There was a mixture of anger and surprise playing in Vincente Cavalcante’s blue eyes as he looked her over.
“It’s really you, isn’t it?” he said.
She straightened up. The shock faded and once she had regained her composure she bit back:
“No, it’s my evil twin, dumbass.”
She saw the corner of his mouth twitch, as he said to his friend: “It’s definitely her.”
Green shirt glanced at him in confusion.
“Don’t remember the girl who caught us trying to steal a car?”
Recognition lit up green shirt’s—Lorenzo’s, if she remember correctly—eyes. That left only Carlotta looking confused around at everyone.
“What…?” she asked looking at Gina.
“Huh, this is the chick that got you into all that trouble?” Lorenzo asked of his friend.
Gina set her jaw and glared at the men. She had hoped they would shrink, but Enzo in particular looked at her as indifferently as if she were a stick on the ground.
“I got you into trouble?” she sneered. “Oh, that is priceless. You reported me for harassment, but I’m the one who got you into trouble? I don’t know why I’m surprised you’re still a piece of human garbage.”
She curled her hands into fists and took a step forward, but then she was forced to acknowledge the gun. Lorenzo waved it in her face and told her to put her hands up. She rolled her eyes and lifted her hands.
“I can totally see why you’re scared. Two unarmed, tiny women against two guys with a gun. Whatever will you do?”
“You’re not exactly harmless, though,” Enzo said.
His friend, next to him, said: “You should probably call the police. They broke into your dad’s house.”
Enzo turned around and Lorenzo waved them over to sit down; he never lowered the gun. She was tempted to get up and give him a lesson on gun safety, because he handled it atrociously. Considering the look in his eyes, though, she didn’t think it would be wise. She flung herself down in the sofa next to Carlotta.
Lotta looked at her.
“That’s the blue-eyed rich boy from Collesena,” Gina said before her friend could ask. “The bored one who dumped me. It was the summer before… you know.”
Lotta’s eyes lit up in recognition.
“Stay quiet,” Lorenzo said.
Just then, Enzo turned around and told them that the police were on their way. Gina shared a quick smile with Carlotta and then turned to the two men.
“Well, boys, guess there’s nothing to do but wait for judgement then.”
“You don’t seem worried,” Lorenzo said.
She shrugged at him. “We didn’t actually get down to stealing your shitty forgery—because it’s a forgery—so I’m not worried at all.”
Gina hadn’t expected that they would know it was fake. The market was flooded with paintings like this one: cheap, quick forgeries, mass-produced in China and sold to gullible collectors. Some were good enough to make it to well-respected galleries before they were found out.
But she also didn’t expect Enzo to suddenly go pale, as though owning a forged painting was the end of the world.
He stammered: “I-it’s not a forgery.”
“Yes, it is.”
“No, it isn’t. I have a certificate of authentication.”
She leaned back in her seat and smirked. “Certificates are pretty easy to forge, easier than paintings, really.”
She gained a measure of satisfaction from the horrified expression on his face. So his collection was ruined and he had wasted money on a blatant fake. Frankly, he deserved it.
“Dude, she’s lying,” Lorenzo said.
Gina’s smirk grew wider as she looked at him. “What do I gain by saying it’s a forgery? I was caught here no matter what, so whether the painting is a fake or not matters little to me.”
Lorenzo tried to protest, but Enzo quieted him and asked:
“What makes you say it’s a forgery?”
“Several things. I’d love to lecture you on art forgery and the many ways to distinguish a fake from the genuine article, but I’m going to be arrested in a few minutes. You can go get it appraised if you like.”
“I already did,” he said. “My appraiser told me it was legitimate and I got the certificate.”
“Try again, rich boy. Find an art appraiser who isn’t shit.”
He glared and was about to open his mouth to say something more when a car door slammed outside. For a moment, both the men looked triumphantly at her. Gina and Carlotta shared another look.
The police officer who came was someone they knew, and Gina could tell that she recognised them as soon as she stepped in. Carlotta waved cheerfully, and the officer shook her head.
“What have you been up to this time, ladies?” she asked of them.
“Oh, you know, the usual,” Lotta answered.
The two men looked at the officer and Enzo explained that they had caught them in the house. They even told her that Gina and Carlotta had intended to steal the painting, by their own admission.
“The forged painting,” Gina added. “We don’t want to steal it anymore.”
