room I find Anastasia siting at her reading table with her cards laid out in front of her, her black cat sitting on the table with its tail hanging over the edge. Its eyes narrowed watching me come closer.
“You are looking very witchy right now with the Tarot cards and cat on the table.” I said taking the chair across from her.
Slowly she looked up to me. “Do I?”
I chuckled with a nod. “I heard you read Stella’s cards.”
She raised a brow. “Only a basic read on her life tenses. You don’t believe in Tarot.”
Humming I shrugged. “Yeah but you know what they say about curiosity. What did the cards say our Russian Princess?”
She sent me a scowl making me chuckle. I know she can be a tigress but to me she is cute a kitten. “I don’t think she is a threat.”
I barked out a laugh. “I could have told you that but if you could tell Romano, I’d appreciate it.”
Anastasia leaned back on her seat, her cat getting up and settling on her lap. “He is trying to protect you.”
Crossing my arms, I chuckled. “Tell him I don’t need it. What did you read?”
Her hand reached out, flipping a card over showing a Raven flying and cups around the border. “Eight of cups. Her past is filled with abandonment and disappointment.”
Stella’s mother telling her she’s a mistake.
Anastasia moved her hand to flip up a card with a woman who was bound, eyes covered and swords surrounding her. “The eight of swords. Stella is panicking over a decision, crippled with fear of making the wrong choice though she only needs to look inward to find her path. Easy to say that has to do with you and the baby.”
“And her future?” I prompted when she didn’t flip over the next card.
Anastasia’s coal eyes went to mine. “It’s important to note that Tarot is not fortune telling, it’s insight into what may be and reflection.”
Her hands moved to a card on the far table, flipping it over. The picture on the card spoke the word, the image of a skull with blood. “Death. Her life’s upcoming journey will deal with loss, transformation and possibly even death.”
I looked away from the card to her cat’s bright eyes. “Carnellio is done with her.”
“But he’s not dead.”
My fist clenched.
“Maximus.” My eyes went back to hers. “Stella’s fate is already intertwined with yours, there is nothing you can do to sever that link. What you can do, is be there and help her through whatever trial is coming. She’s already been touched by this world, there is no getting out.”
I looked back down at the cards, even though I don’t understand them I still looked for them to give me an answer.
Maybe I should go check on Stella, talk to her and see how she is.
Getting up I walk over to Anastasia, kiss the top of her head then walked out of the room towards the person I need to see. I’m not sure what I was going to say, all I knew was that I needed to see her.
Thirty minutes later I walked into the store finding her right away.
Stella was standing next to her young worker who both turned to me. “Max! Oh, Desimond this is Maximus, Max this is Desimond.”
Smiling I nod to Desimond and take out my card. “Nice to meet you. Call if you ever need anything and Sebastian will drive you home from now on.”
Stella hid a chuckle when Desimond took the card and walked away. “That was sweet mixed with some machoism.”
Turning back to Stella, I wrap my arms around her waist pulling her into me, her smile calming my body. “I am macho.”
She rolled her eyes and reached up adjusting my tie. “Whatever mafioso. Thank you for the sandwich, it was greatly appreciated.”
Smiling I chuckled. “What can I say, had to preform my duty as your private chef. You okay? Get any sleep?”
She shrugged. “My mind has been thinking a lot so not really, but I’m fine.”
I tilted my head. “Thinking about?”
Another shrug. “You. Your mafia family.”
“It’s nothing.” She bit her lip. “Just trying to shut off my mind’s questions and you’re a big one. We’ll get to that later.”
Looking into her eyes I saw that Esperenza was right, Stella’s overthinking and it’s affecting her bad. “I wanted to wait before asking but I think now would be a good time for me to invite you to family dinner. Family is important to me, I would do anything for anyone who is a Sorrentino. Let me introduce you to them, show you what my mafia family is really like so you don’t make your mind run in circles.”
“I haven’t seen your men since the kidnapping.” Stella’s body was frozen and her voice was almost low enough that I couldn’t hear her but loud enough to hear the underlying tremor.
My fingers tilted her head allowing me to look at her. Stella’s eyes filled with emotion that was swimming in the blues around her irises. “I wanted to let you go at your pace, but I think waiting, doing it slow could be more harmful. This might get rid of all those questions in your head.”
Stella gave a tight nod. “I do want to meet them but it seems too soon.”
I cleared my throat. “I know, but when would be a right time? It might be good for you to meet my family and not think of them as boogiemen.”
“Tonight.” Her eyes widened and I gave her a soft squeeze. “Please?”
“That’s soon.” She whispered.
I let my thumb stroke her cheek. “If we postpone it, you’ll go crazy thinking of all the different outcomes. I’ll be by your side the entire time, they don’t bite.”
Seconds passed with Stella’s silence, her figures tapping on my chest before she whispered. “Okay.”