"Do I need to be worried?"
He stands in the doorway of your hotel room. You aren't surprised they've let him in - no one says no to the Bankroll, and anyway, he's paying for the room. He's not unwelcome; you could use the distraction.
"About what?" you ask, but you know what he means.
"For my own safety. Or that of the boys."
You finish filing your nails and drink from the glass on the bar, pretending to ignore the way he doesn't take his eyes off you. You like that, the way he's never treated you as anything other than an equal, from the first moment he set eyes on you that night at the Brook. You were still so angry then, so hungry for vengeance, that you almost overlooked his potential as an ally. He and his boys did nothing to stop Horvitz, and that still stings, but Arnold Rothstein has become a powerful friend here in New York.
He isn't half-bad between the sheets, either, though you've endured much worse.
"Are you scared of me, Arnold?"
A quirk of his eyebrow and his tone is deceptively light. "Are you telling me that I shouldn't be? I beg your pardon, but Manny Horvitz, Mickey Doyle, and the veritable trail of bodies following in you and Mr. Harrow's wake strongly suggest otherwise."
"I'm not here for you, if that's what you're asking."
"I didn't think you were," he says. "I presume if that ever happened, I'd be staring down the barrel of Mr. Harrow's sawed-off."
"I'm hurt, baby," you pout, "You think I wouldn't kill you myself?"
He knows as well as you do that he's far too dangerous to go after, and if you ever seriously harmed him, his boys would kill you without question. For Frank and Meyer, it'd be good business. For Benny, it'd be a fun time. You'd like to think the prospect of killing you might give Charlie slight pause, but you know he would gut you for hurting AR.
His eyes narrow, hawk-focused hooded stare that you wouldn't want to bet against, and he crosses the room to pluck the glass of whiskey from your hands. He sniffs disdainfully at it, then passes it back to you and pours himself a tonic water from the bar.
"I think you shoved your son's knife between Manny Horvitz's ribs, and no one in their right mind should underestimate you."
You can remember the rush of blood over your hands, the stuttering shock of Horvitz's breath leaving his body. Can remember the scream bubbling up in your throat that you refused to give voice to, not after the bastard shot Angela and let your son swing for a childish mistake. You'd left him for Richard to finish - he's the avenging angel, you're just the demon with nothing left to burn - and you'd scrubbed his blood off your hands the same way you scrubbed Angela's off your floor.
Richard isn't the only one who cleaned up Jimmy's messes.
"But you must admit, we make an excellent team. It would be a shame to end this partnership."
New York was different. The hunger for revenge subsided, with Horvitz and Doyle dead and Nucky behind bars. No one's left to hurt you, and you'd needed to get out of Atlantic City. Charles's timely suggestion had been a golden opportunity - come up to New York, take a look at some cathouses he's thinking of running. Tell him what you thought, in your professional opinion - which is the nicest way anyone's called you a whore in a while. You accept, so long as you can also formally meet with Arnold Rothstein and see what you could do with some of the Commodore's money.
"Agreed," you say, setting the glass aside and sidling closer to him. No cologne, worn collar, tie askew - he's just come from the tables. "Especially when it's so beneficial to us both."
You love when he's like this; fresh off a loss (because had he won, he'd be out celebrating or home with his wife), a little mortal, a little stained. A king torn off his throne, but still deadly and powerful. Stripped of the trappings of the office and there for your taking.
You only have to ask.
"Ah, careful," he warns, rescuing his cufflinks from rolling under the bed. "Carolyn bought me those."
Usually, you don't give two figs for his fastidious devotion to his wardrobe, tearing it in your impatience. You wonder what he tells her - his wife, you mean. You've heard she's very sweet and very smart, and you try not to give her too much reason to question your presence in this city.
You aren't the only one remembering his wife right now, though. He always looks like that when he's reminded of her - sad and rueful, too much regret, even on the surface.
"Thinking of your queen, dear?" you pout, just for the show of it.
"You've caught me, I'm afraid."
Warning in his tone - his wife is not a topic for discussion. You've no doubt he'd kill you for going near her. You also have no desire to meet the elusive Mrs. Rothstein, so you curb your tongue and instead, tell him the truth.
"You love her. Anyone could see it; that soft look in your eye everyone mistakes for weakness just before they go all in."
You'd like to play poker with him, just once. He does owe you for smoothing over that deal with Whitlock, and for keeping him and his boys out of Nucky's investigation and trial. But he refuses every time you ask - says you should keep some mystery surrounding you both. You suspect it's mostly because he thinks he'd actually lose.
"And you?" he asks, absently pressing a kiss to your shoulder. "Do you think it's weakness?"
A stab of pain, still as strong as ever. You thought it might fade, but your son is still in every blonde boy's smile, every soldier sleeping with his gun. Sometimes you still wake up and reach for him, wander the house looking for him and only remembering too late that he's gone.
"Love is never a weakness. Not if it's real."
"Pretty to think so," he says, quietly, and if the melancholy shows in his tone, it probably also shows in your face.
