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Tirone: Chapter 13

Jo

My wig had bangs to cover the bump on my forehead. I put on the only pencil skirt and formal jacket I’d packed with me. I was hanging by a thread. Too distraught to be around either Laius or Ty to throw a casual good morning, let alone let them take me shopping for a new interview outfit.

How was I supposed to process and deal with the facts I clashed against in the past three days? One, my life was in more danger than it’d ever been since I was rescued by Michele when I was eight. I had ten more days to find a way around Mario Lanza’s birthday party or on the eleventh day, I’d be forced to go and most likely never come back. Laius had sent his men everywhere to gather enough support, and they were doing their best—they were barely here, out all day and night to bring allies to what seemed to be an inevitable war—but the look on Laius’s face wasn’t promising.

Two, Ty didn’t wrong me as much as I thought he had when he left. He was protecting me, not abandoning me. As sweet and noble as that was, it messed me up. Despite how toxic and dangerous Ty was, despite how my feelings had changed for him after I’d fallen for his dad, Ty’s chivalrous act jumbled my feelings. It made me feel guilty and ashamed of my love for his father, and it rekindled something I had for Ty I should never have again. It was wrong on so many levels, too much for the rebels of my conscience, and I was the teacher who slept with a minor student of hers. I wished I hadn’t known the truth. It ruined everything so much I couldn’t see either of them the same ever again. It left me with a disturbing question desperate for an answer. One I slapped every time it pulsed against my skull because I wasn’t ready for the answer, whatever it was.

Three, my phone was missing. None of Texas, Hook or the prospect had found it. Laius wasn’t lying about not having it. It meant one thing. Someone took it. That someone was Michele. Who else could have? My call had gone through, and he must have heard the altercation. Which meant another thing. Michele must have believed I was in danger, and he had to be out there looking for me. Yes, another war was coming. The people I loved were in more danger than they thought they were.

I used to think Ty ruined me, and then Laius finished the job for good. But I was the ruin of every single person that had ever loved me. First Mom, who died because of her love for me. If she’d aborted me like my father ordered her, she’d have still been alive and none of the horrors that had happened after would have. Now, it was the two men that had my heart and the people that were ready to sacrifice their lives for them. About to raze them down in the middle was a cold— soon to be blazing—war between two Mafia families, the Lanzas and the Bellomos. Why? Because of me. Because of my unwanted existence that brought nothing but shame, ruin, feuds, destruction and death.

I put the lesson plan I’d been working on all night as a distraction and my resume together in a folder and headed downstairs.

Ty stared at me, taking in my outfit, the unsettling gleam in his eyes a stark contrast against the black and blue bruises.

I looked around. There weren’t many people at the lounge or kitchen that early in the morning, but the few that were there, Laius, Doc and a girl named Lolita, whom I’d learned belonged to him, were looking at me warily, too, making me self-conscious. “What?”

“It’s kind of weird to see you in that outfit with that hair and eyes after I…knew what you really look like,” Ty said. “It’s like you’re two different people. Sometimes, I don’t know whom I’m looking at.”

He wasn’t talking about my appearance, obviously. He’d seen what I looked like before, and I’d always switched looks. In private, with him, I was Jocasta. In public, I was the fake Italian brunette. He must have meant the Jo he knew when I was with him, the virgin, recluse teacher who looked like me now in this outfit, and the new Jo, the biker’s girl with a property tattoo, with her cream blond hair and Irish eyes out in the open where people could see, while his father roughed her out in bed, again where people could see—where he could see.

I cleared my throat and glanced at Laius. “Are you coming with us today?” It was going to be awkward. I had no idea how to behave when the three of us were alone anymore. I’d barely spoken two words with either of them since that fist fight.

He took his time, eyeing me from head to toe. Was it longing or derision? “Good morning to you, too, Miss Meneceo.”

I cleared my throat again. The way he said my name like that had never lost its damping effect on my panties. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

“You’re out of pants?”

“Excuse me?”

“When I was your student, I didn’t see your legs until you were saying goodbye.”

“You were a student at a maximum security prison not a high school.”

“Hungry, lonely prisoners aren’t more predatory than hormonal teenage boys, Miss Meneceo,” Ty joined the conversation, handing me a cup of coffee. “Here. I made it myself, exactly as you like it.”

Blinking, I took it from him, unappreciative of the continuous reminder that he knew how I liked my coffee and Laius didn’t. It meant nothing. “Thanks.” I switched my glance toward Laius. “Yes, I’m out of attire appropriate pants. I told you I needed new clothes for the interview. What I’m wearing is the only formal outfit I have at the moment, not that anybody has a say in how I choose to dress.”

