T H I R T Y - T W O
And with one kiss
You inspired a fire of devotion that lasts for twenty years
What kind of man loves like this?
~ What Kind Of Man - Florence + The Machine
“Someone better explain this shit to me,” I demanded, shutting the door. After Marco’s grand theory about Lilliana’s parentage, Viktor ushered both of us into a different room.
Partly, I was relieved. I couldn’t think calmly in the presence of Lilliana at this moment.
I woke up to an infidel woman hell-bent on destroying my family—a woman I had trusted beyond my heart and who stomped over my trust like a garbage can. Never in my life, I extended the benefit of the doubt to a family, and yet I loved Lilliana with every honest part of my soul.
“According to the records, Sophia Moretti died at least one and half years before the birth of Lilliana, if she is to be believed,” Viktor said carefully.
I snorted. “Lilliana can’t be trusted.”
“To be sure, we can have the DNA test done once we find Ralph. But for now, let’s grill Dante. I don’t think the girl has any idea about Ralph,” Marco surmised, looking up for Viktor’s input.
“How can we be sure that she doesn’t know about Ralph’s whereabouts?” I argued.
“Dominic, calm down,” Viktor urged.
“Give me ten minutes with her—alone— and I’ll have the address out of her.”
“I can’t be wrong about the birthmark, Dominic,” Marco interjected. “Ralph has an exact one on his forearm. I know it is not conclusive, but the same eyes and hair mean something. Besides, we know that Ralph and Sophia Moretti had an affair for more than a year. How difficult is it to add things up?”
“So, then, we let her go because she is Ralph’s daughter?”
Viktor glanced between us briefly before letting us know of his decision. “We will cross the bridge when we get there. For now, put out every man we have on the streets of Chicago. Ralph is not an easy man to take down. And so quickly or silently.”
Marco nodded briskly and rushed out of the room. He was the perfect huntsman for us, and I knew that he would scour every inch of the earth for his father.
When there was no one else in the room, save otherwise for me and Viktor, a long silence ensued as I sensed an upcoming conversation starting with I-told-you-so.
But Viktor surprised me too. “Does she still mean anything to you anymore?” he asked softly.
His question caught me off guard, and my gaze immediately flew to his. “No.”
Viktor nodded, without argument or rebuttal. “Good. I’ll make no exception for her then. Lilliana will be dealt with by Aurora.”
He was kidding, right? “You think I’ll go easy on her?” I asked in disbelief.
“No, you won’t go easy on her, I know that, Dominic. But later on, it will hurt you more. And I don’t want that for you, brother.” Viktor’s words hit me with a force that stunned me into silence.
Later on, it will hurt you more.
I opened my mouth to contradict, to retort, but fell short on words and feelings. The truth was, I was numb.
Lilliana’s betrayal has struck something so deep within me that my entire existence altered. I realized that I had a feeling heart, after all this time. But it was so savagely broken and irrevocably damaged that there was nothing left of it.
Anger bubbled and frothed inside my head, red clouded my vision, and like a madman, I was looking for retribution everywhere.
“Don’t you think I deserve to exact the revenge? She did confess that my accident was her brainchild.”
“I had an inkling,” Viktor admitted thoughtfully. “But it was difficult to connect the dots. Her connection to Dante was impossible to comprehend as well at that time.”
“So, you see, I am entitled to some answers.”
My brother smiled gently, without a hint of mirth. “I am not going to stop you from having your answers, and you are not going to listen to me anyway. But I am going to tell you something you once told me when I was: don’t do anything you’d regret tomorrow.”
With a sympathetic squeeze on my shoulder, he walked out of the room as the door slammed closed behind him.
So many emotions warred inside my head that I was barely sane. I wasn’t supposed to trust her, or love her, or even feel anything for her.
Yet I did things forbidden to me, only to pay the price of my audacity.
It wasn’t the torturous waterboarding that clogged my senses but the unspoken truth, the ultimate hatred I saw in Dante’s expression. He was practically sneering like a wild animal at the mention of Ralph and my mother.
I held no love for Dante in my heart, ever, but our only connection rested on the fact that he was my biological father.
Love, in whatever form, was worth it.
Backpedaling my memory, I recalled my mother’s words scribbled on the last page of a book. Did she find love in the arms of another man out of wedlock?
The truth hasn’t shocked me as much as the reality of my parentage. But what has shaken the core of my existence was that I was used as a pawn for twenty-five years.
I was nothing but a chess piece - to move and play, at the whim of a man who’d killed my mother.
“Why?” I hissed at him from the bound chair they had left me behind.
Dante’s shrugged with a casual air of indifference. “You should have been more grateful that I took pity on you and let you live.”
His words lit a wildfire under my skin. “You murdered Mama and condemned me to a life in hell!”
His bleeding lips twisted into a cruel smile. “I did,” he admitted, taking all the pleasure in the world in his crime. “You see, your mother was a bit of a whore. She slept with a man - a man who was my enemy - and got pregnant. And then she tried to pretend that the children were mine.” My insides roiled, but I gritted my teeth and listened to him brag.
“Now I would have never found out about the affair if she wasn’t pregnant. What the stupid woman didn’t know was the fact that I cannot father a child. The day I found out that it was none other than Ralph Alessi, I knew what to do.”
