Valentino’s mother’s place. New York.
“So what do you say?” Luna leaned forward on her seat. She could barely hide her growing excitement.
Luna had spent the night up, getting a financial report ready, doing numbers non-stop, trying to come up with a reasonable budget to shoot the documentary showing Val’s searching for his father.
Then Luna had had a meeting with George and Gordon at ORNY offices and they both had agreed that the documentary might be able to compensate the losses at ‘One Race Films’ had been building up over the last year if at least a couple of TV channels bought the documentary. George and Gordon had also found the project really interesting and had shown their excitement.
Val lifted his face, meeting Luna’s eyes. “It would be Vin’s money.”
“Not really.” Luna glanced at Renee. “ORNY has its own funds to invest. So, it would be your money too and Sammy’s and Paul’s and…”
“Vin’s.” Val cut Luna off.
“Yeah, well, okay, technically speaking it would be his money too, but also yours.” Luna sighed. “Come on, Val. Do you want to find your father or not? It’s a unique chance to get what you want, Valentino, and Vin owns you a big one.”
Val’s jaw clamped down hard but he didn’t say anything.
“What does Vin think about it?” Renee intervened, squeezing her husband’s hand in hers.
“He doesn’t know about it, yet anyway.” Luna smiled wryly. She was almost sure that Vin would love the idea. It would be the perfect chance for him to help Valentino. “But I have no doubt that he’ll give it the heads up.”
Val snorted. “Of course the fucker will. That way he’ll have another bit of shit to hold against me.”
Renee let out a heavy sigh. “Val’s mom won’t agree with the terms of this agreement, anyway, Luna.”
“I’ll deal with her when the time comes, don’t worry about that.” Luna played the matter down as if it was a piece of cake. “And I’ll make sure Vin doesn’t have anything to hold against you in the future.”
At Luna’s answer, Renee and Valentino glanced at each other. What the hell was wrong with Luna? What had she become now? The Godmother?
Agent Provocateur boutique. Paris.
“I’ve died and gone to heaven, I tell you.” Oliver whispered under his labored breath, swallowing dryly.
He was doing his best not to look like a perv, drooling openly, but it was a hard task. Watching the clothes hangers with the sexiest pieces of lingerie and the shelves full of tempting items were causing him to feel euphoric. The interior design of the boutique wasn’t helping to ease his wild imagination. Quite the opposite, and the shop assistants, all beautiful girls wearing provocative outfits were about to kill Oliver right on the spot.
In response, Lorraine swallowed forcefully but she didn’t avert her gaze from the spot on the floor that she had been staring at.
She was already mortified enough, lamely trying to stop the many visions that were taunting her at that very second and the unwilling reactions her body was going through each time she stole a glance at any of the shop assistants.
Oliver felt as if he was in heaven. Well, Lorraine wasn’t sure how she felt, exactly, if in heaven or in hell. The many unfamiliar emotions that the presence of these girls were causing on Lorraine were only disturbing her more than any other thing. Her mind and body were a wreck.
“Oh, my…look at this!” Oliver tapped Lorraine’s forearm franticly until she reluctantly lifted her head, gasping soundlessly when she saw what Oliver wanted to show her.
Golden, heart-shaped handcuffs with an embossed padlock. The small key was hanging by a thin golden cord and had a tiny diamond set in it.
The handcuffs were optionally sold with a set of pasties with chain tassels and embedded gems and a matching g-string. Four pasties stickers were included with the set along with a satin mask with a Marquee de Sade quote ‘Treat me like the whore that I am’ embossed on it.
“See something you like, babe?”
Lorraine spun around, startled at hearing Dave’s voice huskily whispering a few inches from her ear. She had been so lost in thoughts watching the handcuffs that she hadn’t even noticed that something else had caught Oliver’s attention and he had moved to the other side of the boutique, leaving her alone.
“Didn’t know you were into bondage?” In a slow motion Dave’s hand reached around Lorraine’s torso and, invading her personal space, he picked up the handcuffs. As he turned them in his hand, the small padlock reflected the lights, sending a sparkle right into Lorraine’s eyes.
“I-I’m not…into that…” She squinted her eyes briefly, shuddering, disgusted at the mere idea. For a second Lorraine wasn’t sure if she would be able to accomplish Luna’s mission.