He sighs as your nails scratch gently at the nape of his neck. He trails fingers along the strap of your dress, raising goosebumps and little shivers in his wake. He's always been softer with you than other men have, the ones who bite and rip and bring you to your knees both willingly and unwillingly for whatever money you ask for. You didn't mean to let him see so much, but he heard the brittle tone in your voice when you spoke of Louis, and knows why he should be careful when he has you on your back.
There are too many people in this relationship as it is.
You go to touch him, trail your fingers over the hard rise of his cock beneath bespoke wool, but he stills your hand. Tugs you over to the bed and lies down next to you, his hands wrapping around your wrists. He kisses you, so achingly slow and teasing, that you could scream.
"Fight me," he whispers. "Just this once, I want you to."
And that's so backwards, because Charlie tears you up and Arnold pieces you back together, but he never asks for anything like this. You could almost forget that he needs to break sometimes, too, let himself feel after hours of concealment. Your arms tense as he pins you to the bed, jerking, testing his grip. You need to know how far he wants to take this, because while he's loathe to hurt you most other nights, he's asked you to fight. For you, that means everything you've got, because that's how you've always fought.
"You want it to hurt, baby?"
He bites at the pulse in your neck, knee shoving between yours and spreading you wide. "Just as much as you do."
Which is all the permission you need tonight.
"Fuck, sweetheart, yes - harder."
You're flying high, because you have Arnold Rothstein flat on his back underneath you, sweating and straining for more. What's more, he's swearing, and you have to shiver at the sound of it, scraped-raw and pleading. It makes your hips work harder, tight little circles against his cock, and you've long since soaked through your underthings.
You'd honestly surprised him by pulling the tie from around his neck and looping it around his wrists. They're bound to the headboard, though you're no knot-maker and he could get free any time he likes. You both know he won't, he's too enamoured of the roles you're playing.
There are bites littering his skin - it's been a long time since you've been allowed that indulgence - and two names that will go unspoken tonight. One you share, and one you don't, but tonight is for you and him and the avarice that burns between you. Neither of you has ever been any good at denying yourselves.
"You'll bleed," you say, bending to touch your mouth to the plane of his chest. "Is that what you want?"
"I don't-" he arches against your mouth, groaning at the set of your teeth you've left right at his ribs. "I don't know. I want more, I want to feel you."
You have to laugh. "Don't you feel me now?"
A deep, slow grind of your hips, and you grip your hand tightly in his hair. Hold him still while you use him, ride him, refusing to give you both what you really want and sink down onto his cock. The muscles cord in his arms and neck, a snarl forming as he tries in vain to fuck you, and oh, he's beautiful like this.
You always knew he had it in him.
"Gillian, I won't - ahh - I won't beg." You dig nails into his shoulders, deep trails of blood in your wake, and he almost sobs. "Ei, tren zich. You want to, so do it."
Yiddish isn't one of the languages you've picked up, but you know the word for "fuck" in at least ten languages and his meaning is quite clear. The throb in your cunt is almost unbearable - would be if you hadn't played the denial game before with him, driven each other entirely out of your minds with the need to fuck, to come.
"Dear, just say the word. We'll let you out of those ties, and you can fuck me however you like."
He won't look at you, and it's a long, bowstring-taut moment until he closes his eyes and says "Gillian, please".
You loosen the tie with one hand while you skim off your slip and pantaloons with the other, and Arnold yanks his hands free in one motion. His arms wind around you, his back against the headboard, and he slides into you sharply. You fuck him slow, shaking at the stretch of him inside you and the possession in his grip.
A more foolish man might try to call you his own. A more sentimental man might temper that with an endearment. But you belong to no one, and if anyone can understand that, it's him.
The blood rushes in your ears, and when he lowers his head to mouth at your breasts, you can't help the high, gasping cries that escape. His tongue flicks out hot and maddening, and you love the hollow of his cheeks as he sucks your nipple into his mouth. You add more scratches to his shoulders and back, begging him for more, faster, harder, because unlike him, you aren't too proud for it.
"Baby, now," you breathe, sliding a hand between you to circle your clit. "Please, now."
He comes with a cry, covering your hand with his own and giving you the friction you need. Your voice is ragged, but a scream tears out as you come, and you sink against his chest in a boneless sprawl. His hand strokes through your hair, heartbeat slowly smoothing out next to your ear, and you're almost content enough to not crave a cigarette.
You should have known it was too good, too peaceful. Because it isn't too long until he's showing his hand outside the bedroom as well, losing a little more than he used to, drinking a glass of whiskey here and taking a drag of a cigarette there. Being seen less and less with Carolyn and more and more with others (Bobbie, Inez, among others). Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and he is not exempt.
Maybe it's not you lying dead in an apartment he paid for, but you know it could have been. That's what happens when you let a man like Arnold Rothstein ("like Charlie Luciano", your brain supplies, because Charlie learned well at the feet of the master) too close.
You aren't the Queen of New York, either, but you're okay with that. It means you might survive.