When Lorenzo took Stella to ‘talk’, I wanted to fight him right then and there. And even though I wanted to barge into their room, in my world you have to prove yourself and that’s what she did.
I hate it but it had to be done. Plus, her walking out of meeting the Don with her head high will have the family back down.
With my arm around Stella’s waist I walk towards the dining room, where I can hear the family talking.
Stella’s body was coiled with rising nerves with each step towards the dining room. She has nothing to worry about, they will love her and won’t interrogate her. Guess I’m glad Lorenzo got that out of the way so the family wouldn’t do it.
I kissed her cheek before we walked in. “Be yourself.”
Stella leaned against me and we walked into the dining room.
“We’re not watching that.” Sebastian grumbled sitting at the table.
“Scared?” Anastasia asked putting plates of food on the table.
“No.” He grumbled. “Listen, I liked Hill House but Haunting of Bly Manor has kids, and I don’t do kids in horror.”
“Hill House had kids.” Anastasia replied before muttering in Russian.
Sebastian looked to Romano. “Did she call me scared in Russian?”
I chuckled. “In less polite terms.”
Conversation stopped and everyone at the table turned to look at Stella and I.
“Everyone, this is Stella. Stella this is the family, I’m sure they will take the time to personally introduce themselves tonight.”
Words of ‘hello’ were greeted and Stella awkwardly waved. “Hi, it’s nice to meet you all. Esperenza?” Stella asked shocked when my cousin greeted us within the door.
Esperenza gave a small wink. “About time he got you here, come Anastasia has the best spread out, think she was worried you wouldn’t like anything so she made everything.”
Clearing my throat, I tightened my grip on Stella. “You must forgive my cousin Esperenza, she spends her time with espionage and forgets basic formal conversation.”
Esperenza waved her hand. “Having a simple conversation is much better than formal constructed conversations. We met without pressure.” My cousin placed her arm in Stella’s, pulling her away from me.
Stella glanced back over her shoulder making me offer a supportive smile while I followed them down the table.
“You briefly met Anastasia.” Esperenza said motioning to the Russian on the other side of the table. “Then you have Tate, Vinzo, Sebastian...”
Esperenza went down the line, my attention on Romano who stood off the side opening a wine bottle. Catching his eyes, I sent a silent warning to not even think about pulling the stunt that Lorenzo did.
Waiting for Esperenza to finish and for Stella to say ‘hi’, I took back Stella and turned her towards Romano. “Brother, this is Stella, Stella this is my little brother Romano.”
Stella put her hand out to Romano who slowly took it with his usual cold face. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”
Anastasia lightly cleared her throat, Romano’s eyes flickering to her before back to Stella, his face slightly relaxing. “Pleasure is all mine, Maximus speaks very highly of you.”
Stella lightly bit on her lip. “And he of you. If it makes you feel better, Lorenzo already did the brother speech so you don’t have to do it tonight.”
Romano’s lip twitched up. “Good to know.”
“Now that we’ve all said ‘hi’, I’m starving.” Tate said taking a seat, his hands going out to the platers to fill his plate.
Placing my hand on Stella’s back, I lead her to a seat, pulling it out for her to sit in then took the one beside her. Romano sat across the table between Anastasia and Esperenza; Lorenzo silently walking in to take the head seat beside me.
Leaning to Stella I pour her glass some water. “Be sure to help yourself to anything you want.”
Stella slowly reached forward to put some chicken on her plate. “There’s enough to feed an army. Ah... I get it.”
Chuckling I began to load my plate up with different dishes, the table a murmur of conversation.
“Can I replace you?” Stella whispered to me taking another bite of her food.
I laughed shaking my head. “Good luck fighting these lot off for Anastasia, you’re stuck with me as your chef.”
Glancing over at Anastasia I saw her shrug. “I could use a break from them. Cooking for a pregnant woman sounds like a good break.”
Stella gave me a victorious wink then looked to Anastasia. “I’ll give you my credit card, go at it.”
Tate looked around the table. “Do we not get a vote in our chef abandoning us?”
“No.” Anastasia and Stella said at the same time continuing to eat.
“Come on, it’s us.” Tate cooed.
“Don’t antagonize her, she’s perfectly capable of starving us.” Lorenzo said winking at Anastasia.
Stella smiled at me. That’s a sign tonight is going well.
“Hey are you two going to move in together?” Sebastian asked filling his plate, his question stilling both Stella and I. “If you do, you should move Desi into your apartment, get her out of that brothel.”
Stella snapped her head to Sebastian. “Desi like Desimond? She’s living in what?”
He looked up from the food. “Brothel. The entire apartment complex serves as one.”
Tate clicked his tongue. “What’s wrong with growing up in a brothel kid?”
Vinzo pointed to Tate. “That explains so much about your manors.”
Sebastian ignored them. “When I was undercover with Carnellio I knew the guys who went into it, not guys you want near kids or young women who don’t want that ‘profession’.”
Stella shivered at the mention of Carnellio but covered it by taking a sip of water. “I will arrange it with her immediately.”
Vinzo rested his arms on the table looking at Stella, her eyebrow going up for him to ask away. Yeah, she fits in. “You ever commit a crime?”
“That’s your question? If I have broken a law?” Stella chuckled.
Vinzo shrugged. “I’m a simple man.”
Stella nodded. “Stole a car.”
