In no way am I an expert on the mafia and all its workings, but I did actually look up a few things these past few weeks and ended up slapping myself in the face. I completely botched simple concepts and terms, so if you'd like to see those edited paragraphs describing the mafia, feel free to return to the last chapter. But if not, you'll get by in this chapter with this simple knowledge:
Milieu= French Mafia
Bratva= Russian Mafia
As always, there will be a note at the bottom and replies to reviews. Happy reading!
Isaac cradles Mel gingerly, exceedingly careful with the life growing inside her. After adjusting her, he glances up at me with a questioning quirk to his brows. I sigh and point to the stairs.
"Her room is up the stairs, first door on the left."
He nods and turns to leave, but pauses to glance back at me. "Watch your step," his green gaze travels down to the shards just a foot below. "Wouldn't want you to drown in your own blood."
I sneer at his retreating back and, just to spite him, hesitantly get to my feet. "Wouldn't want you to drown in your own blood," I mimic his low voice bitterly. "At least he'll be able to stick around and watch this time." I mumble curses as I throw the pillow, or bottle shield, take your pick, intothe center of the pool of shards. Using the soft mound as a stepping stone, I safely get over without injury.
Quickly turning, I put a hand up to stop Grimace from taking the same steps I took. "Stay." He whines pitifully, ears pressed against his skull as he attempts to sucker me into letting him across. I roll my eyes at the display and shake my head. "Stay."
I stalk to the kitchen to grab the broom and dustpan from the pantry before hurrying back to the living room. The damn dog doesn't listen to my commands for longer than a few minutes. Dropping the ancient metal pan to the floor, I begin sweeping.
After a few moments the rocking motion of the chore lulls my frayed nerves into a calm state. It soothes the tension from my shoulders and the anger from my core, which forces me to think about my predicament rationally. As much as Isaac irritates me, what I said about his family wasn't true. I do care about his family and those suffering even though their places in my memory are only vague shadows. But that doesn't mean that I want to marry him.
Even the thought of marriage makes me shudder. Ever since I can remember, my mother has drilled white dresses and flowing veils into my brain. But like I said to Isaac, I'm not the marriage type of gal.
"Marrying a powerful man is the only way you'll make it in this world," she would advise in her cold voice. "All a woman needs in life is a man to protect her and give her children. The rest will come in time."
For a long time, I believed her. I would follow my sister-in-laws around the house and watch how they treated my brothers, how they cooked, and how they cleaned. I would watch my eldest sister Ella paint her face in a variety of pinks and blues with pure envy, wishing desperately that I would soon be able to lure in a man with my own looks.
Then Ella came home after many years in Germany. It was there she married Bamber, a rather stout man with greedy black eyes that sparkled in the most horrid way. She walked through our front door clutching onto his arm with her frail fingers bony and thin from malnourishment. Her wrists were decorated in a variety of yellows and purples where bracelets had once been, all suspiciously shaped like meaty fingers.
But it's her face that continues to haunt me. Her once long, elegant visage ripened with youth and beauty was gaunt, so much so that her mouth appeared too small for her teeth. Pale blue eyes, just a shade lighter than my own, were lifeless and bleak like an ocean without fish.
She never smiled, and she never looked up from the ground, not even when I begged and begged. Instead, she would cradle her swollen belly with shaking hands and cry silently.
Ella's marriage to Bamber was a marriage of convenience. The German Mafia needed to expand and my father jumped on the chance to gain an ally in the war. Since Ella was the eldest daughter, she was forced to take the role as wife. She left early in the morning when I was asleep, taking only a small suitcase of clothes with her and the picture of us off of my desk.
My chest tightens the longer I think about my estranged sister, so much so that I have to pause in the act of dumping the shards into the trash. I worry about her constantly. She never replies to my letters, and hasn't granted my wish to see her since that day ten years ago. I often wonder if she's even alive, my poor sister who exists solely to reproduce.
