King of Diamonds: A Dark Mafia Romance
I tug down the hem of my one-piece, zippered housekeeping uniform dress. The Pepto Bismol pink number comes to my upper thighs and fits like a glove, hugging my curves, showing off my cleavage. Clearly, the owners of the Bellissimo Hotel and Casino want their maids to look as hot as their cocktail girls.
I went with it. I’m wearing a pair of platform-heeled wrap-arounds comfortable enough to clean rooms in, but sexy enough to show off the muscles in my legs, and I pulled my shoulder-length blonde hair into two fluffy pigtails.
When in Vegas, right?
My feminist friends from grad school would have a fit with this.
I push the not-so-little housekeeping cart down the hallway of the grand hotel portion of the casino. I spent all morning cleaning people’s messes. And let me tell you, the messes in Vegas are big. Drug paraphernalia. Semen. Condoms. Blood. And this is an expensive, high-class place. I’ve only worked here two weeks and I’ve already seen all that and more.
I work fast. Some of the maids recommend taking your time so you don’t get overloaded, but I still hope to impress someone at the Bellissimo into giving me a better job. Hence dressing like the casino version of the French maid fantasy.
Dolling myself up was probably prompted by what my cousin Corey dubs, The Voice of Wrong. I have the opposite of a sixth sense or voice of reason, especially when it comes to the male half of the population.
Why else would I be broke and on the rebound from the two-timing party boy I left in Reno? I’m a smart woman. I have a master’s degree. I had a decent adjunct faculty position and a bright future.
But when I realized all my suspicions about Tanner cheating on me were true, I packed the Subaru I shared with him and left for Vegas to stay with Corey, who promised to get me a job dealing cards with her here.
But there aren’t any dealer jobs available at the moment—only housekeeping. So now I’m at the bottom of the totem pole, broke, single, and without a set of wheels because my car got totaled in a hit and run the day I arrived.
Not that I plan to stay here long-term. I’m just testing the waters in Vegas. If I like it, I’ll apply for adjunct college teaching jobs. I’ve even considered substitute teaching high school once I have the wheels to get around.
If I’m able to land a dealer job, though, I’ll take it because the money would be three times what I’d make in the public school system. Which is a tragedy to be discussed on another day.
I head back into the main supply area which doubles as my boss’ office and load up my cart in the housekeeping cave, stacking towels and soap boxes in neat rows.
“Oh for God’s sake.” Marissa, my supervisor, shoves her phone in the pocket of her housekeeping dress. A hot forty-two-year-old, she fills hers out in all the right places, making it look like a dress she chose to wear, rather than a uniform. “I have four people out sick today. Now I have to go do the bosses’ suites myself,” she groans.
I perk up. I know—that’s The Voice of Wrong. I have a morbid fascination with everything mafioso. Like, I’ve watched every episode of ~The Sopranos~ and have memorized the script from ~The Godfather~.
“You mean the Tacones’ rooms? I’ll do them.” It’s stupid, but I want a glimpse of them. What do real mafia men look like? Al Pacino? James Gandolfini? Or are they just ordinary guys? Maybe I’ve already passed them while pushing my cart around.
“I wish, but you can’t. It’s a special security clearance thing. And believe me—you don’t want to. They are super paranoid and picky as hell. You can’t look at the wrong thing without getting ripped a new one. They definitely wouldn’t want to see anyone new up there. I’d probably lose my job over it, as a matter of fact.”
I should be daunted, but this news only adds to the mystique I created in my mind around these men. “Well, I’m willing and available, if you want me to. I already finished my hallway. Or I could go with you and help? Make it go faster?”
I see my suggestion worming through her objections. Interest flits over her face, followed by more consternation.
I adopt a hopeful-helpful expression.
“Well, maybe that would be all right...I’d be supervising you, after all.”
Yes! I’m dying of curiosity to see the mafia bosses up close. Foolish, I know, but I can’t help it. I want to text Corey to tell her the news, but there isn’t time. Corey knows all about my fascination, since I already pumped her for information.
