I stare up at the impending wall after my usual morning jog at the back of the Mansion, away from the coming and goings of the securities at the front. I ran alone today. Enzo had kidnapped Malachai and the rest of the guys to hash out a revenge plan for the Los Toros Cartel. And as expected, I wasn’t invited.
Not that I’m mad about it...
Okay, I am mad about it and I know I shouldn’t be.
I’m not apart of the Famiglia, they are not compelled to tell me anything. But hell! I almost got shot yesterday, I deserve to know what befalls my would-have-been-murderers! Right?
I shake my head, banishing all thoughts of Enzo and his stupid Famiglia away, focusing on why I was back here. And that was to try and escape.
Well, I wasn’t really going to escape...
The plan was to try and see how long it takes for the security or even Enzo to respond while also testing for holes in their defenses.
I wore all black even though it was daytime and the Fall sun was being way more fucking brutal than I expected it to. But I had no time to go back and change. They might come out of their meeting any moment and then this experiment would be ruined.
Checking to make sure the coast was clear, I grab onto the ivory vines stretching all across the wall and climb, hauling myself over the top, I straddle the wall. As I looked out, From here I could see the entire forefront of the Mansion and I could say one thing with utter certainty, the Corretti’s have style.
Their estate was vast and beautiful. It had a round fountain in the middle of the driveway, with a lion roaring, sprouting water from its mouth. Guards were stationed on every corner of the place; some chatting, some patrolling, some hauling unidentifiable things into the house from vans parked out front. They had a whole army at their disposal no wonder they got away with shit.
I looked down at the neighboring house. Right below me were some bushes and without thinking, because I’m an idiot, I jump into the fucking bush.
Several things are prickling me all over my body but I’m alive. I wince a little and push myself up. I’m bleeding all over now because apparently, this isn’t an ordinary bush, it’s a freaking rose bush. Fuck my life.
Righting myself, I pick off the little thorns still stuck in my skin and try not to cuss as much as I wanted to. I didn’t want to be heard.
When I’m alright, though still bleeding from the little cuts, I push past some more bushes and walk into the neighbor’s backyard. There was a pool house to my left, a kidney-shaped pool stretching out in front of me, with a flamingo floatie sailing around. I walk on, knowing I won’t make it to the front gate of my neighbour’s house without their security coming for me or Enzo’s.
I walk past the pool house and pause, my eyes falling on the large dog kennel.
I turn on my heels to head back over to Enzo’s house.
Nope, I wasn’t going to deal with anybody’s mutant dog. I’ve watched too many movies to know how that’ll turn out.
I was heading back when a small, puny bark drifted to me. I turn to the sound and only a couple paces away was the tiniest dog I’ve ever laid eyes on. It was a husky from what I garnered, with a black and white coat. He had the yellowest eyes that peered up at me curiously, his little tongue falling out of his mouth.
“Aww, hey there buddy,” I called, stepping towards it. He tilted his head to the side, wagging his tail as he watched. “Come, boy, I won’t hurt you.” I reached for him and surprisingly, he came to me. He sniffed my hand and when he found me worthy he rubbed his head against my arm.
“You’re so cute,” I cooed, bringing him to my chest and I giggled when he yips and licked at my face. “Aww, what’s your name boy?” I checked for a collar but he didn’t have any. “Then I’ll just have to name you then... mhmm.” I thought as he panted up at me, his yellow eyes gleaming, reminding me a lot of the yellow poppies that grew back at home. “I know... I’ll name you Poppy. Do you like that boy?” He lets out a little bark, his tail wagging excitedly and I knew I got the right one.
That’s when I heard it.
The low, growl to my right and my whole body seized up. Poppy started barking eagerly and I knew I was about to meet Mama Poppy. Slowly I turned around and almost shit myself at the sheer size of the Mama.
That was no dog.
If there was a dog here. That wolf ate the dog, then ate a horse because no way do they come in that size. The dog growled, muscles tense, mouth-frothing and shit... and I knew... I was about to be mauled to death.
“It’s okay...” I say tensely. My body trembling with fright. “Here, you can have him back. You see I was protecting him. There was an eagle and it was going to get him but he’s okay. See, you’re welcome...” Slowly but surely I put Poppy back onto the floor and it padded towards his mother.
Yet, the mother still growled. I backed up... “Where is Paw Patrol when you need em’.”
The dog barked, hard and loud, and I didn’t grasp the level of stupid I am until that very moment when I pointed at the dog and yelled, “Bad dog!”
Then it rushed me.
The dog bounded behind me and I hurdled over the bushes, faceplant into the wall as I gripped the vines. I wasn’t fast enough and the dog held on to the hem of my pants pulling at my leg as I held onto the vines.
I kicked the dog wildly, thanking God when my leg connected with some part of her. I scurried up the wall, throwing myself on the other side.
My chest rises and falls like I’d just ran for my life and look at that... I did. I laid spread eagle in front of the wall, catching my breath. That was a bloody close one. All for a cute dog that I still wanted.
I stayed there, staring up at the sky, contemplating life when a shadow fell over me. I squinted up. “You got your ass handed to you by Leslie, didn’t you?” Malachai laughed.
He offered his hand to help me up but I batted it away, helping myself. “And who the hell names their mutated guard dog Leslie. That’s so misleading.” I dusted myself off, wincing when I remember the cuts from earlier, the ones caused by the rose bush. I’d need several plasters it looks like. “How did you find me anyway?”
“A couple guards saw you climb the wall. Enzo sent me to check up on you.”
“How thoughtful of you to find me after I almost get mutilated by a horse-dog!”
