Taken by the Italian Mafia(8)

By: Sadie Black

"We all knew this was coming, I'm just too old," she lamented, trying to keep herself together. "I think it's sweet you're trying to make me feel better, but pulling the wool over my eyes isn't gonna help. Not when Liam takes all my hours away and leaves me stranded. I just... I worked so hard for him. For this place. I still make some of the best money of any of the girls. Why does he gotta go pull something like this?"

Darren laid a sympathetic hand on her shoulder, his touch awkward.

"It's not about who you are or the work you do," he assured her, "it's that Liam sleeps, eats, and breaths in dollar signs. If he sees you doing this well, I bet he's thinking to himself that a younger version of you is gonna make him that much more money. Don't take what he does personal, Whit. You're still the same person you were last month, last week, hell, the same person as when you walked in the doors today. There ain't nothing wrong with you at all."

The words made her feel worse. Thoughts of worthlessness clouded Whitney's mind to drag her down.

If there's nothing wrong with you, he wouldn't fire you.

If there's nothing wrong with you, you wouldn't be so afraid of losing this job and moving on somewhere else.

No one wants damaged goods. Not even your mother wanted to have anything to do with the worthless life she created.

No one wants anything to do with you.

Temples throbbing, stomach churning, Whitney drew back from Darren and shook her head. Tonight she'd told herself she was going to live in the moment and not let anything get to her. Wasn't that the whole point of fantasizing over the tall stranger?

If your own mother didn't want you, what makes you think someone like that is going to?

There was no way she could go back to the bar and be on her A game, not until those thoughts stilled.

"Thanks," Whitney mumbled. There was no conviction behind her words. "Um, listen. Do you have lots of garbage or something that needs to be taken out? I really need to get some fresh air to clear my thoughts before I head back out there."

"Uh," Darren looked towards the trash. The bag was overflowing with junk. "Yeah. Yeah, I can hook you up with some trash. Why don't you take some clean glasses back to the bar and bring your trash out, and by the time you get back I'll have this all bagged up for you, okay?"

"Okay." A deep breath. "Thank you, Darren."

"Any time," Darren promised. "Just keep your chin up. You never know what life's got in store for you. Maybe all this is a good thing in disguise."

That seemed a little farfetched, but Whitney bobbed her head in agreement and drew a crate of clean glasses from the cabinet beneath the counter space. Replacements in hand, she made her way out through the kitchen doors.

Liam and the girl were still talking when she left the kitchen, but Whitney did her best to tune them out. Instead, she focused on the distant throbbing beat of the bass from beyond the door into the club. That was where she was headed — back into the midst of things, back into the party she had been so proud to be a part of. Now she felt like she wanted nothing to do with it. The carefree Friday nights of people half a decade younger than she was felt bitter now. Their fun would go on even after she'd left. This was not her world anymore.

The door opened. Whitney made her way back across the floor, slid the clean dishes into position, then told Cassandra what was up.

"Gonna take out the trash," she cried. Cassandra was pouring a row of shots for a group of guys who were already more than a little gone. "Not feeling too well."

"Fresh air," Cassandra said with a nod of her head. Whitney closed up their trash, replaced the bag, and made the walk back to the back door. By the time she arrived back in the kitchen, Liam had shut his office door and Darren had the kitchen trash bagged and ready to go.

"Hey, um," Darren said, hesitating, "Liam came in here after you left. Said he was looking for you. Did you run into him?"

Whitney pursed her lips, more uneasy than ever.


"Well, after you're done taking the trash out, maybe go look for him. I didn't tell him you were doing this for me, to give you time to prepare yourself for whatever it is he wants to say. Just thought maybe you should know before he corners you."

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