I drove Betsy until I reached the large, voice-operated guarded gate, which immediately granted me access once the guards made familiarity with the future Mrs. Mason DeLuca. I'm not ideally comfortable with having guards surrounding the place – Mason would have a field day if he'd catch me saying something like that – but I couldn't say something or who knows whom I might offend.
Slowly, I ease myself out of the car with my cast and retrieve my crutches in my boot before locking the car. Manipulating one of my crutches, I push the door open and limp inside the warm house before hearing the most high-pitched squeal I have ever come across to date.
"Ti amo," a little brown head of luscious hair darts to me and hides behind my legs, squealing with delight "ti amo zio!"
Mason races down to the room with the widest smile I've ever seen him have only to have it drop when he sees me. I wasn't exactly expecting him to sulk or to drown himself in ice-cream about my sudden leave but I didn't expect him to look so happy either.
"Jae," he nods curtly with hooded eyes.
"Mason," I mirror his actions.
Mason steps to me and grabs the little girl in his arms, who had slant, murky-lake green eyes and a giddy gap-toothed smile.
"How did you get here?" he enquires while helping the girl straddle his waist.
I pinch my brows in confusion, "I drove Betsy here."
Mortification seeps over his facial expression and he lowers the tiny girl down, murmuring something in her ear before she took off with another squeal.
He advances towards me with wide eyes, "so you drove here?"
I nod timidly, "yes."
"Are you trying to get yourself killed?" he roars and a large vein decided to debut itself by nearly popping from his reddened neck.
I must admit, driving with a cast was a task but I managed to wring my way around it and I got here unharmed.
"I'm fine," I argue with a clenched jaw.
"It's bad enough that you're driving that old ugly car but you will not drive it ever again, understood?"
You could insult my driving skills, you could insult my weight or my frizzy hair but no one will insult my friends, my family, my job or my beloved Betsy.
I scoff, my eyes wide in dismay and jaw slackened "Betsy isn't old and ugly, she's a classic."
"Who names their cars Betsy anyway?"
"People who have a thing for sentimental values," I'm livid and all I'm seeing is red, Mason's head on the floor and I'm stabbing at his chest continuously.
I later add on, "not everyone is well off like you so obviously you know nothing about being sentimental."
I hobble away from him only to have him grab my waist and press his lips on my throat, rendering me weak instantaneously. He wasn't kissing or sucking my neck but rather brushing his lips on my skin and inhaling my scent. I lost all will to fight and gave into my body's desires, my fingers embedding themselves deep in his hair to steer him in the right direction.
His touch...his touch sends fires down to my core.
"Mia amore – scusi!" a voice squeals and I break away from my trance, finding the one and only Lena standing before us in her beautiful glory but instead of blond locks, ebony tresses cascaded down to her ample cleavage. Lena was absolutely flawless, tight hips and a pert behind but her chest was the most attention-grabbing thing about her, after her golden-hazel eyes of course.
I detach myself away from Mason's body reluctantly and I decide to instigate the greeting, "hi, I'm Jae Marks."
"Ciao, I'm Selena Gonzales," she spoke with a different tongue, much thicker and bolder than Italian.
"I'll be in my room." I offer quietly while eyeing those stairs – damn you stupid cast.
Lena gazes at Mason briefly before smiling warmly at me, "come meet the family. Tomas, his wife and daughter just came over and I made more than enough food."
Did she just openly admit to catering to my fiancé?
"I had dinner already but thank you very much."
"Jae," oh, so when Lena isn't around I'm micio but when she is then it's just Jae "let me help you up."
I relish his body heat as he carries me up and I could smell his alluring body mist. Every muscle under his skin was under my fingertips and I bit my bottom lip mildly as his abdominal muscles contracted with every step he took.
Did Selena have ample opportunity to sleep with him?
Mason places me down gently on my bed and gives one look before shuffling away, "she's flawless."
"I'll be sure to let her know," Mason murmurs quietly and I continue to burn holes through his back.
"She's curvy too." I add, just anything to have him talking to me and not making love to her in his bedroom or art room again.
Mason shrugs nonchalantly, "I've seen better."
I bite my bottom lip at the comment and sigh dejectedly, "good night, Mason."
