The first week in November, I had an interview with an advertising agency in Glastonbury. My school uniform—white-collared blouse, gray skirt, and navy-blue vest under a blazer, seemed perfect for a good first impression.
Angie had an interview that same day with a management consultant firm. We were together at school during lunch when she tried to reschedule the appointment. She told them her dog was sick, and she had to take him to the vet.
She looked pale when she hung up. “They said someone else could take him.” Her eyes filled with tears. “I said no. My dog needs me.”
She was on my mind during the ten-minute bus ride from school to the interview. I hoped for a good outcome—for Angie, for the dog, and for me.
The personnel director at the ad agency seemed genuinely impressed that, in my junior year, I’d worked part-time as a secretary to four vice presidents at a lighting fixture distributor company. She gave me the grand tour. Everyone seemed friendly.
When I got home, I called Angie for an update.
“He’s better,” she said, “but I’m gonna stay with him tonight. I know it’s the weekend, but I have to study anyway. My parents are upset that I’m falling behind in everything.”
That surprised me. “I didn’t realize you were falling behind.”
“Yeah, I’ve been having a hard time falling asleep at night and a hard time waking up in the morning. It’s okay. I’ll be fine. How’d the interview go? Did you get the job?”
“Yes,” I said. “They’re going to start me as a floating temp, so they can see where I fit best. Are you okay?”
“I’m okay,” she replied. “I just need to get off the phone. I’m happy you got the job, though. Congrats.”
I called Farran next. She congratulated me before asking about Angie’s interview.
“Bless her heart,” she said after I’d explained. “She rescued that sweet puppy! I can understand her wanting to be home with him. It looks like we’ll all be staying home tonight anyway. I can’t get my mother’s car anymore.”
I was sure it had to do with the price of gas—that she couldn’t afford it after quitting her part-time job at a gift shop. Her father left when she was a child, and I supposed he had continued to provide minimal support, but her white-haired mother, one of the sweetest women I’d ever met, suffered from various illnesses and physical limitations. Farran’s only sibling, a biologist, had headed off to the Peruvian jungles with his wife. While Farran and her mom appeared to have the essentials, their home remained mostly lamplit. It was hard not to notice the considerable difference between her house and mine.
I offered to pay for the gas.
“I’ll try to find something on campus at Manchester Community,” she said, as though I hadn’t said a word. “Logistically, that’ll be easier to pull off. With the respiratory care program, I could be working at a hospital in two years. I know that won’t help us now, but …”
“Let me give you the money,” I insisted. “We’ve been going to the Cove for months, and I never had to pay for gas. I have a job now, and I don’t have expenses.”
“Oh, wait, you know what?” There was a lilt in her voice. “We can actually get a ride from my neighbor. She hangs out at a bar in New Haven—near East Rock or something. She’s meeting her boyfriend, and she won’t be going back to East Hartford ‘til Sunday, but one of the guys could give us a ride back.”
Evidently, I was not adept at social cues, so I tried again. “What’s wrong with me giving you the money?”
“There’s no reason to. Look, when you get your car, you’ll always be the one getting gas. That’ll be, what, in a week or two?”
“I’m not allowed to take the car, Dani. Can we leave it at that?”
“Fine,” I said, “but I’m bringing cab money to get back. I’m not going around asking for rides.”
“I’m sure someone will offer.”
It was as if she’d accept anyone’s help before mine.
At the Cove that night, she talked nonstop about Valentin while sipping one Gin Rickey after another. “I heard he has a gorgeous 1978 King Cobra Mustang, blue with black interior,” she raved. “A ‘Stang and a Harley Electra Glide Ultra Classic, wow. I just hope he doesn’t take a better look at that body of yours and decide he wants you.”
I was quick to respond. “You have a nice body, too, Farran.”
She shifted gears. “I miss my Angie girl. Poor thing really wanted that job—easy bus ride to and from school, good pay. I feel terrible for her.”
“Me, too. In fact, I’m worried.”
I guzzled what remained of my Tequila Sunrise, savoring the taste along with every glorious sensation. “I really want to tell you what happened that day, because I don’t think you understand.”
She stared blankly at me. “Understand what?”
“When we went with those guys to Pleasure Beach, they drugged Angie and me.”
Her eyes widened. “Angie didn’t say she was drugged.”
“She was, and it didn’t affect us the same way. I could tell from the beginning. I may not remember everything, but she doesn’t remember anything.”
“I’m confused, Dani. You imply that you were raped, and then you say you’re a virgin.”
“Just because that final thing didn’t happen …” I shifted nervously in my chair. “I mean, oral sex is rape, too, but everything that did happen—it was a crime, Farran.”
