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𝐒𝐢𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐟𝐢𝐚'𝐬 𝐅𝐥𝐨𝐰𝐞𝐫

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They greeted him loudly, one of the men slapping Dante on his back before Dante fixed him with a look as he took a cigarette out of his pocket. One of the men turned his head around to look at me, then continued to look me up and down before sending a wink my way. My embarrassment deepened and I quickly turned around making my back face the group of men. God Dante will kill that man if he ever found out.

Never look at friends’ wives.

But then again, technically I wasn’t his wife yet as Victoria would like to point out. I’ll just forget that ever happened.

“So what did you do to piss off the evil sister in law?” Donnie said stepping close to me with a glass of champagne in his hand.

“I wish I knew. She’s never liked me after I said ‘Hello’ to her when we first met she gave me a look filled with judgment and hatred. The rest of the day she refused to play with me and when our parents joined us again she protested me marrying her brother. Making it very clear that she thought I wasn’t good enough.”

"Sounds like she has a brother complex.”

I shook my head, “No I don’t think that’s it.”

“I guess only time will tell,” Donnie said taking a sip of his drink.

With the pause in the conversation, I took my time to admire the decor of our restaurant which had been transformed into a secret garden. The restaurant was decorated with these breathtakingly beautiful striped roses, with a vibrant red swirling with a creamy-white on the petals. White silk was draped on the tables with taupe colored napkins, and white wax candles were placed as the centerpiece for each table.

“What kind of rose is this? I’ve never seen it before.” I asked Donnie gently brushing my fingertips against the petals of a nearby rose.

“I believe they are Scentimental roses.” Donnie said, “Different than the pink and white ones that you have in the garden hm?”

“Very different, but I like them.”

My garden at home mostly consisted of Claire Austin roses and Heritage roses, I had added Honey Perfume roses to the garden after seeing them out with Donnie one day and he mentioned that he had liked them. I might have to make room for some Scentimental roses now too.

I decided to tear my gaze from the rose and observe the people in the restaurant see if I could spot any familiar faces. I was hoping to spot my friend María’s face but I already knew she wasn’t going to be here. She was in Mexico right now with her father dealing with one of their warehouses that got raided recently.

María is a childhood friend of mine and daughter of the founder of the Guadalajara Cartel. Unlike me, who is sheltered from my family’s business as much as possible, María was exposed since she was a child counting cash for hours. She is now able to grab any stack of bills and could tell you exactly how much money she held in her hands without counting. I haven’t seen much of her lately since she just started at La Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, majoring in communications but when she has time she returns to the States. We are polar opposites but we have managed to maintain a friendship through the years, I just wish she could have been here for this.

Then for a split second in the crowd, I thought I saw her dark beautiful eyes and I got excited, but as those eyes got closer I realize they were her “brother”, Ramóns eyes.

He’s changed since last time when I saw him a year ago his head was completely shaven. But now he grew out his hair so that he had a fade and grew a beard, he looked almost like a different person.


I’m guessing the reason why he grew out his hair was because he’s technically not allowed in the United States. I scanned him and he was wearing a nice suit that hid most of his tattoos but he left his dress shirt unbuttoned by 3 buttons to still show off his chest tattoos. Still, this was pretty cleaned up for Ramóns style.

“¡Felicidades Roza, nunca pensé que vería el día!” Ramón said pulling me into a hug. He already smelled like tequila and weed.

(Congratulations Roza, I never thought I would see the day!)

“¡Gracias Ramón! Es una pena que María no pueda estar aquí, ¿Por qué no fuiste en lugar de ella?” I said pouting my lip.

(Thank you, Ramón! It’s a shame that María couldn’t be here, why didn’t you go instead of her?“)

This made Ramón chuckle, “Lo siento pequeña, el almacén que fue allanado era uno de los suyos con armas de fuego. Si no es cocaína o marihuana, no es mi problema.”

(Sorry little one, the warehouse that was raided was one of hers with firearms. If it’s not cocaine or marijuana it’s not my problem.)

Donnie then let out a loud forced cough.

Ramón knew that one of the rules my father had put in place with any of his business partners was that they weren’t to tell me about either of the family’s businesses.

Ramón looked at Donnie and gave him a tight smile, “Lo siento.”


I then felt a hand on my lower back and I turned around to see that Dante had returned, the scent of clove cigarettes lingering. Dante extended his arm to Ramón for a handshake and said, “I don’t believe we have met I’m Dante Zanandrea.”

Ramón put his usual guarded smile on his face and shook his hand, “I’m Ramón Alvarez here to represent the Alvarez Familia, I’m sure you’re aware we have been doing business with Roza’s family for years. Congratulations on your engagement.”

“Thank you, please excuse us. It was nice to meet you Ramón, please enjoy the rest of the night.” Dante said staring to guide us away.

