A/N: So, just try it out? The Cullens are the "Cullencianos" in this story.
Disclaimer: I do NOT own Twilight.
We didn't meet at a loud swing or popular speakeasy like you might have imagined. The deeply morbid, although serenely altruistic, series of events I rendered as my life began at Dona Von's Italian Restaurant- a place where my father often took my mother, a woman that wasn't very easy to please. Charlie, whom was one to gloat, treated her as a trophy and she never faltered, not once. I knew that although they graced me with kind smiles and occasional pats on the crown of my head, I wasn't actually what they expected of me. I hadn't been accepted to Sarah Wattson Women's Institution, my various personal essays hadn't been published in the Times as my mother had when she was my age, and I was no shoe in for a spot at the police station where my father worked. Safely, I was not the fabulous child they wanted.
We moved from Washington State and headed East to the windiest city in the country, or so I've been told. 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 a pleasure to meet you!" Alice Cullenciano held out her hand to me, and I immediately recognized her as the shining belle of the Cullenciano Crime Family. It was a tiny amount of porcelain skin, but I shook it softly nonetheless.
I could only hope that she would spare me the illustrious talk a girl did when her father was speaking business at the table. The Cullencianos; it wasn't a name you just threw about in everyday talk. They were vast in numbers, spread a great width in control and intimidation, and yet had the sweetest smiles when you met them face-to-face. I snapped out of my dark thoughts and smiled back at her. "It's wonderful to meet you as well." Her pearly white smile matched her mother's.
Bullies. Bosses. Businessmen. I had a word for them, and so did my parents. Mafia. Straightforward, clean cut Mafia. They had business dealings varying from prostitution to breaching prohibition back when it was banned. 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. From the vast amount of crime lord families I had the displeasure to have met with (in the space of time that my father was as notorious as he was), she was one of the first to look present, not higher than the Empire State Building.
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- a woman who belonged to an important man. That was the sort of person I could never, ever be, and for good reason.
I didn't fear that I was seventeen and had only been kissed on the cheek by a boy who ran scared afterward; my love life was bland, and so very sad, but at least I wasn't withered down to a buffoon of a girl hanging on some boy's arm.
My mother didn't need to verbally say how beautiful Alice Cullenciano was. Her shoulder length cobalt hair (from whom she got it 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 forties, people knew what these suits meant. People feared the men in the suits, and they feared most the contents of their holster.. It made me absolutely hot and bothered when I saw men in black valor fedoras and high-waist 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 to grace the presence of a deliciously forbidden fruit, knowing I would never be with him in any sense of the word. "Hello, Miss Swan." His accent was a mix between Italian and pure American, marking his Second Generation Citizenship.
"Hello, Mr. Cullenciano." I felt awkward calling him that. "Mr. Cullenciano" made me think of Carlisle Cullenciano- not young, suave 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 said rather dismissively, as though this was all a nuisance to him.
"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 and she instantly lost the excited color of her face, but kept the smile.
"I'm seventeen. I just graduated from St Mary's." 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 add 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. As soon as the age of 12 rounded the corner, I was suddenly expected to accompany my parents wherever they went and had to have a mantra of sorts stored in my brain for questions like these. I did wear Chanel clothing; I was wearing a layered crème party dress that night. But I was nothing compared to Alice's racy choice of clothing, fabric cut in different angles and skin showing- 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 lunch and acquire a new outfit, or two?" Esme smiled dashingly, causing us to laugh softly in her wake. 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.
"That is a swell idea, mother!" Alice smiled serenely, a silent look of madness in her eyes that perhaps only I saw. "And then Bella and I can take dates to the screening of Casablanca Friday night!" My body stiffened at the idea of 'dates'. I was not a very social person, but I had pretended to be for this evening- I couldn't necessarily shout at her, but I wanted her to not say anything like that again.
"Aliciana." Edward's dark eyes looked directly into hers. "Miss Swan should probably be more concerned with upcoming studies, rather than a date." When he turned and winked at me, I suddenly felt a thousand pounds light. It was as if I was a 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 like that?
