~ Chapter 1 ~
Honey brown eyes stared down at the casket as it was lowered to the ground, her hands clenched tightly at her sides. She could feel the eyes of the man from behind her, but she refused to turn around, refused to acknowledge him. But she knew him, knew soon enough that he would come over to talk to her, to try to demand something, but on the day of her mother’s funeral, she wasn’t sure she wanted to hear it. In fact, all she wanted to do was go home, curl up in her chair, and cry. Cry at the loss of her mother, of her best friend, of the woman she looked up to that had left her alone in this world.
Her eyes flashed upward, to the overcast sky and she almost wanted to laugh. This wasn’t what her mother wanted, to be buried in some box, she wanted to be cremated, and wanted her daughter to spread her ashes. Yet, the man that was currently behind her, decided to change all those plans because he couldn’t bear the thought of her being burned. She was dead, what did it even matter?
“Ignazia?” She closed her eyes at the sound of his voice. She hadn’t spoken to him in over a year. She reached out to him when her mother was sick but he stopped responding to her messages, calls, or even her letters. If he couldn’t be around in her dark days, she sure as fuck didn’t want him around any other time. “Ignazia,” the voice repeated. She was alone now, all her mother’s friends had left the funeral, and she was all that was left. How fitting that seemed.
“It’s Izzy,” was all that she said but the man moved from behind her to step up beside her.
“You will always be Ignazia to me, regardless of what you think your name should be.” The woman wiped her eyes, took a deep breath, and then turned to face the man, shrugging her shoulders.
“What do you want?”
“I heard she passed, I had to come to pay my respects to the woman I loved.” Izzy snorted that, a half-hearted chuckle escaping her lips.
“Loved, what a thought, what a bull shit thought.” The man at her side clenched his teeth and she could hear the grinding but he didn’t say anything more. “She wouldn’t have wanted you here. She wouldn’t have wanted you to change her plans, either.”
“She was your mother, Ignazia and I loved her, more than you could ever know.” The man looked around before his gaze landed on her again. “I need to talk to you though, someplace not in the open.”
“I have nothing to say to you, Carlo, nor do I have anything to hear from you.” She turned to walk away from him but his voice stopped her in her tracks.
“It’s papa,” he told her. She flung her black hair with its bright red streaks over her shoulder and looked at him.
“It might have been when I needed you, now it’s just Carlo.” And with that, she left him standing there, the rain now starting to drizzle harder.
Izzy walked into the apartment that she had shared with her mom for the last six months while her mother was sick. She sat her purse down and the memories overwhelmed her, knocking her to her knees. Sure, she was older, and had lived away from her mom now for a couple of years, but this was her mom, this was the only parent she had left. And at one point, she might have counted Carlo her dad, but not now, not when he turned his back on her when she needed him the most.
“Oh mom,” she mumbled through her fingers as she cried into her hands, “what am I going to do? This road is not something I was ready to walk alone on.” She stayed there, right beyond the door for who knows how long? She just knew she didn’t want to leave, didn’t have the strength to move. In fact, she wasn’t even sure where she got the strength to manage today. And she knew, fuck did she know, she wasn’t done with it.
If Carlo wanted to talk to her, no matter how many times she said no, or fuck off, or go to hell, he wouldn’t stop. Carlo always got his way, always got what he wanted. So she knew it was only a matter of time before his goons came to get her to take her to wherever he was so they could talk. Although, she couldn’t phantom what he could possibly say to her. She had no ears for it, not now. Maybe that’s what she could do? Pretend to listen but not really? But she didn’t have time to come up with anything else as someone pounded on her door.
“Open up, Ignazia,” someone said. She shook her head and stood up, crying out as the sharp pain bounced around her legs. “Are you alright?”
“Fine. Give me a second before you start tearing down my door.” She waited a few seconds for the pain to go away before she opened the door, looking at the man who rivaled a wrestler. He glanced behind her into the apartment and she opened the door wider. “No one was here, I was on the floor, crying my eyes out over the death of my mother, and got up to fast. Anything else?” She could see her words affected him and left him speechless, but it wouldn’t stop him from his job.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Ignazia.”
“Thank you.” She grabbed her purse and then locked up behind her, wincing at the sharp pains still as she walked down the hallway behind him. “What’s your name?”
“Tito, I’m your dad’s personal man.”
“His enforcer. Why did he send you to get me?” His big shoulders lifted up.
“Maybe because he knows I’d do the job? Maybe because he thought you might listen to me.” Izzy shook her head before she climbed in the car.
“Big doesn’t scare me, make sure you relay that to my dad from here on out.” With that, Izzy shut the door on him. She didn’t mean to sound like a bitch to him, she knew he was just doing his job, but she was pissed, hurt, frustrated, and someone was going to get the brunt of that. And if Tito here dealt with her dad, she was sure he had more than enough instances with that man and his anger.
Izzy glanced around the little diner she had just walked in, finding it odd that not a single customer was in there but one man sitting at a corner booth. With another look around, Izzy started walking toward the corner, sighing as she dropped herself down on the seat across from him. She folded her arms over her chest, crossed her legs under the table, and leaned back in the booth, looking at Carlo. He shook his head at her demeanor.
“Want something to drink?”
“I’m fine, thank you. Did you clean this place out?” she asked.
“I paid for privacy and I was granted it,” he said, waving the waitress over, who set down their drinks. Izzy just looked at the soda before looking up at the man again, not bothering to hide her irritation at this. Carlo shrugged his shoulders and took a sip of his coffee. “I am sorry about the loss of your mother, Ignazia. Maria was the only woman to hold onto my heart.”
“Please don’t give me the lies.” Carlo snapped his gaze up to look at her.
“It’s not a lie. But circumstances beyond my control happened and the only thing I could do was send her far away, someplace where she was safe and happy. But it’s not like I didn’t keep an eye over you two, you know that.”
“When it was easy for you. Where were you when she got sick and was in and out of care facilities? Where were you when I finally had to take care of her from home?”
“Who do you think paid for all of that?” That shut Izzy up fast. She wasn’t sure, to be honest, but maybe she figured her mom had paid for them or didn’t bother to pay for them at all. But she never saw a bill come in either.
“You paid for all of it?” Even as she asked the question, she knew. Deep down, even if she didn’t want to think about it, she knew he had. But why now? When he hadn’t shown an ounce of care once since she had gotten sick, why did he think it was okay for him to cover everything.
“I did, Ignazia. I told you, I loved your mother and I wanted to marry her. She was the only woman I ever saw myself with.” She watched the man across the table, a man that she once thought was so strong seemed to look like he had aged. “My father was the head of our family.” He stopped and then smiled. “He was the Godfather.” He watched her for any reaction and he didn’t get it. She knew what he was; it wasn’t lost on her that she was the daughter of a mob boss.
“He was murdered, as were my two oldest brothers, which meant that I became the next boss. But when I was once able to live my life as I saw fit, I couldn’t anymore. And those that I loved the most, you and your mother, had to be protected. And the only way I knew how to do that was by shipping you out here.”
“You thought they would come after us?”
“I know they would have.” Carlo stopped again, looked around the empty diner, and looked at her. “And they won’t stop. They know your mother is dead, that you have no protection, which is why I’m packing you up and making you live with me in New York where it’s safer.” That had Izzy shooting out of the chair in anger!