Black Star. LA. (Later that night)
= Are you sure you want to delete the message? =
Luna’s index finger tapped lightly on the right button of the mouse as she read for the tenth time the name of the file. ‘Vin at Privilege II (Warning!!)’
Her cigarette, now reduced to a burn up butt, had been forgotten in the ashtray several minutes ago as she tried to decide what would be the best course of action.
Deleting the file wouldn’t make any difference; it wouldn’t make the ugly reality vanish at a stroke. Quite the opposite, she would be turning her back on that very same reality, acting the same way Vin would do. It was childish behaviour.
Pretending that she didn’t know anything about it would only mean that she was being a damned coward. Fooling herself had been what had led her to where she was now in the first place.
The ‘what I don’t know can’t hurt me’ philosophy was something most people lived by; it was easier that way.
“…You told me that you wanted to know about anything I was able to find, no matter how unpleasant the nature of the matter was…”
James Haltom’s words echoed within Luna’s head and she sighed heavily, thinking about an old saying her grandmother frequently used. ‘Those who search for the truth deserve the punishment of finding it.’
Truer words had never been spoken. Still there was a quotation in the Holy Bible that kept holding her back, stopping her from deleting the file without watching it. ‘Truth shall set us free.’
It wasn’t that Luna considered herself a good catholic girl. Thank God! But the reminiscences of the strict, catholic education Luna had grown up under always showed up at the oddest times.
Would truth set her free for real? What would be the cost of finding it?
Everybody craved for the truth, wishfully hoping people would stop lying to each other, keeping secrets and hiding things. It was so easy to dismiss such yearnings as naïve fantasies. Yet, if no one could be trusted then what was left?
Truth was not something abstract and irrelevant, but powerful and liberating. Truth changed everything, it mattered. It was lies that killed everything. The problem with truth was that most of the time it was deeply inconvenient, embarrassing and certainly painful.
Truth would set her free but only if she was willing to pay the price. What if the cost was too high? It would set her free, but first it would make her miserable. Truth would hurt, a lot, but maybe it would heal her too. She’d be able to move on, perhaps.
= Are you sure you want to delete the message? =
Blissful ignorance…Luna shut her eyes tightly, clicking ‘no’. She was not sure, but Luna wasn’t sure that she wanted to watch it either.
It just might be that morbid, sick curiosity most people felt watching a car wreck. The vision might cause them nightmares but still they couldn’t stop staring. Or it might be that other inborn need that was inherent to humanity; the fruitless search for happiness.
At this point Luna doubted that adding up one more disillusionment would make any difference. There was no way to break something that was already broken. There was nothing left to lose either, except maybe sanity.
You’re already insane, woman.
Most people would agree with her though. Hiring a private detective to find dirty secrets about powerful people with the intention of using it as leverage against them, seeking revenge was not something a sane person would do, that was for sure. Desperately holding onto her anger, refusing to let go wouldn’t be considered a very healthy attitude either.
Fuck sanity! Luna snorted. Why would anyone want to be in their right mind these days, anyway? Sanity is highly overrated.
Making up her mind, Luna got ready to save the file; she still wasn’t sure if she’d end up watching it or not, but she’d keep it all the same.
Just when she clicked on the button another warning message popped on the screen of her laptop.
= The file Vin at Privilege II (Warning!!) already exists. Do you want to overwrite it? =
What the…? She blinked, shocked.
There was no way that the file already existed. Her mind started racing in seconds. Unless…Her eyes narrowed in suspicion as a bizarre idea crossed her mind.
“Allison, do you know this ‘munchiman’?”
“Nope. Why? You don’t know it either?”
“No, and this email address is personal. Just a bunch of people know about it.”
“Don’t open the files until I ask Steve to find the IP address. Just in case the files contain something we don’t really want to know.”
“Oh, I see you opened the file.”
“Yeah. It’s just porn.”
“Yep, just porn, bad porn actually.”
“Cool! I love porn.”
“Not this one. It’s home made porno.”
“And who the hell is that ‘munchiman’, anyway?”
“I think that this ‘munchiman’ hacked your email account.”
End Flash Back
“No way…” Luna’s fingers flew across the keyboard, typing at light speed.
The suspicion about Steve and Allison keeping this shit from her knowledge was momentarily pushed aside; she would deal with that later. First, she needed to confirm another suspicion.
Vin had taught her how to find the IP address of someone who had sent her an email. It was one way to trace the sender’s identity, or at least to find from which computer the message had been sent. In the past, Vin had received some emails that would be considered more than threatening. He always ignored them, taking for granted that they had been sent by insanely fervent fans.
“There’re a lot of crazy people out there, Luna,” Vin had said.
“And you’ve been hanging out with one of them for years, asshole.” Luna replied to Vin’s voice as she kept typing like a possessed woman.
The list with all the IP addresses that had sent messages to her over the last three weeks spread on the screen and Luna’s eyes eagerly searched for the one that matched Munchiman’s message.
The string of profanities that crossed her lips in mere seconds when Luna found whom the IP address belonged to would have made the Devil himself blush in embarrassment; he even would have crossed himself, pleading silently for God to forgive her.
“For being a fucked up, manipulative asshole you sure as hell are the damned easiest moron to manipulate, Vin.” Luna shook her head.
Vin had also taught Luna how to recuperate a file that had been deleted, even if at first sight it seemed as if it had vanished from the CPU. She had done it just once, after deleting a whole chapter of ‘Secret Pleasures’ by mistake. Back then Vin had been guiding her through the process while sitting across from her on the other side of her laptop and Luna focused her attention on following each step, the way she had done on that one occasion.
Silently reading the file’s name it occurred to Luna that not even one of the persons that supposedly knew about its existence or that had watched it already, namely Moira Feldman, Marcela, James Haltom and Steve, had taken the precaution of changing the name of the file before saving it. It denoted an obvious lack of imagination, which she was now secretly grateful for. Not that it really mattered though because none of them had known that Vin had installed a program on her laptop that could identify a file by its contain and not by its name.
Oblivious to that fact, James had added the word ‘warning’ between breaks, but that hadn’t fooled her computer; it had automatically identified the file, warning the user about the existence of another previous file with the same contents.
Back in the day when Vin had installed the aforesaid program, Luna had naively doubted its usefulness. Now she admitted that it had been a bright idea. If it hadn’t been for such a fact, Luna would have never found that Steve, and surely Allison too, had done their best to keep her from knowing about this video file, and she sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to find out about Dave being the one behind this shit.
The sordid irony didn’t go unnoticed on Luna. Steve had deleted the file so that Luna didn’t find about Vin’s latest fuck up, but it had been precisely Vin’s freaky knowledge about computers that had made possible that she found out about this sort of plot to keep her oblivious to the existence of that very same file.
Talk about Fate’s twisted sense of humor, Luna chuckled sadly as she recalled James’ words.
“…I’d say that Mr. Breaux set a trap for Mr. Diesel, probably searching for something to use as leverage against your husband…”
“Not against my husband, Mr. Haltom, but against…” Luna trailed off, lost in thought. You have balls made of steel, munchiman, I swear.
This shit was typically macho wounded male behaviour. It seemed as if Dave looked at Vin as something that belonged to him, something of his property. The fact that she had showed up out of nowhere had caused Dave to go on guard, scheming and plotting. This shit was Dave’s way of punishing her, hurting her for daring to be where he considered she had no business being.
It was not that Dave was secretly in love with Vin, not even that Dave cared so much for his beloved friend that he wanted to protect Vin from women hurting him, if in a twisted, sick way. It was selfishness, plain and simple.
Dave wanted Vin all for himself because that way he could keep enjoying the bizarre lifestyle that being at Vin’s side would assure him.
Unlike Valentino who had considered being under Vin’s shadow more a penitence than a blessing, to Dave it had been Heaven on earth. Sex, money, drugs, chicks…
Luna’s thoughts drifted in another direction as she recalled the infamous party and the girl that she had found out was a minor. Back then Vin hadn’t been interested in Luna, Dave had already knew that. Maybe there has been another chick around at the time, someone Vin had shown some sort of interest in beyond having sex with.
