Into the Darkness (Book 1)

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She's Next

Ice daggers shot out from his eyes towards me as his elbow rest upon the armrest of his chair. His first finger and his thumb propping his head up but slanting it to the side. His back had become slouched over in his chair as his right ankle balanced on his left knee forcing him to lean to the side. He didn’t need to speak for me to know that he was pissed, livid, with me. His eyes had said it all. And I’m sure that he was pissed for a variety of reasons. None of which I wanted to divulge in at this very minute.

I sat calmly across from his desk glaring back at him. My leg crossed over the other, my fingers lacing together with the opposite hand. I was attempting to figure out what he was racing through his mind. I was trying to come up with every possible reason he was pissed off just so I could come up with some lame counter argument. Yet he remained silent. Just as he had been for the last five minutes. Maybe he was processing what just happened, the shit that I had just pulled. Or maybe he was processing the information that Franco finally let up on. Better yet he was probably just processing just how pissed off at me he was. Orrrrr, Maybe he was just pissed off at the countless number of other people that let Dominic Russo run his empire into the ground overnight.

Franco was right. Since I had come into the picture Adrian had been so wrapped up with me. Six months. Six months worth of damage I caused unknowingly. It only took six months to fall in love with the man that sat in front of me. And it only took six months for me to tear down his empire, an empire I had only had the smallest glance at. No wonder why he was currently looking at me like that. I would be livid with the person who let his life fall into shambles around his feet.

And yet he tried to hide it, the blatant disgust or the rage he felt towards me. He tried to hide the two creases on his forehead that only ever showed up when he was angry. He tried to hide the way his one eyebrow always raised higher over the other. His nostrils flared whenever a single thought crossed his mind that angered him all over again. The way he hid his darting eye movements as he carefully eavesdropped on Adam’s conversation over the phone in the corner of the dimly lit home office.

His hand moved slightly from its position under his jaw to run over the stubble around his lips. Even when he was pissed he was handsome. His dark brown eyes seemed as black as night. His facial hair was neatly trimmed to stubble this morning. A routine that I had started to get used to, cleaning up the little hairs that he left behind on my sink. His after shave creating spirals of scents under my nose, attempting to draw me closer to the lion who was ready to rip my face off in the current moment. His clothes were immaculatly put togehter as always when he had work to attend. His black slacks were neatly pressed. His grey shirt buttoned down evenly, and tucked into his pants. The belt I knew he didn’t need but seemed to always add a little extra something to his outfits. He chose a black tie today that tied his whole outfit together. His hair looked perfectly messy. Much like he had just woken up and ran his fingers through the strands, pushing it back from his forehead. I was always jealous of that, of how little work he had to do to look good. And then there was me who looked like a troll on a daily basis. I questioned frequently why he choose me to love instead of some rich, high class woman. It was something I never had the nerve to ask.

It had been five minutes awkward stare downs and silence between Adrian and I. Actually no, it had been more like seven minutes now. Seven minutes of silence and my own thoughts, not that I was counting. Not a single word had left his mouth yet. That’s what frightened me the most. I wanted him to scream, yell, scold, punch something, anything but remain silent. I wanted to know what was running through his mind. In all my short years on this earth I had learned that there was nothing more frightening than that of a silent man and respectfully a silent woman. You would never be able to anticipate what moment all hell would break loose. So I sat there silently eyeing him over, waiting for the hell to erupt.

I was only brought out of my transe when I saw him sit up a little straighter in his chair and his eyes began to track someone in the room. Adam receded from the corner slamming his phone onto the elaborately varnished wood desk that separated Adrian and I.

With a loud sigh Adam placed his hands on the corner of the desk, letting his head hang below the line of his shoulders. He looked defeated, stressed. Little beads of sweat rolled from his temple. The pigment of his skin an odd mixture of deep pink and his natural olive tone like he was trying to suppress some kind of emotion. By the looks of it… rage.

“How bad?” Adrian’s voice was calm, almost eerily calm. Like moments before a horrendous storm rips through the city. The type of storm that forces the skies to start to turn green and hustle of the outside world to calm to nothingness, silence. All the birds stop chirping, the wind dies down, people retreat to their homes, cars on the street become a rarity. That kind of eerily calm. One that you know won’t last. One you know you need to retreat to the basement and brace yourself in the corner hoping the destruction of the storm misses you. The calm in Adrian’s voice was not one that was going to last. Especially after the look on Adam’s face.

