Gina changed her plans without hesitation. She packed a bag and left for Collesena, ignoring the voice in her head that told her she was getting in deeper. Truth was, she was knee-deep in it. All it took was hearing the shakiness in Enzo’s voice and she knew she had to go. She drove up there with Lotta, while pointedly ignoring her friend’s meaningful looks for as long as she could.
She pushed the speeder as far as it would go and enjoyed the wind in her hair as well as the sound of the engine purring louder and louder… But finally, she couldn’t ignore it anymore. Lotta was getting smirky.
“Go on, Lotta,” she said.
“I’m only wondering if you had a good weekend.”
“Great, thanks,” Gina snapped, though even while she tried to stay sarcastic and no-nonsense, she couldn’t help a small smile that popped onto her face against her will. It happened a lot when she thought about him.
“I figured you did, since I couldn’t get in touch with you. By any chance did you…”
“Oh fuck off, you know I spent the weekend with Enzo. You’re going to tell me that because I’m wearing a teal shirt or some bullshit like that, you know everything I’ve been doing all weekend including how good he is in bed.”
Lotta snorted. “You do know you always wear teal, right?”
“Not always,” Gina protested. “But I don’t know how your super powers work. I’m not a wizard.”
“I do not have super powers. I’m observant and I have social skills and when that fails, I get lucky.”
“Okay, fine, how did you know?”
“This time, I got lucky,” Lotta said. “I came by to discuss some work and the two of you were making out on the patio.”
Gina frowned. “Oh.”
Lotta chuckled in her seat. “Anyway, since I assume you’ll refuse to talk about your boyfriend, did you want to know what we have on Fabrizio so far?” At Gina’s nod she continued: “I didn’t have time to find out much, but as far as I can see, he’s in good standing in his social circles. He would have to be, of course, because otherwise Enzo’s dad wouldn’t have let him marry his daughter.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. He had to blackmail her to get her to agree.”
“But he didn’t have to blackmail her dad. Like I said, he’s a well-liked guy. So as far as I know, he’s never stepped out of bounds and everyone’s raving about his support for a local charity.”
“Wait, a charity?”
“The Moretti Foundation. It helps the poor get housing and medicine, that kind of thing.”
Gina had to keep her eyes on the road, but she didn’t have to even look at Lotta to know what she was thinking. Before she could say it, Lotta did:
“I know. It’s fishy.”
“You looked into the charity?”
“As much as I could in the limited time I had. Once we get to Collesena, I’m going to pay them a visit.”
Gina took the car around a sharp bend in the road and drummed her fingers on the wheel. The charity must be what Fabrizio planned to spend the money from the van der Ast on. That, in turn, meant it wasn’t a damned charity—he wouldn’t have a reason to use blackmail money if that were the case. She told that to Lotta and she agreed.
“My thoughts exactly.”
“Any idea what it actually is?”
“Could be that he’s just buying a lot of drugs.”
Gina snorted. “You’re not even trying.”
“I don’t like to speculate before I know more. I’ll go to the place to check and if you don’t mind, I’d like to bring a few people, just in case. We don’t know what it is, so I think it’s better to err on the side of caution.”
After a moment, Gina nodded. “Bring as many as you need. You can even bring Leoni, if that’s what you fancy.”
She glanced at her friend to see if it got a reaction, but Lotta only laughed.
“That was a terrible transition. If you want to know about Marco and me, just ask.”
“When’s the wedding?”
“You know I’m not a romantic like you. We’re sleeping together, that’s about all there is to it. If you want the details, you need only ask—I’m not nearly as tight-lipped about my love life as you are.”
“I’m not tight-lipped about it, it’s just… you know, it’s kind of secret.”
“Yes, you’re keeping your relationship secret from Enzo’s family. Not from me, though. My guess is that the real reason you don’t want to talk about it is that you’re still scared.”
“Aaand we’re done talking.”
Carlotta leaned back in her seat and laughed a clear, warm laughter that disappeared in the roar of the engine and the wind. They didn’t speak again until they spotted the mountains that surrounded the town of Collesena. Right as they rounded the bend that would take them to her mum’s cabin, Lotta turned to her, eyes severe.
“Gina, if it doesn’t work out with Enzo, don’t blow up.”
The words were like a cold hand that reached out to grab her heart, but she dismissed the feeling with a toss of her head. She tried to keep her voice light and unconcerned.
“Why the fuck would you say that? We’re doing great.”
Lotta’s tone didn’t match hers. It was grave and dark and unlike the one she normally took with her.
“I’ve never met anyone who were as thoroughly brainwashed as he is, so all I’m saying is: don’t blow up and please don’t fuck up our business. One thing is dropping Ms. Antonini, that much makes sense, but we can’t lose him as a client as well. If it doesn’t work out, take it like an adult.”
