I walk over to the sofa on wobbly legs and sit down on the edge, fingers gripping it.

Gabe stays standing by the window. The light frames him, making him look incandescent. And beautiful. So very beautiful.


He’s not looking at me. His dark eyes are on the floor.

His words keep echoing around in my head.

“I used to sleep with women for money.”

“And my parents are in prison for drug trafficking, racketeering, and murder.”

I thought his parents were dead. Apparently not.

He’s not saying anything. I think he’s waiting for me to speak.

Honestly, I don’t know what to say.

But I go with the latter, as that seems more important. “So, your parents aren’t dead. They’re in prison,” I say in a quiet voice.

“Yes.” His voice is rough.

“Both of them?”

“Yes.”

“How? Why?”

“It’s a long story.”

“I’ve got all the time in the world.”

His eyes finally meet mine. Emotions are running riot in them. It makes me ache for him.

He looks away from me. “My dad is originally from Italy. He was born into the Russo crime family.”

He glances at me, a question in his eyes, and I shake my head, not familiar with their name.

“My grandfather was the head of the family, my dad his eldest son. And my grandfather built up a business relationship with a Jewish mob boss who pretty much ran Las Vegas. My grandfather sent my dad out to Vegas to secure the deal with the Jews, and he was to head up the running of it.

“My dad met my mother, who was the niece of the Jewish mob boss. She worked in one of his casinos. They got married. I was born a few years later. Tate, five years after that. Together, they ran several casinos. Or so I thought. The casinos were a front for the money laundering and drugs they were filtering through the casinos.”

He comes and sits down on the sofa chair beside me. I shift to face him.

“I knew they weren’t squeaky clean. I knew my dad’s family history. I knew they did some dodgy dealings. Kids would say stuff about them to me at school. The police came calling at home a few times. But, honestly, I didn’t know the true extent of it. I didn’t know they were mixed up in drugs or…that they’d killed people.

“I was seventeen when the house was raided, and my parents were arrested. It was the middle of the night. Tate and I were dragged from our beds, put into the back of a police car, and driven to a boys’ home ran by social services. We weren’t told anything. We only knew what we read in the newspapers in the following days. They wouldn’t let us see our parents. Tate was devastated. Then, I heard that my mom and dad were being charged with racketeering and the murder of several people. I knew that Tate and I were never going home. At seventeen, about to turn eighteen in six months’ time, I was smart enough to know that I’d stay in the boys’ home, and with Tate being twelve, they would try to rehome him.

“I’d just lost my parents. I wasn’t going to lose Tate as well. So, we left. My parents’ assets had been frozen by the government, but I had some savings in my account. So, I withdrew everything I had, and I bought two bus tickets to Los Angeles. I thought the idea of living near the beach sounded good. So, we rode the bus here, and I decided to change our surname to Evans in case anyone came looking for us.”

“So, your real name is Gabriel Russo?”

“Yes.”

“Why Evans?” I ask him.

“The bus driver had on a name badge that said Evans.”

“That simple.”

“Yeah, Speedy, that simple.” He grabs his smokes from the table and lights one up. He takes a drag and exhales the smoke.

“I managed to find us a studio to rent, using the rest of my savings. And I got a job waiting tables. I got Tate enrolled in school. But the one job wasn’t bringing in enough money, so I got another. In the end, I was working three jobs.

“There was a guy I waited tables with. The night he quit, he told me all about how he’d scored this job being an escort, and he was making a shit-ton of money doing it. So much that he didn’t need that job anymore. He said I should give it a try. He gave me a card with the number of the place he’d started working for. So, I gave them a call. What could it hurt, right? And, if taking some women out for dates or whatever would give me more money to give Tate a better life, then it was all for the better.

“So, I went in for an interview. Told the woman I was twenty-one. I looked it. But she laughed and said I had to show her ID. So, I told her I was eighteen. She said she had no problem with that. That her clients liked younger men. Said they would love me. She hired me on the spot. But said there were rules. Under no circumstances was I to have sex with a client. I told her that wasn’t something I was looking to do. So, she sent me off to HR, which was basically an overweight middle-aged woman behind a desk, smoking a cigarette. She took my photo for the database. I was given a form to fill out. Then, it was done. I was signed up with the agency and told they’d call me soon. I left, and they called three days later with a job for me.

“A woman needed a date to her friend’s wedding. It was her first time using an escort. And my first job, so it worked well, as we were both nervous. I picked her up in a cab, took her to the party. We danced and drank. Had fun. When the night was over, I dropped her back home, and she thanked me for a great evening. Easy. Then, a few more jobs started to roll in, and I was getting more and more popular.

“Then, one night, I was out with this woman. She was in her forties. But really good-looking, you know. She oozed class, and the jewelry she wore could have fed Tate and me for the rest of our lives. She started telling me how her husband didn’t pay her any attention. She was sure he was screwing his secretary. She mentioned how lonely she was. Then, she reached over and slid her hand up my leg. She stared me square in the eye and said she’d pay me a lot of money to make her feel good about herself.

“I knew it was against the agency’s rules, but I was young, and I thought, Hey, here’s a beautiful woman offering to pay me to fuck her when I would have fucked her for free.

“So, I said yes. And, the next thing I knew, we were going to a hotel. Then, we were in the room, and we were fucking. And, when it was over, she kissed me on the mouth, thanked me for a great time, and told me she’d be telling all her friends about me. Then, she left a thousand bucks on the nightstand.

“A thousand bucks.” He laughs, but it’s a sad sound. “I was eighteen years old with a thirteen-year-old brother depending on me for everything. So, I took the money with a smile on my face. The next morning, I took Tate out for a huge breakfast and took him shopping for new clothes.”

“Does Tate know—”

“No.” His eyes snap to mine. “And he never will. Understand?”

“Of course.” I swallow. “You can trust me, Gabe.”

He holds my stare. “I wouldn’t be telling you all of this if I didn’t think I could.”

Knowing that warms the ache I feel for him in my chest, but it doesn’t soothe it completely.

“Anyway, a few days later, she called me, asking to see me again. So, I said yes. Why wouldn’t I? It was easy money. After I fucked her in her hotel room, she told me she had some friends who wanted to spend time with me, too.”

It’s hard not to wince when he talks about having sex with those women. His voice sounds empty of emotion. Honestly, it makes me want to bawl my fucking eyes out.

“I kept escorting with the agency for a while,” he tells me. “But, soon enough, I was too busy to take jobs they had to offer, as my own clientele had grown fast. I quit with the agency and became a full-time hooker. Screwing rich women for money.

“And, for a long time, it was easy. Fun even. Fucking hot women for money—what’s not to like about that, right?”

He laughs, but it’s hollow, and my heart hurts at the sound.

“I moved Tate and me out of the tiny studio we had been renting and into a two-bedroom apartment. I got a car. I put money aside for Tate’s college tuition fund. Life was good. Or so I thought. After a while, it started to not feel good anymore. It just felt empty. Soulless. There was nothing fun about it anymore. I just started to feel dirty. Even spending the money felt dirty. And I guess, somewhere along the way, I’d fooled myself into thinking that these women actually cared for me.” He makes a self-deprecating noise. “That was stupid as fuck because, of course, they didn’t care about me. I was just a monetary means to a great fucking orgasm.

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