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Wretched: Chapter 29

EVELINE

I don’t like dressing up, but I do love wearing heels. I’ll admit they aren’t the most practical of shoes, but when you’re five foot two and in the realm of dangerous men it’s important to have everything you can use at your disposal. And stilettos hurt when you stab them into flesh.

I’ve been nauseous since I woke up, knowing tonight is the charity gala On the Water. The name alone has panic churning through my insides, not to mention it will be on the same yacht where my sister was last seen alive. I haven’t been anywhere near the water since Nessa’s death, and even before then, I’ve always felt uneasy.

My stomach rolls like choppy waves, my left hand holding the side of my emerald-green dress from trailing on the ground. I feel naked, both because of the strapless gown but also because it’s so tight, there’s no room for my Desert Eagle.

The SS Toto is large—pristine with its sparkling black trim. It bobs in the water serenely, soft waves crashing against its sides as the Chicago skyline twinkles in the background. It’s picturesque, and the sight makes me want to puke.

My hands shake as I hold my purse close to my body and walk up the ramp to board. I hurry past the front deck and into the dining hall where I know the auction is taking place, pressing past people dressed in their best, anxious to get to a room where I can pretend I’m still on land.

I’ve just entered the main area, my skin shivering from the cold, when a rough grip wraps around my arm. I spin, my body already on edge, but I falter when I realize it’s Zeke.

He looks down on me and smiles. “What’re you doin’ up here? Come on, let’s go to the basement.”

“Oh, I didn’t know where to go.” Because of course my father didn’t think to include me in the details.

I peer around as Zeke pulls me along, and I spot Dorothy standing in the far right corner, a glass of champagne in her hand as she talks with Oscar. I squint my eyes, remembering he asked which sister I was talking about. I hadn’t known they interacted after Nessa’s death, and now I’m kicking myself for not paying closer attention.

Zeke’s body is on full alert as we walk down the carpeted hallway and past the restrooms, hitting a staircase leading to the lower level. My spine stiffens with every step, anxiety squeezing my middle when the yacht jolts as it starts to move. My fingers twist together and I tap my tongue ring on the back of my teeth.

“Where are they meeting in the fucking dungeons?” I hiss.

Zeke looks at me, stopping us in front of a steel door and turning to face me. “You gonna make it?”

I force a smile even though I think I might pass out. “I’m fine, just annoyed that you guys didn’t tell me what time to be here.”

“Okay,” he says, lifting his chin. “Don’t do anything stupid in here, you know? These guys… just sit back and let your dad handle things.”

My stomach drops to the floor, his words forming into knives as they carve out my skin.

I stiffen my jaw and nod sharply.

He opens the door and we walk into a room filled with boxes and crates. Wire shelving runs along the sides stocked with cleaning supplies. The walls have little circle windows evenly spaced throughout, and if I listen close, I can hear waves crashing against the boat as we move across the lake. Beads of sweat break across my hairline, my heart slamming against my chest.

If we sink, this will be the first room to go. 

“Hey,” a voice whispers. I swallow, looking up and meeting Brayden’s eyes. He’s gazing at me with concern, like he’s worried I might get sick and he doesn’t know what to do.

But all of it gets pushed to the backburner when I see Giacomo Cantanelli sitting at a small folding table in the center of the room, smoking a cigar with my father like they’re old friends.

Neither of them acknowledges me when I enter, but the two goons standing at Giacomo’s back sure do.

“You know,” Giacomo says, pointing his gold-ringed finger in my father’s face. “Your flying whatever-the-fuck product’s really causing me a headache.”

My dad grins. “There’s a solution to every problem, Giacomo.”

Giacomo hums, swirling the cigar in his mouth, his thick silver and black strands slicked back with pomade and a sharp three-piece suit fitted to him perfectly. He looks like a god, and when I stare at my father with his tattoos and his rough around the edges exterior, there’s no comparison.

The Cantanellis are rivals, but at the end of the day, they’re still big fish in the pond. Their reach is far greater than ours, and if they wanted to, they could kill us all right now and be at church tomorrow morning with nobody asking questions.

That’s the power my dad wishes he had but will never reach.

That’s the type of desperation that makes people do stupid, stupid things.

“You and I, we think alike.” Giacomo smiles and it sends alarm bells ringing in my head. “No need to be enemies when we can be friends. Of course, you understand, if you work for me, I need to know everything.”

My chest tightens when I step forward. “Who says we’ll be working for you?”

Everyone’s eyes in the room snap to mine, as if they’re just now realizing I’m here. Brayden sighs heavily but steps closer to my side.

“Eveline. Quiet,” my dad demands.

“Eveline Westerly,” Giacomo purrs, his gaze glossing up and down my form. “What a pleasure.”

I smile at him, making sure to show all my teeth.

He waves his hand in the air, calling me over. “Come here, doll. Let me get a good look at you.”

I move toward the table, keeping my eyes on him the entire time. In my peripheral vision I can see my father’s disapproving stare.

“You look tense, Eveline,” Giacomo notes. “You aren’t afraid, are you?”

Laughing, I shake my head, sitting down next to my father and grabbing a cigar from the table. Giacomo is there with his lighter before I can even ask. I take my time puffing on the end, allowing the smoke to billow in my mouth before I blow it back out in the air. No one speaks while they wait, and surprisingly, I don’t mind the attention.

“No,” I finally say. “I’m not afraid. I’d just appreciate it if everyone stopped acting like I was a meek girl incapable of taking part in the conversation.”

“You are a prize, aren’t you?” Giacomo grins, his eyes searing through my dress again. “Farrell, surely she isn’t here to do business?”

Movement catches my attention and Brayden moves from near the door until he’s closer to the center of the room, where he leans against a pillar with his arms crossed.

He looks calm, cool, and collected. But I know better. His stare never strays from me.

“If you’re going to work with us, then I’d like to be part of it, yes,” I reply.

My dad clears his throat. “Eveline does a lot for me. She knows a lot about our business. Family’s important to her, so she can get a little… passionate. You understand.”

“I do.” Giacomo nods. “Interesting you let a woman to hold such prestige. I’d never allow such a ridiculous thing.”

Fire burns through my middle but I bite back the retort, pressing my fingernails into my palms until it breaks the skin.

“I assume you brought some product for us to test?” he continues.

My father inclines his head. “Of course.”

He snaps his fingers. Brayden and Zeke both move, walking to the corner of the room where there’re five large black duffel bags. They lug them over and drop them down on the tabletop.

“Consider this a gift in good faith,” Dad says.

Giacomo scans his eyes over me one more time. “Is she a gift too?”

My smile drops, black starting to edge in around my vision. I tilt my head, placing the cigar into the ashtray. “My sister might be more to your liking.”

My father stiffens and satisfaction runs through me. That’s what he gets for making deals about my production without me.

“Somehow I doubt she holds a candle to you.” Giacomo laughs before tipping his chin at Dad. “We’ll try the product and you’ll hear from us soon, but you should know if we agree, you work for us.” He stands, buttoning his suit jacket before staring down at both of us. “That means I want to know who I’m working with. Who I’m buying from.”

There’s no way my dad will agree. Years I’ve been doing this for him, and in all of that time, not a word. That’s the deal. It keeps me protected; out of the spotlight, and it gives us leverage where otherwise we would fall short.

My father grins and shakes his hand. “You have my word.”


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