“Help me sorella.” Tia sobbed, she heard her mama’s footsteps and quickly hung up the phone, making a run for her room.
She fell to the mattress as the tears flew from her broken caramel eyes. What did she do to deserve this?
She missed Siena more than ever, at least at college she was distracted, she had a few friends. Right now she was so lonely, it had been a week since her mama had pulled her out of college and announced that she would be marrying a stranger.
Mama had told her that the man was beyond wealthy, he had seen Tia walking to college and fell in love with her. How stupid. Tia knew there more to this, no one falls in love at first sight. How could her own mother betray her like this? All for that idiota Mario.
Tia’s door flew open and mama stepped in, the dark bags under her eyes had only become darker as the weeks went on. Mama had changed, she let the obsession of Mario’s debt take over her life, her heart.
Mama was never like this, she use to be so loving and kind. She would take Siena and Tia on long walks across the fields and have picnics.
“Tia don’t make me the bad guy.” Maria quipped. “Do you want to be sleeping on this mattress your whole life? Or do you want to live like a regina? (Queen)”
“Mama I don’t want to marry some stranger. I’ll work and earn like sorella.”
“No!” Maria snapped. “You will not be some rich man’s whore. You will be his wife!”
Tia’s lips parted and her eyes widened. “M...mama?” She whimpered, her tears on the verge of spilling. “What are you saying?” The indirect insult to Siena cut through Tia’s heart. How could these words be coming out of mama’s mouth. How?
“Tia, you will fight me on this no more!” Maria stated, her hard tone not to be argued with.
That night Maria called Tia down for dinner. Her heart was broken, her life felt empty.
“Honestly Tia you could at least tie your hair up.” Maria tutted, studying her daughter at the dinner table. Tia had stunning natural chestnut curls that fell to her waist. Her mama would often make her put it up in a bun or braid it, but honestly right now Tia didn’t care how it looked.
“Diego called just now, he is coming over tomorrow. You need to tell him you are happy with this decision Tia. I don’t want him snooping around.”
Tia sighed, her fork swirling around her food. She wasn’t hungry, far from it and usually she would love dinner time. It was the only time of day she got a decent meal.
“Diego, it’s so good to see you.” Maria sang, her strong arms lunging around him.
“Hello Zia, I trust you are well?”
“Si come in.”
Tia’s eyes fluttered open to the sound of chatter muffling through the ceiling. She had hardly got any sleep last night, it had felt so good to hear Siena’s voice yesterday. She only wished she wasn’t so upset so she knew how her dear cousin was doing. She felt so guilty for not even asking.
Tia freshened up but didn’t go downstairs, she knew her mama was filling Diego in about the strange man who wanted to marry her. Even the thought of it made her cringe. Something didn’t sit right with her.
It wasn’t long before Diego knocked on her door and walked in. Her lips trembled as soon as she looked at him. He had a serious look on his face as he sat down next to Tia and sighed
“I’m sorry Tia. I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.” He started.
“If it makes you feel any better, I have convinced Zia to let you go back to college until the wedding.”
“What’s the point?” Tia snapped.
“Sshh Tia calm down.” Diego hushed her looking to the door. He didn’t want zia hearing anything.
“We will try and stop this wedding from happening.”
“I’m not sure yet.” Diego’s lips formed a thin line as he gazed at his cousin. These poor girls were subjected to so much shit. First Siena and now Tia. Siena got lucky with her boss but Tia? He wasn’t so sure about her fate, but he was sure going to try and help her.
Tia shook her head. “Admit it, no one can help me.” She croaked. “I miss Siena.” Her tears eloped.
“Trust me Siena misses you so much, she’s been so worried about you. She came to see me last night. We are going to come up with a plan to help you.”
“Mama said I may meet him soon, the stranger.” Tia winced at her words. “I may try and change his mind, tell him that I’m not ready to marry.”
“You can certainly try.” Diego replied - “but you don’t want to make him suspicious.”
“I’m helpless fratello. (Brother).”
“Keep faith Tia.”
Tia couldn’t even concentrate when she went back to college. She couldn’t explain the turmoil inside her but she had to admit that it made her feel bitter and angry.
Mama had set up a meeting with the stranger, Tia was to meet him this evening. He was coming over for dinner. Her nerves were getting the better of her, she didn’t know if she would be able to control herself in front of her mama. How will she manage to talk to him alone.
Mama didn’t even let her talk to anyone, she told Tia last night that she was meeting this man today. So Tia had no time to warn Diego to come around. Even if she did, there was no guarantee that he would be free at such short notice.
Tia had been conjuring up a plan in her head for a while now. It may have been a stupid and outright dangerous plan, but the more she thought about it, the more she was ready to follow through with it. She had already found out all the details of what she needed to know in order to go ahead with it.