He shrugged, not threatened by my stink-eye one bit. “It was funny watching you run away from Leslie. I even recorded it. You wanna see.”
Gritting my teeth, I spin on my heel and march back to the house with the sounds of my screaming and Leslie’s monstrous growling playing behind me, muted by Malachai’s guffaws.
I take back everything I said earlier, I hated him too.
His laughing stopped all of a sudden and I turned back around to see what got over him when something small and fast bounded towards me. Images of Leslie had me preparing to Hercules my ass out of there until the small thing landed by my foot.
It was Poppy!
“Hey boy, you came back for me.” After checking Leslie wasn’t around, I bent down and scooped up the little guy. He yipped happily, wagging his tail and licking my face eagerly.
“Mal, this is Poppy. Poppy, Mal,” I make introductions moving towards Malachai. He takes a tensive step away as I get closer with the dog. He’s staring at the thing as if it’s an extraterrestrial being that came to probe his mind for tomorrow’s lotto numbers.
“First things first, you named your puppy, Poppy?” He asked with an eyebrow quirked.
“Yeah, so... And you’re named after a serial killer.”
He ignored my lame attempt at a retort and says instead, “He’s not going to let you keep him.”
“I don’t need his permission.”
“No, what you need is a good eulogy at your funeral when he kills you.”
“It’s just a dog,” I murmur.
“Exactly, he hates dogs.”
“And he kept you,” I retorted.
“Har-har, take him back. I’m not going to help you explain him to the boss.”
“I didn’t ask you to. I could handle Enzo.” Lie.
I don’t think anyone could handle Enzo. I don’t think Enzo could handle Enzo at times.
I turn, heading to the house, Malachai on my heel. I keep Poppy close to my chest as he claws up my chest, panting. I go into the kitchen, finding Sandor at the stove. He turned around and his eyes widened when he saw what I was carrying. “Oh, Master Enzo is not going to like that.”
I roll my eyes, plopping down on the stool. “Do you happen to have any dog food?” I asked him.
He looked at me, then at Malachai. “Is she serious?”
“She is right here,” I glare at him. “And fine, I’ll just give him some cereal. Dog’s eat cereal right?”
Malachai looked at the dog worriedly. “You know what, I was afraid for your life but it seems I should be praying for the dog’s.” Sandor joined him in making fun of me and I didn’t enjoy their company anymore.
“Assholes,” I grumbled as I exited the kitchen. To get to my bedroom I had to pass by Enzo’s office and to tell you the truth, Sandor and Malachai didn’t make me feel optimistic in the least. So I stuffed Poppy into my top and hoped he’d be quiet as I crept by, up to my room.
God decided to play tricks because, at that moment, his door swung open.
I kept my head down, pretending I didn’t notice him in the doorway but Poppy had other plans. He let out a series of barks and yips and I froze.
“Did your tits just bark or is that a dog?”
“Of course not, silly. There’s no dog here.” Then Poppy reached up to his head and slipped it over the neckline of my top. Enzo looked at the dog then back at me.
He folded his arms over his chest and leaned against the doorframe, appraising me. “Where did you get it?”
“I don’t want to tell you. You’ll take him back.”
“Precisely. You’re not keeping him.”
“And why the hell not?” I snap and Poppy whined into my chest so I softened my tone. “Why do you always have to be such a dick?”
“It comes with the family name,” he quipped. “Now, give him to me...”
“No.” I spun out of his reach. Gone was the blank mask, he was visibly pissed now.
“Dylan,” he stepped to me. His eyes hard and his chest inches away from my face. I had to look up to see the angry tick in his jaw. “Don’t make me throw you over my knee and finish what we started yesterday, mia cara. The only thing girls like you seem to respond to is force.”
“You’d like that won’t you.”
His eyes dropped to my lips then met my eyes again. He licked his lips. “You have no idea.”
A shiver worked its way up my spine as heat pooled between my legs. Our eyes stayed locked at the silent battle for dominance between us two. Our stare-down only broke later when Poppy started nipping on Enzo’s shirt sleeve. He looked down at him. Fearing he’d throw Poppy across the room because he seemed like that type of guy, I stepped away from him.
I opened my mouth to try another tactic but he crushed all hope before I could get a word in. “You’re not going to make me change my mind, Dylan. Give him to me.”
“Don’t test me,” he warned.
Looking down at Poppy and his yellow eyes, I say my goodbyes and hand him over. Enzo held it away like he started the Black Plague.
“I hate you,” I said with all the fervor I could muster, then I spun on my heels and marched back to my room, tears welling in my eyes. I didn’t know I’d grown an attachment to the dog so quickly but I had. He reminded me of a life I could’ve had if things didn’t turn out the way it did. A life where things were much simpler. A life when my parents were alive.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
The sky was darkening when there was a knock on my bedroom door. I reluctantly opened it up and gasp when I saw who was standing out there. Enzo stood in a simple white V neck and jeans and my eyes shamelessly take him in. I’ve never seen him so casual before, and I’d have to say I love the look.
Then my eyes fell to what he was clutching.
“Poppy!” I scream grabbing for him. He yelps but when he recognized me he started to lick and nip at my face. I giggle.
I looked up Enzo’s gaze. “Does this mean I can keep him?”
He nodded, “I sent Sandor out for dog food and whatever else he needs.” A smile stretches out on my face and something has my heart clenching. “But if he shits anywhere in this house, he’s gone. Do we understand eachother?”
Resting Poppy on the ground, I did something I never thought I’ll ever do. I reached up and planted a small kiss on his cheek. He stiffened. “Thank you,” I whispered. I picked up the dog and closed the door for the night.