Their jaws hung open, all but practically hitting the floor. The silence that surrounded us was the type of silence that only comes after a bomb drops when the smoke in the air begins to lift, revealing the devastation that was left behind. Nothing. Pure nothing. Not even the sound of their lungs expelling the air they trapped could be heard. It was eerie, and yet somehow still awkward.
Their eyes stared directly into me, waiting with questions on their lips. Questions I didn’t have the answer to, some I very well could have but no longer felt like answering. It was like their eyes were shooting rays at me. With every second my face began to feel burnt, heated with frustration.
In all honesty, I didn’t know what I was feeling. I couldn’t comprehend the amount of emotions flowing through me. I used to be much like Adam is now; cold, like ice, stoic, apathetic, my heart callused from the traumas it had to endure. The very second I saw her, chained, pale, and abused a light switch flipped on shifting my entire life in to unfamiliar territory. In that basement, seeing her for the first time, my body became overloaded with any and every emotion known to man. None of that has stopped since.
I could feel myself become sensitive and tender, especially around her. That wasn’t who I was, that isn’t who I am. Part of me recognizes how spineless I had become. While the other part of me never wanted to look back to the things I’ve done and to who I was before her.
Before her, the folder trembling in Alex’s shaky hands, wouldn’t have made me feel anything. I would have been numb, detached. But everything today, the argument, the information, the pain I saw flash in her eyes over and over again… made me so… so…so… FUCK.Annoyed? Pissed off? Frustrated? Overwhelmed? Betrayed? So ungodly in love with that woman. All at the same damn time. I didn’t know how to process anything. And I was one short straw away from losing my cool all over again. Their beady little fucking eyes staring down at me didn’t fucking help.
But I know why they held that look upon their faces. Everything started to click into place. Each separate puzzle piece that we had been struggling to fit together now fit perfectly as a whole. Nothing seemed to make sense before. All along we had random pieces of the story, none of which ever fit together; not until now. Even though the puzzle was made complete held together only by the manila folder and two small sheets of paper, her entire world and everything she thought she knew was about to shatter apart.
I could see it in their eyes too, the processing. First the confusion, then the recognition, next the anger mixed with grief for her, for Addi and everything she had been through, and what the future held for her.
Yes, she had been broken before. Yes, she had built herself back up more times than any human should ever have to do. This time… this time, I just knew it was going to be different and there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t protect her from this, from the truth. Even if I tried to hide it from her she would inevitably find out. I knew she, out of all people on this planet, had the right to know everything, no matter how detrimental the information was going to be. I had to be the one to tell her. If not I, than someone else surely would without a second thought to her or what it would do to her. I was positive of that much.
I quickly pulled myself out of my thoughts, resting both hands on my face, sliding them down my heated skin letting a sigh escape my throat. I couldn’t stand the awkward silence anymore but simultaneously embraced it. I was exhausted. This life… was un-fucking-believably exhausting. If I wasn’t trying to make some drug deal, manage both coasts, or keeping my men from being ripped to shreds by whatever threat, I was trying to protect her. And the more I tried to do that, the more she pulled away from me. The weight of the world was always on my shoulders, but now it had tripled in size, pushing me to the ground as my knees buckled to hold me up.
Both men in front of me continued to stand speechless in utter disbelief and shock, still waiting. It was like time had slowed down. The mere two minutes they had been speechless felt like an eternity, the second hand on the clock taking its sweet time to pace around the circular structure. Everything… just everything made my head pound at the temples feeling like my brain wanted to burst through its encapsulated state. Every little sound, every little tick of that damn clock only frustrated me more.
I wanted to scream at them to get out of my face or speak, or do something… fuck, anything at this point. I wanted everything to go back to how it was weeks ago. I wanted her by my side. I wanted my men safe, their lives not on the line. I wanted peace. I wanted to show her the world, to give her everything she deserves. I wanted to take her away from this life, to take myself away from this life and start over. Fuck, at this point what I really wanted was Dominic’s head served to me on a platinum platter. And was it too much to ask for, for these two dumb fucks to do something other than stand there with their thumbs up their assess.
