Gina had been caught in places she shouldn’t be more times than she could count. She was used to the sudden meeting with a police officer or home owner, but even Enzo catching her in his dad’s house was nothing like this. A sick, sticky feeling sank into her stomach, though not because they had been caught. It was because next to her, Enzo’s blue eyes grew wide with terror and she could see one of his hands shaking.
She reached out to him, but he pulled his hand away, and she felt a jab of pain in her chest.
But you wanted it to work, she almost said. We want it to work.
It wouldn’t. She realised it in that instant when her rich boy straightened his back, like a soldier standing to attention.
I’ve never met anyone who were as thoroughly brainwashed as he is, Lotta had said.
Gina mentally willed Enzo to look at her, to remember what they had just been talking about, how lovely it was when they were together… but it was all gone, wiped from his features as he stepped around the bed and pleaded with his father.
“I-I can explain,” he said.
“Explain what?” his dad spat. “I’m perfectly aware of what you’ve been doing with the girl. After Mr. Montanari told me of her presence at our last function, I made sure to keep a closer eye on you.”
Gina’s head spun with rage and she wasn’t sure what to be most pissed about. Doriano. Doriano, of all people, had ruined this for them. She would deal with him when she got the chance, but something else in Vincente’s statement had caught her attention.
I made sure to keep a closer eye on you…
“You had your son followed by a private detective,” she said. Her voice sounded like it came from far away. “I thought it was Fabrizio, but it was you. That’s why he was so interested in our relationship.”
“I knew I couldn’t trust you,” Vincente said. “Especially around that girl.”
“That girl is in the room,” Gina spat. “You can answer when I’m talking to you, asshole.”
“I have nothing to say you,” Enzo’s dad replied. “This is between me and my son. You may leave.”
“Not fucking likely,” she said. “Anything you say to him, you can say to me, too.”
Gina glanced over at Enzo and wished that he would say these things himself. As it was, he hadn’t spoken a full sentence together. She tried again to reach out for him, to give him some measure of comfort, but he took a full step away this time and her heart lurched painfully. Vincente snorted.
“Fine then, stay. Perhaps it will sink in better if she’s here. You’re making a grave mistake, Vincente.”
“Father, I know you think…”
“I do not think you’re making a mistake. I know you are, because I made the same mistake. If you marry a girl like that, you will end up in exactly the same situation as I did—humiliated and left for a no-name mason.”
“I thought she left because her son had a girlfriend,” Gina spat.
“No,” Gina said, taking a step forward. “You told him it was his fault, so what is it, old man? Did your wife leave because she’s bad or because of her son?”
“Both,” he said coolly, letting his gaze scan Enzo. His son, in turn, shrank back. “Georgette was always bad and she produced three children who all have her weakness. Your sister couldn’t stick with one man if she was paid to do it and I shudder to think what became of your brother. Of all of you, I had the greatest expectations for you, but even you have her weak mind and character. I swore years ago I would rid you of it. I swore I wouldn’t let you make the same mistake as I did.”
Gina spun away from Vincente. The man kept ignoring her no matter what she tried, so instead she looked at Enzo. He wouldn’t let her touch him, but she put all the feeling she could into her voice to beg him, implore him to listen.
“Enzo, please don’t listen to that. There’s nothing wrong with you. I’ve told you it wasn’t your fault, but if you won’t listen to me, listen to Lorenzo. He knows—”
“Mr. Lorenzo Sartore, the young man who so willingly went along with theft?” Vincente said.
Enzo looked at his father, eyes wide.
“I know about the car you tried to steal,” he said. “I know all of it.”
“It doesn’t fucking matter,” Gina countered. “You were a kid…”
“Even as a child, you should have known better.”
“It’s been years.”
“Your mother left because you—”
“Would you shut your fucking mouth, you old moron?” Gina shouted, spinning towards him. “If I were your wife, I’d have left before I had one goddamned kid with—”
“Gina.” Enzo turned, slowly. He looked wrong. Everything about him was wrong. His features were somehow both devoid of emotion and absolutely aching with it. “Please, please stop.”
“It’s a very charming young woman you’ve found for yourself,” his dad said somewhere off to the side. “I can’t imagine why she wouldn’t be suitable…”
Gina paid little attention to him now because Enzo’s entire body radiated agony and she wanted to take it away. She wanted to wrap him in her arms and get him out of there, back to her house where she could keep him safe.