“Nothing wrong with a bit of bondage, you know?” Dave shrugged his shoulders, taking a step backwards. “Just a fantasy,” he added as if it wasn’t a big deal, absently playing with the golden handcuffs in his hand.
Lorraine couldn’t wait to put as much physical distance as possible between them but knew that her behaviour would arouse Dave’s suspicions. Not to mention that would send Luna’s plan to hell. So Lorraine took a slow deep breath and, turning around, she met his hungry gaze with a sweet one.
“That’s one of your fantasies, Dave?” Lorraine did her best to show the right amount of innocent curiosity mixed with what Dave should see as a display of boldness as she caressed the handcuffs.
Dave’s knit a brow, cocking his head to one side. Was Lorraine flirting with him?
“Yeah…” Dave licked his bottom lip as his eyes shamelessly devoured the girl’s body.
“Guess I still have to learn a lot,” Lorraine smiled seductively and, purposely, she brushed Dave’s arm with her torso as she slipped past him, heading towards where Vin was standing, with his back to them.
Dave’s gaze followed Lorraine’s every move and his eyes narrowed, watching her resting her hand upon Vin’s shoulder and bending forward as if to have a closer look to whatever Vin was looking at. It occurred to Dave that this girl was setting her sights more than just high. That, or she was double-dealing with Vin and himself.
“Help me with this shit, would you?” Vin pointed to two different outfits. “Which one would you get for Luna?”
One of them was a mauve, silky nightgown and the other was a bustier made of satin in a vanilla color with a matching g-string.
Lorraine felt her ears as if they were in flames and started sweating. “That one,” she whispered quietly, pointing to the mauve nightgown.
“You sure?” Vin’s brows drew down. “I was thinking maybe the other would look better on Luna, you know? Since she’s tanned and stuff, don’t you think?” he looked back and forth between the outfits and Lorraine’s face unaware of the many visions his words were causing to spring within the girl’s mind.
Lorraine groaned inwardly. This couldn’t be happening. How was she supposed to choose a piece of lingerie and for Luna of all people?!
All of a sudden she couldn’t breath normally. Her lungs felt as if they were on fire and her panties felt so wet Lorraine feared her fluids would end up sliding down her legs.
“The vanilla, then.” Lorraine smiled nervously.
“Hmmm.” Vin frowned, he just couldn’t make up his mind. “You’re not helping me here, you know, girl?” he teased her and Lorraine grinned.
“If I was you, I’d buy both.” As she spoke, discretely, Lorraine glanced down at the label of the g-string with the printed price and a soundless gasp escaped her lips as her mouth fell open. Sweet Jesus!!
There was no way such a tiny piece of fabric could cost that much, not even if it had been made of the finest satin. It had to be the barcode or maybe she had mistaken the price, since it was in Euros and not in US dollars.
“Would you like to try it, mademoiselle?”
Lorraine jumped, startled and turned around finding the young shop assistant smiling widely.
“Oh, no, no.” Lorraine shook her head, feeling her cheeks heating up. “I was just helping him.”
“Are you sure?” The French shop assistant insisted as she winked at Vin.
“Maybe your companion would like for you to try them.” Another girl intervened as she approached the trio.
Lorraine blinked, blushing bright red as Vin laughed out loud, amused at how uncomfortable Lorraine looked, surrounded by girls wearing just lingerie.
“N-no…Thanks…” Lorraine uttered nervously, doing her best not to stare at the beautiful breasts that seemed about to pop out of the tight bustier the second girl was wearing.
Vin cleared his throat, giving the girl a quick once over. “I’m buying this for my wife. Lorraine here is my personal assistant, mademoiselles.” He explained to the girls, a goofy grin plastered on his lips.
“Oh,” the girl blinked, glancing at Lorraine up and down, as if she was an insignificant piece of shit, “please accept my apologies; I didn’t recognize you, sir.” The girl hastened to add, returning her attention to Vin, feeling embarrassed at her slip.
Vin waved her off as he made up his mind. He was buying both of them for Luna. It wasn’t as if he was expecting for her to accept his present, or even to wear them. But Vin couldn’t help it; he really missed the days when Luna and he used to go the ‘Agent Provocateur’ boutiques at NY and LA, and she modeled just for him, as if down a catwalk, different outfits each sexier than the other.
Lorraine frowned. She couldn’t believe the way that girl had looked at her.
