Regina stuck to the shadows, to the damp alleyways and hidden paths. She hadn’t slowed down for long since she fled Collesena. She drove straight to Monte Vista, straight to a part of town that was known for easy robbery targets. When the calls started coming in from Lotta and her dad, she turned her phone off. She couldn’t face Lotta after doing the one thing she told her not to do and her dad… God, she didn’t even want to think of facing him now that she had sunk the gang.
She broke into every business that could potentially have money or valuables lying around and she didn’t stop. Her hands worked automatically, picking locks, disabling alarms, cracking safes. She couldn’t leave too much time between jobs, because then her thoughts would drift to the events at Fabrizio’s house and she would think of… And whenever her thoughts drifted to him, her insides felt like they were being torn out again.
For a few days she had been so sure of him. She had been so… Don’t think. Work.
Gina worked until her head spun with fatigue, but even then she didn’t stop until her broken hand finally gave up. She had wrapped it in makeshift bandages torn from old rags, but the pain got more and more insistent. The site of the fracture was turning a nasty shade of purple and pulsed painfully, as though it was an alarm telling her to go get it seen by a professional.
Ignoring it, she pushed through a few more robberies until she felt a jab of pain so strong it sent her to her knees with tears in her eyes. She sat on the floor of a jeweller’s store, heaving and staring at the hand angrily.
She mentally willed the pain to go away, but only got more angry pulsing in return. It took a while before she could even push herself to her feet and get out of the store. She didn’t bother to take anything, instead she made her way back to the car that was loaded with her other goods. Gina was about to throw herself into the seat and take a nap, but just then an angry voice sounded in the silent parking lot.
“Where in the ever-loving, fucking hell have you been?”
Gina had experienced Carlotta Allegri angry, but this… Gina only glanced at her friend and then her gaze recoiled at the ice-cold fury in her eyes.
“I’ve been looking for you all night!” Lotta shouted when Gina stood still, eyes fixed on the ground. “I have the entire gang combing Collesena and Monte Vista. You parents are out of their damned minds.”
Gina opened her mouth and closed it again.
“So you’re just not going to say anything, is that it? After you did the one fucking thing I told you not to do? I knew it was a terrible idea for you to go alone, but I never thought you’d be so bone-headed, so stupid, so—”
“I get it,” Gina snapped, finally looking up. “I get that I ruined our business. I’m trying to fix it.”
“Fix it? By disappearing? Because I can’t see how that would help anything. I’m already hearing rumours that you completely lost it and that anyone can move in on our territory if they like. If that’s how you fix it, well done, idiot.”
Gina took a long, deep breath, then a couple more. It wouldn’t do to shout at Lotta now. Her temper had already gotten the better of her once.
“I’ve been robbing half the town,” she said instead and did a gesture towards the car. “I… hoped I could get us a little extra income to make up for losing a client and for… probably losing every possible client in the future.”
Lotta sighed. “Seriously? That’s your plan?”
“It’s the best I’ve got, okay?” Gina said, struggling against the sting of tears.
“And you don’t think this master plan would be a little easier with the gang helping you?”
Gina kept breathing. Slow. Steady.
“Not maybe. It would be easier, but Regina always has to storm off in a fit of anger and tear through people’s faces and through town.” Lotta held up a hand when Gina protested. “No, you’re going to let me talk. I am getting sick and tired of your anger issues. I get that you’re afraid of being hurt, but you do this bullshit every time you get the slightest hint that something’s going to happen. You did it with Manuel and with Rico and now you’ve done it with Enzo as well.”
“Actually, I didn’t—”
“Shut. Up. Let me talk, Regina, because you know what? Nine times out of ten, I completely understood why your boyfriends dumped you, because I would have given up on you long ago if I didn’t know that there’s a good person under the raging bitch fits. I’ve tried, for years, to get you to open up about it, but you never do and it seems like every time it gets worse. But this time, I fucking swear, you’ve really—”
“I know, Lotta! I know I fucked up. I’m trying to—” Gina’s voice broke and there was no holding back the tears now. A deep sob escaped her and a stream followed. “I’m trying to fix it. I couldn’t think of anything to do I just… couldn’t stay in town. Not after Enzo…”
Saying the name made her insides twist painfully.
“He dumped you,” Lotta said, matter-of-factly.
“Couldn’t stand up to his dad,” Gina said as a new stream of tears flowed. “Like you said, he’s brainwashed and he—”
Another sob bubbled up and she covered her face with her good hand. A heartbeat later, she felt Lotta’s arms close around her.
