A Relationship Beckons: Luca (#4)
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“What are you doing here?”
Luca Clivio’s brows furrowed at Caroline’s apparently audacious question. He divided his threatening gaze between Caroline and her mother, Nora. Each time Luca’s eyes held hers, Caroline’s gut clenched. Today, it was like her intestines were being squeezed in a vise.
Luca let his eyes slip in Peter’s direction. Appearing to be asleep, the boy’s eyes were closed and he seemed to be breathing better. “The last time I checked, he’s my ragazzo, too.” The thickly accented Italian words were delivered with menacing elan underpinned by a calm yet intimidating intent. Luca relaxed his brows and hiked them in a silent challenge toward Caroline.
“I only meant…” She cleared her throat. “I mean I hadn’t had time to call you. How did you get here so quickly?”
Caroline shot her mother a quick look. Nora’s face had hardened to stone. Her defiant scrutiny of her ex-son-in-law was absolute and brimmed with loathing.
“Do I not have the right to see my son? Especially when he is in the hospital?”
Caroline swallowed hard. The saliva in her mouth was hot like scalding embers. “That’s not wh–”
“What…happened?” Luca demanded, drawing out both words.
Nora stood up and took one step toward Luca.
Luca responded in kind. “Where do you think you are going, old woman?”
“Luca!” Caroline spat barely above a whisper.
Nora wagged a crooked, dry and cracked finger at him. Then she challenged him. “Je sais ce que tu es et ce que tu fais, connard!”
Caroline rose from the chair creating a barrier between the two. “Mother, please do not do this. Not now!” Caroline spun toward Luca.
Luca chuckled to himself and divided an amused look between mother and daughter. He leaned in and in an ominous tone repeated his question. “What happened?”
Caroline moved a step sideways blocking Luca’s view of her irate mother. She cleared her throat again. “He had an asthma attack. I brought him here to get treatment.”
Luca simply stared.
“How did you know he was here?” Caroline asked, summoning a modicum of nerve.
Luca sniffled and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. Caroline noticed a rim of red around his eyes and a glassy sheen over the corneas. He was .
“Answer me, Luca! How did you know?!”
Surprising herself, Caroline reached out and grasped his elbow, turning him. Over her shoulder, she called to Nora. “Stay with Peter, we’ll be right back.”
Luca resisted at first. But Caroline squeezed her grip on him tighter. The last thing she wanted was Peter waking up. After a reluctant moment, he allowed her to guide him toward the hallway. When they were outside the room and out of Nora’s view, he wrenched his arm free and seemed to be struck by a thought. “Where is his inhaler?”
“Are you high? Have you been using?”
Luca’s visage turned degrees hotter. He raised his clenched hand and brought it to within inches of her face. Caroline instinctively moved back a step. Her heart lurched in her chest. “Are you going to hit me? Again!?” She demanded in a querulous gasp. Caroline looked beyond Luca and saw a nurse shoot a concerned glance in their direction. The healthcare worker quickly averted her gaze, but did not move off.
Then seconds later, she cast a sideways glance, keeping watch over the interaction. She picked up the handset of a phone at the nurses station and held aloft, waiting to see what happened.
Seeing Caroline’s distraction, he stealthily scanned the immediate area. “Why did you not give him his inhaler? You forgot it again, didn’t you?” Luca’s accusation stung, hitting her like a gut punch.
Caroline averted her eyes, admitting her perceived culpability. Once before several months ago, Caroline had left Peter’s inhaler at the house just before she dropped him at Luca’s for the weekend. After his tirade, she had driven home and returned to Luca’s with the medication.
“I told you this would happen!” Luca sucked in a deep, breath and clenched his fist again. The muscles in his jaw flexed with fury. “You stupid…”–he lowered his whispered voice several octaves–“bitch! You are a shitty mother.”
The hurt and frustration was all too familiar. Emotion swelled in her middle. She could feel tears welling. Caroline squeezed her eyes shut, The aspersions had been a weekly occurrence during their turbulent union. His jealousy, possessiveness and verbal abuse had been belittling and fear-inducing. After a while, she had become numb to the constant attacks. Leaving him had been a monumental, nerve-racking action on her part. Since their separation, Caroline had begun to climb out of the dark hole of depression and degradation Luca had dug and in which she had been living for the past few years.