Where Adrian had been doing a perfect job at hiding whatever emotion he was truly feeling moments ago, there was no hiding every emotion that passed through Adam. His nostrils flared with every breath that he took which were quick and fast. I was afraid he was going to hyperventilate soon if he didn’t let everything out. The side of his face twitched with every clench of his top teeth to the bottom. The pads of his fingers scratched against the papers that sat neatly on top of the wooden desk attempting to grip on to whatever life we had before that single phone call.

When there was no response from him, Adrian raised his voice.

“How fucking much Adam?” There was still no response from Adam. The single moment of calmness before the storm had passed as the first strick of lightening and thunder began to rumble in the distance. I had no place to hide or brace myself for the impending impact as the storm neared. This storm was about to rip the comfort of our known lives the shreds.

Adam opened his eyes from their clenched position and glared at Adrian, speaking some nonverbal language between the two brothers. Only to say nothing then let his head fall right back between his shoulders, almost sulking.

The longer it took him to answer, the more aggravated Adrian became. His tanned skin, flushed with red. The muscles of his chest seemed to grow three sizes larger. The muscles of his chiseled jawline twitched under his facial hair as his jaw clamped down on itself. His fingers balled into a fist on top of the desk attempting to not punch through the wall behind him, or worse punch Adam. He lasted all but thirty seconds without an explosion.

“GODDAMN IT ADAM. HOW FUCKING MUCH?” Adrian had risen to his feet. His face coming within inches of Adam’s staring him down.

I felt like I was entirely too close to the situation unfolding in front of me. If shrapnel went flying I was in the direct line of sight. But fear paralyzed me to my place in the chair like glue between two pieces of paper. Even if I wanted to move I couldn’t. The only time I had ever felt fear like this was when Daniel was in one of his moods.

Both Men’s faces were beat red with rage, at each other or at someone else I would never know and frankly I didn’t feel like stopping the current moment between the two just to ask. Adrian was like a bull waiting to charge at Adam unless he answered. But I knew why he wasn’t; why he was defying direct orders to answer from his boss. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that whatever the amount was that had been stolen from us, was not an amount that Adrian would want to hear. Hell if Dominic stole one fucking dollar Adrian would throw a fucking fit, and rightfully so.

Moments passed between the two men. Adam stood his ground, locking eyes with Adrian. I could only assume that Adam would be the only one that would never cower down to Adrian. Both of the men were headstrong, fighters, warriors. Adam seemed to fill the role well of second in command from what I could tell. Both worked well together but in certain situations but when it came to situations like this Adam seemed to let his stubborn nature take control. Whether he wasn’t answering because he was too livid to do so or because he was trying to calm the bull waiting to charge in front of him, beat me. But the number I heard mumbled through his mouth forced my jaw to drop to the ground.

“1.5 mil Boss.” It came out as almost a whisper as his head dropped toward the ground. He inched himself away from the desk almost in anticipation for what was to come.

All I managed to hear was a very distinctive goddamn it, followed by a stack of manilla folders filled with papers thrown from the desk.

1.5 million. More money than I could have ever dreamt of. More money than I had ever had to my name, at least to my knowledge. The real question was if they lost 1.5 million, how much money did Adrian’s empire really have? Something told me that 1.5 million was only a small portion of the money they actually had. And that was going to be a question for another time, preferably when the drama had settled down.

When the last of the papers floated gracefully down through the air I could finally see that Adrian had turned away from us, his back facing me. His hands pulled at his flawless and put together yet semi-messy bed hair. His shoulders tensed with each small movement. His triceps flickered against the cloth of his grey shirt until his arms dropped to his side. Before I even had seen what happened Adrian’s fist went through the closest wall creating a crumbling hole. His outburst of physical rage were closely followed by a few mumbled fucks and bastards as he shook the pain from his hand. To say he was pissed was an understatement.

This was all my fault. Everything was my fault. And now Dominic had Sofia. Franco was right. Dominic was tearing our life apart piece by fucking piece and he did it without any of us knowing and it was all because I fell in love with the damn King of the Mafia. I made him lose sight, lose focus. His life began to revolve around me, taking care of me, and then protecting me. All while the rug was being pulled right from under our feet and none of us had even been able to see it until the dust finally settled. I knew it was only going to get worse when I heard her small voice behind us.

