Making the break, p.6

Making the Break, page 6

 

Making the Break
 


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  “Is it cast iron?”

  “No. Aluminum.”

  She rolled her eyes. “Then you can forget the ‘weapon of destruction’ designation for your cookware.”

  “I’m not sure. In your hands—”

  She laughed. “You’d better stop right now, Anthony Parks, if you want a woman to make you breakfast, which, judging by the bachelor state of your apartment, doesn’t happen often.”

  Saks put his hand to his heart. “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

  “Ack, Shakespeare again,” she snorted.

  Saks pushed behind her in the cramped kitchenette, managing to brush his hips against her rear as he did so. Then he bent to a lower cabinet, pushing his bottom in her direction.

  “Stop it,” she said, laughing. “Or I’ll swat that butt of yours for being sassy.”

  He stood and handed her the pan with a grin. “I’ll just get the pan for you,” he said in all innocence. “I can’t help it if your mind is in the gutter. Sassy assy. That’s what you like?” He raised a brow as his eyes slid down her body. “I know I do.”

  “You wish my mind was in the gutter,” she said as he pushed past her again. He sat on a stool at the counter and grinned at her.

  “How’s your head feeling?” said Chrissy.

  “Better now that you’re here.”

  “That’s sweet.” She rummaged through the drawers until she found the kitchen knives, and cut open the bacon and started it on the stove. “So,” she said. “What do you know about our respective family histories?”

  “You mean the Rocco/Serafini rivalry?”

  “Yes. I have to be honest with you, Saks. I spoke to my grandfather today on the phone on the way back here. He wasn’t aware you were a Parks, and he flipped out on me.”

  “How?”

  “Like a ‘the deal’s off’ sort of thing.”

  “The deal’s off? What the hell? Wait a minute.” Saks pulled his phone from his pocket and tapped a button or two before putting it to his ear. “Ma? Yeah, it’s Anthony. Tell me. Why is Pandolfo Serafini upset that I’m a Parks? No, apparently, he hasn’t forgiven it, whatever it is ...No. You yell at Uncle Vits later. Tell me the story now.” Saks nodded his head several times. “I see... I see. Okay. Thanks, Ma.” Saks’ face twisted in anger as he slammed the phone down. “Damn Uncle Vits. What a shifty bastard!”

  “What?”

  “Well, the woman your grandfather wanted to marry chose my Grandpa instead.”

  “Wait, what? All this bullshit these years between our families is because of a romantic rivalry?”

  “Apparently so.”

  “And your uncle concocted this plan, why?”

  “Who can tell who came up with it first? But one thing I can be sure of: he picked me knowing it would tick off your grandfather.”

  Chrissy cursed as she cooked the food. She looked around the kitchenette. “You don’t have a toaster?”

  Saks shrugged. “Nope.”

  Chrissy muttered as she opened the oven and stuck the English muffins under the broiler.

  “Smells good,” said Saks hopefully.

  “Madonna,” snapped Chrissy, ignoring the compliment. “Why are they engineering a gang war? This is ridiculous!”

  “I have no idea. It does neither family good.”

  “There has to be a long-term payoff.”

  “Like being the major crime family in the state?”

  “Like that’s going to happen. There’re at least six minor families ready to step up.”

  “Seriously?”

  Chrissy put the spatula on the counter. “You really don’t know, do you?”

  “I’ve tried to stay out of the business,” said Saks.

  “Maybe if you kept plugged in, you would have steered your uncle away from this crazy plan.”

  “Me?” said Saks. “You’re blaming me?” He glared at Chrissy in disbelief. The last thing he wanted was to get involved Uncle Vits’ crazy plan. “You’re the one who said that you didn’t want anything to do with a Rocco man.”

  Chrissy stared at him, her eyes wide, with the spatula in her hand again like she was going to swat him. Her mouth was open, but no words came out.

  “You’d better watch that bacon,” he said, peering over the counter at the pan of frying bacon. “It looks like it’s about to burn.”

