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Stolen Touches: Chapter 12


The huge lot where I’m planning on building a new warehouse is in the industrial district. It’s far enough away from the city to provide privacy, but at the same time, close enough to the main roads not to be problematic when it comes to our distribution needs.
“I want the main warehouse in the center. Put eight or so more around it and fill them with random goods to act as a front,” I say.
“Food?” Arturo asks.
“No. Something with a longer shelf life. Car parts. Tools. Furniture. Use your imagination. If someone comes poking their nose in, I don’t want anything to raise their suspicions. For example, tons of rotten food.”
“All right.” He nods. “How much should we transfer when the warehouse is fully prepped?”
“Forty percent, max.”
“Why not all?” Rocco throws in.
I turn around and look at my capo. Rocco is good with managing the operational part of our construction projects, but he’s not very bright where general business is concerned. I allowed him to take over as capo two years ago when his father stepped down, but I’m not sure if it was the best decision.
“Never put all your eggs in one basket, Rocco,” I say and check my watch. I need to head back, or I’ll be late for the auction.
“Nino told me you assigned Alessandro as your wife’s bodyguard,” he says as he follows me toward our cars. “Was it because he’s not attracted to women?”
I stop in my tracks and pivot so suddenly he nearly runs into me. “I don’t give a fuck about who he’s attracted to, Rocco. I assigned him because he’ll make a damn good bodyguard.”
He backs up ever so slightly. “Yes, but . . .”
“Are you questioning my decision?”
His face goes ghostly pale. “No, Boss. Of course not.”
“You sure?”
“Yes.” He takes another step back. “I’m sorry, Boss.”
“Good.” I get inside my car and peel out of the lot with the accompaniment of screeching tires and the scent of burning rubber, heading out to the highway leading back to the city.
During the drive, I give Ada a quick call to ask what Milene’s doing, and she confirms my wife is in the penthouse chasing the cat. The anxiety in the pit of my stomach lessens, slightly. Still, I press harder on the gas.
Rocco’s words cross my mind as I’m waiting for the streetlight to change. He’s always been very homophobic and considers any man who doesn’t indulge in every willing pussy to be gay. I wonder if he’s right about Alessandro. I can’t remember ever seeing him with a woman, or even talking about one. In fact, for the five years he’s been working for me, I don’t think I’ve heard Alessandro Zanetti talk more than a handful of times.
When he first became part of the Family, I was suspicious. He’d obviously received military training, and I even considered the possibility that he might be an undercover cop, so Nino did a thorough check of his background. It seemed solid. A couple of years of military service, then an honorary discharge due to injury. I don’t remember the nature of the injury which Nino mentioned, but it certainly hasn’t impacted Alessandro’s abilities. From what I’ve seen, the man is in perfect physical condition. Over the years, I’ve tested him several times by assigning him to carry out terminations, just to gauge his reaction in case he was, in fact, a plant. The way he disposed of his targets using surgical precision and not a second’s hesitation, confirmed what I already suspected. Before he joined Cosa Nostra, Alessandro was a professional hitman. So, I made sure his skills wouldn’t go to waste.
* * *
When Milene walks through the double doors and enters the living room, I let my eyes wander over her white stiletto heels and the white dress that hugs her curves and emphasizes her figure. Her hair is loose, the soft curls falling to the middle of her back. She’s put on makeup and looks devastatingly beautiful.
“Will this event go on all night? If that’s the case, I’ll need to swap these shoes for another pair with smaller heels,” she states as she approaches, fumbling through her purse. “I’ve gotten too used to wearing sneakers.”
“Thank God.” She stops in front of me, lifting her eyes to mine. “Are you all right?”
“You have a slightly bewildered look on your face. It doesn’t quite work with your controlling personality, Tore, sunshine.” She smirks.
“Your name’s too long. It takes an age to pronounce, and by the time it’s out, I’ve often forgotten what I wanted to say. Or do you prefer I keep on calling you Kurt? It may confuse the cat, though.”
Very funny. “Tore will do,” I say. “Give me your hand.”
