Seven Days Ch. 07bysoular©
Victoria marched back into the club as quickly as she could. She had to get away from Nic. What the hell was wrong with her? She kept glancing behind her to make sure Nic hadn't followed her back in. She needed to find Sonny and go. She was done with Nic Andretti. Completely done.
Victoria scanned the crowded club. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. She felt dizzy. Why was she letting this happen? Why did she put herself in this situation? She saw Sonny in the distance talking to a group of people and laughing. He had just used her, and much like Nic, didn't even care how it had hurt her. She realized right then, that she wasn't riding back with him. She had trusted a snake, been bitten, and she had no one to blame but herself. She just wanted both Nic and Sonny out of her life for good. And if they wouldn't stay away from her, she'd damn sure stay away from them. She found the front entrance she and Sonny had come through earlier and made a straight line to it. She had almost reached the door when someone grabbed her arm.
Victoria spun around to see Sonny staring at her. "Where are you going?" he asked, gripping her arm tighter, while scanning the room, no doubt looking for Nic. He had such a low harsh tone in his voice, that she was caught off guard for a moment.
"I'm going back to Paul's. I'll catch a cab. Now let go of me," Victoria stated, hating herself for spending money that she was trying to save.
"I'll take you back," Sonny said, while pulling her toward the door. What the fuck was wrong with these Italian men?! Always pushing or pulling her somewhere!
As soon as they pushed through the door, Victoria wrenched her arm free from Sonny. "Don't you fucking touch me! I mean it. You did ALL of this on purpose, didn't you? You knew he was going to be here?" Victoria asked. She was so angry she didn't know what to do. Angry at Nic, angry at Sonny, but most of all pissed at herself for falling for Sonny's trap and then having sex with Nic as if his hurting her hadn't mattered. She wanted to smack herself.
"Yep." Was Sonny's only response.
"So you basically used me to piss him off?"
"Eye for an eye," Sonny stated, grinning at her. Victoria wanted so badly to slap him. Before she was through with all of these people, her hand would be in a cast. But at the moment, she had nothing left to say to Sonny. She was done with this whole thing. She turned to walk away.
"But I didn't know he'd react so strongly about you," Sonny called after her. She didn't bother turning around. "Good to know..." she thought she heard him mutter.
Nic finally made his way back into the club. He had wanted to follow after Victoria, but he wasn't ready to go emotionally where Victoria wanted him to. He knew he was approaching a crossroad and would soon have to turn left or right. But for right now, he just wanted to stand still.
He found Jimmy leaning up against the bar. "I'm taking off. I feel like shit," Nic said to him. Jimmy nodded and guzzled down the rest of his drink. Nic motioned for Raymond, and the three of them walked out of the side door.
When Victoria reached Paul's, she paid the cab driver and went straight upstairs to the guest room. She pulled off the skimpy blue dress and threw it in the trash. She entered the bathroom, turned on the faucet in the tub and stepped in. She needed to scrub off this entire night. When the water had filled the tub, she leaned back and closed her eyes. She felt like a fool. A fool for even halfway trusting Sonny, and for admitting to Nic that she loved him. Why the hell had she said that? He had looked at her, but then said nothing. Obviously he didn't feel the same way. She was an easy lay...and for that, she would never forgive herself. Victoria had always given into him sexually, so no wonder he felt like he could fuck her in the back of a limo despite everything that had happened. Because he could.
Victoria slowly dipped her head underneath the warm water and held her breath. Maybe a moment of clarity would come while she was submerged. She didn't have a lot of money saved up, but she had enough. She needed to get a place of her own. She couldn't continue to impose herself on Paul's generosity.
When she could no longer hold her breath, she raised up quickly, breaking through the surface of the water, gasping for air. She coughed for a second and then wiped her face with a towel. Yes, her quest to find her own place would begin first thing tomorrow morning.
Jimmy sat on the other side of the chess board waiting for Nic to make a move.
"You should go visit her at that restaurant she works at," Jimmy suggested. Ever since the incident with Sonny a few days ago, Nic hadn't mentioned Victoria. "And I don't mean just driving by her place of work." A pastime Nic had started when he found out about her working there.
Nic surveyed the board and completed a move. "No. This is better. For both of us."
