He growls, and I give him an unimpressed glare.
“The point is, there’s no such thing as a Portocale who doesn’t know you.”
“Or you,” I point out, since he’s making it sound as though I’m in this on my own.
He gives me a bored expression before sipping more of his wine.
“Is she playing you by any chance?” he asks as he sits back.
“I’m not sure what the point would be. We certainly don’t pose a threat to Portocale gypsies—anymore. With Marta dead, her fake niece-by-marriage just likely became someone’s new prime target, if they even know she exists.”
“You’re sure she’s a Portocale?” he asks seriously, and I nod in response. “Marta had a daughter that died a couple years back. January Portocale. Is it her?”
I smirk. “January Violet Carmine—Marta’s ex-husband’s surname,” I tell him. “She didn’t bother to be too creative, which means her faked death must have been really convincing.”
“Some details were that it was gory and bloody, but I never got specifics. Someone tried to cover it up, and I’m leaning toward it being the ones behind her death as opposed to Marta, if that’s the case,” he continues.
“I’d toss you a treat if I had any,” I say with thick condescension, as he scowls at me. Rolling my eyes, I add, “Yes, someone thought they covered their asses, but Marta was damn powerful. She could have easily manipulated minds, or possibly had Damien to do it as payment for his life debt.”
He snorts from behind me. “That debt will never be paid. The Portocale gypsies love our punishment too much.”
I shrug a shoulder.
“If this is her daughter, why didn’t she instill that same traditional hatred?” I point out, causing him to bristle. “See, Wolf? It’s possible Damien paid her mother a life debt, though he’d never share that information with us.”
Even though the chance of Marta being able to do that is lower than what could be considered minimal…it’s still something Damien could be persuaded with.
He sits back, seeming lost in thought. This time, I think I smell his brain smoking.
“There’s something else, though, which is another reason I’m here,” I tell him idly.
He puts his glass down and leans forward, finally covering himself…somewhat.
“I’m listening, but I’m not known for my patience, so save your typical, theatrical pauses for Damien,” he says on a sneer.
I smirk. “She has a ghost hanging around her. Rather attractive one too,” I tell him.
He arches an eyebrow. “Glad you’ve got a boner for a dead chick, but I thought there was an important—”
His eyes widen like he finally gets it, being the slow, daft bloke he is.
I decide to set the record straight while he finishes putting together the obvious. “I’m not quite so easy to get erect; a pretty ghost didn’t do it for me. It’s hard to impress me these days,” I say as I pick off a piece of lint from one of my lapels. “But she must have died in her underwear. Terrible waste. Could have met her in her time—”
“Stop talking about the ghost. This Violet girl can’t be a Portocale. She’d be sucking the life right out of that ghost.”
“Her pet ghost has reached the phase of pathological liar, and still, she’s perfectly well, instead of a pile of salt. No ghost that far along in the final decay could be in the presence of a Portocale for that long, and it seems like they’re rather familiar with each other,” I continue.
“Then she’s not a Portocale,” he says again. “You just don’t want to admit you’re wrong, per the usual.”
“I know perfectly well the scent of Portocale blood. You’re not the only one with that particular curse,” I go on.
“My head hurts,” he says on a groan, leaning forward to massage his temples.
“Doesn’t take much, does it, mutt?”
When he gives me a feral growl, I grin and push off from the house.
“I’ll be the true test. She’ll hate me worse than even you,” he says as he stretches his arms above his head. “I’ll do my own lie detection test, while making sure you’re not just full of shit, which you probably are.”
“Have fun with that. When you realize she’s an anomaly by being a clueless Portocale, don’t let her in on the secret just yet,” I pointedly tell him, since it’s possible he’s stupid enough to open his mouth.
“Like I’m that stupid,” he growls, almost prompting me to slip up and grin too much as I turn to walk away.
“Watch your manners, since she’s a stickler like that,” I call over my shoulder. “But remember, she’s still a Portocale, even if she doesn’t know what that means.”
“What the hell kind of fucking thing is that to say?” he gripes at my back.
I continue grinning as I turn around, deciding not to give him the true warning. Violet Portocale has all the subtle Portocale beauty without the Portocale bitterness foaming from her very intriguing lips. There’s a certain vulnerability about her that I’ve not had to see in a Portocale’s eyes for too many centuries to count, and it’s unnervingly distracting.
Emit should be as caught off guard by that as I was.
“She doesn’t know we can see her ghost. Good luck keeping a straight face,” is what I say instead.
“Bullshit. She’s faking it or you’re pulling my dick,” he says to my back, when I turn and walk away again, leaving him to think whatever he wants.