"Good night, Jae."
The morning wasn't my best and I've seen much better. Mother Nature thought it would be cool and hip to strike two best friends with her gift, making me a bloated mess. I had the necessary sanitary towels I needed but after suddenly taking off yesterday evening it was expected of me to go downstairs and greet everyone, which I wasn't looking forward to do.
The tiny girl from yesterday greeted me with a wide grin that was taking up most of her delicate small face. She looked like Tomas but from my perspective I think he's a little too old to be running around chasing his young, slant-eyed daughter.
"Tesoro," Tomas startles me and I hold my chest in fright, shooting back an angry "you nearly gave me a heart attack!"
The copper-haired man shoots me one of his winning smiles nearly all the DeLuca's have and switches the kettle on.
"You're up early tesoro, what could be the matter?"
Having the period talk with Tomas wasn't something I felt comfortable doing and I wouldn't even act on the idea either.
"Well, if you must know," I debut my cast in a catwalk manner "I had a friendly tea with Italian masked men less than a month ago."
"Oh," he gapes pouring in his coffee granules into a cup "no one fancied some African bush tea?"
I crack a small smile for the old man; he's just like Nathaniel, "no one likes some hydrochloric acid as a substitute for their milk."
"Like Britney Spears once sang," Tomas clears his throat while wiggling his fingers in the air "don't you know that you toxic."
I plug my ears from the hideous sound and I see his daughter doing the same, "papa, stop."
"Piccola fiore, you love it when I sing," he tickles the bubbly girl and places her on the counter "fiore, meet aunt Jaenelle. Jaenelle meet your niece, Gabriella."
"Ciao," she smiles shyly waving her hand timidly "Papa, can I touch her hair?"
"Well, can she?" Tomas questions with a quirked brow.
I'm not good with kids, never have and I doubt it's written in my stars. Children find joy in the whole peek-a-boo thing whereas I'd rather tell them a story about detecting abnormalities in their bones when they are still young.
Will Mason one day want children with me?
I shake away the thoughts and lean my head towards Gabriella, gesturing her to mess with the curls before PMS decides to kick in. The toddler stares at her father for permission and he nods, his lips twitching up into a genuine smile.
PMS decided to join the party once Gabriella had gotten her slim fingers stuck in my hair and we were both wailing for help. I don't know why Gabriella was crying because my scalp was aching due to her vigorous tugs and twitching fingers. Eventually, a slim ebony-haired woman with slant brown eyes eased Gabriella's fingers out of my hair before pacifying her loud wails.
"Tesoro," Tomas offers apologetically "forgive my piccolo fiore; she will apologize after her mother gets her to calm down."
I bite my bottom lip in apprehension although my eyes were very transparent. Tomas, being the smart man he is, answers the question lingering in the depths of my mind, "Chin-lee is Gabriella's mother," he flashes his wedding band with a cocky smirk "and my wife."
I don't know how this happened but Tomas didn't seem to apply to my premeditated character that I had already casted him in. In a way, I almost felt stupid for judging a book by its cover and Tomas proved that very well by throwing it in my face that he's married to an Asian woman.
"Sweet Jaenelle, you almost look gutted. You're an attractive black woman, yes, but I like my woman skilled in case people want to kill me in my sleep." Tomas thrust vigorous punches in the air while adding some Karate sound effects.
"I thought you had a thing for big booty hoes," I offer mockingly although laughter wanted to seep from my lips "I would've twerked for you."
"Tesoro," Tomas gasps while amusement danced in his chocolate eyes "do you want to get me killed?"
Chin-lee came back into the room with a calm Gabriella and set her back on the counter, the poor girl's eyes were red and puffy. Her mother gave her one look and Gabrielle shifted her gaze to me with a slight hiccup.
"A-A-Aunty Jae-Jan-Jae," Gabriella sniffles while rubbing her eyes "I-I'm sorry."
"For what?" Chin-lee exhorts on with perfect English and articulation.
"F-for hurting you," she hiccups once again and that quiver of the bottom lip sent a tiny shard through my heart "your hair is just so pretty and...and Mama's hair is not."
"Hey!" Chin-lee pouts with mock hurt "I asked for an apology, not a Chin-lee DeLuca comedy central roast."