He chuckled. “You’re covering those legs, Jo. I don’t give a fuck if you have to wear jeans for an interview because it’s just a fucking formality. You don’t have to dress to impress. You’re getting the job.”

“What?”

“I told you you don’t need an outfit for the stupid interview or that big pretty folder you’ve been preparing like it was your fucking PhD. I’ve taken care of everything. All you have to do is show up and sign. Now go change.”

“The first time I agree with Furore on something,” Ty said. “Did you know this is the outfit you wore the first day at school last year? The first time I saw you.”

I didn’t, and I didn’t remember. How could he? “It’s highly unlikely you remember what I wore a year ago.”

“But I do. Some things are hard to forget.” His eyes swiped over me again, his hunger for me might be subtle for others but bright for me. “Like how a couple of guys in class were commenting on your…figure in that skirt.”

“You look hot in that sexy librarian get-up,” Lolita suddenly chimed in, a big grin on her pink lips.

   I just stared at her instead of telling her to butt out because I didn’t want to be a bitch to the club girls. They already hated me after what I did to that…woman. Lolita was probably trying to be friendly, and she must have thought she was giving me a compliment, but she was making things worse. 

“Mr. Grant, too,” Ty added, and I heard the menace in his voice when he mentioned the name of the teacher he ruined just for planning on asking me out. “You should definitely listen to your…old man and change.” Of course, that was the only time he’d agree with his father. The only time he’d, even sarcastically, acknowledge the relationship Laius and I had.

Laius didn’t wait for me to move on my own. He linked arms with me and dragged me upstairs to change. And that was the story behind my first interview in jeans. It was what you got when you chose borderline psychos with anger management issues and obsessive jealousy for boyfriends.

The principal of Westfield High School—one of the most expensive schools in North Houston—had an odd, almost petrified, look on his face when Furore predicated us into the office.

The principal stood and gestured with a trembling hand at the seats across his desk. “Mister Lazzarini, welcome to Westfield High. Please, have a seat.”

Furore let me sit first, pointed to the farthest chair for Ty to sit, and then took a seat next to me. “Right. This is my boy Tirone. He’ll be joining you this year. He’s a senior.”

“I…didn’t enter last semester’s exams,” Ty corrected.

“In Frisco. It doesn’t count,” Furore said, casting a menacing glance at the principal. “Right, Carson?”

What?

Principal Carson baggy eyes popped, stunned for a second, before he cleared his throat and pretended to be examining the papers on his desk. “We can make an exception for such a brilliant student. He’s maintained an impressive GPA before that. I’m sure he can make up for lost time.” His smile shook at Ty. “We’ll be honored to have you in Westfield.”

My lashes fluttered. I hadn’t been teaching for long, but this was the first time I saw a principal afraid of a student…let alone one that hadn’t been admitted to their school yet. Tirone was bright, yes. No question about it. But his face was worse than ones in mug shots after the fight. Violent troublemaker was written all over him in black and blue, but Carson would just accept him in the most expensive school in the city with no questions asked? What did Furore do to this poor man? How could he make an esteemed educational manager his bitch?

I knew Furore was powerful and dangerous. I met him in a prison. He almost beat a man to death. To see that side of him in action, though, was a whole different story.

Furore’s thumb jutted toward me. “And this is—”

“Jo Meneceo,” I introduced myself as I should be doing at an interview. “Thank you so much for accepting to interview me for the English teacher position.” I handed him my resume. “I haven’t been informed when I can present a class demo. I don’t want to take more of your time. If you can guide me to the Head of Department’s office to make an appointment—”

“Baby, I told you there’s no need for all that hassle. It’s all covered. You already got the job,” Furore interrupted me and glared at the principal. “Right, Carson?”

The poor man swallowed, again pretending to read my resume like with Ty’s transcripts. “Absolutely. Miss Meneceo’s resume and records are—”

“Impressive, just like Ty’s GPA, and you’ll be honored to have me here.” I saved him the lies.

He nodded once. “Yes. I’ll take you to the HR manager. She’ll take care of your employment contracts and take you to meet the English department staff and your fellow teachers.”

I opened my mouth in exclamation, but Furore spoke first. “How much are you giving her?”

Seriously? The guy had just given me a job without even looking at my credentials, and Furore was asking about money?

Principal Carson’s cheeks reddened. “Seventy-five with full benefits.”