What if Dave had been acting this same way, getting rid of every chick who might mean trouble since Vin and Dave were kids? Wouldn’t Vin have noticed it? Vin was a control freak. Would Vin have allowed Dave such a level of control over him? Vin would, of course, if at that time he had given a damn about all those girls.
We only see what we want to see, Luna sighed hard, rubbing her forehead.
This new finding changed everything and, without thinking, Luna picked up her cell phone, dialing a number she swore to herself she would never dial again, ever.
Never say fucking never, Luna, she cursed silently.
‘The Carousel’ Club. New York. (At the same time)
Sipping from his cocktail, James absently looked around, waiting for his brand new target to join him.
The show was already over but the place remained pretty packed. Curiously most of the patrons were heterosexuals, middle age couples actually, and a group of women that seemed to be enjoying a hen party.
James had spent a whole week going all around almost every single nightclub that New York offered without making notable progress until he had found the guy who he had restlessly been searching for.
The very same day James had arrived in the city, he had had a meeting with the ex-manager of ‘Tunnel’. The man had said that he remembered Joe and of course he also remembered Diesel and his crew.
James’s meeting with him had been really fruitful; he had given James the name of the girl who had almost been raped by that waiter. Jennifer Miller. He had also provided James with an interesting piece of information linked to Joe.
It seemed that one of the go-go dancers that had been working at that time with Joe had been also Joe’s roommate and the one that kept Jennifer company while Diesel had been beating the crap out of the waiter.
A little research had revealed that Jennifer had married some low level drug dealer who was now serving a fifteen year sentence in prison. She had divorced him shortly after he was sent to prison, returning to her maiden name. A quick visit to the Civil Register had revealed Jennifer Miller’s current address. She now lived in Brooklyn with her mother and a daughter.
To find the go-go dancer hadn’t been so easy. All that the old manager of ‘Tunnel’ had known about the guy was that back in the day he went by ‘Chichi’, paying homage to the famous director of gay porno movies ‘Chi-Chi LaRue’, and that he had some relative living downtown.
It had been more difficult than searching for a needle in a haystack. But it seemed that he had finally found ‘Chichi’, at least that was what James hoped with everything in him. This case was taking up an extraordinarily absurd amount of time and energy.
“Fred told me you were looking for me, sunshine?”
The baritone voice pulled James out of his thoughts and he lifted his eyes, blinking, as he stared at the tall, slim, handsome man who was standing right in front of him.
James nodded as he got to his feet. “Chichi?”
Chichi smiled briefly. “I don’t know you, do I, sunshine?” He took a seat, gesturing for the waiter to bring him a drink.
James grinned slightly. “Not really, but I think we have a friend in common.”
Chichi knit a brow. “And who would he be?” He seductively batted his lashes.
“Joe. Joe Zuñiga.”
“Oh.” Chichi’s expression changed in a second flat and his face showed a mix of surprise, sadness and concern that didn’t go unnoticed on James. “Joey…my wonderful Joey…” Chichi whispered suddenly lost in thoughts.
It had been almost a decade since Chichi had seen or talked with Joe. Back then Joe had just been released from the hospital and he had been packing all his things in a hurry, mumbling over and over that he had to leave the city.
“How is he? Is Joey okay?” Chichi reached out, placing his hand onto James’ hand. His voice sounded almost breathless.
“Yes…yes, he’s okay.” James answered slowly as he watched the play of emotions on Chichi’s face. It seemed to him that Joe and Chichi not only had been roomies but also close friends.
The waiter brought Chichi his drink at that very moment and he removed his hand from James’. “Thanks, sunshine.” He smiled up at the waiter.
In response, the boy offered a sexy wink and sauntered back to the bar.
His composure regained, Chichi cleared his throat and returned his attention to James.
“So, what did you want to talk with me about, sunshine?” Chichi sipped from his ‘cosmopolitan’ as he nonchalantly looked around.
James straightened a bit. Better to grab the bull by its horns. “About the ‘Tunnel’,” he plunged ahead, smiling shyly.
Chichi chuckled sadly. “That was ages ago, sunshine,” he sighed softly. “Almost ancient history…”
“Not for me.” James went serious in a heartbeat.
Chichi didn’t answer right away. Instead, he steadily looked at James’ eyes, judging the cute redhead’s real intentions.
It hadn’t been the first time that some wannabe journalist had shown up asking Chichi about the club while digging into Vin Diesel’s past. Everybody knew that the actor had been one of the bouncers and everybody also knew that ‘Tunnel’ was a club whose clientele was mostly homosexual. It hadn’t been so hard to figure out what they had been asking for real.
“What do you want to know, exactly?” Chichi’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.
James sighed quietly; he had noticed the way Chichi had gone on guard in seconds. “Everything you feel like sharing with me about those days.”
Something in James’ voice told Chichi that the redhead wasn’t a journalist. Maybe a cop or even a private detective poking around, or maybe just a freaky nostalgic. He seemed harmless though, just a bit curious and even concerned. Chichi went with his guts.
“Not much to say.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Pretty wild years. Drugs. A lot of sex. Our motto was to live and let live.” Chichi paused, sipping from his cocktail. Now he was the one feeling helplessly nostalgic. “We were pretty open-minded; we lived the present moment, not caring about the future.”
James nodded; he already knew that. “What about the employees? Was there a good working environment?” he leaned backwards in his chair, showing a relaxed stance.
“Yeah, we were like a little family; we took care of each other.” Chichi smiled wickedly and plunged. “Back in those days to be a drag queen was not considered acceptable, you know, sunshine? Some of us were frequently abused, mostly just verbally abused by the occasional freaky cave man. So some of the bouncers used to escort us on our way back home, to make sure we were back safe and sound.”
Chichi had consciously dropped that last line, gauging the redhead’s reaction. If he was sneakily searching for something linked to Vin Diesel’s past, searching for something dark or dirty, now would be when he would ask for more information, if subtly. Not that Chichi would have offered more, anyway; he was not the kiss and tell kind.
Chichi would keep it to himself until the day he died though. It was nobody’s business if he had had a taste of Diesel’s cock, when such an appendage wasn’t nearly as infamous as it’d become later, inside one of the toilet stalls once the club had been closed, or what they had done in the intimacy of Chichi’s apartment.
James grinned; he wasn’t stupid. Of course he had picked up on Chichi’s subtle hint, talking about the bouncers and the drag queens in the same sentence.
He had seen Chichi’s show just a moment before. Dressed in drag, Chichi would have passed for a woman, a really beautiful woman, actually. Hell! Chichi looked fine even dressed like a man!
It wasn’t difficult to picture some of those same bouncers, including Diesel, getting a blowjob or a free fuck as a way to get repayment for the favour of escorting a ten years younger Chichi back to his home.
People would hallucinate if they would have known how many heterosexual men went in search of transvestites to have anal sex because their ‘respectable’ wives refused to have a cock up their prissy asses. It might be because anal sex had always been considered taboo, or just because until recently it had been considered a crime across the country; still was in more than one state. People felt an irresistible attraction to everything that was forbidden.
Almost everything we love is illegal, amoral or gets us fat, James chuckled silently.
“What about the go-go dancers? The boys. Were they used to being verbally abused too?” James leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table.
Chichi shook his head. “Only the flashy ones; the real affected or the smart mouthed. They were the ones that got in trouble.” He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. It had been a daily occurrence.
“Like Joe?” It was out before James could stop himself.
Chichi blinked, startled. “Joe was an angel, everybody loved him!” His sudden fierce determination caught James off guard.
“He is still an angel, Chichi.” James replied calmly as he put together the pieces of information he had about Joe. If he hadn’t been really flashy, affected or a smart mouth, then why had he been hurt?
“Who are you?” Chichi set his jaw. “What are you harping on? What don’t you come out and say it?”
James heaved a hard sigh, rubbing his forehead. He might as well get it out in the open. “I want to know what happened to Joe. Why he left New York from one day to the next.”
Chichi knit a brow. “Why don’t you ask him?”
“Why not?” Chichi’s eyes narrowed in suspicion.