Marissa loads a few other things on my cart and we head off together for the special bank of elevators—the only ones that go all the way to the top of the building and require a keycard to access.
“So, these guys are really touchy. Most times they’re not in their rooms, and then all you have to worry about is staying away from their office desks,” Marissa explains once we left the last public floor and it was just the two of us in the elevator. “Don’t open any drawers—don’t do anything that appears nosy. I’m serious—these guys are scary.”
The doors swish open and I push the cart out, following her around the bend to the first door. The sound of loud, male voices comes from the room.
Marissa winces. “Always knock,” she whispers before lifting her knuckles to rap on the door.
They clearly don’t hear her, because the loud talking continues.
She knocks again and the talking stops.
“Yeah?” a deep masculine voice calls out.
We wait as silence greets her call. After a moment the door swings open to reveal a middle-aged guy with slightly graying hair. “Yeah, we were just leaving.” He pulls on what must be a thousand dollar suit jacket. A slight gut thickens his middle, but otherwise he’s extremely good-looking. Behind him stand three other men, all dressed in equally nice suits, none wearing their jackets.
They ignore us as they push past, resuming their conversation in the hallway. “So I tell him…” The door closes behind them.
“Whew,” Marissa breathes. “It’s way easier if they’re not here.” She glances up at the corners of the rooms. “Of course there are cameras everywhere, so it’s not like we aren’t being watched.” She points to a tiny red light shining from a little device mounted at the juncture of the wall and ceiling. I’ve already noticed them all over the casino. “But it’s less nerve-wracking if we’re not tiptoeing around them.”
She jerks her head down the hall. “You take the bathroom and bedrooms, I’ll do the kitchen, office and living area.”
“Got it.” I grab the supplies I need off the cart and head in the direction she indicated.
The bedroom’s well-appointed in a nondescript way. I pull the sheets and bedspread up to make the bed. The sheets were probably 3,000 thread count, if there is such a thing. That may be an exaggeration but, really, they are amazing.
Just for kicks, I rub one against my cheek.
It’s so smooth and soft. I can’t imagine what it would be like to lie in that bed. I wonder which of the guys slept in here. I make the bed with hospital corners, the way Marissa trained me to, dust and vacuum, then move on to the second bedroom and then the bathroom. When I finish, I find Marissa vacuuming in the living room.
She switches it off and winds up the cord. “All done? Me too. Let’s go to the next one.”
I push out the cart and she taps on the door of the suite down the hall. No answer.
She keys us in. “It is way faster having you help,” she says gratefully.
I flash her a smile. “I think it’s more fun to work as a team, too.”
She smiles back. “Yeah, somehow I don’t think they would go for it as a regular thing, but it’s nice for a change.”
“Unless you want to switch? This one only has one bedroom.”
“Nah,” I say, “I like bed/bath.” Of course that’s because of my all-consuming curiosity. There are more personal effects in a bedroom and a bathroom, not that I saw anything of interest in the last place. I didn’t go poking around, of course. The cameras in every corner have me nervous.
This place is the same as the last, as if they’d paid a decorator to furnish them and they were all identical. High luxury, but not much personality. Well, from what I understand, the Tacone family—at least the ones who run the Bellissimo—are all single men. What can I expect?
I make the bed and move on to dusting.
From the living room, I hear Marissa’s voice.
“What?” I call out, but then I realize she’s talking on the phone.
She comes in a moment later, breathless. “I have to go.” Her face has gone pale. “My kid’s been taken to the ER for a concussion.”
“Oh shit. Go—I’ve got this. Do you want to give me the keycard for the last suite?” There are three suites on this top floor.
She looks around distractedly. “No, I’d better not. Could you just finish this place up and head back downstairs? I’ll call Samuel to let him know what happened.” Samuel’s our boss, the head of housekeeping. “Don’t forget to stay away from the desk in the office.”
“Sure thing. Get out of here.” I make a shooing motion. “Go be with your kid.”
