Elias took a small slice of his belated birthday cake, pausing as his phone rang. With a sigh, he set his plate on the counter and grabbed his phone. Cole’s name flashed on his screen. Though he wanted nothing more than to sit down and stuff his face with cake, he answered the call. “Hey, Cole.”
“Hey. Turn on the news.”
Elias let out a breath. “Please don’t tell me one of them got shot again.”
Cole snorted. “No. Your story just saved a bunch of dogs from a dog fight ring before fucking blowing up the place.”
“He…? They know he blew it up?”
“He was on camera when it blew up. Like that shit wasn’t planned.”
Elias walked into the living room and grabbed the remote. “What was he on TV for?”
“He took the dogs to a vet’s office that just so happened to be having an interview about animal care today.”
“Hmm.” Elias turned on the television and flipped through the channels until he hit Channel 7. Vito’s picture sat up in the right-hand corner of the screen while the anchor spoke about the explosion. “Thanks for the heads-up, Cole. I appreciate it.”
“Of course. Anything to help put that fucker and his brother in prison for good.”
Every time Cole swore, Elias couldn’t help but find himself a little taken aback. Sure, he only really saw Cole at work, but Elias had always penned him as a relatively swear-free kind of guy. “Yeah. Thanks, Cole.”
“Mmhmm. Good luck.”
“Thanks. Enjoy your weekend.”
Cole chuckled. “You too, Elias.”
Elias ended the call and muted the television. As he made his way back up to the kitchen, he looked up the Channel 7 News YouTube channel. If there was one thing they were good at, it was getting clips of the show uploaded as soon as they aired. He clicked on the video featuring Vito’s interview about the dogs.
“So how in the heck did you find out about these dogs, Mister Minetti?”
For the first time, Vito didn’t have that charming smile plastered on his face. He looked more pissed off than anything. “Well, I’m sure you know I’m a bit of a playboy. I was there looking for a bit of evening fun, and not for the first time, I saw people going into a door at the back of the place. I was able to pay my way in, and down stairs and down a hall, I found all these caged dogs, some of ‘em more ripped up than others. I could hear them talking outside another door. They were going to start the first fight in ten minutes, and they were going to pump the first two dogs full of steroids before then. So… I broke ‘em out. How could I not?”
Elias couldn’t believe how genuine Vito sounded. It didn’t sound like some bullshit story, and Vito sleeping around with anyone who had a pulse wasn’t exactly new information.
“How many dogs did you end up freeing from this ring?”
“Honestly, I didn’t even count. I just wanted ‘em outta there. A lot of Boxers and Pits, though. Couple other dogs mixed in there.”
“You did a good thing today, Mister Minetti. Better than killing people, huh?”
Elias nearly choked on his cake. Generally, the reporters weren’t that bold to their faces. Comments like that were usually thrown at police chiefs working the murder scene, not at the twins themselves.
Vito raised a brow, the rest of his expression relatively lacking in emotion. “That really the question you wanna go with? Because as it stands, there’s no proof my brother and I kill anyone, but there is proof that reporters like you shoving it in our faces and in the faces of everyone watching are the reason that someone tried to murder my brother on an airplane.”
“Nope. I’m done.” Vito walked past her, covering the camera with his hand as he went.
Elias let out a breath. Vito would be on edge the next time they saw each other, and there was a good chance he wouldn’t be willing to play pool all night. He would be pissed off, and if he hadn’t gotten laid by anyone at the nightclub, there was no way in hell he’d tolerate Elias for another night without sleeping with him.
But Jesus, how would his parents feel if it got out that he’d slept with Vito Minetti? Even if it was for a story? They wouldn’t care about the reasoning. They wouldn’t care that it was the only damn option or that he had tried to delay it for as long as he could. They would only care that his relationship with Vito was ruining their reputation.
On the other hand, his parents had gone out of their way to guilt trip him on his birthday and ruin the day, so… maybe just this once, he could bend the rules and do something without worrying about what it would do to them if it hit the news. It wasn’t his job to make sure their reputation was perfect, anyway. At the very least, it shouldn’t be his job. And for once, it wouldn’t be.
Contrary to Vito’s claim that he was busy that weekend, he showed up at Drake’s Place around ten that night. He didn’t even order a beer before coming over to the booth Elias sat at. He laid both tattooed hands on the table, leaning down to Elias’s height. “Wanna get outta here?”
