Each of them had their own pipe between their lips with either a foot crossed over their knees or inching towards the end of their seats. Giovanni, the leader of the Sicilian Mafia, watched each of his affiliates in anticipation after the pitch he had just made.
Among them were his underboss, James, Luigi, Giovanni’s advisor, Valentin and two unfamiliar faces. Valentin had been in the meeting for the past two hours, trying to keep his anger under control as he listened to Giovanni make plans of expanding his business, which included acquiring larger weapons like nuclear bombs.
It was in that same meeting that Valentin learnt what Giovanni’s true intentions were. He only needed Valentin’s money in his new plan. That was the only reason why he hadn’t shown his true colours quite yet. Valentin remained quiet throughout most of the meeting. He thought Giovanni’s idea was reasonable and smart, but even thinking about going along with it caused an unfamiliar feeling to rise in his chest. Guilt.
Without even thinking too hard, he knew that Sapphire was the cause of his uncertainty. If this were two months ago, he’d jump on the bandwagon without a doubt. But somehow, Sapphire had wiggled her morals and ethics bullshit in his mind, and thus he was thinking about how this weapon could be dangerous to others instead of how it would benefit him.
However, Sapphire was the least of his concerns at the moment. His eyes would momentarily flicker throughout the entire meeting towards the two new faces seated across from him. The man on the left was bald with dark, brooding eyes, but the evident mischief in his features made Valentin uneasy. The second gentleman beside him was much younger but held a striking resemblance to the bald man. Valentin concluded that they were father and son, but he had no idea who they were, as Giovanni didn’t care to introduce them.
Of course, this made Valentin more suspicious of them. Though Giovanni and James had no idea that he knew about their betrayal, the fact that they purposely avoided introductions was far too sketchy.
“Tell me, Giovanni, what will be done with this weapon?” Valentin asked, finally breaking the silence.
Giovanni’s head turned towards Valentin as a smile broke out on his face, showcasing his golden tooth clearly. “Ah, my friend. We will sell it of course! And that for triple the money we bought it for. You see, there will be an auction next month for the Luthur Roshan bomb of 2017. It’s one of the most powerful nuclear bombs to ever be made. It can take out the entire western hemisphere in so much of a blink. With our resources combined, we can bid for the highest value and then hold our own auction a few months later. It’s brilliant!”
“Hhmm,” Valentin nodded slowly as he turned towards the bald man and his son, who hadn’t said anything since the meeting started. “What do you think?”
The younger man’s eyebrows shot up in shock, and the evident uneasiness on his features showed how nervous he was. It was then that Valentin realised that the lad feared him.
“We think it is a brilliant idea,” the older man said, his voice dripping in a thick, Italian accent. Valentin’s eyes narrowed involuntarily at this. Perhaps the reason why they hadn’t spoken since the meeting started was that Giovanni didn’t want Valentin to figure out that they were Italians too, and as Valentin vividly remembered, the Nemeci Mafia were Italian.
“I’m sorry, but I didn’t think we were properly introduced.” Valentin leant back in his chair as he rested his pipe on the coffee table. He caught Giovanni’s quick gulp from the corner of his eyes, but he never drifted his gaze from the men in front of him.
“This is Uniq and his son Leo,” Giovanni interrupted in a tone that seemed dismissive. But Valentin was entirely through yet.
“Oh? Are they investors as well?”
“Si. I trust that will not be an issue, Valentin.”
Valentin shook his head as he finally shifted his gaze towards Giovanni. “Not at all,” he mumbled. “Are they a part of a Mafia? New affiliates, I presume.”
“No.” Both Giovanni and Leo spoke simultaneously, and their contradicting words earned Leo a glare from Giovanni and his father.
It was evident that he had a lot to learn, but his bravery was admirable.
Giovanni cleared his throat as he returned his attention back to Valentin. “So, as we were saying, if we agree on this investment, it could yield great rewards for us all.”
Dismissing the conversation and meeting, Valentin stood from his seat and closed the first two buttons of his jacket. “Indeed. I will communicate my decision within two days. Until then, I bid you gentlemen a good evening.”
With that, Valentin turned on his heels and left them in Giovanni’s conference room.