James lowered his eyes, ashamed. He couldn’t go asking Joe because that would mean confessing to Joe that he had been investigating him, digging into his past; he had no right to do such a thing to begin with. They had only spent just one night together. Besides, there was no way James could reveal to Joe or to anyone for that matter, the reasons that had led him to find by chance Joe’s past linked with Diesel’s past. James would betray his client’s trust if he did that.
James sighed hard and lifted his eyes, meeting Chichi’s angered gaze. “Listen, I’m not a journalist or anything like that, okay? That’s the absolute truth. I’m just looking for answers; that’s all. I don’t have any second intention beyond finding who hurt Joe.”
“Why? What do you care?” Chichi wasn’t going to take any bullshit; he wanted the truth and he wanted it now.
James frowned deeply as he considered Chichi’s question. Why did he care? He himself had wondered that since the minute he crossed paths with Joe. The answer was so obvious that James’ breath caught in his throat.
“Because I think I love him.” He blurted out, feeling stupid the second after he said it aloud. How was he going to love a guy he had shared a one night stand with? Could that even be possible?
“You think?” Chichi blinked, now he was the one caught off guard. “You either love someone or you don’t, sunshine? There’s no half way. There’s no ‘I think’. You do know it or you don’t. You are in love or you aren’t in love.”
James met Chichi’s gaze once more and swallowed forcefully. There wasn’t anger in his eyes anymore but concern. He might have been apart from Joe for a long time, but Chichi still cared for him. It was that realization that caused James to gather courage to plunge ahead.
“I love him, Chichi. I’m in love with Joe.”
It was the redhead’s defiant expression after voicing aloud his deepest feelings that caused Chichi to soften his gaze, nodding in understanding.
“I don’t know the details for sure, because Joey never told me.” Chichi sighed heavily and leaned forward. “The club was going to close for a few weeks to be redesigned. So the management thought that it would be a good idea to throw a party for the staff, as a way to thank us for the great job we had been doing. We were even allowed to invite our friends to the party.”
Chichi paused, his gaze glazed. It seemed as if his mind had gone back to that day.
“We were having a great time, dancing and drinking and partying. There were drugs all over. Coke, X, acid, crack, you name it. So by midnight almost everybody was high on some shit or just plain drunk.”
Chichi paused anew, absently playing with the straw of his drink.
“Joe was dancing, just minding his own business when a couple of black guys that looked like two living Gods made of ebony joined him on the dance floor. I hadn’t seen them before but my companion told me they were friends of one of the bouncers…The three of them looked as if they were having a good time together, dancing. Joe had always had this wild fantasy about having sex with a black guy. So I figured he was in for a hell of a ride, you know? Being with two of them…”
Chichi shuddered as his face contorted with rage and pain.
“I was with—someone; we were having our private party and I watched them heading to the store room. Joe seemed pretty smashed but he was laughing. I was pretty drunk myself so I didn’t think about anything else, except from having my own fucking fun…If I hadn’t been so drunk I would have noticed something odd was going on.”
The last bit was said between clenched teeth and James felt his soft hair rising all at once, already fearing what Chichi would say next.
“When my companion told me we were leaving Joe was nowhere to be found. It was then when I remembered what I had seen a few hours before. So I headed to the store room…” His voice trailed off as if Chichi was drawn into some sort of trance. “He was still there…unconscious and alone…he was…Joey had been…” Chichi shook his head, his gaze lost, as if with such a gesture he could wipe away the ugly memories. “We had to call an ambulance. Joe spent three weeks at the hospital, healing from his wounds.”
Chichi distinctly remembered that the hospital staff had called the police; they had the obligation to report any sexual abuse. Chichi also distinctly remembered what the cops had said once they had known ‘who’ had been sexually abused and what the circumstances had been. They had just taken note and later had shelved the matter. Who would give a damn about some queer being abused?
“Who was the bouncer?” James muttered under his breath, swallowing back down his nausea. Somehow he just knew, but needed to have his suspicions confirmed.
Chichi snapped out of his painful trance. “Huh?”
“You said those two fuckers were friends of one of the bouncers.” James leaned forward, feeling his guts knotting with anger. “Who was he?”
Chichi chuckled sadly. That was another piece of information he would take with him to his grave. Chichi had made it this long, being left alone, because he had known when to keep his mouth shut.
What had happened to Joe hadn’t been a coincidence, but a message, a warning, and Chichi had always suspected who the sender had been. Hurting Chichi directly would have aroused unwanted suspicions, but hurting Chichi’s closest, more beloved friend wouldn’t have.
“I’m tired, sunshine. It’s been a long day.” Chichi stood and turned to leave all in one smooth move.
“Chichi, please, I need to know.” James reached out, grabbing Chichi’s wrist, stopping him. “Please…”
As in slow motion Chichi looked back at James, over his shoulder. As much as it hurt Chichi to see the cute redhead suffering there was no way he would run any risk. Not for Joe and not for anyone else. Chichi doubted that whoever this guy was he would be able to protect Chichi from future retaliations if he said more than he should.
“Joe forgot some of his things. I kept them in a box.” He released his wrist from James’ grip as he spoke. “They are mostly pictures, books and things like that. I’ll give the box to Fred. I figure Joe would like to have them back.”
James sighed heavily. It was clear that Chichi was not going to confirm his suspicions. “Do you want me to tell Joe something?”
Chichi smiled sadly. “Yeah, tell him that Chichi will always love him.”
Black Star. LA (later that night)
Vin’s hands shook nervously and he shoved them in his pockets, standing still, staring at his wife. It reminded him of another similar situation and his guts clenched painfully.
An eternity had passed since that night, but the similarities between both scenarios were scary. As if in a recurrent nightmare, Vin saw himself, standing at the entrance of Luna’s tiny apartment, asking for forgiveness after he had slapped her. That night he had felt like dirty scum, tonight he felt even worse because back then he hadn’t loved her.
Wearing a pair of jeans and a top Luna stood as still as Vin and stared back at him. She had been so pissed off and so worried that out of the blue a sudden impulse had made her phone him, saying ‘come to Black Star’.
Luna had expected him to ask what the fuck for, or to hang up the phone on her, especially after what had happened that morning at the meeting. She found that she wouldn’t have blamed him, but secretly hoped he’d understood her real motivations.
Vin had done neither of those things. Instead he had asked her if she was okay.
The answer had been so obvious that the mere thought of asking should have felt like an insult; he damned well knew she was not okay. But it had been what Vin had left unsaid, the concern and lack of rancor in his voice, and the sound of a car engine starting up that had made her say ‘yes’.
It was then that Luna understood that not only did Vin not bear a grudge against her for jeopardizing the shooting of ‘Hannibal’, but that he would go wherever she wanted him to go without hesitation. Was he showing a blind trust? Luna wasn’t sure but now here he was, standing in front of her.
Regaining control of her emotions, Luna noticed that Vin had let himself go, a lot. He looked not only exhausted but also badly aged. How hadn’t she noticed his obvious deterioration earlier that day? Had she been so consumed on playing the role she had created for the meeting that she hadn’t paid attention to such an undeniable fact?
Luna knew that partying hard had mostly been what had caused it, but guessed that grief would have done its bit too, and not for the first time Luna wondered if she herself had aged as much as he had done.
Vin’s eyes had lost their brightness, his shoulders seemed as if they were carrying the weight of the world; he looked so hopeless Luna wanted to beat the shit out of him and herself. How the hell they had ended up in such a way? What had gone wrong?
Everything, Luna answered silently.
She should have felt powerful, victorious. Watching him defeated should have been comforting, amusing even, but all that Luna felt was a deep hollow. She didn’t like it one damned bit to see him in such lamely estate.
Vin was in a pair of dark blue chinos, a dark blue jacket and white t-shirt, but once more it was the edge of the golden chain at the open neck of his shirt that caught Luna’s attention. For the second time that day, her gaze slid down, following it until it got lost under the tight fabric, revealing the silhouette of a ring. His wedding ring.
Luna swallowed hard. He hasn’t moved on, yet…her breath caught in her throat as she looked up at his face.
Vin was staring down at her left ring finger where her wedding ring was flashing at him. She removed it for the meeting, his chest felt so tight he almost couldn’t breath. She hasn’t moved on…yet.
