I gave him a doubtful look, but I wasn’t going to argue with him. I was too grateful that he’d allow me to work at all. I didn’t have to listen to the rumors to know exactly what they would be saying about me once people found out the wife of the Boss wasn’t satisfied with being a trophy wife.
We took Dante’s Mercedes for our ride to the industrial parts of Chicago because a snow storm made the streets impassable for the Porsche. After thirty minutes, in which Dante explained what kind of gambling was most popular in our casinos and who the most important high rollers were, we pulled up in front of a gate barring the way down into an underground garage. Behind it loomed a massive storehouse with dirt covered windows and graffiti-sprayed walls. A guard in a small cabin greeted Dante and opened the gate for us. We drove down the slope into a nondescript parking garage. Nothing hinted to the presence of a casino, but of course it made sense that the Outfit had to hide their illegal gambling endeavors. A few other cars were already parked in the garage. Dante steered the Mercedes into the spot between a sleek black BMW and a pretentious red Mustang with snow chains around its massive tires. I had a feeling I knew to whom the latter belonged.
Dante and I got out of the car. To my surprise, Dante put his hand on the small of my back as he led me toward a rusty elevator at the other end of the garage.
“Is it safe?” I asked suspiciously. That thing looked as if it was in desperate need of service.
Dante chuckled. “This is all make-believe.” For a moment, his eyes met mine and unexpected warmth filled me. Dante pushed a small black button and the elevator doors slid open. The inside wasn’t much better than the outside. This was a freight elevator with bare steel walls and scratched up floor. Dante took a keycard from his pocket and eased it into a slit I hadn’t even noticed before. It wasn’t anywhere near the obvious buttons of the elevator. Dante noticed my curious look. “We’ve never had a visit from Feds, but if they ever check the storehouse, this will make it more difficult for them to find out what’s below us.”
The moment Dante had inserted the card, the elevator started moving down. The ride was quick and when the doors finally glided open, I gasped.
We stepped into a vast underground area with plush red and gold carpets, chandeliers and dozens of massive tables for poker games, blackjack, roulette and whatever else was played down here. Flatscreen-TVs on one wall of the casino showed everything from the Africa Soccer Cup over a darts championship in Scotland, camel racing in Dubai to Skiing tournaments in the Alps. Sofas were arranged around the wall for people who wanted to watch the athletes or teams they’d put a bet on. At the end of the room, was a bar that took up almost the entire width of the room with hundreds of bottles of liquors, wines and champagne.
Right now the casino was deserted except for two cleaning ladies who vacuumed the carpet. Several doors led to what I assumed were private rooms for VIP guests.
“In the back are the offices as well as a welcome area for high rollers,” Dante explained as he led me across the room toward a dark wood door next to the bar.
“Do I work daily?”
Dante gave me a strange look. “You can work whenever you want. Nobody will force you to work at all. But you’ll always get notified when a high roller is expected so you can decide if you’re going to be there to welcome them.”
“Okay. You said there were special events. Is anything set up in the next few weeks. For Valentine’s day for example?” The day was still four weeks away but setting up an event took time.
Dante stroked my back lightly, surprising me with the gesture. I wasn’t even sure he’d noticed what he’d done, since his face was still distant except for the wry smile directed at me. “Valentine’s day isn’t really something the men coming here are interested in. Even if they’re married, their wives probably don’t know they’re coming here. As I said, we always have at least a dozen prostitutes in the bar area and the bedrooms in the back are never empty.”
“So I’m not just going to manage a casino, I’ll also be a bordello queen.”
Dante laughed. A real laugh. I slanted him a look to make sure my ears weren’t playing a trick on me, but the smile was already disappearing from his face. “You aren’t their pimp. You can introduce our high rollers to their complimentary girls but apart from that, the prostitution part of the casino is in Raffaele’s hand.
Raffaele was Aria’s cousin. He wasn’t related to me though. With satisfaction, I realized my guess about the car had been right. I’d heard rumors about his swanky persona. “Isn’t he the one who got his finger cut off for gawking at Aria?” Everyone knew that tidbit of information, but I was curious about Dante’s feelings toward the incident. I still remembered the huge stir it had caused years ago.
Dante’s lips thinned. “That’s him. Rocco Scuderi allowed Luca to punish Raffaele.”
We stopped in front of the door. “But you wouldn’t have?”
“I wouldn’t have let someone from New York dish out punishment in my territory,” he said in a relentless tone. I wasn’t sure why but my body reacted immediately to Dante’s steely fierceness, yearning to be alone with him, to let him have his way with me like last night.
Ignoring my body’s needs, I said, “So you don’t think Raffaele deserved it.” Personally, I thought it was a bit extreme to cut someone’s finger off for staring, but Luca was known for his cold-bloodedness, even in the Outfit.
“I didn’t say that. But I would have insisted on punishing him myself, seeing as he is my responsibility. But what’s done is done.”