“I thought you were busy this weekend.”
“My… shift has been pushed back until my newest run-in with the media dies down.”
“Where do you work this late in the night?”
Without missing a beat, Vito responded, “Nightclub bouncer. Do you wanna get outta here?”
Elias’s heart thudded in his chest. It was now or never. If he said no, he lost his chance at getting more information out of Vito. If he said yes, he… Well, he also lost his chance of getting information out of Vito, but maybe he’d get lucky and find that Vito was a talker and a cuddler.
Doubtful, but he had to hope for something.
Vito’s shoulders relaxed as he closed his eyes for a moment. He held out a hand. Letting out a breath, Elias grabbed it and slid out of his seat. At the bar, Vito released his hand only long enough for him to pay his tab.
There was an odd thrill to Vito Minetti holding his hand and leading him through a bar. Christ, it was the craziest thing he’d ever done, that was for sure. Going home with a mobster. Allowing a gangster to lead him through a bar and out to the parking lot. Sleeping with a charming thug.
In the parking lot, Vito unlocked a sleek-looking car and pulled open the passenger door. “Come on.”
“What happened to your driver?”
“I wasn’t planning on drinking. Needed… not to be around him too. Needed not to be around people.”
Elias chose not to remind Vito that he was, indeed, people. In a way, he understood the distinction, even if he wished like hell he didn’t. So instead, he squeezed Vito’s hand and slid into the car.
Vito closed the door and rounded the front of the car. He climbed into the driver’s seat, closing the door a little too loudly. He started the car and wrapped his hands around the steering wheel, knuckles slowly turning white. “I’ve been… asked not to go to any hotels for a few days. So, my house or yours?”
“I get to choose?” Elias asked.
“If you choose one fast enough.”
“Your place.” After a moment, Vito nodded. He shifted into drive and pulled out of the parking lot. Elias clicked his seat belt into place. “I saw you on the news today.”
“Don’t wanna talk about it.”
“I just wanted to say that reporter was an asshole.”
Finally, Vito’s body relaxed. Not much, but the slight slouching of his posture brought genuine relief to Elias’s system. “God, she was, wasn’t she? I fuckin’ saved those dogs from a bunch of fuckin’ horrendous monsters, and she couldn’t even manage to keep it focused on those dogs long enough to discuss their medical bills o-or the fuckin’ trauma they’ve been through or how hard it’s gonna be to find them loving homes. Had to focus on me and the damn fuckin’ rumors instead.”
If Elias ever needed to write a first page article about how much Vito swore when he was angry, he’d have more than enough curses for that. Past that, though, he had absolutely nothing.
“What you did for those dogs was amazing. I’m glad you were there to save them.”
Vito nodded, his jaw tense. “Me too.”
“Did… you take one home?”
Vito’s expression softened ever so slightly, one corner of his mouth just barely lifting. “I did. Big ol’ Mastiff. He was in a bit rougher shape than some of the others. Vet said he’d probably be the most difficult to adopt, even with so many of the others being Pits. Figured I’d take him in instead, make sure he had a home.”
“You’re a good man, Minetti.” Vito chuckled softly rather than responding. “What’s his name?”
“What, you don’t want to talk about that, either?”
“No, that’s his name. Dude.”
Elias snorted. “I hate that that’s actually kinda cute.”
“Sums up my aesthetic pretty well.”
At least he had that right.
Vito laid a hand on Elias’s thigh. Elias couldn’t help but flinch. Vito looked over at him, brow furrowed as he lifted his hand. “Sorry. You good?”
“Just didn’t see your hand coming.” Elias guided Vito’s hand back to his leg and offered a smile. “I don’t normally get felt up in cars. Or anywhere.”
“Mm. You’re a gorgeous man, Payne. Any guy would be lucky as hell to have you like this.”
Elias hated the heat that rushed to his cheeks. He cleared his throat. “Thank you.”
“Mm.” Vito squeezed his leg before sliding his hand around to his inner thigh. There, he dragged his fingers over the seam of Elias’s jeans. “I don’t see your little tattoo tonight.”
Vito took his hand off the wheel long enough to touch Elias’s upper arm. “Could see one peeking out here the night we met.”
“Oh. Uh, I was… entertaining someone for my parents. She likes men with tattoos. It was one of those ones you can get online that last for, like, two weeks.”