"Wow, what a copout," Jimmy grumbled, moving another piece. He looked up to find Nic's eyes narrowed on him. "I'm just saying, why is it so hard to admit you like the girl, Nic?"
"Because that's irrelevant."
"Jimmy, how is any of this your business?"
"It's your turn to move. And over the years I've become nosy like my wife. And because you are my best friend. And speaking as your friend...you're not quite the asshole you think you are," Jimmy replied.
Nic glanced down at the board. "Marianna used to say that."
"Yeah, well I always knew your mother was a smart one."
Nic sighed and moved his knight. "She's better off without me, you know. I don't want her mixed up in this...this way of living. I don't want that for her. And with her in my life, she clouds my mind. I can't focus on the things I need to do and continue being successful. And knowing she's...never mind, it's just annoying."
"Knowing she's—fuck. I don't even want to say it. That she's my only--"
"—weakness?" Jimmy asked, knowing the answer already.
Nic looked up at Jimmy and slowly nodded his head. Yes, she was his weakness. He had to be sharp and on his A-game at all times, and already on several occasions in the short time that he had known her, he had made some pretty substantial errors.
But in the limo, she had told him she loved him. Or at least she thought she loved him. At that moment, he wasn't sure what to say back to her. Amber had said that to him before, but never quite like that. Nowhere near as honest. When he had looked into Victoria's eyes after she made that statement, he could see and feel she was telling the truth. She actually loved him. Him! Even after all the shit he had done to her. That in itself, proved she was a better person than he could ever be.
"Yeah, my weakness. Now enough of the touchy feely stuff," Nic said.
Jimmy chuckled, "Well even Achilles had a weakness, my friend. Hell, Samson, Othello, Bill Clinton...it happens to the best of us. You know what mine are? Three little girls sleeping in their beds, who all probably tried to wait up to see when poppa was coming home. But no, I'm here playing chess with you at two in the morning."
"Then go home," Nic said, smiling in his friend's direction.
"Oh, no. I've learned my lesson over the years. If I'm a few hours late....my wife is still up and I won't hear the end of it. She can be brutal! But...if I don't come home, usually when I turn up she's so glad to see me that she forgets about my tardiness. See, I've got it down to a science."
"I see...and checkmate. Now go home," Nic said, standing and stretching.
Jimmy looked down at the board. Fuck! Nic always won. Even when they were kids growing up playing cops and robbers, Nic always won, no matter which side he was on.
"Alright, but if I turn up tomorrow with bruises, it's entirely your fault," Jimmy complained, grabbing his jacket. "I'll see you tomorrow—well, I guess later today."
The two men walked to the door together, but Jimmy turned to Nic before he exited. "I know you know how to run your life. But just take my advice on this and go see her, Nic." And then Jimmy left the room.
Nic closed the door. He stood there for a moment thinking about the chess game. Checkmate. That was it. He was done with thinking about it. He needed to make a fucking move. He had tried to stay away from Victoria, and even though in his mind, he hadn't broken that rule...he wasn't fooling himself any longer. Sane men didn't drive by a woman's apartment and place of employment several times a week. He was in love with her. Crazy, stupid in love with her and it was time to show her. Time to make his move.
But there was something he needed to do before he spoke with her. Something he needed to start again. He pulled out his cell phone and dialed a familiar number.
"Hey Reuben, sorry to bother you so early in the morning, but I—well, thank you. I just wanted to see if you could start up the divorce proceedings again." Pause. "Yeah, I just want to get it done as quickly and with as much discretion as possible." Pause. "No, I'll talk to Amber tomorrow." Pause. "Alright, I'll let her know. Thank you."
Nic clicked off his cell phone. His whole body felt tight with stress. He had never been much of a sleeper, but lately he hadn't been getting any sleep. He remembered the last night he had slept beside Victoria. He had fallen into such a deep sleep that he had to be wakened by her the next morning. And that never happened. God, he'd give anything to sleep like that again.
His cure for stress and insomnia was always sex or exercise. Sex or exercise? Who was he kidding? He knew he wasn't having sex with anyone. That's what Victoria had done to him. So he proceeded to look for his Nikes.