Instinctively, I pinch Gabriella's cheek and avert my attention to her mother, "uh, I'm sorry for being a moody Suzy, I'm Jaenelle Marks but you can just call me Jae."
Chin-lee offers a smile kindly and instead of the handshake I was opting for she gave me a warm bear-hug, sending my butt spasms into kick-start mode. I cower over in pain but then her beady brown eyes blink in guilt.
"Forgive me," she apologizes softly with a giggle "I'm a hugger."
"It's okay," I assure her with a tight smile and gesture around my abdomen "mother nature, that's all."
"I hate that bìtch," she mutters lowly although I could hear the amusement lingering in her tone "tell you what, go back to your room and I'll bring you some chamomile tea."
Since the morning started I would've never imagined what good could come out of it until my guardian angel twerked from the hood heaven to come look after me during this crucial time. I limp out the kitchen to head downstairs when I saw Selena lurching down the ceramic stairs in one of Mason's oversized shirts and boy was she glowing. I could feel the ache twisting in my chest but I display a wide smile for her, greeting her startled self.
I hate Mason for betraying me.
I hate Selena for being gorgeous.
I hate myself for not being able to satiate my future husband of his appetites.
Chin-lee enters the room on cue with a tray of chamomile tea accompanied with two cups and a hot water bottle that I was in desperate need of. I thank her quietly for the tea before scooting over and giving her a place to sit on the ridiculously-huge bed.
"I have a feeling that you're not a blushing bride-to-be," Chin-lee begins after taking a tiny sip of the tea.
My teeth plunge into my bottom lip as I prepare to lie smoothly, "I'm in bìtch-mode."
"Right," she chuckles amusedly "I have a degree in psychology so I know that you're lying."
This was awkward, beyond what words could describe.
"Listen," I perk up for attention as she speaks "I'm not naive into believing that cliché bullcrap romance books offer us."
"Cliché bullcrap?" I echo densely.
Chin-lee nods, "that all the brothers' wives are close like two peas in a pod and share their sexual endeavours and limp scales with each other." She sighs quietly "I'm Asian so no clichés are written for people like me."
I laugh loudly, nearly tipping my tea on my comforter, "I'm not cliché either, I don't have chest game at all like fictional black women."
"Feeling threatened by that whóre Selena isn't what you should be thinking about right now, try Dina and Vincenzo DeLuca."
"Your in-laws," she nods in confirmation "they nearly had a fit when we told them that Nathaniel has a seven year old sister."
"N-Nathaniel is your son?"
Chin-lee nods once again, "Tomas' son from a previous relationship while he was still in high school."
This day just got a whole lot more informative I'll tell you that.
"You didn't know?"
I shake my head with a weak laugh, "is Mason his son too?"
"Mason and Tomas are brothers, Tomas being the eldest brother. Mason was born when Tomas sixteen, two years before Nathaniel's birth."
Twenty seven plus sixteen equals...that means Tomas is in his early forties.
"And the whole 'old' thing he's got going on?"
"A phase," Chin-lee shrugs in dismay with the most disgruntled frown "he looks up to Donald Trump so he's preparing to dye his hair soon."
I place my hand on her slim shoulder with a snort, "I'll keep you in my prayers, you'll need them."
Chin-lee offers me a playful eye roll and smiles, "so what do you do?"
"Me?" of course, who else would she be talking to Jae? "I'm a temporary senior criminal forensic investigator."
What a mouthful...
"Ah," Chin-lee muses with a smirk "you work with bones like that television series Bones?"
"That's my shìt," I grin thinking about my favourite intern, sexy Wendall Bray. "What do you do?"
"I used to protect people from themselves with words and now I protect my family with a rifle."
My eyes nearly pop out of their sockets, "you own a gun?"
She returns me an incredulous look, "I have to, I control the brothels and they tend to get out of hand."
She's in on everything too? I was beginning to like her...
"Y-you actually have a part to play?"
Chin-lee sighs sadly "love will make you do almost anything, even sell your body just to secure your husband's well being and safety."
I pull myself on my one good leg and take to my large window, admiring the view, "thank you for the tea; I'd like to be alone now."