  She shook the spatula at him and looked at the bacon, muttering as she swiped the pan off the burner. “Who cooks with electric heat, anyway?” she sputtered. She turned her back to him to grab paper towels from the holder but cursed when there weren’t any. “How’s anyone supposed to drain bacon without paper towels!”

  Even Saks, who could count his long-term success with women on one thumb, realized this woman was on the verge of a meltdown. “Baby,” he said, “it doesn’t matter.”

  “What? That I ruined bacon, or my life?”

  Saks stood, not sure what to do, but wanted to do something, anything to get Chrissy to calm down. Though he was extremely aware that he was entering Chrissy’s war zone, he scooted through the opening to the kitchenette and wrapped his arms around her waist. “How is your life ruined?” he said gently.

  Chrissy looked up at him with her liquid caramel eyes, and then closed them as tears spilled out. “Damn you,” she said, hitting her fits on his chest. “Damn you. Why did it have to be you?”

  “What, baby? What’s bothering you?”

  “You!” she exploded, pushing him hard.

  He let her go, surprised at her sudden desire to get away from him.

  “Move,” she said. “Get out of my way.”

  “Why?” His eyes narrowed, and he watched her shift from weepy to full defense mode. What was going on with her?

  “So I can get away from you,” she spat.

  “I’ll move when you explain why.”

  “It wasn’t supposed to be you or any man like you! I was supposed to fall in love with a businessman, a lawyer, or even an accountant. Not some broke-down biker who can’t be bothered to know his own family’s history.”

  “So that’s it,” said Saks, fury fueling his heart. “I’m not good enough for the Mafia Princess?”

  “Don’t you dare call me that!” she snapped. “That’s the last thing I want be!”

  “So, it’s okay for you to deny your heritage, but not me?”

  “That’s—that’s not what I mean.” Her face colored in her anger. “Oooh, just. Get. Out. Of. My. Way!”

  Saks flung open his hands and stepped back. “By all means, Princess. Wouldn’t want to keep you from your very important career with very important people.” Saks’ tone was absolutely scathing, and Chrissy’s face turned even brighter.

  “You know what? Call one of your club buddies to keep an eye on you. I have an important career to move up in.” She grabbed her bag and flounced to the front door, her blonde hair flying behind her. She slammed the door so hard the front window rattled in its frame.

  Suddenly the apartment was quiet. Too quiet.

  Chrissy’s departure sucked the air out of the room. It hit him with the force of wind-tossed wave that she left and most likely would not come back. In a second all strength slipped from Saks as his anger drained, and he gripped the counter then the couch before he sank into it.

  Saks wasn’t stupid, despite what Chrissy thought, and he realized he was in trouble. Not just on a personal health level, but on a family cold war level. He grabbed his phone off the counter and called the first person he thought of. “Luke, man. This is Saks. Can you come to my house? I need help.”

  CHAPTER TEN

  Chrissy pulled herself out of bed, groaning at the 5:00 AM alarm her phone blared.

  “Okay, okay,” she grumbled, then she swung her legs over the bed. Her head pounded from the overabundance of tequila she’d drunk last night and her stomach didn’t support the idea of standing on her feet. But she had to get moving and get into work to figure out how the office was set up.

  The fabulou
s career she had told Saks she was going after didn’t exist. Who was she fooling? Chrissy stood and swayed then, struck by the sensation of her stomach being scraped by a knife, fell to the bed again. She couldn’t get her wits together to do anything other than curl up on the bed and cry.

  Because that’s what she wanted to do. The last bitter words with Saks cut her heart as surely as if someone sunk a knife into it. It was her fault, all of it, because she’d failed to handle things.

  One was what her grandfather told her. “The deal is off.” As if he had the final say over everything. If Saks so much as tried to contact her again, her grandfather would send Marcus, or worse, to show Saks the error of his ways.

  The second was a harder thing to face.

  She loved Anthony Parks.

  When did it happen? Somewhere between the fabulous sex, the teasing spanking, and how he looked when she tried to take care of him, with absolute affection and trust?

  And she’d gone and spoiled it.

  She’d let all her fears about being the daughter of a Mafia Don spew out and poison the very thing she wanted.

  Him.