“Okay.” She digs her purse out from the cart and slings it over her shoulder. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I hope he’s all right,” I say to her back as she leaves.
She flings a weak smile over her shoulder. “Thanks. Bye.”
I grab the vacuum and head back into the bedroom. When I finish, I hear male voices in the living room.
“Hope you can get some sleep, Nico. How long’s it been?” one of the voices asked.
“Forty-eight hours. Fucking insomnia.”
“G’luck, see you later.” A door clicks shut.
My heart immediately beats a little faster with excitement or nerves. Yes—I’m a fool. Later, I would realize my mistake in not marching right out and introducing myself, but Marissa has me nervous about the Tacones and I freeze up. The cart stands out in the living room, though. I decide to go into the bathroom and clean everything I can without getting fresh supplies. Finally, I give up, square my shoulders and head out.
I arrive in the living room and pull out three folded towels, four hand towels and four washcloths. Out of my peripheral vision, I watch the broad shoulders and back of another finely dressed man.
He glances over then does a double-take. His dark eyes rake over me, lingering on my legs and traveling up to my breasts, then face. “Who the fuck are you?”
I should’ve expected that response, but it startles me anyway. He sounds scary. Seriously scary, and he walks toward me like he means business. He’s beautiful, with dark wavy hair, a stubbled square jaw and thick-lashed eyes that bore a hole right through me.
“Huh? Who. The fuck. Are you?”
I panic. Instead of answering him, I turn and walk swiftly to the bathroom, as if putting fresh towels in his bathroom will fix everything.
He stalks after me and follows me in. “What are you doing in here?” He knocks the towels out of my hands.
Stunned, I stare down at them scattered on the floor. “I’m...housekeeping,” I offer lamely. Damn my idiotic fascination with the mafia. This is not the freaking Sopranos. This is a real-life, dangerous man wearing a gun in a holster under his armpit. I know, because I see it when he reaches for me.
He grips my upper arms. “Bullshit. No one who looks like”—his eyes travel up and down the length of my body again—“you—works in housekeeping.”
I blink, not sure what that means. I’m pretty, I know that, but there’s nothing special about me. I’m your girl-next-door blue-eyed blonde type, on the short and curvy side. Not like my cousin Corey, who is tall, slender, red-haired and drop-dead gorgeous, with the confidence to match.
There’s something lewd in the way he looks at me that makes it sound like I’m standing there in nipple tassels and a G-string instead of my short, fitted maid’s dress. I play dumb. “I’m new. I’ve only been here a couple weeks.”
He sports dark circles under his eyes, and I remember what he told the other man. He suffers from insomnia. Hasn’t slept in forty-eight hours.
“Are you bugging the place?” he demands.
“Wha—” I can’t even answer. I just stare like an idiot.
He starts frisking me for a weapon. “Is this a con? What do they think—I’m going to fuck you? Who sent you?”
I attempt to answer, but his warm hands sliding all over me make me forget what I was going to say. Why is he talking about fucking me?
He stands up and gives me a tiny shake. “Who. Sent. You?” His dark eyes mesmerize. He smells of the casino—of whiskey and cash, and beneath it, his own simmering essence.
“No one...I mean, Marissa!” I exclaim her name like a secret password, but it only seems to irritate him further.
He reaches out and runs his fingers swiftly along the collar of my housekeeping dress, as if checking for some hidden wiretap. I’m pretty sure the guy’s half out of his mind, maybe delirious with sleep deprivation. Maybe just nuts. I freeze, not wanting to set him off.
To my shock, he yanks down the zipper on the front of my dress, all the way to my waist.
If I were my cousin Corey, daughter of a mean FBI agent, I’d knee him in the balls, gun or not. But I was raised not to make waves. To be a nice girl and do what authority tells me to do.
So, like a freaking idiot, I just stand there. A tiny mewl leaves my lips, but I don’t dare move, don’t protest. He yanks the form-fitting dress to my waist and jerks it down over my hips.
I wrest my arms free from the fabric to wrap them around myself.
