Chapter 1: Jazz and Cinnamon

1606 Words
Victoria P.O.V Victoria pulls her scarf tighter around her neck as she speeds across Washington Square Park. The air is swift and brisk as it dances in-between the buildings and trees, the constant rays of the sun not bright enough to warm her skin. Though, Victoria supposes it's the norm for early October in New York. Fall is always on time, while she is not. She slows her pace as the brownstone building housing Mel's coffee shop comes into view and readjusts her bag, hefting it higher onto her shoulder. There is definitely a new bruise forming on her hip from the heavy textbooks swinging into it, she can feel the ache on her bone as she climbs the steps to the café. The bell dings above the dark red doors as she enters, the warm heated air hitting her face like a relieved sigh. She takes a moment to wipe her wet shoes on the doormat and looks around. With the chilly weather outside, most of the customers have chosen to sit inside amongst the various hanging and potted plants. Soft jazz music flies through the speakers while the scent of vanilla and coffee blankets the space. Victoria catches Mel's eye – she's serving a table by the floor to ceiling windows – and waves. Mel beams, her blue eyes lighting up like the sun on the ocean, before gesturing toward the back corner. Victoria nods, ambling across the original dark wooden floorboards to where her best friend sits waiting. “Mhm, you're finally here." Cora closes her laptop as Victoria slumps into the cushioned seat across from her. The dark red brownstone brick behind her is making her hair look like a dark chocolate brown instead of the usual chestnut red. “I ordered us the usual." “Thanks." Victoria places her bag on the back of the metal chair before untangling her scarf from around her neck and long brown hair. “Class ran late." “Yeah, I figured. Contracts is taught by Professor Carton, right?" Cora rolls her eyes as she places her elbows on the dark wooden table, propping her head on her fist. “He always runs late with his lectures." Victoria chuckles as Mel strides toward their table, beaming smile lightening up her face. “One hot chocolate, extra marshmallows, and one hot chocolate with cinnamon." Cora claps giddily as Mel carefully places a steaming mug speckled with white and pink marshmallows in front of her before doing the same with Victoria. The spicy smell of cinnamon on top of whipped cream makes her bones feel like they're melting as she relaxes further into her seat. “Thanks Mel," Victoria whispers as she wraps her chilled fingers around her mug. “Of course, sweetie. Anything for my two favorite lawyers." Mel winks, patting Cora on the shoulder as she walks back toward the front of the café. “We aren't lawyers yet, Mel!" Cora calls after her with a mouth stuffed full of marshmallows. Mel's responding laugh rings around the café, the sound light like the bell on the front door. “I don't know what we would've done without Mel." Cora uses her spoon to scoop one of the marshmallows from the whipped cream into her mouth, her shoulders sagging in pleasure. Victoria takes a sip of her own hot chocolate and moans. “We wouldn't have passed first year law, that's for sure." Cora hums her agreement, nodding sagely. “Oh, by the way." Cora leans forward, lowering her voice to a whisper. “I heard Robert and Jack were throwing a party tonight at their apartment in West Village." Victoria spoons whipped cream and dusted cinnamon into her mouth and nods. “Sounds fun." “It will be, which is why we are going." Cora declares. She leans back in her chair and crosses her legs, bumping Victoria's knee with her shoe as she does. “Hmmm, can't." Victoria mirrors Cora's pose. “I have a family dinner I have to be at tonight." “Ugh, give me your phone." Cora reaches her hand across the table, her fingers clenching in a 'give me' motion. “I'll tell your dad you have plans with me. You can miss one family dinner." Victoria tilts her head quickly, her glossed lips pulling into a grimace. “Unfortunately, it's not just my family tonight. The Amato family will be there too. Meaning I can't bail." She shrugs and takes another sip of her drink, the warm feeling of the hot chocolate as it travels down her esophagus warms her spine. “Out of all the nights." Cora mutters. “Mhm." Victoria glances out the window as Cora sighs. The breeze has become fiercer as if in outrage of the darkening clouds in the sky, causing