If Paolo hadn't been so eager to please and collect on Livia's promise, he might have stood back, put his feelings on hold and been more questioning. But he was young, captivated and encouraged and flattered in the most disarming way so he was mere putty in Livia's expert hands. She had him under her spell. He didn't respond directly.
"What exactly do you want me to do then?" he asked her, sounding as tough and confident as he could.
"I want you to take over the business... and take me too! You know you can!
It'll mean redundancies though."
"What Terry?" Paolo asked, disbelievingly. "But they're brothers, they're twins... joined at the hip!"
"Yes... you'd think so, but have you seen how Tony treats Terry?" Livia pressed.
"I suppose..." Paolo admitted.
"Tony treats him like shit!"
"That's just brothers; it's only natural."
"But Tony takes it too far and does it in front of you guys, so it's natural that Terry hates his guts." Livia added.
"Tony would be lost without Terry!"
"You think so? I think he'd be half a man, as lacking in spunk as Terry!" Livia hesitated. "Are you a whole man Paolo?... Well are you?"
Paolo was trying to process all of what Livia was suggesting and asking. He would need to clarify what exactly she meant, but in the meantime, she had asked a very direct question, a leading one at that. He answered.
"Tony calls it his 'redundancy programme'. The difference, he says, is that we don't fuck up their lives, we end them. Much more humane he reckons."
"Until it happens to him, I guess." Livia added, ruefully.
"I can't see that happening." said Paolo.
"I thought I couldn't either, but he does seem to collect enemies."
"Like my husband!"
"Hey... that's too much to take in. Do you realise what you're saying Livia?"
"I'm saying every dog has his day... but staying top dog too long isn't good for business. But then I have no idea what the business is, except it probably isn't legal. What do you guys do that makes the money? Drugs, robbery, protection, gambling, prostitution?" Livia wanted to understand the business.
"Some drugs, some protection and, let's say, banking. We don't do prostitutes. Too unreliable says Tony." answered her young suitor.
"Banking? Do you mean money laundering? Does any of it ever involve killing people?"
"In order to take this thing crackling between us to the next level, we're going to need to work together. I hate to say this Paolo, but I see you acting the lackey for Terry and Tony... "do this", "do that", and yet I know you're much better than that. You're so much more intelligent than the twins put together, except you don't seem to have much ambition..."
Following so close on the slight kickback he'd received earlier, Paolo quickly put her right.
"I've plenty of ambition, you'll see!"
"You should already be running the show by rights!" Livia challenged.
Paolo was immediately on autopilot. His hands were everywhere. It seemed Livia had suddenly made his dreams and fantasies all come true. But Livia was still very much in control.
She pulled back. “Hey Paolo, not like this, not here, not now. If we’re going to do this, and we are... let it be the best it can. Let’s wait, let’s anticipate. Our time will come and it will be the best, but it needs to be at the best time. And that’s not now, not hurried. There are things to get in place first.”
Paolo, deflated, could only nod.
“I like you Paolo, I like you a lot.”
Paolo was taken aback by what Livia had said. He’d just called round to her house to collect her car to take it for a service. Not knowing what to say, he said nothing. This might be an awful trap.
“I think you like me too... I mean I think you like me a lot!”
“Who wouldn’t?” he managed. “But...”
“But there’s my husband!”
“One of the bosses.”
“That may not be the case for ever...”
“Which? Husband or boss?”
“Either, both, whatever!”
Suddenly, Livia kissed him, and Paolo kissed back.
Knowing Paolo was sweet on her, Livia encouraged him while simultaneously keeping him at bay. She was merciless. He knew that to consider a move on her was impossible. But she would tantalise him, with physical closeness, casual touches, furtive eye contact and more. He ought to have kept his distance, but he was a man and the growing intensity of his feelings, together with the dangerous thrill of forbidden and poisonous fruit was overwhelming. He wanted her so badly that reason was in jeopardy.
But he was smart. His time might come one day.
Indeed! But on Livia’s terms.
Next to Terry, Paolo was Tony’s most trusted ‘associate’. Paolo was about 10 years younger than the rest, late 20s, enthusiastic and bright. It was to Paolo that the twins turned when they needed something technical.
Paolo was a quick learner, but tended to keep that under wraps as he was aware that Tony, in particular, had a problem with people who got too smart.
But Paolo had a secret. A secret passion. A secret painful passion for the very pretty and utterly bewitching Livia, the wife of one of his bosses.
But Livia knew that... and would exploit it.
Livia left from Southampton. She was delighted, without showing it as she said a long, lingering goodbye to Terry, as if it was the last. Terry had insisted upon driving her to the port, along with an enormous amount of luggage. She was on her own. Free! No Terry and his neediness.
Livia had known that in the end Terry would acquiesce to Tony’s demands, and indeed, if he hadn’t, then she would have had to revert to Plan B.