"Jae, I just hope that you'll be the one to redeem us," Chin-lee offers solemnly "Mason is in need for redemption the most."
Ignoring the last part of her words, I ask "redeem you all from what?"
Chin-lee is quiet for a few moments before saying, "ourselves."
Every outlet of help I turn to tends to fail me, putting me back in square one whereby I'd have to marry Mason DeLuca. Deem me insane but I may have sent an application for being a possible escort and scheduled a theatrical kidnapping before calling back and counselling my application.
I needed to leave this place, flee the country and marry myself off to a Nigerian man called Uchegwa who will ensure that I'm pregnant every year until I'm physically unable to have children (and that would be menopause's cue to enter).
I would've loved to say that my reason for skipping lunch was because of the fact that Selena made the food but rather because the craps were back and a whole lot worse. My body was aching all over and I ended up being warm in the sheets while reading Night Crawlers by Jenny Mole, a beautiful crime novel that is about Detective Layne Charles who develops Stockholm syndrome for a suspect being investigated in her case.
"Tell me why you continue to act like a child?" Mason questions sharply entering my room with a briefcase and a loosened tie.
Selena must've gotten to him first I see.
"Excuse me?" I lower my spectacles down in order to get a full look at him.
"Being cooped up here like a child and refusing to go downstairs where everyone is."
"Look, I'm not in a people mood."
"And why is that, dear wife?"
"I'm mourning so I like to be alone, is that a crime?"
Mason jumps into my bed and eases himself into my covers while shaking his shoes off. I play dumb and continue to dart my eyes across the beautifully described text.
"Need I love you for your colour of skin, or what your heart really holds? I love no other but you..."
My book is clutched away from my fingers and Mason glances at the cover briefly before tossing it away into the shadows. I wanted to rush over and retrieve my book but my cramps made me prisoner to the bed.
My eyes flicker across his body, which still kept most of his clothes on and instantly my cheeks heat at the memories of that night at the motel.
"So I'll just be your wife in name only?"
He seems startled by the question and flutters his eyes close, his arm draped over his forehead, "elaborate, micio?"
"I shouldn't expect you to act like a husband and you shouldn't expect me to act like a wife, right?"
He peeks one calculating pastel blue eye open, "Why are you asking this all of a sudden?"
"If I were some sleazy woman who didn't appreciate her sister then I too would be finding comfort in another man's arms."
Mason jolts up instantly with menacing eyes, "like hell you will."
"Oh," I chuckle humourlessly – the audacity of this man! "and what will the reason for that be?"
"You're the woman; culture norms expect you to have self-respect."
"Well," I whisper hoarsely after heaving in a quick breath "I don't think I'm good for you right now."
"Micio," Mason grabs my face and my eyes blink rapidly, trapping the tears "don't say shìt like that."
"As my husband you should respect me Mason, just like I respect you."
"I do." Mason shoots back just as angrily.
"Then why are you sleeping with her?"
Mason scoffs, letting go of my face and he chuckles, "I'm the man, I shouldn't be explaining myself to you."
"Then I shall venture into other paths, sate myself."
"You'll be unsuccessful," Mason chuckles with a wide smile "the only pleasure you know is mine and it's going to stay like that."
"You're sick," I spit out "you're twisted and sick and a...a bi-polar mess!"
"You're a doctor now?" Mason retorts smartly before grabbing my face and dipping down to kiss my neck "you can diagnose me all you want."
"I just hope, for your sake, she walks down that aisle and becomes Mrs. DeLuca."
Mason shoots up from my neck and kisses me thoroughly, his tongue scorching hot against mine and all arguments in my head dissipated into nothing. I push my body into his as closely as I could get and fed my body the fill of Mason it ached for. My skin bruises as our lips moved to their own rhythm and something primal, dark snapped inside me when I heard his moan at the back of his throat.
I was searching for his skin, tearing his shirt apart so I could feel the heat of his skin when he pulls away to catch his breath. Awkwardness shifts into the air and my eyes snap open, Mason staring intensively at my face.
Oh god, I nearly slept with Mason before the cleansing ceremony.
As if reading my mind, Mason pushes himself off my body and stands on his feet.
"It was only once." He murmurs quietly before leaving the room, leaving me to deal with the awkwardness alone.