Daddy's Little Captive
The first moment I laid eyes on Dominic Leone, I fell in love.
He strolled through the doors toward the end of my shift. Tuesday. 9:58 p.m. Just when we were about to close up for the night. Usually when customers come in that late I fantasize about doing very nasty things to them, but he smiled at me with those full Mediterranean lips, and I melted.
Handsome doesn’t do Dominic justice. Handsome is for movie stars and catalog models. Dominic isn’t handsome. He’s perfect. His eyes are dark and hooded with secrets I know I will never fathom. His brows are thick and can rise in censure, or fall in disapproval and send my stomach tumbling. His mouth is kissable, his cheekbones high and hard. Dominic is chiseled and unyielding in appearance and nature alike.
I have never met someone who was so utterly, rawly themselves at all times. Even clad in a designer suit and groomed to perfection, there is something wild about him. He defies all the expectations I ever had of a man, and he has utterly redefined what it is to live and to love.
I was so innocent that first night, trying to hide my blushes and nervous smiles as I served him. I thought he was a cute guy. I hoped he might leave his number. Men did that sometimes. I’d been on quite a few dates with men who were customers. The relationships never lasted all that long, but where else was I going to meet a guy?
I am always nervous when I serve him. My uniform always feels too tight. My voice gets a weird stuttering quality and I pull my eyes away from his when all I really want to do is gaze deep into those dark pools for as long as he’ll let me.
I serve him a couple times a week. Always the same dish. Tortellini in brodo. He never has any more than the starter. I don’t think he comes in because he’s hungry anyway. At least, not for food. There’s something in his eyes. A darkness, and a sadness. I don’t know whether to hug him or be afraid of him.
When Dominic walks into the restaurant, the world is transformed. I’m no longer bored by the everyday existence that grinds me down, bills and loans and being bitched out by my boss. Suddenly, I’m excited. I blush. I can feel tingles of excitement running from my toes to my scalp.
He is the best part of my week. There is not a day that I go to work that I don’t hope he comes in. Sometimes I even take extra shifts on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the nights he most often comes in. He likes it when the restaurant is quiet. He avoids the weekend rush like the plague.
* * *
I’m waiting. Hoping. The shift feels as though it’s taken forever, but it’s 9:55 p.m. and I find myself wanting time to slow. What if he doesn’t come tonight? It’s pathetic, I know, but I can’t stop thinking about him. It’s only been a month since I first met Dominic, but he is always on my mind.
Can you be addicted to a man you don’t even know? I think so. Just thinking about him makes me tingle all the way to my toes.
9:56 He’s not here.
9:57 Three minutes until Antonio barks out the order to close the door. We’ve been empty for more than twenty minutes now. My fingers twist in my apron as disappointment starts to sink through my bones. He’s not going to come in. I can feel it. It’s another two days until Thursday, another chance at hope.
9:58 “Marina! Lock the doors!” Antonio calls from the kitchen. I try not to be too disappointed. It’s not like anything would have happened even if he had come in. The most I would have enjoyed would have been his fingers brushing mine lightly when he handed me the menu. He always takes a menu, even though he always makes the same order. Sometimes I think it’s an excuse to touch me, but that’s silly. A man like Dominic doesn’t need to come to a restaurant just to brush his fingers briefly with a waitress. He is the sort of man who can have any woman he wants, and who can do whatever he wants to them.
I start walking toward the doors, walking slowly just in case he comes in. Maybe I’ll meet him at the door. Maybe our hands will meet the handle on opposite sides of the glass. Maybe…
I am still several feet from the door when it slams open. Dominic is here. But it’s not like it usually is. He doesn’t come strolling in with a suave smile. He doesn’t take his hat off and put it on the rack. He’s not wearing a hat. His head is bare and his thick dark curls are damp from rain. His face is a mask of determination and he has a look in his dark brown eyes I’ve never seen before. It’s ferocious and malevolent. It makes me move out of his way in a hurry.
He is not alone. There’s a man flailing in his grasp. I recognize him as Marcel Morrison. He owns this place. I hardly ever see him in here. He usually gets the duty managers to take care of things. It’s hard to recognize him at first. He’s not looking good. There’s a big welted bruise on the side of his face. Did Dominic do that to him? What is going on?
It’s like I’m not even there as Dominic pushes Marcel toward the kitchen. He’s not allowed back there, but saying that seems redundant because I know he’s about to run into Antonio. Nobody messes with Antonio’s kitchen. Antonio once cleared the restaurant screaming at a lady who dared go back to tell him how to sear her steak properly. It took a full week for our clientele to return.
I stand, staring, waiting for the inevitable explosion.
It doesn’t happen. Two seconds after Dominic goes in, Antonio comes rushing out, along with the dish boy. Antonio has my bag and coat in his hand. He pushes them into my arms as he comes past.
Antonio used to be a cook in the Marine Corps. He’s covered in tattoos and he’s about six-five, three hundred pounds. He looks like he’s just seen a ghost. His face is pale and for once he’s keeping his voice down.
“Come on, Marina,” Antonio whispers. He’s already halfway out the door. “Let’s go.”
I should leave, but something keeps my feet rooted. Fear, maybe. Maybe not. I find myself moving toward the kitchen. Antonio and Little Marco the dish boy are already long gone. They haven’t waited to see if I am coming with them.
