M A R C E L L A
She sounded incredibly spiteful. She wished it hadn’t shown. But she knew he caught it.
When he said she didn’t mean much to him, it hurt her, for some unknown reason. And it pushed her to that idiotic plan. It pushed her to do something so impulsive and to ditch her much better plan.
Well, better plan? If anything, it looked as though she was the one coming undone from it. She told herself that if he got shot, it would mean her freedom and so she would allow it to happen. But in that moment, she made another impulsive decision. She jumped in front of him. She saved him.
She did owe him. She definitely owed him. He had saved her multiple times now. It was her turn to pay it back. But gunshot wounds were certainly not painless. They hurt like a son of a bitch. Fucking hell.
Just from feeling the pain, she felt so much more guilty than she did before when she had shot him. He was in the same agony and probably didn’t wuss out about it. The whole time they had been in the car, she wanted to scream the room off of it. She wanted to scream so loud all the birds in the sky would have to fly to the farthest place away from her on the earth just to get some peace. She wanted her tears to flood and wreck her face and she wouldn’t care. She wanted the other parts of her body to share her shoulder’s full anguish. She wanted to scratch her skin off from the searing feeling coursing through her.
But she held it together. Perhaps to keep it together, or to save face with John. John couldn’t see her as any more of a child than he did. So, she would keep it all inside and pretend like it barely hurt as best as she could.
“Still with me, princess?” he asked, glancing over. Her eyes felt weary but she forced them to open wide, wider than she thought looked normal however she couldn’t tell. Her head ached profusely, yelling at her persistently. She was hurting. Badly.
“Yes,” she muttered dozily.
“Tell me a story, Mari. Tell me something. Like… how you met Lucia Rossi. Your dad didn’t know her. I bet there’s a story there.”
“You just want to trick me in my time of pain.”
“What can I do with a story, Mari? Just tell me a story. Keep talking. You need to stay awake.”
“She saved me,” Mari said, catching John’s attention. “She saved me like you did. The only night I ever snuck away from my house, a guy tried to attack me. And Lucia saved me. Trouble always follows me around.”
“Why are you trying so hard to have freedom? I understand that you want to get away from this life, but why wouldn’t you plan it better? You already had half a plan. Why did you leave?” he asked.
“You already know why,” she muttered.
“No, I don’t. If I did before, I could have understood the extent of how far you were willing to go. I had to find that out the hard way.”
“I’m engaged,” she stated, narrowing her eyes at John to see if he didn’t really know. And he didn’t. His expression morphed into a completely foreign one. She was unsure what it meant, but then he composed himself, coughed slightly to clear his throat and focused back on the road.
“Engaged? To whom?” he queried nonchalantly, even though she knew he was incredibly curious.
“Dante Marciano. I know you’ve heard of him. He’s a monster. And I’m supposed to marry him?” The thought made her stomach do even more flips than it was already doing. She would die before she married him. That, she was set on.
“I didn’t know,” he mumbled. “That’s why you left without finishing your plan?”
“I wanted out of this life. And it forced me to leave before I was ready,” she replied.
“With a little bit more time, you could have beaten me,” he told her with a small smirk. He thought she was beat, huh? Far from it. His words only encouraged the competitive fire in her and dulled the pain slightly. He was definitely the one thing that could take away from her suffering.
It wasn’t like how they portrayed it in the movies. She had watched many of them with the free time she had when she was younger. No, getting shot was like diving out of that car, presented in the media as painless and yet in reality, completely life-threatening. But the injuries she received before were five times less painful and it had actually been in her best interest. This was for John, her bounty hunter, a man who would deliver her to Alessandro if he won.
Why couldn’t she have just let him take the bullet? And if he died, so be it. What an idiot she was.
When they came to a grounding halt, John rushed out of the car without a moment’s break and hurried her into some back alleyway. This was where you went as a criminal to get your wounds looked at? Even if the doctor did manage to patch her up, she would certainly get an infection here.
It was this or death potentially. In a few more hours, she would bleed out, and that really would be game over. At least she would die out here, with John and not with Alessandro or Dante.
She had heard the stories of wife beaters. They were men just like Dante, so cold, so unrelenting. When she met him, she could instantly tell that he was a violent man. But not just to his enemies, to those he should look out for.
“Still with me, Mari?” John’s voice came through the mist that had clouded her senses. It felt as though everything was filtered, like someone talking through a window, slowly getting further and further away.
“Hmm.” She tried to answer him more coherently but failed. She knew she would be conscious no longer and hoped to God John knew what he was doing with her life. Her life was left in his hands.
“She’ll most probably wake soon.” A faint voice could be heard, but it was far in the distance, at least for Mari. Her eyes were much too heavy to open. But she realized one thing. She was alive.
“Most probably? That’s all I get, Marcus?” John interrogated like a ferocious animal.
“I must have missed something because the last time you to left here, which wasn’t all that long ago, she was stealing potential weapons, stealing phones and jumping out of cars. And now she’s taking a bullet for you? What the hell is going on?” He made some very valid points. How times had changed. And yet not much had changed.
She figured that some time in her life, she would eventually get shot. That was always how it was since she was the daughter of a mafia don. She got her first out of the way. Every experience she had on the outside world, good or bad, would be valued by Mari. Because if she didn’t win and she went back to New York, that was all she had.
“Nothing is going on. We’ll be back on the road in no time,” John stated harshly. He was clearly in one of his foul moods, perhaps because he was tired or perhaps she might finally be having an effect on him. He cared about her life. He had brought her further away from her father just so that she could be seen by the only good doctor John knew.
She couldn’t quite get any words out yet. She could only listen to the two of them bicker.
“She’s a child, John,” Marcus said out of nowhere.
“Don’t you think I know that,” John replied. “I just… she’s… look, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to do my job and take her back to my client.” She wondered what he was trying to say but couldn’t get out, however then she switched her focus to the end of his sentence.
She shouldn’t be surprised his plans hadn’t changed. He was a man of his word. He would take her back even if he didn’t want to. She just had to know how far she had to push to make him break his word. She wasn’t defeated yet.
“John?” she called out in a strained whisper, finally being able to speak.
“You’re awake,” he stated like that wasn’t obvious. Her eyes flickered open to see his face, his eyes examining her.
“I’m okay,” she said, more to herself than to him. She wasn’t sure if that was the end. She didn’t want to be pessimistic and believe it was. But she didn’t even have to worry. She had trusted John with her life, and he had saved her. John had saved her again.