I apologise for the late update. The book will be complete and sent to the paid readers by the second week of July [hopefully first week itself].
The schedule is as follows:
1. Monday: DOE
2. Wednesday: PURE POISON
3. Friday: SPRING’S SEDUCTION
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I stared at the mirror; a calculating strategist stared back at me. Her eyes shimmered with the gold eyeshadow, and her lips were painted a deep cherry red. Her wedding gown was grand with lace appliques and embroidery done with golden threads.
“This is the finest craftsmanship I have ever come across, Mimi,” I whisper to her.
I turn around and give her a smile. She is skittish but allows herself to smile. The interviewer from a highly influential fashion magazine, upon my insistence, did an exclusive interview with Mimi as well. The gown was bespoke, one of its kind and was sure to create ripples in the fashion world. The address to Mimi’s shop had been taken. I had been photographed from all angles, and my thoughts on the marriage asked.
“I am booked the next week, you have given my shop the necessary PR,” Mimi giggled.
“And you deserved it. Your designs are so unique, you should be showcasing your work at fashion weeks,”
“Hopefully I will be given that opportunity,”
“You will! It will take a little time, but you must be patient. At least you will now be financially stable!”
“I will be, I am planning on moving to a better locality as soon as I get some money. I will be hiring some artisans and craftsmen as well for working upon the dresses. You have no idea how grateful I am, this was a dream!”
“Dreams always come true,” I whisper.
My own words strike me. I turn to look at the mirror.
My dream of becoming a capo. My ambition. My priority.
Suddenly I realised that I had not been thinking about them as much as I should be. I was giving myself the freedom to enjoy emotions that would only come to haunt me later on. How could I be a fool? Raffaello was my enemy, how could I be attracted to him?
Joe entered the room, he pinched little Joey’s cheeks who cooed at her father. Mimi ignored him and started to pack her bags. There was longing in Joe’s eyes, I hated to see my brother in this condition. But I understood Mimi as well, she was innocent, and there was a lot to lose in our line of work. Especially in our line of work.
“You look beautiful, Valentina,” Joseph said and placed a tender kiss on my cheek.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
“Silvano is coming, I just wanted to check if you are ready,”
“Is Raffaello here?” I asked.
“He is, and by the looks of it, the man is eager. He has been glaring at Silvano ever since he arrived, Raffaello wants this to be done!”
I raised my eyebrow and let a smile appear on my lips. Somehow it felt nice that I would be with someone eager to make something out of this relationship. Most mafia marriages were treated like duties, responsibilities and were never enjoyed. I had a feeling that it would be different with Raffaello.
Too bad, I was his worst enemy, and he didn’t even know it yet.
Joe cleared his throat as Silvano entered the green room. He was in a grey suit, looking every bit a mafia don. But that was all to him, looks. On the inside, he was an empty vessel ringing every time it was touched. I hugged him tightly and placed a small kiss on his cheek.
“You have performed every duty and task with utmost sincerity, Valentina. You are a good daughter, I am proud.” Silvano blinked the tears from his eyes and I urged to roll my eyes. So suddenly this mare came with sentimental value as well.
But I acted as the perfect fucking daughter and hugged him once again.
“I wish your Nonno were here as well,” Silvano said.
I agreed with him but didn’t voice the thought.
“Let’s get going, I have never seen Raffaello this eager. You are a lucky woman, Valentina. He cherishes you very much.”
We walked down the aisle; I could see the guests turned towards us through my veil. I saw Victor looking at me, his jaw was set, and old anger simmered in his eyes. We passed him, and my heart instantly felt heavy. A very rebellious part of me told me to run away with Victor, but I had to push it down.
“You are mine, Valentina.”
The volume of his voice was so low, it was as if those words were only for me. For my ears. I stiffened for a second but didn’t dwell longer. It would raise doubts; tears pricked my eyes, but I forced myself to walk. I reached the altar as my father gave me off to Raffaello. Raffaello pulled me to him and placed his hands around my waist. I sneaked a glance up at him. His eyes were looking right at me.
“We are gathered here today for the holy matrimony of ….”