Gina took a deep breath and blew it out through her nose. Despite all effort, her voice came out strained. “Enzo and I are fine, Lotta. As for him being brainwashed, yeah, I guess he is, but he’s coming around.”
“I hope you’re right.” Lotta sighed. “I really, really hope so.”
The rest of the way they spent in silence. Gina didn’t like thinking of Lotta’s warning and so it was a relief to come into her mum’s cabin and be met by both her parents as well as Marta. It was a surprise, but a welcome one, especially once her sister told her that she had come specifically because Gina was there.
“Why do you need to see me?” Gina asked, though it was hard to hear her sister in that moment, because her dad enveloped her in a big hug.
“It’s actually work related,” Marta said.
Gina frowned. Her sister was a private detective and she only ever took on boring cheating-spouse type cases. She wasn’t in the family business and generally preferred to stay out of it.
“Work, how?” Carlo asked, still holding on to Gina. Before Marta could answer, however, Vittoria shot him a glare, and he corrected: “I mean, you should probably go talk about it, girls. I’m retired.”
Vittoria snickered and before Gina could walk off with Marta, her mum told her of the hassle she had getting him to stop thinking about his old work.
Gina left her parents to themselves—her mum immediately grabbed her dad’s hand and dragged him into the garden—and went to talk with her sister and Lotta.
“You’ve got a client called Cavalcante, right?” Marta asked.
Immediately, Gina felt a spot of worry. “Yeah, why?”
Marta smoothed her long braid as she started telling her story.
“Near where I live there’s a bar that’s frequented by other private eyes. We meet up to swap stories, help each other with cases, that kind of thing and yesterday one of my colleagues talked about a case of his.”
“Looking into someone named Cavalcante?” Gina asked.
Marta nodded. “Yeah. Vincente Cavalcante… the younger one. At first I couldn’t think of where I’d heard of the name, but when they mentioned a Mancini I realised it’s that guy you met back then. The rich idiot guy. I think they mentioned a romantic relationship, though I’m sure they got it wrong since it ended years ago.”
Gina bit her lip. “Well… Not entirely wrong.”
Marta raised an eyebrow. “Seriously? Didn’t he break your heart and tear it into a million pieces? And a few weeks ago I think you nearly shot him.”
“Something like that, but we’re cool.”
Marta glanced at Lotta. “How did she not murder him?”
“Oh, she tried, but he offered her a lot of money, so she kind of had to deal with it,” Lotta said.
“Anyway…” Gina sent both a glare. “Your colleague is looking into him. Why?”
Marta’s face turned from her teasing older sister-look to a more professional one as she continued.
“That’s the thing, I’m not sure. All I know is he was following Cavalcante around and he has reported to his client that he and you are an item. That and he’s constantly bragging about all the money he’s going to make. Apparently the client is loaded.”
“Do you know the client’s name?”
“Sorry, but no. He wouldn’t say.”
“My guess is Fabrizio,” Gina said. “It would explain how he knew about me and I guess he’s hoping to control Enzo both with the blackmail and this stuff.”
Marta frowned. “What kind of shit is this guy involved in?”
“I’ll tell you all about it later,” Gina said with a heavy sigh. “Right now, I’d better go talk to Enzo.”
The Enzo that stepped in the door was a different version of him—the cold, emotionless version, whose shoulders were taut with nerves and whose eyes were distant—but he transformed as soon as he realised that he hadn’t returned to an empty office. Gina had perched herself on his desk, hoping to see exactly what she saw when his eyes landed on her: They lit up and his face softened into a smile.
“You came,” he said.
Gina cocked her head. “Of course I did. I just talked to my—”
She didn’t get to finish talking, because in that moment he stepped up to her and drew her in for a kiss. He kissed her with the same longing you felt after weeks of separation, not just half a day and Gina realised she had missed him just as badly. When he drew back, he rested his forehead on hers and his eyes were glued to hers.
“Did you break in?” he asked.
“Not exactly. If anyone asks, I’m looking to divorce my boring husband.”
Enzo frowned. “Right… There’s a small problem with your divorce.”
Gina ran her fingers through his hair while never looking away from his gorgeous eyes. “Let me guess. The fact that I’m in a relationship with my hot lawyer is going to be damaging to my case?”
“There’s that,” he said with a nod. “But most of all it’s the fact that your hot lawyer is not actually a divorce lawyer. I’m a corporate lawyer.”
She blinked. “Did you just pick the most boring lawyer type and go with that?”
“Please, I’m not a tax lawyer.”
