mafiosa - Page 35

She slapped my arm playfully. ‘You flatterer, you.’

We sat down and she pulled out two floor-length dresses from her bag and laid them in front of us, side by side.

My eyes grew, and something hitched up in my chest.

Something small and slumbering awoke inside me. A new sensation – or at least one so long forgotten that it felt new. It was a feeling of anticipation … of wanting. I was used to frequent pinches, feelings of anxiety, of fear … but this, this was unexpected. I thought that excitable, girly, teenager part of me was dead and buried, but here was a sliver of it, getting geared up for the Masquerade Ball. Suddenly, I really really wanted to go to the dance.

‘Royal blue or emerald green?’ Millie asked. She was still fluffing them out, showing their shape.

‘They’re amazing.’ I fingered the delicate green material, lifting it up and letting it flow between my fingers. ‘Are you sure? Won’t your mom mind?’

‘No way,’ she said, grinning. ‘She’d give you the moon right now if she could. Pick whichever one you want. I’m wearing a black fishtail one so you can have either of these. They’re pretty tight, but you’re outrageously hot, so it’s fine.’

I slapped her arm playfully. ‘Now who’s the flatterer?’ A smile caught in my cheeks. I stroked the material, loving the softness beneath my fingertips. And to think, just this morning I was as enthusiastic about the gun in my lap. What was wrong with me?

Which Sophie was I?

‘Hmmm.’ I lifted up both so I could see how they fell.

‘I think the blue one would bring out your eyes,’ Millie pointed out. I swished it around, admiring how the material tumbled like a waterfall. It was Grecian in style, with delicate straps that criss-crossed near the bodice. It was tight around the waist and flowed to the ground in tumbling waves.

‘The material slits halfway up the side so it swishes when you walk.’ Millie made a swish-swish sound and moved her hands in front of me in squiggling lines to demonstrate.

‘I do like to swish,’ I said.

‘Don’t we all?’ said Millie, wistfully. ‘Those Falcone boys are going to drool when they see you.’

All the little butterflies inside me seized up. ‘That reminds me,’ I said, leaving the dress down again, smoothing out the bodice with my fingers, like I was lovingly petting a dog. ‘Luca says I can’t go to the dance.’

‘Huh,’ said Millie, screwing up her nose. ‘I didn’t realize Luca Falcone was your evil stepmother.’

‘What?’ I feigned surprise. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Pretty sure,’ she said, stroking her chin. ‘So, what gives? Do I need to get you a pumpkin? Some helpful kitchen mice? A fairy godmother, perhaps?’

I was wondering how I could conjure a lie that would aptly cover up the fact that I was in the middle of a giant blood war with another Mafia family, reignited by the fact that they all thought I had just murdered a Marino soldato who I was also, conveniently, related to. ‘Luca’s just being protective.’

‘Buy him a kitten and let him protect that. He’s not your guardian.’

‘Yeah, I know,’ I said slowly. ‘I just don’t think he’s going to be pleased about me going. I’m not saying I’m not going to go, I’m just saying he’ll probably try and stop me, that’s all.’

‘Sophie.’ Millie levelled me with a dark look. ‘Luca Falcone does not want to get in the way of me and my dance. He’ll regret it.’

A laugh bubbled out of me. ‘Oh, yeah?’

She nodded, eyes wide. ‘Nobody messes with my plans. I don’t care how murdery they are. He’d better step back. Now.’

‘He’s a formidable foe,’ I said. ‘Trust me.’

‘Wait,’ she said, her eyes lighting up. ‘Why don’t you just invite him?’

I threw my head back and laughed. The idea was so ludicrous, so improbable … so pathetic. Pathetic that the only boy I was interested in would rather gouge his eyes out than accompany me on an actual date to a high school dance. I stopped laughing. It really wasn’t that funny.

‘No,’ I said, composing myself. ‘That’s not the solution, trust me. We haven’t really been getting on lately.’

‘Why? Are you flirting with Nic?’

‘I do not flirt with Nic! Why does a girl being nice to a boy always have to be construed as flirting? I am capable of having more than one agenda in my head at any given time.’

‘OK, OK, relax, I was just asking …’

‘And Luca doesn’t see me like that any more, anyway,’ I added.

‘OK, fine, no Luca. I get it,’ Millie conceded. ‘That’s probably a good thing. I really don’t want to scare Cris away.’ She smiled involuntarily at the mention of Cris, who had made the transition from casual hook-up to bona fide boyfriend in a matter of weeks. He was nice: normal, kind, and most importantly, safe. I liked Crispin. Even despite the hideous name. He couldn’t help that.

‘Don’t worry, for the sake of your burgeoning relationship I’ll keep my assassins as far away from your boyfriend as I can. But I can’t imagine anything would put Crispin off you,’ I added. ‘You are, after all, utter perfection.’

‘You can just call him Cris, you know.’

I smiled sweetly at her. ‘I actually really enjoy saying the full version, so you’ll just have to indulge me.’