My eyes widened behind my sunglasses. “That’s…a lot. My last salary was forty-five. I’ll be happy with that.”

“The fuck you are. And seventy-five ain’t good enough. Ninety. She’ll take ninety, full benefits and dental.”

“No! This is too much. I won’t accept it,” I objected.

“Baby, why don’t you just relax and let your old man handle things?” He kissed me on the cheek. “I told you I took care of everything.”

I scoffed, glancing at poor Carson, who was wiping his sweaty forehead now without saying a word. He just nodded in agreement.

“Dandy. And just so you know, she might still be Miss Meneceo, but she’ll be treated as Mrs. Lazzarini, yeah?”

“Of course,” Carson said.

Furore slapped the arm of his chair and rose to his feet. “Let’s roll.” Ty stood, too, following him to the door. I didn’t move, in awe. Furore tilted his head, nudging me. “Baby, we’re going.”

I scowled at him, grasping what just happened. “I… I’m not accepting this job without a proper interview.”

“Baby, it’s done. Let’s go.”

Furore might be a powerful gangster that could coerce people to do his bidding, but I realized something important. I, too, had power. Over him, my ol’ man. While I had changed my mind to teach at a school where Ty was a student for Ty’s sake, not Furore’s, my ol’ man still wanted me to go through with that plan, which made me have the upper hand here. I’d do it my way. “If I leave here without presenting a class and get approved based on being a good teacher, I’m not taking this job, baby.”

*****

The HoD, Mr. Chance, a man in his late forties in a blue suit, wearing glasses, took the lesson plan sheets I’d prepared after I finished the demo and smiled at me. “I’m not going to lie to you. Principal Carson told me this interview was just a formality.”

My fist clenched. “I insist on being treated like any other applicant. I’ll only accept this job if I qualify for it.”

“Well, in all honesty, I didn’t expect either that attitude…or that performance.” He gave me a small smile. “Miss Meneceo, you genuinely impressed me. Welcome to Westfield.”

I grinned. “Thank you so much.”

“What baffles me, though, how a woman of your intellect can be associated with someone like your boyfriend.”

In other words, “How could an innocent, well-educated teacher be that dumb to be in love with a gangster from the Night Skulls?” Well, I wasn’t innocent, and no education in the world could sway a heart from what it wanted. “My personal life is my business, Mr. Chase.”

“The Night Skulls is going to stand in the way of what could be a bright future for you, Miss Meneceo.”

Something dark rippled in me. An urge I couldn’t ignore. “Tread carefully, Mr. Chase. The Night Skulls are my family and my home. I won’t tolerate any offense of any kind regarding them.” I wouldn’t let anyone trash Furore or the club.

He pushed his thick glasses up his nose and cleared his throat. “Duly noted.”

“Great.” I was glad he understood the threat underneath my words. For years, I’d kept my head low, feeling weak and defenseless on the inside even if I projected a different energy. A few days with Furore, and things were changing for me. I smiled as Mr. Chase opened the door, liking this new power I began to discover in me, the power of belonging to the Night Skulls, the power of belonging to Furore.

“My secretary will email you the schedule,” he said, frowning at Furore, who had been waiting with Ty outside all the time—after he’d threatened to chop Mr. Chase’s hand off if he’d even thought about touching me in that closed classroom. “We look forward to working with you, Miss Meneceo. Have a good day.”

Furore wrapped a possessive arm around my waist. “You, too.” He induced enough fear in Mr. Chase with a glare before he spun and walked me outside, Ty next to us, baring his teeth at his father’s arm.

I slipped out of Furore’s embrace. While I loved snuggling into him, the last thing I wanted was another fight between them at the place I worked. “You didn’t have to wait for me outside the whole time. I’m not a baby, and you know you’re not my father, right?”

“I do. Your father is a piece of shit fuck I’ll kill the second I see. But,” he lifted me and placed me on his bike, while I yelped, “you are my baby girl. I’ll protect you, spoil you, take care of you,” he slapped my butt, “and spank you if I have to.”

“Laius,” I bit under my breath, heat burning my cheeks, looking around me to see if anybody was close enough to witness.

“The next time you undermine my authority in front of someone I wouldn’t let shine my boots, it won’t be just a spank. That piece of shit Carson might look fancy to you, but he’s a stupid gambler with a heavy debt I now own. I have him by the balls. You can’t make me or you look weak in front of him, you hear?” He put on his sunglasses and straddled the bike. “Stick your tits on my back and hold tight.”


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