The next morning, Nic called Amber to see if she could meet him for breakfast. He waited patiently for her to arrive. She always had to be ten minutes "fashionably" late. Normally to punish her for her lack of consideration when it came to his time...he would have just left. But this was important and he needed to tell her something as soon as possible.
She showed up dressed in some trendy outfit, Ugg boots and sunglasses. Nic tried hard to control his frown. Why she continued to dress like she was a fifteen year old on the cover of Pop Magazine was beyond him. But that was his wife, for better or worse--definitely more the latter.
"Hello Nic," Amber said, as she plopped down in the seat. "Excuse me," she said, stopping the nearest waiter. "I'll have a Lychee Martini please." She then turned to Nic and removed her sunglasses, "So what is this about?"
"I had Reuben start the divorce proceedings. He'll be delivering the papers to you later today. He said if we both agree to all matters, the divorce can be quick, quiet and painless. He can have it all taken care of in less than two months."
Nic watched as her eyes darkened and she leaned back in her chair. "You drug me out of bed for this? You can't be serious. I mean, I know we've had our problems in the past, but we can work this out."
"No, we can't. Don't make this difficult, Amber. Just sign the papers when he shows up."
"Why after all this time are you just now—oh, this is about her?! Oh my God, if you want to continue fucking that little black bitch, then go ahead. You know I never minded stuff like that—,"
"—it's not about THAT!" Nic said, raising his voice, before he immediately lowered it. He was not about to engage in an argument with her in a crowded restaurant. "This isn't a marriage, Amber. And it hasn't been for a long time, if ever. We both misled each other, but now we have a chance to correct it and put it all behind us. I hold no hard feelings toward you and I hope in time, you won't hold any against me."
"Fuck you! How about that?!" Amber shouted.
Nic sighed. He scribbled on a piece of paper and then slid it across the table to Amber. "This is what I'm willing to offer you. I'm sure you'll agree it's a pretty hefty sum."
Amber glanced at the paper. "No, I want more."
"Amber, we were only married for three years."
"Yeah, and would you like me to tell the judge that in those three years, you fucked other women the whole time. Oh...and that you run a very lucrative underground crime business with which several unlucky people who crossed you just mysteriously turned up dead."
Nic ran his tongue over his teeth when he finally unclenched his jaw. What the fuck did he ever see in this girl? Blond hair and long legs and because of that, he'd be paying a price the rest of his life. What a huge difference between her and Victoria. Amber's expensive tastes used to cause Eddie mini panic attacks, yet he couldn't get Victoria to pick out some jewelry at Tiffany's. Go fucking figure.
Fine, if Amber was going to fuck with him, he'd fuck with her.
He narrowed his eyes at her. "And what makes you so sure you won't end up one of the unlucky ones?"
He smiled on the inside when Amber's eyes widened. "You wouldn't," she whispered. She then straightened up in her seat and tried to shake off her nervousness by rolling her eyes at him.
"Test me," Nic replied.
Amber watched him for a few moments before she grabbed his pen and jotted down something on the paper and pushed it back towards him. "Make this number happen, and mum is the word."
Nic looked at the figure and nodded. He stuck the paper in his coat pocket and stood. "As always Amber, it was a pleasure." Then he walked out of the restaurant and hopefully out of Amber's life for good. But she was a tricky one. Something told him that she wouldn't give up so easily.
'Home, sweet home,' Victoria thought, as she stood outside her apartment door about to push her key into the lock. She had to conceal a smile. It felt incredible coming back to her own place. A piece of sanctuary that no one could kick her out of. Her own little slice of heaven, no matter how small or old it was.
Through some connections at work, she was able to find a roommate and move out of Paul's. Her roommate, Stephanie, was this really cool Korean chick, who rarely stayed at the apartment. She was always on the go with her job or her friends. Which suited Victoria just fine. She felt like she really DID have a place of her own. She had painted her room a light lavender color and designed it how she wanted, with butterflies all over the place. She had cried a few tears of joy over that simple freedom. To decorate her own room. She never had one living with her folks. They could never afford anything more than a one bedroom, so she was designated to the couch for years. Her clothes were stuffed in the hallway closet along with boxes of junk. And that's how it had remained until her father kicked her out.