“Boss.” It was odd hearing Amelia call her big brother, Boss. We all faced towards her slowly. There she stood in the doorway of the stairwell leading to the kitchen. Adrian grasped his fist with the opposite hand as continued to attempt to dull the pain his now bruised knuckles were starting to feel. Adrian was the last to look in her direction. The anger never left his eyes and when Amelia had noticed the scene in front of her she shrank twelve sizes in her own skin. She held a medium sized box in her hand, the edges wet with an unknown substance. “We have a problem.”

“What the fuck else is new?” I turned back to face Adrian. His eyebrows furrowed together causing little creases to form above his nose. His hands were now braced on his hips as his eyes lifted towards the ceiling practically rolling back into his head. A simple, small laugh left his throat. It wasn’t out of humor, it was out of anger and it forced my skin to crawl in attempt to separate itself from the layers underneath.

There was a lengthy pause between everyone. I didn’t know which one was worse, the silence or the outburst of rage from Adrian. But my guess what definitely on the silence. At least with the outburst I could tell what Adrian was feeling. In the silence, a number of things could be flipping through his mind. None of them I imagined to be healthy or well-natured.

Adrian let a massive breath of air escape his lungs as his eyes drifted down from the ceiling to focus on his little sister. “What is it Amelia?”

“Two of our guards dead at the front door, shot in the dead center of their forehead and subsequently dragged to the door. This was lying between them.” she lifted the box. Her voice was meek, quiet, mousey. Far from what I was used to.

“Guards?” The question left my lips quicker than I had anticipated. It was like word vomit, uncontrollable.

“We have them all over the grounds, more so with everything going on.” Alex finally spoke up from the corner of the room. He leaned his shoulder against the wall near the bookshelves, his arms crossed over his chest forcing his biceps to bulge. “You never noticed them because they’re generally out of sight. Lurking so to speak. So the questions begs, how the fuck did anyone know about them beside us?”

“Could you tell what mil they were shot with Amelia?” Adam’s voice had become even toned.

Amelia walked over towards the desk. The closer she had gotten to the light the more it became evident that whatever caused the cardboard box to become dampened at the corners had a red tinge to it. My stomach dropped at the countless possibilities, but only one fit. Blood.

“Sniper.” Her words were barely audible as she placed the box on top of the desk. I couldn’t focus on her words, on their words. “Like I said, we have a problem.”

Everything from that sentence on had become fuzzy. The words wouldn’t process. All I could tell is that the polite conversation was soon replaced with more bickering, none of them letting the other get a word in edgewise.. Adrian had walked out from his chair and began leaning his back side against the side of the desk while they argued about whatever it was they were arguing about. The words seemed to flow through one of my ears and flawlessly out the other without my brain taking even the smallest second to attempt to process them. It was like only one of my sensations at the time would work and at the current moment the only thing I could process was the box.

I couldn’t peel my eyes away from it. My heart began to race as I stood pacing slowly step by step until the moistened box sat directly under me. I was like a moth addicted to the light. I had no control over my steps as the box coaxed me near it. I didn’t even realize that I had left the comfort of my own chair until the bitter smell of iron wafted under my nose.

Every cell in my body screamed, screamed to leave well enough alone, to turn back around and sit down and let Adrian handle this. I knew that I would never be able to go back if I opened the box. Only one tiny, thin flap of cardboard separated me from a lifetime of trauma. But my new found curiosity and bravery took control of my body and forced my hand to raise to the cover.

I took a final glance over to my left. The siblings still oblivious to their surroundings as they fought over lord knows what. I quickly took the envelope knife from Adrian’s desk and tore through the tape that sealed the box. Hesitantly I lifted the edged upwards.

I couldn’t process what was sitting in front of me. The smell hit me first. It was pungent. It was the smell of death. My eyes locked onto what resided in the dark, dimly lit box. Dark brown hair with light strands of grey speckled throughout caught my attention first. The blood that covered the bottom of the box seemed to have splashed up into small spots covering parts of the woman’s face. Her eyes were flat, emotionless, yet filled with so much fear. Her mouth hung open, her tongue and lips dried out and cracked. Bruises and cuts littered her immaculate skin on her cheek and under the opposite eye. Yet she held an elegant beauty even for her age. On her good days I remembered she looked young enough to be more like a sister to me. But in reality she was well into her forties. And now she would never live to see another birthday. She would never live to see another sunset, or sunrise. She would never live to see me marry or have kids of my own. Sure we weren’t necessarily the closest, but she was still family. She still took my in when no one else did. And I always wanted her to be a part of my life. She was the only thing of my family that I had left. And now even she was gone.

