“Rodriguez Bellantoni. He is forty years old, has three sons and one daughter, works at a marketing company just beneath his father so that makes him the general manager. His relationship with his father isn’t so great. I know that he loves his wife so much and would die for her. Now as for his side businesses, I believe that he has full control over the south sector--”
She raised her hand, indicating that all the unnecessary information pouring out of his mouth had to stop. He pressed his lips together waiting for further instructions from her. He would do this every time. He would brief her about the man she was about to shortly be introduced to. She always had her target’s information memorized by heart and she would know exactly what kind of person they are. She would follow them, learn their every move, know their weaknesses, their strengths, their fetishes, their desires, their hobbies, every tiny detail that would come to mind. She didn’t need his briefings, but she had always allowed him to for the sake of her father. Antonio was her father’s most trusted companion; hence, why she had to listen to all the nonsense he kept on spouting.
“You believe?” She finally raised her eyes to meet his and she can see the tension winding its way around his body, “Shouldn’t you be reading from the folder, Antonio?”
She watched as he resisted the urge to roll his eyes at her. He had thought that he had slipped and made a mistake, but she was just teasing him. It was her way to entertain herself whenever he bored her with his briefings.
“You know that I hate briefings, especially when I am supposed to be briefing you. But they are a direct order from the boss and I am not going to go against him so you better learn to accept it.”
She quirked her eyebrow at him, “Did you just give me a direct order?”
This time he didn’t resist and rolled his eyes at her, “Just sweep Rodriguez off his feet and we’ll buy him out.”
“Don’t make it sound like you do the hard work.” She sips from her coffee, “All you do is hand him the papers.”
“When will you stop being so difficult all the time?”
She extended her hand and he automatically reached for the cup, taking it from her hand.
“You know the answer to that, Antonio. It is never.”
Her smile twinkled in the light and he watched silently as she reapplied her lipstick. He knew that it was his only shot and it was the perfect moment. Every time he would want to ask her out, she would already be hanging out with some rich, stuck up, narcissistic man she had met on one of her conquests to lock down clients and her father’s family business. He was certain that she wasn’t romantically involved with any of them so consequently, her heart didn’t need time to heal. He was also almost certain that she would likely take his offer as another playful conquest, but he was willing to try his luck and maybe he would be able to change her heart. He breathed in deeply, gathering up the courage to push the words past his lips. He had to do it now before she had the chance to lock eyes with him.
“Will that also be your answer if I were to ask you to get a couple of drinks later tonight?”
Her hand dropped and her eyes shifted from the mirror to meet his. He could see the hint of surprise in her eyes and he couldn’t decide what that indicated exactly.
She hadn’t pegged Antonio as the smooth talker and certainly not to her. She was usually good at reading people and sensing what they were after, but Antonio wanting to take her out was never a thought that had crossed her mind before. Sure, she had shared heated moments with Antonio, but that was what they had always been.
She would be lying if that didn’t interest her. She definitely didn’t have anything to lose and she knew that even if this went south, nothing could sabotage their work relationship, since they would be working until the day they both die. They were partners for life, bound by work, commitment, loyalty, and a shit load of businesses.
“I don’t know.” She decided to drag this a little bit longer, just enough to know what were his true intentions. “Why?”
A small smile stretched his lips, breaking his composed figure. He couldn’t suppress his surprise and excitement. He didn’t think that she would go for it, especially that they were partners.
“I figured that since you find yourself an appropriate…” He was searching for the most suitable word for her little hangouts, “entertainment every night after every win. So I thought why not celebrate with a familiar face?”
She tucked her lipstick in her purse and took a step towards him, “You think I am going to nail him down?”
“You never miss.” He answered her confidently.
Her lips parted to answer him, but they were interrupted by the guard who was supposed to be taking her to her target.
“Singora, sir Rodriguez and the boss are having their third glass of wine, and I am here to lead you to--”
“I know where they are and what I am supposed to do, Marc. Thank you.” She turned to him with warning flashing in her eyes, “You should’ve knocked.”
“I know but--”
“No, buts.” She interrupted him, “Knocking wouldn’t have cost us any time, Marc, and I am sure that you are aware of that.”