“Oh.” Vito’s brow furrowed. “You’re parents don’t know you’re gay, then?”
“Oh, they know. But for publicity’s sake and for the sake of business deals, I’m bisexual.”
“Christ, that’s fucked. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. I didn’t have to sleep with her. I just had to pretend I thought she was hot for a few hours so she’d put a good word in with her mom. I’m good at that.”
“Hmm.” Vito slid his hand over, cupping Elias through his jeans. Elias tensed, breath hitching. “Tonight, I’ll make up for the couple of wasted hours, give you a night you can actually be interested in.”
Elias couldn’t help the soft moan that fell from his lips as Vito massaged him. He grabbed his arm, nails biting into his skin. “I didn’t mean to let that slip. You’re not gonna tell anyone, right?”
“That you’re gay?”
“Nope. Long as you don’t tell anyone I’m bi.”
“Deal,” Elias whispered, tilting his head back against the seat. The fingers of one hand still wrapped around Vito’s arm, he reached his free hand toward Vito’s lap.
Vito stopped him. “Don’t worry about me. Tonight’s about you.”
Elias tried like hell to fight down the pathetic little whimper, but he couldn’t. “You had a rough day.”
“Your parents fuckin’ suck. Mine don’t. I’ll recover from the news shit. Always do. I’m gonna take care of you tonight. Sounds like someone needs to.”
Elias pulled his bottom lip between his teeth, wishing like hell that that didn’t stir the little butterflies in his stomach.
Elias barely managed to close Vito’s front door before Vito pushed him back against it and kissed him. Elias let out a breathless sound, hands moving up to Vito’s cheeks. Vito pulled back, leaning his forehead against Elias’s. “I’m gonna let you choose if you want the bed or not, because I’m literally willing to do it anywhere.”
Elias snorted. “I’m kind of a bed guy.”
Vito nodded and stepped back, sticking out a hand. “Come on.”
With a sharp exhale, Elias grabbed Vito’s hand and followed him up to his room. “No dog?”
“He’s staying the night at the vet. Had to make sure he was okay. Okay as he can be, I mean.” Vito pushed his door open and flipped on the light. He grabbed the back of his shirt collar and tugged it over his head. Elias couldn’t help but drag his eyes over every inch of ink on Vito’s gorgeous body. He was covered in roses and spider webs, compasses and maps, numbers and names and letters, symbols and gods. “Like what you see?” Vito asked, flashing a smile as he unbuttoned his jeans.
“Your tattoos are beautiful.”
“Thanks. They’re all real.”
Elias snorted. “I figured.”
Vito kicked off his pants and closed the distance between them again. He kissed him, tongue pushing past his lips for only a moment before he tugged Elias’s shirt over his head. His hands went to Elias’s jeans. Elias closed his eyes, doing his best to let it happen.
But he couldn’t. He grabbed Vito’s wrists, stilling his movements.
“I-I just… I need a moment.”
“Well, I did say I was taking care of you tonight. What do you wanna do?”
“We can… we can just sit on the bed and makeout for a little bit?”
Vito snorted. “Score. I’m fuckin’ great at that.”
“I, uh, I’ve noticed.”
Vito walked over to the bed, tugging Elias with him. He sat down on the edge of the bed, tilting his head up to look at Elias. “This good?”
“Yeah.” Elias reached up and tucked Vito’s dark hair back behind his ears. He searched the mobster’s face–his dark eyes, his tense jaw, the humor trying to soften the hardness of his features. “You’re a beautiful, beautiful man, Minetti.”
Vito smiled. “Not so bad yourself, Payne.”
Elias leaned down and kissed him before climbing onto his lap. Vito groaned, sliding a hand up to the side of his neck. Elias didn’t know how long Vito kissed him and nipped at his skin before moving back on the bed and rolling him to his back. He didn’t know how long Vito kissed him and touched him through his jeans, but when Vito tried to undo the button again, Elias didn’t stop him. He felt almost… comfortable, comfortable enough to trust that Vito would handle his scars with more respect than awkwardness or disgust.
Vito tossed Elias’s jeans to the floor, hands immediately sliding up the scars that slashed their way across his thighs. “I’m sorry.”
“I-I haven’t done it in years. It’s okay.”
“Beautiful and strong,” Vito murmured.