“Enzo, you can leave,” she said.
He shook his head.
All of him was shaking, she noticed now. She could see his fingertips trembling wildly, his forehead was beaded with sweat, and his breath was uneven.
“Gina, you need to leave,” he said in a hollow voice.
“I’m not leaving you. You need my help, you need—”
“If you leave with her now, you can say goodbye to your sister. She won’t want anything to do with you. You will be just another family member who left her behind.”
“Enzo, it’s bullshit. It’s emotional blackmail. He—”
“Gina, please leave.”
Her stomach did a violent turn. “Don’t say that.”
“Gina, we can’t be together.”
She was only half aware of what was happening, as though she had left her body and was seeing it all from a distance. Enzo wrung his hands to keep them from shaking, but this time he couldn’t hide his emotions. He fought so hard, but in vain.
“You can’t live with people like me.”
“I can live with you. It’s people like him I can’t live with.” She thrust her hand at his dad. “You’re good. You’re a good son and you’re a good brother and you’re too good for all of them. They don’t deserve you.”
Someone else replied fine. It wasn’t her, it couldn’t be, because she couldn’t feel a thing. Even though it was her that spun on her heel, her whose eyes welled with tears as she spun and marched away.
Gina was almost at the door before his hand wrapped around her arm. There was a split second where she hoped that he had changed his mind, but when their eyes met he only said:
“I’m so sorry for what I’ve put you through.”
His dad’s voice: “Let her go, Vincente. You owe her nothing.”
Enzo released her and she threw the door open. It wasn’t like her to go like this, without screaming at him, but how could she scream when she was numb? She couldn’t feel her body, she couldn’t feel anything, not even a spark of anger. All that revealed that she was even moving was her own breathing that grew faster and the click of her heels on the floors. She burst out of the house and stalked down the path, into the chilly evening.
She wouldn’t have stopped, not if it hadn’t been for the voice behind her.
“For old time’s sake,” it said.
She paused and looked around at Doriano Montanari. When their eyes met, he smiled.
“I knew you were still into that idiot,” he said in a voice that was low enough that only she would hear.
Gina turned and looked at him but she still couldn’t find her voice.
“I’ve been waiting to do this for years,” he continued. “After you and that blonde whore ruined my life, I’ve been thinking of ways to ruin yours. I considered having you beat up like you did to me, but this is honestly more fun. I only wish I could have knocked you up like I did to—”
Sensation rushed back, anger rose in Gina’s chest, and she moved instinctively. In the instant that her fist connected with Doriano’s face, she knew it was a mistake. There was a loud crack, the combined song of his face and the bones of her hand fracturing. All followed by a surprised gasp as the people who were drawing fresh air outside were drawn to the commotion.
They stared at Doriano’s pained form and the blood dripping from her fist. All of them were wide-eyed and horrified. All of them were potential clients.
Gina stumbled back as every emotion and every ache hit her all at once. Her broken hand screamed in pain, as did her heart. Someone told someone to call the police, others said to call an ambulance. Somewhere over her head, a voice called her name, but Gina kept walking. She couldn’t stand to hear his voice and she couldn’t face what she had just done.
Gina didn’t hear him calling. She walked away and never looked back. Below the balcony, Enzo could hear Doriano Montanari groaning in pain. Family and friends flocked around him, pitied him, and Enzo could still only look at Gina’s figure until she rounded the corner and disappeared.
It was my fault, he thought as the sickening realisation hit. It would take a miracle for her career to recover after this… and it was all because of him.
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
Enzo started and turned to his father, who had just come onto the balcony as well. He hadn’t even noticed he spoke out loud.
“The girl did that to herself and she’s proving my point. You’re better off without her. I hope you will finally realise it. When you’ve straightened yourself out, you may go home, but make sure to say goodbye to our host. We do not want to anger him, considering what he knows.”
Enzo paled further, if that were possible. “You know about…?”
“I told you, I know everything.”
“Why didn’t you fix it?” Enzo asked. “One word and you could have—”
“Because I assume that when my son is capable of murder, he is capable of handling his own problems. I couldn’t know that you would mess it up.”
It was a relief that he didn’t seem to know it was actually Lia who killed Conti. There was only little comfort in the knowledge, however.
“Go on,” his father said.