The day she moved out of Paul's, she had gone to him and thanked him for everything he had done. And promised him that if he ever needed anything from her, she would do her best to help. Lucky for her, Sonny had stopped coming around. She wasn't sure why exactly, but whatever the reason, she was glad.
She stood there thinking about Paul's kind eyes and warm smile as she stirred spaghetti sauce in a pot. Was he always that nice a man, or had the death of his wife changed him? She wasn't sure, but she knew that had it not been for him, she would have ended up in a shelter somewhere, sick with pneumonia.
She poured some sauce on top of the noodles and sat down on the sofa. She didn't bother turning on the TV. Neither she nor Stephanie had the money to get the cable turned on, but Victoria didn't care. She sat there on the couch eating spaghetti and thinking. And in the end, her thoughts settled on Nic, as usual. A part of her was miserable without him. The dumb part of her, she tried to convince herself. Sure, people over the years had called her a loner. But she'd rather be eating spaghetti by herself, than to be constantly disappointed and hurt by others.
Victoria picked up a magazine and flipped through the pages as she continued to eat her dinner.
Antonio pulled at his collar. It seemed to be getting tighter and tighter, the more he thought about asking Nic about Victoria. Plus, he still wasn't used to wearing a suit every day. He was grateful for the opportunity he had been given, but the price he had to pay for it...was still keeping him awake at night. Nic had said he'd take care of the situation, but Victoria wasn't living with him. So where was she? No one there talked about her. It was like her name was off limits.
Life had changed drastically for Antonio. He was now invited to the meetings with Nic, Jimmy and Eddie. He tried to keep up, but the three of them spoke almost in code and never repeated anything when dealing with business. A part of Antonio was in awe. The other part was scared shitless that maybe he couldn't handle this type of job. He figured Eddie had never killed anyone, but as far as Nic and Jimmy...well, you didn't get to their level without leaving a trail of bodies. But Jimmy had been showing him the ropes. Basically there were three rules. Number one, when you start making money...invest it, don't spend it and bring unwanted attention. Number two, secrecy is a must—so if you get picked up by the cops...do your time and shut the fuck up. And three, which was probably the most important rule to Antonio—stay the fuck out of Nic's way.
And it was THAT rule that had Antonio sweating bullets. Usually Jimmy was around to guide him in what to do and what not to do, but today he was spending with his family. So it was just Antonio and Raymond in the house with Nic. And Raymond was definitely a man of few words.
Antonio climbed the stairs and saw Raymond sitting outside of Nic's office. He thought about how difficult it would be to always have to be on guard, the way Nic had to be. To know that your life is threatened every single day, that even in your own home you have to be careful. Is this what he really wanted? He hated lying to his mother, but he knew she would smack the back of his head if she found out about his illegal activity.
"Hey Raymond, I was wondering if I could speak with Nic?" Antonio asked, praying he wasn't sweating.
Raymond stood up, towering over Antonio. "About?"
"Um, I need to ask him a question about—well, it's really private."
Raymond stood there a moment and then opened Nic's door and closed it behind him. Antonio waited on the outside of the door for a few seconds, before Raymond opened it and let him in.
As always, Nic was behind his desk writing something. Nic didn't look up when he entered. Antonio walked up to his desk and stood, waiting for Nic to address him.
Nic continued to write for a few moments, and then placed the papers inside his desk and locked it. Then he looked up at Antonio.
"Go ahead," Nic said to him.
"Hey Nic, I hate to bother you, but I needed to ask you something."
Nic continued to stare at him.
Antonio took a deep breath. "Nic, I would really like to apologize to Vict—her about the way I treated her. I haven't been able to really sleep since that night, and I think if I knew if she was okay, I'd feel better."
Antonio watched as Nic leaned back in his chair. "She's okay," he simply stated.
Antonio didn't know what to say. Was the conversation over? Fuck, he wished he had Jimmy with him. At least Jimmy would know when to pull him or if he could continue. Nic scared the shit out of him. At least with Jimmy, he had a family, so you knew there was a little bit of a softer side. But with Nic, despite what Victoria had told him...Antonio wasn't so sure there was another side.
"Thank you. That makes me feel a lot better," Antonio admitted. But still, he wanted to apologize to her personally.
After a few more awkward seconds, Antonio decided to just let it go. He turned and was about to walk out when Nic stopped him.