A/N: Guys, relax, it's only been like three days since Letty made shit official. People don't change overnight. And y'all know how stubborn Dominic can be. So, chill, his FIRST breakdown is coming. Perhaps even in this very chapter. hint hint, wink wink, elbow nudge. Oh, flashback to Letty first meeting Sebastian is in the next chapter. I tried to fit it in this one, but it just didn't work. Annnd also, thank you so much for the amazing reviews! Can't believe this story has over 700. I'm truly humbled and honored. Thank you.
One week later...
Owen Shaw's charismatic, contagious laughter filled the marketing team's conference room. Letty, the source of his laughter, along with her creative team, shared in his joyous wonderment of the event they'd spent the last week planning.
"Leticia, I must say," Shaw's accent charming the panties off half the women (and a couple of men) in the room, "you lot are absolutely brilliant at what you do. I mean, my company has been enticed by the likes of fundraising galas, tasteless wine and silent auction affairs, and even a bit of bribing. But, you..." he looked around the room, nodding his head in approval, "you take the cake. I mean, a Victorian-era masquerade ball? Now, that's just bloody epic."
As the staff attempted to decipher what he was trying to say, Owen stood in his incredibly expensive Hugo Boss suit, buttoning his tailored jacket back up. Holding his hand out, he shook Leticia's vigorously, before bringing it to his lips and kissing the back of it.
"It has been lovely hearing your ideas and the ideas of your marketing team. I look forward to seeing what "A Night with Royalty" brings. Well done."
Leticia gave a slight nod of appreciation and acknowledgement of his compliments with a graceful smile on her face. Inside, she was bursting to jump up and down and scream. Once Owen Shaw, CEO, and his assistant made their exit, the soundproof encasement was a flutter with congratulations, whoops and whistles and even a few hugs.
"Okay, guys. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Now comes the hard part: making this happen in two weeks. We've been on tighter time crunches before, so I know we can do this." Before dismissing her people, she added, "We're so close to the winner's circle, guys. Let's finish this race in first, yeah?"
"Damn right." Sean drawled in his Texan accent.
"Alright, go forth and be fruitful." Letty smiled. "Although, somehow I'm sure that quote isn't talking about tailors and decorators."
The next week was a blur of constant phone calls, on both her personal and business lines, emails back and forth with caterers, event planners and even Dominic's interior designer, Suki. When some things came together, it seemed as if yet another issue needed her attention. Letty was keeping her head above water, just as she'd always done. When Owen's assistant emailed her with yet another change of their guest list, however, everything in her wanted to call it quits.
When she first started working at Toretto Enterprises, Leticia would shoot a text to Dominic, letting him know that her head was about to explode. That was usually when he'd have a maseusse or her favorite candy down to her office. And there was that time when he was out of the country, but sent her a video reel of him making silly faces at every monument the city had to offer, complete with witty quotes. Now, she didn't so much need him, as she wanted the distraction that came with his sweet, silly behavior.
Something to remind her of how they used to be.
But then, with the thought of Dominic, came the thoughts of Sebastian and every emotion she felt upon learning of the child and meeting him. And she was back to square one: stressed.
"Letty, I called the caterer and confirmed the three hundred guests."
"Well, call them back and confirm three-hundred-and-six."
"But, this is the third time-."
"Yes, thank you, Sophie." Letty nearly snapped. She inhaled deeply and put her hands on her head, trying to calm herself.
Sophie watched her boss's body language for a moment, understanding that she didn't need complaints from the staff. So, the exotic woman nodded her head and left the doorway to do what was asked of her.
Just then, Letty's cell rang. "Ohfortheloveofgod!" she exclaimed before switching to a more professional, "This is Leticia."
"Let, it's Riley, this a bad time?"
"It could be worse. What's going on?"
"I got your first set court date. The paperwork is in the hands of a courier, should be there before closing time."
"Great. Thanks." Try as she might to keep the sarcasm and frustration out of her voice, it was still there.
"Hey, and don't shoot that messenger."
"Ha ha." Letty deadpanned, her mood lightened slightly at Riley's joke.
