Pink Walls

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Day Two [Part V]

“I can throw knives into the people who want you dead and keep you alive until Wednesday.”

I was more than certain now that Danny enjoyed doing magic in the bathroom. Or maybe he just enjoyed seeing me surprised. Or maybe he just did whatever the hell he wanted without giving a damn.

Whatever it was, I was too tired to start guessing what had suddenly motivated him.

“What?” He put a hand on his hip, tilted his head to the side then dropped the duffel bag to the ground beside him.

I could tell that it was much lighter now. I would have to search the bathroom carefully later to see what he had hidden this time.

“Well…” I let my eyes roam down the peach blouse he was now wearing, tracing the little pink, white and red flowers dotting it from its ruffled neckline to where it was tucked neatly into a matching chiffon skirt.

“You still didn’t read my file,” he said, and shifted my gaze from the ankle-length skirt back to his face.

He was wearing rimless glasses with thin circle lenses and his fringe had been tucked behind his ear with the aid of a decorative hair clip. He had replaced the diamond that had been above his lips with a golden butterfly too, leaving his other piercing empty.

From this distance, he looked like a completely different person, a person as light as the skirts he wore.

I smiled and returned my attention to the roll of knives I had spread out on the bed in front of me. Since Sunday morning, I had only managed to lose one, but it should have been returned to her office after the cleaners had dealt with the bodies at Antonia’s mansion.

Other than the two Alex had given back to me, there were still eight that I hadn’t touched yet, the last being just as big as Frank’s knife.

I felt for the person who was going to end up feeling the bite of its serrated blade.

Daniel sat on the cushioned stool in front of the dresser on the other side of the bed. “You really aren’t going to say anything?”

I turned in his direction and found him inspecting himself in the mirror. “You look good in a skirt.”

He shifted on his seat then brushed the fingers of one hand over his ear before looking at me. “Do you mean that?”

“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have said it.”

He was about to reply but the hotel’s landline beat him to it. I stretched to the bedside table next to him and snatched the receiver mid-ring.

“Boss—”

“Ron isn’t here,” Alex’s deep voice cut me off. “Reaching out now is a bit insensitive of you, isn’t it?”

“There were... complications.” I swallowed. Of course, I knew that things would be tense on Saffron’s end of things. But I wanted to call her... just in case. “I checked into the hotel.”

There was a long pause before Alex spoke again. “After the fire, Ron worried. She will be glad to know that you’re alright.”

“It isn’t only the Carmosinos that are after Daniel.”

“Do you need back up?”

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. But that would be selfish. “No.”

“I will let her know.”

“Where did she go?”

“To give Antonia the bruises that make good ransom videos,” Alex said then cut the call without another word.

I let the handset fall out of my hand then ran my fingers through my hair.

I couldn’t ask for backup for something as simple as a three day mission, especially when the gang’s manpower was already stretched thin and the Carmosinos were eyeing our territory.

When I turned back to Daniel, he was about to stab his eye with a mascara wand.

I grabbed his hand. “What are you doing?”

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“Yes, you’re angry and covering up of your wounds with makeup.”

He stared at me silently, and for a moment I thought he was going to explode. He just let me pry the little brush from his hand. “There’s no need to be so patronizing.”

“I wasn’t.” I got to my feet and walked over to him.

He held out his hand and I shook my head, taking time to examine his face. The only visible evidence of his ordeal back at the apartment was his busted lip. “You’re pretty good at makeup. If you want mascara, who am I to stop you?”

“Then give it to me.”

“But I know that you have wounds on your hands,” I continued and got down on one knee so that our gazes were at the same level. “What sort of bodyguard would I be if I let you blind yourself?”

“You’re overexaggerating, and I doubt it’ll kill me so—”

“I’ll do it for you.”

Daniel narrowed his eyes at me. “You’re joking.”

Too bad the wand was already up in his face so he had no choice but to sit still or shut his eyes. He wisely chose the former and I got to work.

The motion had become muscle memory after years of doing it for my sisters. Since we were young, I had always had the steadiest hand. And even when they could do it themselves, it pleased them to make me do their bidding. I doubted that my years away from home had made me rusty enough to accidentally stab an eye.

