My Louboutins met lush red carpet as Enzo helped me out of the escalade. I squinted through the bright lights of the cameras flashing all around me. I successfully climbed out of the car without tripping on my dress. Enzo led me to Nino, Vince, Malachai, and Emilia who were doing their best to ignore the shouts and questions from the paparazzi gathered.
I jumped a little when Enzo intertwined his hands with mine. I looked down at our locked hands and then at him. He leaned down. “Remember we’re putting on a show,” he whispered.
I almost forgot.
He guided me into the lobby of the posh building. Men and women in fancy dresses and diamonds milled around the hall. When we entered, eyes followed us, the Corretti name whispered under breath.
There’s an elevator a couple of feet in front of us and it looks like we were heading towards it. I draw up short causing Enzo to stop with me since we were joined by the hands. The rest of his family went on.
“I’m not going in that family-size death box,” I said to him.
His brows furrowed. He looked at the elevator then back at me. “It’s just an elevator, mia cara. The chance of someone dying from an elevator is low to none.”
“Exactly, and it will stay that way if I take the stairs. Now if you’d excuse me...” He didn’t let go of my hand.
“You’re being ridiculous,” he said gruffly.
“No, I’m being realistic. Now let me go,” I tried to wiggle my hand out of his but again he refuses to let go.
“Have you been on an elevator before?” He asked me.
“Come,” he pulled me forward but I dug my feet into the ground.
“You’re making a scene.”
“You’re making a scene. You’re trying to kill me!” I said that part a little too loud. Whispering started up around us.
“Dylan,” Enzo growled.
“Just let me take the freaking stairs!” I whisper-yell.
I had been yanking on his hand so when he let go abruptly I landed on my ass. “Ouch!”
He stood over me rubbing the bridge of his nose. “Take the elevator with me and I promise you, Dylan, I won’t let anything happen to you.”
I started to protest but he stopped me. “Nothing will happen to you, you have my word.” There was a softness in his eyes that wasn’t there before and for the first time, I considered trusting him.
I took his outstretched hands and he lifted me from the ground. “So, is that a yes?” He asked.
“Yes-- but if we get stuck in there I’m eating you,” I say by way of warning and he grinned, taking my hand again. We get into the metal box, my hands start sweating and a dozen thoughts and scenarios accelerate inside my head. The doors begin to close and that’s it. “I can’t do this!” But I’m locked in place by an arm around my waist.
The doors close shut and the box starts to move upwards and I’m on the edge of a panic attack. Enzo’s arm tightens around me and I bury my nose into his chest, focusing on my breathing and listening to the loud pounding of my heart against my ribcage. I feel his fingers caress up and down my spine soothingly and slowly my muscles relax.
“See, there’s nothing to be afraid of,” he whispers into my hair.
“Don’t speak so soon,” I said and I felt his chest rumble in quiet laughter.
There’s a loud ding then the doors open and I release him and bolt out into the hallway. I take big gulps of air then spin around to face Enzo.
“See that’s not so bad. I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” I tell him with a self-satisfied grin on my face. I RODE AN ELEVATOR! AND I DIDN’T PUKE!
He shook his head as he pushed off the wall. “You are one crazy woman.”
I shrug nonchalantly. Story of my life.
He took my hand again, something I’ve become rather comfortable with, and escorted me further into the room. The room was lowly lit, but ostentatious chandeliers and lights shone dimly over the well-dressed guests. There are over a dozen sets of tables and chairs surrounding a stage that sat right in front of a glass wall. You could see the New York skyline from here and it’s beautiful.
We maneuver through the crowd. Some people parted for us as we go, recognizing Enzo so we made it to the table easily enough.
Nino is stuffing his face with some hors d’oeuvres and I release Enzo’s hand to chase him down. He had a whole tray in front of him. I reached for one and he downright growled at my hand.
“Share,” I said.
I narrowed my eyes. “Give one to me or I’ll tell everyone what I caught you doing in the bathroom.”
He gasps and I see everyone lean forward in interest. “What was he doing?” Malachai asked, eagerly.