But there is one good outcome of Ella's predicament: I realized that marriage sucks. It's like death to us Mafia women, and I avoid it like the plague. I have vowed to myself ever since Ella's visit that I will never marry, especially not a Mafia man. And now there's one in my house, more than willing to take my hand if I give it.
Damn the fates.
I flinch at the interruption of my musings and glance at Isaac over my shoulder. "Yes?" I attempt to say but my voice cracks, so I clear my throat and try again. "Yes, Isaac?"
He eyes me suspiciously for a moment. "Are you okay?"
I laugh mirthlessly and drop a towel on the remaining liquid. "Have I ever been okay?" I ask quietly, not expecting an answer. It's a question I ask myself constantly, and is pretty much rhetorical. I know I'm not okay, haven't been ever since I can remember, but I can't help but wonder if I was when Isaac was around. If I had been, I'll probably shoot myself. If the man who tried to kill me was the only one who made me happy, why bother living?
I rub the scars on my chest absently as I stare at the soiled cloth at my feet, its stained appearance reminding me of things I'd rather forget. I'm so absorbed in my own thoughts that I don't notice Isaac's approach.
"Are you hurt? Do you need me to take you to the hospital?" His hands grasp my wrists as he turns my palms skyward, examining the pale flesh and pointedly ignoring my cringe.
"I'm fine; just tired. I think I'm going to go to bed." I murmur, carefully extracting my hands from his grasp before wandering up the stairs.
I go through my nighttime rituals in a daze, not seeing as I brush my teeth and strip down to my underwear. I don't mind the massive knot that is my sheets as I crawl under them and don't feel the slight scrape they make against my legs.
I can't even bring myself to care when Isaac crawls in beside me and tugs my body tightly against his own as my eyes slowly drift closed.
The first coherent thought that I have is heat. It surrounds me, cradles me. Suffocates me. And I love it.
I nuzzle closer to the warmth, sighing happily when it tightens around me. Then it begins to rumble, and I make a noise of protest and burry my face deeper. The deep booms and vibrations sound like thunder, and I hate thunder and the rain that comes with it. Hell, anything wet, as long as it's touching me anyway, is way out of my comfort zone. All thanks to that idiot…
"Stop raining," I groan into the heat, my voice muffled against a surface that feels suspiciously like skin.
Vines weave through my hair and stroke my scalp gently as something hot presses against my temple. "Raining? Well you're surprisingly cute in the morning." A deep voice comments husky with sleep.
Suddenly, it all snaps in place. The vines are fingers, the thunder is laughter, the skin really is skin, and the heat…goddamn that heat is Isaac. So what's pressed against my—
The mystery object travels south to brush against my jaw before slowly trailing over my lips with only the slightest pressure. I squeak indignantly and jerk back, my wide eyes locking with Isaac's.
"You kissed me!" I state dumbly, mouth open in shock. Isaac rolls his eyes but leans back to prop his head up on his hand.
"It's not the first time, Evan. Relax." Then that smirk creeps up and I immediately scoot back. "But it certainly won't be the last."
I clutched the sheet to my chest to hide the fact that I'm only in my underwear, but Isaac only rolls his eyes. It isn't anything that he hasn't already seen, but lust can do a lot to dampen a person's modesty. Unfortunately for him, getting into his pants is the last thing on my mind right now.
My glare travels south to find his tanned chest bare of clothing, and my frown slowly fades into an appreciative appraisal. He has strong arms, thick with roping muscle, which connect to wide shoulders adorned with a star on each. My eyes widen at the tattoos that I somehow managed to miss during each of our encounters. A fatal mistake, for they display the high status that I only speculated he had before.
But even with the surprising discovery, I find my gaze traveling over his wide tanned chest dusted with hair. My eyes droop farther down and I watch his abs flex under my gaze as if I'm stroking him with my fingertips and not my wandering eyes.
No. Bad Evan. Mafia men are off limits.
