Cassie waited impatiently in the corner booth of Carmelita’s for Stephano. Tapping her red nails on the table’s black, laminate veneer, she wondered what was the angle? Either he had talked to his boss, or he didn’t want his wife Destiny, hearing what he had to say. Perhaps it was a little of both? Turning her head towards the window, she watched people passing by the restaurant, when finally she saw him. Dressed in a long wool coat, with his face barely peeking out from his black fedora was Stephano Rimaldi. Flanked by his two bodyguards, he walked into the restaurant and was greeted instantly by a server who took his coat and hat then, carefully placed them on the coat rack in the corner. Stephano looked over his should at one of his men and without fumbling, the man pulled out a fifty dollar bill and tipped the server. Having made his day, the server smiled and said, “If you need anything Mr. Rimaldi, just give me a holler.”
“Just get me my usual.” Stephano replied. Then without a word the young man ran off to the back to get his order. Meanwhile Cassie, watched his entre and was not impressed at all. Quietly ignoring him, she continued to sip her caramel macchiato, and only when he sat down did she even bother looking up. Placing her cup on the saucer Cassie asked, “Why the change of heart Stephano?” Shrugging his shoulders he answered, “Guess I’m just sentimental.” She could see he was lying. His boss got to him.
Playing the game, Cassie pretended to be sentimental too. She forced her facial features from resting bitch face, to a more softer, gentler, look. “We did have some good times back in the day,” she sighed as she looked around the room. Smiling at her Stephano said, “Yeah, what I wouldn’t do for simpler times.”
“Simple? I was the one who had to sneak around my father’s house like a crook.”
“Hey my parents weren’t so keen on you either. I had to keep a lot of secrets from my father too.”
Intrigued Cassie asked, “Why am I just hearing about this?”
“Cuz, it didn’t matter to me, I would’ve walk on hot coals just to see you.”
“I was crazy about you too, ya know.”
“So what the hell happened to us?” Stephano asked.
“John happened that’s what.” Cassie said in an accusatory manner.
An uncomfortable silence lingered over them as the room buzzed with activity all around them.
Playing it safe, Cassie stuck to her original plan and just pitched the deal. “The Cosimos are getting sloppy and right now a few of their gas stations are unprotected. It would be a shame if someone absconded with those properties.”
“Okay, I’m listening,” he answered.
“Hey, I don’t anything for free.”
Laughing Stephano remarked, “I remember! So what’s this gonna cost me?”
“40% of the loot.”
“I know a guy who’s interested in selling some info,” Cassie said.
“What kind of info?”
“Blue prints, names, and shifts of the soldiers in charge.”
“You’re talking about a takeover, that could start a war.” Stephano said rather uncomfortable.
“Yeah, it could but if the right person did the takeover, there’d be no worries.”
“God I miss you Cassandra but I don’t trust you. Not anymore. You’ve been talking to that FBI stronzo (asshole) and if you recall, that ruined both our lives.”
“Both of us? As I recall you married a model and got a nice cushy, brownstone in Brooklyn while I was the one with the bullet in her head.”
“Yeah, and it didn’t teach you anything.” He said looking over his shoulder when he heard the sound of cups clanking. As the server approached the table, Stephano smiled and accepted his overpriced Illycaffè, placing it on the table in front of him.
“Anything else?” The server asked.
“No, I’m good.” Stephano answered. When the server left, Stephano leaned in, looking Cassie right in the eye and said, “If you were smart, you’d stop worrying about business and start…”
“What, get back in line? Too late for that ain’t it?” Cassie said then chuckled a bit.
“Well I hate to see anything else happen to you Cassandra.” Stephano warned her.
“How sweet,” Cassie said coldly. Looking at the blank expression on her face, sensing her tone had changed from curiosity to heartless, Stephano asked, “Jesus, what happened to you?”
“A lot.” She said taking another sip of her macchiato. “You know as I lay dying on the floor, I had a revelation. I realized I had to trade in my tiara for the crown.”
Laughing rather nervously, Stephano said, “Come on, you’re talking crazy.” When she didn’t react, he became intrigued, “So what, you’ve been playin’ everybody?”
“Are you in?” she insisted.
He sat in silence and began gulping his fancy coffee drink while Cassie looked on in anticipation. “Okay, Meryl Streep, I’m in but if anything goes sideways, you’re gonna wished you’d bled out on Mira’s (Café) floor.”
So it was set, Cassie had an out but now she had to make plans for an ugly showdown. Getting up from her seat, she walked out of the restaurant a free woman but for how long? Flagging a cab down, she began the journey back home to her stronzo, Amato.
Rachel Rueben is author of the bestselling YA novel Hag and The Eternal Bond Series both available on Wattpad. To keep up with Rachel, you can sign up for her frighteningly entertaining newsletter here.