A/N: So, just try it out? The Cullens are the "Cullencianos" in this story.
Disowner: I do NOT own Twilight.
We didn't meet at a loud swing or popular speakeasy like you might have imagined. No, it all began at Dona Von's Italian restaurant- a place where my father often took my mother, Rene. Charlie, whom was one to gloat, treated her as a trophy. And she never faltered. No, never faltered. Not as I was that afternoon.
Charles Swan was the chief of police in one of Chicago's newest districts. There were too many ties that belonged to Washington, so they moved. His daughter and dazzling wife grew accustomed to the fast city life style, as he expected them to. I rolled my eyes at the prospect that my father was so proud of me. Why could he not take pride in the countless horses I trained, or perhaps the helping hand I gave his department- signing things for him when his hand was too weak, bringing refreshments to his officers when cases were being cracked, being of no bother to him when he came home moody and angered. "It's nice to meet you." Alice Cullen held out her hand to me. It was a tiny amount of porcelain skin, but I shook it softly nonetheless.
This was where people usually knew they made a best friend or a worst enemy. But I wasn't that kind of girl. I could only hope that she would spare me the illustrious talk a girl did when her father was speaking business at the table. Tonight, we would be sharing a long meal with a large, well-known family. The Cullencianos. It wasn't a name you just threw about in everyday talk. I snapped out of my dark thoughts and smiled back at her. "It's wonderful to meet you, also." Her pearly white smile matched her mother's. Esme Cullenciano held the hand and reins of Carlisle Cullenciano, the man whom ran everything else. There were a lot of different terms they had for the Cullens.
Bullies. Bosses. Businessmen. I had a word for them, and so did my parents. Mafia. Straightforward, clean cut Mafia. They did business dealings varying from prostitution to breaching prohibition. They bullied, they bossed people around, and they did a lot of business. People weren't wrong in their judging. They just didn't have the whole picture. From what my father told me, the Cullencianos offered valid protection to shops and restaurants from rival gangs, they sold alcohol to damned sinners anyway, and they kept their business clean enough. That satisfied Charlie. "Rene, your daughter is stunning." Esme looked at me with clear, blue eyes. Mafia bosses usually had wives with bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils. What truthful sinner could blame them? To have that entire drug at their fingertips?
Rene looked at me with adoration, something I wished she held for me all of the time. "Thank you, Esme. She is." I blushed and hid under the napkin I took from the wineglass, making a show of fluttering then folding it onto my lap. That's what my mother taught me to do instead of giggle or make a complete fool of myself. This was what ladies did. Did I forget to mention I am Bella Swan, blushing, bumbling fool of a girl? Rene and Esme had similar builds; dazzling smile, back straight, arms folded, legs crossed, posture perfect. That was a society woman. That was a woman who belonged to an important man.
I didn't fear that I was seventeen and had only been kissed on the cheek by a boy who ran scared when my father accused him of much more when he pulled us over after our date. That was humiliating. I never went on a date after that. Well, if you counted being courted by Senator Moffletz's son for a few months, I had one more date. That ended in disaster when he proposed just minutes before he dropped me off for the night. Failure. My love life was bland, and so very sad.
My mother didn't need to verbally say how beautiful Alice Cullenciano was. Her shoulder length cobalt hair (from whom she got from was a mystery) stayed charmingly put and her cute smile was lightly glossed. Esme had flowy chestnut colored hair and Mr. Cullenciano was a born blonde. In a subconscious act, my nails, painted nude, felt the wisps of brown hair I had. They were plain, yet luscious locks my mother used to enjoy brushing and fiddling with. My mother sent me a warning look, pleading that I cease my ministrations. My hand automatically went to my lap and stayed there for the remainder of the entrée. "They have arrived." Carlisle Cullenciano winked teasingly to my father, who grumbled good naturedly back.
Two men, one slightly taller than the other, strode confidently to our table. I clutched at the scarlet table cloth, so subtly no one noticed. One man, with cooper hair smoothly parted tipped his fedora to me, then to my mother. The other, stockier, yet just a bit shorter, unlaced the first few buttons to his pinstriped suit. Here in the twenties, people knew what these suits meant. People feared the men in the suits, and they feared most the contents of their holster. Every respectable man wore a fedora. Its screamed money. It made me absolutely hot and bothered when I saw men in black valor fedoras and high-waste slacks, and perhaps a suave dinner jacket? I snapped from my fantasy and looked directly in front of me. There he was. Edward Cullenciano, in the flesh. I hadn't actually ever met him before. There was no need. "Hello, Miss Swan." His accent was a mix between Italian and pure American.