Clearly, the shop assistant was sure Lorraine wasn’t Vin’s PA but a slut he was taking shopping. It caused Lorraine to feel cheap as she thought about the many girls Vin had been with in the past, wondering if any of them had felt the same way Lorraine herself felt at that very moment.
“I’ll be outside,” she whispered and without averting her gaze from the floor, Lorraine headed towards the entrance.
Vin frowned, not really understanding why all of a sudden Lorraine looked so upset.
Meanwhile, Dave took silent note of everything that had happened a few feet from where he was standing.
Lorraine reached the door and joined Mike outside.
“You okay, honey?” Mike narrowed his eyes.
Lorraine nodded and watched from the corner of her eyes how Vin was still talking with one of the girls. In seconds, the girl grinned and hurried her steps, disappearing behind a door.
A moment later and while Vin was paying, the girl returned, handing him two bags with the logo of the boutique embossed.
“Merci,” Vin smiled, pocketing his wallet. “Oliver!” He turned around, ready to leave the boutique.
At hearing his name, Oliver jumped, startled. He had been enthralled staring at a huge plasma screen showing some sort of movie in which a bunch of stunning models were putting their spell on display, wearing the outfits the boutique offered as they pretended to impersonate some mild bondage fantasies. Nothing explicit though but the erotic images were clearly a provocation to anyone’s imagination.
Just when Vin had reached the entrance, his cell phone rang. Looking at the receiver, he grinned. It was George’s number.
James’ place. LA.
James stared yet once more at the sealed cardboard box Chichi had given him. It contained, according to Chichi, some pictures, a couple of books and other items with no other real worth other than the sentimental value they held for Joe.
So far, all James had done was watch the box, not being sure if he should open it. Somehow it felt like a violation of Joe’s intimacy, even though James suspected that, if Joe would have been in the least interested about his own things, the stunt double would have asked Chichi to send them to him many years ago. All in all, it felt wrong and so James hadn’t brought it upon himself to snoop inside. Yet, anyway.
Luna had entrusted him with a new request. To find something, anything about a man named Miguel Morales.
The only valuable trace that Luna had provided James with had been a letter this man had sent to his brother Luis, Roberto’s father, fifteen years ago. The postmark that appeared on the envelope that Luna had scanned, sending it by email to James, was from Caracas (Venezuela).
Luna had also enclosed a translation of the letter in which Miguel told his brother Luis that he had found a job for an oil company and that he would start sending money to his family as soon as he could put a decent amount together. However, and since Miguel had left his wife and kids without saying a word, he also asked his brother to make sure that the money Miguel would send was given to his wife.
James’ attention returned to the box and, reaching out, he picked it up, placing it between his legs. Without any more preambles, he tore the band that kept both flaps together and opened the box, looking inside.
True to Chichi’s words, most of the things that he had packed had been books, but there were other things, such as two china figurines; ballerinas with their tutus and all the paraphernalia. There was also a long neckerchief made of silk with such a mix of strident colors that it caused James to blink, startled. But what caught James’ full attention was a set of pictures. They were snapshots and some of them were a bit sticky, as if coffee or something had been spilled on top of them.
James picked them up and smiled widely. Most of the snapshots showed a teenage Joe, wearing different costumes, as though he had been trying several of them on for Halloween or something. In each one of them, Joe was goofily making faces, matching the outfits. His eyes sparkled like stars and his smile was radiant, as if he was having the time of his life. Joe looked so young and innocent in all of them…
All of a sudden, James came across a picture that he wasn’t expecting to find among the ones left behind by Joe. The picture showed Joe and Chichi, both dressed like burlesque dancers, with matching outfits consisting of wigs, stockings, garter belts, impossible high heels and pasties.
That alone wouldn’t be so shocking, but fixing his gaze, James recognized who the man standing between them wearing a 1920s gangster costume was; Vin Diesel in the flesh and bones, and he looked damn good too!
He wasn’t just standing there, waiting for the picture to be taken, but holding both ‘burlesque girls’ by the waist as they leaned against him, kissing his cheeks. Vin had on a huge smile that brightened his features and he also looked like he was in his element.
James narrowed his eyes, recalling Chichi’s words.
