“Who sent you?” he asks again.
I can’t tell him. Antonio warned me about exactly this. I won’t accept that I’m going to die here. I don’t know how, but I’ll convince him to spare me. I have to. If I die, what will happen to Lily? Lily would be lost without me. Her whole life would be derailed. She wouldn’t stand a chance.
But if I rat out Antonio Castellanos, she won’t have a life at all.
“No one sent me,” I insist.
He scoffs, coming to a stop. “So, you got bored one day and decided you would single handedly take me down? That’s what you expect me to believe?”
I know what I have to say, but I hate to say it. I force myself to meet his gaze as I say, “You killed my husband. I wanted justice.”
His eyebrows rise, a fleeting glimpse of surprise crossing his features. “Husband? What was his name?”
He thinks about it for a moment, then his expression clears. “Ah, Rodney.” Then, changing to a curl of disgust, he adds, “Wow, really?”
My face flames. “Yes, really.”
“Terrible poker player, that one. Eyes told his every bluff. He owed me a lot of money. I didn’t kill him. I did issue the hit,” he adds. “But I didn’t get my own hands dirty, no.”
“Like there’s a difference. You took my daughter’s father from her.”
He shrugs as if unconcerned. “You ask me, I did you both a favor. That fucker was a train wreck.”
He’s not wrong, but I can’t exactly agree with him and justify what I tried to do tonight. “Yeah, I somehow doubt our three-year-old sees it that way.”
Again, he shrugs as if he gives zero fucks. “We could ask her.”
“Leave my daughter out of this.”
“Give me the lipstick.”
I hesitate a second, then I clutch my purse, reaching inside and digging around. My fingers close around the second tube, the lipstick I’m actually wearing, but it isn’t cylindrical, it’s boxy, with edges; if he actually noticed the shade on my lips is a different color from the one I’d flashed him for a split second back at the bar, he’s smart enough to know if I give him the wrong one.
It won’t serve me to piss him off any further, so I release it, finding the lipstick Antonio gave me instead.
He takes the tube and drops it on the ground, smashing it with the heel of his loafer. When he lifts his foot, we both see the white residue of the powder on the ground. He looks almost disappointed.
“I’m so sorry,” I say quietly.
He manufactures a look of surprise. “Are you? I thought you wanted to avenge your beloved husband? Over that already?”
“I changed my mind.” I shake my head, wishing I could just tell the truth. “I really didn’t want to, after tonight. I wasn’t going to go through with it.” I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I want it to be.
“Right,” he says, clearly not believing me.
“If I die… My daughter… You killed her father. If you kill me, too, you’re orphaning my little girl and she will be truly and completely alone in this world. I’m not asking for me, I’m not asking because I deserve it, or because my own life is so valuable, or because I believe there’s good in the world. But I am just begging you, please, no one can hear us, there are no witnesses to you changing your mind, please do not kill me. If you let me leave, you’ll never have to see my face again. I’ll never say a word about or against you to anyone else, I swear to God. Please, just please let me out of this. I know I fucked up, I’m sorry.”
Despite my best efforts, he is visibly unmoved by my plea. “If you’re not, you will be.” Then he puts a hand at the small of my back to nudge me forward, and my heart slams forward in my chest.
An image of my honey-haired little girl crosses my mind, memories of her as a baby, lying in my lap, grinning her toothless grin. The first time I fed her green beans and the awful look of betrayal on her adorable little face as she tried to shove them back out with her tongue. Her first, excited, unsteady steps. Her face the previous Christmas when she saw the presents I had busted my ass working two jobs to put under that tree. The way she would trick me into reading her favorite bedtime stories three times by insisting, “Wait, just one more” with her cute little finger extended so convincingly, even though I knew she’d insist on one more all night if I let her.
God, how I wish I’d let her.
I’d give anything for another night of baby cuddles and bedtime stories. To hear her tell me she wanted to hug my tummy.