My head hit the back of my chair as I slouched back, rolling my eyes at the two idiots.
“Jesus Christ, will one of you fucking speak instead of staring at me like I’m on my goddamn death bed?” The worlds came out as a harsh growl making the men’s muscles in their shoulders tense for the smallest second.
Everything that had been caught in their tiny, dim-witted minds finally poured out in one massive heap. “Did you tell her? Does she know? Is that why she’s been soooo…. Ah how do I put this politely? Not herself? Does she remember anything about him?” Their questions became garbled together; both men talking over each other, neither listening to the other. Their questions made me want to reach out and strangle them. They were questions I couldn’t necessarily answer. But the mess of words being semi-shouted at me was enough for me to lose my last bit of patients.
I was conflicted. Part of me knew I needed to talk about this, and not internalized every emotion that raced through my skin. The other part wanted to suppress all of this and pretend none of it happened. I wanted to pretend I never instantaneously fell in love with a woman that no longer acted like herself. Strangling anyone, including my own brothers, at this point would solve none of the issues at hand.
When their voices no longer bounced off the wall of the room, and their eyes began to peer back through the layers of security I had built up, a heavy sigh escaped my cheeks. It was like I had to force myself how to remember to breath. I had felt stress before, unnerving, boiling blood pressure inducing stress. But this, this felt entirely different. I had to think of each word, each thought, each exhale, each inhale. My body was on overdrive and it no longer knew how to function independently. I continued anyway, the best I could at least.
“No. She doesn’t know. I don’t know what’s been running through her mind, or why the sudden change.” My voice was flat and to the point, just trying to make it through each ticking second. My fingers pressed into my temple at the nagging headache presenting itself.
“What happened downstairs… bro that shit can’t happen again. She’s starting to become fucking terrifying. She’s becoming fucking reckless, and impulsive. She’s going to get us all killed. You need to rein her in Boss.” Adam’s eyebrow lifted with concern.
“You don’t think I don’t fucking know that?” One sentence. That’s all I needed to erupt the boiling water over the edge of the pot. Every pent up emotion spewing out like lava without a care as to who it was directed to.
“You honestly fucking think I haven’t already been trying to fucking determine what the fuck is going on with her?” My voice began to escalate in volume with each word. “Jesus fuck Adam, one minute she’s this sweet innocent girl terrified of her own goddamn shadow and the next minute she practically ripped Franco to shreds without lifting her own fucking finger. WHICH, by the way, neither of you seemed to fucking mind in the moment. To fucking top it all off she reamed me a new fucking asshole for confronting her, not for the first time but for the second. So, please by all fucking means, if you think you can do a better fucking job Adam, step the fuck up… I beg you…keep fucking testing me. My patience is running less than thin at this point.”
There, another awkward silence. Better. I thought to myself. At least now I can actually hear my own thoughts.
Alex stood there silently; his eyes glancing back and forth between Adam and I, patiently waiting for the heat between us to simmer down. His head shook from side to side, almost amused at the sight taking hold in front of him. A small chuckle rose out of his throat while his eyes simultaneously found the floor, subconsciously knowing he was going to get chewed out for his behavior.
“What the fuck… is so damn funny Alex. Please, do fucking speak up.” Like I said, my patience was running thin. “What else could you possibly fucking add that hasn’t already been said?”
Another small laugh came out in a form of air through his nose. It wasn’t an amused laugh. Rather it was laugh of disbelief.
“For how extremely intelligent you both are, you’re both extremely fucking dumb.”
“Our jobs literally entailed us to read people for a living. For fuck sakes we torture people for a living, we read situations better than we can read literature. We’ve been around more woman and whores our entire lives than I can fucking count.”
I quickly interrupted, “Do you have a fucking point Alex. If so make it quickly before the contemplations I have in my head about snapping your neck become a reality.”
“If you would keep your damn mouth shut for five fucking seconds, I’d get to my point.” A growl escaped my throat as the room filled with tension. “My point...neither of you can seem to figure her out. Neither of you can seem to come up with some plausible explanation as to why she’s acting like this.” His eyes darted to the ceiling as he crossed his arms over his chest. When he looked back down at us, his eyes had become fierce, protective over her. He continued.
