F I F T Y - T H R E E
“So, do we have a plan?” Mia asked as she poured the orange juice into her glass. “Or are we going to kidnap every potential enemy walking on this earth and stuff them in our basement?”
It was a late breakfast session for the entire family, but as long as we sat together, it didn’t matter. Aurora returned shortly after Lilliana and I came down. Given how silent she was and judging by the bruises on her exposed skin, it was pretty clear that Carlos didn’t go down without a fight. But it wasn’t her first fight with the cartel brutes, and possibly not the last either.
“That wouldn’t be a bad id—”
Viktor kicked my legs from under the table and took over. “Everything is in place. We just have to make Sophia spit out the name who leaked the video to the press.”
“We have less than two hours before they realize that Sophia is taken,” Lilliana added. “Less than two hours to get the name out of her and put her in front of the media with a sob story that her father was a greedy bastard.”
Easier said than done.
“If you give me ten minutes with her, I can do it,” Aurora offered, without bothering to look up from her plate.
“Bad idea,” I declared. “If she looks beaten up, the plan won’t work.”
Lilliana put her fork down beside me. “I don’t understand. If Darlene Scott is ready to confess that Roberto killed Ben just so he could fuck with us, why are we bothered about Sophia?”
“Sophia needs a motive and whoever leaked the video is a loose-end,” Viktor supplied, leaning back into his chair.
“Here’s the thing,” I explained. “If Sophia testifies against her father and admits to framing me, why would the world believe her? Unless she has a real motive. Her father’s infidelity and greed will make it look believable.”
“Wait a second.” She glanced between all of us. “Are you all seriously considering putting her in front of the media? No way! She will spin another lie. This is madness!” Did she think we were kidding?
“We just have to intimidate her enough,” Viktor suggested.
“I think Lilliana is right,” Mia piped in. “We can’t take any more risk with Sophia. Just deal with Roberto and let her go.”
“No,” I was adamant. “Letting Sophia go would be the biggest mistake. Here’s the plan for now: Viktor, you handle Darlene and make sure Roberto’s news makes it to the headline of every news channel of Chicago. Mia—”
She beat me to it. “PR and media conference—got it.”
I nodded, moving on to Aurora. “We need to get rid of Carlos. He is the only one who can connect the dots and the last thing we want is a street war incited by gangs.” When a kingdom is at war, it is always the bloody thieves who try to score.
“And what are you going to do?” Viktor asked.
“Lilliana and I will take care of Sophia.”
The chair screeched loudly as Aurora rose and pointed at me. “From what I know, your record of handling Sophia is disastrous, but I still need you for something else.” She looked to my right, at Lilliana. “I have a plan to make Sophia talk, just make sure your boyfriend is on board.”
What the fuck?
We were on a tight schedule while I have been driving for half an hour now and still didn’t know where we were headed. Whatever gratefulness I had for Aurora that she got to Carlos was gone the second she started firing orders like First fucking Lady of America. All we did was stuff Sophia into the back of the car and followed Aurora to some shitty ‘undisclosed location’.
“You are going to break the steering now, Dom,” Lilliana laughed, who was surprisingly happy and relaxed…for no fucking reason.
“If this doesn’t work…”
“It will,” she assured. “Aurora knows what she is doing.”
If this is some altered universe shit, I am jumping out of this moving car.
“Since when do you like her? And since when do you choose her over me?” I scowled.
To which she only laughed harder. “Like? Her and choose her over you? You almost sound like I have picked my lesbian lover over my straight partner. Aurora and I, we sorted out the differences,” she said in measure words.
“Still.” I muttered under my breath and looked ahead as we followed Aurora’s car. “You are supposed to take my side.”
The car finally rolled up through a wrought out and rusted iron gate, almost like a cabin in the woods except without trees. But still, the place looked like no one has ever passed by in years.
When the fuck did we buy safe houses here?
Then again, this may not be our safe house. For all I know, Ralph has a bunch of hidden locations, and only Marco has access to those. And if Marco knows, that included Aurora too.
She got out and disappeared into the house while Lilliana and I pulled out the whining bitch from the back.
“Did you enjoy the ride?” I mocked as she glared. Soon it morphed into a muffled scream as Lilliana twisted her pinkie and told her to shut it.
“Let’s wait here,” I said.
At the same time, one of the guards appeared, dragging a man in his wake like a sack of potatoes. The way he was chained and bloodied, it seemed like Aurora had a field day with him.
Another muffled screech erupted from beside the moment Sophia saw her beloved Tio and tried to wriggle out. “Goddamn it!” I yanked her back and slammed against the car. “You are worst than a chihuahua.”
“This is going to be one hell of a family reunion,” Lilliana muttered as the guard brought him closer and began to untie his hands.
“What are you doing?” I hollered, and he merely looked up from his task.
“Ma’am said we don’t need him anymore. And in exchange for him, she is going to use her,” he pointed at Sophia.
Have Aurora gone nuts?
Whatever happened to killing?
However, I didn’t get a chance to react. Despite all the wounds, Carlos tried to run the moment his binds were off. He didn’t even pay heed to his beloved niece, who squirmed in my hold.
My first instinct was to pull out my gun, and the second was to obviously shoot, except I didn’t need to. Carlos didn’t even make it out of that iron-gate when a car raced up behind him and hit him just hard enough to break one of his legs. But the screams were not pleasing enough.