“Okay, how exactly did they force you? I didn’t see any bruises, not even a scratch.”
At the time, I didn’t know how to answer that question. Of course, the point of drugging us was so they didn’t have to be brutal. They weren’t screaming at me or making derogatory remarks. Rather, they were enamored of my body and me.
“And why didn’t you call the cops when it happened?” she went on. “You can still call the cops if you feel they’re harassing you. That’s what I don’t understand.”
I clenched my teeth. “What I don’t understand is how you can sit there and challenge anything I say about what happened. You weren’t there. As for your suggestions, if I can’t convince you that this happened, and the person who was there doesn’t remember, how am I supposed to convince someone else?”
She shrugged. “Well, that’s just it. Angie doesn’t remember anything like that, and, damn, I hate to think anyone would put you two through what sounds like a terrifying experience. I mean, we’re so young. We’re innocent, really. Is the world that cruel? Could these two guys have been that cruel?”
“Are you kidding me?” I took a deep breath then exhaled. “Do we live in the same world? Yes and yes again.”
“Dani, I know your father has a temper. I think he made you fearful and distrusting of all men. Look, my heart goes out to you, but that could be the reason you reacted so strongly to Tommy’s nonsense, too, as a kid.”
“Ha! I’m afraid of men. You know what you just reminded me of? When Angie and me were hanging out at Addison Park, boys said that because we weren’t ready for sex, we had to be stuck-up, lesbian, or afraid of boys. Of course, it couldn’t have been that we were thirteen years old at the time. That would have been when the little bell or buzzer should have gone off … like, right answer. No, something had to be wrong with us, not them for pushing the issue. Bullshit. I was with Mike a long time, and when we broke up, the other boys were still saying that crap about me.”
She raised a brow. “Yeah, but, Dani, I remember you were always uptight even with Mike. You haven’t changed. You never felt normal, and you wanted to do drugs back then. You told me about things that happened in your childhood, like Robbie saying you lived in your own little world, and the strange things you did, and those incidents you thought you remembered as an infant—”
“None of that changes anything.”
She was shaking her head. “You know, this is a difficult subject to talk about, but I’ve been trying to help you sort this out. I feel bad. All I’m saying is, maybe you need to take some action—you know, like talk with someone who’s in a position to help. Girl, I’m your friend. I’m with you. I’m not going anywhere.”She flashed a smile, and I melted. I think her empathy was a thing I craved, along with any reassurance that she was, indeed, my friend.
We opted for another round of drinks, which helped me shift everything to the depths of my subconscious.
She changed the subject. “Gianni’s been staring at you again.”
I knew that but said nothing in response.
“Did you know he has a boat? Tommy told me. It’s pretty big, sleeps six.”
“Is that supposed to make me want to bust up his relationship with Liz?”
She twirled her hair. “I just thought it would be a lot of fun. Gianni is Valentin’s best friend, you know. If I snag Valentin, Angie gets Nico, and you grab Gianni, we’d be the new Lynx women. We’d get to go everywhere with them. They all go out on that boat when the weather is nice, and we’d be right there with them.”
“You conveniently forget—they’re all with someone. Why would you deliberately sabotage someone’s relationship or ruin a friendship by going after the guy someone loves?”
She appeared astounded by this question. “He’s not married, Danielle! Plenty of women would step right over Liz to get him. She knows that, and until she has that ring on her finger, he has a right to explore other options. I say, show me the ring. You owe her nada. Besides, if two people really are friends, and the man doesn’t love her, but loves her friend, the friend he’s not in love with should be happy for the one he loves. Why shouldn’t they be happy together? And if they’re not friends, who cares? All’s fair in love and war.”
Yeah, except when it came to Valentin.
She went on. “I think there’s another reason you hold back. I’m not saying those other reasons are bull, but I also think, deep down, you don’t think we’re good enough for those guys.”
I shook my head.
“At least consider that. You think the world of them—maybe not Tommy, but the others. Do you think Shannon, Katharine, and Liz are better than we are? They’re not. We deserve those guys as much as anybody, if not more.”
The idea wasn’t worth entertaining for me. I was still trying to get over something horrific, something no one had validated.
“I’d never want to hurt Liz—or anyone,” I said.
She averted her eyes. “I told you— he doesn’t look at her the way he looks at you.”
“If he doesn’t, he should.”
Her gaze shifted to me again, and she flashed that irresistible grin. “This thing with Gianni is classic love at first sight. You’re a writer, one who loves fairy tales, and you don’t believe in love at first sight?”
She had no idea, but I had long since stopped believing in fairy tales, and that’s only if I ever had.
