After finishing our dinner in the living room, Gabe tuned into some shit tv show, and I took note of Eira’s slumped form. She was exhausted still, but her heavy eyelids kept bouncing back open. I’d been kind enough to give her a blanket, not too keen to have even someone as trusted as Gabe eyeing her. She hadn’t eaten much, had mostly chugged insane amounts of water. She sagged further into the couch, head lolling to her shoulder.
Gabe chuckled, nodding to her.
“How’s she handling this?” he said, voice low. I sighed, rubbing my face and eyes.
“Kind of like a roller coaster.”
“Sorry Davide is such a slime ball. He can’t pull girls like we can,” he said with a dark laugh. I rolled my eyes, chuckling. It was true. I reached over, brushing her hair from her face to better study her.
“You’ll help me keep an eye on her when we get home, right?” I said, eyes not leaving her pale face.
“Of course. But, you realize—”
“I know,” I said, eyes snapping to his face. Keeping her out of harm’s way was going to be a full time occupation.
“Why’d she really want her dead?”
I shrugged, trailing a finger along her cheek, feeling her sigh as her brows pulled together.
“Thought it was just the money, but that can’t be all.”
“Some people are driven by evil alone,” he said, tone softening. I nodded, knowing of whom he was referring.
“Any word on him?”
“Still off the radar. Probably shacked up in some mountain hole,” he said, tugging his hand through his shaggy hair. I grit my teeth.
“We need to be looking harder.”
“It will be easier when we’re home.”
“Soon,” I sighed, relieved at the very thought of being surrounded by the walls of my fortress. Our eyes both trailed to Eira as she whimpered in her sleep, curling in on herself, her face pinched in pain. She slid further down, and I sighed, raising my arm and coaxing her head onto my lap. She gripped at her side, and I sensed that even in her sleep she was feeling discomfort.
“Something about her spleen hurting,” I said, voice rumbling.
“Want me to hack her medical records and see what she needs?”
I considered a moment, nodding. She wasn’t going to tell me anything of importance, that much I knew, and I’d never be asking for Davide’s help concerning her again. I rested my hand on her hip, fingertips grazing her round ass. I pulled them away, chastising myself. I’d not be that monster.
I leaned back, the weight of her head on my thigh a sort of comfort—something I didn’t expect to feel.
“You need sleep. We leave tomorrow night,” Gabe said. I nodded, eyes sliding closed. I didn’t want to move her, didn’t want to kill her on accident, not after my slip up while carrying her to the bathroom earlier.
Gabe stood, holding out the remote to me. I shook my head.
“Night boss,” he said, flicking off the tv, bathing us in darkness. I relaxed into the cushions, allowing myself to fall into some form of sleep. Every time she moved or moaned, I woke back up, on high alert. It was near dawn when she tensed, crying out, nails digging into my thigh.
“Fuck,” I hissed, sitting up, peering down at her. She stilled, and in the dim light, I could see her eyes blink open, could see as her face crumbled in defeat. Her shoulders shuddered with quiet sobs. Part of me was annoyed as hell, but another part of me knew I had no one to blame but myself for this situation. Well, myself and her step mother. I narrowed my eyes to the darkness before glaring down at her, dread pooling in my gut.
“Hey,” I whispered, giving her shoulder a shake. She sniffed, wiping her tears, but I knew she was listening.
“How old are you?”
“W-what?” she said, voice high, strained.
“Just answer the damn question,” I growled.
“Twen-twenty three,” she said after a slight pause. I relaxed a bit. After a moment, her cries began again. I reached for her, gentle as possible as I pulled her into my lap, cradling her. Her face paled even more, her cries ceasing as her eyes stared off, anywhere but my face. I scooted forward, standing with her in my arms.
“Let’s get to bed, bellissima.”
She went rigid as I walked her to my room, using my foot to close the door. It was black, save for the lights from the city giving everything a hazy glow.
“I don’t…I don’t want to…please…” she cried. I rolled my eyes, settling her onto the bed.