The silence stretched as though they weren’t sure what to say or do now that they were alone in the same room. Talking, thinking and even breathing had been easier while surrounded by people, but now there was no one else around, just the two of them.
Luna’s expression remained impassive, just her heart kept racing within her chest as she moved aside leaving room for him to enter.
Vin hesitated as he looked around. The fact Luna had allowed him to enter ‘Black Star’ had been a huge deal, but entering their bedroom meant a lot more.
The memories this place had held amidst its walls had been so many Vin had felt overwhelmed, but nothing compared to the intensity of the emotions that seemed to squeeze his very soul.
Luna’s scent was everywhere, wrapping the entire place as if an invisible silky veil. Vin closed his eyes, breathing deeply, filling his lungs with her sweet essence. This was real and not a fantasy to escape his sordid reality. This was his home; she was his home and she was here, just a few steps away. His wife. Luna.
Vin wanted nothing more than to reach out, pulling her to him, holding her tightly so he could bury his face in her neck, inhaling deeply. Vin wanted nothing more than to lose himself in her, but he knew he had no right to do that. Not after his despicable behaviour.
Hot tears threatened to spill down his cheeks and Vin swallowed dryly, blinking them back. There was no way to know for sure the effect they’d have on Luna. Vin didn’t want her getting madder or worse, hurting more than she was already.
Luna watched him steadily, feeling her heart twisting in pain. Vin was not a weepy guy; there were just a few things that could make him cry, and most of the time his tears came from anger and frustration. Not this time. Now he was feeling exactly the same way she had felt coming back to ‘Black Star’. It was the realization of what he had lost that was causing his tears. They were so alike that Luna shuddered.
Fearing her determination might end up wavering, Luna cleared her throat and turned around, padding across the room.
“I want you to take a look at that.” Luna gestured to her laptop that was on a low coffee table placed in front of her as she took a seat on the two-seat sofa.
Vin tensed, noticing the slight tremor in her voice, but obliged, taking a seat in one of the twin armchairs that matched the loveseat, turning the laptop to see the screen. It took him just a moment to realize what she wanted him to take a look at.
Someone had used his own computer to send Luna an email, attaching a file. The name of the file spoke all by itself. Vin didn’t recognize the sender’s nickname; not that he needed to; Vin knew who that ‘munchiman’ fucker was. Dave.
A low, feral growl escaped Vin’s mouth at having his suspicions confirmed. Somehow he had known all the time. His vision washed red with fury as he sought for control, barely forcing the air through his lungs. This time Dave had gone too fucking far; his childhood friend had crossed a line he didn’t have any business crossing.
“I’ll kill him for this.” Vin’s voice sounded thick with restrained anger.
“No, you won’t.” Luna replied evenly. “I’ll deal with him when the time comes.” She added, lighting a cigarette.
“The hell you will!” Vin snapped angrily before he could stop himself. “You’re not going anywhere close to that fucker!”
Luna knit a brow at his visceral reaction. It had come from his very soul; it was his protective instinct talking. It made Luna chuckled.
She was not planning to go anywhere close to Dave, at least not physically, but she would find a way to make sure he thought twice before messing with her again.
“Actually, I don’t need to go anywhere close to that bastard to ruin his life. With his record, I’m sure that Dave has to have so many skeletons in his closet gathering dust that by now they must be crumpled in a tight squeeze.” Luna blew out the smoke as she spoke. “It’s just a matter of time until someone decides that it’s time to dust them.”
Luna was right though; Vin knew.
Over the years, Dave had fallen out with a lot of people, not really caring if he was leaving behind a long list of enemies, all waiting for a chance to get even. However, what shocked Vin the most was not Luna’s thirst for revenge, that was understandable, he himself felt the same way, but the fact that she reminded Vin of Marcela at her best; a mercilessly restless Marcela actually.
Vin didn’t like it. He knew that he had contributed with his behaviour to create this scarily volatile and unpredictable clone of Marcela that Luna had become. It only caused him to hate himself even more.
Making a great effort to keep his temper at bay, Vin glanced down at the screen and then up, meeting Luna’s eyes over her laptop
“Did you watch it?” He held her gaze.
“Not yet!” Luna replied sharper than she had anticipated. “I like porn but I’m not sure if I like it that much.” She herself was barely controlling her own anger.
Luna was getting madder by the second even though she wasn’t sure if she was mad with Vin for being such a senseless moron or with herself for being forced to act like a heartless bitch.
Vin let out the air, sighing in relief. “Luna…” His shame overpowered his anger but he didn’t avert his gaze. “I don’t want you watching it.” It wasn’t an order but a plea.
“Of course you don’t want me to watch it!” Luna gritted her teeth. “There’s shouldn’t be anything to watch in first place if you would have shown me a bit of respect to begin with!” She seethed.
Vin lowered his eyes. She was right though, again. “I didn’t know I was being recorded, it just never occurred to me. I just wanted to hurt her, to pay her back for what she did…”
Luna snorted. “By humiliating me? By turning me into the laughing stock of every single living soul?”
“No!” Vin snapped his head up, shaking his head ‘no’. “I never wanted that, Luna. I-I just wanted…”
Luna cut him off. “What? What the fuck did you want, Vin?”
“I-I don’t know…” he trailed off, hanging his head.
“The fuck you don’t!” Luna snapped harshly. “It’s bad enough that you cheated on me but don’t you dare insult my intelligence!”
Vin let out a heavy sigh, defeated. There was no way he could keep lying to himself or to her. He didn’t want to.
“I wanted you hating me…” Vin rubbed his forehead. “I knew that in spite of my many fuck ups you’d end up forgiving me, eventually, I didn’t want that.”
Now that he had said it aloud it sounded like the most stupid, most cowardly reason.
Luna snorted. “Oh, now I feel much better, knowing you did it for my own good.”
Sarcasm was back in her voice and Vin shut his eyes, cursing himself silently. He knew Luna only resorted to sarcastic remarks if she was hurting badly.
“Only thing is we both know you did it because you’re a control freak!” She seethed, putting out her cigarette.
“It’s not that simple.” Vin sighed heavily.
“Of course it’s not that fucking simple, Vin!” Luna threw her hands up, frustrated as she got to her feet and started pacing. “Why were you going to show a bit of common sense when you could act like an immature kid, eh? Why were you going to think about my feelings when you could keep manipulating them, eh?”
Vin shook his head in denial. “It’s not like that. You didn’t want me around, Luna. You said it yourself. You told me to leave you the fuck alone. To stick my apologies up my ass and forget you ever existed. But…but we both know that you said those things because you were pissed off and hurting.” He tried to explain himself and found that the more he spoke the worse things turned out. “I wanted to protect you from me because no matter how many times I did hurt you, no matter how many times I broke your heart you forgave me. What was I supposed to do?”
Luna grunted, spinning on her heels and stood in front of him. “To show some balls, Vin!” She retorted, her voice rising. “To prove to me that I was wrong! To show me that you loved me even if you weren’t the man I deserved! That was what you should have done, instead of cheating on me, rubbing that slut in my fucking face, you son of bitch!!”
“What if I’m not that man? What if I do not deserve you, Luna?” Vin whispered under his breath. “What if I can’t meet your expectations?” He lifted his head, locking eyes with her.
“Me cago en… I don’t fucking care!” Luna retorted fiercely. “To hell with my expectations! Who the fuck were you to make such a decision for the both of us?!”
“I did what I thought was best for you, so you could move on.”
“How the hell was I going to do that, eh?” Luna crossed her arms over her chest. “You thought I could switch off my feelings for you from one day to the next?!” She shouted, her composure lost. “I’m not one of your sluts, Vin, I’m your fucking wife, you bastard!!”
Vin jumped to his feet in a second flat. “And I spent more than two weeks sitting at my wife’s side, begging for her forgiveness, asking her to give me a chance, to give our marriage one last chance, saying I was sorry over and over and what did you do, huh? You ignored me; you gave me the cold shoulder, treating me as if I was the one to blame because we lost our son!”
Luna felt as if the air had been knocked out of her lungs. “You should have stuck at my side instead of running away when things got rough. You should have shown me your support instead of shutting me out, turning your back to me.” She seethed with venom. “If you had done that, I would have gone searching for you instead of pushing you away.”
