T W E N T Y - T H R E E
“Love is every bit as violent and dangerous as murder.” ~Knut Hamsun
Sixteen days. Three hundred and eighty-four hours and counting.
Back in the day, I mistakenly picked up a soppy, romantic novel, just for the sake of killing time, and I read how the female protagonist was counting the hours of separation from her beloved man. It seemed utterly pathetic and counterproductive to me.
Now, the joke was on me.
The small break I got between waiting tables and doing inventory for the cafe, I was mentally counting the days and hours without even realizing the futileness.
I should have been planning and scheming, finding a way to slither back into Dominic’s life to wreck the happiness his family was enjoying at the cost of so many lives they had destroyed—but I did none of that.
A feeling of helplessness and guilt gnawed at the back of my head, churning my senses—every moment of the day.
I could have ended it all when Dante had asked me to lure Dominic out and kill him.
I could have picked up a side selfishly, learned to live with the decision I’d made, and talked myself into believing I feel in love with a monster.
I did fall in love with a monster, only it felt right incomprehensibly.
The weight of the moments I had spent with Dominic, the good ones and bad ones, were so heavy upon my chest that at times, I couldn’t breathe evenly under the pressure of them. It was like a shackle around my neck, pulling me towards him.
It took an honest persuading to convince Dante to shift his attention to Alessandro and Viktor, to trade those two lives’ in exchange for Dominic’s when the time would come for retribution.
That, by no means, guaranteed that Dominic would be mine.
It only ensured his survival, and that was enough for me at the moment.
Two days later
“You are such a fucking bitch!” Aurora snarled into the phone as I tried so hard to suppress the delightful amusement. If she could see me right now, grinning at her expense, best friend or not, Aurora would have surely take a swing at me.
“Do you expect me to accompany you to a church when I have emergency patients to deal with?” I attempted to sound perfectly innocent, but it only backfired.
“Oh, no, no, you conniving woman, don’t try that with me. It might work with Viktor, Mia, or Dominic—but not with me!” By now, she was frustrated beyond measure, making me wonder if her PMS situation was in overdrive.
“You simply had to say ‘no’ to Ralph, and that’s it!” I reasoned.
But who was I kidding?
Marco didn’t—couldn’t—say ‘no’ to Ralph, the man who brought him up like a father. Fed, clothed, sheltered, and trained him. So Aurora’s blatant refusal wasn’t much a choice.
“Like you can say no to Ralph!” Aurora snorted, and I could imagine her pretty eyes heavenward.
To this day, I couldn’t grasp the idea of Ralph, the deadly assassin from his youthful years, attending mass every Sunday—and without fail.
Once upon a time, Paps told me that every man lives by a code that he makes for himself, and every other rule in life surpasses it.
For Ralph, it was the Sunday mass. He was a devoted Christian from Italy’s Assisi with a strict Catholic upbringing. Of course, spiritual and moral education had been razed many years ago, leaving behind the customary visit to Church on a Sunday.
I remember one instance in my childhood when Marco brazenly refused to visit the church with Ralph and later, he was unable to sit down for a week after that.
Years ago, after Paps stepped down, Ralph moved to Boston. The old man took his retirement way too seriously than he should have, but on-and-off visited Chicago. These were the times when he bonded with Aurora and developed an endearing, parental affection for her. And it pleased Aurora a great deal; given her biological father was pathetic scum.
For all such loving times that Aurora had spent with Ralph, she couldn’t refuse Ralph for the sake of it.
“Listen, I am sorry I ditched you, babe, but I promise I’d make it up to you. Why don’t we go out for a fun night-out today—you and me—just like old times?” I offered, reminiscing the past like one beautiful memory.
Those were some of the craziest, happiest memories I had in a long time.
It broke my heart when Aurora moved away, but at the same time, I knew she needed it more than I needed her here, in Chicago.
And being her only friend, I was ready to offer her my unconditional support.
Over the phone, I heard her exhale slowly. “Fine, but don’t you dare bail on our night out,” she warned and added. “And don’t send any more clothes. I have a freaking extra room for the new dresses you gifted me on my birthday.”
It was my turn to roll the eyes.
“Your birthday was months ago,” I reminded the idiot girl who hated shopping. I, on the other hand, shopped till I dropped.
“Whatever,” Aurora muttered.
“See you then.” Cheerfully, I bid her goodbye.
“Do you want me to pick you up from the hospital? I know that you hate driving.” If I knew Aurora any better than Marco, she hated playing Uber service. But after what had happened with Mia, she was looking out for me—discreetly.
Truth be told, I was blessed with too many people in my life to look out for me ever since the day I was born, to the point I felt frustrated because I wanted to be capable enough to protect them as well.
“Now, you are starting to sound like my brothers,” I accused softly.
“Is that a bad thing we care about you?”
My eyes narrowed, even though I was aware that she couldn’t see me. “Aurora, you have many talents, but emotional blackmailing isn’t one of them.”
