“Thank you for meeting with me,” a shady man wearing a large fur coat nods his head.
I feel like a fly on the wall. A group of suited men stand around the living area like ready bodyguards. Judah sits across from the shady man. Judging by his accent, he’s probably Italian. The heavy air forbids me to move a muscle. I hold in my cough, when the guest pumps his cigar.
“No problem,” Judah replies, unfazed by the haze in the room.
“They shot Frankie.”
No one speaks for a few minutes. I don’t blink, in case it might be heard.
Fur coat man continues, “I want them to pay.”
“Tonight,” Judah asks, “Or tomorrow?”
Pleased with the mutual feeling of urgency to get even, fur coat man stands up. I stare at the tattoos lining his neck and face. He’s scarier looking than Judah. I gulp to the maximum. I try to unpack their ambiguous sentences. This sounds like a plot for revenge. I’m only guessing.
“Whenever you see fit,” he points. He fixes his fur coat and head towards the exit. “Don’t let them breathe too long.”
Judah now stands tall.
“Fine. But your men quit following my girl. If you want to know something, you come straight to me,” Judah threatens in one cold tone.
I wasn’t sure if he was talking about me, until fur man glanced at me from the corner of his eye. He then shrugs his shoulders with a surrendering smile and turns to Judah.
“I was curious whether—”
“I’ll kill you quick.” Judah cuts him off.
Goosebumps raid my arms, and I hold my breath. I hate having to hear things like this. I can’t wrap my mind around Judah’s intent or reason. Fur man pauses, but then finally nods. His long face seeps arrogance, but I can clearly see that he regards Judah highly, even though he’s pissed him off.
Following me? Those guards have been keeping watch on me? When? Why? I’ve never even noticed. The more I think about it, the more I realize how deep I’ve gotten in this mess—this whirlwind. I stare at my knees, feeling stressed and under pressure. If only my naivety and stupidity weren’t so overpowering when I’m by Judah’s side...
“I’ll leave first,” fur man says.
He walks out the door, swaggering his rectangular shoulders from side to side. Even other gangsters know to keep their distance from Judah, if they wished to live long. So why do I, a complete empty-headed nobody, keep going to him every time he calls?
It becomes silent again, after the door clasps shut. For a minute, I wished that fur man took me with him... Anything, so I can be away from Judah.
“Are you going to kill someone?” I ask in whispers, before my heart goes into cardiac arrest.
Judah ignores my question and takes my sweaty hand. He brings us to the bedroom and closes the door. I act like a dumb lab rat that follows wherever the bright yellow cheese goes.
“Have you—you killed someone... before?” I turn to face his devilish gaze.
Judah doesn’t deny it, nor affirm it. I go with the worst case scenario, because killing people isn’t something you leave up to others’ imaginations. I continue talking to make sure I that haven’t lost my sanity.
“And—and those guys...” I point behind me, “What do you mean they were following me?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Judah finally speaks just to shut me up.
“W-why’d you call me your girl?” I give him a confused look.
Suddenly, Judah pushes me right onto the bed and climbs over me. I let out a shrill gasp and put up my fists for defence. He closes in on me, leaning his head down until our foreheads brush against one another.
“You’re mine,” he tells me.
I pause, exhaling, “W-what? S-since when?”
I beat his chest with my miniature fists, but he only presses his weight on me. What’s going on? I can’t seem to figure out this guy’s deal? Why would he even want me? We’re too different! He’s dark, dangerous, and built like a God. I’m a plain, clueless girl. I also have zero attractive traits. He just wants to get into my pants... And he thinks it’ll be super easy.
“First, I’m going to kiss you,” he says, as his breath descends on my face. I clench my jaw, feeling hot and nervous underneath him. His hands move down my body freely. “But I won’t tell you what I’ll do next.”
He presses his lips on mine, positioning my knees by his sides. I did the wrong thing and part my mouth.
Just a second ago, I was ready to throw a hammer at his head. But now, I’m counting his kisses... Oh, God.
But it feels so good. His lips force me to move along. This is very wrong, and yet I can’t help myself.
“I... I don’t... even know you,” I try to speak, despite him sucking my lips.
He moves down to my neck. His actions make me shiver and blush. His deep, husky voice reaches my ears.
“It’s better that way, sweet cheeks.”
I heave air in and out of my lungs. His hands cup my body. Oh, God. What am I supposed to do? I feel him reaching for my underwear and I shut my eyes. Feeling him on me is thrilling, but wrong, wrong, wrong.
“No,” I murmur, trying hard to push away his hands.
Judah groans, nuzzling my neck with kisses.
I’m slightly surprised... that he actually listened. He then tucks his hands on the small of my back, lifting my hips. I’m not sure how, but the feeling makes me wrap my legs around him.
After doing the math in my head all night, I understand why Judah brought me here... or at least I think I do. Although he’s still holding onto me, he’s asleep. If in fact I was being followed, then he basically warned them not to mess with me. I like that sense of protection, I think. I’ll never understand why Judah feels the need to protect me at all—we barely even know anything about each other. Plus, it’s so sudden and out of the blue... Part of me doesn’t mind it. I’m just not sure how I feel. Does he like me?