“And I’ll be regretting that mistake for the rest of my life.” Vin muttered through clenched teeth. “But you forget I lost as much as you did. He was my son too and you refused to share your feelings with me, to lean on me so we could heal together. You acted as cowardly as I did, opting for the easiest way out.”
Luna gasped. “The easiest way out?” She breathed out, pressing a hand against her chest. All of a sudden she couldn’t breath. “I was broken…I wanted to die…”
“I wanted to die too, goddamnit!” Vin raised his voice for the first time, blinking hopeless tears. “God knows that every single fucking day I wish I was the one dead for all the damage I did to you, wishing with everything in me I could go back in time to change every single fucked up decision I took. But, I can’t, Luna.” He paused, roughly wiping his tears. “I wish I could but I can’t change all the pain I’ve been causing to all the people I love.” Vin took a ragged breath and let out the air shakily. “I screwed up big time with you and with Val and with my parents and I know I gotta pay for it. I’m more than willing to accept the consequences of my acts, but I’m not the only one to blame.”
Luna swallowed hard as her vision blurred with unshed tears. Vin was right, she conceded, if reluctantly because the truth did hurt too much.
So desperately had she been seeking for revenge that she had turned a blind eye to her own actions, putting all the blame on him. Luna had been more than willing to punish herself for her own sins, but in the process she had made the same mistake Vin had made; she had forgotten what marriage meant in first place. Commitment.
She had acted the same way Vin had, running away, as cowardly as he was, pretending that everything was fine while secretly dying inside. Only difference was that she had taken refuge in her schemes, her plots and her thirst for revenge to keep going, while Vin had opted for fooling himself, wild partying and being surrounded by shallow people. They had both used different methods, but their motto had been the same, self-destruction.
A sudden pain stabbed her chest and Luna fisted her hand, grabbing the fabric of her top tightly. She looked at Vin and he was right in front of her.
“Luna? You okay, baby?”
She didn’t answer him just shook her head, trying to focus her blurry vision. “My pills…” Luna whispered breathlessly.
“Hang on a sec, baby.” Vin franticly looked around, already searching for the bottle of pills he knew had to be somewhere. “Steve!! Allison!!” He called just as he spotted the bottle, and sighing in relief he rushed, grabbing it.
Luna didn’t want Steve or Allison around, not right now anyway; not after finding there were yet two more persons she felt she couldn’t trust.
“No, I don’t want them here.” Luna gritted her teeth as blindly she reached out with her free hand. “I’m-I’m okay, just give me my pills.”
Vin took her hand in his, squeezing gently. Luna barely felt his touch, her fingers were numb.
Steering her in direction of the loveseat, Vin sat her and try to open the bottle as he kept repeating that everything would be okay, soothing her. He was terrified but did his best to hide it from Luna. Vin didn’t want her feeling more scared.
He was talking, his lips were moving but all Luna could hear was a buzzing sound that seemed as if it resounded within her head. His face was pale, all the color drawn and his eyes showed a mix of fear and concern. But Luna still couldn’t hear what Vin was saying, just a deep velvet murmur. It felt comforting and Luna closed her eyes; she had missed that sound.
Vin fumbled with the stubborn bottle until, frustrated, he threw it to the floor, carelessly stepping on it. The top dashed off and the pills flew out. They ended up spread all over and cursing himself, Vin picked one up.
“Baby, can you hear me?” Vin knelt between her legs.
Luna whimpered softly but nodded. His voice sounded as if he was miles away, but she could hear him now. Briefly opening her eyes, Luna found his face mere inches from hers.
“Vin…” She breathed out, jamming her eyes shut, hot tears prickling down her cheeks.
The crawling sensation had already spread across her arm, sliding up at a fast speed. Now she couldn’t feel her arm at all. The painful stab in her chest intensified so damned fast that by now she was panting, her lungs seemed as if they were being squeezed by an invisible fist.
“Everything is gonna be okay, Luna, just open your mouth, baby.” Vin gently tapped her lips.
Luna obliged without really being aware of it. With extreme care, Vin placed the pill under her tongue and gently cupped her face.
“Now you only have to breathe, Luna. Come on, baby, you can do it. Keep breathing.” Vin pleaded as without missing a beat he pulled out his cell phone, calling 911, then with extreme care, he pressed two fingers on her neck, feeling her erratic pulse and cursed himself silently. Vin felt like the gift that kept on giving.
“What the fuck did you do to her?” Allison stormed into the room, a murderous gaze flashing in her eyes.
At the sound of Allison’s voice Luna’s eyes snapped open. “Get out.” She muttered through clenched teeth, breathing hard through her nose. “I don’t want you here,” she threw over Vin’s shoulder as he turned around, watching how Allison stilled, staring at Luna as if she had grown a second head.
Vin bet Allison was as shocked as he was by Luna’s words.
“Luna… what…?” Allison gasped, as her eyes grew impossibly huge. She couldn’t give credit to what Luna had said.
Luna swallowed, forcing her voice out. “I-I said get the fuck out…” She gritted her teeth and leaned backwards, closing her eyes.
Vin looked back and forth between Allison’s hurtful expression and Steve’s puzzled one. He guessed that there had to be a really powerful reason for Luna not wanting them around her.
Allison was as close to Luna as Renee was, if not more so; they were like sisters, and Steve was much more than just a bodyguard to Luna; he was like an older brother even though they were the same age.
Whatever they had done had upset Luna big time. Vin couldn’t figure out what it was though. It couldn’t be worse than what he himself had done. However, it was not the time for asking and, once more, Vin felt that he had no right to do it anyway.
“The ambulance is already coming.” Vin looked at both as he spoke but he held Steve’s gaze for a bit longer.
Steve’s silent warning went unsaid but Vin got the message crystal clear. The fact that Steve was extremely polite, unflappable and slow to anger made of him the perfect bodyguard, but it’d be a huge mistake to take his warnings lightly. No one with common sense would cross Steve Jackson.
Grabbing Allison’s arm gently he tugged lightly. “Come on, Allison, we’ll wait for the paramedics outside.”
Allison set her jaw and, lowering her eyes, she turned around, storming out of the room. She couldn’t understand what had gotten into Luna to treat them in such a way. What had they done?
Oblivious to everything else, except Vin’s warm body firmly pressed against her back, Luna kept constant pressure against her chest as she used the technique she had been taught to carry out CPR on herself.
Breath in, cough out. One, two. Breath in, cough out. One, two…
All track of time lost, Luna whimpered quietly when the painful stab in her chest finally ceased and she could breathe deeply without feeling pain anymore. Closing her eyes, she relaxed in Vin’s arms as he kept whispering nonsense words against her ear to soothe her.
By the time the paramedics showed up, Luna’s heartbeat had slowed down, returning to its normal rhythm. She once more had prevented herself from suffering a cardiac arrest. Still, they had insisted on driving her to Cedars even though the electrocardiogram they had done right there had showed that Luna’s heart was beating normally and additional damages couldn’t be detected.
Of course, Luna had refused to go. Partly because she felt fine, at least physically, now that she had regained control over her body, and partly because she didn’t want to move from where she was, leaned against Vin’s chest as he held her from behind, both of them half laying on the loveseat inside their bedroom.
The paramedics realized that arguing further with Mrs. Luna Vincent would be of no use and finally they left but not before they warned Vin and Luna about the dangerous consequences of not having Luna checked at the hospital. It wasn’t anything new though; Luna was very aware of the risks she was running.
However, all that she wanted was to have a little break, even though her emotions and feelings were a messy riot. Luna felt pathetic for finding comfort in Vin’s arms and even horrified once she admitted what she had been denying over and over. She not only cared for him but she also loved him.
After everything that had taken place and what was still to come, she still loved Vin. Luna just couldn’t push him away, at least not right now. She wanted to enjoy a bit more of this moment of intimacy with her husband, just a bit longer. It had been what Luna had missed the most, along with the sound of his voice. To hell if she looked weak and pathetic, no one was watching.
“You sure you don’t want to go to the hospital?” Vin broke the silence, his fingers tracing slow patterns up and down her arm as he spoke.
