"I'll do anything. Cooking, cleaning, even making coffee. I'm good at making coffee."
Upon uttering the word coffee, Jenny Stone, the smart, resilient, and sharp-tongued girl somehow finds herself paying off her father's debt by working as a maid to the mafia boss, Giovanni Dente, the obsessive-compulsive coffee drinker with movie star good looks.
And this is just the beginning of Jenny's new life.
Between serving the man his brew at ungodly hours and doing his dirty work, she also has to attend college, ace her exams, and find a way to contact her father and sister who have abandoned her.
But within the intricate web Giovanni binds around her, when it comes time for her to leave, she isn't sure if she can make it out alive, especially when somewhere along the way, she realizes her heart is totally captivated.
This novella is the prequel to the full length novel Totally Captivated.
My Sweet Jenny,
Be a dear and deliver this letter for Pa. It's very important that you should deliver this by hand to Mr. Dente. I promise I'll give you more of your favorite licorice when you return. And I won't tell your sister.
Pa will see you soon.
I stared at the white envelope on the table, my heart about to drum out of my chest.
Pa! I wanted to yell at him. I missed my important accounting lecture because of this?
Pa had left a message for me to come home as soon as possible. It was an emergency. That was what the message had said. I'd thought he had an accident or something, so I was rushing to get here. I didn't know which was my left or right foot as I stumbled and fell to try to reach home in time. But what did I get when I got here? A note on the table, beside the white envelope that contained that letter.
What was he thinking? At the rate I was going, I wouldn't even pass the first year of university if Pa kept calling me out to do errands for him like this.
Use the post office for once, Pa. Surely he could just drop this letter off at the post office and be done with it. Why use me?
Then again, why did I bother to ask this silly question? It was because I wasn't good at anything else except for errands like this. I wasn't beautiful, so no one really took a second look at me, unlike my sister Amelia, who was the star of her law school. In fact, I could blend in with the furniture very well. Sometimes, Pa and Amelia couldn't even tell the difference between me and the couch.
Despite all these negative comments about my appearance, though, I'd never been bothered by this. Brown hair with a dust of freckles on my nose and green catlike eyes, I considered myself to be quite cute.
But back to Pa, though. I wondered where he was right then. I'd definitely give him an earful when I saw him.
I went to search the house. It was empty, no one inside, not Pa or Amelia.
Where had they gone? At this hour, Pa should have been in his office, and Amelia should have been home doing the cooking. She didn't have class in the afternoon, unlike first years whose schedules were chock full of lectures.
I picked the letter up in my hand, dismissing Pa's absence for now. I examined the address. Upper East Side, Manhattan. It didn't look familiar to me.
Maybe I should put a few stamps on it and slot it in the postbox. That'd save me time. I recalled some stamps stashed away in my backpack somewhere. But Pa did say to deliver this letter by hand. And there was also the case of the licorice. It was tempting me next to the envelope.
"Humph!" I huffed to myself. Who does he think he is, bribing me with candy? It's not like I'm five years old anymore. I can live without candy. Especially licorice.
* * * * *
I was now walking along the streets of Islington Hill, chewing the licorice. How could I resist a bribe such as this licorice Pa bought for me? He knew it was my one weakness and he used it to his full advantage. I was surprised my teeth weren't covered with holes yet, what with the amounts of sweets I ate. But then again, my oral hygiene skills were spectacular.
After the initial shock, I took the bus and walked to deliver this letter. I was sure whatever contents were in the envelope, it must be something important. Maybe Pa doesn't trust the post because it might go missing. A sense of pride filled my chest.
"All right, Jenny. Let's deliver this letter for Pa and make him proud."
Cory Mansion, as stated on the address, was part of a well-established suburb in Upper East Side, Manhattan. If it weren't for the naked Adonis statue sitting in front of the huge fountain with a loincloth covering his private part, I was sure I'd have missed it altogether.
Adonis really is beautiful, even though he's made out of white marble. But imagine seeing a real live man that looks like Adonis. He'd be the god of all passion, a person that would totally captivate my heart.
"Ahh," I sighed. "So beautiful."
"What business do you have here?"
What? Who? Where? Did someone just speak?
I looked up and saw a camera pointed in my direction.
Oh, the speaker. I stared at the speaker and said, "I'm sorry. I was just admiring the statue."
"Any other business?"
Swallowing another piece of licorice, I replied, "I'm looking for Cory Mansion. Could you please tell me where it is?"
"This is Cory Mansion."
"Cor... Cory Mansion!" I almost choked on the licorice. I stared at the immaculate garden with linage of green trees on either side, the fountain housing Adonis.
Wow! This mansion must belong to a millionaire.
And then a fleeting thought rushed through my head. What business does Pa have with the resident of this multimillion-dollar mansion?
"What business do you have with us?"
I swallowed the last remaining licorice and composed myself. "I'm here to deliver a letter on behalf of my Pa, Mr. Stone. It's to be handed to a Mr. Dente. May I see him?"
A few minutes passed by before the voice spoke again. "Come in. The gate will open in three seconds. Then walk along the white brick footpath and knock on the door three times. The front door will open."
What's this? White brick road and knock on the front door three times? What am I, Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz? I have a great sense of direction, thank you very much. I never get lost. But I did what the gate keeper told me to do. I knocked on the door three times. Then I stood back while the door took its time to reveal the inside of the property.
"Wow, what a waste of space," I muttered when I stepped inside.
