71 | revelations
"It's almost done," he whispered, cleaning me up. I felt like a proclaim doll in his arms.
"Say something, bambola," he murmured into my ear, throwing the towel away. "Why are you here?"
I shivered. "I-It's just that I, um..." I wanted to smack myself for stuttering. There was no reason to be nervous, especially around him.
He tightened his hold around me and I instantly relaxed. He played with the dress sticking to my stomach before trailing his hand down to my inner thigh again. I placed my hand on top of his, stopping him. I could feel at my lower back.
"Antonio, stop. We need to talk," I said in finality and he finally stopped his persistence for another round.
"The last time you said this you wanted to go meet that nosy friend of yours," he stated. I tilted my head back and kissed his jaw.
"You know I didn't contact her after she tried to get too involved with us. This has nothing to do with her. It's about Alessia," I said, moving to the seat opposite him on the couch. I was serious.
"What about Alessia?" was his instant response.
I swallowed. "Antonio, I heard her talking to someone. She sounded nervou—."
"Sweetheart, get to the point."
I pursued my lips. "She loves someone."
He narrowed his eyes at me. It was a warning. "You are accusing a mafiosa of infidelity to the code, and you know the penalty for it."
I nodded. "I know what it means to demoralize a girl's character in the Family and honestly, I would have dealt with this on my own had it not been Valerio Bianchi she was dating."
"This is my sister you are talking about." He pursued his lips.
"I heard her say his name as Matteo. It's most probably his stage name to stay in our area. I asked Fabio to get info on him and Matteo's pictures matched with the ones I saw in Italy when I came to meet you in your office. You do remember that, don't you—Pietro giving you the pics of the Bianchi family that was lost?" I explained.
Antonio stared at me. It made my wary.
"But you already knew about this didn't you?" I asked.
His silence answered me.
"Are you baiting Alessia like you baited me?" I regretted the words the moment they came out of my mouth.
He immediately stood up and grabbed my elbow. It wasn't harsh, but I knew he wouldn't think twice about leaving a bruise. "Don't make us into a parody of her. Alessia is a complete nobody. I don't give much fuck about her, and I don't need her. But I need you, and you are aware of who we are. I can't live with a woman I can't turn my back on. That test wasn't just for you, Francesca."
"But I am not any woman. I am your wife and rather than pulling that stunt on me it would've been more honourable if you had just asked me. Honour forbids you to do that to me, and you're right. The test wasn't for me. It was for you and your peace of mind. You didn't care how I would feel. You only cared to make your distrust and your paranoia consume me as well. You wanted me to always stay in the constant feeling of losing you because then I won't do anything to make you upset, because then I wouldn't leave you. I'm not blind to not see your ulterior motives, Antonio," I hissed.
He glowered down at me. "You think too much, bambola. And, if you have so much of an issue with me then why are you still trying in this relationship?"
"Because I can see that you are trying. You want me to stand by your side willingly but you also cannot get rid of your paranoia. I get it takes time but you need to stop the manipulation with me. I don't care what you do outside. Kill people, torture, I don't care. Just don't bring that home. It's a matter of honour, as they say. I've never been able to find myself. I've always given myself over to the Family, yet even I am exhausted. If you do not introduce honesty between us, there will come a day when I will give up. If you don't want to tell me something, say so, but don't try to trick me into believing something else, like you did just now."
His brows twitched and if I hadn't been so close I wouldn't have noticed the startled look he masked so efficiently.
"I should kill you for knowing me too well," he hissed as his grip on my elbow tightened even more. "I really should."
"You telling me this gives me an advantage over you."
He inhaled a deep breath. "You told me to put my faith in you."
My breath hitched. He'd already made me weak once more. It wasn't even close to being equitable. "Then believe me when I warn you that you might be creating the wrong enemies. By allowing the Bianch family to stay here freely, you're playing a very dangerous game. When Vincent finds out, it's not going to be good. By any means necessary, his family must depart our territory."
He pursued his lips and cupped my cheek. "Bambola, we do not know who our real enemy is right now. Vincent Bianchi is blaming Luciano Lambardi but all the proof leads to the Bianchi Family, and none to the Lambardi Family which makes it complicated."
"Luciano Lambardi is old, which means he's also more experienced than either of you guys. He's better than you so if you are going to against him, then use his arrogance against him because he will underestimate you," I told him.
"And what makes you so certain?"
I shrugged. "I noticed him at the meeting. He arrived late, which leads me to believe that he believes he is superior. Even untouchable. He is not afraid of complications with any Family because he is self-assured enough to take them down. Other than us, that is. We are doing exactly what the Lambardi wants if we go to war with Bianchi by baiting Angelina. I don't think he expected Angelina to come over and talk to us, or to me in general, but she did. If Lambardi planned this, he is clever, and in order to outwit clever people, you must change the rules. We're going to have to fight someone, either Lambardi or Bianchi, and if we're lucky, both of them will go down."
"Very well, sweetheart." His lips twitched into a slight smile. "I knew I made the right decision when I chose you as my partner."
I furrowed my brows."What do you mean? It was an arranged marriage."
He gave a quiet chuckle. "It was if you take out my first sighting of you at a church with your mother."
"I don't get it," I mumbled. I could not recall any moment where I saw him.