He drew back and, taking her hand, moved to sit behind his desk. She settled on his lap and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. They shared another short kiss, but besides the fact that he still stroked her back lovingly, everything about him changed. Worry drew lines on his face and even the small kiss she pressed to his temple only got the corner of his mouth to twitch. It were as if he knew they had to talk business and he wanted to avoid it. Gina took it upon herself to bring it up.
“So,” she said. “I think I know how Fabrizio knows about me.”
Enzo let out a breath he had been holding, then nodded for her to continue. She related everything Marta had said.
“Of course he wouldn’t leave anything to chance. I didn’t think it was a coincidence that he mentioned your name right after I came home from your place.”
“Okay, but what’s his point?” Gina asked. “He was really interested in our relationship for some reason.”
“It’s extra leverage, I’m guessing,” he said. “If I don’t do as he asks, he can reveal not only the murder, but you.”
“Why the hell is he so eager to get money for his shitty charity, anyway?”
“You mean the Moretti Foundation?”
“Yeah, Lotta is going there. We think that’s where he wants to place the money from the painting and that makes us think that it’s not a real charity.”
He looked doubtful. “He talks about that charity all the time. It would be foolish of him if it weren’t legitimate.”
“Well, Fabrizio Aiello doesn’t strike me as a brain surgeon.”
Enzo snorted. “Fair enough.”
He went quiet again, mechanically stroking her back while staring at nothing in particular. Gina nudged him softly.
“It’ll all be okay, you know. You can get me into this party at his place and I’ll poke around.”
Enzo’s hands dropped from around her and he looked distressed. “Absolutely not.”
He tugged on his hair in frustration. “It’s a small gathering. Maybe around thirty people…” Before she could protest he said: “It’s a small gathering for us. You’d be much more noticeable, not to mention that Fabrizio knows about you.”
“We need to pretend like we don’t know that he knows. It’s better for us to keep trucking as we are now.”
“I know but—”
“Enzo, we need to hit this fucker with all we’ve got,” she said sternly. “He’s following you around and I don’t appreciate that—he needs to be taken down.”
He was quiet for a long time, continually tearing at his hair until she pried his hands off his head and put them on her waist. She cupped his cheek.
“Look at me,” she said and though he hesitated, he did it. “Breaking into the place is even riskier than going. Can you get me into that party as a guest or not?”
Enzo let out a deep breath and closed his eyes, thinking. Then he finally nodded.
“I can. Lia will go as my plus-one, but I… I think I can persuade Lorenzo to bring you.”
“You think he’ll go for it?”
“Probably,” he said, hesitantly. “We haven’t spoken much since the Napoletanis’ party, but he’s my best friend, so I think I can convince him. But I can only get one person in this time, so Carlotta…”
“That’s fine. It’s all fine, honey. It’ll just be me.”
He sighed and looked down, not entirely convinced. But finally, he nodded.
“Let’s do it, then.”
Again, he went silent. He didn’t even hold her. There was a surprisingly nerve-wracking minute where all he did was stare into the distance, pointedly ignoring all her attempts to catch his eyes. Then finally, he came back to life and looked at her. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her and all was well.
In spite of it, Gina had a hard time ignoring the hard knot of worry that settled in the pit of her stomach.
Author’s note: Hi guys! Welcome back to the story after my little break. I finished my exam project and had a nice week off. In that time, I’ve of course been writing, meaning I have a little cache of chapters to take from again, which is, honestly, a relief. I was pleased to have a chance to bring Marta into the story. It’s been a long time and I know I’m not focusing as much on the Mancini family as I could – it’s basically because they’re not as good a source of drama as the Cavalcantes, lol. 😀 Still, it was a joy to have Marta there, even if it was only for a short little scene. I was surprised by how much of a babe she turned out to be once I redid her make-up and gave her new contacts. And her T-shirt is actually a conversion of mine, a simple little one that I did mostly to get some training. It turned out surprisingly well and I think it suits her! I’m also slowly learning to make my own clothes for the game and I managed to get my first piece into the game yesterday. It looked terrible, so no pictures, lol. But hey, at least I managed to get to that point, so I’m cautiously optimistic that I can make something that’s not awful.
Before I leave, I’d like direct to my Tumblr, where I post a lot of preview pics and just random stuff. I’m a little more active on there in the day to day. That said, I’m working on some extra stuff that I’d like to post at some point, since I do enjoy posting stuff on here. You may notice if you go back and look at the first five chapters, that I’ve replaced all the pictures with ones with rounded corners instead of the old borders and yeah… I’m planning to do it for all chapters. It’ll take a while, but the inconsistency between old and new chapters was jarring to me. 😛
Anywayyyy, that rounds off this chapter and my babbling. I hope everyone’s having a good time and I’ll be seeing you guys in the next post.