Natalia sat on the sofa near Aloysius, utterly stunned. This sweet man had been born as a female, thrown out and disowned by his family, lived through a fast and active marriage to the person who saved them one night, then lived with a kindly lady with unspecified health issues. That had appeared to end when the lady died, but the young person had discovered that they had inherited everything. They had then gone on to make changes in their life, the biggest being the transition to this lovely man in front of her, and to top it off, he was a successful artist!
What was there NOT to like about this sweet man? Not a damn thing! She looked up at him, tears sliding down her cheeks, and yelled "Yes!" As soon as the acceptance of his proposal left her mouth, Natalia turned around and jumped on him, wrapping him in a very tight hug.
The next few hours were spent in pleasures we all have likely heard or known at some point, then they fell asleep in each other's arms.
Natalia woke up around 5 AM the next morning, she turned her head slightly and looked at the man who had taken her by storm. Not the kind of storm that ravages and harms everything in its path, but a totally beautiful storm of love that had her heart melting at the sight of him.
She lay there for a while, just watching her sweet man as he slept, but she was eventually forced to get up to use a washroom.
She was only out of the room for perhaps three or four minutes. When she returned, Aloysius was looking at her, smiling from ear to ear.
They spent the next three hours and a bit discussing how they wanted to do things, initially in bed, then over a home cooked breakfast. Natalia was pleased to see that her husband-to-be seemed to enjoy cooking, their full English breakfast tasted as if it belonged in a restaurant.
Natalia needed a bit of space to think, everything seemed to be snowballing at high speed and she was worried it might cause problems.
She told Aloysius that she needed to pick up a few files from the estate agency office she owned, to make sure things were fine with a few properties she was considering picking up to add to her listings. She also wanted to go home and have a chance to change clothes.
After making sure that she had everything, she left the house, got into her Ford Focus and headed into town.
A quick stop at the office produced the four files she wanted to examine. Natalia spent the next twenty minutes scanning all the documents about the properties. From what she could see in the information given, three seemed quite good, but the last one felt off somehow. Natalia couldn't explain her feeling about the fourth property, but she had learned to trust those feelings and they were saying this one was trouble.
She took the four files with her, intending to look at them again at home, then drove across the small village to her two bedroom cottage.
Aloysius understood that Natalia was feeling stressed out, like everything was suddenly going to fast. He felt that way himself at the moment.
But to be honest, Natalia brought out the good things in him that helped him to be a good, gentle, and nice man. Even before he had begun to officially transition to being male, he'd been known to pick fights with people for absolutely idiotic reasons, sometimes for no reason at all.
None of those fights had resulted in any serious injuries, for which he was quite lucky, but he'd known he had that wild side for a long time. Yet, in Natalia's presence, he didn't feel any need to be that way. If someone attacked her or them, then he would likely let it out, he supposed.
He had started work on an oil painting several months before, but hadn't managed to get past the initial layering. It just wouldn't gel. He had left it sitting on an easel in the second of the two main bedrooms since then, intending to return to it at some point, but hadn't done so yet.
Now he could feel the need to paint stirring in him, he headed up to his bedroom, tidied up the bed, then dressed in old clothes.
After setting out the various items he would need and preparing the palette, he stood and looked at the painting for a moment, then nodded.
Several hours passed as he worked on it, he was so intent on what he was doing that he didn't even notice the sun setting as the day ended.
It took his cell phone ringing to pull him out of the rather intense state he had been in. He picked up the phone and answered the call.
Natalia, once she was home, had put a teapot on and after the water was ready, had made herself a cup of tea, adding two sugar.
She had been using the second bedroom as a small office, but had placed a futon bed in there in case she had a guest stay over.
That fourth property worried her, something was definitely not as it should be. Three cups of tea and about five hours went by before she noticed something on one of the sheets for that property. The house belonged to a holding company called Nine Angels, LLC.
A quick scan online, then a call to a friend and another call to a police officer she knew from London, revealed the truth. Nine Angels, LLC. was a front for a rather well known and notorious mobster, Francis "The Flash" Ansimaro, who operated mainly from his club in London.
Nine Angels was also the name of that club in London that Francis owned, and a fairly steady turnover among the girls there was the norm.
It was quite well known by various members of the Met police force that he picked up girls from the streets, sweet talked them into working for him by saying he would help them to become gorgeous beyond belief, but what he did instead was get them hooked on coke and heroin.
Roughly every three weeks, but sometimes as often as twice a month, the body of a girl would be found in a dumpster or in the river. The girls were always dressed in the skimpiest of clothing, no matter the time of year, and not a single one was carrying identification of any kind.
Seventeen girls had been found so far just in the last twelve months. Cause of death was either overdose or drowning.
Natalia shuddered, this guy was serious bad news. She wanted nothing to do with the house, but felt it needed to be investigated.
What made it worse was that Francis was rumoured to have strong connections to at least five branches of the Sicilian mob.
She didn't know anyone on the Met force other than the officer she had called, but now she wanted to talk to Aloysius. She called him.
Al picked up the phone on the third ring, answering it, then found it was Nat calling him, she sounded rather worried about something.
After a few minutes of lovey-dovey chit chat between the two, Natalia got down to business and told Aloysius what she had discovered.
The two talked for another ten minutes or so, Aloysius eventually coming up with the names of two other officers on the Met force that might be able to help them. The second, Samantha Foxwell, was primarily involved in investigating criminal organizations, she was the second in command on the night shift for the mob section of the station she worked from, plus she had a small office at the Met's headquarters.
Aloysius told Nat that he would call Sam later that night, then led her up the stairs to view the painting in the second bedroom. When Natalia saw it, she was flabbergasted; even though there was a lot of work still to do, she could recognize her own face in the painting.
She turned to Al and almost bowled him over when she grabbed him and hugged him as if she wouldn't let him go.
"I'm amazed. I suspect this will need quite a bit more work, but you can see the sheer sense of love shining from the painting now. Once it is done, I would be willing to bet that it will be a huge ticket item in a big gallery somewhere in London or even Paris, it's that good."
The two chatted for a bit longer, then Al had a quick shower, changed into slacks and a turtleneck, and they went out for dinner.
After a leisurely meal in the pub, with no more than one alcholic drink for either of the two, they returned to his home for the night.
Both of them contacted a few friends to inform them of the engagement, Natalia's being in the village, Aloysius' primarily in London.
By seven AM on December 28th, the news of their engagement had swept through the village, from one end to the other.
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