His blood had been boiling from the instant he set foot on the compound. He remembered Sapphire’s plea to him to keep his anger at bay so he wouldn’t lose his life. He thought it’d be easy, but when he saw Giovanni’s smile, he only noticed then how fake it really was.
He was more annoyed by himself more than anyone else to be so blind and gullible. He knew that he had no intentions to join them in buying this nuclear weapon. If they really were traitors, then perhaps this was Giovanni’s way of using Valentin to bid at the highest price, after which he resells it, and Valentin gets none of the money.
Valentin was no fool. He knew that Uniq and Leo could most likely be from the Nemeci Mafia. The signs were all there. The fact that they were present at the meeting said enough, not to mention Leo’s slip up when he answered ‘yes’ to Valentin’s question earlier while Giovanni said no.
It was settled. This was the only reason why they needed Valentin. They needed his share in money to bid at the highest price for the weapon because without Valentin’s hands in the cards, they’d fail miserably. Valentin made up his mind that he would not put a dime towards that bid. He only told them he would think about it because he needed to get away unscratched.
Unlike what he promised to Sapphire, he didn’t actually bring someone with him. Giovanni knew that Valentin always travelled alone to meetings, so whoever he brought for security remained at the hotel when he left for the meeting.
Valentin decided to bite them before they bit him. It was bound to come to light sooner or later that the Sicilian Mafia was no faithful ally of his. So, when Valentin refuses this offer, they will more than likely figure out that he knew.
But Valentin wanted to be far away from both of them when he did. He wasn’t afraid of them, but he simply didn’t trust them. Not anymore.
What would have come of him if it wasn’t for Sapphire? he thought as he sat in his car and roared the engine to life.
Indeed, he would’ve eagerly agreed to this plan since it was depicted that he would reap great rewards from it. But now, everything felt different, and it wasn’t only about the betrayal. His mind wandered to more mundane things like what if this weapon falls into the wrong hands and knowing himself, this wouldn’t have been an issue for him if it hadn’t been for her.
Sapphire was not only toying with his emotions but messing with his thoughts too. Valentin cursed under his breath as he pulled out of Giovanni’s compound, passing the gate with nothing but a snarl of disgust, knowing he wouldn’t ever step foot inside that place ever again.
He resisted the urge to turn around and kill every last one of them as he floored the gas pedal. He tried to distract himself with thoughts of a certain green-eyed woman. Surely, when he should return home, she’d want to know about the meeting. Will he tell her? Valentin knew without a doubt that she wouldn’t be okay with Giovanni’s plan. With a weapon that lethal, she’d rather it be tucked away in her arms rather than flaunted carelessly among men who only care about money.
Valentin could already hear her voice and see her glare. The very distinct way her eyebrows would pull together when she wasn’t happy about something was almost cute in his mind. The way she would perch her hand on her side and point her manicured finger in his face when she wanted to make a statement had become the sexiest image of her in his head.
Oddly, Valentin wanted to see it all sooner than he should’ve. He wanted to see her, as he felt like he had been away from her far too long. He cursed himself for growing soft for Sapphire, but how could he not? She bewitched him in every way a woman could, with her body, mind and personality. Even though he’d never admit it out loud, he loved the way she would stand firm on a decision. It showed her true strength. Her authoritative nature was sometimes annoying, especially when they had two completely different views on something. But he had grown to appreciate this very nature of her. It made her unique.
A smile tugged on his lips as he turned onto the main road. It felt weird.
Even miles away, Sapphire had somehow found her way inside his head and caused him to smile on such a wretched and angry day for him. He wasn’t supposed to return home until tomorrow, but with the meeting over, Valentin saw no need to stay in Sicily any longer. He could return home tonight.
He could see her tonight.
With his mind made up, Valentin grabbed his phone from his jacket and phoned the hotel, letting them know that he was checking out tonight instead. He then called his pilot and informed him of the new arrangement. After about ten calls, it was set in stone that he’d return home tonight instead of tomorrow.
When he arrived at the hotel, he grabbed his duffle bag and left a small tip for the maid before leaving his suite room. His guards were already waiting for him, and the receptionist wasted no time in getting him out when he arrived at the lobby.