“That’s besides the point,” Enzo said, annoyed. “I’m going to file charges on my father’s behalf. This is his house.”
“Very well,” the officer said. “You’ll hear from us later, then. You ladies better come with me.”
Gina and Carlotta stood up and followed the officer out. While in the doorway, Gina couldn’t help herself. She turned and looked him square in the eyes, finding him as completely unreadable as he had been on the day when he dumped her. It pissed her off like nothing else she could think of right now.
“Glad to see you’re still a cold, insensitive bastard,” she said. “Burn in hell.”
Then she left, though everything in her screamed to go back and give him a piece of her mind. It was better not to create more trouble, though. The officer was about to let them go. After all, she knew who Carlo Mancini was, and she knew that Gina and Carlotta would go free as soon as he heard of this.
Gina made it all the way home before the reality of his appearance really hit her. While explaining it all to Carlotta, she had managed to remain cool and collected. Lotta had already heard the story, after all, and she did her best friend duty well.
“Wow, I can’t believe you meet him like this after all that time,” she had said and: “He’s such an asshole, he didn’t even seem to care.”
Gina waved it all off. It was seven or eight years ago after all, so who cared?
But by the time she made it home, it was hard to deny that she cared. Not because she had seen him or because she wanted him back, or even because he didn’t care. It was because she had seen him now. Right now, when her heart still creaked with hollow misery after Rico dumped her. One thought took the next. Enzo’s harsh words, his cold dismissal, mixed with Rico’s words. In between them were all the other men, all the other words and break-ups. There were so many of them by now, she couldn’t pick them apart, even though for every one she had once sworn that this one, this one was the real deal.
She curled up in a ball in front of the fireplace and pressed her knees to her eyelids. Tears stung her eyes and waves of misery rolled through her. That was, until she heard footsteps in the hall and she sprang to her feet.
Her dad was in the doorway, looking at her with clear concern.
“I heard the theft was a bust,” he said and walked over to join her by the fireplace.
She stood up and smoothed her hair.
“Yup, we got caught and the painting was a forgery.”
Carlo looked into the fire for a long time before talking: “And how do you propose we move on from that?”
“The real painting has to be out there,” she said. “So I hoped Franco would check with his black market contacts. Then I’ll send Carlotta to see if some other rich guy has it. I have to talk to our client as well, to try and make sure that it wasn’t a forgery to begin with.”
Her dad smiled and nodded approvingly, then he said:
“I taught you well.”
“So it was a test?”
He tossed his head. “No. You know more about the business at this point than I do.”
“I’m your dad and I worry. It won’t be long before I retire.”
Gina smiled, pushing down the feeling of sadness. It was like hearing that she was doing so well for herself, gaining a reputation, was making him consider retirement more seriously. It made sense. He wanted to be with Vittoria, with his wife, and he should. However, it also meant he wouldn’t be here.
He read her silence with ease.
“I won’t retire until you’re sure you don’t need me here,” he said.
“It’s nothing like that,” she said, angling herself so that he couldn’t see her eyes grow wet. “I’m fine.”
Carlo shook his head. “Do you have to be so much like your mother? If you need me, spill it, Gina. I see you curled up in a ball like you were five minutes ago and I begin to think something’s seriously wrong that you’re not telling me.”
“Don’t lie to me,” he snapped. “I saw. Now, I want to know if you’re miserable because of a fake painting or if it’s something else. My guess is it’s something else.”
She didn’t answer and knew she didn’t have to. Her dad came over to give her a hug.
“So it’s the break-up,” he said gently. “I considered that you might want to stay at the cabin for a few more days. Maybe you shouldn’t be working right now.”
“I can work just fine and it was all going great until…”
He stroked her back comfortingly and urged her to go on.
“Do you remember that guy from Collesena? Vincente?”
Carlo raised an eyebrow. “The rich boy?”
“Yeah, the one that made me act like a dumbass,” she said, attempting a laugh. The sound was hollow, so she stopped right away. “Well, the house we broke into is his dad’s. He and his friend were the ones who caught us. I didn’t expect to see him now is all.”
He nodded sympathetically.
“I can see why that would throw you off balance.”
“I’m not off balance. It was just… a surprise. That’s all. It doesn’t matter.”
He was quiet for a long time, mechanically stroking her arm, and finally he said:
“Why don’t you take some time to recover from this?”