"Cheer up, pup. I'll let you go. Call me if you have any questions."
Taking on such a time-consuming project while in the middle of a legal separation wasn't a brilliant idea, but Leticia was determined to make this work.
"DT, let's get this show on the road, man!" Vince shouted as he walked into the living room of the penthouse. He stopped in his tracks at the mess he saw.
Feeling like he was in a cliché breakup film, Vince was shocked and appalled by the takeout food containers, power bar wrappers and half-finished Gatorade bottles in the living room. He was sure the kitchen wouldn't be any cleaner, with dishes piled high in the sink. Walking down the hall, the smell was horrid. The small laundry room, normally hidden by a wooden-slat sliding door was open and Vince could see the beginning of an Alps-sized mountain of gym clothes and sneakers, a pair of dirty boxing gloves on top.
"DT! What the fuck, bro?" Vince yelled. He closed the laundry closet's door as if that would shield the remainder of the living quarters from the musty gym smell. Letty was going to kill him.
"Oh shit. Sorry, V. I haven't gotten a chance to clean up. It's been nothing but gym and work for me these past few days." Dom said, coming out of the bedroom. He met his childhood friend at the end of the hall and, together, they headed for the foyer.
"What's going on with you, man?"
"I can't even get into it right now. So much shit has gone down and I-."
"Where's Letty? Does she know her home looks like this?"
"It ain't her home anymore!" Dom exclaimed. Then the reality of his words hit him and he sank down onto the couch. In a quieter tone, he repeated, "It ain't her home anymore."
"What are you talking about? You two getting divorced?"
"She wants a legal separation right now." Dom sighed, putting his hands in his head. "I'm praying to any deity that'll listen that she doesn't leave me for good. I need that woman."
"Shit." Vince replied, dropping down into the leather recliner to Dom's right. "Why didn't you tell me, man?"
"There's nothing you can do. Plus, you've got your own shit going on."
"So? You're my brother, DT. I would've been there for you."
"I know. And I appreciate it, but I don't even know where to begin sorting my shit out."
"Well, you can start by cleaning this funky ass penthouse, bro. This shit is rank, man."
Dom chuckled. "I know. I've been meaning to. I been hitting the gym and running pretty hard this week."
"That's good for your anger and frustration. But you're still gonna need comfy clothes for win the confusion and heartbreak set in, man. Believe me, I know. Separation is tough. I almost lost my mind when Monica left me. I sat in ball shorts and t-shirts, in the dark, for days."
"Vince, you were still banging your wife even though you were in the middle of a divorce."
"And trust me, sex didn't make anything any easier. I just kept needing to be with her all the time and wanting to keep her close because I knew I wasn't shit and she didn't deserve me. But I wanted her."
"Sounds like I could learn a thing or two from you."
"And you know this, maaan!" Vince chuckled, standing. "For real, DT, I'm here for you."
"Thanks, V." Dominic stood as well, shaking his best friend's hand and pulling him in for a hug.
"You're welcome. Now, let's go try on these tuxedos. I need to look good for this masquerade thing. There's this little honey, named Rosa, in the mailroom that I'm trying to impress."
Dom shook his head as they started towards the elevator.
"And then we can come back here and air this motherfucker out."
Three days before the masquerade ball, Letty came home for lunch so she and Gisele could make their last gown fitting. She ran upstairs to change into a pair of yoga pants and shirt. The brunette was sidetracked, however, as she passed Gisele's closed bedroom door. There were thoroughly excited moans and squeals coming from the Israeli's room, followed by a man's voice, asking if Letty's roommate "liked it like that".
Leticia's jaw dropped and she covered her mouth, trying to conceal her muffled laughter at the corny dirty talk on the way to her room. Leave it to Gisele to get laid in the middle of the day when normal people were at work. Hurriedly, Letty dressed and headed back downstairs to wait for Gisele to finish her midday romp.
She was in the kitchen, eating frozen strawberry banana yogurt from the carton when Gisele and her guest walked downstairs. Shifting slightly to the left on her stool, Letty's eyes widened when the man's face was revealed.