I tuned the priest out. My mind was in calculation mode. From where I stood, I could see Joe’s eyes looking at me. They held the same expressions as mine. Right at this moment, guns, gold biscuits and cold hard cash would be getting transferred to Mimi’s basement. It was our first shipment, the guns. We were selling them to some miscreants in Brazil, and they were ready to pay us the amount that we demanded. The shipment was going to go to Mimi’s cousin, who held the warehouse. The rest was simple.
Because of the festivities and exchange of duties and positions, Silvano would be handing over the reins of the business to Joe for a while. Joe would be using our cargo ships to carry the guns all the way to Brazil. After that, a massive amount of money would enter our Swiss bank accounts.
I had come up with this plan after leaving Mimi’s store. We didn’t have to sell the painting; it could be one of our safety assets. The times ahead were bleak, and I needed all my resources. Paintings and related art fetched a high value in the market.
I felt my veil being raised, and a kiss pressed upon my lips. I was brought back to the present. Claps roared across the room, and I let a blush cover my cheeks. We stepped down the aisle, now husband and wife. I looked at Raffaello and even though there was no smile on his face but still his eyes beamed with mirth.
Champagne popping and cake cutting.
The reception was my next act. I was in Raffaello’s arms as we waltzed slowly on the dance floor.
“You are mine,” Raffaello murmured.
Beat your chest and howl it across the room, will you?
I kept the sardonic comment to myself.
“You have said that a few times already,”
“Well, it is a little hard to believe.”
“Why? I wasn’t that unattainable,”
“Well, you are Roman’s granddaughter. And that is an achievement,”
“What does that mean?”
“Let’s just say that this marriage between us is a little revenge,” Raffaello whispered.
I looked at him, his voice had turned a bit taunting, and the soft expression reserved for me was absent. He looked calculative and cold. I was suddenly fearful of him; something didn’t feel right here.
“I don’t think I am following you,” I whisper.
“For someone who has been taught the best of the martial arts, your brain does run a little slow. Are you sure they weren’t just little defensive classes your grandfather taught you?”
My temper flared, but I kept my features schooled.
“You are nothing but a pawn, I am sure you know that,” Raffaello said, “but not your father’s. Silvano is a stupid man, I didn’t have to marry you to take over the Ricci syndicate. It was your grandfather who posed a challenge, you see I perfectly minded my business, but he had to send me to jail. I lost it then.”
I looked at Raffaello, my blood running cold. Nonno was the informer who had sent Raffaello to jail?
“I thought of a million ways to end his life, but they didn’t give me the satisfaction, and then I learnt of his love for you. Everything just came into place on its own, your father trying to prove his allegiance to me, he offered you. And I graciously accepted.”
“So all this time, you have been fooling me with your sweet and cocky words?” I say. My voice is cold and sharp.
“Oh no, I really like you. There is no one suited to be my wife than you, you are than just a tight pussy,”
I flinch at his ugly words. I can feel Joe looking at me, questions swimming in his eyes. I stand here, taking in the humiliation. I will not forgive Raffaello for this, he has just signed his death wish.
“Well then,” I whisper, “it doesn’t matter whether you married me for revenge or for a partnership with my family. I am to be your wife, and I will dutifully be one.”
Raffaello raises a brow. I am passed to Joe, and we start to waltz.
“That conversation was intense,” Joe said.
I reveal to him the truth. Joe’s expression is angry, but he masks his face with indifference. Raffaello’s eyes are on us, but I don’t care.
“I think this cements our purpose further,” Joes says and twirls me.
“It does. But we must be careful, Joe. We have to very careful, Raffaello is a dangerous man. He is calculating and merciless, and I am a fool for forgetting that. Do not trust anyone,”
“Don’t worry, the shipment has left the docks. Its halfway through the ocean. As far as trusting the men, we have to create an army. An army of worthy Ricci men,”
“And allies,” Joe agrees.
“I am going to finish him off,” I state.
It is Victor’s turn now. He comes forward, and I graciously take his hand. My feelings are all over the place, my heart has just been crushed by my husband, and I do not know if I should be trusting Victor as well.
“You don’t look to be a happy bride,” he comments, “something troubles you.”
“I am surrounded by double-faced men, why shouldn’t I be feeling that way?”
