T W E N T Y
Two weeks later
“So, that’s it? He called, and you agreed without feeling the need to inform any of us?” I asked, trying hard to suppress my anger with bewilderment. The only reason I cut Luca some slack because he was back from the hospital one day ago and taking two bullets for a family member meant something to me.
But gratefulness only got so far.
“Matteo said he had to take care of some urgent business for Boss.” Luca turned his head towards Viktor, who was sitting on the chair behind the polished wooden table, his eyes intensely fixed on Luca. “So, I didn’t interrupt him. Ma’am was getting late for the event, so I went alone and took a few security guards with me,” he narrated with a slightly shaky voice. His gaze kept bouncing between both of us, hoping to pardon him of his mistake.
Sitting across from Viktor, I coolly met his eyes and regarded him silently.
Even though we were not the only ones in the room, pin-drop silence saturated the air. The past week was tensed for all of us—we lived, breathed, and ate with a traitor among us.
The attack on Mia was an attack on this family. Moreover, they stole our weapons, used it to threaten us, sending a clear message of how easily they could crush us.
Livid doesn’t even begin to describe what we felt.
So, the priority was to find the bloody mole and make him wish he wasn’t even born.
“So, what do we do with him, Boss?” Lorenzo asked finally, breaking the eerie silence.
All the eyes in the room turned towards him—around six or seven guards, Christian, Marco, Luca, butthead James, as I called him, Viktor and mine. Lorenzo nervously glanced around, immediately realizing it wasn’t his place to speak.
Viktor’s expressionless face remained stoic and cold; only he kept twisting the family ring with the other hand. It was the very ring—a family heirloom—passed on from Dad to Viktor the day he took charge of the business. And this entitlement gave him the power to have his word treated as law.
“We will do with Matteo what we do to traitors,” Viktor finally rumbled, voice dripping with authority. “But before that, I want to know something. How in the fuck’s name he managed to loop the security cameras, steal my guns to kill my wife?”
A deathly silence fell over the room as every one of them averted their eyes, casting downwards.
Seething in anger, Viktor slammed the desk hard, jolting everyone as he rose and barked at them, “I asked how?”
Sensing no one would dare to utter a word, Viktor turned to me. “What do I do with these idiots, Dominic? Sure, Matteo planned the whole thing and tried to kill Mia, but it was still him against all of us. These men of mine claim to be the best—iron clad and rock-solid—and all I see is a bunch of morons with their dicks in their hands!”
Scouring the room for a moment, I stopped at the opposite corner. “Christian, get Matteo in the basement and chain the fucker down,” I commanded and turned to others. “And you all—I will personally call on each one of you, and if I find out that anyone of your lackings had contributed to this attack, you won’t be spared.”
They began to exchange glances, hoping to hell that they wouldn’t have to face any one of us, and all our wrath would be directed at Matteo.
“And one more thing,” I announced. “No one touches Matteo without my or Viktor’s permission. He’d hurt our family, so we will be the one teaching him a lesson.”
Adding gasoline to the fire, my brother snapped too. “And not just him—it’s a lesson for everyone—an example—as to what happens when they cross a Romano,” Viktor added. “I think Vittelo and Gemma were not good enough.”
Giving it a moment to let the threat sink in, I frowned. “Why the hell are you all still here?”
They left quickly, trying to hold on to any sliver of pride they had. Working for us meant one thing for these men—failure wasn’t an option.
We spent hundreds and thousands of dollars to run the streets, to keep the government and law enforcement in our pockets, and the fucking Chicago under our thumb. We would go to any length to ensure whoever coming for us regrets every breathing moment—and all these extreme measures for what? To have a fucking rat—a bloody mole in our house—to betray us?
Once everyone had left, Viktor spoke up. “Three million,” he said in a monotone.
I glance up from the Rubik’s cube in my hand. “What?”
“The weapons stolen from us were worth three million street value. I don’t give a fuck about the money, but it is the reputation that is on the line. Once word gets out that one of our own ripped us, do you know how bad it would make us look?” Viktor sneered, fisting his hand so tight that not only the knuckles turned white but, I thought the tiny veins would pop.
“Why don’t you take care of Matteo and let me handle the rest?” I offered passively and informed further. “The media is onto the story like a leech, especially when Mia has a social reputation. Our contacts in the ivory tower told me that Chicago PD is taking this case as a slam dunk one—a regular gang war.”
Viktor scoffed, and then laughed. “A regular gang war? Well, Chicago is about to witness what a war looks like when they try to kill a Romano.”
My phone beeped as I unlocked and stared at the screen.
What the fuck?
“We have another problem, Viktor,” I said, my eyes flying up with furrowed brows. “Someone has been mixing crap in our product. At least seven samples for five different factory outlets have tested positive. The packets were far from pure grade.”
The moment I communicated him the information, the realization finally struck me hard.
His eyes leveled with mine as we both shared a knowing look. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” I eagerly asked.
Viktor nodded slowly, communicating his thoughts. “The attack was a means to an end.”
“Some people wanted us distracted, lost,” I added. In mafia business, an attack on family meant personal vendetta, but this was all a giant fucking smokescreen. Just like the world, the mafia was also evolving, and with new players, came new rules.