"Of course, I wasn't supposed to be there, but I happened to be and I spotted you. It's as simple as that, and you were simply too resplendent to be overlooked. You are still, which makes you perfect."
My breath hitched. "You sound, what's that word—whipped." I teased to distract myself from the pounding in my chest.
He smiled. "No, I just thought you were lovely and someone I could envision marrying. Your presence exudes beauty, elegance and class. It wasn't something I could overlook and let go."
He left me speechless again. I tried to say something but felt numb to words. I was not used to his flirting.
He merely kissed the back of my hand. "Come here."
I grabbed his hand as he walked me to a normal looking painting. I forced the feelings of glee out of my chest and focused on the square box of an ace card. If he wanted to show me this, then it must be of great importance. He then let go of my hand and picked up the frame and placed it down.
There was a metal safe box stuck in the wall.
"What's this?" I asked curiously, walking closer.
He typed the eight number password in and opened the grey box with a small ding.
"But there is only a key inside?" I asked startled. I thought there would be a bunch a gold and jewellery. But then again, why would he have jewellery here? Maybe documents? But not a key.
"Exactly," he only said before grabbing the small steel key.
I blinked in wonder. "What's the key for?"
"Patience is key, Francesca. I don't remember you this impatient before," he said.
"I am patient. You are just taking too long."
He raised his brows. "Of course."
We stood in front of the bookcase behind his desk. He slid a shelf full of books down. They were law books, I noticed. There must be another room behind this door like how it was shown in the movies—a secret passage.
"You didn't ask what's behind there?" he asked, pausing his mov movements.
I shrugged. "You'll show me anyways."
He shook his head but I could see the corners of his lips curving. He looked beautiful.
Antonio hesitated for a moment, as if he was wondering whether what he was doing was right or not.
"You can trust me," I said.
"Just don't get scared..." he trailed off before shaking his head in spite. I knew he cared for me.
"I trust you," and it was enough for us.
He pushed back the bookshelf, opening another room. My eyes almost gauged out of my sockets as bile raised up my throat. The metallic smell of blood and bile filled my nostrils making me want to puke.
I grasped my husband's hand tighter. "I-Is that M-Mya?"
Her pale and frail body was as bony as a stick. I could see her ribs through her shirt. The food on her plate was barely touched and she laid lifelessly on the cement floor. She was lifeless and without the small rise of her chest I would have presumed so.
"What happened to her?" I asked.
Antonio gripped my hand tighter. "She's the proof we need."
"But what happened to her?" I asked.
There were no windows in the room, so it was dark. The only source of light was the door from which we entered. Nothing was here save our old maid, who was laying on the floor with a shredded blouse and a pair of dirty shorts, as if she didn't have another pair to change into. She appeared to be much older than she actually was. Her hair was shaven and her skin had lost its colour. Her arm was covered in needle marks. It only meant she was on narcotics.
It was too much for me. Despite the fact that she wanted me dead, I was not so cruel. What had she gone through? "I need to leave."
He walked me out with a tiny nod and turned to me with a gloomy expression after securing the shelf with the key. "Only you, Alessandro, Pietro, and I are aware of this at the moment. If anything happens to me, your word will be definitive. Give me your word that you will look after and preside over the Family." Before I could respond, his lips met mine as he clutched my hair in a tight fits.
I shuddered. Nothing was going to happen to him. Nothing could. I pulled away from his grasp.
"Anything can happe—."
I cut him off. "Nothing is going to happen to you."
"We are not Romeo and Juliet," he deadpanned.
"Romeo and Juliet died," I told him, confused.
"Oh." He blinked. "Very well then."
I chuckled before remembering Mya. "I thought Mya was dead. Why is she still alive?"
"Because I never killed her," he said.
I gave him a look. "I know, I just saw her."
"There are two main causes behind this. The first is that I had a feeling we'd need her again at some point. She preferred not to speak when questioned. Other than Alessia she had no weaknesses and using Alessia to such extent was not an option, so and addiction to narcotics was a solution." he explained.
"Narcotics is illegal! It's against omertà," I exclaimed.
"I couldn't torture her." He looked away. "She looks too much like Rosemary."
We were pierced by silence. I embraced him in a hug, peppering kisses on his chest. It was not easy to constantly look at the mother figure who betrayed him—to be still connected to her in some way. He clung to me tightly and I surrendered. He was in anguish and his silence disturbed me more than seeing what he had done to Mya. I felt guilty for feeling this way; for caring more about the abuser than the victim but I could not help it. He was becoming my salvation, my only hope in life. He was taking the place only Arianna had once. He had filled the void in my heart.
My husband stepped away and turned his back to me. I gave him his space. He needed it. A mob boss would not feel pride after admitting weakness. I understood that despite how much I wanted him back in my arms.
"It was information in exchange of drugs. That was it," he finally spoke. He lit a cigarette.
"Why is her head shaved?" It was odd.
"I had let her go once she was an addict but she couldn't redeem the habit. She chose to continue on that path and once the money was out she did stupid things. Coming back to me was her last resort."
I gulped. It was cruel. "Did she say anything?"
With a smile, he returned my gaze and drew me closer by the waist. I was taken aback and wrinkled up my nose at the cigarette's odour. He merely gave me a chuckle.
"She named the Lambardi, Doll. That's all she said."