Enzo took a deep breath to steady himself, to steady his hands that still shook, and then he left the balcony.
Finding Fabrizio wasn’t as easy as he had hoped, despite him hosting the event. It took a full five minutes of Enzo weaving between party guests, avoiding the most chatty ones.
Most importantly, he avoided everyone who gossiped about what had just happened outside like they were riddled with plague. Doriano was gone, thank God, but the talk was still going about the ‘monstrous girl’ who had punched him. Enzo’s stomach churned with guilt every time he heard it and his heart ached. He needed to get out of there.
He finally found Fabrizio in the backyard, talking to two men. As Enzo came closer, he realised that he didn’t recognise either of them. Both were dressed nicely, though not up to the standards of everyone else. Their suits were cheaply made and one of them had a shaved head.
“Vinny!” Fabrizio shouted as he saw him. “Finally, I’ve been looking for you all over. Remember, I wanted to introduce you to some friends of mine?”
Enzo took a deep breath and forced a smile. It probably wasn’t a very convincing one.
“That’s right,” he replied. “I’m sorry I forgot. I was otherwise engaged.”
“No doubt with the young lady I saw you dancing with,” Fabrizio said with a laugh that could only be described as slimy. “She’s quite the beauty. But she’s an unknown, isn’t she?”
“She’s an acquaintance of Lorenzo’s. I don’t know her.”
He died a little inside saying it.
“That’s interesting. Her name was Mancini, wasn’t it?” It wasn’t Fabrizio who said it, but one of his ‘friends’. He was the taller of the two and the one with the most commanding air.
Enzo stiffened and glanced quickly at Fabrizio.
“I think it was Voltorini, actually, but I couldn’t say.”
The man shook his head. “No, it’s Mancini. She’s got a reputation.”
The way he looked at Enzo was unnerving somehow. He towered over him, which was unusual enough in itself as he was fairly tall, but it was also the fact that he so blatantly didn’t fit in. That he didn’t care. Gina had always at least tried to—but Enzo had to abort that line of thinking. It hurt too much.
“I’m sure she does,” he replied through clenched teeth. “Well, this was a lovely gathering, Fabrizio, but I really must go. I have a headache.”
Fabrizio looked at him with concern, though it didn’t seem genuine.
“Oh, I see, I’m so sorry you have to cut the evening short. Before you leave will you at least let me introduce you properly?” Without waiting for an answer, he pointed at each of the men in turn and said:
“This is Mr. Nero Moretti and his associate Marcello Spini. You’ve probably already guessed it, but Mr. Moretti is the head of the Moretti Foundation.”
Enzo shook hands with the two men, getting the same eerie feeling as he had before. Even though he had been told that the charity was probably fake, he hadn’t really believed it. Fabrizio couldn’t be that stupid… And yet, looking at these two men, there was no doubt. There was no charity.
With introductions done, Enzo tried to extricate himself, but Moretti held him back.
“Sorry, uh… Vinny?”
“Vincente,” he corrected tersely.
“Right, right. I just wanted to thank you for the kind donation that’s coming. Means a lot to the kids and all.”
Enzo nodded. “Absolutely. It’s my pleasure.”
He spun without another word of goodbye. Perhaps it was unwise, but if he stayed another second he wasn’t sure he could rein himself in. On any other day, the subtle threat in Moretti’s words would have scared him, but today he only thought of Gina.
All the way home, his thoughts raced. He thought of her reaction when he sent her away, the pain that was etched in every line of her face and in her eyes. The worst part, however, was that she hadn’t reacted how he expected. There had been no screaming, none of the insults he deserved. She just left and that was worse than any angry tirade. Instead, she had taken her anger out on Doriano and ruined everything for herself.
There was no coming back from that. She was done. After this, it would take a miracle for her career to recover. He wished he had followed her out so he could have stopped her. He wished he had never let her attend the event. He wished he could somehow…
And then it struck him.
He stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and felt a rush as the realisation sank in. He suddenly knew how to fix it. Enzo started walking again and faster this time, as his brain worked on the plan. It was time to stop standing idly by and instead do something for the people he loved.
Author’s note: Like I said – nothing bad at aaaaalllllll… Okay, but I hope you guys are ready for things to speed up, because things are going to start happening. I’m extremely psyched for the next five chapters and I hope you are, too. 😀 I’ll see you all in the next one!