“I’m sorry, Gina.”
Gina didn’t manage to let out anything but another sob and she hugged her friend back. She hated how it felt. Her entire chest was like something had ripped a hole in it and exposed all of her and even though this was Lotta, one of the people who knew her best, that felt wrong. But she kept clinging to her best friend and she kept crying. Little by little, she ran out of tears and Lotta let go of her.
“So his dad showed up and gave him a hard time until he didn’t have a choice but to dump you. I’m guessing his dad was the one who hired the detective, correct?”
Gina nodded. “How did you…?”
“Told you, people skills and luck. When I started looking for you, I talked to people who had been at the party and they had seen Enzo talking to his dad after you stormed out. The detective thing makes sense, when you think about it. I’m embarrassed I didn’t realise earlier that Enzo’s control freak dad acted like a total control freak.”
“I’m embarrassed I didn’t listen to you.”
“As you damned well should be,” Lotta said, though her tone was gentler now.
Gina nodded and smiled carefully. She wiped her eyes with the bandage on her hand… then realised that was a mistake and let out a yelp. Lotta groaned as she noticed the state of her hand.
“You’ve been robbing places… with your hand like that? Honestly, Regina…”
“It’s broken, I think. Doriano’s face…” Gina said sheepishly.
Lotta frowned, looking surprised.
“You don’t mean Enzo’s?” When Gina shook her head, the frown deepened. “Oh, I heard you’d punched someone, so I assumed… I thought that was the reason for the restraining order.”
Gina’s mouth fell open. “The what?”
“The restraining order from Enzo. It came in like… an hour after you left, saying that you’re not to contact or come near him.”
“But I punched Doriano, not Enzo, I would never…” she said. “Why would he do that, though? He wouldn’t.”
She was crying again and she angrily wiped the tears. Her stomach churned unpleasantly and maybe it was because this all felt so familiar. Very much the same as a night eight years ago when he dumped her and inexplicably tried to use the law to keep her at a distance.
“Okay, but… Enzo filed a restraining order against you. Did you lay into him?”
“No, I didn’t. As soon as he made it clear that we… He told me to leave and I did.”
Lotta put her hands on her hips and raised a sceptical eyebrow. “Really? A guy broke up with you and you didn’t go medieval on his ass?”
Gina shook her head. “I know it’s not like me but I just… froze. I didn’t know what to say, so I left. I met Doriano while leaving and he acted like himself, so I punched him and broke my hand. That part wasn’t smart, but I swear I didn’t hurt Enzo or his asshole dad.”
Both Gina and Lotta went silent. Lotta’s eyes glazed over as she stared into the horizon. Suddenly, she slapped her forehead.
“Oh, I’m an idiot,” she said. Gina motioned for her to go on. “That’s why… oh, that explains a lot.”
“It really doesn’t,” Gina grumbled.
“Let’s head home. I need to talk to someone and you seriously need someone to look at that hand.”
“But what was it you realised?”
“Later,” Lotta said. “Get in the car and I’ll tell you once I’ve done some research.”
“I hate it when you do this,” Gina complained, but she got into the passenger seat and let Lotta take her home.
Lotta dropped Gina off at the house and then she rushed off without explanation, leaving Gina alone to face the two people rushing at her down the path. Her parents. She stopped and looked at both of them.
“You’re not supposed to be in Monte Vista,” she said to her mum.
Vittoria scowled. “Oh, really? You expect me to sit around in the cabin while you fuck off and go missing?”
Her dad didn’t speak. He stalked over and wrapped Gina in a hug. She thought she had done all the crying that needed to be done, but that was until she felt her dad’s big hand stroke her hair and then she broke down again. Carlo held onto her, muttering gentle words of comfort.
When she finally stopped crying again, he let go of her to instead put a hand on either side of her face.
“Don’t you ever dare do anything like that again. You hear me, Regina?”
She nodded. “I’m sorry, daddy.”
He kissed her forehead and let Vittoria step up to hug Gina as well.
“What he said,” Vittoria said. “Except I’d like to add that if you do something like it again, I’ll kick your fucking ass.”
Gina muttered another apology, but also added: “But you’re still not supposed to be here.”
“Shut up,” her mum replied with an eyeroll. “I’ll leave soon, but first you’ve got some explaining to do.”
Gina blushed. “Right, yeah. But maybe we could get a doctor.”
She held up her still throbbing hand and earned another angry look from her dad.
