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By:Alexa Riley


“Giovanni,” I snap back.

“Is this going to be a problem?” he asks, and now there’s concern, rather than accusation, behind his words.

“Have I ever not taken care of business? Have I ever once put us in jeopardy?” Heat rushes up my neck as anger takes hold. I walk around the desk and get toe to toe with him. “Have you once in your goddamn life ever known me to not cover my shit and do what’s best for everyone in our family?”

He clenches his jaw and rolls his shoulders. Gio is a kitten until you get in his space. That’s when the panther comes out and he’ll rip your throat out. But I’m not scared. He and I had our differences when we were younger and we worked through them. I just need to remind him that I’m not the enemy.

“You’re right, brother,” he finally says, and reaches out to put a hand on my shoulder. “Just be careful. I know I give you a hard time about finding a woman, but I’ve never seen you like this before.”

“I know. I will be,” I say, and it goes a long way to cool both of us down. I pull him into a quick hug and then step back, grabbing my bag off the desk.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” I say as I walk out of the office.

When I get to the garage, I slip into my black Maserati and start it up. It’s not a long drive to the place where Thea spends the first part of her day, but it gives me just long enough to talk myself out of approaching her today.

It’s been hell these two weeks, keeping my distance, but I keep promising myself that I will make my move soon. I also needed to make sure she didn’t run to the cops. It was a real possibility, although I hoped she wouldn’t. I needed to see who her friends and family were and if she confided in them about what happened. I put a few of my men around in key places to watch and listen, and so far, there’s been nothing. She’s kept her silence, and for her loyalty she’s been rewarded. But the greatest reward is yet to come.

After the night we parted ways, I bought the building she lives in and secretly had a few upgrades done. I had cameras installed, better lighting outside, and security guards placed at all the entrances. A couple of the guys I had watching the area knew to be on the lookout for her, but I didn’t mention her name. I just said she was a distant cousin to a family member and was staying there temporarily. Which is true. She won’t be in that dump much longer.

I also went to her telemarketing job and spoke with the owner. I pretended to be a headhunter checking for work references on Thea, and they offered up everything they had on her so easily I nearly lost my shit. I kept my cool, though, and learned all that I could and paid them for their time and services. If they seemed at all surprised by this, they didn’t act like it and pocketed the money without another word.

As soon as I left, I contacted my tech guy to hack in and erase any data the company had on her. Fucking idiots just gave me her life in a folder without so much as a glance at an ID.

I didn’t go into her waitressing job, but instead watched her from outside. She kept to herself and worked her fingers to the bone every night. It made my chest ache to watch it that first night.

I followed her on the train home but stayed in a different compartment and kept my distance. That first night, after she was safely in her home, I ordered Chinese for her and had it delivered. She tried to refuse it, but I paid the guy an extra fifty to tell her it was for her and it was taken care of.

Now every night, I have food sent to her home. She stopped trying to refuse after a few days, but I keep wondering if she knows it’s me. I wonder if there’s a place inside of her that knows I’m taking care of her. Just like I said I would.

At the end of every night I wait outside her building until I watch her light go out. After that, I head home and think about her until I fall asleep. I can’t hold back much longer, and each day that passes, I become less and less patient.

I pull up in my usual spot that’s close to the old house she works in but not close enough for her to notice me. A Maserati sticks out in a neighborhood like this, but she hasn’t so much as glanced in its direction. One day I’m going to talk to her about being aware of her surroundings.

I’m early, but I never mind the wait for her to leave. Some days I follow her on foot to the train station and ride it with her. Some days I wait until she gets on and then drive straight to Rita’s. I strum my fingers on the steering wheel as the clock ticks by.

When she’s five minutes late, I get annoyed.

I get out of my car and pace a little closer, thinking that maybe I can see if there’s a meeting or something happening inside.