Home > Shameless

Shameless
Author: M. Malone

chapter one

 

 

There was nothing like the sound of New York City in the morning.

Between the honking cars, the cursing and the never-ending rush of voices, just walking down the street was an assault to the senses. To everyone else it sounded like noise but to Lucia DeMarco it was a raw kind of symphony. It was a reminder that despite everything she’d been through, she was still here.

She was still here and still late.

Already she was out of breath as she hurried across the street, narrowly missing being hit by yet another cab. Unfortunately, Lucia didn’t do the delicate, charmingly breathless thing. Oh no. Sweating caused her overly curly hair to stick to her forehead like stringy noodles and she didn’t pant for air in a sexy, Marilyn Monroe kind of way, either. Instead it was more like gasping out her last breath. Her job as a fashion assistant for THE up and coming fashion line didn’t leave much time for anything unnecessary like sleeping, eating or going to the gym. She made a mental note to start taking better care of herself and filed it along with the ten thousand other things she did not have time for.

Dodging traffic counted as a workout, right?

Her phone vibrated in the pocket of her skirt, the early morning humidity and her sweat already making the fabric stick to her legs. She pulled it out while trying to balance the tray of coffees she held with her other arm. Her handbag, a sample from a new designer that her friend JJ had given her just last week, banged against her hip as she trotted through the crosswalk while reading her phone.

- Where the hell are you? Adriana is losing her shit!

Lucia groaned and walked faster. It had taken her longer than expected to get the coffee and she was cutting it way too close to being subject to one of Adriana’s famous tirades. If she’d known she’d be running across town perhaps she would have worn something other than four -inch heels. Perhaps the adorable ballet flats she’d borrowed from the sample closet just last night. However, this was the only chance she’d have to stop by the records office today so she’d have to ignore her already throbbing feet.

When the records office in Southampton had told her they’d sent some of their archives to be held in the city, she’d assumed her research had hit a dead end. It had taken her years to piece together the information she had, and it had been a long shot anyway. After all, what did she expect? Lucia gulped down the huge knot that always rose in her throat when she thought about her brother. Rafe had been gone for six years now, and there were still days she woke up thinking she was fifteen years old again and her favorite person in the world would be in the kitchen making her pancakes.

It was a knife to the gut every time her mind cleared and she remembered that he was gone.

The details of that day were still not entirely clear, but she’d managed to piece together where the shooting had taken place and had used every spare moment over the past year to find out more about the owners of the property. It was a struggle to find anyone who remembered anything about it, which was strange in a town where everyone knew everyone. But her tenacity had paid off because she’d gotten a name and had looked up the deed. It had been sold multiple times since then, and the local records office had only digitized their files the prior year. Somehow, some of the files related to the property had been sent off to archives accidentally.

Lucia looked up at the sign over the drab gray building that housed the New York State archives. Her heartbeat danced in her chest. Whatever she found out today could either shed light on the worst day of her life or lead to another dead end. The heavy glass door opened and as she tried to move out of the way, the coffee tray tilted slightly, leaving a wet, brown spot on the front of her white silk blouse. Awesome. There was no way Adriana would miss that.

“Sorry!”

She nodded absently as the man who’d been in such a hurry continued down the sidewalk without taking a second glance back.

“Good day to you, too.”

She pulled the door open and let out a sigh of relief when she saw there was no one else inside. The gods of karma were taking pity on her finally.

“Hi, Brent. I got your message that you have something for me?”

The man behind the counter glanced up from his computer and smiled. Average height with dark hair and a nice smile, Brent was a nice guy. Nice seemed to be the only word she could think of to describe him, actually. He’d helped her fill out an official request the last time she was there and had promised to look in the archives personally. The fact that he’d flirted with her made her feel a little guilty. Lucia had never been the bat-your-eyelashes type and she had no plans to start now. However, she was willing to take any help she could get at this point.

“Hi, how’s your day going so far?”

Lucia set the tray of coffee on the counter between them and hitched her bag higher on her shoulder. She gestured at the brown stain and grinned. “Amazing! As you can see.”

He chuckled, although his eyes lingered on the swell of her breasts a bit longer than was strictly polite. Lucia cleared her throat and his eyes finally snapped back up to hers.

“You said you found something?” she prodded.

“I did. Sorry it took me so long. I’m not sure what happened when the files were transferred, but a bunch of files were in the wrong boxes. Though, as luck would have it, I finally found the deed of sale from the time period you asked for. I made a copy of it for you.”

He reached under the counter and pulled out a yellow, legal-size envelope. With shaking fingers, Lucia pulled it across the counter toward her. She lifted the flap with the tip of her index finger but then closed it again. Tonight was soon enough to go down that rabbit hole.

“So, I was wondering if, maybe, I mean you might not be into it…”

Her phone buzzed in her pocket again and Lucia pulled it out, smiling apologetically at Brent who didn’t even notice. She glanced down at the text message from JJ. It was marked as Urgent.

- Remember that painting on the wall of Rocco’s when we were there for dinner last week? Adriana wants a swatch of Belgian linen in the exact same shade.

Lucia glanced up at Brent, who was still droning on, before quickly typing an answer.

- Belgian Linen in a shade of blue that I barely remember. That’s it? You can’t tell me anything else?

- You know how she is. Just get back here. Fast!

After stashing her phone back in her pocket, Lucia picked up the envelope and threw it in her bag. It was only when she looked up again that she realized Brent was staring at her.

“So, what do you think?” he asked.

“Um, sounds good?” Lucia had no idea what he’d been talking about and then instantly felt guilty for not listening, especially after he’d been so helpful. But she had to magically cross town in less than ten minutes and also conjure up a fabric that looked like something her boss had seen in a restaurant last week.

“I hate to cut and run but I’m late. So, I guess I’ll see you later.” She picked up the tray of coffee, wondering if she should take it back to the office before going back out for the linen swatches.

“Really?” Brent clapped his hands, the loud sound startling her so badly she almost dropped the coffee entirely. He ran a hand through his hair and let out a loud sigh as if he’d just run a marathon. “I mean, that’s great. I’ve been wanting to try this place for a while and I think you’ll really like it. So I’ll pick you up at seven, if that’s okay?”

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