  She groaned.

  A sharp knock on the door demanded her attention.

  “What?” she snapped.

  “Open up, you liquor thief!”

  “The door’s unlocked,” Chrissy rasped.

  Her sister Gloria slammed the door as she swung it open. “You stole my tequila?”

  “I’ll buy you a new bottle.”

  “That’s not the point. You shouldn’t touch my stuff.”

  Chrissy pulled her pillow to her face and buried her head in it. “Oh, for shit’s sake. Grow up!” The pillow muffled her voice and abruptly Gloria tugged it away.

  “What’s wrong with you?”

  “Nothing! Fuck! Everything. I have to get ready for work. What are you doing awake at 5:15?”

  “I just got home. Marcus dropped me off.”

  “Lucky girl,” said Chrissy weakly.

  “Hey, who ran over your chassis?”

  “Never mind.”

  “How did things work out with Saks?”

  “They didn’t,” moaned Chrissy.

  “What happened?” Gloria’s alarmed screech split Chrissy’s head open an inch further.

  “Please,” winced Chrissy. “Can you not yell?”

  “I wasn’t yelling.”

  Maybe her sister wasn’t yelling, but it felt like it. “Whatever.” She huffed and rolled onto her back. “Anyway, Grandpa found out he was the wrong type of Rocco and called off the deal.”

  “What the hell? What does that even mean?”

  “It means, baby sister, that Grandpa’s love life when he was a young buck spilled over into my love life.”

  “You’re making no sense. Are you still drunk? And it’s not your love life that’s ruined, by the way. It’s mine.”

  “Yes. It’s all about you, sis.” Chrissy pushed out of bed and stumbled past Gloria.

  “Where do you think you’re going?”

  “Shower. Then work.”

  “Not until you tell me what’s going on.”

  “Tell you what,” said Chrissy, patting Gloria’s shoulder dismissively. “You go talk to Grampy Pandy and find out the story of how Saks’ grandfather stole his girl from him.”

  “Fuck,” said Gloria. “That happened?”

  “Yeah.”

  “No wonder he hates them. But wait. He married Granny Celeste.”

  “He had to marry someone. There are just some people you don’t get over even if you’re married.”

  “Well, fix it.”

  “What. Are you crazy?”

  “You talk to Grandpa.” In Gloria’s voice was desperation and a plea. “He listens to you. Tell him you can’t live without Saks. Tell him you love him.”

  “Yeah, like that’ll do any good.”

  “Well, tell him you’re pregnant with Saks’ child.”

  She stared at her sister, her head aching too much to shake it at her. “That’ll get Saks killed for sure. Mama was beside herself when she found out I spent the night with Saks. A pregnancy would send all of them over the edge.”

  “Mama knows you spent the night with Saks? Who told her?”

  “I did.”

  “Are you nuts? She’ll be making appointments for the gynecologist for both of us.”

  “Relax. It was a night in the hospital. Remember? His car hood smacked him in the head after your boyfriend tried to beat him up.”

  “Yeah. But, fuck, Chrissy.”

  “I can’t help you, Gloria. I tried. But Grandpa won’t allow Saks to become part of the family now. You’ll have figure out another way to get Marcus to marry you.”

  “Well, I’m not going to give up. I’ll talk to Grandpa myself.”

  “Good luck.” Chrissy turned and headed into the bathroom. She showered and when she returned to her room, Gloria had left. If her little sister wanted to go on a fool’s errand, who was Chrissy to stop her? She had her own life to pull out of the fire. And this is what occupied her mind as she drove to the train station, and all the way into New York on the train. She still worked for Drummond Walker. Try as she might, she couldn’t figure a way out other than to find a new job. Charles wasn’t going to help her if she didn’t take the job with James Pearson.

  “Oh crap, Chrissy,” her assistant Jessica said. “I thought you were lying when you said you were sick. But you look like death warmed over.”

  “Thanks for the editorial. Where are my messages?”

  “Here,” said Jessica, handing her a wad of pink message notes. “Most of them are from Charles. Don’t you return his calls?”