This is why you left him, Caroline! This is why you left!
She swallowed hard, filled her lungs with air and launched an unplanned counter attack. The words were murmured but laced with contempt. The forefinger of her right hand jabbed at Luca. “You’re not going to do this! This is why we are no longer together.” She glanced toward the room where Peter lay sleeping and Nora stood, eyes wide, observing them melded to the floor as if she were cast in stone. “Peter is fine. He had an attack. I got him help!”
Luca inched closer to her, looming over her with his immense frame. But he stopped, slammed by her next utterance.
“How many lines have you done? I can smell whiskey on your breath, too. You stink of it!”
A movement of gold and blue appeared from behind Luca’s left shoulder. It was the nurse, Gretchen, who’d taken Peter’s vital signs. “Excuse me,” she asked in a cheery voice. But she quickly divided a concerned look between them. “Is everything okay here?”
Luca shrunk back. Caroline hesitated. Mortified she rubbed her forehead with two fingers and sighed. “Yes, we’re fine.”
Gretchen paused, then held Caroline’s gaze. Her non-verbal question appeared to ask if she needed help. “We’re fine,” Caroline repeated.
After several moments, Gretchen gave a slight nod and moved off.
Caroline turned her attention back to Luca who was dragging a hand down his face. She resumed her interrogation. “How did you know Peter was here?”
He had turned to regard the comely nurse. At Caroline’s question, he pivoted back toward her. The rotation of his shoulders revealed the figure of a woman thirty feet behind him. The lithe female leaned defiantly against the hospital wall on one shoulder facing Caroline and Luca. She was dressed in a form-fitting sweater, tight jeans and ankle-high black boots. Her straight blonde hair hung down to her breasts. The topography of her form curved and undulated in all the right places. One ankle was crossed over the other and her eyes were riveted firmly on them both. There was no sense of mortification on her features at being discovered studying them. In fact, her lips were curved into a smirk of satisfaction at the confrontation she was witnessing.
Something about her niggled Caroline’s brain. Her forehead squeezed into tight lines at the sight of this femme-fatale. “Is that your current screw?” She demanded, reverting her gaze back to her red-faced ex-husband.
“Watch yourself, puttana!” Luca swiveled his head to regard the figure to whom Caroline referred.
“Or is she your supplier?” Caroline persisted.
When he turned back to back to her, Caroline could see the muscles in his jaw and neck flexing with virulent tension. His face had taken on a deeper shade of crimson. She swallowed, unsure where her defiance was generated. Perhaps, it was because they were in public. Or perhaps, it was because she had reached the limit of her patience. She had yet to inform Luca, but she was going to file for sole physical custody with the courts. She refused to allow Peter to continue being exposed to his drinking, womanizing and drug use. However, telling him scared the hell out of her.
Apparently the realization that she was goading him cut through his drug and alcohol-addled fog. He relaxed just as an armed security guard appeared in Caroline’s field of view.
“That’s Deb. Debra Perry, she works for me,” Luca declared.
It was at that moment it hit her. She’d seen this woman before. But before the memory could take full form, the guard stepped forward so that Luca could see him also. He stood a few feet from the pair with feet spread and his hands resting on his thick utility belt. His muscles were taut, ready to react. “Folks,” he stated in a deep baritone. “You need to take this outside. You’re disturbing the staff.”
Luca scanned the officer and sneered. He split a condescending leer between the man and Caroline. After an unsteady moment, Luca snarled, “I was just leaving.” He leaned toward Caroline again. His gaze and his head wavered slightly. Caroline breathed in a healthy dose of his bourbon-soaked breath. “We are not done.”
The guard closed the distance, grabbing Luca by the upper arm. Luca wrenched it free. “Don’t touch me!” To Caroline, he whispered with a laser-focused intensity. “I’ll see you again, real soon!”
-To Be Continued-
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