The mansion itself was a huge block of ancient buildings that stood right at the center of the property. From outside, it looked beautiful, but on the inside, it was majestic. The whole foyer was the size of our house alone. Except there was hardly any furniture around, unlike our house.
I was a hoarder, so I always managed to get some secondhand books or some sort of junk to decorate our home. But this place was just adorned with a few couches and an armchair. A beautiful chandelier dropped down from the ceiling, and a skylight provided light in the foyer.
I walked toward the lone armchair, almost not noticing a couple of buff-looking men who stood to the side, staring at me through black sunglasses. They almost gave me a fright, standing there like statues. They had their arms behind their backs, looking quite intimidating.
"Hi," I managed.
The men didn't respond, but just glared back at me. I sat in the chair uncomfortably, wondering what to do. Then something caught my eyes. I advanced toward them and saw they were guns. They looked like the real ones from OO7, the James Bond movie. I wonder if I can touch it.
Too late. Before anyone saw me, I held one in my hand. They're heavy and...cold.
I turned the gun around and put my finger near the trigger. They did feel nice to the touch. Maybe I should have become a policewoman and caught all the bad guys instead of working my butt off for an accounting degree. Using this gun, I could have the ultimate power to tame anyone into submission. My evil side lurked, and I felt like Austin Powers, the bad one of course.
"They aren't real, are they?" I asked one of the men in black, out of curiosity.
"They're real," came his clipped reply.
A shiver ran down my spine. Okay. I swallowed and felt my heart racing a bit. I put the gun back in its resting place and went back to sit in my seat like an obedient child.
Where have I landed? Surely this was even weirder than Oz. I only hoped those beautiful guns were used for decoration instead of actually killing people.
I knew I should have listened to my instincts and posted the letter instead. But I couldn't help being tempted by that licorice. Now my only hope was to have Mr. Dente appear fast so I could give him the letter and scram.
Suddenly, two more men walked past me. One came to stand right in front of me and stared down.
"You're the one with the letter?" he asked.
"Yes," I replied promptly.
"Come this way. Boss is ready to see you."
"Boss? Is he Mr. Dente?"
Me and my big mouth. It just wouldn't stop yapping when I was nervous. Then again, I was actually quite excited. I was eager to find out who the millionaire owner of this estate was. Maybe some old man in his sixties.
I was led to another stylish room with more guns out on display.
Is this a gun museum?
One of the men in the black suits walked in first. Then some moments later, I was urged to enter the room.
I walked in bravely, proud that I'd almost completed my task for Pa. As soon as I stepped inside, a man sitting behind the desk caught my attention. And almost knocked the air out of my lungs. The man was almost an exact replica of Adonis statue outside. My heart pounded and I smiled. But he didn't smile back. It didn't matter, though. I was here to see Mr. Dente anyway, not this young man who barely passed for twenty-five.
"I'm here to see Mr. Dente," I said before he could say anything.
He still didn't respond, but continued to gaze at me with his midnight eyes. His facial expression twisted as if he'd sucked on a lemon.
"Give me that letter," Adonis finally spoke.
"I'm sorry, but I can only give this to Mr. Dente," I said.
"Give me that letter," he repeated, this time more threatening.
I held the letter against my chest as if it were my lifeline. "But Pa said--"
"Give boss the letter." One of the men in black trudged forward and snapped at me.
"No!" I snapped back. "Pa said to hand this letter only to Mr. Dente." I stubbornly stood my ground.
I've no idea why I did that. It wasn't like I was going to win a battle with these men anyway, but still, I wanted to make Pa proud.
"I am Giovanni Dente," Adonis bit back from behind his desk.
I almost swallowed my own tongue. Giovanni Dente was this young man whom I had admired. What does Pa have to do with this young man?
I gave Giovanni the letter and smiled up at him again. "Why didn't you say so in the first place? We could have avoided this whole confusion."
He gave me a spiteful look and read the letter.
I didn't know what to do with myself. He was busy reading. It wasn't like I could talk to him when his eyes were skimming across the page, his lips pulled tight. I busied myself with the display of more guns on the wall cabinet.
Gee, I seriously think this place is a gun museum.
The sound of a fist meeting a table alerted me, and I shifted my attention to Adonis. His eyes were burning fire.
What's gotten him all fired up? Could it be--
"You're very brave." Giovanni still held my gaze, and then he started rubbing his lips.
"Well, I am brave," I told him, eyes transfixed on those lips.
I was the one who had to carry a beehive filled with bees when I was only twelve years old. No one in my class could do that. They were scared they would get stung. I got stung too, but I was named the bravest girl in my class. Plus, I could ride a unicycle. Even though it was only for two minutes, I still considered that brave.
"Tsk!" He snarled at me and removed his fingers from those lips. That kind of woke me up, too. "Are you brave or stupid?"
Now wait a minute here. Was he trying to hit my sensitive spot? No amount of godlike beauty could get me to look at him in the same gentle way as that Adonis statue if he was going to start tossing negative comments like this.
"Excuse me?" I stated, chest thrust forward to show I wasn't intimidated by him. "I am brave, and I'm clearly not stupid."
"Then tell me."
His voice suddenly sent a shocking tremble to my heart. What's this? Why is my heart beating so madly? Why does it seem I've heard that voice somewhere before?
"If you're not stupid, then why have you entered a mafia den all alone?"
Upon hearing that, all I could do was stupidly stammer back in disbelief, "Ma-ma-mafia den?"