“You’ve already taken my life. I’m not giving you anything else.”
“The hand, Milene. Left one.”
She lifts her hand. I take two thick gold bands from my pocket and slide the smaller one down onto her ring finger.
Milene raises her eyebrows. “I thought we were skipping the ring part.”
“We’re not skipping anything, cara. The rings were late.”
And I made sure the jeweler knew how I felt about that. Nino said the man will be staying in hospital for at least two weeks.
Still holding Milene’s hand, I revel in the sight of the ring that marks her as mine on her delicate finger. I lift the second band so it’s in front of her face.
Milene cocks her head. “You didn’t strike me as the jewelry type.”
I’m not. I never planned on getting married, and the idea of wearing a wedding band had never crossed my mind. Until now.
She takes the ring. “Left hand or right?”
“Right.” I want it visible at all times, not hidden under the glove. It wouldn’t fit over my deformed knuckle anyway.
Milene takes my right hand in hers and slides the ring onto my finger. When she’s about to let go, I wrap my fingers around her hand. She looks at me sideways but doesn’t pull away when I lead her to the door.
* * *
As we walk into the gallery, all eyes turn toward us and follow our steps as we cross the foyer to the main room where the auction will be held. The crowd is made up of the same people who typically frequent these auctions, and this is the first time I’ve ever brought a woman with me. I’ve also never brought bodyguards. However, since Milene is with me tonight, Stefano and two other men stick to our tail.
It does not escape my notice how most of the men react to my wife. They try their best to hide it, but I see them checking her out when they think I’m not looking, so I let go of her hand and wrap my arm around her waist instead. Milene looks up at me and pushes away a lock of hair that’s fallen over her face. My eyes catch the glint of gold on her finger. The wedding band I’ve chosen seems absurdly large on her delicate hand. Something subtle might have been a better choice, but I like it the way it is.
“Is this wise?” she asks.
“What, exactly?”
“Being out in public when there are people trying to kill you?”
“Someone’s always trying to kill me, Milene. I don’t intend to hide in a hole because of that. What kind of message would it send?”
She shakes her head and sighs. “Men.”
I lead her to the row of seats at the rear, which is ordinarily reserved for me alone, and over to the last two seats on the side furthest from the door. Stefano stands behind Milene as instructed, and the other two bodyguards take their places on the left- and right-hand side of the entrance.
Milene is sitting next to me with her spine ramrod straight and her hands clasped in her lap, seemingly uninterested. But her eyes are moving left and right, regarding various people entering the hall in silence and taking their seats. She focuses her gaze on a group of men who have just entered, mumbling something in a low voice. I tilt my head to the side to hear better.
“. . . what’s with the funeral atmosphere?” she murmurs, “Are they mourning the heaps of money they are going to spend on trinkets?”
I lean back and extend my arm along the back of Milene’s seat. It amuses me to no end how grumpy she can be sometimes.
The big screen on the opposite wall lights up and I observe my wife as the auction proceeds. As paintings are sold, with the quality and expense of each piece steadily increasing, her eyes grow wider. She flinches when the assistants bring out a large textured canvas in shades of black, gray, and red.
“That’s disturbing,” she whispers.
I shift my gaze to the painting, which shows a beheaded stag standing on top of something that looks like a pile of kitchen pots. The price tag reads twenty thousand dollars.
“Will anyone actually buy that thing?” Milene asks.
“Wait and see.”
No one bids. Not unexpected. They know they have no chance of getting it. The man who’s taking phone offers at his desk in the corner lifts his hand.
“We have one hundred thousand,” he exclaims.
“What?” Milene says. “Who would give a hundred grand to have that in their home.”
“The Chicago Bratva’s pakhan,” I say. “His wife painted it. She has one piece on offer at each auction, and he’s been buying all of them, no matter the price. Everyone else stopped bidding on her paintings some time ago.”
“People are so strange sometimes.” Milene shakes her head.