She immediately snapped back to her natural form. “Fine, bitch, I was worried I’d have to spend the night alone and drinking myself to death without you. You see, I care more about myself than you.”
It was a lie. She cared about me just fine, and the very reason she wouldn’t admit was enough proof for me.
I roared with a laugh but eased her anxiety. “I will be home on time. Lorenzo said he wanted to meet me for coffee, so he’d drive me back home, I guess.”
“Coffee?” she asked in a flabbergasted tone. “Why the hell your boyfriend needs to drink coffee outside when we have two classic Italian chefs at the mansion who makes world-class-fucking coffee?”
“Lorenzo was complaining that we don’t get to spend much time alone with ourselves, so—a coffee date could do the trick,” I eased her.
“Uh… Okay,” Aurora mumbled, doing nothing to hide her unsureness. “Where is he taking you?”
“Fine, fine. See you at home, okay?”
As I disconnected the call, my screensaver flashed Lorenzo’s photograph. The picture was taken the day Viktor and Mia got married and it was also a few months into our relationship.
It began casually, with late-night, forbidden sex that transformed into something beautifully desirous as I began to crave more of it. I wondered if every girl fell the same way and acted irrationally in love.
Lorenzo was different than any other boys or men I had come across trying their best to impress the woman in me who wore the last name Romano.
They didn’t know the burden of that name I carried with pride as a Cross. The soul-piercing scream I bit back, steeled my heart when I was burying Stefan, my little brother, or the way I had let go of the first love of my life, who had been completely clueless of my affection for him.
But Lorenzo did.
He stood by my side as my family strived to bring back Dominic when he went missing for five days and came back home with grave injuries, or when the Vittelos did their best to kill Mia and my brothers on the same day.
Lorenzo held my hand all along the way, in good times and bad, and made me realize that he understood me in such a manner that was unintelligible by any other human being on this planet. Naturally, it made my heart flutter and soul stir.
I had spent so much time discarding feelings of worth and indulging in mindless affairs that even a tiny drop of love seemed like a sea of passion. And, somehow, I found the sea within Lorenzo.
Quickly changing out of the blue scrubs, I put on the ivory floral dress and a matching pair of beige heels. Right on cue, my phone blinked with a message from Lorenzo, informing me of his arrival. Wasting no time whatsoever, I hurried out of the hospital where he was waiting beside a charcoal grey Porsche Cayenne Turbo.
It seemed strange because Lorenzo mostly drove Grand Cherokee or Jaguar.
“Hey.” I leaned forward, pressing a brief on his lips, before turning my attention towards the car. “I didn’t know you had a Porsche.”
He flashed a smile and tucked a stray hair behind my ears. “Do you like it? It’s a beauty.”
Pulling away from his grip, I sensually ran my fingers over the gleaming body of the car. It was a well-maintained car—I could tell from its state as the newness has been preserved quite stylishly by the owner. Any novice would have mistaken it for a brand new car, but I had spent enough time with Paps and Viktor to recognize its condition.
“Whose car is it, Lorenzo?” I asked him seriously.
“I borrowed it from a friend because my Jaguar was having some issues, and I did not want to make you wait,” he replied as he opened the door for me to get in.
I returned the smile finally and hopped in as Lorenzo took the wheels.
“Did you call Orlando?” I inquired.
Orlando was the go-to man for the cars should we have any trouble. He was one of the trusted guys on whom my brothers counted on to customize the vehicles with a hack-proof GPS. Meaning, Viktor could only track the cars in the family.
“Um yeah, Orlando said that he would be sending his guys over. Honestly…”
Lorenzo’s voice began to fade out as my intense gaze zeroed in on a car behind us. It was too early to say that we were being tailed, but I was getting highly suspicious about it.
“Are you okay?” Lorenzo’s touch on my knee jerked me out of my reverie as my head snapped right.
“Uh…yes. This car behind us—I am not getting a good feeling about this.” I pulled out my phone, pressing on Aurora’s speed dial. “Let me call and run the plates, at least.”
The next thing I know, the brakes were hit so violently that I launched forward with a brutal jerk, causing the phone to slip out of my grip.
“What the f—”
A sharp pain piercing into the jugular vein on my neck was the last memory I had before everything blackened out.
Hey loves, I hope you are enjoying the twists and turns. And if not, don’t worry, I have a few shocking revelations left for this story.
You thought Lorenzo’s betrayal was the only thing? Nah! There are some brutal surprises planned ahead for you all to enjoy.
The story does revolve around Lilliana and Dominic, but there will be a couple of POVs from other characters because, at the end of the day, those people are intricately linked with Dominic and Lilliana’s lives’.
As usual, leave me your feedback or any theory you can probably assume for the characters—I am so eager to know! Your words and appreciation have always put me in a happy place, and no matter how many words I use to thanks the readers, it won’t ever be enough.
Lots of love and hugs until the next update.