I called us a cab before nine and began putting on my coat as we walked toward the front.
Gianni was inches from the door, leaning against the window. Tommy faced him. Nico sat on a barstool nearby.
Gianni gave me the once-over. “Where ya going?”
“Home,” I answered.
“You’re gonna walk out that door and break my heart?” He’d been drinking beer and placed the bottle on the window ledge.
Tommy turned around.
I buttoned my coat, smiling. “I’m sorry.”
He asked questions about my ethnicity—specifically, where my dad was born.
I stopped before him. “A town called Pozzilli in Isernia.”
“I’m a half-breed, too,” he said. “My mom’s Irish-American, father was born in Trevignano, province of Treviso, Veneto.”
“Cool. Can I ask you something?”
His eyes were dreamy and soulful. “How can I say no to someone as lovely as you?” He gave Tommy a wink. “Especially when you ask me with that husky little voice.”
Nico laughed, shaking his head.
“You were a Marine, right?”
“Yes. Why are you leaving so early?”
I knew Farran would not want me to give him the long version of that, so I provided a brief explanation.
“A cab from here is gonna be expensive,” Tommy said.
Gianni told me he would rather walk me all the way.
“Walk! Hah!” Tommy looked amused. “You’re gonna walk to Glastonbury! Okay, she’s a very pretty girl, but that’s insane.”
“I’d walk to the ends of the earth, if she asked.”
Nico turned, smiling. “Bah! Geez, Giancarlo!” He turned around again and guzzled from a bar glass. I wanted to drown him in love.
“Besides, it’s a nice night,” Gianni said. “Gives me a longer time to talk with this fascinating young lady.”
Nico hopped off the stool and stretched, dazzling us with another smile. I wondered if he had any idea how sexy he was, stretching like that. His eyes shifted from Gianni to Tommy, and then me.
“Don’t worry, Ginzo’s in good shape,” he said. “A forty-mile walk for him is no problem. I don’t know about Tommy, though. He’s lazy. You may end up having to carry him.”
I laughed. “Farran’s going to carry Tommy.”
“Seriously, I could take you home,” Gianni said again. “You can ride with me. She can ride with Tommy.”
There was no reason to be afraid of him or any of them. They were my brother’s friends.
“You’re giving me a ride, then?” Farran’s eyes were on Tommy.
“Yeah,” he grumbled. “Why not …?”
“Aw, that’s so sweet.” I surprised myself, feeling anything other than repugnance where he was concerned.
“Yeah, he’s a benevolent soul,” Gianni quipped. “Shall we go?” He grabbed his jacket, a plaid flannel one that gave him a rugged appeal.
I cancelled the cab.
Farran kissed Nico goodnight, a peck on the cheek.
“Good night, Nico,” I said. He put his cheek forth for a kiss from me, and I obliged.
“Goodnight, doll.” He endowed me with a wink, and my heart raced. “Take care of this beautiful lady,” he told Gianni.
“Thank you,” I muttered.
“Oh, you’re welcome,” he returned.
The butterflies swarmed.
“Where is Valentin, by the way?” Farran asked. “I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“Valentin is very busy right now,” Nico replied. He walked toward the back of the bar.
Farran and I proceeded to the parking lot with Gianni and Tommy. With their tight jeans and motorcycle buckle boots, they did have that bad boy appeal. Gianni lit a cigarette.
“So you guys met Valentin and Nico through the McGraths?” Farran asked.
“No, ma’am,” Gianni replied. “I met Valentin at Notre Dame High, when his family moved to Connecticut from the Bronx.”
Tommy made his tsk sound at Farran, something he would come to do often with her. “Why are you always asking about Valentin?”
She laid into him. “Are you going to do the Billy thing, tell me I don’t want to be a Valentin conquest or another notch on his belt?”
“I never said anything bad about Valentin,” he shot back. “Nor would I ever.” He stopped in front of a red Harley that had an American flag on the tank.
Gianni also did an about-face and squatted, half sitting sideways on the seat of his bike—a Harley, too, in a gorgeous shade of midnight blue. “So, tell me something about you.” He tilted his head to one side, his eyes twinkling.
I told him about my writing. Of course, it was the first thing that popped into my head, and I’m sure it was not what he expected from a sixteen-year-old.
He seemed mesmerized and too content to move a muscle. At one point, he kept shaking his head, smiling as if he were in awe. I could see a genuine interest, but, every so often, I did catch him checking out my body.
“You’re smart,” he said. “Really, that’s very good. I’m sure your parents are very proud of you and supportive.”
“My brother Robbie doesn’t think they’re supportive.”
“He’s got a beef with your parents?”
