T W E N T Y - O N E
I was told that my mother often indulged herself in reading, sometimes dousing the long hours of the day as she drew her solace from it. Being the wife of mafia wasn’t easy.
Little information about her marital relation with my father, Dante Moretti, was given to me. But, from what I had gathered, my mother was an insightful woman with beauty, a perfect pedigree, and good manners that were required by the man of wealth and reputation.
In one of her old books—’The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall’ written by Anne Brontë, she had scribbled on the last page that love, in whatever form, was worth it.
I didn’t need people to vouch that Dante was far from a perfect husband. But my mother’s joyful existence, progressive mindset, and independency made me curious about her happy place.
How does a woman of her quality continue with her conjugal duties with a man like Dante?
Maybe, she tasted love, even for a short duration, good enough to last her a lifetime.
Love, in whatever form, was worth it.
This statement made me feel slightly less guilty to admit I fell for a man whose family was directly involved in my mother’s death.
Hate, towards Dominic, was becoming passive day by day. The sharp pang I felt in my heart when Dominic shoved me away from his path, validated how deeply I had fallen into the dark pit of despair.
“You will have to find another way to infiltrate him,” Dante hissed low so that his words were not carried out of the large container.
With scant resources, Dante found a container storage area near the Chicago Port to exchange information in person. The technology was too risky at this stage when Viktor was combing through every device.
“I need time,” I declared. “Dominic doesn’t trust me after the attack on Mia, and Viktor even less. If I try to make a move, I’d be caught,” I tried to reason with his glaring impatience, but it wasn’t worth much.
“I have plans for the Romanos, Lilliana,” he said thickly, pronouncing my name in his Italian-American accent after a long time. “I need the floor plans of the Romano mansion and direct access of the computer of either Dominic or Viktor.”
His proclamation almost he had me reconsider, and I stiffened. “What is it that you are not sharing with me?”
Dante looked around the walls as if to recheck; his mind was battling to give up information.
In the mafia world, giving up information was like giving up leverage for every little piece of information was worth something. “There is an illegal shipment of diamonds from Africa arriving soon. Viktor has invested a lot and set up two shell companies through which he funnels money. I need to know about these companies and this is why I need access to his computers.”
“I tried to hack through Dominic’s phone once,” I recalled, “but the firewalls are too strong.”
“The bastardo has hired people to protect his computers and phones so that everything is untraceable and difficult to hack from outside.”
“How do you know the shell companies?” I asked, changing the subject.
Dante was not ready, I supposed, for a bunch of emotions flickered over his face no matter how hard he tried to seem casual. “I still have old friends in this city who share my hatred for the Romano,” he answered vaguely.
“Be careful,” I warned. “Viktor knows how to buy the loyalty of people with money or guns.”
Dante chuckled darkly with confidence. “Some things cannot be brought or threatened.”
“Is there a way you could find out about the recent attack on Viktor’s wife?”
His confidence collapsed a little as discomfort clouded the features, his expression creased and stained. Dante knew, if not the intricate details, but the mere gist. Except he wasn’t willing to share with me. His answer only put another wall of distrust between us.
“It was an inside job, I heard. I will ask around,” Dante lied.
“Even an inside job requires an outside person. Do that and I will try and establish contact with Dominic.”
I left from the back without so much as throwing a glance at him, and quickly dialed Andrew from a secure line. He picked up on the third ring, sounding all giddy.
“You finally remembered me?”
“I need information about the people Dante is meeting nowadays, and I need them fast.” I went down to business without wasting a single breath.
That quickly got his attention. “Hold on, Lil. What’s going on?”
Exasperating a sigh, I went on. “I have a bad feeling that my plan for Viktor is going to ruin if Dante tries something stupid,” I blurted out.
“Plans for Viktor? And what about Dominic?” he asked carefully, combing every word.
My mind blanched for a second and throat clogged, rendering me speechless.