“…Pretty wild years. Drugs. A lot of sex. Our motto was to live and let live…We were pretty open-minded; we lived the present moment, not caring about the future…we were like a little family; we took care of each other…some of the bouncers used to escort us on our way back home, to make sure we were back safe and sound…I hadn’t seen them before but my companion told me they were friends of one of the bouncers…I was with—someone; we were having our private party…”
And just like that, everything fell into place. In seconds, James connected the dots, filling in the blanks almost without effort. The truth behind Joe’s rape; his quick success as a stunt double in Hollywood just a bunch of years later; the fact that Joe and Vin not only seemed to have a past connection but an unbelievable physical reassemblance; the two black guys that were friends with the bouncer; the identity of that aforesaid bouncer…it was so clear that now James couldn’t explain to himself how he hadn’t been able to see it before.
Of course there wasn’t evidence, beyond suspicions, but still, James knew that who really mattered would believe him. Luna would see it as clearly as himself and she probably would be able to go further. She would be able to get the answers that he hadn’t been able to get. Perhaps.
James narrowed his eyes, only now noticing that this picture, unlike the others, wasn’t sticky, not even stained or a bit crumpled. In fact the picture showing Vin, Joe and Chichi had been perfectly kept over the years. A odd thought popped within James’ head. What if this picture hadn’t been packed at the same time that the other items? What if this picture had been a last minute addition and Chichi’s way to confirm James’ suspicions, pointing him in the right direction to find the truth that had been hidden for more than a decade?
Without giving a second thought, he picked up the phone, dialing Luna’s cell phone number. He had been told not to call her, unless it was absolutely necessary. James considered that this was the case. This picture had to be hand delivered because there was no way James would send it to her or to anyone else for that matter by email.
Hopkins Agency. Marcela Hopkins’ office. LA.
“You sure you know what you’re getting into?”
At the other side of the line Luna sighed, exasperated. Everyone seemed to be singing the same song lately and Marcela kept asking her the same shit over and over.
“Yeah, I’m sure, Marcela.” Luna sounded harsher than Marcela had anticipated and Vin’s agent recoiled a bit.
“Okay, fine, fine, I just wanted to be sure, dear, because once we get to work on this…well, there won’t be any turning back.”
“I am very aware of the risks, thank you.” Luna replied firmly.
Marcela just sighed softly; she doubted it but she wouldn’t say that aloud. If this was what Luna wanted, then it would be what Luna would get.
“When will you tell me something?”
Luna’s question brought Marcela back to their conversation. “It will take a bit to find the perfect girl. I don’t work with actresses or models this young, but I’ll make a couple of phone calls.” Marcela glanced at the screen of her computer, where a picture of Carla Simons smiling brightly was looking back at her. “Meanwhile, I’ll spread the rumors about Violet Simons being interested in shooting a documentary about Carla’s life to get money for a charity organization,” she paused, reaching for her electronic notebook. “That alone should be enough to make Sheila come out of wherever she’s hiding.”
“Good.” Luna smiled evilly. She couldn’t wait to get done with that shit too.
Luna wouldn’t admit it to anyone, not even to herself, but her plate was starting to be filled with more things than she felt capable of dealing with at once. It was frustrating to have to wait for things to unfold, not to mention that all this scheming and plotting was starting to interfere in her career. Luna had already received a phone call from Santiago Escudero asking when he should expect to have the manuscript of her next book.
“May I know how you convinced Violet Simons to help you on this?” Marcela had an idea already but she was just curious. No one had managed to get close to Carla’s mother after the tragedy nor had they gotten Violet to talk about her deceased daughter.
“The same way as you, Marcela. We have a lot in common.” Luna sighed sadly causing Marcela’s breath to falter for a fraction of a second with her words .
The three women knew first hand how it felt to lose everything they loved at one stroke.
“I’ll phone you when I find the girl.” Marcela finally said.
“Thanks, Marcela, I appreciate what you’re doing.”
Marcela blinked, taken aback by Luna’s words. It was the very first time that she had thanked Marcela at all. “You’re very welcome, Luna. I’ll do my best to help you on this.” Marcela hung up the phone without waiting for a reply and, making herself comfortable, she pressed the intercom. “Susan, cancel all my meetings for the rest of the day and find me a list of modeling agencies that work exclusively with kids.”
Holiday Inn Hotel. Paris.
“I didn’t remember all these French bitches being this hot, bro.” Dave sipped from his drink as he openly leered at the four girls he had invited to the hotel for a private party. “If you don’t mind, I’ll get the blondie with the big tits and the redhead with the tight, black shorts.”
