A/N: I finally managed to accomplish a bit of something here, so here’s a belated Monday update 🙂
After sitting his ass on the couch all day, Elias had gone out for groceries. He didn’t really need anything that couldn’t wait until after work tomorrow, but it was an excuse to get him out of the house. That was something.
He pulled into his driveway, heart jumping into his throat.
Vito fucking Minetti stood outside his house, leaned back against the door. Vito met his gaze and smiled that sickenly charming smile of his, lifting the hand that held Dude’s leash.
Elias cut the engine and undid his seatbelt. Grabbing the only bag of groceries he had, he climbed out of the car. “We talked about this. If I see you lurking around my place, I’m calling the cops.”
Vito chuckled. “I’m surprised you remember that. You were wasted.”
“Yeah. Bad day.”
The giant nodded. “You gonna come any closer, Payne? Or you gonna keep your distance like I’m the monster they label me and Ti as?”
Elias closed the car door and forced himself to walk up to Vito. “You lucked out. I know you didn’t kill that man.”
The smile came back to Vito’s face. “Yeah, ‘cause I was busy rockin’ your world.”
“That seems like an overstatement.”
Vito scoffed, pushing himself away from the door. He leaned down to Elias’s height and curled his fingers beneath Elias’s chin, tipping his head back. “Let—”
Elias stepped away from him, heart-pounding. What if someone saw them? The man his parents had potentially hired to torment him over the phone?
Vito’s brow furrowed. “Really? Now you’re going to start shying away from me? You got what you wanted, and now I ain’t allowed to touch you?”
“That’s sort of ironic coming from you,” Elias said, the words wobbling ever so slightly. He pulled his keys from his pocket. “I don’t want people to see me with you.”
“Because I’m a monster, or—”
“I never called you a monster.” On his second attempt, Elias managed to unlock the front door. “You put that word in my mouth.”
“You’re more… defiant than usual. More snappy. Someone piss in your Cheerios or something?”
“Bad weekend.” Elias shoved open the door and walked inside. He turned to face Vito. “Are you coming in or not?”
The smile that came to Vito’s face was almost dangerous. Exciting. Thrilling. Gorgeous.
He walked into the house, Dude behind him. Closing the door, Vito raised a brow. “Sober Elias… letting me inside. How daring of you.”
Elias couldn’t help but roll his eyes. “What did you come here for? To remind me you knew where I lived?”
Vito followed him into the kitchen, Dude’s claws clicking on the tile. Before Elias could even open the bag he’d set on the counter, Vito hooked an arm around him, warm lips moving to his neck. Elias closed his eyes, shoulders sinking for the first time in what felt like an eternity. “Dude really liked that little treat you left for him.”
“Good, ‘cause I have a whole bag of them now.”
Vito chuckled against his neck. “Can’t say I’m surprised.”
Elias cleared his throat. “Can you answer the question, Minetti? I’m a little on edge today, so I… I need to know why you’re here.”
“I thought maybe you and I could take Dude for a little walk.”
Elias opened his eyes, brow furrowing. “Why?”
“ ‘Cause you like him, and he likes you. I could probably benefit from a bit of dog training from you.”
Elias couldn’t help the little laugh that fell from his lips. “Vito, I’ve never owned an animal of any kind in my life. I know less about him than you do.”
“He likes you more than he likes me, so you’ve already got me one-upped, babe.”
Elias snorted. “He absolutely does not.”
Vito stepped away from him, tugging Dude back to the doorway of the kitchen. Elias turned around, one eyebrow raised. “Ready?”
Vito dropped Dude’s leash. Dude took a little step forward, stopping when Vito said, “Dude.” The dog looked back at him before starting toward Elias again. “Dude. Come here, Dude. Come to Daddy!”
Dude paid him one last glance before trotting over to Elias. Elias tilted his head to the side and reached down to pet the top of the dog’s head. “Okay, maybe there’s some truth to your stalking. Why doesn’t he like you?”
Vito shrugged. “I’m not sure yet. I mean, we, like, bonded when I gave him that treat you left for him. Took a while to get him to take it from me, but it was totally worth it.” He leaned his shoulder against the doorframe, clearing his throat. “I figure it’s the tattoos or the accent. Most of the people running those dog fights are Italian and covered in tats. I hate it, but I understand the, like… common ground for him. He’s not scared of me, but he doesn’t totally trust me.”
“Even after he destroyed your bathroom?”
“Oh, my God, right? I asked him the same fuckin’ thing. How many monsters do you know that would just give you scritches after you ate their bathroom, huh?” Vito asked.
Dude threw his head against Elias’s thigh, tail thumping on the ground. Elias chuckled, squatting down to Dude’s height to distract himself from the question at hand. Sure, it had been directed at the dog, but Elias couldn’t help but think about it. How many monsters did he know that wouldn’t beat a dog for destroying a couple expensive towels and an entire package of toilet paper?
“You’ve already made a breakthrough with him,” Elias said after what felt like an eternity. “Give him some time, Vito. I’m sure he’ll come around to love you as much as you care about him.”
“That’s the hope.” Vito flashed a smile when Elias met his gaze again. “So? What do you say about that walk?”
Elias pushed himself to his feet, offering a little shake of his head. “I can’t.”
Vito raised an eyebrow. “You really don’t want to be seen with me, huh?”
“No. I can’t be seen with you. There’s a difference.”