Except we had our own set of players and rules. Being the Romano, we didn’t compete with others—we eradicated them. And that was about to fucking happen.
“It’s time we pay a visit to Matteo and ask him about this good friend of ours,” Viktor proposed villainously, cracking his neck from side to side. “And I want to do it in front of others. Let them know what happens when they cross us.”
The basement cell where we held Matteo—no, trussed him against the wall chains—was heavily guarded inside out. We wanted his agony to be an appropriate spectacle for the rest of the men should they dare to make us question their loyalty.
Even with heavily armed men crowding the room, the stench of brutality lingering thickly in the air, Matteo wheezing rose among all. Rearing back his hand, Viktor punched him hard and square in the ribs, coercing agonizing screams out of his throat.
“I don’t know, don’t know…” the only song he sang again and again.
Viktor breathed hard, nostrils flared up, but he didn’t say a word. Somewhat he picked up this habit from our father, or maybe it was a blood thing.
Growing up, until a certain adolescent age, Viktor and I were brought up at the whims of our father. And when we were able to determine things for ourselves, we wanted to be precisely the Alessandro Romano people knew and feared.
“If his brain’s not working,” I said, stepping forward and coming to stand beside my brother, “I could help him jog his memory, Viktor.” Turning to one of the men, I ordered, “Bring in the chair.”
Matteo’s head sprang up quickly, with his eyes dreadfully wide in recognition, his lips stammered incoherently.
“No, no, no. I am telling you the truth, boss. I am—”
Viktor shut him up with the raised palm and clamped his mouth with fingers digging into his bruised cheeks. “Shut. The. Fuck. Up.” Viktor hissed into his face, spittle flying.
The chair arrived as I unlatched the locked and dragged Matteo from the wall and pushed him into the chair. Inclining my head, I nodded at Marco, standing nearby, to set up the wires.
Customarily, we would either beat the shit out of a rat or mutilate him, but Viktor and I had plans.
Plans that required him alive and in one piece for certain contingencies.
“Last chance,” I warned him, picking up the remote and fingering the buttons. “Tell us who set you up to kill Mia, and this ends less painfully, Matteo.”
“I don’t, I don’t—” He couldn’t very well keep up the denial as Marco pulled the strap against his chest tightly, forcing the hollow cry for his broken ribs.
Viktor smirked twistedly. “He’s not in a talkative mood, Dominic. Think you can change that?”
“Oh, I am confident,” I crowed in.
All it took to convert Matteo’s cries into unbearable pain was to press that red button. The basement walls vibrated with his piercing screams until Viktor and I were done with him for the day, and only then did we let him pass out.
The confession didn’t come, but he wasn’t dead yet—so unlucky for him—we had ample time to elongate his torture for another day.
Massaging my temples, I sat down on the edge of the bed. The day’s toiling was heavy, though my mind battled on its own to look for the peace of mind I lost weeks ago. The insurmountable pressure on my head and sharp ache in my heart, for the first time, had nothing to do with my family and everything to do with the woman I failed to understand—Lilliana.
Sometimes, it seemed I lost the understanding of my sanity altogether.
Above the raging gong drumming in my head, the sound of the gentle knock on my door dragged me to my feet to cross the room and answer whoever the hell it was. But when I wrenched it open, a strange human stood there.
Her fragile hands clutched the tray of the scotch bottle so tightly it was evident how incompetent she was at service. When I nodded and allowed her inside, the sight of her curves, highlighted by that tight dress she chose to wear, soured my mood.
Yes, I was a man at the prim, youthful age of my sexuality was turned off by the indecent view of the feminine figure.
Lilliana, if not for anything, I fucking hate you for ruining my sexual desires.
The woman began to fumble with the glass and ice-bucket as I observed her closely. Sure enough, she was no servant, for Mia would never allow anyone wearing that and strolling inside the mansion.
“What are you doing?” I inquired flatly, when she remained bent over, allowing me the unhindered view of her lewd backside.
“I-uh-making the drink, Sir.”
Sizing her briefly, I took a few intimidating steps closer. “I didn’t ask you to.” I jerked my thumb towards the door, ordering, “Leave.”
Embarrassingly, she looked around and suggested, “If there’s anything else, I could—”
In two, long, purposeful strides, I was in her face, charging at her so fiercely that it shut her up. Fishing out some bills, I stuffed into her trembling palm. “For the troubles, and I need you to do something else, too,” I explained as her eyes crinkled with confusion. “Tell Marco you did good—as good as Aurora. Now, go.”
The small, narcissistic, evil part of me smiled wickedly, watching her leave. I figured I’d apologize to Aurora for the obscene comment, but knowing my intentions, she would gladly revel in tormenting Marco.
The fucking asshole.
I tried hard, for the rest of the night, to steer all my flittering thoughts and emotions about the woman who crowded my mind, but I realized something harrowing in the process: the world could burn down and turn to ashes, but Lilliana would always occupy a part of my mind and harness a power over me that I couldn’t fathom.
Enjoy the Chapter as I would be updating a bit frequently than before.
For my grammar Nazi readers, this Chapter isn’t edited so bear with me until I do the necessary edits.