I could feel my complexion turn white as the blood drained from my face as the sight finally began to sink in. The tears hadn’t begun to fall yet as my brain tried to process the world around me spinning in circles. My stomach did a complete one-eighty at the site me. I didn’t know whether it was the smell of rotting flesh or the vision of my aunts decapitated head but my body found the nearest garbage. This time it wasn’t word vomit. It was real vomit. The contractions of my stomach forcing my body to retch the content of this mornings breakfast up my throat. Only then did the bickering between the siblings stop. Only then did I hear the gasps. Only then, seconds later, did I feel him sitting behind me as I knelt on the floor placing my head into the wastebasket.

His hands strung through my hair holding the strands to the side and out of the way of my continuous vomiting. When there was no longer any possible way of puking anymore I leaned my head back against his chest.

“Who is she Addi?” It came out as a whisper into my ear. It was hushed so quietly to me that I didn’t think it was possible that the rest of the group had heard. As the word I wanted to say balanced on my tongue the tears started, and they didn’t stop.

Like rivers, a heavy stream of tears ran from my eyes causing my voice to break from the hiccups. “My...my...a- aunt.”

She may not have been the best guardian to me when I was younger, and we may not have always seen eye to eye but she was the only true family that I had left. And that bastard took that away from me.

Funny how one minute Adrian could seem more frightening than the devil himself and the next he was sitting on the floor brushing his hand through my hair, his other arm wrapped around my chest and his body rocking me back and forth cooing quietly ‘shhs, baby I got you’ his lips brushing against my forehead. My body convulsed from the sorrow and from the tears. I couldn’t catch my breath. If it wasn’t for him holding me semi-upright I would have crumbled to pieces on the floor. He was my strength.

Every ounce of strength I had seemingly went out the door in a matter of seconds. The weak little girl who I had always been creeped in wanting nothing but to be comforted by the love of her life. I wanted to channel every bit of his strength because I was finally starting to understand just how dire this situation really was, how serious the life the DeLuca’s really lived. I wanted to channel his strength because for the first time since being introduced to this life I knew that not everyone whom I loved was going to make it out alive at the end of this war.

My eyes closed it attempt to slow down the tears, hoping that maybe when I opened my eyes that everything would go back to normal. I prayed that this was all just another one of my nightmares. I hoped and prayed that I would wake up in my gigantic king size bed next to the man who I loved and that all would be right in the world. But as I opened my eyes another kick of reality set in.

Adam held in his hand a small severed finger with a simple string tied around it connecting to a blood splattered 5x7 picture.

“Addi… I hate to ask this. But who is she?” He flipped the picture holding it out towards me as the bloodied finger still rested in his hand. It was like the finger didn’t even phase him. He was more concerned about the woman in the picture than anything.

Everything around me had become blurry from my tear littered sight. I quickly blinked away the remaining tears as Adrian’s calloused fingers brushed the tears that settled onto my face causing the picture to finally come into focus.

She looked terrified. Her hair was a ratted mess in her ponytail. Rope bound her to the chair around her waist, wrist and ankles. She was still in her scrubs from whatever work night they had taken her on. Little specks of red were scattered throughout her white top. I could only hope that they were from some trauma she had been taken care of before they took her.

Red ribbons of rope burn circled around her wrist, evidence of how hard she had been fighting to free herself from her captures. Duct tape ran across her mouth, no doubt because of her smart mouth. Mascara ran from her reddened and swollen eyes. Her cheek bruised from the recent abuse she had taken and simple cut on her eyebrow trickled with blood. But her eyes, so full of fight, terror, sorrow, rage and a beautiful mix of crazy. My Sofia. My sister.

“Sofia.” It was the only thing my tiny voice could crack out. I watched as he turned the card back towards his face as he eyed her over. His face twisted in concern and at the recognition that this was the woman whose name Franco had uttered just minutes prior. But the picture connected to the severed finger were the least of my concerns.

There were words bolded out in black on the back of the photograph. Words that sparkled the burning embers that my tears had dulled. Words that caused my body to engulf with flames.

I reread them over and over until they echoed in my mind. In one second my body that once ached with sorrow from losing a family member filled with fire, filled with rage, filled with every ounce of fight that I had left.

The two words written neatly on the back of the photo was enough for me to want to bury Dominc Russo six feet under, alive. And I would be damned if I allowed that bastard the chance to make those two words come true.

She’s next.

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