Owned:A Mafia Menage Romance

By: Meg Watson

Nestling the envelope at the very bottom of my bag, I think about that for a second. “Catch me doing what? What’s weird about having money in my purse?”

She rolls her eyes and raises her brows right in the spaciously waxed empty space between them. Gianna has the best eyebrows on the planet.

“You know what, just because you’re studying to be a CPA doesn’t mean you get financial oversight over me, Gianna.”

She sucks her teeth to tell me that she’s not buying it. She knows exactly what I’m doing. In fact, I’ll bet she’s been keeping a running tally since the first time she noticed that I separate my tips. She’s good with numbers.

“Do you have enough yet?” she murmurs.

I sigh and glare at her, begging her to stop.

“Are you gonna do it for real? Are you gonna leave?”

Shaking my head, I aim my eyes at the ceiling so I don’t have to look at her. “Gianna, nobody ever leaves, you know that.”

“Right,” she breathes. “I know it. I just wanna make sure that you know it.”

I can’t look at the ceiling forever, so I tip my head back down. I give her a big, apologetic smile and a shrug. Leaving is hopeless. Everybody knows that. Having the cash is just sensible planning, even if I never get to do it.

“If you need to go home, you can just go,” I offer. “I can close up the club. It's not a big deal to me.”

She tips her head as she plucks the bottle of Iordanov vodka off the granite and puts it back on the shelf. We don't carry a big selection, but everything we have is top-of-the-line, rarest in the world. Crystal-encrusted bottles. Liquors that are filtered through precious stones. The most expensive champagnes, the best escorts at the touch of a button. Cigars that smell like the islands. They don’t even stink like you would think they would. They’re like perfume.

That's why people keep coming to our cigar club. It's sort of an old-fashioned thing, I guess, but it's been in the family for eighty years or so. It's been the site of dozens of peace negotiations and probably more shakedowns and hard deals than anybody's going to admit. But no bloodshed. That’s strictly off-site. It’s in the code.

Everybody thinks of us as the center of the neighborhood. Their very own Cosa Nostra headquarters, hidden in plain sight. The cops actually avert their eyes when they drive by the front window.

“No, I can close. It’s all right,” she says with a resolute sigh. “You should've been done hours ago anyway.”

“Well, I have to wait for Daddy. I can't leave without saying goodbye, and he is still in there with them.”

She nods, inhaling through her nose. I know she's not leaving. Gianna is not the sort of person who takes the easy way out of anything.

But even as I'm saying this, I hear the soft click of the door being opened. Billows of cigar smoke roll out even though the air filtration system was probably working double time in the room.

I hear the laughter of men and then one of the big Russians comes out of the room, walking backward and still chuckling with someone. Daddy follows right after, throwing his arm around the Russian’s broad shoulder as they both step into the hallway.

A smaller, silent man comes after, his eyes shifting nervously from side to side as he scans the front of the club to see if anyone else is observing them. Other than Gianna and me, I mean. We may as well be invisible.

Daddy's eyes flicker toward me and then away as he keeps laughing, nodding and encouraging the Russian to walk with him. Stosh, I think his name is. He is as big as a bear. His arms are as thick as my thighs, meaty and somehow absurd. He's covered in weird tattoos all the way up to his jawline. The white hair on his head is so closely shaven that it almost looks like an angelic halo, but that hard gleam in his icy blue eyes tells another story.

He looks right at me and narrows his eyes slightly as Daddy walks him forward. His upper lip curls over one side of his teeth in what almost seems like a smile.

I realize that I'm looking right back at him when Gianna pinches me hard on the back of my arm as a warning. Flinching, I automatically look away and begin clearing the counter, preparing for closing time.

“You have a beautiful daughter, Don Lauro,” he says in his weirdly slippery accent. My skin crawls when he says it, even though Daddy is chuckling like he gave me a great compliment.

“I'm the luckiest man in the world!" Daddy agrees in a bellow. “Well, maybe the second luckiest…”

Chuckling, Stosh comes right over to the counter and leans his paw-like hands on it, looming over the granite like a shadow. I act like I'm looking for my keys in my pocket, any reason not to stare up at him.

“Do I frighten you, devushka?” he says in a low growl.

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