The closer we get to morning, the closer I am to Judah. Every minute, he pulls me just a little more to him. Overwhelmed with sleeplessness and embarrassment, I stay stiff like a wooden plank. His body and breaths are warm against my skin. I can’t help but think of his lips and what they do to me. I don’t think things can go back to normal.
My hands reach for the edge of the bed. I still can’t believe that I’m in bed with a boy... again. I pull myself up, watching Judah’s tatted arms fall limply to the side. In my head, I hear his voice say, ‘I dare you to walk five feet.’
I tip toe to the next room, although I’m pretty sure Judah’s not sleeping anymore. Cold sunlight bounces off the ivory wall and exposed bricks. The room is warm with a gas fire place. I stare around and notice the many lush plants that sit in their pots by the open window. My fingers knot themselves together. I take a deep breath and reach for the television remote. I sit on the sofa, believing that TV might distract me from the human being on the other side. I stress about missing two days of classes.
News headlines appear bright and waste no time telling me things I don’t want to know.
“Latest gang war erupts,” the anchor woman enunciates, “Shaking the gambling industry. Two men were murdered late last night in the underground car park of the Hudson Hotel. Police have not yet released their identities. Samuel Schwartz has more on the story.”
I then get a visual of a crime scene with yellow tape around the perimeters.
Journalist Sam raises his microphone and explains, “Behind me are investigators trying to wrap their minds around what happened last night. Not much is disclosed, but what we do know is that the two victims were wearing employee uniforms from Hudson Hotel. Their bodies were found in a black vehicle. A young woman witnessed the shootings and reported it to police; however, when it came time to help investigators, the woman disappeared. Investigators say that they were members of the Mafia and that this could be the start of more murders in the area. More questions are raised than answered. The public is advised to be extremely careful and stay safe. Judy.”
Anchor Judy fixes her papers above her desks and nods.
“Why are you watching that crap?”
I jump out of my spot, as my heart flips into cardiac arrest. I clutch my pounding chest and look up to Judah. He grabs the remote and shuts Sam and Judy off.
“Oh, you scared me,” I try to breathe.
Judah stares down at me and deeply says, “I don’t care. Get up, we’re going.”
“Uh-uh,” I utter.
I quickly follow behind him. I pray long and hard that I won’t find Sam and his camera crew in this parking lot.
“Why did you go to jail?”
The drive is long and arduous. All I can really focus on is how my heart has hit a roadblock. How many times do I have to tell myself to stay away from this guy? Every single thing is a warning sign, yet I keep going straight on. I look out the window. Even the highway signs say exit.
“I said why’d you go to jail?”
Judah checks his blind-spot.
“Because,” he says.
“Because what?” I frown and look at him.
“Just because,” he ends.
I sigh and cross my arms. I don’t know whether to persist or let it go. I’ll rip my hair out either way.
“It’s the first thing you told me,” I say.
He doesn’t say anything after.
I sigh, “The news was talking about gangs and stuff. Are you—”
“Stop talking, sweet cheeks,” he calmly shuts me down.
I stare at him now. His grey eyes are shadowy. Guilt, remorse, conviction—Judah doesn’t know what these things are. His hand hangs loosely off the steering wheel. It takes me a minute to find his other hand on my lap. I must have gotten used to the sensation. I must have gotten used to the way his thumb grazes lightly on my skin. There’s something addicting to the way his wandering palm presses in... how his fingers draw small circles on my inner thigh. The gradual squeeze has me holding my breath.
“Judah,” I break his request to keep quiet. “I just don’t want to be lied to...”
He glances at my frown and tells me something I already know.
“You’ll believe anything I say.”
We then pull up in front of my dorm. My bones finally warm up and stretch out of the car. I’m a little surprised when I don’t see Judah following me out of the car. The engine is still on. I think about the day we wasted together.
“Goodnight,” I let slip out my lips.
He’s not looking at me. He’s looking at the goodness of the night that I bid.
“Yeah,” he replies and presses on the pedal.
I watch the red lights on the back of the car fade away down the hill. I drown in my naivety. Maybe he doesn’t like me all too much. I let my lungs sigh. That’s fine. A devil has love for no one and nothing... well, only the night.
“Can I please get an extension for this paper?” I ask.
I stand in my professor’s office, begging.
The frosty old man shakes his head, “It was due today. Extensions are asked in advanced, miss Rosalie.”
“I know, I know. It’s just that something came up...”
He raises a brow, expecting a valid reason to be presented. But Judah is not valid enough for this academic sphere. When I stay quiet, the prof goes on.
“This paper was worth 20% of your final grade. You’ll have to ace the final, if you want to pass my class.”
I set my face like a flint and nod, “I understand.”
I spin around and exit his murky old office. Unless Judah is going to knock on my door and hand me my 20%, I’ll have to work my butt off. I have to stop getting distracted by him. School first, Rosalie. What’s going on with you these days—going on escapades with a complete ex-con stranger? Forgetting deadlines and skipping class? I can’t afford to continue this recklessness. My face hardens like a brick wall. I quickly make my way to the library for some catching up.
I find a nice quiet spot and open my laptop. Before I can scan through my lecture notes, my phone buzzes in my back pocket.
My focus is short lived, and my heart flutters.