“Maybe if you-” He jabbed his finger towards Adam.”- actually took five seconds to have a fucking conversation with her. And you-” He jabbed his finger towards me. “-would think less about sticking your dick in her, both of you would know her a little better.” He paused letting what he said sink it. I went to open my mouth to rebuttal but he stopped me.
“Don’t. Don’t even dare fucking say anything while I’m talking. I really don’t care if you’re Capo or not. And you second in command. Both of you are fucking idiots.” His face had become lit with rag, embedded with a rose color.
“That girl has been through hell and back more times than any of us can count. We think we’ve had it rough? That girl has been repetitively raped and beaten by someone we now know was placed purposely in her life. And when she managed to escape, and I say that lightly, Franco took her all over again, diminishing what little faith and hope she had in this life only to start the vicious cycle of abuse all over again. You’ve seen the videos Adrian. You know- you know,what she went through down there.”
“And then she wakes up in someone else’s bed, in a strange place after practically dying and hallucinating every excruciatingly painful event that she’s ever had to endure over her life. Yes, she found you. Yes, you saved her. And yes, I know that girl loves you. But she went from a very dark place one moment to seemingly okay overnight? Anyone else strike that as odd; her acting like this, trying to be strong, seeking revenge? She’s trying to cope. She’s trying to heal. She may be doing it wrong, but I have a feeling she’s never really known any other way. And because she loves this damn family way to fucking much she wants in, she wants this life. She’s trying to find herself all over again because she’s never really had the opportunity to know who she truly is. Daniel stripped her personality. Someone else has always dictated her life. She’s always been forced to cower in a corner, begging for her life. That damn girl has known nothing but pain and suffering. So yeah, I know your patience is running real fucking thin Adrian but cut the damn girl a break.”
I could see little trickles of sweat dripping down his forehead, the artery in his throat pulsate with frustration and his breaths were rapid and uncontrolled like a rabid dog.
I hated to admit it. But he was right about most of is, except me doing nothing but trying to stick my dick in her. That one was a little too far.
I could visibly see how much he cared for her, maybe a little too much. But I was at a loss of words. I had no idea what to do, or how to help her. I still had a position to fill, a role to play.
My face remained hardened; brows pinched together creating creases down the middle of my forehead; my lips pursed into a line. “Mind your damn tongue with me fratello.” It was the only thing I could say for the time being.
Alex’s eyes rolled for back into his head, I think he was able to see years in the past. He huffed with annoyance, knowing why I had said what I did. He may have been my brother, and what he had said had made complete sense, but there was still a place- a pecking order if you will. Occasionally, I still needed to make that place known to him.
The room fell silent again. It was no longer an awkward silence, however. Our heads bowed down towards the ground, taking in Alex’s revelation; all of us having the same thought but my voice was the only one that spoke up.
Compared to my normal tone my voice was now sheepish and cracked in between certain words causing it to sound like I was on the verge of tears., “What do we do?”I- Adrian Antonia DeLuca was actually asking for help. Hell must have been freezing over.
“You won’t like the answer Capo.” Alex’s face held with mine sending sympathy in waves.
“Diavolo.” He looked at me dead in the eye, never breaking contact. His voice was stern and low, full of power and strength. But his body flinched back as the name escaped his tongue.
“No, fuck no. Absa-fucking-lutely not. I am not letting him anywhere near her.” My blood began to boil, the acid in my stomach began to rise up my throat. My hands clenched into balls as they tried to fight the urge to slam into Alex’s face.
“You know you have no other option Adrian. That girl is a ticking time bomb and who knows when and what it would take to make her go boom.” His fingers flicked away from his palms creating the illusion of an explosion at his last word.
“It’s not like it’s that terrible of a decision Adrian.” Adam spoke up from the corner of the room where he had wondered off at some point during our discussion. His hand rubbed across the stubble on his chin divulging into a deep thought. “He could keen in her skills. Give her an outlet, teach her more about this life, let her release her anger, maybe learn how to cope.”
“I said no.” I left no room for discussion but neither of them seemed to understand that.
“Adrian. What’s the worst that happens?”
