Page 7 of Make You Mine

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‘I can’t say that,’ she repeated.

Adriano’s lips curled back in a snarl. “Get out,” he voiced, and she took a startled step back. Her hands went up, but he shook his head. “Get the fuck out.”

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d remember to feel bad for making someone that terrified. He knew what he looked like. He knew that his size was intimidating, and that despite his accent, his voice was a deep rumble in his chest. He knew it made people uneasy, and he’d used it against her right then. But it was so hard to care when his life was being ripped apart and the woman hired to help him communicate refused to do it.

When the door shut, the slam reverberating through the bottoms of his feet, he slowly turned his gaze back to Xander. “You fucked Eric.”

His lips were moving too fast for Adriano to read them, but it didn’t matter. The furious blush creeping up his neck said enough. He fucked Eric—he’dbeenfucking Eric. God only knew how long it had been going on.

“Stop,” he demanded after Xander said his piece into the silence between them. “You know I can’t understand you, and I don’t care. You’re fired.”

He turned and started for the door, not anticipating how fast Xander would be or how bold. His thin fingers wrapped around Adriano and spun him, but the look on Adriano’s face sent him taking a few steps back. “You can’t fire me. The contract.” The words—at least most of them—were easy enough to read.

Adriano sneered again. “If you think I care about the goddamn contract…” His lips fell silent, and his hands rose. ‘I’m going to make you sorry. I don’t care what you’re threatening me with or what Eric promised you. This isn’t over.’

He slammed the door behind him and didn’t make eye contact with anyone on the way down. It was a blessing when he got to the street and didn’t see Mary anywhere. It wasn’therfault, but it was just another symptom of a bigger fucking problem, and he was running out of fight.

By the time Adriano got to his car, he was trembling, his throat tight and on the verge of tears he hadn’t cried in so many years he couldn’t remember. His phone buzzed in his pocket again, but it was either Eric, Xander, or someone from the agency trying to reach him.

Enough was enough. He wasn’t sure what he was doing next, but all this was going to come to an end, even if he had to bring it crashing down in flames around him.

* * *

Adriano squintedoff into the distance, staring at the rows of still-ripening grapes. His older brother’s pet project had turned into a little something more with the cash he’d supplied them over the years. He didn’t mind it. The wine wasn’t half bad—hair of the dog more than anything he’d serve at dinner, but at this point the burn of any alcohol was welcome.

It was nice to take sanctuary away from Malibu where the city was huge but the circles he ran in were small and impossible to avoid. It was likely Eric and Xander were holed up in his apartment fucking and scheming because there was no way he fired Xander without consequence.

He was prepared to pay it, of course. His accountant and lawyer were both on standby to issue whatever check they had to in order to terminate his contract and get Xander off his name and out of his business for good. It had been radio silence, though, and it was making Adriano uneasy.

And Pietro was also being a little too attentive, which was also getting under his skin. For the first time in his life, the temperate spring weather of Southern California was not a balm. It felt suffocating like the wind was made of invisible walls pinning him in one place. He ached to get away, but he had no idea where to go—and frankly, he knew he couldn’t go until Xander made a move.

Adriano dipped his shades down his nose when a shadow fell over his face, and a thick-fingered hand plucked both the bottle and glass away from him.

“Hey,” he voiced with a scowl.

Pietro dropped into a chair and clasped his hands on the table. He was the eldest brother and the fussiest over all his siblings. He was almost sixty and wore his grey with charm. He would have been great in the industry too—built just like Adriano, though he looked far more like their mother than their father with his sharp black hair and narrow blue eyes.

Pietro was a lawyer, though, not one that represented Adriano, but his firm did. And it was of some comfort to know that his brother could help sort shit out so he didn’t have to leave this little fake slice of heaven until he was good and ready.

‘You okay?’

Of all the siblings, Pietro had been the most resistant to sign and only gave in when his years of pushing Adriano to voice and read lips yielded very little. His kids and his ex were both better than he was, but since Adriano had shown up on his doorstep a drunk mess with two Louis Vuitton suitcases and an annoyed Pomeranian in a cloth carrier, he’d been trying.

‘Been better,’ Adriano replied. He reached for his glass, but Pietro held it farther away and ignored his irritated grunt. ‘I’m not five.’

Pietro lifted a brow and signed more in English than ASL, ‘Stop acting like it.’

“Bah!” Pursing his lips, Adriano waved him off, turning his attention to the vineyard until Pietro’s hand waved in his periphery. He turned to look as his brother hooked a finger over his ear, asking about his hearing aids for the hundredth time since he’d gotten there.

Adriano scoffed again. ‘Why bother.’

Pietro, like so many others, wanted to think they made a damn difference beyond making babies crying in planes a little sharper and the occasional ability to pick up some of the harder consonants. Mostly, he knew, Pietro wanted this to be easier on him, and Adriano was in no fucking mood to hold his hand through communication.

‘What are you going to do after this?’

At that, Adriano felt a little bit of the blood drain from his face because he didn’t know. He’d just wrapped up a three week shoot that was set to come out of post in June, and he knew there were two other films on the books he’d given a verbal promise, but nothing had been signed.

Mostly, Xander had been up his ass about branching out. “People want new content, and you’re stagnating. Do something unexpected.”