I should go too. But I can’t. It’s been almost five days since I last saw Dominic. I’ve missed him. Craved him. It’s a silly girlish crush, but it’s all the more powerful for manifesting in me, a grown woman.
I’m curious as to what’s going on. Marcel isn’t liked by the staff. He pays shit wages and he takes tips for himself too. I want to be able to tell the story of what Dominic did to Marcel, because I know that’s all we’re going to be talking about tomorrow.
I slip around toward the kitchen. There’s a little hall off to the side. It leads to the bathrooms. There’s a door we don’t usually use, but you can sort of see through it. I know I shouldn’t be doing this, but I can’t help myself. I tiptoe down toward the bathrooms and peek through the crack in the wall.
Dominic is standing in the middle of the kitchen. I can see him quite clearly, read every expression on his handsome face. There’s usually warmth in his features, but right now he might as well be made of stone for the way he looks.
“Dom…” Marcel is cringing. He’s not quite on his knees, but he looks like he’s not far off it.
“Mr. Leone,” Dominic corrects him coolly. “I warned you, Marcel. I told you this had to stop.”
“Mr. Leone, I tried, but…”
“No excuses, Marcel. You’re drawing the kind of attention we don’t want.”
I have no idea what they’re talking about, but Dominic is speaking in tones that make me quiver. He’s so naturally dominant, even when he’s casually ordering tortellini. In this mode, he is utterly fearsome.
“Just one more shipment, Mr. Leone. Please.”
“I don’t have any choice. I already took the payment.”
“Return the money,” Dominic says calmly.
“I… I already spent it,” Marcel confesses. There’s a note of tearful near-hysteria to his voice. I feel sorry for him. I wouldn’t want to be called in front of Dominic like this. I’d be groveling at his feet by now.
“Then you have a problem.” Dominic’s eyes narrow to two dark slits. “I’ve been clear with you, haven’t I, Marcel?”
He’s speaking in calm, patronizing, dangerous tones. I find myself squirming where I stand.
“I can’t change anything now.” Marcel is starting to sound a little braver. Maybe because he doesn’t have a choice. It sounds like whatever is done is done, but Dominic isn’t going to accept that. “This has to happen, Dominic, I’m sorry.”
“Oh, you’ll be sorry…” Dominic doesn’t get to finish the sentence before there’s a flash of silver that changes everything. Dominic has looked like the aggressor all this time, but it’s Marcel who pulls a knife and jabs it toward Dominic’s hard stomach. Dominic steps back gracefully, like a dancer—and then there’s a gun in his hand. A single shot follows.
Marcel slumps to the floor and I scream at the top of my lungs. It’s an alarm sound that comes rising out of my psyche, a primal screech I can’t control or contain.
Dominic looks at me through the narrow gap in the door. Our eyes meet and I feel the force of his personality from across the space between us. For a second I am sure he will lift that gun and my life will end.
“Stay there, Marina.”
Stay here? Stay here and wait to be murdered? Even I am not that stupid.
I run for the door, my feet pounding against the wood floor. Suddenly, the tables I navigate around on a daily basis are impassable obstacles. I bang into chairs, nearly trip… and then his hand closes around my upper arm and I am caught.
“What are you doing here, naughty girl?” He pulls me back against the hard line of his body. I’ve dreamed of what it would feel like to be pressed against him a dozen times, but I never imagined it would be under circumstances like these. I’m terrified of him. And yet, when I look into his eyes, I don’t see the cold man who just shot Marcel. I see warmth, I see interest. What I don’t see is the anger I expected to be there.
“I… work here.”
“You should have left with the others.”
“Y-you just…” I point toward the kitchen.
“What you just saw didn’t happen,” he says calmly. The gun is gone. It’s probably still secreted somewhere about his person, along with god knows what other dangerous objects. This man is death personified.
I stare at him. There are no words. His hand is strong around my arm. I know I’m not getting away. I’m not sure if I want to.
What he did was self-defense. But the way he did it was so damn smooth. There was no hesitation. And he’s not bothered by it now. There’s not so much as a tremor in his hand. He’s as steady as ever.
“I… I won’t tell anyone.”
“Oh, I know you won’t,” he says, letting me go with a gentle smile. “Get your coat and your bag, Marina.”
He has taken charge of the situation. I need him to. I don’t know what to do with myself. Once I get home, this will probably all come crashing down on me, but for the moment I’m on autopilot.
I let him take me without struggling. He leads me out the back of the restaurant where a car and driver are waiting. Why did he come in the front if this car was waiting in the back? My brain is generating weird questions, anything to avoid the thought of Marcel and his body lying on the kitchen floor. I didn’t know him very well, but I know I just saw him die and I know Dominic is how he died and…
Dominic opens the back door and guides me in, his hand on the top of my head. I slide into the rich leather interior and he follows after me.
“Seatbelt on,” he says, reaching over me with a long arm to take the seatbelt. He draws it over my body and clips it into place. I notice he doesn’t do the same for himself.
The driver reverses out of the alley, spins around, and sends the car into the night. I should probably look where we’re going, but my eyes are filled with tears and my mind is numb.
I fall silent. He killed someone. Right in front of me. I’m not going to argue with him in case the same thing happens to me. Although I’m not going to be stupid enough to pull a knife on him.
I’ve known from the beginning that Dominic was a bad man. It rolls off him in waves. It’s the reason I found him so alluring. Whenever he walked in, he brought the dark side of the world with him, and I loved it.
“Where are we going?”