N I N E T E E N
I knew how to fire a bloody bullet; I didn’t know how to take one. And whoever said taking one in your arm doesn’t hurt, didn’t know anything about getting shot. It hurts so fucking bad, even with morphine injected into my system.
And this whole getting-shot-in-the-arm wasn’t good enough that I had to listen to Viktor yapping, on and on, about how he wanted to kill me.
Seriously. Getting killed seemed a better choice than listening to Viktor.
Right now, lying on the hospital bed, I wondered: how many enemies did Mia inherit when she married Viktor?
Given Viktor’s crazy state, he should lock away his wife forever because someone someday is going to get lucky with a shot. And that day, I don’t plan on being around.
For a brief second there, with bullets flying everywhere, I thought maybe Dante had something to do with it. But the weapons made me think differently. There’s no way on earth Dante would be able to get his hands on such expensive firearms. So, whoever he was, he would strike again.
I only wished it wasn’t before my plan for this family would be through.
My trail of thoughts was promptly interrupted as the wooden door opened slowly, and Dominic walked in. His appearance spoke volumes. Hair disheveled, his face set in a hard expression, and his well-formed jaw tensed. On rare occasions, I saw him donning such void look in his eyes, and for some unknown reasons, a dark, sickening twitch gripped my heart.
He came closer as I tried to sit up on the bed. “What were you doing with Mia?” he asked, getting straight to the point.
All the Romanos cut out of the same cloth. The same ruthless pigs.
“Contrary to what you may think, Dominic, I have a job to do. And if I don’t do it right, I might get fired and end up on the streets,” I snarled.
“And every time your job brings you closer to one of our family moments before we are attacked on,” he implied.
Anger thickened, and I couldn’t speak for several moments. “If you are accusing me of something, grow a pair and tell them to my face.”
I saw his conflicted emotions scatter all over. The seed of trust I planted in his mind was sprouting slowly. Dominic never fully trusted me, but he never fully distrusted me either. And for this incident, he was right, for I had nothing to do it whatsoever.
I snorted, looking away. “Yeah, I thought so. At least your brother was the better devil, Dominic,” I punched hard.
His void expression concocted into something ferocious. “What the fuck do you mean by that?”
“He barged in, demanding to know as to why I wanted to kill his wife,” I told him.
I was putting it mildly. In truth, Viktor threatened outright to kill me in the worst possible ways if he ever found out I was behind the whole ordeal. Little did he know—I was after him.
“And do you?” Dominic asked.
“Do I what?”
“Want to kill Mia?”
The effect of painkillers was starring to wear off as I sat upright with an effort. “My boss was supposed to interview her, but she couldn’t make it and sent me instead. I would have been in and out of that place within fifteen minutes, but Mia invited me to her car because she was getting late. You can ask her. So, tell me, how the fuck is any of this my fault?” I snarled at him. “And magically, she is the one, unhurt, while I am stuck in this hospital with a fucking bullet in my arm! So, screw you, asshole!”
I shoved the bedsheet away, getting out of the bed to march into the bathroom so that I won’t have to see his face. Quick on his reflexes, he stopped me, gripping the unhurt arm. “Stop, stop. Listen to me first.”
“Why?” I spat out. “So that you can accuse me some more? Let me go!”
“Alright.” He instantly retrieved his hand, gesturing surrender. “Let’s…just talk.”
My instinct knew before my mind, and I didn’t recoil from my position. Something changed in Dominic, and my curiosity demanded to know what exactly went wrong.
“I wanted to talk in the first place, but you had other plans.”
Dominic went to sit down on the couch and scrubbed his face. “Your coincidences with my family are rather eventful,” he said, choosing his words carefully.
“If you people think I have anything to do this, how the hell am I in this hospital?” Dominic gave one of those long, cynical stares. “What? Just because the wound isn’t fatal, it doesn’t count?”
“I didn’t say that,” he defended.
Shaking my head, I closed my eyes, muttering softly, ”Fuck you.”
I didn’t know when he got up from the seat and closed the distance between us, but I felt his hand cupping my shoulder gently. It was one of those soft, careful touches I reveled in during my moments of weakness.
“Can I ask you something?” he asked. “I need an honest answer, Lilliana.”
The use of my name, the way it rolled out of his lips, was utterly professional. “Ask away,” I granted.
“Mia said that while she was helping Luca, you held fire for a brief time. Where did you learn to use a firearm?”
Dark fear zipped up to my spine. With my body tensed, I could feel the resolve of calmness slipping away. Shit! “Firing a gun isn’t rocket science.” I shrugged.
“No, it isn’t,” Dominic agreed, smiling softly. “It isn’t a cakewalk either, especially when you are ambushed.“
I remained silent, unable to come up with anything.
He continued. “I was the one who taught Mia how to use a gun. It took her months to hold it properly, and then fire. It is something can’t teach yourself at the moment, Lilliana.”
Ever since my interaction with Dominic began, I conjured up lies. And I never felt bad about it. But over time, the dynamics were changing, and the puzzle felt harder than solving Rubik’s cube. Even though falsity was the basis of the relationship—or whatever it was—I didn’t want it anymore.
The imaginary steel walls were closing in, and I wanted an escape.
“Who said I learned it at that moment? Yes, I wasn’t so lucky to have someone teach me the basics, but when push comes to shove, you do what you have to do to survive. I have lived long enough on the wrong side of the street to know about guns.”