The sky was painted in the rainbow colours of the sunset when he left the hotel. It was only a few minutes after seven o’clock in the evening. It wasn’t a long flight home, but Valentin decided that it would be best to have dinner before he left the island, and he was looking forward to visiting his favourite restaurant in the city before leaving.
His mind wandered to what Sapphire was doing at that moment. He thought about what her reaction to seeing him would be. It was a strange feeling to him. To be thinking about someone so much and almost longing to see her again. Did he miss her? He wasn’t sure, as the only person he had ever missed was his mother, and it had been years since he felt such emotion.
Though fighting it seemed useless, Valentin tried to remind himself that he couldn’t let his feelings get too far with her. He wanted to know what her body felt like in his arms. He wanted to look at her beneath him while she screamed his name. But lately, this wasn’t the only thing he wanted. Valentin realised that he wanted simple things, like seeing her smile and feeling her hands on his. And the way she hugged him a few days ago never really left his mind. He wanted her to do it again.
This wasn’t supposed to happen, and Valentin wanted her out of his system. But even then, the thought of having less of her felt awful.
Whether he wanted to admit it or not, Valentin knew that soon, he’d have to find a way to control himself. His business and sanity depended on it.
The drive to the restaurant was longer than he remembered. It was close to the airport, so it was convenient. The sky was completely dark when he finally arrived, and the eerieness of the restaurant was what he remembered—warm, alluring and calming. The scent of food lingered too, and Valentin took his usual seat near the windows. It wasn’t a fancy restaurant, but it was always his favourite five-star place to dine in the area.
As always, the service was excellent, and he received his food quicker than at most restaurants. Dining alone was never an issue for him, but he noticed the way the waitress would momentarily glance at him, even when she was serving other tables.
She caught him staring, too, though it was more out of curiosity rather than interest. She was a beauty indeed, but not Valentin’s type. He wasn’t usually the person to be picky with women, but lately, all his interests lie in red hair and olive skin.
The waitress’s dark hair was neatly curled into a bun at the back of her head, and her striking blue eyes caressed Valentin as she stalked towards the kitchen with long, wavy strides. Her hips were generous enough, and her waist was relatively thin. Yet, the more Valentin tried to arouse himself by the sight of her, she simply didn’t seem appealing to him.
Sighing, Valentin dropped his gaze to his phone, where the time read 9:35. He acknowledged that it would be 11:35 back home, and so by the time he arrived, Sapphire would already be asleep. Disappointment gnawed at his mind at the fact that he’d have to wait to see her. Yet, it would be sooner than if he had left tomorrow instead.
“Do you need anything else, Mr Dominik?” a voice asked from in front of him. Valentin raised his head to find the waitress standing in front of him with her breast pushed towards his face as she batted her eyelashes suggestively.
He glanced down at his empty plate and glass before shaking his head. “No, just the bill, please.”
The woman’s face fell in disappointment when Valentin returned his gaze to his phone. “Are you sure?” she asked quickly. “Dessert would be free.”
Valentin lifted his head towards her again, noticing her teasing smirk. Usually, he would go for women like this, who only wanted a good time once and who he’d never have to see again. But yet again, she only intrigued him so slightly.
“I said I’m fine, thank you.” He flickered his wrist dismissively as his phone rang.
“Go,” he instantly dismissed as he analysed the number. It wasn’t saved to his contacts, obviously, but he recognised it as a number from one of his guards, seeing that they all had serialised numbers.
Worry shook him for a while as he thought about why one of them would be calling him, and so, he clicked the green button and brought the phone to his ears.
“Hello?” he mumbled, and almost instantly, a woman’s voice came rambling through the line in fast Russian. It sounded like she was whispering, but what she said confused Valentin to the core.
All he heard was, ‘they are planning to kill Sapphire’, and something in him shifted as he instinctively rose from his seat. He no longer heard anything else on the line or around the restaurant as he grabbed a few notes from his wallet and flung them onto the table.
The cold air welcomed him wholeheartedly as he left the building, holding the phone against his ears with the rambling woman still on the line.
He almost killed a few people as he sped through the parking lot, and the instant he was onto the main road, the car didn’t decelerate to anything less than 180 km/h.
But even as he raced through the night towards the airport, only a single thought lingered in his mind.
There’s no way he’d be able to make it back in time. He’ll be too late, and Sapphire will be dead.