“Nice to meet you too Mr.Zanandrea. Hasta luego, pequeña.”

(See you later, little one.)

I turned my head around to look back at Ramón, “¡Adiós Ramón! Dile a María que la visite pronto, la extraño.”

(Bye Ramon! Tell Maria to visit soon, I miss her.)

I felt Dantes hand wrap around my waist as we walked away pulling me closer to him. He lowered his head to whisper in my ear, making his breath tickle my neck causing me to gasp at the sensation that I strangely enjoyed. “Your parents and all of the guests have arrived, they want to officially make the announcement now.”

“Ah, okay,” I said before he pulled me aside against a wall. Both of his hands rested on my waist, his thumbs stroking my hip bones up and down. I felt a strange pleasure between my legs and I bit my lip to hold back a moan.

What is he doing to me?

He lowered his face so only I could hear his words, “Roza, before the announcement there’s something I need to know.”

His voice was low and serious, covered with an Italian accent.

“Yes?” I asked breathlessly, I would have said anything he wanted me to say during that moment.

“Do you really want this, this engagement?”

My heart stopped.

“Why-y are you asking me this?” My voice shook and I hated myself for it.

“I need to know Roza.”

My heart tore. I didn’t want anything to do with organized crime and I knew by marrying Dante would take away any chances I had of living a peaceful life. But I knew there had to be a reason why my father chose Dante and his family to wed me off too, and my father had been on my side when it came to my involvement with the mob. I wanted to live my life for me and not for my family but they were my family.

“I-” but before I could finish I felt a strong hand on my shoulder.

Dante and I turned our faces to see that it was only my father with his hand on our shoulders.

“Come on, we are going to make the announcement now.”

“Okay.” We both said in unison, disappointment lingered in Dante’s voice. We followed my father up to the table where both of our family sat, the Zanandrea family on one side, and the Valenriano family on the other side. My father picked up a glass of champagne which Dante and I soon did as well before my father hit the glass with a knife lightly. Soon the noise died down in the restaurant and all you could hear was the cimes coming from the glass.

“On behalf of both the Zanandrea’s and the Valenriano’s we’d like to thank everyone for arriving tonight to witness this moment in history. I am proud to announce that my daughter Roza is engaged to Dante Zanandrea and are set to wed later this year.” My father said with pride radiating off of him and with a huge smile on his face.

Everyone started to clap and all eyes fell on me and Dante. I felt my embarrassment overcome me and I glanced down so I didn’t have to make eye contact with everyone.

That’s when I felt Dante’s hand wrap around the side of my waist and he gave me a light squeeze. That small action reminded me of where I was and who I was with. Hoping my father didn’t see my moment of weakness I straighten my posture, raised my gaze, and put on a small smile as my eyes made contact with the ones of our guests.

During this time my father went on how our engagement strengths both families, and their businesses but I was too focused on Dante’s hand on my waist to comprehend the words coming out of my father’s mouth.

That one simple gesture had grounded me which is what I needed right now.

I watched as my father raised his glass in the direction towards Dante’s father and said, “To a new era.”

Lorenzo raised his glass towards my father and spoke, “El mejor momento para nuevos comienzos es ahora, possa il nostro impero essere inarrestabile.”

(The best time for new beginnings is now, may our empire be unstoppable.)

I looked at Dante with my question written on my face, he met my eyes and as if he read my mind he whispered, “The best time for new beginnings is now, may our empire be unstoppable.”

Both my father and Dante drank their champagne in one sip, during this moment no one spoke, and no one dare drank their champagne. The boss and former boss drink first and once they were done the rest of us drank our champagne.

Once the champagne glass touched my lips I didn’t tip the glass further. I let it sit on my lips until everyone had set their glass down again, not taking a sip of champagne.

I didn’t drink, my father didn’t allow it. My mom once told me, ‘If you do drugs or allow yourself to get drunk in the presence of men, the men will think you are just another disposable women and you won’t be respected.’

Respect and loyalty is everything to my family.

Once the glass broke away from my lips I held it in my hand, Dante took notice of my full glass and took it from my hand. I was surprised so I looked up at him and saw him throw back the champagne, drinking the whole glass leaving it empty.

“Thank you,” I whispered as the music that had previously been playing resumed.

Talking soon resumed and my grandma from my father’s side approached me saying how proud she was of me. However, I couldn’t focus on her fully, as she was approaching I had noticed Ramón standing in the background with two of his men.

That was two men too many, whenever I saw Ramón he was either with his father, his sister, or his right-hand man. Never had I seen more than one other person from his family around him.

I glanced at my father but he was too busy talking with Lorenzo to notice.

I returned to eyeing Ramón and his men as my grandmother spoke about Dante and I visiting Spain to visit the rest of the family once we wed. Then I found Ramón’s right-hand man maintaining steady eye contact with me, I took a sharp breath.

