Antonio, Her Italian Millionaire (BWWM Romance Book 1)

By: J A Fielding
Chapter 1

It was only midday on Thursday but as far as Zianna Webster was concerned, it might as well have been six in the evening. She had spent the whole morning with a real estate agent in one of the rundown buildings of Edgewood and she was not sure if it was the walk or the downright exasperating climb up the old stairs but she was exhausted by the time she walked into Cuts By Webster, one of the first barbershops her father Ezekiel Webster ever started.

“Hey,” Lucas Keating said when he saw her. “I was not expecting you until later.”

“Well, I was not expecting myself here until later either,” she said.

She walked up to one of the chairs and sat down before she kicked off her shoes.

“Damn it…that feels amazing,” she said as she threw her head back. “You know sometimes, I think I really do understand what a looney bin is like just by walking around.”

Lucas looked up from the customer whose hair he was cutting.

“Really? A looney bin?”

She nodded.

“It’s noisy and the sanitation is frankly…terrible for lack of a better word.” She leaned back and sighed loudly. “Every single time I come from one of the properties Gloria shows me, I am a little surprised that I don’t need a tetanus shot.”

Lucas pulled the apron from the customer and smiled at him as he looked into the mirror.

“This is great. Thanks,” the man said before handing him a bill. “Keep the change.”

Lucas smiled even wider.

“Thank you very much.”

“So, lunch is sorted then?” Zianna asked when the customer walked out and Lucas looked at her, smiling.

“Sure. Mark’s Diner is already open,” he said, making Zianna frown.

Mark’s Diner was one of the few places that Zianna couldn’t really handle ever since they hired a new cook who never seemed to know the meaning of hygiene. She even doubted if he had ever been acquainted with a bar of soap.

“I can take a hint. Thank you very much. Besides, if I need to add any more weight, I could always pick up some Cheetos, a four cheese whopper and a milkshake.”

Lucas forced out a laugh.

“So, two things,” he started as he walked up to where she was. “Life in the looney bin is terrible. It is not the screaming that gets to you. I’ve heard people say that it is the silence. The uncertainty…and the locked rooms, that goes without saying.”

She frowned.

“Still, this neighborhood is a looney bin but you said two things.”

“Oh yeah.” Lucas took a long deep breath. “This place is…shitty to say the least. And your father always worked so hard to make sure you got out of here.”

She shook her head.

“We have talked about this before, Lucas.”

He nodded.

“I know we have but the truth is that you and I both know that your old man had only the best intentions for you,” he said. “Florida is where you should be. I mean, this place just registered its third gang related crime this month and it has only been three weeks.”

She shrugged.

“Yes, it is like we have a crime every week. Guaranteed,” she said. “But that is exactly why I cannot leave Chicago.”

“That kind of sounds terrible…I mean, the reasoning of it all.”

She shook her head.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Any normal person would have run for the hills by now given the opportunity rather than sleep with a hand gun at arm’s reach,” Lucas pointed out in a cynical tone. “Believe me I know a number of people who would have taken the high road.”

“The high road being Florida, I’m guessing,” Zianna said and Lucas nodded.

“Actually, yes.”

Zianna took a long deep breath and ran her fingers through her hair.

“You know why I don’t like thinking about leaving the neighborhood,” she said. “Leaving means walking out on every single thing daddy worked on.”

“But leaving also means that you get to stay alive which was a big part of what your father had in mind when he asked you to leave this God forsaken place and move to some safer place.”

Zianna gently combed her fingers through her hair and sighed.

“Well, to be fair, this is not how I pictured this whole situation turning out. I thought I was going to have this place all turned around. Or at least on the road to a new beginning.”

“Zianna,” Lucas started as he turned to look at her. “You are just one person and the work this place needs will require a whole lot of work. Work from a lot of people rather than just one person.”

She nodded.

“I know that.”

“Then why do you fight this so hard?” Lucas asked.

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