He nodded his head once, “I apologize.”
She faced Antonio once again, “We will definitely finish our conversation when I land our contract.”
“I have no doubt that you will.”
She offered him a small smile before she pushed past Marc, preparing herself for another middle-aged man to impress. She slowed her pace down to allow Marc to fall in step with her. She tugged her head band backwards, allowing her hair to fall behind her. Marc immediately held his hand out for her and she dropped the band into his palm.
She could see Rodriguez sitting across from her father at their usual booth. The booth was tucked at the very end of their restaurant, away from all ears lying around. She rolled her jacket off her shoulder, handing it to Marc who stopped walking next to her. She grabbed the wine bottle from the waitress’s hand before she had the chance to refill their glasses.
“Aurora Morelli.” Rodriguez’s eyes made contact with her cleavage, and his eyes lingered there for a fair amount of seconds before he achingly lifted his eyes to hers.
Loves his wife my ass, she thought.
“The famous Rodriguez Bellantoni.” She offered him her smile and almost instantaneously, all of his teeth are on display.
It was no secret that her father, Vito Morelli, had named her for this particular reason. From the moment she was born, the moment he held her in his arms, he had fallen in love with her luminous beauty. He had always been in awe of her beauty, always complimenting her, always praising her, because he wanted her to know how beautiful she was, and in his world, beauty was the second most powerful key to navigating in his world. And so Vito had been focusing on raising her into developing the second key as the years went by. He had taught her how to fight, how to control her emotions, how to be ruthless when it is crucial. He had turned her into the person he had wished she would become to take over when the time came.
“You wouldn’t mind it if I joined you, right?”
She wasn’t asking and Rodriguez knew that for a fact. He knew that Aurora was demanding and she had never failed to get what she wanted. He was determined to not fall into her traps.
That is what they all say.
“I would be a fool if I refused.” His eyes were focused on one thing, and one thing only.
Aurora had developed three simple steps that had guaranteed her the win she was always asked to bring home. She set each trap in their right chronological order while she talked up to her clients and all the work was done by the clients.
“My father has been filling me in--”
Rodriguez made his first mistake when he interrupted Aurora.
First was distraction.
“Of course.” She touched her neck and her fingers trailed down her neck, and as suspected, Rodriguez’s eyes followed her movements, “Who else would he be telling me about?”
“Oh, I am sure your father has told you a lot about his clients.” He raised his glass to his lips, “Vito is a busy man, Aurora. A busy man that is after a lot of people, and I know that I am just a little project your father wishes to control.”
She placed her hand on top of her father’s and feigned surprise, “You think Sir Rodriguez’s business chains little, father?”
“That is absolutely absurd, Rodriguez.” His tone thickened as proof of how sincere he was, “You know that I am very interested in what your companies offer and what happens on the inside as well.”
“The inside?” Rodriguez frowned.
Vito cuts to the chase, “You don’t have to act surprised. We both know what kind of business deals are sealed back at your companies. We know what kind of money flows in and out.”
Aurora leaned a little over the table and her fingers lingered over his hand, caressing his skin.
“What my father means to say is that we are interested to take those deals off your hands. If we united our firms together, we can both benefit greatly from it.” She said, softening her father’s forthcoming attitude.
“What you are hinting at is unethical.”
Rodriguez’s action contradicted his words. He turned his hand, allowing Aurora’s hand to intertwine with his. He liked her attention, and she sure liked that he was surrendering quite easily.
“You have no idea how hard my dad has worked to build this company and how much of my time that I have spent on taking it from the ground up.”
“And we are not doubting your skills at keeping your company standing.”
Now came kissing his ass.
“I can’t believe that such a young man can be so ambitious, successful, and handsome.” His eyes followed her lips as they parted and her tongue swiped across her lips. “I know how hard it must have been for you to keep your father’s work in business and you completely misinterpreted my father’s words. It was his way of saying that he respects what you are doing and it will be an honor if we worked together.”
“Well…” He seemed to think their offer through, but in reality he was thinking if he had a chance with Aurora and like any arrogant human being, he believes that his chances are high. “When you put it this way, I think we might have a deal to consider.”