Luna shook her head. “Not now…”
“Okay.” Without thinking, Vin brushed her sweat-soaked hair back and bent his head, kissing her damp temple. “You scared the hell out of me.” As he spoke against her skin, his warm breath fanned across her cheek.
Luna tensed slightly but didn’t move at all. “I’ve been practicing that technique. I knew what I was doing.”
Vin sighed softly. “You are far braver and stronger than I’ll ever be.”
“And wiser.” Luna pointed out.
Vin’s lips spread in a small smile. “And wiser.” He agreed, softly stroking her hair. “I’m sorry, Luna.”
“I know you are.” Luna breathed shakily. “Thank you.”
Vin frowned. “What for?”
Luna turned her head up, locking eyes with Vin. “For staying with me, for not freaking out, running away.”
“I’m tired of running away. It feels like I’ve been doing that all my damned life though. I don’t want to run away anymore, turning my back to reality instead of facing it.” Vin heaved a hard sigh. “I want to change; I want to fix all the fuck ups I did, but I don’t have a clue how or where to start.”
Vin couldn’t tell what she was seeing but he knew that his heart was in his eyes. For the first time he really meant it. Vin desperately wanted to change.
“How about you work things out with your parents to begin with?” Luna half turned in his arms and pressed her cheek against his chest, hearing his steady heartbeats. “When was the last time you phoned your mom, anyway?”
Vin closed his eyes. “Almost two months now.”
Luna let out a heavy sigh. “Vin…” She shook her head, disappointed.
“Yeah, I know; I’m such a chicken shit.” He chuckled sadly.
Vin found that it was easier to face his wife than facing his mother.
“She’s your mom. A mother forgives everything.”
“What about a wife?”
Luna tipped her head back, meeting his eyes.
Vin swallowed forcefully before continuing.
“Does a wife forgive everything too?” His eyes brimmed with unshed tears as he held his breath.
“No.” Luna shook her head. “But, in time, a wife could learn to trust again, I guess…” She trailed off, lowering her face. Could she learn to deal with the anger and the pain? Could she get past the humiliation? The betrayal?
Vin nodded in understanding but didn’t push or take advantage of Luna’s obviously chaotic feelings and mixed emotions; she was still hurting too much. Manipulating her feelings, using them against her had been one of his huge mistakes. Vin refused to act the same way.
The fact that Luna was allowing him to hold her didn’t mean she was ready to forget and forgive, but showed her will to work things out. It was a start and for that Vin gave thanks silently.
“I should phone Val too.” Vin’s brows drew down in a deep frown. That wouldn’t be an easy ride, he knew. “Man, do I miss my brother.”
Luna smiled a little. “He misses you too.”
“Does he?” Vin’s brows arched up at once.
He shouldn’t have been so surprised because Vin knew Val was not the kind of person who would bear a grudge in his big heart. Still, it shocked Vin to find that he had been missed and by Val of all people!
Luna nodded as she watched the play of emotions across Vin’s face. His gaze had brightened a bit as soon as he had mentioned Val’s name.
“I’d say it’s a good occasion to work things out with him. Val is going to need all the support he can get now that…”
Vin cut Luna off. “Why? Is Renee okay?” He frowned, tensing.
His concern was real and Luna smiled sadly. Deep down Vin was decent enough even if he kept fucking things up, doing his best to convince everyone time and again, including himself, that he wasn’t.
“Yeah, she’s okay. Renee is in her third month of pregnancy and so far she’s doing great.”
It hurt, a lot, and without thinking Vin tightened his embrace, squeezing Luna softly as he placed his chin on top of her head. Somehow being able to share the pain hurt less. The loss felt almost bearable.
“What’s going on then?” Vin asked warily.
“Val wants to find his father. We’re all going back to New York tomorrow night.”
Her words felt like a kick in his guts. It killed him to be left out even though he knew he deserved it. Still, it hurt. He was going to have to really work his ass off to make amends.
“I guess it was bound to happen.” Vin pushed aside the sudden hollow he felt knowing Luna was not staying. “I mean now that he’s going to become a father and all…” Vin trailed off, a bit lost in his own thoughts.
He had never felt the urge to go in search of his own biological father; he never needed it though, not even when he himself was going to become a father too. Irving had done a more than great job raising him, even if Vin had end up disappointing his dad. Vin never needed the answers he figured out Val was searching for.
“It won’t be easy for him. Val only has an old picture of his father and a date.” Luna’s voice pulled Vin out of his thoughts. “He’s not even sure where to start his research.”
“I want to help him, but I know that whatever I offer him he won’t take it.” Vin blew a breath out of his nose. “Val would rather let someone skin him alive than accept my help.”
“Can you blame him?” Luna glanced up at him.
“No, I guess I can’t.” Vin replied quietly, his gaze lost.
Much less considering that he had wrongly reproached for Val the things he had done in the past to help Val in his career. It was a matter of pride and dignity. Still not to do something, anything was not only frustrating but it also felt wrong.
“You might start showing Val your support. That’s something he would never turn down.”
Vin nodded. That he could do. It was not nearly what he would have done if he wouldn’t have messed up their friendship though, but it was a start. One step at a time, Vin told himself as he made a mental note to phone Val first thing the following morning.
They fell into a comfortable silence just enjoying this much needed break. They both knew they weren’t nearly done talking, actually they hadn’t really talked, at least not about what really mattered. That had been their main problem; neither Luna nor Vin had learned to communicate with each other. They had talked, a lot, but they never really paid attention to what the other was saying; they hadn’t learned to listen.
Vin shifted slightly, one of his legs felt cramped but he’d be damned if he moved from where he was, half laying on their comfortable loveseat with Luna cuddled between his spread legs.
Luna felt Vin’s left thigh muscle twitching uncontrollably and realized that his leg had been awkwardly bent for a long time and trapped between her body and the back of the couch. Luna didn’t want to move at all but she suspected Vin was not comfortable, even though he hadn’t said anything, stoically suffering the cramps in his leg.
Feeling a bit of remorse, Luna chewed her lower lip while staring at the muscle of his thigh, twitching jerkily under the fabric of his chinos.
She shouldn’t have given a damn if he was comfortable or not, but Luna knew that Vin had had an accident with his bike when he was around twenty years old. He had healed completely, except for the painful cramps he suffered if his leg was bent for a long time.
Remembering this caused that out of nowhere a vision of Vin as naked as the day he was born, with a raging hard on and bouncing up and down on his good leg popped within Luna’s head.
Back then they had been trying some bizarre sex position Val had suggested to Vin, supposedly because it increased the sensations while making love. It hadn’t worked and Vin had ended up with a very painful cramp.
Mike and Steve had been giving Vin funny looks for more than a week after that night. They hadn’t known what had happened for real, so both bodyguards had assumed that indeed Vin had had the time of his life by the way they had heard their boss shouting ‘ohfuckohfuckohfuck’.
Luna fought back a fit of crazy giggles, badly, and what came out of her mouth sounded half way between a snort and a sneeze.
“What?” Vin frowned, slightly puzzled as he watched Luna clasping her hand against her mouth.
“Nothing…” She mumbled from behind her palm still stifling her laughter.
“Come on, share it with me.” Vin grinned, hearing Luna laughing. Damn! Did he love that sound!
In response Luna shook her head, pressing her lips hard so she didn’t burst out laughing. It was of no use and Luna finally exploded, laughing out loud. She just couldn’t stop herself.
There was no way she could tell Vin what had caused her crazy laughter. If Luna needed evidence to know for sure how insane she was she already had the answer. She had gone nuts, going from shouting to crying right down to laugh out loud. Maybe she should consider seriously getting professional help.
Gradually, Luna’s laughter died away, leaving the occasional snort as she shifted to one side, leaving enough room for Vin to stretch out his leg. He did, and a quiet groan escaped his lips when the blood started circulating again, sending a jolt of pain across his leg up to his hip.
In seconds, Vin felt as if hundreds of pins and needles were mercilessly stabbing at once every single muscle and nerve in his thigh and calf, even his toes curled jerkily inside his boot. You’re getting old, Vincent…
Luna made an attempt to sit up only to have Vin’s arm stopping her dead as, in a reflex action, he tightened his embrace around her torso.