"Hello, Mr. Cullenciano." I felt awkward calling him that. "Mr. Cullenciano" made me think of Carlisle Cullenciano- not young, sexy Edward. But I would never call him by name unless he directly told me so. I doubted that would ever be, seeing as how he didn't even send a smile or second word. The other man, whom I later learned was Emmett, looked nothing like his sister and brother. Edward and Alice looked like near twins, resembling Esme the most. A gorgeous factor seemed to run in their blood.
"Well, we're here to talk business. Let's have at it, shall we?" Emmett chimed royally; he must know his place well.
"Emmett." Alice warned. "So, Bella, how old are you? What do you like to do when you have time off? Do you have any favorite shops?" She turned our conversation south. Esme put her hand on her daughter's. Alice instantly lost the excited color of her face, but kept her smile.
"I'm seventeen. I just graduated." I blushed, not really knowing what to say. I couldn't divulge and tell them about my love of poetry, art, romanticism… I couldn't say that I wanted mafia-related friends like them to ass some kind of spice to my life. "As every girl, I have a love for Chanel. She is my inspiration." I could sense my mother mouthing the words to me as we practiced in front of her vanity. I was twelve before my dad took me out to a business dinner with him. There, I impressed him thoroughly. Thus, he added me to his guest list. I did wear Chanel clothing; I was wearing a layered crème party dress that night. I was uncomfortable with anything that didn't cover my knees, and so was my father.
"Very smart girl you have there, Charles. Perhaps us girls could get together for a fine lunch and acquire some shopping items?" Esme smiled dashingly. Carlisle uttered a few wise cracks to my dad, who chuckled. Rene and Esme conversed about it and Alice perked up, tugging the hem of Emmett's sleeve.
"Oh, Emmett! Wouldn't that be wonderful? You could meet my friend-"
"No, Alice." His booming voice quieted when she sent him the hint of a glare. "The last friend you set me up with vomited all over my nice shoes. And she had the nerve to think she was my moll!" Emmett seemed to be upset. Alice brushed off his outburst and turned to me.
"I have a friend that you would absolutely drewl over! I'm quite taken with him myself-"
"Alice." Edward's dark eyes looked directly into hers. "I will escort Miss Isabella Swan when she needs a man for her arm. None of your pretty boys will do." When he turned and winked at me, I suddenly felt a thousand pounds light. It was as if I was hot air balloon, lifting up from the table and flying over Chicago's city of crime and adultery. Why did girls feel light as a feather when guys looked at them?
"Sh-shopping? Eddie, you never shop with us." Alice's mouth worked itself in frenzy as she spluttered a quick list of instances where she begged him to escort her. Edward held a hand up to her, and she quickly shut her little mouth. She pouted comically and looked down at her food. I looked curiously at his hand and thought to myself that if a man ever dare shush me so crudely, I would bend it back so far that it would crack. Not many people could hush Alice Cullen, lest any man. But Edward did it with a lift of his soft, rough hands.
"Place View is a wonderful vacation place. Some of our greatest memories are there, found under the tropical palm trees." Esme wooed my mother with her vacation love stories.
"Perhaps I'll take you there, sweet Isabella." Edward murmured. I sent him a challenging smile.
"Place View is for honeymooners." I sipped from my light Chardonnay. Edward was throwing back full glasses of Brandy, as his father and my own were. By now, our dads had lit their expensive cigars and began to talk politics, which was dangerous when speaking to a Mafia member. There were no measures not taken when it came to making sure a Mafia man's favored politician won the election. Lucky Luciano and his men taught us that.
"Then I suppose you'll have to marry me." I giggled and shook my head. There was no way a match could ever come of us. "If an uptown boy doesn't beat me to it." My eyes flicked up to his. I hated that derogatory term. But as he searched my face, I felt as if he knew the name of the uptown boy. Michael Newton was as sweet as candy to me, and bought me things I never used. He had even gone as far as requesting my father for my hand. My dad politely declined, saying that I wasn't yet old enough for a marriage. I eternally thanked him for that bit of humanity, but fully refused to believe his reply to Mike. My mother and father couldn't wait to have a grandeur name attached to "Swan". So, what was the wait?