The driver rolled back, floored the gas, and went for it the second time, leaving him bloodied. The scream rose higher and higher, morphing into a strangled cry before the car went in for the third time.
Carlos didn’t die yet.
It happened two more times until his body was nothing but unrecognized heap of bloodied flesh and broken bones. Finally, when the screams died away, Aurora went for the final rush, and his head smashed under the tires.
An eye for an eye.
I stood there and watched, almost speechless and stoned, the way Aurora reduced Carlos into a pile of mangled flesh. Beside me, Sophia was too horror-stricken to even move or scream. There was only so much horror you can take in and understand, after that your mind would snap.
It was only when Aurora climbed out of the car, absolutely indifferent to what just happened, I noticed the car. The same black SUV. I have no idea how she got hold of that, and honestly, I didn’t want to find out either.
She made her way to us, retrieving a pocket knife and snapped Sophia’s ties. And the second she was free, Sophia begged, pleaded, and cried—wondering if her end would be similar.
“You…you killed him…” Sophia whispered through white shock, and Aurora just shrugged.
“Normally, I don’t cross paths with people like you, but you and your family have been quite a pain in my ass. It really hurts me, Sophia. And you see, when I get hurt, somebody else is going to feel the same way or worse. That’s my version of returning the favour.”
“Please…please, I will…”
Aurora gripped her jaw and squeezed painfully. “Don’t just start begging already. I’ll give you plenty of chances for that later.” She released her and took a deep breath. “Here’s what you are going to do: you are going to dress up, look pretty and tell the whole world what a terrible daddy you have. And then when you are done, you are going to convince your mommy to do the same. When all this is said and done, I might just decide to spare your life. But if you cross me, you are going to end up worse than him.”
“I…you…” Sophia almost lost her speech.
“And if you think you can escape us…escape Chicago, think again. You have stirred the entire media attention and they are going to find you, no matter where you hide. Now you might think the front page is better than page three, but I assure you, it is not. Especially when your actions have indirectly caused me a lot of pain. Despite all of that, I am willing to let you live. So if I were you I’d count myself fucking lucky and keep my head down,” Aurora hissed.
“What do you want from me?”
Aurora pointed. “Dominic will explain and you will follow every instruction to the letter. And try to keep your eyes off his dick.”
“That was helpful.” Dom frowned, before taking her inside the house while Aurora and I waited for the ‘clean-up crew’.
For a long time, there was no exchange of words between us. I, for one, was too numb to speak. But Aurora, she was just quiet. There was no emotion in her eyes—not a flicker of smile, grief, or anger. And somehow, it was scary.
So I tried to break the ice. “How did you find him so quickly?”
Aurora looked at the pool of blood and then met my gaze. “Bank accounts. I broke down the firewalls and drained him dry.”
I slowly nodded. “I called up the hospital and they told me that he has woken up and—”
Aurora cut me off. “I know his condition. Sam updated me.”
This time, I turned around to face her. “And you won’t visit him?”
A faint scowl crossed her face before she sighed. “Lilliana, I appreciate that we are talking to each other, cordially, but don’t pretend like you know me.”
“I am not trying to know you. I am just trying to know my brother better,” I snapped. “Because when that car hit him, I was there. Marco was frothing blood and the only thing he managed to utter was ’Call, Aurora’.” There was a slight twitch in her eyes, and her lips parted a little. And for the first time, something slipped out of her stone-cold demeanor as I continued.
“And don’t tell me that those two little words meant nothing. You can go around, kill for him, but you won’t pay him a visit. Now, who’s pretending?”
Turning away, I didn’t wait for her reply and strode inside the house.
I liked Aurora and some days, I envied her as well. And if I were a man, I would have probably lusted over her, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t difficult. I may not have been around this family for a long time, but it doesn’t take a rock scientist to understand the equation between them.
Marco thought he was dying, and I saw the desperation in his eyes. He wasn’t just calling out for Aurora, he was begging me—begging to see her for the last time. And if that wasn’t enough, I wouldn’t know what would be.
Seven hours later -
“…Sophia Bianco has already been in the news for the past couple of days for her alleged affair. But today afternoon she confronted the media in a press conference, claiming it was all a set-up by her father to cover-up the murder of Ben Gordon. Our sources have confirmed that…”
“It’s done,” Dominic kissed me on the lips and pulled me closer.
“Finally,” I whispered, kissing him back.
We were back to the Romano mansion, gathered around the living room, and watched the final nail being hammered on the coffin. All this drama, all the speculations were finally behind us.
The TV screen played the footage of Sophia’s press conference on loop before Viktor grabbed the remote, put it on mute, and turned to us. “We need Sophia gone.”
“Right now, wouldn’t that be too risky?” I deliberated. After all, she was the biggest pawn in our win.
“Can you take another chance with her?” Viktor retorted. “She will most likely retaliate.”
Dominic shifted to sit straighter beside me. “She won’t get a chance to retaliate anymore. I have a plan, but it has to wait till tomorrow.”
What? I snapped to him and gave a quizzical look to which he only shook his head. “Not, today, love. Today is for you and me.”
Thank you for reading the chapter. And don’t forget to let me know of your theories further. Happy weekend, my loves. 😘