"Han!" Letty mouthed silently to herself. When she heard the door shut behind him, the brunette cleared her throat to make her presence known. Her model friend entered the kitchen, tightening the knot on her mint green silk robe. Leticia held up a sheet of paper that she'd written '9.5' on in pink Sharpie.
Gisele gave a quiet, but sarcastic chuckle. "What are you doing home so early?"
"In the course of getting your back blown, you must have forgotten our dress fitting." Letty smirked.
"Oh fuck. Let me go change! Eight minutes!" She yelled, running daintily through the living room and back up the stairs.
Letty shook her head and chuckled. Her chuckles turned into dry laughter and it was only seconds before her laughter turned into sobs. For the first time in almost a month, Leticia broke down, crying so hard, it was painful. She was still crying when Gisele made her reappearance, dressed similarly to her best friend. Hearing the heart-clenching sobs that wracked her friend's body, she went running to the kitchen, unsure what she was going to find.
Without saying a word, Gisele wrapped her arms around her greatest friend and decided now was not the time for words. Now was the time when Letty just needed to... be.
The Penthouse, Saturday, 7:45PM
Dominic slipped into his shiny, black Salvatore Ferragamo captoe shoes and laced them up. Checking his Tag Heuer watch, he sighed. He hated being behind schedule, but he had needed an extra hour at the gym that night. In his office, he had signed the last sheet of paper and emailed back the last client of the evening and suddenly his thoughts began to swirl around like an ocean sinkhole, pulling him into the dark recesses of his mind.
Almost immediately, his heart had begun to pound and it was suddenly hard to breathe. His vision went in and out. He was having a panic attack. It was the first one he'd ever had in his life. Mostly because he was usually so good at controlling his emotions and not allowing them to get the best of him. But, this… this predicament in which he'd found himself was so… different.
So, Dominic had gone to the gym to let out what he'd believed to be anger and frustration at himself. And Klaus had made it unbelievably clear that it wasn't anger and frustration, it was his heartbreak setting in. He was officially beginning to feel the things that he had been trying to suppress for nearly two weeks now.
"You need to sit your ass down and really think about things, man. Stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off just to avoid returning to an empty home and sitting in your thoughts. That's not the way you'll get your wife back." Klaus had told him. "You still haven't hit rock bottom, yet. And you need to."
So, here he was, Dominic Toretto, pulling on his tuxedo jacket as he walked down the hallway to the living room of his lifeless penthouse. Stopping at the end of the narrow corridor, Dom looked in the small mirror that Leticia had placed there long ago, to make one final attempt at tying up his bow-tie. Something Leticia had always done for him.
He began to get frustrated; his heart beginning to race like it did in his office. His hands dropped to his sides and he stared in the mirror, his eyes blurring with unshed tears. His breathing quickened, chest heaving. He couldn't even look at himself.
Fingers clenched into fists and his right hand cocked back before slamming into the glass of the mirror, shattering it into dozens of pieces. And he kept hitting and hitting until his hand went through the plaster of the wall.
With bleeding knuckles, and no doubt, some sort of sprain, Dom kept hitting. And his tears kept falling.
"Hey! Hey! DT! DT! Come on, man! Stop!" Vince's voice shouted. He ran to his best friend and gripped his forearm, tightly getting him to stop hitting the wall.
"She left me! I pushed her away, Vince! What the fuck do I have if I don't have her?" Dominic shouted.
"Come on, brother. Come here." Quickly Vince pulled Dominic into an embrace and the pair sank to the floor. In that moment, they didn't care about the shattered glass, the enormous hole in the wall, or their tuxedos getting filthy.
This was about Dominic's breakdown.
And it was nearly an hour before Dominic could speak again without his voice shaking. The two men had ended up with either of their backs against the wall, heads resting there as well. "How did I fuck things up so badly? Where did this fucking god complex come from?"
Vince said nothing; just let his childhood best friend vent.
"I mean, I broke the promise I made to myself and you guys and to my wife. I promised myself, you, Leon, and Jesse that no matter how much money we came into with this company, that I would stay grounded and humble. I promised my wife that we'd always be equals in everything. But, I… I don't know. Is it the money? The respect? The power? I just don't know. But what I do know is, I was alive but I wasn't really living until I met Letty."