I shake myself and force my eyes to lock with his smug pair. "What are you doing in my bed?"
He shrugs lazily and rolls onto his back to stretch. I try not to watch the way his muscles ripple as his spine arches, but when the sheet dips low on his waist I begin to get concerned. "I'm wearing boxers." Isaac says with a Cheshire grin when he notices where my wide eyed stare is fixed.
Quickly, I turn so my back is to the headboard and my eyes lock straight ahead at the wall opposite us. There's a window there that is opened just a crack, so I force myself to watch as the breeze plays twister with my cream curtains.
"Answer my question." I snap when I find my voice again.
I tense when he moves to sit up as well, but release a relieved breath when he doesn't make a move to touch me. "I don't have a place to stay yet."
My eyes snap to him. "What do you mean yet?"
Isaac returns my sharp gaze with a patient one of his own. "I mean I'm moving to Lolita, but I've yet to purchase a house. So I need a place to stay, and figured that you would be accommodating."
Me, Evangeline Monsour, accommodating? On what planet has he been living on for the past twenty some years?
I take a deep, calming breath and release it slowly. Masking my anger, I turn to Isaac. "I'm going to say this once and only once: get the fuck out of my house. You cannot stay here, you cannot live in this town, and you most certainly cannot sleep in my bed. We aren't lovers or even friends; you don't have the right to even talk to me in a familiar way."
Isaac's eyes narrow but I roll out of bed and stroll over to my closet, pointedly dismissing him. I grab a floor-length flowing white skirt and a black cut-off before making my way over to the adjoining bathroom.
Just before closing the door, I poke my head out to glare at Isaac. "I want you gone by the time I'm out of this bathroom." And with that I slam the door and jump in the shower.
After a half hour of stewing over the audacity of a certain Russian man I'm out of the bathroom and cautiously making my way into my barren bedroom. His clothes are off of my floor and the bed is neatly made. But the best part—no Russians.
I grin happily and make my way down the hallway towards Mel's room, avoiding all the creaky boards on the way. It's an old house, but I know it well and have come to love most of its quirks. But the septic tank is the worst…
Carefully, I pull her door open to peek inside. Unlike the rest of the house that I decorate with only the cheapest and most necessary furniture, Mel's room is covered in knickknacks, posters, and a lavish bedroom set. The walls are a bright purple, a stark contrast from the otherwise white paint around the rest of the house, and the canopy on her king sized bed, the rug, comforter, sheets, and the curtains are an obnoxious shade of neon green. I hate coming in here; it gives me a headache.
I find my friend nestled in her bright sheets, sound asleep and snoring softly. Her hand is thrown half-hazardly over her swollen belly, fingers deftly stroking even in her sleep. I find myself smiling at the tender sight; she will be a great mother. But I can't say that I'm excited for all the crying and constant shitting. Babies are cute and all, but a whiff of a dirty diaper can change your view of a kid for weeks.
Deciding to let her sleep, I soundlessly close her door and go downstairs to find Grimace. As much as I love him, I don't enjoy finding dog shit on my kitchen floor and am even less enthused when I have to clean it up. The days that I do find little presents tend to be rather dismal for my poor dog.
I run my fingers through my damp locks as I make my way into the living room, which is composed of a stained green couch I picked up on the side of the road and an ancient television set that had dials instead of a remote. When I said only the essentials, I meant it.
"Grimace!" I call when I get to the sliding glass doors that let light into the sad little room and lead to my backyard. It isn't particularly exquisite either, being about an acre of scraggly grass, but hey at least I mow it. Occasionally.
A frown furrows my brow when Grimace fails to appear at my side. "Grimace?" I murmur and make my way into the kitchen in search of the hound. But the silence still remains.
Panic blossoms in my chest at the continuing stillness. Where is that damn dog? I quickly check all the doors and windows, and finding them all locked feel the despair begin to creep in. Did I really lose my first friend?