But Plan A it was. And tonight she was free to enjoy herself, with, or without, whomsoever she might choose.
Livia lost no time in doing her research. Terry meanwhile was getting increasingly anxious about Tony’s reaction. Livia, worrying that Terry might back out, booked a first class cabin on a 23 day cruise of the entire Caribbean and presented him with a fait accompli. Terry was angry, but he sublimated it, given that things were going so well with Livia. He would need to get Tony’s OK first. Tony wasn’t happy.
Livia knew how it would be and offered Terry a compromise. Her compromise was to allow Terry to fly to join her in Barbados after a week.
“Not around. What do you mean by that?” asked Terry, suspiciously.
“Well how about we take a holiday? A long holiday. A holiday of a lifetime. A cruise maybe? Tony will pretty soon realise how much he needs you... and then when you return, you can adjust the balance of power.”
This could be an endurance test, but Livia might get to places she’d never been, because Tony didn’t encourage Terry to go anywhere for too long.
Terry thought about Livia’s suggestion. He could easily afford it. Luka would be away at boarding school. But...
“Tony won’t like it!”
“Get even? What do you mean by that?”
Terry’s question suggested he might be tacitly interested in redressing the balance, but if that meant turning on his twin, well that would be something else. But Livia knew just how far she could push Terry.
“Look Terry, I don’t mean you should beat him up or bump him off, no way! But if his bullying you is bugging you, then you might consider doing something about it. You’ve told me how much you do for him and never get the credit, well maybe see how he copes when you’re not around.”
Sex is such a powerful tool, in the right hands. And Livia knew her sexcraft and could use it. Over a period of just a few weeks, she had slowly and subtly built up Terry’s resentment of his brother. She’d made no personal attacks on Tony, but merely asked questions, the answers to which prompted increasing dissatisfaction with his lot, as Terry processed things.
Livia marvelled at how easy a subject he’d been.
“I’ve been thinking, Liv, Tony treats me like second class. I’m gonna have it out with him!”
“Don’t get mad Terry, get even!” she suggested.
“Why did Tony end up boss?... and not both of you...or you?” Livia asked, climbing off her husband, after an experience he wouldn’t soon forget. This was a time when she could ask anything, when he was hers alone.
“I often wonder that myself.” Terry replied ruefully, gazing up at his beautiful wife. “We’re supposed to be identical after all.”
“I think he’s just bullied his way there, whilst you’re more of a nice guy.”
“Bullied? Who’s he bullied?” Terry asked naively.
Livia said no more then. He could process things slowly. She would programme him in stages.
Being the ‘right twin’ clearly delighted Terry. Having earlier been compared unfavourably to Tony by Livia, here she was with a change of heart, and a heart that seemed to be warming to him. Whilst he kept this to himself, he had always felt undervalued as the minor twin. Tony always seemed to look out for Terry and maybe was oblivious to the inner feelings of his brother, but Terry’s resentment of his twin ran high. A smart woman, Livia realised this... and would use it.
She seized upon post-coital opportunities to fan the flames and heighten Terry’s resentment.
From having had a rather cool relationship with Terry, Livia decided she should get much closer to him. Terry still adored her and had accepted that great beauty might be accompanied by distance in a relationship and indeed that it might be part of its attraction. Over a relatively short period of time, Livia became much more affectionate to him. He was delighted with this, but couldn’t help himself commenting on it.
“You’re unusually friendly these days Liv... should I be suspicious?”
“Not really, I just started to realise how lucky I am. After all, I chose the right twin.”
The three women met regularly, without Tony’s knowledge as Sofia’s alternative phone strategy for Marcia seemed to be working. Whilst on the face of it, the simple tasks of first killing Terry and then Tony seemed straightforward, organising and getting away with it maybe wasn’t.
“Leave Terry to me” said Livia mysteriously at one meeting. “Best you don’t know.... for your own protection.” she added, when the other two quizzed her on what she had planned. “Let’s say, I know a man... and that’s all I’ll say.”
The other two thought that if Livia was prepared to take the risk...
Livia saw Sofia as an interloper who had breezed into Tony’s household, full of confidence and, although she had no inkling of the reality, a potential sexual distraction for him. Livia was jealous of her in that respect but also that Sofia didn’t have the limitations that marriage, motherhood and the particular burden that marriage to one of the twins brought.
On the other hand, in Sofia there seemed to be someone wanting to bring the twins down, someone looking for allies in her venture, someone seeking power herself. Sofia was someone she needed to be close to. For now.
Tony reflected later that night that he'd been getting a bit paranoid, worrying what the women were up to. So although he'd planned to interrogate Livia too, he didn't go and confront her, but let it ride for now. Given the history between him and Livia, he felt he needed to watch his step so as not to arouse Terry's suspicions.
That may have been a mistake, because, despite the beating he'd given her, Livia was still attracted to him and might have given something away which would keep him vigilant.
And Livia disliked Sofia, and had her own plans.