I’m sick just letting my mind skate close to that, so I stop and redirect. I can’t work myself up—not now.
Finally, a dark Escalade pulls to a stop in front of the shop.
“Oh, fuck,” Eddie says, moving away from my desk, spitting into his cup again, then putting it on a nearby desk. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
“Calm,” I murmur, unscrewing the white lid of a bright red nail polish. “Calm the fuck down, Eddie.”
“You’re gonna get us all fucking killed,” Eddie hisses.
“Shut up,” I snap, trying to look at the door without moving my head. Someone’s getting out of the car. I take a steadying breath and slowly paint my thumbnail, like I don’t have a care in the world, when in reality everything is riding on me.
I glance at my small green purse. Inside there’s a fake lipstick. Looks like any ordinary lipstick, but you take off the cap and pop off the lipstick, it’s actually a vial. I looked at it, at the powder inside. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know how careful I have to be about getting it on my hands. All I know is if I can’t get Mateo Morelli to ingest it at some point tonight, I’m fucked.
And if I do, I might be fucked, too.
The door swings open and three men come inside—none of them Mateo Morelli.
My stomach sinks at the realization.
He didn’t come.
We did all this for nothing.
The guy who steps forward has an intense, serial-killery look about him. He’s not a big guy, medium build, but the entire left side of his face is scarred. He’s wearing a suit, like the rest of them, but the scar disappears into the collar, making me think it probably goes down farther.
“Eddie,” he says, nodding in greeting.
“Adrian.” Eddie grabs the cup again, spitting into it.
The scarred man watches, and I hope he can’t tell how unsteady Eddie’s hands are. I sure can.
“Why’m I here, Eddie?” Adrian asks.
I don’t know if this is rhetorical or an actual question, but Eddie hurries over to his desk, drawing an envelope out of the top drawer. “I have your money. I’m so sorry it’s late.”
Adrian waits wordlessly for Eddie to bring him the envelope. Eddie looks reluctant to approach, but since none of the men move to take it, he has no choice. It’s painful to watch him approach the one called Adrian, each step more reluctant, like he’s walking toward a lake of fire instead of a man.
Adrian takes the envelope, tucking it into his left breast pocket. Then, with absolutely no warning, he pulls back and punches Eddie in the face so fast that I rear back, gasping.
Eddie’s stumbles back, actually falling on his ass with the unexpected force of it. Adrian takes a step forward and Eddie skitters back like a crab, then he holds up a hand. “Wait, wait! I—I have something for him.”
“A gift, yeah,” Adrian says, dismissively. “Mateo doesn’t do gifts.”
Jabbing his finger in my direction, he says, “Please. I thought he’d get more out of her than you probably get from beating the shit out of me.”
Adrian scowls, his gaze jumping to me, taking a quick appraisal. “Your gift is a person?”
“I just… I thought….”
Adrian looks disgusted, which I find impressive, given he’s clearly a gangster. “You fucking people,” he mutters, shaking his head and rubbing the back of his neck.
A guy behind Adrian with dark hair, brown eyes and a big nose leans in toward Adrian. “You want me to get him?”
“I guess,” Adrian answers, sounding less than impressed.
I can’t quite believe it. Adrian approaches me and I’m a little less comfortable as he looks me over. Since I was supposed to be all sexed up, I’m wearing the shortest black skirt I’ve ever owned, and a snug white tank top, with green bra straps peeking out. “What’s your name?” he asks.
“Meg,” I offer, glancing up at him. “Meg Milano.”
He nods, looking at my desk, the arranged nail polishes, the messy stacks of paper, the multi-line phone. “You work here, Meg Milano?”
I nod my head. “Yeah.”
“Answer the phones?”
I nod again.
“So, why’re you still here?”
I frown, not understanding.
“Shop closed a few hours ago,” he points out.
My heart slams against my rib cage, but I try to keep cool. “Eddie asked me to stay. For… well, this.”
“So you could whore yourself out to Mateo Morelli? He at least pay you extra for that?”
I flinch, and it’s not even playacting. That’s a little harsh, man.
When I don’t answer, Adrian steps away.
I don’t think he likes me.
The larger-nosed man opens the door again, and suddenly all the noise is sucked out of the room as Mateo Morelli walks through the doors.
My stomach feels all funny at the sight of him. I don’t think it’s his looks—I already knew he was handsome, but this man has a presence, a power that radiates off his body. With each soft clap of his shoe against the cheap tile floor, my heart beats a little faster.