“We know what kinds of people your company deals for, and because of that, we want to take over your share of the network.” Vito spoke as though Rodriguez had come to terms with their deal.
It seemed that her father was not in the mood to give Rodriguez a chance to fall into their grasp.
“Take over my share of the network?” He pulled his hand from under Aurora’s, “Are you listening to what you are saying right now?”
“I would really advise you to keep your voice down.” Her voice dripped with threat.
“I think this was a big mistake.”
Rodriguez’s men stepped forward when Aurora pulled his hand harshly, keeping him pinned in his seat.
The final step is to expose him and lock him in the cage built by his actions.
“I don’t think you fully understand what it means to meet me.” She leaned over the table until they were only a breath apart, “When you meet with me, you have no choice. You take the deal we offer you or you suffer the consequences.”
“Tell your men to step back and hide their petty excuse of guns because they are causing a scene at my restaurant.” She squeezed his hand slowly as a sign of warning and he flicked his finger at them.
“Now, what my father has left out is that we will be buying ninety percent of your shares at The Bellantoni Holdings. We will take control of your companies and your side deals that have to do with the southern sector.”
“I am not handing you my companies on a gold platter.” Rodriguez said through his teeth, “And the southern sector is none of your concern, Vito. You made a deal with—”
Vito held his hand up and to his surprise Rodriguez listened, “I know what deals I have closed in the past, but I am beyond that. I will take over the network.”
A series of laughs erupted from Rodriguez’s chest and he pulled his hand out of Aurora’s grasp.
“You think that you will force me into signing your offer? You know damn well who I signed with and you don’t want to mess with him, Vito. I am sure you remember what happened the last time you were in a feud with him.”
Aurora tried to keep her expressions in check. She knew the name of the nemesis Rodriguez was talking about and she knew how dangerous he can be. She knew how far that man could go, but it was the first time she heard that her father had been defeated by him and that his name caused her father to shake slightly.
To the human’s eye, Vito might seem well composed and put together, but Aurora had her father memorized and the way he was shaking was not a good sign. She decided to end this fast.
“How we take over the network is none of your business, Rodriguez, and how we bring him down is the last thing you need to worry about. You need to worry about your family. Your father, your wife and your children.”
Antonio pushed through the line of men and handed Aurora the envelope. She slid it across the table to him and sank into her seat comfortably.
“You have your reputation to worry about too, and if I were you, I wouldn’t do or say anything that might upset me. There is more to where that has come from.”
She smiled as she watched his face turn red and she was going to enjoy every second of his instant obedience.
“What—How—how did you get this?” Beads of sweat started to form at the very top of his forehead, “This can’t be.”
“He will not be able to protect you from us, Rodriguez, and I hope you will be able to make the correct choice. The choice that will keep your father’s company alive and will still provide you with a roof over your head and a lovely wife and adoring kids.”
“I will lose everything.” His eyes were pleading for mercy and a chance to get out of this.
“That is why all you need is to sign right here.” Aurora opened the folder for him and pointed to where he should be signing.
“You will be testing his patience with this, Vito.” Rodriguez said. “I don’t understand why you would want to mess with a treaty that has been signed decades ago.”
“Antonio.” Aurora called him, “I think Sir Bellantoni chooses to dismiss our offer, so I think you should escort him and his men outside, and call Marc to set our plan into motion.”
“Wait, I’ll sign the papers.” Rodriguez rushed the words out of his mouth and snatched the folder back before Antonio had the chance to pull it away.
Vito dropped his hand to his daughter’s and squeezed her hand lightly. It was his way to show her how much he appreciated her being there with him, helping him, and being the person she was today.
“I can’t decide which I am happier about. The fact that I am walking in on my partner breaching our contract or whether I am walking in on my nemesis and his lovely daughter stealing him away from me.”
The whole restaurant fell quiet as Vito’s long life nemesis walked in with all his men surrounding him. There weren’t that many customers in the restaurant since Vito and his daughter always held their meetings a little past midnight, but still, Vito did not appreciate his enemy causing a scene in the middle of his restaurant.
