Seven Days Ch. 06bysoular©
"Choose your words carefully," Nic warned in a low voice, glaring at him.
Antonio licked his dry lips. "I--I, fuck, sir, she came to me and she was cold and crying and she didn't have anywhere to go. I didn't know what to do, but there's no way I could have shut my door on her. I just--I couldn't do that," Antonio said. "I know you warned me, but I promise, she slept in my room and I slept on the couch downstairs. Swear to God." Antonio finally took a breath and squeezed his eyes shut. Holy fuck, how did he get into this mess?
Nic tried not to let Antonio's words affect him, but they did. He hated the thought of her cold and crying, turning to practically a stranger for help. She should have been with him. But the wheels in his head started turning. He knew of one way of getting Victoria back. She wouldn't have anywhere else to turn.
Nic stood there, leaning against his desk. He glanced over to Jimmy who was standing silently in the corner like he always did. Everyone in the room was quiet, waiting for him to make a decision. In life, Nic realized everything was a fucking chess game. And he had just figured out his next move.
"Antonio, I have a proposition for you. Actually, more of an exchange. I heard through the grapevine that you want to be more of an inside man, is that right?"
Antonio opened his eyes. "Um, yes sir, I'd love to move up the ranks some," he said, sweeping his eyes across the other men in the room.
"How about I make that happen for you."
Antonio turned his attention back to Nic. "What? Really?"
"Yes, I can make that happen. You'll get a major pay bump and you won't have the shit jobs anymore. I can make all of that happen for you, but you have to do something for me," Nic said.
Fuck, that meant taking care of his mom for good. No more backbreaking work for her. How did he go from thinking he was shark food to possibly being an inside man. "Of course, sir, anything," Antonio said, too eagerly.
Nic hesitated for a moment. Then looked him straight in the face. "Good. You have to kick Victoria out of your house."
Hearing that was like a bucket of ice being thrown on Antonio. The smile faded from his face. "What?" Antonio asked.
"Tell her to leave. Tonight."
"But, where will she go?" Antonio asked.
"That's not really your concern, but she'll be with me."
"Sir, I can't do that," Antonio said, lowering his head. God, he wanted so bad to be on the inside. And at his age, that meant that by the time he was in his early thirties like Nic, he would have his own mini empire. Shit!
"Yes you can. I'll take care of everything regarding her. Plus, you don't get opportunities like this handed to you very often. And I'm sure you wouldn't want to consider the alternative," Nic said, before he walked to the door. "Let's go."
Victoria was so proud of herself. She had finally learned to perfect Lasagna. She had been looking over several recipes all day, and found the perfect one. Sure, it was a basic dish, but she was still proud that she had made it. The cheese was a bright golden color, and the edges were slightly browned, and the smell...oh, it was fantastic. She couldn't wait for Antonio to taste it. He couldn't make fun of her Italian cooking anymore, seeing that she had tried to make chicken parmigiano the night before and it was...well, nasty, no other word. And she had been bragging that entire day about how good a cook she was. But tonight, she would redeem herself. She was adding tomatoes to the salad, when she heard the front door unlock. She quickly picked up her Lasagna masterpiece and headed to the front of the house.
"Ta da!" she shouted, and held the scrumptious dish right under Antonio's nose when he entered.
But he didn't smile. He didn't even look at her. He looked down at the dish, and then pushed past her. She slowly turned, wondering what she had done. She quietly watched as he removed his coat and ran a hand through his dripping hair. He stood with his back facing her.
Victoria stared down at her dish, then back up to him. "Antonio? I didn't think it was that bad," she tried to joke.
Finally he turned around to face her. "Vicky...I, shit!" he shouted.
"Jesus, Antonio, what's wrong?"
"I did something, that, well, I'll probably regret. No, I KNOW I will regret. Just please find it in your heart to forgive me. Please," he said, walking closer to her.
Victoria started to get a cold chill creeping through her body. She stared at his face, and realized something really bad had happened.
"What do you want me to forgive?" she whispered.
Antonio exhaled. God, she looked so small and fragile standing there holding dinner that she had prepared for him. She had been with him less than a week. He exhaled again and rushed out his explanation, as if to lessen the blow. "Mr. Andretti...he, fuck, he offered me an opportunity to be on the inside."