Antonio, the last time I saw him I was walking past my father’s office in the middle of a meeting hoping to eavesdrop but I was startled when I saw that Antonio was posted in front of the office doors. I had smiled coyly hoping not to give away my intentions and he gave me a stone expression in return. I have never actually had a conversation with Antonio I’ve only heard him speak when Ramón asks him something.

“Roza?” My grandmother asked snapping me out of my mind.

“Ah, yes? I apologize for my mind seems to have wandered.”

“Are you ok dear? Your face is so pale.”

“I’m fine, I think I just need to get some air,” I said excusing myself from the conversation.

I grabbed a glass of water and walked outside to the balcony where two men stood speaking Spanish in hushed tones. They glanced at me but I didn’t look them in the eye, I couldn’t and quickly glanced away focusing my gaze in front of me. I walked unit I reached the balcony railing and rested my elbows on it. I stared at the lights sparkling off of the buildings surrounding the hotel.

“Te ves hermosa con tus ojos perdidos en las luces de la ciudad, Roza.” A deep voice said besides me.

(You look beautiful with your eyes lost in the city lights, Roza.)

I jumped slightly and looked in the direction of where the voice came from. I was met with a pair of stone-cold dark eyes looking at me, they were Antonio’s. I took a deep breath to steady myself.

“Cristo, Antonio, me asustaste.”

(Christ, Antonio, you scared me.)

“Lo siento, no pude resistir.” He said angling his body so that instead of facing the view like me, he was now facing me.

(I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

I felt a blush began to spread across my cheeks as I struggled to process the words that were spoken to me. I noticed his eyes glance behind me following someone and then they returned to meet mine.

“Lamento preguntar esto, pero ¿Por qué me estás hablando, Antonio? Nunca me has hablado antes.”

(I’m sorry to ask this, but why are you talking to me, Antonio? You have never spoken to me before.)

I felt a warmth spread across my cheek as his hand cupped my cheek and I stood there frozen unable to process a reaction to this gesture.

“Porque tengo un secreto para ti Roza.” He spoke in a quiet tone, leaning in.

(Because I have a secret for you Roza.)

His eyes glanced behind me again and then he leaned in closer so that his mouth was against my ear.

“Pero necesito que me lo pidas.”

(But I need you to beg for it.)

My voice was caught in my throat but I obeyed his request, I was going to do anything he wanted me to do at this moment.

“Por favor, Antonio, lo necesito. Necesito saber.”

(Please, Antonio, I need it. I need to know.)

I felt a grin spread across his lips against my ear as he suddenly grabbed ahold of my wrist of the hand that held my clutch, and pulled me towards a door on the side of the balcony. Before I had a chance to resist I was pulled in the door which led to a stairwell. The door slammed behind us and I regained my balance.

“Antonio, what is this?” I asked worry evident in my voice.

“ROZA!” A thick Italian voice said as the door was thrown open. I looked toward the door and saw Dante standing their closing the door behind him, anger consuming his face.

A look of relief spread across Antonio's face for a split second until he grabbed Dante and me by our arms and proceeded to walk us down the staircase.

“Listen I don’t have time but you guys need to get out of here now. This staircase will take you out of the hotel through a backdoor a car is waiting” Antonio said a serious tone.

This was not the same voice that was talking to me on the balcony.

My heart fell to my stomach, I knew something was up.

“What the hell-” Dante growled yanking his arm out of Antonio’s grasp.

Antonio stopped and turned towards Dante, furry written on his face as he opened his mouth to speak.

But words never came from Antonio’s mouth as the sound of gunshots filled the staircase and the sounds of screams filled my ears. I dropped my glass of water and the glass shattered on the cement floor the shards of glass twinkling like the stars in the night sky that I had earlier thought were a blessing.

Antonio’s face turned grim and he pushed both me and Dante ahead.

“USCIRE!” Antonio said before looking at me and saying under his breath, “Adios, Roza.”


I was about to call out his name but Dante’s hand grabbed my arm and yanked me down the stairs. I gripped my clutch with my gun in it, as I said a silent prayer that my loved ones would be ok. My feet were moving faster than my mind could process it, adrenaline running through my veins making me disregard the pain of running in heels. We were two floors away from the bottom when I heard the sound of a door slamming open and the voices of men speaking in Spanish filled the stairway.

“Fuck.” Dante hissed as he picked up the pace yanking me to keep up with him. By the time we reached the bottom, I felt like I had lost 3 years off of my life. Dante threw the exit door open and like as promised there was a car waiting for us. Dante didn’t hesitate to open the driver's door as he yelled, “Get in!”

I got in slamming the door behind me as the engine of the car came to life. I looked at the dash and noticed that the keys were already placed in the car and before I could process a second though Dante slammed on the gas lurching us onto the city streets.

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