"Oh, enough talk about studying! We are young still. Besides-" Alice's mouth worked itself in frenzy as she spluttered a quick list of instances where he had acted very 'young' himself. Edward held a hand up to her, and she quickly shut her little mouth. 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 Cullenciano, I would come to learn, lest any man. But Edward did it with a lift of his clean, rugged hands.
"…Hijuandera Pointe is a wonderful vacation destination. Some of our greatest memories are there, found under the tropical palm trees." Esme wooed my mother with her vacation love stories, and was even casting me under the spell as well. What a life to have- never working a day in your life, always smiling, being pretty for your husband, taking vacations whenever you felt the whim… surely, it was too good to be true?
"Perhaps I'll take you there, Miss Swan." Edward murmured, as if reading my mind from across the table. It made my throat go dry, and I wanted to run and hide when he looked at me the way he did. Instead, I sent him a challenging smile that didn't quite reach my eyes, hellbent on playing Big Girl that evening.
"Hijuandera," I was aware that I butchered that word to hell, "is for honeymooners." I sipped from my light Chardonnay, sending a pointed look. 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 Made 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 Cullencianos 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! Edward and I were in a heated staring match, not willing to break the moment in fear that it'd never happen again.
"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, and even tipped his head and glass of Brandy at a few comments. And then he turned to me, a cheesy smile on his oily face. He began to speak rapid Italian, and I caught absolutely none of it besides the word 'beautiful', or perhaps he was just saying my name? When he turned his focus to Edward, and by the way he spoke, I could tell that he was challenging Edward, both with his eyes and words.
"English, Von. Miss Swan wants to know when she's being called beautiful." Edward finally answered my questioning looks- well, almost daggers in nature. I was off put by the entire thing- sure, it was a beautiful language, but it was awfully rude to speak nearly the entire time in a foreign language!
"Of course." Von sent his charming smile to me and said a few terse sentences in English, accented through many years. I smiled through the unbearably awkward ordeal, not daring to look towards my parents for approval/disapproval of the situation. I was told to always fake it, even if I didn't understand one thing going on or being said. And obviously, I had shown a great weakness of the typical American Girl by forcing the restaurant owner to speak in a language that made him uncomfortable. I unconsciously picked at my nails just thinking of the criticism my parents would have for me on our ride home.
"Grazi, Von, but our guests have had enough for tonight. Have a plate of Tiramisu sent to our table and another bottle of Chardonnay." Mr. Cullenciano dismissed the man with a wave of his cigar, and got to speaking in low tones with my father once again.
And just like that, the tone of the evening had changed- Alice was chatty once more, our mothers were pretending to be enthralled with one another, and Edward suddenly seemed two breaths away from me the entire time. In an act of chivalry, he gave our fathers space and took a seat next between Alice and I as if that made me any more comfortable. It set me on edge the entire time, not knowing if there was something on my face or food in my teeth all the while he drank to his heart's desire and began to tell stories of his motherland. He even poured my wine and dabbed the sides of my mouth when the tiramisu got too messy, a motion I at first resisted. But by the third glass, everything started to feel very soft and warm, and so it was more comforting than unsettling. I laughed listlessly as he told story after story about Sicily, his father occasionally jumping in and editing the narration some.
My heart sank when my parents stood up and collected their coats, which was usually my cue to follow. I didn't want to leave, at least not yet, but I knew the drill and wouldn't dare try and break the mold.
"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 as much as I primarily though. I suppose I rather fancied him. "Bella, will you be alright with the Cullencianos? A driver can be sent to return you to the house when you chose so." My ears perked up at my father's suggestion. They would leave me alone here, knowing how cozy Edward and I were getting? Surely, they were playing a cruel joke on me! I tried not to let it show on my face, but my heart was beating both fast and slow at the idea of not having my father's watchful eye over me for the rest of the evening. "Your mother and I are needed down at the station. I'd hate to have to drag you away from such an…entertaining supper." His eyes held a glint of hope, as if I would be doing the ultimate sacrifice by staying. I nodded slowly and settled back into Edward's nook, where I seemed to be naturally belonging. 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 and strong cologne.