The painting I’ve chosen comes up next, a still-life piece from a lesser-known English painter from the nineteenth century. When I place my bid, Milene slowly raises one eyebrow, but refrains from commenting. Once the paintings are done, the auction proceeds, as always, with the jewelry. I usually leave at this point, but today I’ve decided to stay and take in Milene’s reaction to the pieces on offer.
I’ve just about concluded that she’s entirely indifferent to precious metals and gemstones when an antique gold bracelet is brought out. In terms of design, it’s nothing special. There are no gemstones or diamonds of any kind in it, just a solid gold circlet with discrete floral elements engraved on its surface. The only thing special about it is that it’s from the twelfth century. Milene’s eyes widen, and she leans forward, peering at the close-up displayed on the giant screen above the podium. She completely ignored all the diamonds, rubies, and pearls we’ve seen so far, but now she’s gaping at the most ordinary looking piece without blinking. The note under the image shows a starting price of $650,000. Making sure Milene can’t see what I’m doing I raise my hand. My movement is barely perceptible, but the auctioneer’s senses are finely tuned.
“Damn,” she mumbles, still looking at the bracelet. “These people are insane.”
Someone from the first row raises the bid to $660,000. I tip my finger again, $670,000. The man from the first row follows. I could keep going, but I’d rather head home sooner than later. I raise my hand again and mouth the amount.
“We have one million,” the auctioneer declares. “Any further bids?”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Milene says, staring at the auctioneer. “I’d really like to meet the lunatic who’d pay a million dollars for a bracelet.”
The auctioneer closes the bidding, and I message my banker. He’s always on standby and knows to wire the money immediately and without question, regardless of the amount.
“Come on.” I stand up and take Milene’s hand, leading her toward the desk at the front.
“One million. Does that happen often? I mean, who does that? Art, I understand. There are people who like having that kind of stuff on their walls—your kind of crazy, you know—but come on.”
She continues her bemused babbling in a quiet voice as I approach the desk to sign the papers and to confirm the painting is to be sent to my usual address. When the clerk accepts the documentation, I point to the rectangular velvet box. Once he brings it over, I take out the bracelet.
“And what if someone steals it?” Milene continues. “Is that kind of stuff insured? One million. It’s absolutely outrageous, if you ask me.
I turn and find Milene looking back at the auction room, staring at the big screen where the image of the bracelet is still being displayed.
“Where would someone wear something like that? What if . . .” She rattles on, standing in front of me with her hands on her hips.
I put the bracelet around her right wrist and fasten the clasp. It’s one of those simple hook clasps. I don’t think I’d be able to manage anything daintier. When I look at Milene again, she’s staring at her arm, open-mouthed.
“So, that’s what it takes to get you to stop talking,” I say. “I’ll keep it in mind.”
* * *
“I can’t take this,” Milene says the moment we’re inside the penthouse.
I knew it was coming. She hadn’t uttered a single word on the drive home or looked at me even once. Her attention was focused through the passenger-side window on the neon lights as we passed them by.
“It’s beautiful, but I really can’t. Maybe if it was worth three zeros less.”
“You’re keeping it.” I say and head into the hallway leading to my bedroom.
“I . . . what would I do with this? It should be in a damn museum or something.”
“Do whatever you want with it.”
Behind me, heels clink against the floor tiles, then Milene curses. I glance over my shoulder and catch her taking off her shoes. Given the cut of her dress and the way she’s bending forward, I’m gifted with a fine view of her breasts. I tilt my head for a better angle and imagine my wife lying naked in my bed, her milky skin contrasting with the dark sheets and her pale hair tangled around her head.
“Please, be reasonable.” She sighs and straightens up. “Please.”
“I never do anything without a reason, Milene. You should know that by now,” I say and close my bedroom door behind me.


I regard the bracelet on the nightstand with caution, as if it were about to attack me. I’ve been staring at that thing since the moment I got into the bed, wondering what I should do with it. Where do you keep something that’s worth a million dollars? Under the mattress? Should I try to lift one of the floorboards and stash it beneath? Why the hell did Salvatore buy it? Does he expect me to wear it around the house? He’s crazy.
