Home > Seeking Vengeance

Seeking Vengeance
Author: Eden Summers

 

1

 

 

Layla

 

 

I place a sweaty hand on the restaurant door, my fingers holding the slightest tremble of anticipation as skin meets glass.

I’ve waited two years for this.

No. It took two years to know I needed this.

The retaliation.

The validation of revenge.

Two years where I forced myself to believe I was a bigger person, when in reality I’m nothing but a carbon copy of the monsters I’m now determined to end.

I shift my fake glasses farther along my nose and push my way inside, the aroma of fresh basil sinking deep into my lungs.

I discovered Perfezione on my last excursion to Denver, my novice detective work leading me to this Italian masterpiece with immaculately polished china, pristine tablecloths, and sparkling chandeliers.

A last-minute no-show was the only reason I gained a reservation when I previously walked through these doors. And an insanely generous tip secured a seat for tonight.

This place doesn’t do walk-ins. It does millionaires and prestige. High-class and pomposity.

I give my fake name to the maître d’ and keep my expression impassive as a young, slim waitress escorts me to my table—the two-seater I requested in the far back corner, right next to the window.

She pulls out the chair closest to the wall, but that’s not where I want to be. I decline the offer with a polite smile and reach for the opposite seat, descending into the padded cushion with my back to the room.

There’s a beat of confusion in her expression. The slightest pause where she looks at me in judgment for picking this position instead of hers. “Is someone else joining you, Ms. Javernick?”

I give a subtle shake of my head, the strands of my fake blonde wig skimming my cheeks. “Not tonight. It’s just me.”

There’s another pause. Another perplexed glimpse asking why I wouldn’t want to stare at the restaurant’s opulence instead of the plain cream wallpaper. Then she nods and increases the wattage of her beaming smile. “Can I get you something to drink?” She hands over a leather-bound menu and grabs my cloth napkin to delicately place it on my lap.

“White wine, please. Pinot Grigio if possible.”

She inclines her head. “Of course.”

I’m left alone, the hum of conversation brushing my ears and adrenaline warming my veins. But it’s the intoxicating promise of vengeance that consumes my thoughts.

The past few months have been filled with one idea after the next, each potential strike against my enemy joining a long list of possibilities.

I’ve contemplated financial ruin, family destruction. I’ve even humored the idea of loss of life. Nothing is off-limits. Nothing can be if I want to sleep peacefully in the future. Because this isn’t just revenge. It’s also vindication. I need to earn back the respect of those I love.

My wine arrives while I scan the menu, my eyes reading the words despite my wild mind not letting them sink in. I’m too eager, my nervous energy ratcheting my pulse and feeding my vicious hunger.

I still have many questions to answer before I strike.

I haven’t decided if I’ll outsource the attack—physical or otherwise.

Mercenaries are an option, however trusting a stranger is an issue. I have the stomach to do it on my own, though. Murder won’t haunt my conscience. I already have a vial of cyanide in my purse posing as cocaine, the poisonous powder awaiting an unwilling victim. It’s the panic over a lengthy jail sentence that gives me pause.

Either way, I won’t reignite a war in the middle of a five-star restaurant. Tonight is merely reconnaissance.

I’m two sips into my alcoholic relief when a skitter of awareness shimmies down my spine, awakening my nerves.

They’re here.

I can’t see them. Can’t even hear them yet. But I know the Costa family has arrived.

I fight against the discomfort of having my back to the room and take another sip, making sure my shoulders appear relaxed as my waitress escorts them to the table behind me, just as I anticipated.

Goose bumps whisper along my arms, all the way to my nape. I feel naked, my little black dress suddenly nothing but a slip of material as the gentle breeze of the air conditioner kisses my exposed skin.

I’m hidden, though, unrecognizable beneath the colored contacts, fake glasses, and long-flowing blonde wig. Even if we do come face-to-face, I doubt they will recognize me.

I hold the wine glass to my lips and tilt my gaze to the window, discreetly watching them in the reflection as they sit at the round table, all of them exuding an air of snobbery.

There’s Emmanuel Costa. His wife, Adena. The younger men I know to be his sons—Salvatore and Remy. Then closest to me is Abri, his viper of a daughter, whose back is parallel to mine.

“We will have to make this a quick meal,” Salvatore mutters. “I have plans tonight.”

“Plans with who?” his mother asks. “A woman? Have you met someone?”

I listen intently, hoping for the details of his rendezvous, my heart beating heavy against my ribs. Lovers provide vulnerabilities. I learned that lesson the hard way.

The waitress approaches in my periphery, her increased proximity dragging my attention from precious seconds of information. “Are you ready to order, ma’am?”

“Can I have a little more time?” I keep my voice low, hoping she’ll allow me to drag out my stay for as long as possible. “If you could give me five more minutes that would be appreciated.”

She nods, her smile forced as she saunters away.

I spare a second to properly read the menu, picking a few items before I return my attention to the window, my ear cocked toward Emmanuel’s table as I drink in their secrets with each sip of wine.

“We need to tighten our distribution channels,” Emmanuel advises in accented English. “We have weak links that will cost us greatly if they’re not handled.”

“They’ll be handled,” Remy replies. “They’re always handled.”

“Not always. There was the issue with border security two years ago—”

“And you’ve never let us forget it. Since then, everything has been tight. We take care of any cracks that surface.”

It’s clear they’re not talking about distribution for items in their designer fashion label. When our worlds collided years ago, it had been because Emmanuel wanted to diversify from their clothing empire and force my brother into a partnership revolving around my family’s drug trade.

I guess they paved their own way. Or found a sucker to swindle to show them the ropes.

“How about you, Abri?” Emmanuel asks. “Have you done what was asked of you?”

“If you mean, have I sowed the seed for you to blackmail your latest target, then the answer is no.” Her voice is a velvety purr, the confident drawl holding the faintest undertone of resentment. “He’s proving to be a hard man to deceive.”

“Well, try harder. You don’t have the luxury of—”

“Can we please leave the topic of business for later?” Adena asks. “I want to hear about more important things like when my children will bless me with grandbabies.”

Someone sighs. There’s a groan, too.

“I’m happy to be artificially inseminated, mother,” Abri snips. “But it will become increasingly harder for me to extort and manipulate men if I have a child on my hip. And then what value would I have to you?”

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