“According to the official news—”
Dante cut me off. “Her so-called death was a ruse. I killed Sophia after she gave birth to the twins.”
“Yes, twins,” he affirmed. “The boy didn’t survive, but you somehow did. The doctor who was present at the time said that I shouldn’t have beaten my treacherous wife the previous night, you know—pregnant and all,” he boasted.
I closed my eyes and held my breath only because the thought that we were breathing the same air disgusted me.
“What did you do to my mother?”
“I raped and killed her and then burned her body to ashes. I planned to deliver your dead body to Ralph, to watch him hold the corpse of his daughter, but later on, I had changed my mind.” The smug grin on his face brightened. “Ralph was already a broken man the day he found out that his beloved Sophia died in a fire accident. But Alessandro Romano was still the powerful man, and still pretty rich.”
He didn’t need to narrate me the rest of his dark, twisted tale of vengeance and greed. I knew it by every word because I was the living, breathing example of it.
Much later, after the heavy reality began to weigh me down, the unintended tears dried up, the door banged opened. This woman, Aurora, with an air of strength around her, walked in, along with three other men. She untied my legs and shoulders, though not my hands, and ushered me out of the room, leaving behind the guards inside the cell.
Aurora walked me through several corridors and herded me into a small room that resembled a modern prison cell, enclosed with plain white walls on four sides and with no windows. A bed was positioned at one end of the room, and Aurora wasted no time unbinding my hands from the back and securing them with cuffs attached to the bed.
I no longer feared whatever hell awaited me. It truly didn’t matter. I didn’t want to know what kind of indescribable pain Viktor would put me through for trying to destroy his family.
But I wanted to see Dominic one last time. I was desperate to chance the sight of him, even knowing I would risk his wrath.
It would be worth all the pain in the world, I told myself.
Aurora stood before me, pointing to a small blue button behind me. “You need anything, press the button, but don’t expect an exceptional room service though.”
I snorted a small laugh, looking away from her.
“You do realize that Dante is not your father,” she probed for my attention, and I slowly dragged my gaze back to her. “I think I know who is your biological father, and the chances are that he is alive...somewhere.”
She didn’t know that I knew.
“You are fighting a lost cause, Lilliana. So if you know anything where Ralph is—”
I cut her off promptly. “I don’t.”
Aurora’s face twisted into a scowl. She thought, perhaps, the good-cop attitude would help me crack up.
“Wait,” I called out when she turned to leave. “I don’t know about Ralph, but I can help.”
“You would?” She looked at me incredulously. “How?”
“But I have a condition.”
“Of course you do.” She huffed a sarcastic laugh. “Let me guess—you want a safe out?”
I shook my head. “I want to see Dominic.” Maybe, just one last time.
Aurora’s brows shot up in surprise before she could school her features. “Do you have a death wish?” Then her eyes narrowed speculatively. “Or do you think you can manipulate him and escape?”
I mentally laughed. Aurora gave me more than due credit. “You’re overestimating my brilliance.” I smiled. “Do you need my help or not?”
She stared at me for long, contemplating. “I need to make a call.”
With that, she left the room and slammed closed the door as I kept staring at the wall. It wasn’t like I didn’t care about Ralph—I did, truly. I was intrigued because he was the man my mother had loved until her last breath, and not merely because I carried his blood in my veins.
All I knew about Ralph Alessi was his unflinching loyalty towards the Romanos. Would the man even care whether I am alive or dead? A Mafia man, in my knowledge, doesn’t care for anything at all.
But this was my only leverage to get to see Dominic one last time.
All of a sudden, the door reopened, and Aurora returned, tugging the phone into the back pocket of her jeans. “If—and only if— your information is authentic enough for us to track down Ralph, you would see Dominic.”
Aurora shook his head. “This is the only deal you get from Viktor. So, take it or leave it.”
Weighing the options in my head, I sighed and nodded. “Dante has only a few friends in Chicago who must have helped him. Apart from that, he has five safe houses.”
In the next half an hour, I whacked my memory for every single detail I could remember about Dante and his whereabouts that would be of some assistance. Aurora made several calls simultaneously as I provided the addresses and information, leaving no stone unturned in her quest.
“That’s all?” she verified, one last time before leaving. I planned
“Yes.” I nodded. “That’s all I know. If I remember anything else, I’ll let you know.”
“Do you think this man, Ralph, would care if I am his daughter?” I blurted out as she reached the door.
At my unexpected question, she paused and looked over her shoulder as I noticed a faint smile at the corner of her lips. “This man, Ralph—” she punctuated slowly, “—is the only reason you are breathing freely under this roof, and yes, he would care very much if I know him the way I think I do.”
With a loud bang, she shut the door to my face, leaving me alone with a thousand questions and what-ifs swarming inside my head.
And that’s Chapter 32! I am satisfied that I have finally found the proper pace of this story. Hopefully, I will be able to give you guys quicker updates, now that I am mostly home. And thank you so much for your lovely wishes. I might not have commented - but I read them all, and the comments too.
Oh, and if you are missing more of Dom-Lil scenes, they are coming in abundance in the following Chapters. Until then, lots of love and hugs to my lovelies.