Vito, Aurora, and Rodriguez all rose from their seats as he approached with a sinister smile plastered on his face. Vito stepped in front of his daughter as though to shield her from whatever he was here to do. She could not understand if he was protecting her from what might be a bloodbath or simply hiding her away from his enemy’s eyes.
Despite all the stories, the information, and the news that were going around about him and from what her father had told her, Aurora had never seen him or even seen a picture of him. She never really bothered to ask and her father never showed her what he looked like. He had always warned her about him and asked her to take care whenever she was alone without his men around her, and these times were rare. She found it oddly hard to beware of a man when she never knew what he looked like.
“Alfonso, I swear to you that I was going to tell you about this. They forced me to sign their deal and I--” Rodriguez didn’t expect Alfonso to drop in on them out of the blue, and he had to make up for his mistake before things took a drastic turn.
Alfonso clicked his tongue as he looked Rodriguez in the eyes, “I am sure they didn't force you to meet them, but I can understand that they have their way of being persuasive. As I recall Vito, your daughter is your secret weapon.”
“I can not say that I am surprised to see you here, Alfonso.” Vito let go of his daughter and she watched as he shared a look with Antonio, “You know how much I value your presence in my life.”
Antonio and the rest of his men pulled their guns out simultaneously, all of them pointed at Alfonso’s direction. Vito tightened his grip around Aurora’s hand refusing to let her show herself to Alfonso.
“I really feel welcomed, old friend.” Although Vito refused to show it to his nemesis, Alfonso’s relaxed state had Vito troubled and feeling confused.
Alfonso was supposed to barge into the restaurant, angry, furious, and bubbling with rage. However, he still hadn’t pulled a gun on Rodriguez or given him any kind of attention for that matter. Rodriguez’s companies were Alfonso’s most valuable possessions and for him to overlook Rodriguez’s slip up, Alfonso should have a greater card he is yet to burn.
“Why don’t you say what you need to so you can be on your way?”
“I was given the impression that your daughter was a strong young woman and didn’t need your protection, Vito.” Alfonso was walking closer to the table and Vito’s men started to approach him, “After all, I have seen how she fights and it is a shame that I don’t get the chance to properly meet her.”
“If it will get you out of our sights, I’ll be happy to meet you properly.” Aurora spoke loudly from behind her father as she yanked her hand from her father’s hand and stepped forward, “You didn’t have to come all the way here to see me.”
His lips stretched into a smug smirk, “You really are your father’s daughter, Aurora.”
“My patience is running out, so I suggest you speak, Alfonso.” Vito spoke through his teeth.
“Well, I find that it is only fair that I take something of yours, now that you have control over the south sector.”
“It is not the first time I take something of yours, so why retaliate now?” Vito decided to approach him, hoping that he would slightly intimidate him.
“I have a family to provide for, Vito, and to be frank, I can’t let you steal my clients.” Just when Vito couldn’t imagine that Alfonso’s smile could get any wider, it did. “Or shall I say gifting you my clients.”
“You can’t rattle me.”
“Don’t be so sure, Vito.” He said, “For the past couple of months, I have been aware of your little deals. Several clients broke off their contracts. I lost tons of money. I knew that you were trying to destroy me. I knew that you wanted me to seize to exist. I didn’t really care. You know why is that? Would you like to guess Aurora?”
“Cut to the chase.” Aurora replied, unimpressed.
“After you lose someone you deeply care for, you lose interest in what life has to offer for it has taken the person closest to your heart.”
Aurora knew what he was talking about, or in better words, could guess what he was talking about.
“But then, I remembered that I can honor her. I can destroy you, Vito. I can take something of yours and make you suffer for the rest of your life.”
Now, she had no clue what he was talking about, but based on her father’s reactions, whatever Alfonso was implying it was horrid.
“I will give you a week, Vito. Honor our pact and I will honor my part. And if you didn’t, you will lose who you deeply care for and I will feel no remorse.”
They watched him as he walked through the restaurant doors certain that he had won. Aurora knew that her father wasn’t one to back down from a fight.
For the first time, her father looked her in the eyes with so much fear that she wasn’t sure anymore.