Content warning: Nudity, more female representing nips, sexual themes, dangerously gorgeous rich boy… You get the drift by now.
The sun set and tinted Monte Vista pink and gold, then purple. Enzo could see the sky through the window to Gina’s bedroom, though he didn’t care for the world outside. The fading sunlight was a harsh reminder that reality awaited him back home. Unanswered calls waited in his phone, no doubt from Lia or his father, who wanted to know when he would be back. He had delayed twice—There’s just so much work, so I have to stay a little longer—just to spend another moment with her, basking in her smile and laughter.
But inevitably, he had to go. The guilt he had ignored so long was a hard lump in his stomach now, one that only dissolved when they made love or when she looked at him like he was worthy of her. Like he wasn’t a terrible human being that she had deigned to forgive.
“Stop it,” Gina said, her voice both teasing and tender.
She was naked, lit by the glow of her bedside lamp and the fading sun. He, yet again, traced the ink patterns on her arm, revelling in the beauty, the artistry, and in how arousing he found them… while still feeling guilty, of course. Gina smiled and nudged him softly.
“I said stop.”
“I’m not doing anything,” he said.
“You’re feeling guilty. I can tell because of your guilty face.”
“My guilty face? What does that look like?”
She tapped his nose with a fingertip and said: “Like that. But seriously, you have nothing to feel bad about.”
“I should have been home hours ago.”
“There’s so much shit you should do. When was the last time you ever didn’t do what you were supposed to do?”
“It’s happened a lot lately, because of you.”
Always because of her. Even when his mind should be entirely occupied with the blackmail and the painting and his sister’s engagement party, she was there, taking up mental space. He had naïvely thought that sleeping with her would still the longing for her, at least at little, but it was stronger now. It was even worse after the day they had spent together because it painted a picture of what his life could be. He felt serene and calm close to her. Not tired, not stressed out. It was the first day of his life when he didn’t need to do anything, only be.
But he couldn’t stay much longer. The very fact that he wanted to made the lump inside feel heavier, for he shouldn’t want to stay here and do nothing when he had so many responsibilities.
“There’s the guilty face again,” she chided softly.
Gina sighed. “Honey, you know you’re a grown ass man, right?”
“You can do whatever the fuck you please. Fuck the people you want to fuck, stay out until the wee hours of the morning, parade around Monte Vista in a speedo…”
He glanced up at her. “You wouldn’t put me in a one, surely.”
“I considered it,” she said with a shrug, “but I figured I’d start with shorts. Baby steps.”
Enzo laughed and put a hand on her back to draw her down next to him. He kissed her deeply.
“I don’t want to leave,” he said, drawing circles on the small of her back with a finger. “Trust me. If it wasn’t for my sister, I’d be happy to stay the night.”
Gina cocked her head and said with a soft smile: “You’re a good brother.”
“Not really,” he said.
“Oh fuck off, you are.” Gina rolled her eyes. “You’re there for her, you help with the engagement party and all that, take care of this blackmail with nobody to help.”
“There wouldn’t be any blackmail if it weren’t for me. I owe her for everything I’ve done to harm her.”
She frowned and studied his face, then she suddenly said:
“You mean because you killed the guy, right?”
Enzo went cold, as something in her tone made him uneasy. “Yes, I did.”
“You pushed him?”
Her eyes narrowed and a smirk formed on her face. “No, you didn’t.”
Enzo frowned. “Yes, I did.”
“But when you told me the story, you said you punched him.”
He went silent, his mind working overtime. “I misspoke.”
“Don’t think you did. I think you’re covering for your sister—she pushed him or punched him or whatever and Fabrizio walked in later and you told him it was you. Took the blame.”
“Stop lying,” she said. “Stop shooting yourself in the foot. Are you covering for her?”
He sank something. “If you report my sister…”
“I’m on your side, Enzo.”
He was silent for a long time, while her dark green eyes studied him intently. Not once since it happened had he said out loud what really transpired that day. Even Lorenzo, who knew about it, didn’t know that specific detail. At last, he heaved a sigh.
“I am covering for her, yes.”
She nodded, but her gaze hardened somewhat. “Anything else you haven’t told me?”
“No. And I didn’t mean to make it harder for you. It’s only that Lia’s reputation already took a hit when she… when she dated around. I think she did that because she was upset after our mother left and…”
“… and you think it was your fault that your mother left.”
“If my mother hadn’t left, Lia wouldn’t have acted out, Conti wouldn’t have stalked her, and she wouldn’t have killed him.”
She reached out a hand to caress his face and he could tell she didn’t buy it, but this time she didn’t bother to start the discussion again—she refused to believe him when he said it was his fault and he knew she would never understand.