Victoria tried to smile, but she figured there was more that he wasn't telling her. Why would Nic offer that...especially to Antonio? "Well, that's good. It's what you've been waiting on. I'm happy for you."
"Shit!" Antonio screamed again, while kicking his coffee table over. The sudden move and loud crash caused Victoria to jump, but she said nothing, waiting on him to disclose why he was so upset.
"He...the only way I can have the offer is if I make you leave my house...tonight," Antonio whispered, staring down at the ground.
Victoria couldn't believe what she was hearing. Not again. This can't be happening. No way this could be happening. "And you said yes," she whispered, staring down at her perfect creation. She felt him sliding closer to her.
"Yes," he quietly whispered back. Immediately, as if on cue, tears sprang to the surface of her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. At that moment she hated her life. She hated that people had this power over her. They could just use her and toss her out. Nic, her father, and now Antonio. The pain of her existence started to really hit her hard. She moved around him and walked to the kitchen. She sat the lasagna down, and covered her mouth before a loud cry escaped. She really was all alone. She tried her best to calm her breathing and hysterical cry, but it was painful keeping it in.
"Fuck!" she heard him say from the living room. He walked into the kitchen and tried to hug her, but she pushed him off and walked upstairs to his bedroom to pack.
He quickly followed. "I'm so fucking sorry Vicky. I'm sorry, I can't tell you how much. Shit!" he said, as he watched her pile her few belongings in her tattered duffel bag. She couldn't stop crying. She hated crying in front of people who she felt had wronged her. She was tired of being so fucking weak. Weak, stupid slut, she thought, which caused her to momentarily laugh, to keep from seeming so pathetic.
Antonio tried to grab her again, but she pushed him off. "Don't touch me! Just leave me alone, okay," she huffed out, and stomped out of his bedroom. He chased behind her and tried to grab her again before she exited.
"Let go of me!" she screamed hysterically at him, while he pulled her in for a bear hug. "No, get off me!!"
Antonio wouldn't release her. He kept trying to whisper his apology in her ear, but she didn't want to hear it. She was tired of men. Tired of their lies, manipulations and cruelty. She was done with them all. She finally shoved him as hard as she could, and that broke his bear hug.
She flung open the front door and immediately froze. Leaning against a black Escalade was Nic. He was dressed in his signature black suit and long black coat. He was holding an umbrella while the rain poured around him.
Antonio slowly closed the door and leaned his forehead against it. He hated himself in that moment. He was sending her right back to Nic, which was something she had fought so hard to escape.
"Shit!" he said again, as he kicked the door and then walked upstairs.
Victoria hated that Nic was seeing her like this. All broken and crying again. Maybe he got off on seeing her in this state. Probably did. The rain was freezing and falling in large fat droplets. Her hair was already matted to her face and neck. She picked up her two bags and walked down the steps of Antonio's house. When she reached the sidewalk, she turned to the left right past Nic.
"Victoria, get in the car. It's freezing," Nic said, opening the backseat door. His heart had skipped a beat seeing her step out of the house. She was more beautiful than he remembered. Fuck, he needed to pull his shit together!
Victoria ignored him and kept walking.
Nic slammed the car door and stalked after her. He grabbed her arm and pulled her back towards him and under the umbrella.
"Let go of me, you bastard!" Victoria screamed at him, pushing him, causing him to drop the umbrella, while he gripped both of her arms.
"Get in the fucking car! We can talk in there," Nic shouted at her, while pulling her backwards.
"Let go! I fucking hate you!" Victoria shouted, pushing him as hard as she could. But he wouldn't release her arm. "Where are you going to go, huh? Where? Victoria, get in the fucking car and I'll put you up anywhere you want. Just get in," Nic said.
"I don't want anything from you! And I don't owe you anything! Now let me go!!" Victoria shouted, pulling her whole body away from him, but he gripped her shirt tighter. He jerked her towards him again, and she almost lost her balance. The rain was stinging her eyes and she was already starting to shiver. But she absolutely refused to go anywhere with him.
"Get your hands off me!" she cried. "I'm not your plaything anymore. Let go!!"