“None of your business,” Nino snapped at him. He glared at me. “Fine, you evil, evil woman.”
I took a couple and plopped down beside Enzo. “Pleasure doing business with you, hombre.” I stuff my face not caring who’s watching because one, I was hungry and two I would hardly see any of these people again after tonight so who cares what they think.
Enzo flagged down another waiter for me after I was practically making love to this entre. I’m on my fifth when I clear my throat. “So, why are we here again? And what’s all this about?”
“This is an auction,” Enzo said, gesturing around us. “Women are offering to go on a date for the highest bidder..”
I nod, nibbling on my snack. “That’s nice... but why are we here?”
“Why not?” Enzo smirked as he took a sip of his drink. “Who knows, maybe I might find someone interesting enough to take on a date.”
Why did that cause a knot in my stomach?
“Well, whoever the unlucky lady is, I hope she’s on something because that’s the only way she’ll be getting through a night with you.”
His grin widens as he leans into me. His hand rests on the back of my chair and I feel his fingers thrum through the ends of my hair. There is something predatory in the way he’s looking at me and the way my body is heating up... I like it.
“That, to me, sounds like jealousy, mia cara.”
I glare at him. “And that, to me, sounds like delusion. I am not jealous, especially with whoever you choose to screw.”
I hiss as he suddenly fists my hair and pulling my head back so our faces were inches away from each other. I felt his breath on my cheek and I wanted nothing more than to close the space between us. “Then why don’t I believe you,” he whispered gruffly.
The air crackles between us... until someone clears their throat, dousing us from the compulsion.
I had to get my head checked because if we weren’t interrupted I knew I would’ve kissed him... and I wouldn’t stop.
We stayed like that for a few seconds. Him staring at me, as though he’s looking for something in my eyes. Then almost reluctantly and with that infuriating smug smirk on his lips he released my hair and turned to the man. I notice the table was empty firstly and that the man stood on the other side of the round table with a few men at his back.
Enzo looked at him with a bored frown. “Can I help you?”
“Sí, Mr. Corretti,” He said with a Mexican accent and I sat up. “I am Sancho Moreno. I didn’t know you would be here but since I found you, Don X sends his regards.”
Enzo’s face was blank as ever but below the table he squeezed my thigh. “Is that right?” Enzo said. “Why didn’t this Don X come say it to me directly? For a man who organizes men to trifle with my things, it is very cowardly of him to let his cheerleaders do all his dirty work.”
Sancho bristled at his words, “Don X is anything but cowardly and I am not his cheerleader.”
“My apologies. I meant his bitches.”
Sancho’s nostrils flared as his men took a step forward threateningly. Sancho put out a hand to stop them. “You wouldn’t be smiling as you are now when we rip apart everything you built,” he sneered.
Enzo cocked his head to the side. “Mmhmm, and until then tell Don X I’m yet to be impressed. I’ll call him my equal when he graduates from shooting up construction sites and innocent people and does something worthwhile. Oh, how about calling up your friend Harvey from Port of Tuxpan, to cease all my assets coming into Mexico? Now that is a good fuck you if I’ve ever seen one.” Sancho freezes and Enzo caught it like the predator he is. “But that was your next plan, huh?”
“How the hell could you possibly know that?” One of his men shouted in outrage.
“Good question, man I don’t know?” Enzo said, his hand tracing symbols on my thigh as he talked. “I know because I am the Famiglia. I know where you live, where you eat, where you wash your ass. I know everything about my enemies and lucky you, you just become annoying enough to make the list.”
Sancho glared death at Enzo. His men seem to be in awe, I was too... and a little turned on. Sancho scowled once. “We will meet again, Corretti.”
“Now that I can promise you,” Enzo said with so much venom and spite, that it made my toes curl. “Give your Don my regards would you?” Enzo said by way of farewell. The men disappeared into the crowd and I shook my head.
Enzo took a sip of his drink and turned to me, his hand still on my thigh. “You sure know how to press someone’s buttons,” I said. “Who was he anyway?”
“Los Toros Consigliere.”
My eyebrows jumped. “And you knew he was going to be here? He’s the reason we’re here, isn’t it?”