Uptown- I could just hear the adjectives that other slumlords put before it; spoiled, stuck-up, selfish uptowns. It was thanks to people like the Cullens that police families were targeted and whacked. I mentally blushed, not knowing how cruel and judgmental I could be when called an awful slur. I wasn't an uptown. Sure, I loved good food and couture clothing. That didn't make me snobby. At least I didn't go around selling awful substances to sick people. I wasn't the one who shot men dead for making measly mistakes. I didn't break laws just to show everyone how much of an egotistical, foolish person I was! "Dessert?" Dona Von himself approached our table and showered our mothers with sweet compliments and spoke to Carlisle in terse Italian, sparing my father a few words in English. The dirty blond haired Carlisle nodded to most of what he was saying, but Emmett stiffened drastically when Dona Von emphasized the word "pericolo". Alice grasped his hand under the table and squeezed it in her pixie like fashion, completely calming him.
"Von, incontare il me amore, Isabella." My head snapped at him when he used the word "love". We were not in love. I was merely a guest he had to entertain while our daddies talked cold, hard business. I had heard some of him before this, but nothing past Mafia.
"Lei e una vera bellezza. Ma ia solo meraviglia, non sa la sua posizione cosi come lo sai?" By the way he spoke, I could tell that he was challenging Edward, both with his eyes and words. Edward slid an arm around my shoulders and sat back comfortably.
"English, Von. Bella wants to know when she's being called beautiful." Edward finally answered my questioning looks- well, almost daggers in nature.
"Of course." Von sent his charming smile to me and began to speak in rapid English, accented through many years. I smiled at most of them, but in a childish act of fear, I scooted closer to Edward, who let his arm snake around my waist. He 'pffted' at Dona Von's pathetic, corny charm.
"Thank you, Von, but Bella has had enough for tonight. Have a plate of Tiramisu sent to our table and another bottle of Pinot Grigio for my little Bella. This Merlot is too strong for her small body." He doted on me for the duration of the night, choosing to feed me the cake (that tasted an awful lot like coffee) himself. He poured my wine and dabbed the sides of my mouth when the tiramisu got too messy. I laughed listlessly as he told story after story about Sicily, his father occasionally jumping in and editing the narration some. At one point, my father rose and my mother followed.
"We must be going, Rene and I need to run an errand." I looked up at Edward longingly, hating the dreadful feeling of leaving his side. I suppose I didn't hate him. I suppose I didn't love him. I rather fancied him. "Bella, you will be alright with the Cullencianos? A driver can be sent to return you to the house when you chose so. Your mother and I are needed down at the station. I'd hate to have to drag you away from such a…entertaining supper." His eyes held a glint of hope, as if I would be doing an ultimate sacrifice by staying. I nodded slowly and settled back into Edward's embrace. I enjoyed being with him, hearing his heartbeat so close to mine, laughing at all of his stories. He was a wonderful person, once you got pass the rough exterior.
That was the thing about my dad. You never knew when he was lying. And why was he taking my mom down to the station with him? She was dressed far too nice, and he hated letting anyone of us in that place. "Then I'll see you guys later." I smiled at my mother and father, who didn't even spare me a farewell hug or kiss. My dad offered to help with the tab, but Carlisle blatantly refused.
"No, Charlie. Edward and I will take full care of it. It was our pleasure meeting your whole family today." He shook hands with my dad and Esme placed feather kisses onto their cheeks. Rene and Charlie took their coats and walked out of the restaurant without a second glance back at me. They never left me with anyone; especially at a restaurant- my dad was way too paranoid. Especially not with near strangers. My mom trusted no woman she hadn't been in a Women's Club with for years.
Edward bent down to me and touched my nose with the soft pad of his index finger. I almost felt like I was apart of a lover's silent moment. We zoned out the conversation his family was having; he was going to utter a soft word to me when resilient gunshots flew through the building. Screams erupted from the room, one of them Alice's. I shut my eyes tight and held my body rigid as a board, barely registering that Edward had tackled me to the floor, my satin dress catching a third of my fall. I clutched onto Edward, as if he could make the angry ammunition go away with a lift of his hand. My heart skipped a beat and I tired hard to keep a steady breath. I was that close- so close to being shot, and possibly killed. I looked around and saw Emmett facing his back to the large paned windows, Alice coddled to him tightly. Carlisle nearly lay on top of Esme, praying to whatever god that was out there that nothing horrible would come of this.
What was the business my father and Mr. Cullenciano were there to speak about anyway?