Vito snorted. He walked across the kitchen, stepping over Dude like he was a small lap dog rather than a giant bulldozer of a companion. Elias backed up into the counter, pressing his hands to Vito’s chest as the giant trapped him against the cold granite. “Which reason, Payne? Because I’m a mobster? An enforcer? A thief?” Vito leaned down until they were nose-to-nose. “A murderer?” he asked, his voice hardly above a whisper.
Elias swallowed. “I don’t know what you are,” he whispered back. Much as he hated it, it was the truth. Vito and his brother were being framed for a murder they couldn’t possibly have committed. How many of the other Horror Twin murders were frame jobs?
“Then what is it? Mom and Dad gonna freak?”
Elias searched Vito’s face before forcing himself to break eye contact. He looked down at his hands instead, focusing on his thumb as he moved it over Vito’s shirt. “I asked you if you called me after we slept together.”
One corner of Vito’s mouth scrunched up. “When?”
“When… when we slept together?”
“No, when’d you ask?”
“I-I don’t know. The second time?”
“When I was high?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
Vito nodded. “I’m a bit, uh…” He closed his eyes for a moment. “Don’t know the fuckin’ word. I’m known for something. Starts with an N.”
Vito smiled. “That’s it. I’m a bit notorious for not really committing drunk or high convos to the long-term memory bank, y’know?”
“But that don’t mean I’m not listening now.” Vito moved his hands on the counter, closing Elias in just a little more. “Talk to me. What about this phone call thing?”
“Someone called me after we slept together. I could just hear breathing on the other end. I thought it was you, but when I asked you, you said you didn’t have my number.”
“And you believed me?” Vito asked. “I mean, you were right to. I don’t have your number. But, uh… believing me? That’s a new one.”
“You were genuinely surprised. You don’t do a lot of expression changes when you’re drinking, but you do everywhere else, especially when you’re high. I know you weren’t bullshitting me.”
“Well, umm… cool.” Vito cleared his throat. “This person call you again?”
Elias nodded. “Yeah. Not just breathing. It was a deep voice, like one of those modifier things. Told me to stay away from Minetti.” He poked Vito’s chest. “That’d be you.”
“You scared of the voice? The person behind it?”
“I don’t know,” Elias said honestly. “I think they might’ve been hired by my parents, but… but there’s always the chance this person wasn’t. I’m more scared of that than anything.”
Vito lifted one of his hands and curled his fingers beneath Elias’s chin. “I ain’t gonna let someone hurt you for hanging around me, Payne. Not for sleeping with me, not for letting me inside, not for going on a walk with me and Dude.”
“I-I don’t know, Vito.”
Vito rested his thumb beneath Elias’s bottom lip and tilted his head back just a little. “Elias, I’m not going to let anyone hurt you because of me. That ain’t how I roll.”
Elias searched his face for the humor he’d grown so used to, but it wasn’t there. “You… you really mean that, don’t you?”
“I’m a lot of things, but letting someone get hurt because of my… media reputation isn’t part of what I believe in.”
Elias bowed his head, lightly thumping a fist against Vito’s chest. “If you don’t want to have to hug me again, I don’t think you should talk anymore.”
“Did I say something asshole-ish?”
Elias shook his head. “The opposite.”
He expected Vito to step away from him, but he didn’t. Instead, he slid his hands up Elias’s back and pulled him into a hug. Elias closed his eyes, wrapping his arms around the tattooed giant.
“If I hug you long enough, you gotta take me and Dude for a walk.”
Elias snorted. “I’m not taking you anywhere,” he said, his voice muffled against Vito’s chest.
“I’ll be good. Won’t hump anyone’s leg or anything.”
Elias laughed, pulling his hands between them to gently push Vito away. “You’re ridiculous.”
Vito smiled. “Yeah, but I’m hot as hell, so I get away with it.”
Elias couldn’t help the quick up and down scan he did of Vito’s figure. “That checks out.”
“I thought so.” Vito bent down and grabbed Dude’s leash. He held it out to Elias. “Come on. Look at his cute little face. How you gonna say no to him?”
Elias looked down at his hands, gingerly rubbing and pulling at his ring finger. “What if this person sees me? Sees… us?”
“Then I’ll track ‘em down and end the problem.”
“I thought you were more of a nightclub bouncer than a murderer.”
Vito snorted. “I am. But when you’ve got a family in law enforcement, you use that shit to make sure problems are dealt with.”
Elias didn’t know what the hell to believe anymore. “Family in law enforcement?”
The smile came back to Vito’s face. “Come on a walk with us. Then I’ll answer questions.”
“What’s in it for you?”
“Walking down the street next to the hot guy I’m sleeping with.”
Elias raised an eyebrow, finally meeting Vito’s eyes again. “Present tense?”
“Don’t get your ego all inflated or nothin’. I ain’t changin’ anything about myself.”
Elias snorted. “I’m not expecting you to. I’m just surprised you want to keep sleeping with someone who isn’t planning on sleeping with you every single day.”
Vito shrugged. “My brother’s been shot, I’m on temporary leave from work, and I’ve got a new dog to raise and shit. I don’t wanna put the effort into someone else. Don’t have the time or the patience for that shit right now.”
If nothing else, Vito’s unwillingness to ‘put the effort’ forth for another person gave Elias a lot more time to hang around Vito and find out what he needed to. “You know that nice, gated little community of one you live in?”
“Let’s go for a walk there. Less… less chance of me being seen with you.”
That dangerously exciting smile came back to the potential mobster’s face. “Fuck yeah. Let’s go.”
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