Elias sat up just enough to kiss Vito, hands on either side of his face. No one had ever made Elias feel anything but ashamed of his scars. Ashamed and stupid and attention-seeking, like he wasn’t allowed to be depressed because his parents were rich. Like he wasn’t allowed to do the one damn thing television and fiction had fed him as the sign of depressed people. Like he was selfish for even daring to pretend that he had it hard.
Vito only made him feel proud of himself for having recovered.
Vito peppered him with kisses and little nips as he worked to prepare Elias for him. “How’re we feeling, Payne?”
“Good,” Elias whispered. “Very… very good.”
Vito chuckled against his lips. “Good. Wanna get on your hands and knees for me?”
Elias searched his face. “We can’t… we can’t just do it this way?”
“I don’t do missionary, babe.”
“Well, I-I don’t do doggy style.”
Vito sighed, but he didn’t respond.
“I-I… I can if I can keep my shirt on.”
Vito’s brow furrowed. “What’s wrong with your back?”
“Nothing. Nothing’s wrong with my back. I just, uh, I’d like a little dignity.”
“Right.” Vito sat up on his knees, running his hands up Elias’s torso. “Your back hiding some dark secret of your parents’ too?”
“Then roll over.”
“Fuck you. I don’t have to do anything.”
Vito snorted. “Well, you’re definitely hiding something.”
“So are you. I’m not allowed to look at you while we have sex?”
“Never said that.”
“Why else would you avoid missionary like the plague, even for one night?”
Vito glanced up at the ceiling before shrugging. “Because it’s boring.”
“I thought tonight was about me.”
“I’d still like to not be bored out of a boner.”
Vito searched his face. “If I tell you why, you have to tell me why.”
“Only if your answer isn’t some sarcastic bullshit remark.”
“Deal.” Vito cleared his throat. “I like being in control of sex. Every aspect of it. When someone’s looking at you, they’re more likely to tug you down for a kiss when they want one or get you to slow down or speed up when they want to.
“Shouldn’t you disclose that before you go home with someone?”
“I assure you most people don’t do much complaining about what position sex will be in once I’m naked.”
Unfortunately, that made sense.
“Your turn, Payne.”
“It… it can’t get out. Like, anywhere.”
“The media literally wouldn’t believe me on anything. Unless I told them I was one of the Horror Twins. Outside of that, nada.” Lightly, Vito drummed his fingers against Elias’s chest. “Lay it on me.”
“I have scoliosis. I had spinal fusion to fix the curve in my back.”
“I have a scar up the middle of my back.”
“Oh… kay? Are you self-conscious about it?”
“No. I mean, it’s a big scar, but no.”
“Then… what’s the problem?”
Elias let out a breath. “If it ever gets found out that I had scoliosis and not the lazy posture my parents ridiculed me for in front of their donors, it would ruin the company. It would ruin them.”
“Seems like they deserve it.”
“They didn’t know I had scoliosis, Vito.”
“So? They still made fun of you in front of a bunch of rich pricks.”
“Well, the rich pricks started it. My parents did what they had to to secure a donation.”
Vito shook his head. “Family means defending your loved ones from shit like that, not joining in.”
“What’s done is done.”
Vito sighed. “Compromise, you lie on your side with me behind you.”
“You take a lot of fuckin’ work, Payne.”
“I’m sorry, Vito. I really am.”
Vito froze in the midst of climbing off of him. “That was a joke. Some people don’t like doggy style, just like I don’t like missionary. That was a joke. Makin’ sure you’re comfortable with sex isn’t a problem.”
“They’ve done a real number on you, huh?”
“I love my parents. End of story.” Gently, Elias pushed Vito to the bed and rolled onto his side. “No more talking.”
“Whatever you need,” Vito said softly. He pressed a kiss to Elias’s shoulder. “Tonight’s about making you feel good, making you feel taken care of.” He leaned over Elias and pulled open the nightstand drawer. “For the record, no matter what your posture was like, I’d totally still do you.”
Elias couldn’t help the laugh that exploded from his lips. “Good to know, Minetti. Thanks.”
“Ah, my pleasure.” Vito grabbed a condom and dropped back to the other side of the bed. “You a slow and tender kinda guy? Or a rough kinda guy?”
“You… you do whatever you’re good at, Minetti. Just make me feel worth a damn.”
Vito pressed the softest kiss to the shell of Elias’s ear. “Your wish is my command.”
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