There must be some kind of safe in the penthouse. I take the bracelet, leave my bedroom, and walk down the hallway to knock on Salvatore’s door. Nothing. I try one more time. Nothing again. Turning on my heel, I head toward the living room.
I find Salvatore sprawled on the sofa in front of the TV, watching a game and holding a bottle of beer. Just an ordinary guy in sweatpants and a T-shirt, watching football. What a misleading picture.
“Do you have a safe?”
“Yes,” he says without taking his eyes off the screen.
“Can I put the bracelet there?”
“No?” I march around the sofa, careful not to knock over his crutches. He removes his prosthesis in the evenings. Standing right in front of him, I cross my arms. “Why not?”
“Because I bought it for you to wear it. Not to have it be stuck in a safe.” He points the bottle toward the TV behind me. “I’m watching that.”
“Why would you buy me something like this?”
“I’ve already told you.”
“Yes, yes, you have your reasons. What are those reasons? Are you feeling bad for making me quit my job?”
“Not particularly.” He takes a sip of his beer and looks at me. “That was for your safety.”
His hair is wet and slicked back, but a few strands have fallen across his forehead, and I have a crazy urge to reach out and move them away.
“Are you trying to lure me in, then?”
Salvatore sets the bottle down on the floor and folds his arm behind his head, watching me. His white T-shirt is stretched tightly across his chest and wide shoulders. He looks like an ad for men’s cologne.
“To lure you in?” he asks. “Why?”
“To be with you?”
“I don’t have to lure you in, Milene. We’re already married. Or did that slip your mind?”
“You know what I mean.
“No, I don’t think I do.”
“Fine. Whatever.” I shake my head. As I turn to leave, his arm shoots out and grabs me around the waist. He pulls me down on top of him, my face directly above his.
“Do you really believe”—he raises his left hand and brushes the back of his fingers across my cheek—“that I need to buy you jewelry to lure you in?”
I take a deep breath, trying to calm my traitorous body that’s been twitching and trembling with excitement since the moment we touched. There is no way I’m answering his question, but I’m afraid he already knows the truth.
“Do you, Milene?” he tilts his head and places a light kiss on my chin.
“No.” I close my eyes.
Another kiss. A little to the right this time. “Then why did I buy it?”
I squeeze the bracelet in my hand and press it to his chest. “I have no idea.”
Salvatore’s hand covers mine, and he pries my fingers from around the gold circlet. I let go of the bracelet and open my eyes to see him toss the million-dollar antique behind the sofa as if it were an empty soda can.
I gasp. “Are you crazy?”
“Why”—he buries his fingers in my hair, pulling my head lower until my mouth almost touches his lips—“did I buy the bracelet, Milene?”
“Because I liked it?” I whisper against his lips.
“Because you liked it,” he says as he presses his mouth to mine.
There is nothing delicate or light in his kiss. It’s hungry. Hard. Perhaps it’s even a little hostile. His hand moves down my back and under my shirt to squeeze one of my butt cheeks. I can feel his hard cock pressing upon my core. It’s so enticing that a small moan escapes my lips as wetness pools between my legs. He bites my lower lip, hard, then squeezes my ass again. I rock my hips, brushing my mound over his rock-hard length. An image of him inside of me flashes through my mind, and my panties become instantly drenched, begging to be removed.
Something falls to the floor with a thud, followed by a loud meow. I open my eyes to see Salvatore watching me. It feels so damn good, being pressed against his hard body, his arm pinning me to him. And I hate myself for enjoying it.
“I’d better go and get the cat before he breaks something,” I say, waiting to see if he’ll call me out on taking this opportunity to flee.
“All right.” He unwraps his arms from my body, and I immediately want to weep at the loss. “Don’t forget the bracelet.”
I nod and straighten to a sitting position. While quickly scrambling off his gorgeous body, I feel my ass brush his cock one more time.
I pick up the bracelet from the floor and dash to the kitchen to collect Kurt, undecided whether I should kiss him or strangle him for interrupting.


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