Nico Tacone shoves me aside to get the dress out from under my feet. He picks it up and runs his hands all over it, still searching for the mythical wiretap while I shiver in my bra and panties.
I fold my arms across my breasts. “Look, I’m not wearing a wire or bugging the place,” I breathe. “I was helping Marissa and then she got a call—”
“Save it,” he barks. “You’re too fucking perfect. What’s the con? What the fuck are you doing in here?”
I’m confounded. Should I keep arguing the truth when it only pisses him off? I swallow. None of the words in my head seem like the right ones to say.
He reaches for my bra.
I bat at his hands, heart pumping like I just did two back-to-back spin classes. He ignores my feeble resistance. The bra is a front hook and he obviously excels at removing women’s lingerie because it’s off faster than the dress. My breasts spring out with a bounce, and he glares at them, as if I bared them just to tempt him. He examines the bra, then tosses it on the floor and stares at me. His eyes dip once more to my breasts and his expression grows even more furious. “Real tits,” he mutters as if that’s a punishable offense.
I try to step back but I bump into the toilet. “I’m not hiding anything. I’m just a maid. I got hired two weeks ago. You can call Samuel.”
He steps closer. Tragically, the hardened menace on his handsome face only increases his attractiveness to me. I really am wired wrong. My body thrills at the nearness of him, pussy dampening. Or maybe it’s the fact that he just stripped me practically naked while he stands there fully clothed. I think this is a fetish to some people. Apparently, I’m one of them. If I wasn’t so scared, it would be uber hot.
He palms my backside, warm fingers sliding over the satiny fabric of my panties, but he’s not groping me, he’s still working efficiently, checking for bugs. He slides a thumb under the gusset, running the fabric through his fingers. My belly flutters.
Oh God. The back of his thumb brushes my dewy slit. I cringe in embarrassment. His head jerks up and he stares at me in surprise, nostrils flaring.
Then his brows slammed down as if it pisses him off I’m turned on, as if it’s a trick.
That’s when things really go to shit.
He pulls out his gun and points it at my head—actually pushes the cold hard muzzle against my brow. “What. The fuck. Are you doing here?”
I pee myself.
God help me.
I freeze and pee trickles down my inner thighs before I can stop it. My face burns with humiliation.
Now, the anger and indignation I should’ve had from the start rushes out. It’s the exact wrong moment to get lippy, but I glare at him. “What’s wrong with you?”
He stares at the dribble on the floor. I think he’s going to... Well, I don’t know what I think he’ll do—pistol whip me or sneer or something—but his expression relaxes and he shoves the gun in its holster. Apparently, I finally gave the right reaction.
He grips my arm and drags me toward the shower. My brain is doing flip flops trying to get back online. To figure out what in the hell is happening and how I can get myself out of this very crazy, very fucked up situation.
Tacone reaches in and turns on the water, holding his hand under the spray as if to check its temperature.
My brain hasn’t turned back on, but I wrestle with his grip on my arm.
He releases it and holds his palm face out. “Okay,” he says. “Get in.” He draws his hand out of the shower and jerks his head toward the spray. “Clean up.”
Is he coming in there with me? Or is this really just about washing off?
Fuck it. I am a mess. I step in, panties and all.
I don’t know how long I stand there, drowning in shock. After a while, I blink and awareness seeps back in. Then I freak out. What in the hell is happening? What will he do with me? Did I really just pee on his floor? I want to die of embarrassment.
Keep it together, Sondra.
Jesus Christ. The mafia boss who stands on the other side of the shower curtain thinks I’m a narc. Or a spy or rat—whatever they call it. And he just stripped me down to my panties and pointed a gun at my head. Things could only get worse from here. A sob rises up in my throat.
Don’t cry. Not a good time to cry.
I stumble back against the tile wall, my legs too rubbery to stand. Hot tears spill down my cheeks and I sniff.
The shower curtain peeps open right by my face and I jerk back. I didn’t know he was standing right outside it.