He merely smirked and I took that as confirmation.
“I’m sorry for anyone who crosses you,” I say truthfully.
• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Enzo has a squadron of billionaires and CEOs vying for his attention. He’s in a heated conversation with some Arabian prince when I pull on his sleeve to get his attention. “I’m going to use the washroom.”
He nods absently. “Take Emilia with you.”
I make my way to the lady’s room anyway, ignoring his request. I could take care of myself. Unlike a nightclub, where the washrooms are usually packed with drunk, teary-eyed girls. This one is different. It’s unoccupied for one and doesn’t smell like vomit. I go straight to the sink and wet my hand to dab water on the back of my neck and up my forearm. I take a minute to catch myself.
This is all strange to me. I’ve never been to these parties before and around people like these. It’s a bit overwhelming.
I turn off the pipe and head for the door. The hallway is dark and empty by the time I get into it. I barely get a foot past the door before I’m slammed against a wall. My teeth clatter in the impact and I wince as pain shoot all along my jaw. I glare at my assailant.
Balding head and beady eyes. Rossi.
“Ah, mariposa. I was wondering when I’ll see you next,” his eyes rake my figure. “I’ll have to say, you left quite an impression on me at the dinner party, my dear Dylan. I’ve never seen anyone quite as exquisite as you.”
“That’s nice and all,” I said, he reached my chin in my heels and his fat hands blocked my exits. “But my boyfriend is waiting on me. If you’ll excuse me.”
He didn’t make an attempt to move and I internally got ready to kick and run. I’m good with a gun but one-on-one battles weren’t my thing.
“Ah, Mr. Corretti, I almost forgot.” The look in his eyes contradicted his words. “I hope he won’t be greedy and keep you away from the auction, Ms. Alvarez. I’m sure there are a bunch of men who will love to take you on a date. Corretti isn’t the only man with money, mariposa.”
I narrow my eyes and step into his face, his hand fell and a lust-filled look came over him. I nearly blanched. “Are you insinuating I’m with Enzo for his money?”
“Of course not,” He said. “I’m merely reminding you of your options.”
“The only way you’ll get me is as a corpse. Now if you’ll excuse me,” I push past him and made my to our table.
“You look pale,” A voice says behind me. I face Enzo.
“You don’t look fine,” he said. “What’s wrong?”
“Careful there, bossman. You almost sound like you cared.”
He lifted his chin. “I’m just looking out for my assets.”
There’s a sharp pang in my chest at his words but I swallow it down, afraid of what it means.
Vince and the rest of the guys saunter towards us. “It’s about to start and Enzo...” Vince leans over the table to whisper something I couldn’t catch no matter how much I strain my ears.
Enzo is in a good mood the rest of the night. An announcer takes the stage and introduces the first girl. There’s a round of applause and whistling as bids are shouted across the room, numbers higher than I can count.
“So all she has to do is go out with these guys for a night. No sex?” I ask incredulously.
“Not unless she wants to,” Enzo says.
“Thirty thousand going once going twice...” The announcer rambles out and my jaw drops.
“Where does this money go?” I ask him.
“I’m a charity. I’m broke as shit. Do you think he’ll give me a portion of the money if I ask nicely?”
“Maybe if you flash a titty,” he mused.
His eyes swung to mines, “You’re considering it?”
I shrug, nonchalantly and turn to face the stage letting him decide what that shrug meant. The girl in the emerald dress is escorted to a man in a navy tux who is thirty-thousand-dollar-poorer and my eyebrows jump, shocked at how good-looking he is. My eyes fall on Rossi, a couple of tables away from ours, who was already staring at me. The look in his eyes made my skin crawl.
“Next up, we have the gorgeous Dylan Alvarez...” He announces and my head snaps to the stage as applause sounds.
You have got to be kidding me.
Slowly I turn to Enzo. He had a self-satisfied grin on his lips as I glowered at him. “You’re a dead man,” I said through gritted teeth but he merely winked, unfazed by my threat.
I get up slowly and take the stage but all I see is Rossi’s greasy, excited smile.