“Oh I don’t know, he fucking kills her or worse. He just fucks her.” Adam eyes rolled to the back of his skull while Alex made a terrible attempt at stifling a laugh.
“Oh come on Adrian. You know you have no other option Adrian. Whether she knows it or not, this life runs in her blood. We can either use that in our favor or let that go to waste. She’ll be fine. And you know that if he tries anything on her the first person she’s going to come to is you,” Alex’s rebuttal temporarily saving himself from my fist to his face.
“No.” My eyes cast upon the papers scattered over the top of my desk; a perfect representation of my life, a mess. I couldn’t get my feet back on the ground. I couldn’t comprehend what the right choices were, or the wrong ones. I was constantly stuck in limbo, attempting to welcome my brothers’ advise but always turning it down without fail.
I didn’t want to endanger her. But at the same time, Alex and Adam’s advice wasn’t exactly that far fetched. Diavolomay have become a necessary evil, one that I tried to avoid when possible and utilize only when absolutely necessary. I was starting to think that maybe Diavolo was becoming our missing piece to one up Dominic and the Russo’s.
Alex shrugged his shoulders, knowing to no longer question my orders. Adam gave me a look of disapproval. Both of which made me groan in frustration.
“Fine. I’ll think about it.” Like a kid on Christmas, Alex’s eyes lit up. “You’re welcome, now get the fuck out of my office and go pack.”
Alex all but practically skipped off like a little kid who finally got their way. Adam quietly tread over to the chairs sitting in place in front of the desk.
“Adam I need you to do something for me while I’m gone.”
“Anything Capo.” His back hit the backrest with a thud. His arms gripped at either side of the armrest, preparing for his orders.
“Franco. I need you to take care of him.”
“What do you want done Boss?” his tone was even although the corners of his lips turned upwards in a smile, knowing what I was going to say before it was even said.
“Transfer him. Somewhere dark. Torture his ass.” I could feel my brown eyes transition to their sinister form. A wicked smile up turned on my lips. My heart fluttered at the thought of everything I wanted to do to that bastard. “And this time… don’t stop. Breakthe bastard.”
“I fucking hate him… that motherfucking, fucking, fucker… damn bastard… FUCK” My words trailed out into continued mumbled slander as I carried out an armful of clothes heaped over my body from my closet to my luggage sitting undisturbed on the floor next to my bed.
“No you don’t Ads.” Amelia sat at the foot of my bed, one leg crossed over the other; one arm bracing the weight of her body on the bed; the other simply picking at dirt from under one of her fingernails with her thumb. One eyebrow rose at the protest of my feelings for her brother, but her eyes never made contact with mine. Instead her gaze never left her hand, acting nonchalant and without a care at any of my harsh words.
In an overly dramatic fashion, the clothes that were once piled in my arms abruptly landed below near my feet, not caring where they dispersed themselves once the weight left my hands. The articles of clothing had seemed to land everywhere but in the suitcase. Some of the articles attached themselves half hanging on to the mattress, while the majority of them landed on floor scattered everywhere but in the luggage itself.
My knees rapidly found the plush carpet beneath me, sinking to the mess that I had made. I needed something to take my damn anger out on, my rage, my pure and utter hatred. Hatred? At Adrian or at myself?
He wasn’t completely wrong. But he wasn’t completely correct either. Really neither of us was. We feed off each other’s emotions, digging ourselves into a deeper hole sinking so deep that neither one of us could see where the opening once began. The damage had been done and I was almost certain that it would take a lot of time and healing to even begin to crawl back to the surface where we once began.
I couldn’t think properly. I couldn’t function. Hostility took over ever nerve in my body. It clouded my mind with a haze. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get my mind to focus, pushing past the raging fog that had settled into my thoughts. At the moment the only thing I could do to release every ounce of pent up energy was to aggressively stuff the clothes I had carelessly ripped off the hangers from my closet into the deep violet duffle bag.
“No, Amelia. I hate him. I really do. Right now at least. When he’s being an asshole like that. He’s fucking brutal, and undeserving, unappreciative. That- That was not the man I fell in love with.” I growled my words out as I began to stand to enter my closet one last time to scan for anything essential I may have missed in my initial reckless sweep through.