“Wear this.” Mama demanded, throwing Tia a dress. One she hadn’t seen before. Tia wanted to scoff in her mama’s face, she really wanted to impress this guy. How much more impressed did he need to be if the idiota was ready to get down on one knee after seeing Tia just once?
The dress was a yellow cream colour, flowing down past her knees. The straps were thick, and the cut was lower than Tia expected. Mama would usually never allow these sorts of dresses to be worn, she said they made her look desperate.
Tia slipped into the dress and tidied her untamed curls, clipping each side away from her face, a few curly strands framing her face. She took a deep breath and began to help her mama in the kitchen.
Her breath hitched at the sound of a knock at the front door. “Stay here until I call you.” Her mama demanded.
Tia’s heart began to race as she could hear the muffled voice of the man. Was it possible to run away? Could her eyes tell him that she wasn’t ready for this?
“Tia?” Her mama called. Tia flinched at the sound of her name, she picked up the tray carrying a cold drink and walked into the room taking a deep breath.
She spotted the back of his head as he sat on the couch, his light platinum blonde hair stood out against the dark couch.
She met his dark eyes as he grinned at her, making her feel uncomfortable. Tia offered him the drink, an emotionless mask on her face.
She took a seat by her mama, her eyes glancing from the floor to the stranger. He was nothing special, he didn’t make her heart skip a beat.
“Tia, your fiancé wants the wedding to go ahead the day after tomorrow.”
“What!?” Tia snapped, as she stood from her seat.
“Sit down Tia.” Her mama insisted through gritted teeth.
Tia’s heart was in her mouth, she wanted to slap the smug smile on this man’s face. Who was he? He wasn’t in love with her, there was no love in his dark eyes.
“What is your name?” Tia asked, her eyes glossing over.
The man stood up and his lips curved. “I can protect your whole family Tia.” He turned to look at Maria before walking towards the front door.
“Perhaps dinner won’t be such a good idea tonight, but I expect to see you at the wedding.”
He opened the front door as Tia’s tears spilled down her flushed cheeks. This couldn’t be happening, who the hell did he think he was?
“Oh... and the names Daniel Leaver.” He stated, walking out of the door and climbing into a black sedan parked outside.
Tia shook her head in disbelief. “Mama you can’t make me marry that man.”
“Don’t ruin this!” Maria snapped. “Finally we have the best opportunity to get rid of the debt.”
“No. I’m not doing it.”
“Yes you are ragazza egoista! (Selfish girl).”
Tia slammed the door to her room, anger and hurt seeping through her body all the way to her heart. Her mama had betrayed her. It was pointless trying to plead with her papa, he only did what mama wanted.
She knew it was time to take matters into her own hands. She should have done this the very moment she found out what she was being forced to do. Pulling out the address from her notebook, she stuffed it into her side bag. Slipping on her flat tattered shoes, she took a deep breath before running out of the front door.
Asher sat at his desk, the weekend just gone was nothing but a distant memory now. He wanted to forget about the gala, about the mansion.
- but Sarah had him going crazy, he kept thinking of ways to make her smile. He wanted to know everything about her. What was her favourite flower? Her favourite food? He needed to know every little detail.
He signed and approved the latest project on his desk before Annette knocked and walked in.
“Sir, Mr Marigold is here. He’s waiting in the boardroom.”
Asher stood up and buttoned his blazer before making his way to the boardroom.
“I hear I’ve got the undefeated Roman Marigold in my building.” Asher smirked walking over to his most trusted client.
“You heard correctly.” Roman replied, standing up and embracing Asher in a big bear hug.
Roman was a close family friend and had worked with Asher on many previous projects.
“I heard about your birthday. I’m really glad you’re alright. To think we would have been there if it wasn't my cousin's bridal shower. She's marrying my best friend”
“Yeah, it could have been a lot worse. Just glad no one got hurt.” Asher replied, nodding his head. “How’s Raina, and your little girl?”
“They’re good, Raina is the principal of our local school now and Emilia is turning 3 soon.” Roman smiled. “She’s a handful.” He chuckled.
Asher mirrored his smile. “That’s great. Please tell Raina I’ll be inviting myself around for dinner.”
“I’ll tell her, she’ll love that.” Roman smiled, taking a sip of coffee. “We heard about Kate. I’m really sorry.”
“It wasn’t meant to be.” Asher shrugged.
Roman sighed. “She wasn’t the one. You’ll know when you find the one.”
Roman had met his wife through an arranged marriage, they had a rough start but made it work and fell deeply in love.
“Well I could always get an arranged marriage.” Asher chuckled, jabbing Roman on the arm.
“That’s how I found my Raina.” Roman’s emerald eyes twinkled as if thinking of his wife.