“I work for you,” she said instead. “You hired me and that means I have a responsibility to you. It doesn’t matter whether it was you or your sister that did it—my job is to stop the blackmail and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Enzo let out a breath he didn’t realise he had been holding. Her face, her dear, dear face, softened into a smile and he leaned over to kiss her. When he drew back, her smile turned into a concerned expression.
“You’ve got to stop withholding things from me and not just when it comes to work, but because… because I think we both want this to last.”
She moved close and found her place in his arms, the spot where she fit so well. Enzo nodded.
“I want that more than anything.”
Regina eased herself on top of him and he was hard in an instant. She smiled softly and moved without speaking; she let soft kisses fall in all the places she had learnt he liked and they made love one last time. She went slowly, moving deliberately and made her body say all the things he wouldn’t listen to when they were words.
I’m here. I’m yours. You’re forgiven.
Afterwards, she rested her hands on his beating heart and looked at him with joy and pleasure, all the feelings her face betrayed naturally. If the instinct to hold back hadn’t been so strong, he would have cried with joy.
“What is it?” she asked.
He almost blurted it out then, his sweet little secret, but it wasn’t the time—this was one thing he would withhold, at least for now. He rested his hand at the back of her head and smiled.
“You’re incredible,” he said instead of what he wanted to say.
Gina smoothed his hair back and said: “You’re pretty incredible, too, my rich boy.”
His phone hummed on her nightstand, another call that went to voicemail and added to the heavy feeling in his gut. They stayed as they were for another minute, eyes and limbs locked together in a silent embrace. The buzzing stopped, but soon started back up.
“I have to…” he said.
They got dressed in silence, though it wasn’t the pleasant, gentle kind of silence that had been between them all day. Enzo’s mind drifted between his family and the woman he was leaving behind. She wasn’t ranting or seething or angry, but her face was hidden behind a veil of long, dark hair and he couldn’t see behind it. It wasn’t until they had the painting loaded in his car and they stood outside, ready to say goodbye, that he could see the pain in her eyes. He also saw her futile attempt to stay neutral.
“So, we need to start thinking of work,” she said. “Your future brother-in-law and the blackmail.”
Enzo sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “What do you have in mind?”
“More blackmail,” she said. “Well find some equally bad dirt on Fabrizio and return the favour.”
“And if there’s no dirt?”
Gina rolled her eyes. “Come on, he had to blackmail you to get a fiancée. We’ll find something, believe me.”
“I believe you.”
He bent down and pressed a kiss to her lips and it immediately made his blood run hot through his veins, singing her name.
They drew back from each other and she smiled, though it was a careful one full of doubt.
“So, I’ll see you in Collesena. I have a few jobs around Monte Vista, but as soon as I can, I’ll drive up and we’ll look into Fabrizio. Until then I’ll call at night… I mean…” A hint of vulnerability snuck into her eyes. “If you want me to.”
“I would be miserable if you didn’t call.”
She relaxed and leaned into him, taking another kiss, then she said in a soft voice: “I’ll miss you.”
Enzo took just one more kiss. The last one of the night. He weaved his fingers into her hair and her lips crushed against his, then her mouth opened to let him in. It was so hard to leave, so hard to tear himself away from her eager kisses and her body that pressed up against his. Only when his hands had memorised all her curves, when he was sure the kiss would linger in his brain for at least the few days they would be apart, only then did he let go.
“I’ll miss you, too,” he said.
Enzo had to scrub himself of her scent at his father’s Monte Vista house. It hurt a little, but more than anything it felt like a betrayal. He didn’t want to be without her perfume clinging to his skin, but then the terrible night years ago was never forgotten. His father had been able to smell her perfume on him and that was how he had been revealed.
So he scrubbed himself until his skin reddened, added extra cologne to be safe, and dressed in a clean suit. He cringed at the feeling of the cool fabric and the constricting feeling around his shoulders and chest.
How do I wear this all day without fainting?
The only small bright spot about it was the prospect of Gina calling him when he was back home. He could joke about the suit and maybe even make her laugh. At the thought, he held his head a little higher and despite the fact that it had only been a few days since he left home, he felt different. A little lighter. The guilt was there, but now he felt a spark of hope—a chance of being rid of it for good.
That spark, however, was snuffed out as soon as he stepped into the entryway back home and Rosalia rushed out to meet him. Like himself, she was still dressed to the nines and had her hair neatly brushed back. The relief on her face was noticeable.
“Oh thank heavens you’re back,” she said, letting out a sigh. “Do you have it?”
She didn’t need to tell him which ‘it’ she talked about. He nodded.