"Victoria, you have nowhere to go," Nic whispered to her.
"Then I'd rather be out on the streets than to be in your bed even one more night," Victoria spat at him, breathing quickly through her nose.
That felt like a kick to his gut. She really hated him that much? He stared down into her face to see if there was any part of her hesitating. But nothing. She wanted him to leave her alone. Well, fuck, he wasn't about to beg her. His mind told him to let it go. Here he was standing out in the rain having a shouting match with her, something he NEVER would have done with Amber, or any other woman for that matter...yet, here he was. What a fool. He noticed her shivering and the rain had molded her clothes to her body. Fuck her, she could leave in the freezing cold rain and be alone. Why should he care? He released his grip from her and turned to walk back to his car.
Victoria quickly picked up her bags and stomped off down the street and turned out of sight.
Nic got into the car and wiped the water from his face. "We can go back, Raymond". They started to make the drive home when Nic shouted "Fuck!" He didn't want to let her go without knowing she'd be safe. Goddamn this girl! He had figured getting her to go with him might be a stretch, but he didn't realize she would refuse the way she did. Now, he felt like an idiot for having Antonio make her leave. As much as he hated that kid, he would rather her be in his house safe and warm, then out on the streets alone and freezing.
"Turn back around, Raymond. I need to find her," he said, whispering the last part more to himself.
Victoria didn't know where the hell she was going. Her body was so cold, but she kept walking until she came across a park and sat down on the covered benches. The cold wind and rain were whipping her hair around her face. She was freezing, but couldn't force herself to budge. So far all of the men in her life had used her. Her father had taken away her childhood. She spent every day after school and weekends working in his failed businesses. So many friends' birthday parties, prom and many other events she had missed because of him and his constant need for success at any cost. She lowered herself to ensure that no harm would come to them, and he repays her by attacking her character and kicking her out of the apartment. The apartment that as of late, Nic had paid for. And her one friend...Antonio. She thought they were close. Even though she wasn't able to pay half of the rent yet, she did all of the household chores...yet here she was with nowhere to stay because she didn't own anything of her own. And Nic...he had used her for the last time. There was no way in hell she was going anywhere with him. Even if she wanted to, she just couldn't do that to herself again.
She had a few bucks on her and hailed a cab to the only place she had left to go. She was doing what she prayed she wouldn't have to do again. But she really had no option.
"Hello, is Mr. Marcone there?" Victoria asked, when she pressed the intercom button. Her fingers felt frozen trying to hold the button down.
"Yes, may I ask who's calling?"
"Victoria Davis." After a few moments, the gate opened and Victoria walked through. When she reached the front door, Paul opened it with a big smile, which quickly faded into a frown.
"I'm so sorry to bother you so late at night," Victoria chattered through her teeth, dripping water all over his floor.
"Nonsense, come in. My God, you're freezing." He quickly barked orders at different people to bring some towels and a blanket.
"I want you to explain this to me later, but right now, we need to get you warm," Paul said, leading her upstairs. When they reached a large bathroom, he turned the faucet on. "I'll step out, but please get in and get yourself warm. You're skin is ice cold. The water is on warm instead of hot, so you can adjust better." He turned to walk out.
Victoria removed her clothes, which took a while since her fingers felt like they were frozen. When she stepped in the tub, the water was painful. But she forced her body down under the warm liquid. She coughed and then sneezed. Fuck. Her body was already aching and her eyes were watery. She stayed submerged under the water for a few more minutes before shakily standing up and wrapping herself in a towel.
She slowly opened the door and walked out. The young man who had handed her the bag full of money that day, was waiting for her in the hall.
"Ms. Davis, if you would please follow me, I'll show you to your room," he said.
"Oh. Thank you. And just Victoria," she said, as she walked closely behind him.
It was a large guest room, beautifully decorated. The heat filled her nostrils when she walked in. The young man turned on the light and was about to exit when she called out to him.
"Um, thank you...?"
"Renny. And you're welcome," he said as he left.
Victoria grabbed the large robe that was folded on the bed and slipped into it. She felt like shit. Her whole head felt like someone had hit her several times with a baseball bat. Her nose was burning and her chest felt tight.