It’ll have more humorous charm when he sees for himself.
The vapor engulfs the room, and I cough like my lungs are trying to hack their way up my throat. I can feel the bruises forming as I blindly stumble and fumble my way around the unfamiliar hard edges of the furniture in the cluttered house.
Tearing my throat raw with the violent coughs, I finally reach the outside.
Doubling over with my hands on my knees, I try to breathe air into my starving lungs, but I’m burning up and struggling on which hell is currently worse. The heat is licking up my veins, and I feel like I’m on fire, as I start shedding my clothes as quickly as possible, cursing the day I decided I liked Anna enough to try and save her.
“I don’t think it worked too well! I feel the urge to tell you I spent five years possessing Bonnie’s body when she was fucking Clyde, and I’m pretty sure that’s a lie!” she calls out as I heave for more air. “Or is it? Did you fuck Clyde while making me watch?” she calls out with an indignant gasp, taking an abrupt turn with no blinker to warn me.
Utter failure. I possibly have chemical burns on my internal organs for no reason at all.
“No, I did not fuck Clyde,” I bite out in frustration. “The only Clyde I know has four legs and a long snout, and before your sick mind goes there, I will kill you for making any disgusting jokes like that—”
My words stop short when I see a man barely grinning, as though he’s entertained. His eyes rake over my Ghost Busters panties and a bra that I actually made. I’m a terrible seamstress, so the bra is horrendous and makes my nipples look unintentionally pointed in different directions. And maybe slightly warped…
Why? Just why?
“My life sucks so hard,” I mutter under my breath as I pinch the bridge of my nose, putting my other hand on my hip, as I exhale harshly.
After an awkwardly silent moment of collecting myself, I lower my hand and stare at his long, darkish hair first…because, it’s not the norm. Long hair on guys doesn’t usually work, but…some exceptions are definitely legit.
He’s tall and rough around the edges with just the right amount of beard. In fact, he’s the sort of gorgeous specimen that will no doubt have Anna spewing all kinds of crazy sex lies the second she—
“Ooooo la la. Hello, you sexy, devilish savage,” Anna purrs, appearing beside me. “Tell him I’m a porn star from the nineties. Or was it early two-thousands when they started keeping the downstairs painfully tidy?” she asks, tapping her chin with her index finger while seriously deliberating the matter.
Sometimes she knows she’s lying but enjoys it. Sometimes she has no clue if she’s lying at all. The urge to lie is growing stronger, regardless of which kind of lie she’s telling.
“Can I help you?” I ask the man, not even bothering to scrape together my dignity by this point.
Anna takes a lot out of me.
He gives me an incredulous look.
“Just to be safe, tell him I have a neatly trimmed landing strip instead of the tangled forest,” Anna goes on. “I’d check to see what’s actually down there, but I can’t physically move my underwear,” she adds while passing her hand through her pelvis.
I need to start carrying around salt.
“Rather odd way to introduce yourself, don’t you think, little Portocale?” the man asks in a weirdly sexy gravel-like tone that doesn’t usually do it for me.
He’s an anomaly, it seems. Wrong hair. Wrong voice. Entirely too tall. Much too broad shouldered—he could crush me. Still, it’s like it all just works on him, for whatever reason, and even at this terrible moment, I simply can’t help but notice just how well it works.
I’m genuinely too emotionally vulnerable to be cold and dismissive of attractive men right now.
Anna makes several thrusting motions because she doesn’t have a functioning brain cell.
I’m a little distracted by the fact he seems oddly amused, which quickly reels my headspace back in to the fact Anna is humming Ghost Busters…and actually singing the part about there being something strange in the neighborhood.
When she wildly points to me and thrusts her hips again, it becomes abundantly clear I did something awful in a previous life to deserve the shit that happens to me.
“I’m Carmine, not Portocale. I’m not related to the Portocale family by blood,” I reply on autopilot, recovering from the surprise of having an audience who…looks like him. “And if seeing a girl in her fashionable underwear isn’t a memorable first impression, then I don’t know what is.”
“Are you trying to be memorable?” he muses.
“Seems that way,” I chirp, not missing a beat. “If you’re a client, I’ve been working on your supply list. Deliveries will start as soon as Monday, and I swear I will be clothed during all future encounters.”
“Prude,” Anna pops off immediately. “I’d pull that hair of his while asking him who’s been a naughty savage,” she adds, mocking a playful bite in the air.
Heaven help me.
“I’m Emit Morrigan. Head of House of Morrigan,” he informs me as he intensely studies me, absently running a hand over his beard.
Yep. I’m off to a great start. One of my other wealthy clients, who will help afford a good life, is getting a memorable first impression of me.