I coughed on my drink and looked to Stella, my Stella, the woman who looks like she never got a speeding ticket. “I’m sorry what?”
She looked to me with a wince. “Long story short; ex-boyfriend cheated on me, I got upset, hotwired his car, took it for a joy ride, crashed it and had a few car jackers I know make the car disappear.”
“You know how to hot wire a car and car jackers?” Esperenza asked, amusement in her voice.
Stella shrugged. “The blond girl is always the one to die first in a horror move. I had a wide range of step-dads growing up letting me learn a few trades, though Chuck wasn’t my step-dad for long, the IRS took him a year later.”
Vinzo snapped his head back. “Your step-dad was Chop-Shop Chuck?”
“How did-” Stella waved her fork. “Know what, I don’t wanna know.”
The scar faced man slowly took a bite and chewed. “Alright, I’m good with her.” Everyone stared at him making him roll his eyes. “If she’s got the balls to steal a car with no troubles, she’ll do what every it takes to protect herself and child. Simple.”
“What was the car?” I asked in disbelief Stella stole a car and knew Chop-Shop Chuck.
Stella winced again. “1967 Classic Camaro.”
I couldn’t help it, my head went back and I began to laugh, the whole table laughing with me besides one person.
Romano focused on Stella. “You crashed my car before it was my car?”
Stella grinned and shrugged slowly. “Don’t cheat on your partner.”
Romano rolled his eyes at the table. “It’s not that funny!”
“So, you got my ex’s car from my old step dad Chop-Shop Chuck? Oh shit, we didn’t go over topics I shouldn’t ask about…” Stella mumbled to me making a few people laugh around the table, her cheeks going bright red.
“You’re the one who committed grand-theft auto, I bought the car legally.” Romano muttered taking a bite of food.
Vinzo glanced down to Romano. “As legal as buying a car from a chop-shop is.”
I was about to say something when the room’s door flung open.
“I’m the greatest hacker in the world!” Luka called coming into the dinner room with a dance. “I wiped the floor with Clarissa.”
Esperenza snorted at Luka’s dance. “You beat Clarissa Bledig?”
Luka placed his hand on his chest muttering in Korean and sat next to Stella. “Where’s the faith. She and I were both bored so we made a bet on our skills and I kicked her ass!”
“Whose Clarissa?” Stella asked making Luka jump.
He looked around the table then back to her, his hands putting his long hair up. “Who are you?”
I chuckled lifting my drink. “Stella meet Luka, our Hacker which means that he’s holed up in his room all day not paying attention to anything. Luka, this is my lady Stella.”
Stella nodded slowly. “Nice to meet you Luka, congratulations.”
Luka reached forward to get steak. “Right, the baby-momma.” Stella and I both coughed on our drinks. “Sorry, were you guys still trying to keep that a secret because everyone knows. Also thank you Stella.”
Esperenza chuckled eating her sweet potatoes. “To answer your question Stella, Clarissa is a hacker for one of our allies, a biker club. She’s the best in the country, it’s a miracle she isn’t in a jail cell or in a government facility.”
Romano glanced to Esperenza taking a sip of his wine. “I wonder which Rider of Silence told you that.” He winced when he got an elbow in his side. “Never mind it’s your job.”
“Well now I’m the best hacker.” Luka wiggled his brows at Stella.
Stella chuckled taking a bite of food. “What were the stakes of the competition.”
Luka glanced over at Lorenzo then back to Stella. “Well couldn’t be anything serious since we both work with sensitive material, but I’ll say that her biker club is in the dark with Bach blasting.”
Lorenzo shook his head. “I prefer Mozart.”
Romano rolled his eyes. “Boccherini is better.”
Stella glanced over making me laugh and shake my head. “Not into classical music, that’s their thing.”
“Only because you could never sit still.” Lorenzo glanced to Stella. “Our mother tried her hardest to educate him. Do you listen to classical music?”
I tilted my head, I mean he’s not being a dick but this isn’t the way I planned conversation.
Stella cut her food. “My Nanna preferred Jazz but I’ve listened to Howard Shore if he counts?”
“I SEE A LITTLE SILHOUETTE OF MAN, SCARAMOUCH, SCARAMOUCH WILL YOU DO THE FANDANGO, THUNDERBOLD AND LIGHTNIGHT VERY, VERY FRIGHTNING!”
Everyone jumped when ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ began to blast out of every speaker in the house. Luka jumping up and ran to the kitchen counter taking out a tablet to begin typing.
“It was a trojan horse.” He muttered.
“Luka …” Lorenzo warned. “Tell me you didn’t bet what I think you did.”
“FUCK!” Luka yelled tapping on his keys.
I growled at Luka. “I told you to behave, this isn’t behaving!”
“BISMILLAH, NO WE WILL NOT LET YOU GO!”
A second later, the entire house went dark.
“I’m going to need more wine.” Romano sighed in the black.
The smell of sulfur and light appeared out of the dark in front of Anastasia who held a match.
“So, not ze best hacker.” Anastasia lit the candelabra on the table and passed her matches down the table.
I groaned, this was not the way tonight was supposed to go. First Lorenzo goes all Don mode and now we are sitting in the dark because our hacker got bored.
Wincing I notice Stella’s hand over her mouth. Great, she is probably about to run because my family can’t even have a dinner without things going crazy.
But to my surprise she starts laughing.