Gio stood by the oversized mirror toward the right side of my office. His head was tilted as he continued to admire it. He turned and faced me at the sound of the door shutting behind me. “This is an interesting object you have here, Marky. The carving in the frame is quite unique. The mirror stands alone as an art piece.”
“It’s an original. I had it designed.” I pointed toward the side bar. “Would you like a drink?”
With a wave of his hand, he gave the mirror one last quick glance and then sat on a chair by my desk. “Nah, I’m good. I’ve cut back on drinking. You should try it. You’ll see a huge difference in your mood swings.”
I sat behind my desk as I bit down on my tongue before responding, “I don’t have fuckin’ mood swings.” I grew agitated as he laughed at himself. “What did you need to talk about?”
Gio smiled and leaned into the desk. “The club, we need it.”
“No. Was that all?”
Raising a brow, his expression grew serious. “I wasn’t asking, Marky. You haven’t found a suitable place for exchanges, and the shitty ones we’ve been going to are starting to look bad for business.” He leaned back in the chair. “We have an important exchange next month, Marky. We need the space.”
I folded my hands, leaned into the desk, and stared at him, with all of the possible other places running through my head. Gio was right. None of them were suitable. “I have people in and out of my club all of the time. What if a deal goes wrong? And where do you expect to do these exchanges?”
“I’ve visited your club a few times now. There’s a separate entrance to the basement. It’s fuckin’ huge too. There’s nothing down there but a few pieces of unused furniture. The entrance is on the left side of the building away from the front entry and the back parking lot. It’s perfect.”
“Gio, it’s too fuckin’ public. Lou has always wanted to keep his exchanges low-key. Why is he suddenly pushing the issue of doing them at my club?
Standing, he adjusted his jacket. “I never know why my uncle chooses half the shit he does, but he’s Lou. He can fuckin’ do anything he damn well pleases. With that said, we’re using the club.”
It was the worst fucking idea Lou had thought of yet. Nothing good would come of it.
“Mia, would you come here, sweetheart? I’d like to introduce you to someone.” Theresa shouted from across the room. I raised a finger at her to give me a second and then turned my attention back to the chef.
“So we’re all clear for the menu tonight?” I asked him.
The chef nodded, “Yes, ma’am, I have it all under control. I began prepping the hors d’oeuvres for the cocktail hour. I have here. . .” He looked down at the clipboard he held in his hand. “No mushrooms due to allergies. Correct?”
“Yes, please, no mushrooms. My boyfriend’s niece is highly allergic.”
“Okay, I’m all set. Hors d’oeuvres are to be served at six this evening and dinner will begin at eight.”
“Perfect. Thank you so much.” I patted his shoulder then began making my way down the room.
It was the weekend of Marcus’s thirtieth birthday party, and it also marked three weeks since we’d been back together. It felt as if we’d never left each other’s side. We’d become closer in a way that was much more than just sexual or even a romantic relationship—we had built a friendship as well. He had confided in me and discussed memories or issues he had been struggling with ever since his father’s death. The fact that we had both tragically lost beloved family members had bonded us and allowed us to express feelings that others would not understand.
“Miss Sullivan,” a voice poked through my thoughts. “Where would you like the equipment set up?” One of the band members asked.
“There’s a tent set up on the patio. You can put your equipment down in the far right corner.” He nodded and then brushed past as he held an amp in his arms.
After a few more interruptions, I finally caught up with Theresa. “Mia, this is Leo, the party planner.”
“Hi, Leo.” I shook his hand. I was happy he had made it and was able to take over from here. We discussed all the plans over the phone the past week, but he was running late today and couldn’t make it until the afternoon. Marcus’s home had been a hellhole the entire day.
“I’m here now, Mia. You and Theresa can run off and get ready. By the time you’re back, it will be spectacular.”
“Thank God!” I let out a heavy sigh.
“Where’s the birthday boy and what time is he expected?”
I pulled out my phone from my back pocket and checked the time. “Well, he’s out with his brother. Jimmie took him away for a brotherly bonding day. Jimmie will bring him back around six-thirty. That will give plenty of time for people to arrive.”
“Wonderful. Three hours is plenty of time for me to have it all set up. Everything and everyone is accounted for, so I will take this out of your hands.” He took the clipboard from Theresa.
Theresa and I eyed each other. It was a relief that we were no longer handling it, but it was also somewhat nerve-wracking handing over all the hard work to someone else. Theresa shrugged and passed the clipboard over.
“Want a drink? We deserve it.” Theresa said as she wrapped her arm around my shoulder.
Shrugging, I looked at her and smiled. “Sure, why not?” We both laughed as we headed toward the bar.
A few martinis later, I was relaxed. Guests would be arriving in a couple of hours, so I began getting ready.
I showered, put my makeup on, and pinned my hair into a low curled-up bun with tendrils falling from the back. After dressing, I stood in front of the mirror inside of Marcus’s walk-in closet. My black dress was very straightforward with a simple neck line that lay along my collarbone, although the silk fabric hugged my curves and landed mid-thigh. I twirled around to check out the back of the dress, which was the best feature—the dress draped, exposing my skin as the fabric landed on my lower back. The dark grey platform pumps I wore had a bit of sparkle on them, allowing the dress to pop.
After I finished getting dressed, I made sure Marcus’s room was set up perfectly as well. I had a surprise for him and wanted that night to be special. Last time I had tried to surprise him, everything went wrong, but there was no way I was allowing his birthday to be ruined. Jimmie promised to have him back thirty minutes after the party guests were scheduled to arrive.