“I’m not going to touch you…” I trailed off, leaning above her, pressing my lips thin. In truth, I could never hurt her in any capacity. She was fragile enough. Of course, I needed to come to terms with my growing desire for her. I’d be blind to not see her beauty, her grace.
She eyed me, brows pulling together. I shook my head.
“As much as I want to fuck you, I won’t, Eira,” I said, smirking, standing to my full height. Her eyes dropped, centered just below my waistline, before they fell further. My smirk widened. I chose to ignore the widening of her eyes as they brushed over my dick.
“You’ll be safe with me, and with Gabe, but that’s it.”
Her eyes flashed to mine again, and after a moment, she nodded. I walked around to my side, rolling in next to her and letting out a heavy sigh. I turned my head on my pillow, catching her staring at me. She swallowed, eyes darting away again.
“If anyone besides myself touches you, you will tell me, and I will take care of it,” I said. Her eyes widened.
“I don’t take kindly to men who hurt women or those who can’t fend for themselves. It will never be a problem, never again, got it?”
Again, she nodded, eyes round in what seemed to be shock. After a moment, her lips parted, and she spoke softly.
I glared, fury flashing through me at the memory of that day in the prison. I shook my head.
“If you want me to take care of him, I will gladly do so myself.”
It wasn’t like me to get my hands dirty, but for her in this situation, I would. Her brows furrowed, and after some thought, she shook her head. God, she was too pure for this world. I wished she’d said yes, so I could kill him for what he did to Tyler in prison as well.
“Sleep, bellissima. You’re safe, here and with me,” I said, adding another layer of reassurance. Her cheeks warmed, and she squirmed beneath the blankets. I chuckled, feeling her apprehension.
“You’ll get your own room soon, and I’ll leave you to your own devices.”
“Why are you being so…kind?” she whispered. I frowned at her through the darkness, though it was a fair question.
“Because, the world doesn’t deserve you, and you don’t deserve what is happening to you. I’ll make this as easy as possible, or try to,” I said. Her brows pinched up in the middle.
“You’re protecting me?” she prodded.
“Yes, I swear to you that I am. Now sleep, you need it.”
She nodded, curling herself into a ball on the very furthest edge of the bed. I chuckled, stretching out, her presence bringing me comfort as I slipped into sleep.
I crossed my arms, glaring at Dante’s muscled and tattooed back. In truth, it was the most impressive artwork I’d ever seen, like one of Michelangelo’s paintings, only with no color. The tops of his broad shoulders were inked in stark, thick roman numerals, but I could only see them because he was crouched down, folding his clothes neatly and tucking them into a suitcase while I sat on his bed. The words across his chest flitted in my mind—Vini, Vidi, Vici. I came, I saw, I conquered. I felt it safe to assume he was Italian, which only cemented my beliefs that he was somehow working for the mob.
He turned, glancing at me.
“Feeling feisty again?” he said, smirking. I glowered, not giving him the satisfaction of having an answer. After last night—after what he’d done to protect me, to stand up for me, I was at a complete loss. I needed answers, but I felt my time was running short—he was clearly readying himself to leave, and soon.
I wondered if Gabe would be watching me while he was gone, though that thought did little to comfort me; he’d been the one to kidnap me, gentleness aside. I wondered when Lilith or Britt or Mr. Spencer would report me missing. I wondered a lot of things. My heart sank as school, my family, my friends, all drifted further away from me. A wave of exhaustion and dizziness swept over me, and I pressed my hand to my head, falling back onto the bed.
When I opened my eyes, he was hovering above me, frowning.
“Where’s your meds?”
“Backpack,” I croaked, hating myself for relying on him in such a way. He nodded, stalking off and returning a moment later, seating himself on the bed. I sat up, still a bit woozy, and rifled through my bag, locking my sadness away. I needed to be rational, to gain his sympathy, to manipulate him into letting me go. It was a long shot, but it was all I had.
I produced three orange bottles and a bag of needles, stilling as his eyes widened.