“No…don’t move…” Once more it wasn’t an order but a plea, whispered against her ear. He didn’t want to impose; didn’t want to push, but he didn’t want to let go of her either, not yet. “Please, Luna…” Still his arm relaxed, not stopping her anymore, just holding her in place.
Luna tensed, but obliged even though she was starting to have second thoughts about the wisdom in lengthening their shared intimacy. The more it lasted the harder would be to let go of each other.
Only when Vin was sure that Luna wouldn’t bolt, did he release her, shrugging off his jacket and draping it over the back of the couch.
Luna didn’t move, didn’t use the occasion to get to her feet once she found herself free to stand; she just waited until Vin was done making himself comfortable and allowed him to lean her back down until she felt the warmth of him through his shirt pressed against her back.
Shuddering uncontrollably, Luna slid down a bit, until her head rested against his chest. It was then when once more she caught a glimpse of the golden chain. Luna didn’t hesitate and, lifting her hand, she tugged up until the chain come out of his shirt, revealing his wedding ring.
“You didn’t get rid of it.” Luna’s voice sounded barely above a whisper as she stared at the ring.
“How could I do such a thing?” Vin answered quietly, recalling what he had wanted to tell her earlier that day. “I just didn’t want to share that part of me, of us, with anyone else but you.”
For a second, Luna felt herself warm a little to him and turned the ring in her fingers. It was then when she noticed something that hadn’t been there before. He had engraved her name inside.
“You had it engraved…” Luna’s breath caught in her throat as she lifted her eyes, meeting his.
“Yeah, well…I wanted the ring matching my heart….” Vin grinned sheepishly, feeling his cheeks heating up. “Both engraved with your name.”
The unexpected blush in his cheeks and the sudden shyness in his voice melted something cold deep in Luna’s chest. It struck her as an odd gesture for a guy who was infamous because of his boldness with women.
“Are you blushing?” Luna smiled smugly, amused at contemplating such an extraordinary fact.
Just like Luna resorted to sarcasm when she was hurting or felt cornered, Vin went on the defensive.
“Why thank you for the update.” Vin averted his gaze, feeling embarrassed to his very toes. “I noticed so myself.” This time he wasn’t ashamed of his actions, but felt a bit stupid and more than a bit vulnerable.
Luna’s smile vanished and she grew serious in a heartbeat. “I was not making fun of you, Vin.” She tilted her head, searching for his elusive gaze. It was true. She had never seen him blushing before, ever. “It’s just that I had no idea…”
“No idea you married a shitty excuse of a hopeless romantic at heart?” Vin’s lips curved up in a self-deprecating smile.
“No. What are you talking about?” Luna frowned. “No idea you were this kind of—shy…” she thoughtfully looked down.
Vin watched her steadily. She seemed disconcerted and even slightly mad, as if she wasn’t sure what to do with such a revelation.
“Only when I’m with you.”
Luna’s eyebrows shot up, shocked to her core.
It had never occurred to her that Vin could actually be shy, not with every woman, of course, his record spoke for itself, but with her. Could that be the reason why it had been so hard for him to express his feelings with words?
No one would have thought of Vin Diesel as the shy kind of guy, but more as the cocky asshole kind of guy. They’d be right, but only partially.
Most people always expected Vin Diesel to act in a certain way. The flamboyant celebrity with bizarre tastes and with an even more bizarre lifestyle way, actually. The more famous he had become the easier it had been to play such a grotesque character. Easier and even more convenient than showing his real self. The evidence of how far he had taken that sordid role was right inside Luna’s computer though. Hard to believe that in fact Vin might be just a shy guy.
Lifting her eyes, Luna looked at him. “Did I do something that led you to think you couldn’t be yourself with me?”
It was hard to admit that she had been unable to get rid of her distorted image of Vin, at least not completely. Somewhere within her, if in a deep, little part, Luna still wanted Vin to be more like ‘Mark’ was. It had caused her to expect Vin to react in a certain way and when he hadn’t done that, she hadn’t been able to stop feeling disappointed.
It was then when Luna realized that Vin had been competing with ‘Mark’, his fictional alter ego, for her affection. The saddest part was that he hadn’t been aware, not completely. It had been silly to expect Vin to meet her every expectation without failing in the process. As many flaws as ‘Mark’ had had as a fictional character, he had always came up with the perfect line, showing a flawless behaviour. Vin hadn’t stood a chance against him.
Luna realized that casting out the mote in Vin’s eye had been easier than casting out the bean in hers. Not that she was playing the Devil’s advocate role with Vin or that she was justifying his behaviour, but she sure as hell wasn’t as innocent as a little lamb.
Vin had learnt to deal with her flaws, accepting her mood swings, her flaring Spanish temper, her sarcastic remarks and her often annoying sayings. Not to mention the emotional roller coaster that living with her brought to his already chaotic life. He had also done his best to give her the room she constantly seemed to need so she didn’t end up feeling overwhelmed with his presence, even at the expense of feeling left out and even sometimes feeling as if he was a dead weigh or a bump in her path.
“I did it, didn’t I?” Luna answered her own question.
The pain in her voice felt like a kick in his guts. Vin didn’t want Luna thinking that she had done something wrong, much less knowing how hard she had worked herself into the ground so their marriage worked.
Vin shook his head. “You didn’t do anything wrong, Luna.” He brushed her hair back. “I guess that I got trapped within the character I had created and somehow forgot where the character ended up and the man started.” Vin said absently, a bit lost on thought. “The line just got blurry and somewhere along the way I lost part of who I was; part of my real being.”
That was another huge mistake he had made and the realization caused Vin to get mad with himself.
Luna pillowed her head on his chest again. “I would have noticed if I had paid attention.”
Vin sighed heavily. “I guess I’m a better actor than I thought I was.”
“You are not that good.” Luna replied softly. She was very conscious of what she had done. “I’m sorry.”
Vin tangled his hand in Luna’s hair and tilted her head up so he could see her eyes. “Don’t apologize to me. You have nothing to be sorry about, okay?” He replied rougher than he meant to. The last thing Vin wanted was Luna feeling guilty for something she just hadn’t been able to help.
Luna chuckled sadly but said nothing in return. She was very aware of her many flaws. They might not be as damaging as Vin’s flaws but they had contributed to turn their life together into a permanent battlefield. There had been days when the only sounds that could be heard inside ‘Black Star’ had been doors slamming, things breaking and shouts.
Vin nuzzled her hair, inhaling deeply. There were so many things he wanted to say and so short a time left to say them. Vin knew that sooner rather than later Luna would ask him to leave. He didn’t want to. Just thinking about what and who would be waiting for him once he got back to his place was making him sick.
“I know that I’m gonna have to work my ass off to get everyone I disappointed to trust me again. But I really want to change, Luna.” Vin knew he still had a long, rough path ahead of him until he was able to get everyone that mattered to him to trust him once more. “I really want to show you that I can change.”
“I know you want to, Vin.” Luna replied absently, playing with his ring. “But wanting something doesn’t make it to happen. People don’t change, Vin, not really. What is bred in the bone will come out in the flesh, eventually.”
Don’t I know it? Vin sighed heavily. Luna had used his dad’s exact words.
“I already know that, Luna. But being aware of our mistakes and our flaws is a step in the right direction.” Vin lifted a hand, softly brushing her hair back. “I think we can work things out if we find a way to communicate with each other.” He whispered, tugging a stray lock behind her ear.
Luna blinked, not only disconcerted by this matured, wiser clone of her husband, but also shocked.
Was he that willing to change? Was he trying so hard to show he wanted to change that he was melting something inside her? Was she thinking about taking him back? Was she actually considering asking him to stay?
Coño…Luna wanted to kick herself. She was.
Luna realized that she had been about to give in, again. She felt it the second the words got trapped in her throat, right before she got them out. She was going to give Vin one last chance. Only thing was that she already knew that it wouldn’t be the last one. There would be many more after that one.
He would promise that he was going to change and he would stick to his promise, for a while. But later, he would go back to his old self-centered, egocentric being. He would give her what he thought she needed until he grew tired of playing this new role, the regretful husband.
