Dante kept his eyes closed. “What do you mean?”
“She said she’s been working for you for three years, but she’s only seventeen. Shouldn’t she be going to school?”
Dante’s eyes peeled open, cool and blue, and firmly focused on the ceiling. “Three years ago we attacked two Russian clubs as retribution. They’re making the majority of their money with human trafficking. The women in their clubs are mostly sex slaves. Women and girls who were kidnapped and then forced into prostitution. When we took over the two clubs, we had to figure out what to do with the women. We couldn’t let them run around Chicago after what they’d witnessed.”
My stomach turned. “You killed them?”
Dante didn’t even twitch. “Most of them were illegals. We sent them back into the Ukraine or Russia. The others were relocated. Those who wanted to work in our clubs, we kept.”
“So what about Gaby?”
“She was a child. The younger girls we found were sent to families, where they could work as maids or cooks.”
“Or become mistresses,” I said, because I had no doubt that some Made Men couldn’t let their hands off a helpless girl under their roof.
Dante frowned. “Even among Made Men, pedophilia isn’t tolerated, Valentina.”
“I know, but Gaby doesn’t exactly look like a child anymore, nor do the other girls you captured, I presume.”
Dante fixed me with a hard glare. “Are you suggesting I touched Gaby?”
“She almost died from fear today when Luca moved. Maybe one of your men…”
“No,” Dante said firmly. “She hasn’t been abused in any way since she came into this house. She’s under my protection. My men know that.”
“Okay.” I believed him, and I also believed that none of his men dared to go against Dante’s direct orders. If Gaby was under his protection, she was safe. “I bet those girls would have made you a lot of money. There’s a reason why the Russians kidnap young girls. Why the qualms? It’s not like the Outfit hasn’t its own clubs with prostitutes, and it’s not like those women can just stop working for the mob whenever they want.” I was honestly curious. Dante was a killer after all.
“The Outfit isn’t in the business of sex slaves. The women in our clubs start working for us on their own free will and they know that they’ll be bound to us forever. We make enough money with our casinos and drugs, we don’t need sex slaves or illegal racing like the Russians and the Familia in Las Vegas.”
“What about New York, do they deal in sex slaves?”
“No. That’s really only the Vegas Familia. I’m not saying that there aren’t voices in the Outfit who would like to change that, but as long as I’m Capo that won’t happen.”
“That’s good,” I said.
Dante’s eyes softened for a moment but then he turned away and extinguished the lights.
“Good night,” I whispered. I was still disappointed that Dante didn’t touch me, but at least he’d talked to me as if we were equals, not like I was a brainless woman who didn’t need to know anything about the business.
“Good night, Valentina,” Dante said into the dark. There was something in his voice I couldn’t identify and I was too tired to try.CHAPTER SEVENIf I’d thought last night’s chat with Dante would make him reconsider our seating arrangements during breakfast or even make him want to talk to me, I’d been horribly wrong. Like yesterday he disappeared behind his newspaper after a quick greeting. I wasn’t in the mood to fight for his attention. I was too confused and hurt by his continued disinterest in me. I only picked some fruit and drank a cup of coffee before I decided to excuse myself. Dante didn’t even look up from his newspaper when I walked out.
Usually I would have asked him if he wanted me to take one of his men as guard with me to Bibiana’s house, but I was too angry. I had a driver’s license. Antonio had wanted me to get one after we married, which sadly wasn’t the norm for men in our world. After I’d put on a coat and grabbed my purse, I walked into the garage. Dante had given me keys for the house and the garage. Of the three cars parked in the garage, the Mercedes GL was the least attention-grabbing. I took the car keys from a hook at the wall and slipped into the car. It took me a moment to find the button in the dashboard that opened the garage, but finally I steered the car outside and down the driveway. A guard I didn’t know patrolled the fence but didn’t try to stop me when I opened the gate with a press of another button. I drove off the premises and the gate closed automatically behind me.
It felt good to drive again, even if I didn’t like Chicago traffic, but it had been too long since I had been allowed to drive by myself. My parents had been too determined to keep me under their watch after Antonio’s death to let me go out alone. I knew the way to Bibiana’s home by heart, had driven it countless times over the years, and it took me only ten minutes from Dante’s mansion.
Bibiana’s and Tommaso’s house was much smaller than that of Dante and of my parents. They didn’t have a long driveway where I could have parked. Instead I had to leave my car in the street. Not that I was worried someone might steal it. Streets where mob members lived were usually quite safe, unless you counted the risk of attacks from the Bratva or Triad. I walked up to their front door, noticing one of Tommaso’s men sitting in a car on the other side of the street and watching the house. Tommaso wasn’t as highly ranked as the men in my family or the Scuderis, but he wasn’t a simple soldier either. He always kept a guard near the house to watch over Bibiana, or what I suspected: to make sure she didn’t run away.