“I can do this alone,” I said, embarrassed. He shook his head, jaw set.
In a flash, I felt the meek little girl again under his dominating gaze. I pushed the words he’d said to me last night aside, as best I could, but I was relieved, all the same. I knew I couldn’t handle a man like him, not in that capacity. Something about his personality just made me know he would be too much, too advanced in that realm. I felt fire course through my veins at the very thought.
I scooted to the edge of the bed, glancing around the room. There was no mirror, so I’d have to inject my thigh. I set to work on lining up everything I needed, stilling when his bronzed hand stopped me, clamping on my wrist. I cowered, unsure of his intent.
He nodded to everything strewn on the charcoal comforter.
I sighed, holding up a syringe.
He smirked the smallest bit at my sarcasm. I felt my face flush at my boldness, ignoring it and continuing. I held up another capped needle.
“Draw needle,” I said, showing him the difference in size. He frowned at the larger one.
“What does that mean?”
“It means I use the bigger one to draw the b12, the smaller one to inject.”
“One thousand micrograms. Supposed to be per week, but that depends on other factors…” I said, holding up the vial full of red liquid.
“That? All of that?”
I nodded, shrugging. It made me feel better—made me feel a bit more balanced. Less dizzy, mind able to function.
“I thought b12 was a vitamin?”
I flushed again, severely embarrassed and not wishing to discuss this with him, even if he’d been rather kind. I should have been flattered—Beck told me it was nasty the one time he’d watched me inject myself, and he’d never asked why I had to do it. The fact that Dante was showing interest made my stomach do flip flops, and my mind wandered back to last night once more. It was a tempting offer, to have him go after Beck, but I didn’t want my ex to die. He just needed to be put in his place.
“It is a vitamin, it’s complex how this all fits together,” I said. He glared at the needles.
“Just…know I need it, ok? I found out last year I was depleted enough to have symptoms of dementia and nerve damage.”
His heavy brows pulled low over his eyes, and he nodded. Ignoring him, I swapped out needles, drawing up the correct dosage, before swapping the needles back. Holding the syringe in my mouth, I prodded my bare thigh, letting my leg dangle over the edge and relax.
“Shoot,” I said, patting the bed, looking for an alcohol wipe. He reached back, seeming to know what I needed. I blushed as he handed it to me, our fingers brushing. I tore it open, wiping down the spot before I uncapped the needle. He sat still, barely breathing as I prodded my muscles again.
For some reason, I wasn’t nervous under his scrutiny, which I found odd. After Beck’s choice words on my declining health, I’d been too embarrassed to do any of this in front of him—or even tell him how I was feeling most days. In truth, I was probably safer with Dante in that aspect; Beck would have had no clue how to help me in an emergency.
Pressing the needle to my thigh at a ninety-degree angle, I gave a quick, sure push into my muscle, the sting nothing to me. I pushed the plunger down once I was sure it was deep enough, and then withdrew, rubbing the spot as an ache set in. I capped the needle. Safety first.
“Here,” came his deep, husky voice, reaching for the syringes and other debris. I caught his eyes, his face so serious. I blushed, obeying. He jerked his chin to the bed.
“Lay down, rest,” he said, brows still knotted as he stood and went to discard everything. I was rather flustered, not used to sharing this side of my life with anyone—least of all a man who’d seemingly ordered my kidnapping.
I watched as he stalked to the bathroom, reaching for my iron dosage and glass of water. He came back just as I tossed that bottle aside. He nodded to it.
“Iron,” I said with a shrug.
He set to work packing once more, pacing between his luggage and closet.
“So, mostly vitamins?”
I chewed my lip in thought, wondering how much I should divulge. I felt it would be prudent to let him know the important stuff, seeing as he was all concerned with keeping me safe. Safe from what, I wasn’t too keen to ask just yet.
“And transfusions,” I said. He paused between his closet and luggage, frowning.
I felt myself shrink into the plush pillows, shrugging.