His apparent mental maturity aroused more suspicions than they inspired confidence. What if he was playing a different role now? What if everything was just a mirage?
Luna went from feeling shocked to get suspicious right down to be mad in mere seconds.
“You just can’t help it, right?” She straightened completely, turning fully to face him. “You just can’t stop playing me.”
“What?” Vin’s brows arched up at once. “No! What are you talking about?” He reached out to take her hands in his but a glance at Luna’s eyes and the silent warning flashing at him told Vin to think twice before touching her, at least right now.
“This is all a game for you, isn’t it? You’re just playing a new role.” Luna shook her head. “I can’t fucking believe it.” She got to her feet. “I can’t fucking believe how I fell for your shit.” Luna added more to herself than to him as she covered her eyes, gritting her teeth.
“I’m not playing you; I’m not lying to you, Luna. I swear to God.” Actually Vin was being more himself than ever but Luna didn’t know this; she didn’t recognize this new Vin. “I really want to do things the right way, baby. I know I can do it, and if you let me, I’ll show you how serious I am.” He put as much reassurance as he could in his words. Vin wanted Luna being completely sure that he was saying the absolute truth.
Luna surprised them both by plunging. “You’re like the boy who cried ‘wolf’, Vin. I don’t believe you anymore.”
Her words not only weighed like a heavy flagstone over Vin’s heart, shattering his hopes in seconds, but hurt like a kick in the teeth. Still, Vin recovered quickly, nodding in understanding.
“You don’t believe me.”
Luna crossed her arms over her chest but didn’t say anything in return.
Vin sighed hard. “I guess I can’t blame you, but I’m not taking the easy way out, Luna. Not this time.” His eyes flickered to hers. Vin once more wanted Luna not having doubts about his resolution.
Luna’s brows drew down together in a deep frown. His reply caught her off guard. She was not expecting for him to say that.
“I think I’ve been expecting too much from you and maybe you were right after all. Maybe you’re not the man I deserve.” Her voice sounded barely above a whisper but resounded within Vin’s head as if she had shouted them.
Vin lifted an eyebrow; he knew what Luna was trying to do and, this time, it wouldn’t work. “Maybe not, but I’m not giving up on you. I won’t push you around, but I won’t give up on you either.”
“You’d do anything to shoot your fucking movie, wouldn’t you?” Luna narrowed her eyes. “This is because of ‘Hannibal’. You want me to change my mind.”
“Fuck ‘Hannibal’.” Vin replied deadly serious.
Luna snorted. “You don’t mean that.”
“I do. I mean it, Luna.” Vin answered calmly. “I won’t make the same mistake twice.”
“You wouldn’t give up your ultimate dream for anything or anyone. Not even for me.”
“You think so?” Vin knit a brow.
“I don’t think so, I know it!” Luna muttered under her breath.
“Hmmm.” Vin cocked his head to one side.
In fact Vin had readied himself for giving up on ‘Hannibal’ the minute he signed their agreement, suspecting the reasons why Luna had wanted to share his awarded veto control in the first place.
Silently she had been plotting in advance, getting ready to start tidying up loose ends, Vin knew this. The idea of Luna being such a brilliant strategist almost caused Vin’s chest to burst with pride. He had wanted to see where she would go, how she would manage to do it instead of coming up with some legal way out to turn the tables.
Relinquishing the rights over the project, arguing that the financial problems One Race was going through made it impossible for the company to produce the movie anymore had been one reason. Another would have been to found a new production company whose address for tax purposes would be some tax haven, managing the company behind the scenes. He would hire himself as the actor to play the main male role, making sure his contract with the new company enclosed within its clauses that he would get a percentage of the profits on theaters, TV, video and merchandising as well as a say on the script.
It sounded more complicated than it was for real and his lawyers would have made it impossible for anyone to find a connection between the new company and Vin. It wouldn’t have required a high investment either. Besides, every other day a new production company was founded or went bankrupt. No one in the business would have given a damn.
Of course, it would arouse Luna’s suspicions but Vin would have been able to shoot ‘Hannibal’ whenever he had felt like it.
Nevertheless, it hadn’t made sense because Luna wouldn’t be at his side to share such a unique experience. He would have been alone with no one around to celebrate his success, or to cry for his failure, aside from himself.
All in all Vin had admitted, once he had been alone in his office, that he was not ready to shoot ‘Hannibal’, at least not anytime soon. Samantha had told Vin what Luna had said about requiring his absolute concentration or he would end up being the laughing stock of the business. Vin had agreed with his wife.
“At first I was pissed off thinking about what you had done, but then I thought deeply about your real motivations.” As he spoke, Vin took a step ahead and Luna took a step backwards. He narrowed his eyes slightly but went on. “I understood that you didn’t do it out of revenge but out of love.” He took another step ahead in her direction and Luna once more moved backwards, keeping the physical distance between them. “I understood that you love me so much that you’d do anything to stop me from fucking up my only chance to show my talent. I understood that you’d look after me the way only someone who truly cared would do.”
Tears prickled hot and blinding in Luna’s eyes as she choked back a sob. She wanted him to shut up, to stop trying to reach her but she couldn’t find the strength to say it aloud.
“Then I remembered one occasion where we both got trapped inside the elevator at Once Race for about half an hour until we were rescued, and I remembered what you said to me.” Vin paused chuckling sadly, remembering her exact words. “You said that I was an amazing actor and to not forget to say your name when I win the Oscar for ‘Seth’.”
“You remember that?” Luna’s eyes grew wide, startled. She was sure he wouldn’t. Vin had never mentioned it, not even once.
Vin nodded even though he himself had been the first one feeling shocked when out of nowhere his brain had replayed the scene within his head.
“You don’t know it but back then I though what a fucking irony it was that an unknown scriptwriter, a woman who I wouldn’t have looked twice at if we had crossed paths in the street was the only one that still had faith in me, a wannabe actor with delusions of grandeur and more balls than brains.”
Luna sniffled, feeling tears run down her cheeks. “You are not that shit.” She replied fiercely, taking a step forward without thinking.
As if in slow motion Vin closed the distance between them and stood right in front of her. This time Luna didn’t move back.
“That’s exactly what I am to everybody but you, Luna.” Vin paused, watching how a wave of fresh tears streaked down her cheeks. It killed him to see her crying but Vin wanted Luna knowing this. “You are the only one who can see past my bullshit, baby. You are the only one that gives a damn about me even though we both know I’m worse than poison for you.”
Tears brimmed in Vin’s eyes as he recalled the living hell he had dragged Luna through, the minute he stormed into her life as if he was a blind elephant in a china shop.
“If I’d had any shred of decency left I’d leave you alone but my life doesn’t make sense if you’re not there to share it with me…” Hesitantly, Vin reached out, cupping Luna’s face with one hand and brushed her streaked cheek with his thumb. “It doesn’t make sense to shoot a movie or to work in a new project if when the lights go out there’s no one who loves me for who I am, and not for what I do, waiting for me… It doesn’t make sense if I have to pretend that I’m something, someone I’m not…” He whispered hoarsely over the huge knot in his throat and, leaning forward, he brushed a kiss across her forehead. “I don’t want to shoot ‘Hannibal’ or any other movie if you’re not gonna be at my side.”
“I-I just don’t…” Luna took a shaky breath. “I can’t…I…” Words failed her and Luna sighed heavily.
She wanted so badly to believe him but, even though every single word sounded real, they were just words. He was speaking with his soul, pouring his heart to her, Luna knew, but he hadn’t done anything to lead her to think that she could trust him this time.
As if Vin had heard her thoughts, he tilted his head back and met her eyes. “Yeah, I already know. A little less talking and a bit more action.”
Luna smiled sadly, but nodded ‘yes’. It was not an old saying but summed up nicely what she needed for him to do.
Vin kissed her forehead one last time, lingering a bit as he reached down, taking her hand in his.
“So, where does this leave us?” Vin brought her hand to his lips, kissing her wedding ring.
Luna closed her eyes, sighing heavily. “I guess this leaves us at the beginning, we’ll have to wait and see where it goes from there.”