“I want to find the painting.”
“I want to find it. I can better recover when I’m working, I swear.”
“I can’t exactly stop you.”
She made herself face him with a smile. “That’s right you can’t. It was just a break-up, dad. It’s a lot easier to get over it when I’m out there doing something.”
Besides, she reminded herself, I won’t be hanging out with Vincente Cavalcante anytime soon.
It can’t be forged, Enzo thought. Please, don’t be forged.
But even without any training, something about the painting seemed off when he looked closer. Or was it just because Regina had said it?
His gut twisted, and not just because of her claims. Not in his most ridiculous fantasies about her had he imagined that she would appear in his father’s house, trying to steal a painting. Especially not this one.
“Enzo, for heaven’s sake. Stop thinking about it,” Lorenzo said with a scowl. “She lied. That’s what criminals do. Besides, I thought you said she’s more trouble than she’s worth.”
She was. Though try telling that to the irrational parts of his brain. Logically, rationally, he was well aware that Regina was bad news. But a dark, twisted part of him found her wildly attractive, even now, even when she hated him. It awoke things in him that he usually tried to keep down, for his own and his family’s sake.
Right now was the worst possible time for her to pop up, because the matter with this painting wasn’t just important. It was everything.
Enzo moved over and threw himself into a chair. Only when seated did he notice that he was weak in the knees. He didn’t want to look Lorenzo in the eyes.
“She’s more trouble than she’s worth,” Lorenzo repeated. “Right?”
“Then why believe her?”
“I’m not saying she’s a good person. She’s clearly a criminal, and a little too good at what she does… but I don’t think she’s a liar.”
Stealing, sneaking around, breaking and entering—those things were like second nature to her. Lying, however, flew in the face of her personality. At least as far as he remembered, she had been more brutally honest than anything. He tried to convey that to his friend, but he looked unconvinced.
“You knew her, how many years ago…?”
“Eight years ago. And you knew her for two weeks. I know she’s hot and all, but how can you bet everything on that?”
“How can I not?” Enzo asked. “You realise what will happen if I hand that painting over and it’s fake, right? Of all people, you should want to me to be sure that it’s not forged.”
He could tell he had rattled his friend, though he would never admit it.
“We all want to make sure that—”
“But especially you.”
Lorenzo paced back and forth. He ran his hands through his hair and there was a sheen of sweat on his forehead.
“It doesn’t have to have anything to do with her. She’s going to jail anyway,” he said.
“If I’m not wrong about her family’s reputation, she’s already gone free.” Enzo stood up. “I’m going to see her tomorrow, just as a business thing. Her gang are good at what they do.”
“I still say you’re insane.”
Enzo agreed with him quietly. He was very insane, but he had no choice.
“Just promise me one thing, will you?” Lorenzo stared him down, and Enzo nodded. “Don’t go all crazy about her again.”
“If you didn’t already realise, she hates me. There’s no chance of us ever getting involved again. But I have to do this… for Lia.”
Lorenzo’s eyes grew soft and he repeated: “For Lia.”
Author’s notes: Hi guys, and welcome back to Monte Vista! Looking back on you guys’ comments from last week, I fear this chapter doesn’t live up to your expectations :’) It’s not exactly a nuclear meltdown, so um… sorry. This is more me getting the ball rolling… or something. Not the most exciting time in the story. Sorry about that.
I also just want to defend my choice of words. Normally, I try and stick to British English, just because I want to stay consistent, and I like having that U in colour and so on. Here, I broke from it, though, so that I could have Gina call Enzo a piece of human garbage. If I wrote properly, that would be rubbish. The word garbage just has more bite in my mind, so there we are, being silly. I’m sure exactly zero people noticed or cared, but I care, dangit.
Before I stop rambling, a few things: I’ve updated the generation 2 character bios to include Enzo, Lorenzo, and Carlotta. I generally try and update after each chapter when I introduce someone new, so that’s something to keep an eye on 🙂 Also (if you hadn’t seen) – the problem with comments on the blog has been fixed. You can now log in with your WP account (or other social media accounts…) and comment directly on the site, not just through the reader.
And that was that for this week. I hope everyone is having a good time, and I’ll see you for the next post,
EDIT: I seem to be sailing straight into people’s spam folders today. If I don’t seem to show up in the comments, that’s where you’ll find me.