the red and orange leaves of the surrounding red oaks to scatter like snow. Cora turns her downturned blue eyes onto Victoria. “You really can't say no? Surely the Amato's would understand. You've known them what, 20 years or something?" Victoria shakes her head and swaps her crossed legs. “My dad's known Dante since way before I was born. They've always been ... friends. And Dante's even more of a traditional Italian than my dad, so I can't do anything that would show disrespect. He may think it's a reflection of my dad's feelings too." Cora groans loudly this time, her head rolling back in dramatic defeat. “You rich Italian folks are a different breed." “There will be other parties, C." Victoria rolls her eyes as she pushes her now finished mug to the edge of the table. “I'll go to the next one with you, ok?" Cora flicks her head forward and squints her eyes at Victoria in contemplation. “No, you won't. If you aren't spending all your time studying to be a criminal defense lawyer like your dad, then you're off at ice skating practice." “Oh, come on." Victoria crosses her arms as a spark of annoyance and dread punches her deep in the gut. She ignores it. “I went to the movies with you last week, didn't I? That isn't studying or ice skating." Cora's eyes widen suddenly. She gulps down the rest of her sweet hot chocolate and pushes it beside Victoria's at the edge of the table. Her lips pull into a feline grin as she laces her fingers in front of her. That spark of dread punches Victoria again, this time higher in her abdomen as Cora's eyes sparkle. “No." Victoria places both her shoes flat on the hardwood floor and leans across the table, pointing at Cora. “No, we've talked about this. They can't know, ever. I will literally be killed." Cora flicks her hands open in exasperation. “Oh, come on! If your dad knew that you did ice skating, you could just say you have practice and can't go." She reaches forward and swats Victoria's finger. “Secrets are poison for the soul, Tori. He'll find out eventually." Victoria huffs at the emphasis Cora places on saying her ice-skating name. Tori. If her best friend is trying to make her feel like a screwdriver is twisting her heart into knots, then she's accomplished her mission. Victoria purses her lips and mutters, “Not if I have anything to do with it. Besides, Antoni will be there tonight too. So even if I did have practice, I'd have to bail." Cora's eyes glaze as she looks at a spot over Victoria's right shoulder. “Antoni is that extremely handsome heir to the Amato family, right? The guy who'll take over as CEO for all the Amato owned bougie nightclubs and bars in the city?" Victoria nods with a frown, that screwdriver now twisting her stomach into knots instead. Antoni has always been good looking, that was never a secret. She doesn't doubt time has favored him well. But there's a reason Antoni was chosen to lead the business overseas. Victoria audibly gulps as the realization makes a home deep in her gut. Antoni is his father's son after all. “I thought you guys were friends. Didn't you say you hung out a lot when you were kids? You even had little nicknames for each other or something..." Cora questions softly, noting the change in Victoria's demeanor. Victoria's emerald eyes crinkle, grateful for her best friends' perceptive nature. “Yeah, we hung out sometimes when our dads did business." A genuine giggle passes through her throat. “He always did whatever he could to annoy me." “Oooh." Cora wiggles her eyebrows, a smirk tugging at her lips. Victoria barks out a laugh. She speaks before Cora has a chance to say anything else. “He was just being a typical annoying boy back then. Besides he's been overseas in recent years working to better the Amato business." “Ah, so the dinner is like a welcome home kind of thing." Cora taps her fingers on the table before flexing them in the air like she can physically dispel the gathering tension. “Well, it could be worse. They could be in the mafia or something, and this dinner is like an initiation or something, right?" She laughs, the deep and husky sound blending in with the trumpet soaring around the café. Victoria suppresses a shudder as a memory flashes through her mind. Phantom hands painted red grapple at her throat while a young boy yells crying in the background. She forces the memory aside and chuckles. “Yeah ... right. Thank the Gods for that."
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