“I want that. I want a family someday.” Asher spoke, his voice low.
“It will happen at the right time.” Roman patted him on the back.
After discussing their next project and having dinner in the boardroom, Roman left. Asher felt like he needed that, a genuine catch up with a good friend.
Tia approached her destination, the stars were sprinkled across the night sky as she shuddered before the alabaster doors of the huge castle like mansion before her.
Before she could knock, two large armed men dressed in black gripped her by the arm. “Wait. Please, I need to see your boss.” She yelled.
The men froze until one of them searched her body and bag. “What business do you have with the boss?”
“Please I need to discuss a debt.”
“The boss doesn’t discuss debts, he just collects them.”
“Please. I need to see him. I won’t leave here until you take me.” Her voice raising, but the fear in her was evident.
The men looked at each other, one gave the other a light nod before pushing Tia in front and walking behind her. “Keep going.” One of the men demanded, as she walked through the doors of the mansion.
Her doe like eyes flickered over the tall walls and lavish paintings. She relished in the heat as it licked her ice cold skin. Her feet taking small cautious steps towards another set of doors.
One of the men stood with her whilst the other went inside and shut the door. She could hear a deep muffled voice from the other side of the door. Her breathing intensified as she stood waiting. The door opened and the same man stepped back outside.
“Go. The boss will see you now.”
Tia’s mouth felt dry all of a sudden, her feet wouldn’t move. She closed her eyes and said a silent prayer before walking in.
Her eyes danced along the large office, the smell of cigars invaded her senses. The hard floor was lined with a fine rich Persian rug.
“Are you lost kitty?” A deep voice roared out.
Tia’s eyes fell to the man sitting behind the mahogany desk. She stumbled to find words as she peered into his dark chocolate eyes, his raven hair was slicked back superman style. This man made evil look good.
“N..no.” She replied, finally finding her voice and maintaining eye contact.
“No?” He asked, his full brow cocking up as he stood out of his seat. His dark shirt fixed around his body like a second skin, each rippling muscle noticeable through the material.
“So why is this little kitty knocking at the door of the big bad wolf?” His lips twitched up into devious smirk as he stalked closer. He reached the front of his desk and leaned back onto it.
“Please spare my familia of the debt owed by my brother.”
“Your brother?” His smirk not leaving his lips.
“Yes. Mario Rossi.”
The man they called the boss let out a deep laugh, cold and menacing. Tia took in a breath as she prepared herself to speak.
“Please! Mario is the one who owes you. Why must you make us suffer?”
“A debt is a debt.” He replied. His voice low and calculating.
Tia felt as if she was losing control, how could someone be so heartless as to make an innocent family suffer for something that was no fault of their own.
“It’s not fair!” She snapped, her eyes growing hard by the minute.
“Business is business.” The boss quipped, that devious smirk still plastered on his face.
“Say we can’t pay you back. Then what?”
“You will spend the rest of your lives paying me back.” He laughed, toying with her.
“How can you be so cruel?” She yelled. “It’s not our fault!” Her eyes were glossing over.
“Careful kitty.” He warned, his dark eyes observing her as he cocked his head to the side.
“Please. Can’t you wait for Mario to be released, he can continue paying you back then.”
“It doesn’t work that way bambola. (Doll)”
“There must be something you can do.” She whispered, a single tear falling down her cheek.
“No.” The boss replied, deadpan.
“I should double the amount for this unexpected intrusion.” He sneered, folding his arms against his solid chest.
Tia’s rage boiled over, she could feel her self control snapping like a twig. “Go to hell. That is where you belong!” She spat, her eyes cold and unforgiving.
Within seconds her chin was gripped between rough fingers. “Hush now kitty. You’ll get yourself killed.” Her head was tilted to face up towards his obsidian eyes.
Tia pushed him from her. “Then kill me!” She screamed. “-because of Mario I am suffering, because of him I am being forced to marry in two days!” She fell to her knees.
“What about my life? No one cares. No one.” She cried, her tears dropping to the ground like the start of a monsoon.
Tia heard the doors fly open and she was picked up from the ground by the same two men that brought her in. Her body dragging away from the boss’s office, until she found herself outside. The cold breeze whipping against her skin.
She had failed, this was her last chance and now it was gone. She took a deep breath and wiped away her tears before walking off into the darkness.
The boss watched from his window as the the mysterious girl walked away, his hands in his pockets. No one had ever dared show up to the bosses house unannounced. No one had ever dared to speak to the boss like she just did.
The boss waved one of his henchmen over.
“What can we do for you boss?”
“Follow the little kitty. I want the name of the man who thinks she belongs to him.”
"and Mario's debt?" The henchman asked.
The boss smirked, watching the mysterious girl stumble against the wind.
"I'm looking at it.”