A soft scraping in the basement hits my ears and I take off towards the door at breakneck speed. I run down the stairs, heart pounding in my ears as my breathing turns ragged. I pause at the bottom and search the dim lighting of the small space, crinkling my nose at the damp earthy smell that saturates every nook and cranny.
Something shifts to my left and I breathe out a relieved sigh. "I'm going to kill you for scaring me like that." I mutter and flip on the lights. But instead of meeting a pair of pale blue eyes, I find a furious viridian set glaring at me.
Isaac sits on a chair I instantly recognize as the nicest in my house; a plush dining room chair with soft red cushions on top of stained oak. He remains shirtless with his arms crossed over his chest and his bare foot is tapping impatiently on the floor. He curls his lip in an attempt at a smile and points to the lawn chair sitting in front of him.
My eyes widen and I take an automatic step back. Isaac's anger seems to increase at the movement and I find myself afraid of him. I've never viewed him as a serious threat before now, but when he's was angry it's only too possible for him to be a part of the ominous Bratva.
"Don't move a step farther, Evangeline." He says in a voice so flat I flinch. The use of my full name only increases my unease, but when he says it, even when angry, I still feet a flicker of the desire I felt earlier.
Pushing down my fear and mimicking his crossed arms, I glare at him. "What did you do with my dog?"
Isaac smirks, but it's much darker than his usual sensual smile. "You should be more worried about yourself right now, Evie." I shudder at the nickname that's unnervingly familiar but Isaac takes no notice of my discomfort. "Have a seat." He gestures to the rickety old lawn chair he set up a few feet from his own chair.
I hesitate, biting my lip to display my uncertainty, and Isaac's glare seems to soften slightly. "Please."
Breathing out a deep sigh, I stalk forward and plop down in the chair, gripping onto the rusted armrests in alarm when the joints heave a mighty groan. "Couldn't you have given me a chair that isn't a health hazard?" I snap irritably and instantly regret it.
Isaac shoots forward so suddenly I release a startled squeak which is soon followed by a pained cry when he fists his fingers in my hair. "You should know better than to continue to insult me, Evangeline." He snarls in my ear, his grip tightening painfully. "Or have you forgotten what these mean?" He gestures to the twin stars that sit proudly on his shoulders, a blatant display of high rank.
Instantly, I drop my eyes and bow my head, keeping my gaze trained on the floor Isaac is kneeling on in an open display of submission. Growing up, I'd been taught to never anger a higher ranking man, and here I am goading one on until he snapped. In a way, I'm ashamed of myself. In others, I simply curse my own stupidity.
"Sorry, Isaac." I whisper and breathe a sigh of relief when his fingers loosen enough to fall through my hair.
"That wasn't so hard now, was it?" He asks with a smirk, stroking my hair with his large hands.
"No, sir." I answer on autopilot, the correct responses that were ever so carefully instilled into my mind years ago coming to the surface. As long as I can placate him until I find an escape I should be fine. That is, if he remains as agreeable as he is now.
Isaac's lips turn down in a displeased frown and he slowly moves back to my, ahem his, chair. "I don't want you to be formal with me Evan. But I expect respect, as does any human being."
I nod but don't speak. Isaac searches my face for any sign of emotion or defiance but when finding it blank sighs and continues, "You know when I came here I wasn't expecting to find you." Now that caught my attention. My eyes snap to his and he grins triumphantly and gets up to pace about the confines of my cellar.
"Oh, I was looking for you, have no doubt. Your mother made it abundantly clear when she summoned me that finding you was a necessity not only for my courtship but for her records. You were off her map, and she was worried." I suppress a scoff at that. My mother is never worried. She's just irritated that I managed to outsmart her and got the fuck out before she could turn me into a baby making machine.
"Before Texas I'd been to a few other southern states. I figured you'd want to be away from the rain and snow, knowing your aversion to anything wet." I cast him an accusatory glare but he simply shrugs and continues.