“Done.” I set the capped mascara on the dresser and Daniel immediately turned to the mirror.

“I survived,” I heard him whisper, and chuckled to myself.

“No smudges,” he turned back to me with a small smile. “Not bad, Mr Bodyguard. What else can you do?”

“I can throw knives into the people who want you dead and keep you alive until Wednesday,” I said. “What other wounds do you have?”

“Ones that don’t matter.” He said dismissively and started drawing his eyebrows.

I stared at his sleeves, thinking back to when I had found him earlier. I hadn’t paid a lot of attention to how he had looked then, but his shirt and arms had been covered in a lot of blood.

I frowned. “Do you need to see a doctor?”

“No,” he snapped then set down the pencil.

Through the mirror, I watched his expression soften.

“I’m used to it,” he said, by way of explanation.

I grabbed the eyebrow pencil before he could.

He turned to me in confusion.

I shrugged. “You’re terrible at this.”

“As if you can do better.” He touched the corner of his left eye then winced. “The mascara was probably a one-off thing.”

“You insult me.”

“Oh sorry, master brow sculptor,” he bowed then placed his hands on his lap. “Well, get to it.”

“You say that like I’m the one with shaky hands.” I shook my head, happy that he had started treating me like a person instead of a nuisance. “But do not worry, I will draw you the most beautiful brows you can imagine.”

Daniel rolled his eyes but turned to me and let me play around with the pencil. The thought of making a mess of his hard work crossed my mind more than once but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Despite what I said, he really did look better this way.

And if there was anyone who understood the need to wear a mask to forget trauma, it was me. I also understood keeping busy to keep calm and putting on makeup to steady nerves.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” He blinked.

I pulled back, startled. “Like what?”

He shook his head and faced the mirror. “Forget about it.”

“You would make a better makeup artist than a bodyguard,” he commented after a while, tilting this way and that to examine his face properly.

It wasn’t like I had much of a choice. I dropped the pencil in front of him and propped a smile on my lips. “You’re welcome.”

“My grandparents wanted to send me to Italy while they ‘discussed’ things, but before the flight I ran away and came here instead,” he said.

“I didn’t ask.”

“I’m telling you anyway.” He tapped on the dresser, obviously annoyed by my interrupting. “My grandparents thought it’d be safe but my parents knew it’d be a trial of fire. My brothers were raised in the country, they had more connections there than anywhere else and they’d stop at nothing to have me killed.”

Now he was dusting eyeshadow over his left eyelid. “My parents let me run but didn’t stop their precious children from coming after me.”

“I suppose they’re the ones who hired the people after you.”

“They are.” Daniel frowned. “The heir to the family usually receives an heirloom when they become the head. They think I’m with it.”

“Are you?”

He scoffed at that. “Of course not. That would be breaking tradition.”

“But your brothers don’t know that.” I thought about the situation for a moment before adding, “And you won’t tell them because it’s the only thing keeping you alive.”

“I joined any gang that would accept me and used intel I had gotten from my family to buy my way to a high position,” he said. “I just wanted to create some chaos to make it harder for them to find me but Alphaz is too ambitious and actually went on a killing spree thinking that they’ll become the kings of the city.”

He threw his head back and laughed then picked up the eyeliner. It was a short bitter laugh, one that made the room feel centigrades cooler.

I watched silently while he carelessly threw all the makeup into a small purse, glad that he hadn’t poked his eye out. “They want a war.”

“A war is the last thing I want,” he whispered then turned to me with a wide smile.

“What do you think?” He gestured to his smokey eyes. “I don’t look like someone who got the shit beaten out of them right?”

I nodded, not knowing what else to say. “You really look like a different person, Danny.”

The words were hollow in my throat and sour on my tongue. I almost wished I hadn’t said them.

Daniel’s smile dropped a bit but he recovered faster than I did. “Let’s have some fun, Mr Bodyguard. I can’t just dress up for nothing.”

“Okay.” I rose to my feet and took a step back. It wasn’t like we could stay in this room until Wednesday, and he wasn’t a prisoner. In fact, right now he was my employer.

And we both needed something stronger than aspirin.

❄❄❄

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