“Yeah, he thinks they’re the worst. Everything about them bothers him. He even got mad about some silly story my mother told us once about this man who was struck by lightning.”
“It’s dumb. She told us this story when we were kids. She said her brother told her. It happened in Brazil. There was an electrical storm. This brother of hers, my uncle, was walking behind some man. The man was struck by lightning, and he disappeared. She said there was nothing left on the ground but his hat.”
Tommy looked over at us, his curiosity apparently piqued.
“She swore it was true,” I continued. “She got upset when we questioned it, so we actually believed it, and we told everyone this story. They thought we were nuts. Years later, when I asked her about it, she denied ever having said it! But that’s not even the end of it. A few months ago, Robbie asked her about it. Now she says it did happen, but the reason the guy disappeared was because they had to take him to the hospital, and they forgot the hat!”
Gianni and Tommy laughed so hard that even Farran had to smile. She appeared to have been listening intently, possibly wondering if I had inherited the tendency to fabricate.
“This is a story Valentin would love,” Tommy said to Gianni. He turned to me. “Ay, ask her what hospital. Go see if it’s on file there. Ask her if he ever got the hat back or if it still fits without the head.”
We all laughed hysterically. I needed that.
“It never happened!” I shouted.
How strange it seemed, to laugh with Tommy, as opposed to being the joke. I found him to be funny, and it was hard not to like him in that moment. He wasn’t off the hook, though. The disturbing comments he’d made all those years ago remained etched in my brain.
“So Robbie is pissed off about this?” Gianni seemed surprised.
“It’s one of the petty little things, but, yeah. It pisses him off if you remind him. He says she and my father have to lie about everything, that they don’t even need a reason.”
Farran diverted their attention, telling Tommy she had noticed his tattoos and thought they were awesome.
“Oh, that’s nothing,” Tommy said. “Gianni has way more than I do.”
Gianni merely smiled, handed me a helmet, and strapped it on my head. Tommy gave one to Farran. They put on their own helmets, and we mounted the bikes.
The ride stimulated me in ways I never could have fathomed, as did feeling Gianni’s body while I held him tight. His mastery titillated me, and the experience was exhilarating.
Tommy stopped along with him when we arrived at my house. He waited for Gianni, who walked me to my stairway.
Gianni kissed me good night, a peck near my lips, and his hand traveled down the length of my hair. His eyes became glazed and torturously tempting, as though I were the star of his most erotic fantasies. “You have beautiful lips,” he said. “Then again, everything about you is beautiful.”
Again, with that word beautiful. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get used to it, but it felt good. At the same time, it made me nervous.
“I’m serious,” he told me. “You’re the girl of my dreams.”
“You’re in love with Liz,” I replied.
“You are with her.”
He was quiet, still looking at me.
“You have too many eggs in your basket.”
“Beg your pardon?”
“You never heard that saying?”
He laughed. “I think you mean: ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.’”
“Oh …” I laughed, too. “My mom tells me these things that get lost in translation. She messed it up.”
He looked amused, and those twinkling eyes were killing me. He said, “I’ve never been so completely enchanted by anyone.”
I noticed that Farran and Tommy were standing right across the road, making out. I looked at Gianni. I was infatuated with him and wanted to kiss him, but I wouldn’t dare. It did surprise me that, despite associating him and other men with danger, he was almost as easy to talk to as Valentin—well, after a few drinks, he was. In addition to making me feel charming, funny, and interesting, he made me feel sexy. I hadn’t really felt that before.
“You know …” He hesitated. “Nah, I shouldn’t say it.”
“You got me falling in love with you.”
I was flattered yet dumbfounded. “How can you say that?”
He stared a moment, then said, “You’re right. I shouldn’t have said it. Please forgive me.”
It was both a disappointment and a relief that he would give up the idea rather than persist. He was being the man I’d wished others could have been. Then again, he had no right to come onto me, and that did warrant an apology. I was confused, so pathetically confused. In spite of everything, I would have loved a boyfriend who could see me the way I thought Gianni saw me, and respect my wishes to boot.
We said good night, and I thanked him as he walked away.
He waved without turning.
It was hard not to be excited—but not only because of the incredibly sexy guys I kept running into at the Cove. There was my promising future to think about, my job, the car I would soon have, and all the wonderful things said to me of late. It was a different kind of high, for sure.
Deadly Veils Book One: Shattering Truths was originally published as Deadly Veils: Book One: Provenance of Bondage copyright © October 2015 by Kyrian Lyndon. The revised edition, Deadly Veils: Book One: Shattering Truths was published in December 2016. Cover design by KH Koehler Design.