"But what I didn't expect was for you to be right on the edge of a fucking lake. I spent six months searching through the files in this godforsaken state, Evan, six months. And I came up with nothing." He takes a deep breath and turns to me with a slight smile.
"But I wasn't deterred. I knew you were in the state; your flight landed in Austin and with your funds you'd never make it out. So I decided to fly in and step in your shoes."
"Why didn't you just give up?" I interrupt, honestly curious. If I were him I would have given up the moment my insane mother gave me the task, family be damned. It's cruel, but I just wouldn't care enough to save them. The only one worth saving is already practically dead anyway.
Isaac gives me an odd look. "You're not close with your family, are you?"
I glare at him. "What have I said that would ever give you that impression?" I bite out sarcastically but Isaac simply smiles distantly.
"If you saw Mel dying, what would you do to save her?"
"Anything." I answer without hesitation.
"Then you understand my situation. My family is dying, Evan. And I'm the only one who can save them. Giving up isn't an option anymore." He seems to shake himself and begins to pace again, his restlessness comparable to that of a caged tiger.
"Anyway, after a point I was simply driving around the state, roaming from town to town. I lived out of roadside motels and finally my car when funds got low. Eventually my car broke down a few miles west of here. A man found me, and towed it out into Lolita. The night I found you was the night I was just about ready to give up." He turns to me with a small smile.
"But I couldn't stay. I had to return to France to speak with your mother, which took longer than I thought it would since I had to make a detour to Russia as my father's health declined. Before I knew it a year had passed and it was time to return to the States to court you." His soft gaze turns hard suddenly. "And I don't plan on going home empty handed, Evan."
I swallow heavily as he begins to advance on me. "As, ah, touching as your stalker story is, Isaac, I'm not going to just drop everything and get hitched. I have a life here, and no matter how shitty it is, it's better than France."
"You won't live in France. You'll live in Russia with me." He says it so simply, as if his words can just erase my worries. Unfortunately for him, it's going to take a lot more than a few simple words to get me to break my vow.
"That's not going to make me change my mind, Isaac." I warn and get to my feet when he gets a bit too close for comfort.
He pauses suddenly and laughs. "I didn't think it would."
I look at him like he's crazy, which he probably is. "Then what—"
"Do you fancy bets, Evan?"
"I like them if I win." I mutter and am rewarded with a grin.
"Of course. But with this one, it's a fifty-fifty shot."
I roll my eyes but have to admit that I'm curious. "What kind of bet?"
Isaac pauses for a moment and seems to be lost in thought. "Well it's more of a deal now that I think of it."
"Just tell me, Isaac." I snap and blush sheepishly when he glares at me. "Please."
"If I can seduce you within a month, starting tomorrow, you will marry me. If I fail I'll leave with my tail between my legs without complaint."
I ponder it over for a moment, and the more I think about it the larger my smile becomes. In all my years on Earth I've had to fend of men, and I've grown to be quite good at it. Sure Isaac is attractive, but other men are just as attractive. And besides, I've already had sex with him twice. There's no way any overpowering need will attack and force me into his arms. That's what vibrators are for.
If he thinks I have a fifty-fifty chance at winning then he's sorely mistaken.
I grin and stick my hand out in his direction. "Deal."
"Ah ah ah," he chides and wags his finger in my face, a flash of his earlier mischievousness replacing some of the serious in his eyes. "We have to go over the rules first."
I frown. "Rules?"
"Yes, rules." He grins. "Rule number one, you must cede all of your free time to me. I understand you have work and need to sleep, but the rest will be spent with me. There's no way I'll be able to court you if you're always avoiding me."
"Do you want to accompany to the bathroom when I need to take a shit, too?" I mutter sarcastically.
"Kinky," Isaac murmurs with a wink and I roll my eyes.
"Deal. Onto the next one."
"No boyfriends or sex with other men during the allotted month. That's just not fair."
He barely finishes the sentence before I utter a hasty, "Yes."
Isaac watches me with open surprise. "Well that went easier than I thought."