Nonno always favoured Wolffs. Should I trust him?
“I can assure you, Valentina. I am as authentic as possible.”
“I have been betrayed,” I blurt out.
“If I ask you to be an ally of the Ricci. A proper ally, Victor. Will you accept that proposal?”
“To be an ally of the Ricci means to be an ally of the Morretti. I don’t want to be a Morretti ally,”
“Ricci is a separate entity, Victor. It doesn’t matter what the others are saying. Ricci is and will always be, their own. Will you be a Ricci ally?”
“If what you say is true then yes. I would be a Ricci ally. What’s happening Valentina?”
“My Nonno always thought that marrying you would be the best decision. I agreed with him, wholeheartedly. I just want you to know this,” I whisper and turn to Caporegime Salvatore, he has a taunting smile on his face as well, and I do everything in my control to not plunge my dagger in his heart. I look around, Raffaello is talking to some of his associates. No one is looking at us.
“Welcome to the Moretti family, Valentina,” Salvatore smirks.
I feel Victor’s eyes on me, but I cannot communicate with him any further.
“Thank you, Caporegime Salvatore,”
“I think it should be consigliere, don’t you think? Raffaello has always appreciated my sense of maturity and logic in times of conflicts and crisis,”
“Don’t they mean the same? Conflict and crisis?” I cannot help myself, “you don’t have to use so many words to sound intelligent.”
The smirk is wiped off Salvatore’s face. I feel the dagger of betrayal digging deeper. My foolish father will be nothing, he handed over the family, thinking he would still be holding on to an important position. What was happening? My family was crumbling in front of my eyes.
“You think you are so smart,” he starts, but I cut him in between.
“Excuse me, I have to use the loo,” I say and strut towards the loo. I can almost feel Salvatore fuming behind me. A smirk makes its way to my lips.
But my happiness is short-lived, soon I am filled with bloodlust. I look at my lace glove covered hands. I hear footsteps following me. I turn around and see Salvatore following me, he is livid. There is no one in this part of the hotel, I gulp my fears and look at the ceilings, there is one camera staring at me.
“You think you can say anything to me and will get away with it?” Salvatore snarls. I turn to him, my back facing the camera.
“For someone who wants to be a consigliere, your emotions are surely all over the place. These traits don’t suit an advisor,”
I take a calculating step towards him, a plan forming in my mind.
“You have no idea what awaits you, Valentina,” Salvatore spits. He pulls out his knife and pushes me against the wall.
I cower, my lip trembling and eyes filling themselves up with tears. It is all an act, of course. The Morrettis aren’t the only ones.
“Please don’t kill me,” I wail loudly. I raise my hands up in the air.
“Where is the smartness now, bitch?” Salvatore snarls.
The camera is recording everything.
He inches closer to me, the knife now on my neck. It is sharp, but I am sharper. I take my lace glove coloured hands and attempt to push him away. At the very same time, a thin steel tool pointed at the very front tears open my lace. It is a syringe. It is already laced with a very lethal poison. One prick in Salvatore’s skin and he would die.
I have always been over-prepared for every situation, and today was no different. It is difficult to notice this needle as it leaves a tiny prick on his skin. I push him away, but he is faster with his knife.
“What is happening here?”
It is Raffaello. His brow is raised, and he looks at Salvatore.
“Your wife’s tongue is too smart, Capo. Have to cut it off!”
I want to scoff, but I have to dispose of the needle as well. I don’t want it to be traced back to me. I wipe the tears away hastily.
“Go back to the reception, Tina,” Raffaello says.
I whimper but walk away. My eyes are constantly on the cameras, I don’t want them to catch what I am doing. I want this to be covert and sleek. My first assassination.
I love the thrill, I let a small smile tug on my lips. I enter the reception and look at the cameras, there are four in the room. An aunt of Raffaello comes to me, she hugs m, and I wrap my arms around her. I take the tiny syringe out of my glove; it is still laced with poison, and I don’t want this poor lady to die.
At that very moment, a Moretti associate passes us, and I slip the syringe in his pocket. The aunt is too old to notice, and she continues to talk, the associate is already across the hall.
A few moments later, Salvatore is dead. The associate has been caught.
How was the chapter?