"Man," Vince sighed, shaking head, "that 'don't know what you've got 'til it's gone' shit is really the truth."
"Yeah, it is." Dom replied. He raised his head from the wall and lifted his left hand. It was swollen and throbbing, dried blood holding in a few small pieces of glass. "Leticia will kill me if I miss this event."
"Let's get you cleaned up and to the ER."
"No, man. I can't miss this event. The ER will take too long. I'll clean it here and just wrap an ACE bandage around it."
Hearing the desperation in Dominic's voice, Vince sighed and stood up, holding his hand out to help the bald Cuban up as well. "Fine. Come on."
Calabasas Country Club, Saturday, 9:47PM
The lush, rolling green hills of Los Angeles was the backdrop for the masquerade ball. The sky was dark and clear, filled with twinkling stars and a brilliantly glowing moon. With twenty of the largest event tents twinkling under soft white, string holiday lights and beautiful floating candle centerpieces, the ball was in full swing. Crisp black tablecloths lined in gold matched their high, wing-backed chairs made available for every guest. Extravagant, battery-operated chandeliers hung inside every tent, giving a soft, warm glow to everything. Waitresses clad in black leotards, sheer tights and gold and black lace masks, carried vintage gold serving trays with Marie Antoinette wine goblets.
A lovely waltz was being played by ten of the top musicians from the Los Angeles Symphony as Letty floated around the party in a gold Victorian dress, complete with a black, lace neckline that pushed her petite breasts up, almost provocatively. With her thin, black lace mask, tied together with gold satin ribbons behind her full curls, she was still easily recognizable to anyone who needed her immediate attention.
"Ah, there she is. Leticia Ortiz-Toretto, the belle of the ball." Owen Shaw's accented voice announced his presence before Letty set eyes on him. When she turned to face him, he gave a low bow and she returned with a graceful curtsy.
"Please, call me Owen."
She gave a slight tilt of her head in acknowledgement.
"This is truly an exquisite affair. Everything is stunning, everyone seems to be having the time of their lives, and well, you," his intricately designed mask did nothing to hide the way his eyes travelled down her body and then back up to his face, "you are one magnificent creature. Brains and beauty."
"Owen, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were flirting with me." Letty smirked.
"Perhaps, then, that it is the former." He grinned back.
Before she could respond, the clearing of a throat behind her caused her to turn slightly. And her breath caught. Dominic in a tuxedo, the top half of his face covered in a black mask with a beautiful gold designs wrapping around his eyes and nose. He leaned down to kiss either of her cheeks.
"Leticia, this is a lovely affair."
Shaking her head to clear the slight confusion she felt standing between these two men, she smiled. "Thank you. Mr. Sh-, Owen, here," she began, catching herself, "was just telling me how he was enjoying it as well."
"You've a charmingly modest wife. I was simply raving about it." He held his hand out to shake. "Owen Shaw, CEO of The Great Britains."
Dominic held up his wrapped, injured right hand, apologetically, in explanation. "Dominic Toretto, pleased to finally put a face to the name."
Even with her mask blocking half of her face, Dominic could see the questioning concern behind his injury. She was practically demanding answers, wordlesly.
"Likewise." Shaw interrupted, causing Letty's attention to focus back onto him. "May I steal your wife?" Staring directly into Letty's eyes, Owen addressed Dominic.
Dominic's eyebrows wrinkled. "Excuse me?"
"For the waltz."
"Well, if the lady so chooses." Dominic smiled.
"Well, then. Shall we?" Owen wondered aloud, offering Leticia the crook of his arm. She slipped hand just there and smiled.
And as they headed to the wooden parquet dance floor, Dominic couldn't shake the sinking feeling that Owen Shaw, while good for business, was going to be bad for his ego recovery.
Up Next: A Night With Royalty: Conclusion. Court date #1. Dom's thoughts.
A/N #2: Longest chapter for this story. At 3,300 words exactly. Was it enough? Did anyone catch the "Count of Monte Cristo" (Jim Caviezel version) quote at the end?