While they waited for the doctor, Regina explained about the party. Her voice shook once she got to the part when Enzo’s dad showed up, though a comforting hand on her shoulder gave her the strength to carry on without crying again. At last, she made it to the part where Doriano showed up. The part she was most ashamed of.
But as her parents listened to the last part, she could tell they grew more and more confused.
“Wait, what do you mean he ‘acted as he always acted’?” her mum asked. “Who is he?”
“He’s your ex-boyfriend, isn’t he? One of your first, if I’m not mistaken.”
Gina bent her head. “Um, yeah, just an ex.”
Of course that wasn’t good enough for her parents. Her dad stared intently, as though he could force the story out of her.
“Regina, there’s something you haven’t told me. What did he do?”
“It was just a bad break-up, so…”
“There’s more to it,” Vittoria protested. “Spill it.”
Gina bent her head so low, her face wouldn’t be visible to either of them, then she told the story as she had told it to Enzo only few days ago. Doriano’s scrapbook, his bets, what she and Lotta had done. When she was done with the story, her dad put a hand on her back.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
She bit her lip. “I don’t know. I mean, what would you have done—had him shot?”
“No, I would have been there for you.”
He stroked her cheek and Gina blinked as the millionth tear of the night pressed on.
“But I felt like an idiot. I knew what he was like and I still fell for it.”
“It’s okay, sweetheart.”
“No, it’s not,” she said and angrily swiped at her tears. “It’s not okay. He got to me because I was weak.”
“So that’s why you’re always ranting and raving,” Vittoria said and Gina looked up to see her cocking her head. “To keep people from finding out that you’re a ball of squish just like your old man.”
“I can’t let them see,” Gina whispered. “If I do, they’ll get into my head and fuck around, just like Doriano did.”
She took a deep, shaky breath.
“You’re going to get hurt no matter how much you scream,” Vittoria said then.
Carlo said: “Your mother is right, sweetie.” He brushed a lock of hair behind her ear tenderly. “Your anger will only end up hurting you in different ways, such as this debacle you’ve created by punching Mr. Montanari.”
Gina winced. “I’m sorry for ruining your gang.”
“Nonsense, honey, the gang is yours and it will be fine. We haven’t always been involved in art. The only person you really hurt was yourself.”
She let out a sigh. “Guess I’ll have to look at other things to do.”
Of course, she thought, she would have to do that anyway, considering that she had dropped Ms. Antonini as a client. While she and Enzo were still an item, there was the chance that he could help her find clients, though now…
“I always thought jewellery heists could be fun,” Vittoria said with a shrug. “You know, bling.”
Gina let out a snort. “Please don’t ever say that again, mum.”
Vittoria frowned. “Don’t act like I’m embarrassing you. I’m not the lame parent—he is.” She pointed at Carlo who promptly crossed his arms.
“I’m not the lame parent. Regina, tell your mother that it’s not true.”
Gina grinned through another deluge of tears, but they weren’t all sad this time. “Sorry, dad, you’re pretty fucking lame. You both are.”
They shared a look while Gina bent over laughing.
“She takes after you,” she heard Carlo say to her mum.
“But she was mostly raised by you.”
Gina couldn’t stop the laughter and both her parents joined in. While they were still laughing and she still cried, Carlo gathered both Vittoria and his daughter into a hug. That was how they were bunched up when Lotta found them. She didn’t comment on it, nor did she greet them, she immediately said:
“I’ve got two things to say and one of them is potentially a massive problem.”
Gina and her parents extricated themselves and Gina stood up.
Lotta held up a finger. “Okay, one: I know why Enzo’s mum hasn’t tried to contact him. That’s not a problem, but I thought you’d want to know.”
Gina’s heart sped up, but she nodded for her friend to continue. She was right, that part would satisfy her curiosity, but it wasn’t a problem.
Lotta went on: “Two: I know what the charity is actually about.”
“It’s bad. It’s really, really bad.”
Author’s notes: Hi guys! I hope you guys are getting used to my infernal cliffhangers because eh, there are many to come, now that we’re getting closer to the end. 😛 Sorry not sorry.
I also want to apologise for the relative lack of pictures. I’m studying for my exam and while I have all the text written for many chapters, I don’t have as much time to take pictures. I have pictures for the next chapter, so thankfully I have the next one ready (it’s right after my exam is finished). Hopefully, I’ll feel like i have more time and energy to take more and better pictures once it’s over.
Anywayyy, that’s it for now. I hope everyone’s having a good time and I’ll be seeing you next time.