I picked up my walking speed, needing to concentrate. “Uh—I am here. What I mean is that—I need access to Viktor’s computer. I didn’t find much on Dominic’s phone. Listen, I have to go now. Contact me when you have more information about Dante.”
I hung up, tucking the phone into the pocket of my jacket, and walked on. It was a long walk from the Port to my apartment, but I still chose to labor just for the sake of passing the time.
Time was becoming an evitable enemy and with which passing day, the thoughts of Dominic would keep me awake every night. A shiver would judder up my spine every time I would scheme and plot against his family.
The only determination was keeping Dominic away from the harm’s way when I’d come for his brother. I was deeply wedged between revenge and mafia power to back away from the war I chose to lead. I knew that backing out was not a viable option, and neither of us would come out of this alive.
I was sorely empty before I met Dominic, but only alive with a purpose of revenge. But in those moments of arguments and lust, I found a man I was unabashedly attracted in so many ways I could not fathom.
At first, I fought with my mind, took shame in wanting him the way I shouldn’t; but in the end, I had to give up. It was easier to admit and shield him for what’s to come.
The Dominic I knew, wouldn’t forgive me for what I was planning for, and would probably come for my life. I figured—better him than I.
Better he pulls the trigger on me than I on him.
Call it selfishness, call it madness, or whatever the hell it was—I would not be the end of Dominic Romano. I would rather he was the end of me.
The vulnerability of a man supersedes everything when he falls in love because he has something to lose. Immediately, the power becomes the weakness.
Only a couple of months ago, I fought, fucked, and lived whichever way it suited me, and then slept a peaceful night’s sleep, knowing I was unbeatable. Knowing it would take a better man to best me, to take away the sanity of the mind.
Except now, I was the man losing my sleep over my vulnerability.
Before the light of the dawn would take over the smoky, cold night of this heartless city, I ventured into the gym. The state of sleeplessness pumped a heavy of dose adrenaline into my body instead of fatigue, and I had to shed it. More so, my mind was a jumbled emporium of insanity.
And insanity was a disease, eating me inside-out.
The more I thought about Lilliana, the harder I punched the bag.
For the first time, when my family needed me the most, I was more engrossed in looking for proof that Lilliana wasn’t involved, rather than looking for the man who posed a vile threat to my family. Evidence of her innocence became so important to me that I was ready to risk my life for it.
It was utterly wrong and devastatingly dangerous.
But it was also something that I wanted with every fiber of my being.
With renewed aggression, I hit the punching bag harder until every drop of adrenaline in my body was well-spent. Suddenly, a bone-crunching jab hit my ribs out of nowhere, not only throwing me off balance but landing me on my ass of the gym floor.
“You psychotic son of a bitch!” Aurora snarled, looming over me like an angry beast. “What did you tell Marco?”
My cluelessness dissipated as I sighed with a smirk. When I extended my hand, expecting Aurora to pull me off the floor, she slapped it away and kicked my foot.
“I was having a little fun,” I told her, getting up. “But it’s good to know how gullible Marco could be, especially when it comes to you.”
Aurora didn’t enjoy the humor of Marco’s annoyance as I do, for obvious reasons. After all, the woman was as masochistic in love as I was. The only difference was that she enjoyed physically, and I did emotionally.
“He asked if I had slept with you,” she intoned. She shook her head dismissively, finally looking up to meet my gaze.
“Why do you let him drive you mad when you deserve so much more than he is willing to give?” I blurted out because I was looking for the same answer.
“He ruined me,” she admitted painfully, but not surprisingly regretfully. “And yet he was so much more than anyone could ever give me. So I would rather have this incompleteness with Marco rather than empty with someone else.”
I listened to her silently; her small sighs in those rarest moments when Aurora acted more like her age and grace, rather than the beast Marco has made of her.
“Don’t make the mistakes I made, Dominic,” she cautioned when I mutely gaze at the window, watching the faint light of the dawn. “Come back while you still can because once you cross the threshold, there’s no going back—ever.”
