“In my time, the wife of a Capo would never have deemed to work,” she muttered as she wiped the counters, which were already spotless.
“Times change,” I said simply.
“The deceased Mistress, may God rest her soul, was happy with the role of mistress of the house. She spent her days trying to make her husband happy and make sure he had a beautiful home.”
“Zita,” Enzo said sharply. “That’s enough.”
Zita pointed a finger at him. “Don’t talk to me like that.”
“Maybe we should head out now,” I said to Enzo. I didn’t want them to fight because of me. He nodded, grabbed his gun holster from the chair, and we walked in silence toward the garage.
“Thank you for speaking up for me,” I said as we sat in the car.
“Zita should show you respect. You are the Capo’s wife. He wouldn’t approve of anyone treating you like that.” Would he really care? “You should tell him.”
I shook my head. “No. I can handle myself, but thank you.”
Enzo inclined his head and the rest of the drive passed in silence. To my surprise, Enzo didn’t just drop me off at the casino. He followed me inside and didn’t budge from my side. I had a feeling Dante might have told him to keep an eye on me. I wondered if it was because he didn’t trust his men to treat me decently or if he didn’t trust me not to mess up. Neither option made me feel better.
Leo seemed surprised when he spotted me. “I didn’t expect you yet. Raffaele and the girls aren’t there yet. There’s not much to do right now.”
I headed straight toward the back where the offices were located. “I know, but I want to read up on our high rollers. I assume you have documents and statistics about them?”
Leo’s eyes darted between me and Enzo, who had his arms crossed over his barrel chest, looking like he was waiting for a chance to crush Leo’s head. No friendship seemed to be lost between them. “Yes, we do. Let me get them for you.”
I settled in the plush chair behind my desk, feeling out of place, but when Leo returned with folders full of papers, I held my head high and gestured at him to put them on my desk. “I’ll read them. Please let me know when Raffaele and the girls arrive so I can talk to them.”
Leo nodded and left without another word. Enzo hesitated, then he too walked out and closed the door behind him. I slumped in the chair, and let my eyes take in my windowless office. I grabbed the first folder, determined to learn everything I needed to know to do a good job. I didn’t want to disappoint Dante. I knew he was risking the wrath of many Made Men by letting a woman work this job.
My eyes were burning from the dry air-conditioned air, and I’d only gotten through two folders, when a knock sounded at my door. “Come in,” I called hoarsely. I cleared my throat as the door opened and Enzo poked his head in. “Raffaele is here. Should I let him in?”
I stifled a smile. Was Enzo now acting as my secretary? “Yes, thank you.”
Enzo held the door wide open. Raffaele strode in with a scathing look in Enzo’s direction, who returned it with the same fervor. He closed the door and stood in front of it, arms crossed and hard eyes on Raffaele. “Can’t you talk to me without your watchdog?” he asked with a nasty smile.
I straightened. With my high heels I was as tall as him and immediately felt more at ease. “I could, but I won’t,” I said, making it sound as if it was actually my decision, and not Dante’s order.
Raffaele seemed taken aback, but he recovered quickly. “You wanted to talk to the whores. They are getting ready in their dressing room.”
“Good. Lead the way.”
Raffaele walked out without a word and headed toward one of the doors leading away from the main floor. Enzo was close behind us. Raffaele didn’t bother knocking, he just ripped open the door. A few of the girls let out surprised gasps, but when they saw who it was they quieted. Apparently they were used to that kind of behavior from him. Raffaele made a mock sweeping gesture, inviting me inside the dressing room. “Careful,” Enzo hissed, bringing his face very close to Raffaele’s. “Or do you want to lose another finger? Dante won’t let you stitch it back on.”
Raffaele turned red but he didn’t dare retort something nasty, though it was obvious from his expression that he wanted to.
I took a step into the dressing room, then stopped. “Is it okay if I talk to you for a moment?” I asked the gathered girls. There were ten of them, varying in age from their late teens – that’s what I hoped at least – to their late twenties. Some of them catered to the girl-next-door, cheerleader taste, while others were more exotic. Almost all of them were sporting silicon breasts. Their expressions ranged from suspicious over worried to outright scared. As if choreographed, their gazes sought Raffaele, silently looking for his permission. I could tell by the self-satisfied grin and the way he seemed to get bigger how much he enjoyed it.
“I want to have a word alone with the girls,” I told him firmly.
“No but,” I said at the same time as Enzo gripped Raffaele by the collar and shoved him outside, then followed after him and closed the door so I was alone with the girls. I turned my full attention to the girls who’d all stopped what they were doing and were watching me. “Maybe you can introduce yourself. Name, age, how long you’ve been working for the Outfit.”
I pointed at a petite Asian girl in the corner when it became clear that none of them wanted to start. After that, they all seemed to relax and gave me their information without much prodding. To my relief, the youngest girl was already twenty, unless she was lying about her age.