Vin glanced up, bored stiff. For all that he cared, Dave could take the four of them with him, fucking their brains out by turns. Vin recognized two of the girls though; they were the shop assistants that had attended him at the ‘Agent Provocateur’ boutique.
The four girls were dancing seductively, offering a hell of a lesbian show for the two men looking at them. Well, actually one man, since Vin wasn’t seeing them even though he was looking in their direction. Vin couldn’t stop thinking about Luna wearing the vanilla lingerie set he had bought for her and was even getting hard with the vivid visions his mind was mercilessly conjuring at a fast speed.
“What would you say if I get a piece of Lorraine?” Dave grinned but silently he was gauging Vin’s reaction to his words.
Vin glanced at Dave, lighting a cigarette. “I’d say you stay away from Lorraine.” His casual tone of voice didn’t hide the threat attached to it. In fact Dave could hear the ‘or else’ that went unspoken.
“Why?” Dave turned his head to look at Vin. “Gonna deflower the bitch yourself?” He knit a brow, meeting Vin’s gaze. The depraved spark Dave flashed at Vin caused Vin’s guts to twist in disgust. How could he have been so blind as not to see this side of Dave before?
“Yeah.” Vin’s lips curled up in a small grin as he chuckled; this was a role he could play even in his sleep.
Dave narrowed his eyes in suspicion and Vin’s grin turned devilish.
“Gotta finish what I started at Privilege.” His own voice sounded disgusting and Vin sipped from his ‘Coronita’ beer to swallow back down his throat the sudden nausea.
It was bullshit, Vin knew it and Dave knew it too. But Vin also knew that Dave wouldn’t make a move on her, until Vin himself was done with Lorraine, handing her over to Dave, the same way Vin had done with Sheila and others for years.
“I was starting to think that you had gone all prudish and shit on me, bro.” Dave returned his attention to the four girls that by now were half naked.
“Not likely.” Vin puffed from his cigarette, blowing the smoke through his nose. He was far from considering himself prudish but still, there were limits he wouldn’t cross, ever.
“Cool, ’cause I invited Lorraine to the party.” Dave gulped the rest of his beer in one gulp and pulled out of his pocket a small plastic bag full of coke.
Vin’s jaw clamped down so hard that his neck muscles whined in protest. “Did you?” He managed to say through clenched teeth.
“Hm-mm.” Dave pulled out his credit card and busied himself in getting several lines of coke ready. “Thought you’d feel in the mood for something different.”
Vin narrowed his eyes. “How different?” He put out his cigarette and sipped from his beer.
“This different.” Dave reached under the bar and pulled out a small bag with the ‘Agent Provocateur’ logo. “Happy early birthday, bro.” He laughed and pushed the small bag across the countertop of the bar.
“What’s this?” Vin knit a brow, staring at it, as though the small bag would bite him if he touched it.
“Told you, an early birthday present for you. Come on, go ahead, open it.” Dave encouraged Vin as he leaned forward, snorting one of the lines. He pinched the bridge of his nose, muttering a curse. “Damn! This shit is great.” Dave grinned from ear to ear.
Vin narrowed his eyes and, finally, opened the bag, peering inside. When he saw what Dave had gotten for him, Vin felt like beating the shit out of his childhood friend.
There they were, the golden, heart-shaped handcuffs with their embossed padlock and their small key dangling by a thin golden cord.
“Bet she’d love for you to try them on her.” Dave laughed hard and then clapped his hands, catching the girls’ attention. “Open bar, ladies!” He called, spreading his arms wide open and gesturing with his head to the tray where he had set the lines of coke. “The last one doesn’t get a piece of Diesel’s dick!” Dave stuck his thumb in Vin’s direction and burst out laughing, as though what he had said was the most funny thing in the world and, it looked like that though, since the girls started laughing, cheering and whooping as they pushed each other trying to get to the bar in first place.
Vin shook his head in disbelief. It was not only nasty but so sad to see these girls shamelessly degrading themselves just so they could have a chance to get laid by him. The worst thing was that there had been a time when he himself had been the one saying that line.
What a pathetic loser you were, Vincent, Vin scolded himself silently and, grabbing a bottle of tequila, he picked up the bag with the golden handcuffs.
“Send Lorraine to my bedroom when she shows up.” Vin said and with that, he slipped past the girls, heading directly to his bedroom. Better that she spent the night with him, that way he would be sure that Dave wouldn’t touch her.