I wondered which line she was talking about. “Last night, your ex sent a whore to my room, hoping a quick fuck was a solution. She was a little younger than Lilliana, maybe, but she had the same brown hair and eyes. Any other day, I would have satisfied my needs. Instead, I chose a cold shower.” I narrated her last night’s events, turning around to see her reaction. She was unfazed. “So I don’t know which line you are talking about, but I am pretty badly fucked anyway.”
Aurora smirked a sly smile, a corner of her lips twisting up. “And you got even with Marco by sending a message that we had fucked before? I’d never understood the narcissistic male minds.”
Coming over to sit beside her on the bench press, I revealed. “Marco has a thick skin even Viktor can’t get under it. The only way to piss him off is to bring you into the conversation to get his attention.”
Before we could indulge more in the conversation, a figure strolled in. It didn’t take time to realize it was one of my brother’s armed minions.
“Boss wants you both in the basement,” he informed crisply, waiting for a confirmation from our end.
Aurora nodded and dismissed, turning towards me. “It’s about Matteo?”
“I would think so.”
As we made our way to the basement, Aurora distractedly told me, “I checked his bank accounts and financial statements, Dominic. There were no huge deposits, and we both know that money is exchanged first in our line of business.”
“He wasn’t paid in cash, but in kind. We found gold bricks and stolen diamonds in one of his lockers.”
Aurora bobbed her head slowly, letting the information sink as we entered the cell. Viktor was already onto him, beating him to an inch of his life. The rest of our men simply stood there, crowding the space.
“Did he talk?” I asked Viktor, grabbing Matteo by the hair and yanking his head up. He was a bloody mess—not that I expected anything less when my brother dealt with him.
“He is of no use now since he won’t talk,” Viktor said coolly, as Matteo groaned in pain. “I have wasted enough time on him, but I have a fucking business to run. Finish him off, Dominic.”
Letting go of his hair, I shrugged and stepped back. The only reason Viktor was letting me kill him—because he wanted to enjoy and relish the terror in the eyes of the men around us.
Without wasting another breath, I had my gun out of its holster and in my hands, leveled at Matteo’s heart.
Whoever said that the last moment before death was a flashback of your entire life, knew nothing about it. It’s a moment of numbness and the forlorn hope of a chance of reprieve.
Unfortunately for Matteo, there wasn’t any.
Three shots. Two to the heart and one in the abdomen. That’s all it took to end Matteo.
Approximately ten men were present in the cell, saving us brothers, and not a peep passed their lips. Death, no matter how many times you come across it, was always terrifying to the core.
“Marco, get rid of his body,” I ordered, as Viktor and I walked out.
“What have we got?” I asked Viktor discreetly, getting into the car when we were finally out of the mansion. “And why the name of hell are you striking a deal with the cartel when you should be planning on fucking them?”
Last night, Viktor spoke of some plans to share a portion of our territory with the cartel—as a strategy—to keep the wolves at bay. But we were fucking lions—the king of the jungle. Diplomacy was the last thing you would find in our bones. The restlessness without Lilliana absorbed most of my sanity to pay attention to the affairs of the business.
Viktor flicked a glance my way, before pushing on the gas pedal. “You need to pay more attention, now more than ever, Dominic,” he reminded me, his voice flat and factual.
“I am fine,” I responded dryly, looking out of the windows, knowing it was the blatant lie Viktor would neither accept nor believe. However, he didn’t object, and I was thankful.
The car stopped at the gates of a house as I realized it wasn’t the destination we were supposed to arrive. My head snapped to Viktor’s with a frown of unsettled confusion. “I might not remember the complete conversation last night, but nowhere you ever mentioned about meeting Senator Walsh today?”
As promised guys, the uploads will be faster now. I am trying my level best to finish off one story and proceed to the next for a better writing process.
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