I wanted to wave them off in a hurry and get back to being wooed, but it wasn't sitting right with me. 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. I sent them both a worried look, but the cheery smiles they sent back settled my frazzled nerves some. "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. Before leaving 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 lovely 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 and 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 and my entire lower half lit up in flames; I almost felt like I was apart of a lover's silent moment, two different people from two different walks of life bonding over a meal. We zoned out of the loud conversation his family was having, if only to delve deeper into each other's presence, and he was going to utter a soft word to me when dangerously loud noises rang throughout the building. I hadn't ever heard those sounds before, besides in the movies, but they didn't really sound like what the cinema manipulated at all. My ears were ringing like blow horns by the time the breaking of glass, revving of engines, and calls of frightened people registered. Bullet holes were already beginning to mar the intimate restaurant's walls, and wine glasses, along with stacked wine bottles along the walls, broke by the dozens.
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 tried hard to keep a steady breath, trying to remember all of the preparation my father had given me about situations like these.
The only real advice I could remember was a mantra my dad used to say. Don't panic, Bella, that's the worst you can do.
So I repeated it to myself, over and over again, praying this would be over already.I was that close- so close to being shot, and possibly killed. When the gunshots finally stopped, I peeked around and saw Emmett facing his back to the large paned windows, Alice coddled to him tightly. Carlisle nearly lay atop Esme, a soft whimpering sound mixed with the painful cries that flittered across the room. We hadn't been alone that evening, with a cumulating ten other guests, but it would seem we were the only ones unharmed.
My eyes grew wet at the irony of that. This was most likely to do with the Cullencianos, yet they were the only ones unharmed? God's humor was sometimes cruel, I knew that, but not this cruel. Then I thought of my parents, and I sent a silent prayer up to the heavens that they were already halfway to the station by now. Had they stayed, would they have been harmed? I thanked God for sending them on an errand, but also cursed him for letting those guns harm anyone at all.
I looked up when I felt a pair of eyes on me, and they were the prettiest Emerald orbs I had ever had the pleasure of looking into. But unlike earlier, they were a darker shade, a more brooding kind of color. He hadn't said a word and neither did he move from his hovering position atop me. It didn't slip my mind that he had chosen to protect me, the same way his father did his mother, without so much as a thought to his own safety. Who did that for a stranger? I couldn't even say I would… heck, I had almost gotten myself killed by panicking and not acting quick enough! "T-thank you." I spluttered, not sure what one was suppose to say in a situation like this one. My parents hadn't grilled me over a practiced speech for this. I wanted to kiss him, if only to show my eternal gratitude, but I stopped myself short when another look took over his face.
The look of flirtation left his mug and was replaced with agitation- I averted my eyes out of embarrassment, silently cursing myself for doing whatever it was that I did and ruining that. But what caught my eye when I wasn't looking into his made an involuntary scream slip; had that been my voice, really? I wasn't aware, before that moment, that my voice could reach that high of a note. There was blood seeping out of his side and I had no idea where it was coming from, but when I moved from under him to assess, it seamlessly pooled onto my satin skirt all the way down my calves.
"Bella!" I heard Esme gasp out my name, suggesting that they thought I was the cause for alarm. Carlisle Cullenciano moved me away from Edward, whom was growing a bit pale and lost that look of absolute control he had the entire evening. The ringing in my ears went into another phase, wherein I heard nothing at all, just a low drum of frantic voices now surrounding us. But all the while, Edward kept his stare on me, daring me to cry or fold like a deck of cards or runaway like I wanted to- he said nothing, maybe out of pain or shock or pride, but I felt as though his eyes spoke volumes to me.
And so I did.
A/N: currently under major revision, but the basic plot will stay the same.
This is for all of my loyal readers out there, you beautiful people re-reading this long-winded story for over four years… I truly appreciate every review, follow, and favorite!