“Please the man you fell in love with rarely exists Ads. And you think that was brutal? Jesus, you haven’t seen anything yet.” I couldn’t see her face from the closet but I could hear her scoff. I slowly peaked my head around the doorframe.
“How much did you hear?”
“Ah… all of it.” Her voice had changed from not giving a shit to a seven-course meal full of attitude with every bite. “I’m pretty sure the neighbors heard that argument, and our closest one lives miles away. That wasn’t brutal Addi. That was him actually showing emotion and caring for once in his godforsaken life. You don’t want to see his brutal and ruthless side.”
There was something in her eyes when she mentioned the last part; some part of her that was terrified of her own brother. Her eyes glazed over like her mind had taken her back to a memory that changed her perception of him forever.
I was no longer as naïve to what this life entailed as I once was when I was first welcomed into this family. But at the same time I knew that I was not as exposed to their life as much as I had sometimes thought I was. I was fully aware that there were things that were done behind closed doors that I wasn’t granted access to; transactions that were completed off sight. A safe house with multiple levels I also didn’t have clearance to, with rooms full of god knows what. I knew there was murder. I knew there was drugs, prostitution, sex trafficking, abuse, violence, torture. Yet the thought of all of it, the danger, breaking the law, all of it only pulled me closer; sucking me in like an invisible force. But the look in Amelia’s eyes only made me question what I was doing. Whatever she had witnessed Adrian do was beyond ruthless. It was inconceivable, evil, something no person should ever have to endure, or witness for that matter.
My mind raced with what could have happened, what she had seen him do. There was infinite amount of possibilities. In no way could I ever conceive how this man, whom I had come to love because of his gentle demeanor and personality, could ever do something as horrific as whatever flashed through her mind at that given moment.
Was it something like what Daniel did to me? Or was it something like what Franco did? Did he beat and rape innocent women? Did he kill them? Did he do something far worse? Is there something that’s far worse? I thought to myself.
“Tell me Amelia.” I wanted to know. I needed to know. Not only did I have to settle my curiosity but if the person I was in love with had multiple personalities I needed to be prepared. I had a right to know.
“No.” Her voice grew low and deep. Her sights fell to the floor where they fixated on a tiny speck of dirt on the tiled floor.
“Amelia...tell me.” My voice grew stern at her refusal.
In the dead silence, with both of us assertively staring at each other beckoning for someone to speak first a gentle knock rapped on the door. It was as if someone, somewhere didn’t want me to prod any further for the answers I sought after.
“Ladies, you in there?” A husky voice broke through the air- Alex’s.
“Yeah, come on in.” I rolled my eyes stepping out of the closet completely resting my back against the wooden frame and crossing my arms over my chest.
“I just need Amelia. It’s time to go Ams. I already grabbed your bag.” She quickly nodded, standing up, and lengthening her back. Her footsteps were light, and quiet, as if she was floating on air. She moved swiftly towards Alex.
“Let me just finish packing and I’ll be ready.” I said grabbing a few last essentials from my closet.
“What?” Alex gave me a puzzled look at first. He was confused but that all quickly faded once he realized what I was inferring. “Sorry kiddo no can do. Boss wants you with him. You’ll be meeting us there.”
“At the hanger.” Amelia responded, once again, flatly. “Go on a head Alex. I’ll meet you at the car.”
“Mkay.” He shrugged his shoulders in response, not questioning Amelia’s judgment.
A silence fell between us for a partial second until Alex was out of earshot.
“I can’t tell you about him Ads. But you’ll quickly find out when we get there. He always becomes a different version of himself when we’re there.” She responded to my previous question. Her voice was low, almost in a whisper, afraid that someone may overhear her.
“Are you going to tell me where there is?”
“We can’t, Boss’s orders. You’ll have to ask him. I’ll meet you at the hanger though okay? I’ll see you soon babe.” She puckered her lips blowing a fake kiss towards me and winked, causing a little chuckle to rise in my throat.
Like lightening she was gone before I even knew she had left leaving me in a room full of silence with nothing besides my thoughts and myself.
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