“You have no idea how happy I am to hear it.” She stepped a little nearer and said in a half whisper: “Fabrizio has been here all day and he keeps—”
“Vinny! What a pleasant surprise.”
Enzo cringed. “Fabrizio. How… lovely.”
“Did you have a good trip? I was worried.”
Fabrizio stepped over and shook his hand hard with a nauseating grin on his face.
“It was small business trip, nothing to worry about,” Enzo said with a casual shrug.
“Vinny has a lot to do lately,” Lia said.
Her fiancé pretended like she hadn’t spoken and kept his gaze fixed on Enzo.
“Well, Lia told me you had to delay your return twice. You’ve got to watch out for yourself, Vinny. They’re running you ragged.”
“I can manage.”
“Mhm, I’m sure. Rosalia, honey, why don’t you head off to bed so I can talk to your brother. You need your beauty rest.”
Lia smiled sweetly but when she spoke, her voice was infused with venom: “Well, don’t stay around for too long, darling. You clearly don’t get your beauty rest often enough yourself.”
If Fabrizio noticed the insult, he didn’t make any note of it. Enzo would have been proud if it weren’t because that was his sister talking to the man she was supposed to marry and it was a miserable prospect.
It’s fine. Gina will take him down.
Enzo straightened his back and kept his gaze as confident and collected as he could.
“What did you want?” he asked.
“Oh, I’m just making sure everything is ready for the big day. The party, the painting…”
“Everything’s in order,” Enzo said.
“Even the painting?”
“Like I said: Everything’s in order. The painting is acquired and ready to be shown off.”
Fabrizio nodded. “Excellent. I’m just making sure. It’s a popular piece and you know how collectors can be.”
Enzo suffocated a sarcastic reply before it could escape. He did know how collectors were by now.
“Well, in that case, I’m happy.” Fabrizio looked at his watch, then back up at him. “I should get going, but while I remember it… There’s a small gathering at our place in a few days and you and Rosalia are of course invited. I’d like for you to meet some friends of mine.”
Fabrizio smiled his broadest, most revolting smile. Enzo felt his insides twist with rage as he nodded.
His sister’s fiancé turned to leave and was about halfway there when Enzo stopped him:
“It’s funny, I didn’t actually think you were a collector.”
Fabrizio turned slowly. “Oh?”
Enzo instantly wished he had shut his mouth. Something in Fabrizio’s eyes put him on edge in a way the man hadn’t ever done before. He had a healthy respect for the man who was blackmailing him, but he had never been scared of him… until now.
“It’s just that you’ve never shown any interest in art before now,” he said, despite the dangerous look in Fabrizio’s eyes. “Is there a reason?”
Of course he knew the reason because of Gina. The money. But he wasn’t sure why he wanted that money—his family was loaded, after all.
“I like the painting,” Fabrizio said simply. His eyes held a warning. “It’s a nice piece.”
Enzo nodded. This was as far as his confidence would get him. Even knowing that Gina would take care of the man, he thought it best not to step further on his toes.
“Anything else, Vinny?”
“No, have a lovely evening.”
“And to you, too.”
Enzo thought that was it, but then Fabrizio looked him up and down and asked:
“Does the name Mancini ring a bell to you?”
Enzo’s stomach sank. “I think… it was the Napoletanis’ daughter-in-law?”
“No, no,” Fabrizio shook his head with a grin. “That’s Mazzini. This is… oh, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure you know nothing of the woman. I’ll see you soon, Vinny.”
Enzo said goodbye as a familiar sense of dread settled in the pit of his stomach and whispered welcome home. For a moment it was overwhelming, weighing him down. He could already sense the long, lonely, sleepless night ahead.
But then he took a deep breath, felt the air fill his lungs and expand them and then he let out the breath and her name was on his lips. Gina.
He walked briskly to his room and got out his phone without bothering to change. She picked up the phone on the first ring.
“I am,” he said, “and I think we have a problem.”
Author’s note: Hi guys! So I hope you’re ready to go back to plot because lemme tell you… I’m not. I just want to do more fluff… But at the same time, I think it’s time for some more stuff to happen. 😉 Today, I don’t have much to say about the chapter proper, but I do want to share a little picture:
So… guess what? I totally converted that hairstyle from ts4. 😀 I saw this one and just thought it was so gorgeous. Since it wasn’t available, I just had to learn to convert it myself. This was my third attempt and it’s not perfect but I think it looks fairly decent. I’m not going to start sharing conversions (people are very protective of their things and I don’t want to risk causing a stir), but I just wanted to ramble a bit because I honestly can’t believe I pulled it off. Now, with that said, I hope you enjoyed reading and that you’re having a good time. I’ll see you in the next post.