Dominic looked at me like he was trying to study me. I thought he would come up with some more questions, but surprisingly he dropped the topic altogether. “How’s your arm?” he asked and flipped the subject.
“Hurts like hell.” I grimaced, cupping the wounded elbow. Looking up, I asked him, “So, who were those people trying to kill your sister-in-law?”
“A bunch of pricks who thought coming after my family was a good idea. We would have some names, but none of them made it out alive.”
I snorted. “Yeah, well, that female terminator wasn’t exactly very merciful on them.”
“Female terminator?” Dominic barked a hearty laugh. “Don’t say that to her face. Most likely, she will strangle you.”
“I am not planning to come face-to-face with her again—at least not in this lifetime,” I told him, rolling my eyes. “But I am curious, though. She sounded like she knew me. So, the question is: how?”
His smile slowly faded as I watched him put up the protective barrier in his mind. “She is…extended family, you can say. Don’t worry about her,” he assured me. “She won’t cross your path unless you cross hers.”
I realized pushing him right now would only alleviate his suspicions on me, so I let it go. Besides, I needed more information about this mystery woman with killer skills before I venture forth with the whole plan.
What I didn’t understand was her position in Viktor’s family. The man didn’t trust anyone except for his blood, and here he was, handing over the security of one precious thing he held dear: his wife. Ergo, she had to someone important in his chain of command.
But, how the hell the woman never shown up in any database till now?
“I know you won’t trust me, Dominic, but I have nothing to do against your family. My intentions are peaceful.”
Dominic smiled softly, shaking his head like he dismissed the idea. “We are Romanos. Nobody comes near us with peaceful or honest intentions.” A loud sigh tore out of his throat. “You shouldn’t have saved me that day.”
“After all this time, why do you say that?”
Dominic averted his eyes as his fingers played with the hem of the bedsheet absentmindedly. “Too many risks, too many regrets…” he trailed off, muttering. “Look, I am going to be straightforward with you, even though you have never extended the same courtesy towards me.”
For some unknown and irrational reasons, my heart began to pound harder in my chest. “What are—”
“Stop!” He pressed a finger on my lips, cutting my words off. “You have to understand, Lilliana. I am a man who needs a clear brain to think and rationalize, and you blind me in every possible way. I am not blaming you. You have your secrets—keep them.”
No, no, no. Please, no!
“But I can’t risk getting blinded.” The words came out croaked, the muscles stiffened.
“What are you saying?” I whispered, afraid I’d hate the reply.
Dominic pinched the bridge of his nose, staring at the tiled hospital floor for sometime before replying. “What I am saying is that: we should stay far, far away from each other. I know that I am partly to be blamed for this because I shouldn’t have contacted you in the first place.
With great difficulty, I swallowed the lump in my throat as I found my voice. “Wow. Ain’t you a gentleman!”
I could see the pain in his eyes, the same ache I felt in my heart, but I didn’t know why was he twisting the knife harder. Dominic slowly stood on his feet and leaned closer, clasping my face into his large, callous hands. “I will give a bit of parting advice: don’t involve yourself in my family’s business, Lilliana. You might find yourself in a bit of jeopardy. And I don’t want that for you.”
He pressed his forehead against mine, our lips inches apart. Of all the intimacies we shared, this was, by far, the deepest yet the tragical one.
“You have to trust me, Dominic,” I pleaded in vague. “I have nothing to do with this attack.”
Dominic closed his eyes, shaking his head. “I trust you,” he rasped against my lips and breathed again. “I trust you, Lilliana. And that is why I can’t keep you. I can’t think straight around you, and it drives me fucking crazy. You, Lilliana. You. Make. Me. Crazy.”
Tears stung my eyes so bad that I couldn’t help myself anymore. Not wanting to expose my vulnerable self, I pushed him off me.
“I am not surprised, Dominic.” I managed to fake a sarcastic laugh. “You got your quick fucks, now, what good am I? I am sure there’s another rich-bitch waiting to spread her legs for you,” I spat out. “Go and shove your dick wherever you want!”
Dominic stood there; his expression was pained. I cursed him hell and back, yet he didn’t retort the way I wanted him.
He took a small step backward, and it made my heart flinch.
He was leaving me.
Dominic was almost at the door when I blasted. “That’s it, then? I have no say?” He was tossing me aside like a toy, and my temper overrode the pain.
“The Dominic Romano I knew was a dick, but not spineless or a coward,” I spat.
Again, no answer, and I was fed with silence.
I should have tried harder to make Dominic stay, to come up with some cunning plan to benefit my hidden agenda to show up in his life in the first place. But, no. That very moment, I tried to imagine how it would feel to never seeing him again. And it made me feel…broken.
Dominic looked over his shoulder briefly and withdrew. Before another word escaped my lips, he disappeared.
Dazed, I stood there like a statue, staring blankly at the door.
For a long moment, I couldn’t feel anything until I licked my lips, tasting the salty tears.
Hey everyone. Happy Diwali to all of you. I hope you have a safe and blessed one.
I apologize for my long absence and for letting you guys down. A family member was hospitalized, and I had to take the necessary leave.
These stories of mine, they mean a lot to me and I don’t want to write them half-heartedly. So, please bear with me because I really promise regular updates for the next couple of weeks until things get back to normal.
For now, please now Chapter 19, and let me know about your feedback in the comments below.