She wanted to go find Paul and tell him thanks, but her body was so tired, she could hardly think. She pulled back the covers of the bed and got in. The sheets were so warm and comfortable. Within a few seconds, Victoria was asleep.
After a while, Victoria saw a small light shine into her room as someone placed a tray on the nightstand beside her. Her nose was stopped up, but she was sure it was food. She rolled back over and nodded off to sleep again.
Later that night, Victoria woke up gasping for air. She felt like she couldn't breathe. Her whole body was shaking. She tried to get up from the bed, but knocked over the lamp and tray that sat on the nightstand. They hit the floor with a loud crash, spilling food everywhere. Fuck! 'I'm more trouble than I'm worth,' Victoria thought, trying to clean up the mess.
A few seconds later she heard footsteps coming down the hall. Shit. As soon as Paul entered, she tried to apologize. "I'm so sorry, I was—," Victoria tried to get out, before Paul shushed her.
"I have my doctor coming over to examine you," he said, helping her up from the floor and back into the bed. "I've been checking on you while you were asleep, and your breathing is really labored and you're running a temperature."
Victoria could barely listen to what he was saying. Her head was exploding. She laid back down and he pulled the covers around her. After a few more minutes, Renny escorted another man into the room. He was an older man with a bag. He took her temperature and held the cold part of the stethoscope to her chest. Victoria started fading in and out as Paul and the other man talked. That was the last thing she remembered before she fell back into a deep sleep.
Nic was furious and...hurt.
"Turn down here," he said to Raymond. It was now three in the Goddamn morning and they were still searching for her. Nic cursed himself. He should have just followed her. It was freezing outside, and she only had a flimsy little jacket on since she had refused to take any of the clothing he had bought for her. He got desperate and had gone to her parent's house. That...had been interesting.
He had knocked on the door several times. He could see them pacing back and forth through the light in the peephole and he could hear them frantically discussing something. No doubt, whether or not to open the door for him. But then, finally, her father had answered.
"Yes?" he said.
"I'm looking for Victoria, is she here?" Nic had asked.
"Do you know where she is?"
Nic narrowed his eyes at James. His next question was going to be, 'Do you care where she is?', but Nic didn't have time to argue with him.
"If you see her, tell her to call me. She has the number."
James just stared at him and then tried to close the door. Nic couldn't resist any longer. He stopped the door with his hand and leaned close to him. "You may not owe me any money, but I can still make your life hell," he threatened.
James nodded slightly, "I'll tell her to call if I see her."
"Thank you," Nic said, and removed his hand from the door.
But now he and Raymond were still driving around in the rain looking for her. Antonio had gotten in his car to look as well, but he had not called to give him any good news. Fuck!
By four-thirty in the morning, they pulled back up to his house. He needed to get into some dry clothes and get his head straight. When he opened the door, he saw Jimmy standing there with a worried look on his face.
Nic's heart dropped. "What?" he asked.
Jimmy hesitated, then said, "Hey Nic, look, don't hate me okay? But...I know where she got the money from, and I know where she probably is right now."
Nic wanted to punch Jimmy in his fucking face. Why he hadn't told him earlier would be another conversation at another time, but right now he needed to get to Victoria. "Where is she?" Nic asked, burning a hole through Jimmy.
"She, uh, well the day she brought the money to you, she had called me earlier asking for Paul Marcone's address. So, I figure that's the only person she could have gotten it from. I would have told you earlier if—"
Nic turned and walked away from him. He didn't want to hear. That motherfucker had known all this time where she was and hadn't told him! Paul Marcone...what the fuck kind of relationship did they have? He didn't even know Victoria knew him. He marched upstairs to his office, pulled the bag from a small safe and quickly returned downstairs.
He walked out of the door without saying another word to Jimmy.
When Nic finally pulled up to Paul's gate, they quickly let him enter. As soon as he parked he walked up to the door and was greeted by Paul.
"Hey Nic," Paul said, extending his hand.
"Paul," Nic said, shaking the older man's hand. "I believe this belongs to you," he said, handing Paul the black duffel bag.
"Hmm, thank you," Paul said, looking at the bag, then placing the strap over his shoulder.
"Is she here?" Nic asked, scanning behind Paul.