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Tempted by the Sinner
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She’s a little saint just begging to get corrupted.
Mona Rizzo wants to write the next great profile of a real American gangster, and she wants to use me as her subject.
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I leaned against the cold metal railing on my elbows, the wind whipping up from the street fifty-five floors down below. I held on to the whiskey glass in my hand and wondered what would happen if I dropped it, if the glass could kill someone, if it would even matter. The rain-slick city glistened around me and I sucked in a deep breath of humid air before letting it out.
I was alone on the balcony. Back in the bright party, men in suits stood in small circles, smoked cigars, laughed too loud. My father was among them, shaking hands, passing out bribes, grinning like his life depending on it.
The room was covered in gleaming steel and wood paneling. The carpet was thick, red, and patterned in geometric shapes. It screamed wealth, opulence, power. Waitstaff slipped between the groups, took empty glasses, offered fresh drinks and food.
The whiskey tasted like smoke as I took a long swallow. The only thing I wanted was to get the hell out of this city, get back to my old life, but when the Don comes calling, you have to answer.
Even if the Don is your father.
No, especially when the Don is your father.
For the past eight years, I’d been living in New York and getting the Leone Crime Family set up there. We were still a small outfit, but the crew was coming along, and I liked my life in the big city. Philadelphia felt small now, and not just because I was up so high. Somehow, the tight streets, the old-style architecture, the quaint bars just couldn’t live up to the sprawling tangle of boroughs that was New York.
Philly had some charms, I had to admit. It had a grit that most places lacked. Where the majority of cities tried to clean themselves up in the twenty-first century, Philly still clung to the old ways, still had this image of itself as a scrappy underdog. I used to be proud of that, back before I moved away. Now it just seemed so small.
“You look miserable.”
I half turned to spot a woman standing in front of the door. I was so lost in my thoughts that I hadn’t heard her come out. She had thick, dark hair and deep brown eyes. Her skin was pale, and her lips were full and pink. She wore a caterer’s outfit, black shirt and black pants, and she carried a tray with these little crab puff pastries. I’d noticed her earlier in the night, noticed her watching me with those dark, intense eyes, and I told myself I’d hit on her if things got too boring.
Looks like I wasn’t going to have to go out of my way.
“Feeling better already,” I said and leaned my back against the railing. I could feel the swirl of air from the street fifty-five stories down below, with nothing but the railing between me and falling, and a rush ran down my spine.
Her smile was hesitant as she took a step closer. I let my eyes run down her body, not trying to hide it. I caught a glimpse of long, lean legs, breasts pressing against her button-down shirt, curvy hips. I wondered what she’d look like in something more flattering, like my bedsheets, and decided I’d try to find out.
“Want one?” she asked, nodding at the plate.
I shook my head. “No, thanks. What’s your name?”
“Mona.” She didn’t move. “Is that not your scene back there?”
I smiled a little and looked past her, through the glass door, into where my father made a group of high-powered lawyers and businessmen laugh.
“Not really,” I said.
“Yeah, can’t blame you.” She shifted from foot to foot. “I think you’re the youngest person in this whole building, aside from the staff.”
I tilted my head. “Probably right.”
“Not that it’s a bad thing,” she said. “I just mean, uh, you don’t really have any… peers here.”
“I know what you mean,” I said, and a smile spread across my face. I loved how flustered she looked. “You like doing that?” I asked.
She blinked. “What do you mean?”
“Catering,” I said, pointing at the tray.
She stared at it and laughed. “Oh, right, uh. No, not really. I mean, uh, it’s just a temporary thing.”
“Yeah? Temporary, huh? Tell me what else you do then.”
She stopped fidgeting and stared right into my eyes.
“I’m a journalist,” she said.
I arched an eyebrow and felt a little thrill of surprise.
“Journalist?” I asked.
“That’s right. I’m just working freelance right now, writing some stuff for the Inquirer and other little local papers out in the ‘burbs. But I’m looking for a big story, you know?”
“The big one,” I said. “The one that’ll break you in.”
“Right.” She laughed and smiled at me, her teeth dazzling and straight. “Sounds stupid, I know.”
“Doesn’t sound stupid at all,” I said. “I was young and hungry. Hell, I still am.”