“I’m not sure. It’s not a consistent thing.”
“You know when you need it though, right?” he said, quirking his brow. Solemn, I nodded. I knew all too well.
“Good,” he said crouching down once more. Worry began to gnaw at me. With him gone, I’d be left to the mercy of god knows who.
“Where…where are you going?”
“We are going to my home.”
I blanched as he stood, looming above me.
“Wh-what? Where?” my mind reeled, my body feeling as though I were in a tornado.
“Sicily,” he said with a shrug. My eyes widened.
“Unless you know of another Sicily.”
I shook my head, trying to grasp at any rational thought.
“I…don’t have my passport…”
He rolled his eyes, reaching down into his suitcase before pulling one up and wagging it in the air.
“You should learn how to hide important documents better.”
“I can’t go, you can’t make me go, please! I have school, my friends—Maggie!” I cried, tumbling forward on the bed as terror seized me. His eyes turned cold in an instant.
“This isn’t up for discussion, Eira. You’re going with me, and that’s final.”
“No no no,” I shook my head, throwing my previous plans of manipulation out the window. I would plead and beg for years, if that’s what it would take.
“You’re forgetting your place in all this, bellissima. Calm down you’ll be safe,” he said, gritting his teeth. Desperate tears sprang forth.
“You can’t make me, please don’t make me leave,” I said, now sobbing. “I’ll give you all my money, I don’t need it, I don’t want it, you can have it, just let me stay home, please, I’ll never tell anyone—”
“Enough!” he roared, cutting me off, his face reddening more each second, his fists clenched, his muscles taut.
“I don’t want your money, Eira, I don’t need it,” he growled, staring me down.
“Then…why? Why me?” I said, gripping fistfuls of the comforter. He shook his head, glaring at the ceiling.
“Someone hired me to kill you, so they could have your money, but I couldn’t do it, alright? Happy?” he said, bringing his livid eyes to mine. I felt my breath leave my lungs.
“Wh-who? Who would do that?” I breathed, stunned, perplexed. He glared down at me.
“Who?” I yelled, moving to stand in front of him. His jaw ticked, pure rage in his eyes. It would have frightened me, but I was beyond caring now.
I stumbled back a step, my legs hitting the mattress as my entire world shifted once more. I shook my head, delirious, dumbfounded—until I pictured her face. Little Maggie, eyes so bright and blue, just like mine, but her hair was as blond as her mother’s. She was so full of life, of love—and I was her protector, her confidant and her best friend. What would stop Lilith from harming her? If his words were true, it meant she had no conscience, meant she could commit just as despicable things to Maggie if she ever felt the need.
“You can’t take me away, she’ll kill Maggie, she’ll hurt her—” I began to yell once more, stepping forward, pleading, but he remained still as stone. Furious, I raised both my palms and gave shove to his broad, bare chest. He barely moved, and my rage reached a new high.
“You can’t kidnap me, it’s illegal, take me home you fucking bastard, I hate you! I hate you!” I screamed, pummeling my fists on his chest as sobs wracked my body. It took him a moment, but he gained control of my wrists, then my body as he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed. I screamed and kicked and clawed at him, but it was to no avail. I wasn’t sure how long my fit of fury took, but I soon collapsed in his embrace, sobbing, the sound pitiful, even to my ears.
“Someday, you will understand, bellissima,” came his deep, husky voice. I pulled away, but he still held me, eyeing me with suspicion and caution. I felt a sneering grin cross my features, deep rooted hatred curling in my gut as I stared at the one thing keeping me from living the life I’d always planned on living. He was evil. A monster.
“Someday, I pray you love someone more than you’ve ever thought yourself capable. And someday I hope they are taken from you in the cruelest possible way,” I hissed, my emotional wall slamming down between the two of us. His brows furrowed as he released me, and I watched as his bare skin erupted in goosebumps at the lifelessness I knew I was exuding. I gave him a final, parting smirk, before I climbed into bed and buried my face into the pillows.