Speak Easy to Me
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by Christine DePetrillo
Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Romance
Description: Willa Hardwick doesn't want to be an ordinary housewife, especially if the only available men work at Providence's most notable speakeasy, The Fountain. She wouldn't be caught dead in a place like that. Women should have choices, and Willa is willing to fight for those choices as well as the right to vote. Grant Sterling hides behind his piano night after night, entertaining the guests at The Fountain. He knows the speakeasy's owner, Ralph "Zinny" DiZinnia, is involved in shady dealings, but he'll never tell. In fact, Grant would rather not speak at all. When Willa's brother, Tommy, double-crosses Zinny, Willa faces an uncomfortable proposition to save his life. How far is she willing to go for family, and can she trust the help of a quiet piano player?
eBook Publisher: Whispers Publishing, 2011 2011
eBookwise Release Date: September 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [53 KB]
Reading time: 29-41 min.
Grant bit down on the licorice in his mouth before it shot down into his lung by accident. Zinny never gave Grant any trouble, but the man was rough and rowdy. He partied hard, worked harder, and scared the piss out of most of the people who worked for him. Taking the job at The Fountain had come with mixed feelings. Zinny was not someone to get tangled up with, but after having been where Grant had been, any place seemed better, even a speakeasy guilty of going against the Constitution.
Luckily, Zinny owned a few cops, so eyes were always looking the other way. Regardless, Grant treaded carefully around the boss and his pals.
"Play a few lines, Grant." Zinny nudged him, and Grant put his hands on the keys. If Ralph DiZinnia wanted you to play, you played.
After a short sampling, Zinny clapped his meaty hands together. "You're quite a find, kid. Quite a find."
Grant simply nodded, avoiding speaking if he didn't absolutely have to.
"I've got a feeling about tonight, Piano Man." Zinny checked his slicked-back graying hair in the mirror above the piano. He smiled, turned his head left to right as he inspected his teeth. "I'm going to tie up some loose ends, collect what's mine, then drink in celebration. A good plan, yes?"
Again, Grant nodded in response, causing Zinny to erupt in laughter.
"You play well and keep your mouth shut. The perfect employee right here." Zinny punched Grant in the biceps. "You're going to work for me for a long time, Piano Man. A long time."
Grant offered Zinny a cautious smile as the man walked to the bar. With the flick of a switch, a set of shelves rose behind the counter. Bottles of some of the finest liquor around lined the shelves, and Zinny took his time selecting tonight's drink of choice. Ice rattled in a glass, then the smooth gush of scotch sounded. Zinny held up the bottle and tilted his head at Grant.
With a wave of his hand, Grant declined the offer. He didn't touch the stuff anymore. It numbed a mind for a little while, but like most other things he'd tried, booze didn't erase the memories.
"You know, Grant, if you turned those baby blues on the dames that filter through this place night after night, you'd get some serious action and line your pockets. Janes love tall musicians with good hair and broody expressions. They're willing to pay for a little attention too."
This was not the first time Zinny had made this suggestion. As if Grant would know how to entertain a dame. He had to admit he liked watching the ladies dance, but it wasn't worth the effort to converse with one of them. There would be questions about his voice, his scars. Questions he didn't want to answer.
"Just want to play." Grant popped another piece of licorice into his mouth and gestured to the piano.
"Sure, sure. Dames also like mysterious guys." Zinny winked and took his first sip of scotch.
With a rumble like thunder, the door at the back of the speakeasy exploded open. Two of Zinny's hoods dragged a man between them all the way down the stairs. The man's legs didn't touch any of the steps as he hung like a ragdoll.
Grant recognized him. Had seen him around the bar on several occasions. Teddy...Timmy...no, Tommy something. Good-looking kid, probably a few years younger than Grant. His brown hair covered his forehead as his head drooped down to his chest. A thin stream of blood carved a path from Tommy's nose to his chin.
Grant turned back to the piano and his sheet music. The less he saw, the better.
"Tommy, Tommy, Tommy." Zinny threw back the last of his scotch and slammed the glass down to the bar. "Where's my money, kid?"
Grant remained standing by the piano so he could watch what unfolded behind him in the mirror.
"Don't have it." Tommy grimaced and tried to free one of his arms, but Zinny's hoods had an iron grip on him. They looked as if they could hold him all night without breaking a sweat.
Zinny grabbed a fist full of Tommy's dark hair and wrenched his head up. "You'll look at me when you speak, boy. It's a sign of respect, and I deserve your respect." He smoothed back Tommy's mussed hair and straightened the kid's tie. "You can't double-cross me and expect to live, Tommy. You just can't."
Grant froze. He knew, of course, that Zinny had people bumped off all the time, but he'd never witnessed an actual conversation on the topic. Zinny wouldn't kill Tommy in the bar, would he? Fresh perspiration broke out on Grant's skin. He couldn't watch someone die. Not again.
He glanced toward the door. No way to get to it without having to walk between Zinny and Tommy. Not a place he wanted to be.
"I'm not double-crossing you, Zinny," Tommy said. "I wouldn't do that. I'm not a sap."
"You must be," Zinny said. "Only a sap would think my hooch can go missing without any consequences."
Grant held onto the edge of the piano bench as Zinny's hoods beat on Tommy. He couldn't see it, but God, he could hear it. The dull thud of fist against gut. The grunts of pain. The slap of Tommy's body on the hardwood floor when Zinny's men finally dropped him.
Grant felt he should do something. He wanted to. Really. But his body wouldn't move.
"If you don't have the booze or the money to pay for it, Tommy, you got to give me something else. Better yet, someone else."
"No. Not that. Not her." Tommy's voice held more power than Grant would have thought possible after the whipping he'd received. "Anything else. I'll do anything else. I'll get you the money."
"I don't want the money anymore, and I'm not bargaining with you, kid. It's either a swim in the Providence River with loaded pockets or her. Surely getting her to dance for me is a small price to pay for your life. Get her in here tonight."
"Tonight, or you're done. Take him out of here, fellas."
Grant listened as Zinny's hoods collected Tommy. They yanked him up the stairs to the back door where they would no doubt dump him in the alley outside the restaurant. Grant didn't like some poor Jane having to dance for Zinny, but if it meant no one would die tonight, it wasn't so bad.
Hell, he'd done worse trying not to die.