Breaking Bones(7)By: Amanda Washington
“We should head up, Ari. You gotta get ready for work.”
I glanced at the clock on the wall and realized he was right. Following him to the door, I swallowed my questions. For now.
I TOOK ARIANA to work, but before she got out of the Hummer she made me promise to be careful.
I hadn’t told her a damn thing about my job, but the girl didn’t miss a thing. I really liked that about her, even though it often frustrated the hell out of me. “I’m always careful.”
She beamed me a beautiful smile before wrapping me in a quick good-bye hug. I stiffened, both wanting her touch and wanting to avoid her all together.
“Thanks for the ride,” she called out, like she didn’t try to ditch me every chance she got.
I watched as she headed into the casino. Her short black uniform showed off her long, sexy legs and her slender waist. Her caramel-colored hair came just past her chin, teasing me with glimpses of her perfect neck. Heads turned as she walked by, but Ariana didn’t seem to notice. The girl had no clue how hot she really was, which was another thing I liked about her.
As I pulled away from the curb, Carlo called me in for a meeting at his home office. No matter how good Angel’s phone distorters were, most of the old-school wiseguys still didn’t trust technology and insisted on in-person meetings. Carlo Mariani was as old-school as they came, only carrying around a cell phone because the boss insisted on being able to reach him at all times.
Carlo’s house was a modest, split-level Southwestern stucco in a gated community. A guard greeted me by the garage entrance and took me past the same Jaguar that had pulled up to my middle school thirteen years ago. Carlo had to be loaded, but neither his home nor his car showed it. I wouldn’t put it past him to keep his millions buried in booby-trapped jars in his backyard, waiting for the first disillusioned schmuck to think he was smart enough to steal from the underboss of the Mariani family. Thankfully, that would never be me.
The guard passed me on to the live-in housekeeper, Constanza. She was a little Hispanic woman in her early fifties, and Carlo had kept her around for as long as I’d known him. He’d never married, and I had a sneaking suspicion she did a lot more than cooking and cleaning around there.
“Bones, it is so nice to see you!” Constanza said, embracing me. She’d always been kind and welcoming, but a few years ago I’d helped her nephew out with a bully situation, and she treated me like family ever since. “Can I get you something? Water? I’m making some tamales. They’ll be ready soon.”
“Explains that intoxicating smell,” I said, taking a deep whiff and smiling. “You know, if Carlo ever cuts you loose, I’ll put a ring on your finger.”
And if Carlo overheard me say that and thought I was serious, he’d put a bullet in my head. Constanza knew I was bluffing, though. She beamed me a bashful smile.
“You are too kind to an old woman, Bones,” she replied, leading me toward Carlo’s office. “Whenever you’re ready to settle down, I do have a niece who’d be perfect for you, though. Beautiful girl. Smart, too. She’s in nursing school right now.”
Just like Ma, Constanza was determined to make sure I settled down with a nice girl. She had more nieces than anyone I knew, and this was the third one she’d brought up in the past six months. My question was always the same. “But can she cook like you?”
Constanza frowned. “Not yet, but maybe someday. But she’s got a face like an angel.”
“It’ll never work, then.” Besides, I already had one smart and beautiful girl complicating my life. I had no desire to add another one.
“Too bad,” Constanza said, opening Carlo’s office and motioning me in.
“Bones. Good to see you. Please, come in.” Wearing the typical uniform—suit, tie, dress shoes—and standing in front of a bay window with a great view of his backyard, Carlo was the indisputable king of his castle. He crossed the room and shook my hand before gesturing to the chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat. Can Constanza bring you anything?”
I declined, but she promised to wrap me up a few tamales to go before leaving Carlo and me to our business. As always, I passed him an envelope of cash, a percentage of everything I’d collected on over the past few days. He slid the envelope into the breast pocket inside his suit jacket and leaned against his mahogany desk.