  “No,” said Chrissy. “I spoke to him yesterday. Once is enough.”

  “Wow, for a guy who’s getting you a million-dollar position, you sure treat him badly.”

  “I keep telling him I don’t want that job.”

  “You’re awfully picky. How often does a seven-figure job land in your lap?”

  “None of your business,” said Chrissy crankily. “And it’s not seven figures. It’s six.”

  Chrissy had clearly spoken too sharply, and alarmed poor Jessica. “Okay, boss. I’ll pull back. You’re obviously not well.”

  “Obviously,” said Chrissy as she headed into her office.

  But no sooner did she sit at her chair than her phone rang.

  “Chrissy, Richard wants to see you in his office.”

  Chrissy cursed under her breath.

  “Okay. Were there any explosions yesterday I should know about?”

  “No. Though Miss Cronut was exceptionally quiet yesterday.”

  Chrissy tried not to interpret this as the bad sign this appeared to be. “Okay, send my portfolio to my Dropbox.”

  Jessica was aware of what this meant. Chrissy and she had discussed this previously. If she got fired, the company would lock her out of the company’s servers before she could retrieve the work she could use for getting a new job. Jessica had her Dropbox account info, and she was to get the portfolio uploaded. “You don’t think...?”

  “I don’t know. Things were... weird at Drummond Walker’s house when I went there.”

  “I hope it’s otherwise, though.”

  Chrissy walked to Richard’s office with grim determination. She had no idea what Richard would say if he had the nerve to say it. If anything, she should be having this conversation with Drummond Walker, the rat.

  “Richard wants to see me,” she told Hamilton’s assistant, Chloe.

  “Sure thing, Ms. Serafini,” said Chloe with a smirk. At least Chrissy tried not to interpret it as a smirk. Chloe knocked on Richard’s door.

  “Tell her to come in, Chloe.”

  Chrissy entered, but Richard didn’t acknowledge her. He studied a file on his desk, sighed, then raised his eyes to hers.

  “Sit down, Chrissy.”

  Chrissy sat on the padded chair and crossed her legs and waited for him to speak.

 
Chrissy, this is very hard to say.”

  Her heart thudded against her chest. Here it comes.

  “Apparently, uh, you misinterpreted your conversation with Mr. Drummond.”

  “Did I?” said Chrissy.

  “Mr. Drummond didn’t mean to, uh—”

  “Come on to me?”

  Richard shifted in his seat, his expression expressing his discomfort. “He assures me it was a misunderstanding.”

  “Really, Richard? In a pool. In our bathing suits. He put his hands on me. He said he wanted to ‘get to know me better.’”

  Richard scoffed. “Well, that’s what he wanted.”

  “I’m sure,” said Chrissy. “If that whole thing was on the up and up, you would have stayed to discuss the position. No. There was no misunderstanding. The only position Mr. Drummond wanted me in was horizontal.”

  “I think you’re being paranoid. And foolish. Telling Mr. Drummond that you had another position was not your smartest move. Do you really expect to remain employed here when you say things like that?”

  “I don’t know, Richard. You tell me.”

  “You can forget any expansion of your responsibilities.”

  “I’m sure,” she said.

  “You need to think long and hard about your career options, Chrissy. Because I’m sure, at this point, they aren’t upward.”

  “You can take a hard line if you want, Richard. But I did nothing wrong. And if you want to press the issue, go ahead.” Chrissy stood.

  “I’m not done speaking with you.”

  “I think you are. And if you attempt to write me up for a ‘poor attitude,’ or mark down my performance review from my formerly sterling ones, then I’ll file complaints.” With that, Chrissy walked out of Richard Hamilton’s office very deliberately and didn’t bother looking back.

  She walked past Chloe’s scathing gaze and back to the safety of her office area.

  “What happened?” asked Jessica.

  “I had a Tequila Sunrise. That’s enough for any woman in a single day. I’m going home.”

  “Good idea. You don’t look well at all.”

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  “Hey. Wake up.”

  “Chrissy?” mumbled Saks. Her voice sounded raspy and low to his ears, but he was so tired he barely took notice.

 
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