I shrug. "He was on the way out anyway." I mutter and Isaac smirks.
"Have I already wheedled my way into your cold heart, Miss Monsour?"
I scoff. "As if. Next rule."
"Respect is a must."
"Of course. Deal. Next."
"Last rule is you give me a job. These Lolita drunks are a bit unruly for my tastes, and a little extra protection is probably a good idea now that the Milieu knows where you are. If I remember correctly you weren't on the best of terms with a few."
I grimace at the reminder. "To put it lightly, yes. And deal. But you've got to let me handle my own shit. Only step in if you think it's necessary. The last thing I need is for people not to take me seriously after you leave."
Isaac's lips quirk in amusement. "You really think that you'll win, don't you?"
Isaac shakes his head, his smile turning secretive. "We'll see."
Bouncing on my heels in impatience, I stick my hand out to him. "So do we have a deal?"
Isaac grasps my hand and bends at the waist to place a burning kiss on the back of it. "We do," he murmurs, his lips brushing my skin with every syllable.
Quickly I jerk back and watch him suspiciously. When he makes no move towards me I ask the most important question: "Now seriously, what the fuck did you do with my dog?"
Onto reviews! I love you guys so much...
chaosinchains91: Thank you for the compliment! I find that I can describe characters fairly well but the scenery...well that will take a bit of work and practice :) And yes, Brady is an interesting character. I haven't exactly figured out how I want him to be, but we'll be seeing him in the next chapter. Whenever that happens...
DreamsOnlyLastForTheNight: Well I hope this chapter kind of cleared up Isaac's motives for forcing, or trying to force ;), himself on Evan. He's certainly got his motives and demons, but we'll explore those a bit more later. And yes, Evan is one of my favorite characters that I've written. Each of them is a piece of my own personality, but I think Evan is more the type of girl that I want to be than the one I am. I'm glad you don't think it's too cliche! I've definitely worked to keep it different :) Thanks for the review!
Cyh Scaevola: Oh Cyh, what am I going to do with you? Editing at almost 5:00...tsk tsk :) I believe I already replied to your review about a month or so ago, but again thank you so much. Your support and criticism is absolutely amazing. I do realize that those delicious...things...won't last me, but I've effectively stopped them for the time being, haven't I? :)
InkHound: Believe me, I know it's rough. I post this about five minutes after I write, which is honestly a horrible habit. I go back and edit the previous chapters when I get stuck on the one I'm currently working on. So the Prologue is, I hope, fairly decent. I haven't put in as much time on it as I should have and the scenes in this chapter are probably as rushed as they are in all the other ones but as I said, this is a first draft, practically a baby, and I haven't even really hashed out all the details in my own mind let alone on paper. Or Word document. But I'm hoping to crush my bad habits soon, and for the scenes I've gotten stuck at I used you suggestion and it worked absolutely beautifully. Thank you so much for your review and I hope you continue to enjoy the chapters and help me hash out all these scenes that lack the detail they need.
Soggiest.v2: Just for you I went back and incorporated her accent into the prologue. Just for you. And I actually like it a lot better, so thanks! I'm glad you like Evan and Isaac so much. They definitely are push and pull, but in time they'll figure it all out. Hopefully... ;) I hope this chapter cleared up some questions for you, especially concerning Isaac's absence for the year. I'll get more into the issues he faced there later, but for now his explanation is enough. Evan will poke him for more in upcoming chapters :) Thanks so much for your review! I hope you continue to enjoy.
bonghi: I would like to thank you for being the person who made me kick my ass into gear and write. Your review made me laugh much harder than I should have, but it did nonetheless. My story is not dead, and I doubt any of them ever will be. Each character is a part of my personality, or a part I wish I had, so never fear that a story is dead. All stories I post on here I plan on finishing unless something absolutely horrible happens...God that would suck. Everyone would be left in suspense... Anyway I hope that doesn't happen! Thanks so much for your review!