74 | jealousy
“ALESSANDRO IS NOT missing. He’s gone home,” Dante briefed the moment we walked outside.
I tilted my head.
“What do you mean?” my husband asked.
The Bianchi had left and we were just leaving.
“Pietro,” Dante growled.
Of course, he did something.
“He raised his hands on Alessia.”
I blanched. “Is she okay?”
Dante shrugged at me. “She’s terrified, not hurt though. She needs you.”
I grabbed my husband’s arm. “Let’s go!”
Alessia was innocent. She didn’t deserve this, nor did she deserve what I’d done to her. I betrayed her. The least I could do was console her. Despite my motive to protect her, I was ashamed of what I did. All I had ever hoped for her was a secure life filled with happiness and her dreams kept at peace. Instead, I sacrificed her for the betterment of the Family, and now, the only way to stop her wedding was the failure of Dante’s marriage, something I would never wish for him. I inflicted this guilt upon myself, oblivious to the intense shame I would feel afterward, regardless of how much I convinced myself that this was because she claimed to love Valerio Bianchi, or Mateo, I knew the ultimate reason was due to practical reasons. The Family comes first, always.
Antonio pulled back. “Why did Pietro feel the need to domesticate Alessia?”
I did not like the word he used for the girl, especially in front of other men.
“It doesn’t add up,” I realized. “What if Alessandro is betra—?”
“No, Alessandro would never do that.”
The confidence in my husband’s voice appalled me. Where was this trust when he tested me?
This is not about you, Franci. And, indeed, it wasn’t.
“We’re going home.” Antonio pulled me towards a dark SUV with an iron grip as if my words had managed to offend him somehow. If so, let him be offended.
I snatched my arm away once we were out of sight. “This will bite you in the ass later, Antonio,” I mumbled under my breath.
Antonio snorted, opening the door for me. “Mind your words.”
“You mind your behaviour,” I grumbled under my breath, stepping into the car.
He noticed, of course, and gave me a stink eye. “Enlighten me then. What is wrong with my behaviour?” he bit out sarcastically. I sat in the car, fixing my dress and holding my elbows across my chest. He gave a disappointed sigh at my obvious tantrum and waited for the men to come closer. “Fabio, Dante, my wife and I need a moment. Come in another car.”
I looked away as Fabio spoke. “Don, it is not saf–”
Antonio cut him off with a hiss. “I did not ask you.”
“He’s right. It’s not safe.” I looked up at his form dominating the air outside the car, hovering over my body with his hand clasping the door tightly. The look in his eyes could send many quivering, but I knew how to differ from a rageful gaze and a gaze full of mere pique, and I knew I was threading on calm waters right now.
He stared down at me with hard eyes, daring me to continue.
I merely blinked at him warmly.
He looked away.
“Enrico will accompany us. Fabio and Dante, come with the other men.” He held out his hand for me, ordering his brother and our two bodyguards.
I tilted my head, placing my cold ones on his warm, calloused flesh, and stepped out of the car, stumbling upon my own feet and clutching onto him for stability. “Sorry...” I trailed down noticing the scarce distance between us. My lips parted as I watched him through a hooded gaze of unmitigated desire, wondering what it would be like to have him writhing over me again. He suppressed the beauty of anything I was ever fond of. It was tantalizing, leaving me speechless and desperate for more. I wanted to own this man, bask in his soul until he cannot opt to leave us unrequited upon his own will. To love him with no demands, and to be requited of that love was nothing more than I needed, nothing more than I would ever want.
He licked his lips, his arm pulling my warm body closer to his. I clutched his jacket and looked down, attempting to hide the red on my cheeks with the flare of my hair. A cough separated us. I stepped back, meeting Dante’s mischievous eyes that were for once not glaring down at his favourite section in a newspaper, one that would be filled with mass murderers around the globe and the larger-than-life art of how to implement a murder. I would never be surprised if he even took notes.
“I apologize for disturbing your very lovely moment, fratello, but we have to leave immediately. Pietro needs some of his ass kicked and Alessandro needs to be found,” Dante commented, rubbing his jaw towards the end as his tone turned sharper. “Your whole administration has gone bonkers.”
I licked my lips, refusing to meet the eyes of my brother-in-law in the mortification of getting caught eyeing his older brother.
“I will deal with Pietro,” Antonio stated. “All of you, stay out of it. This is between the underboss and I, and it is about time he knows his limits.” He wrapped an arm around my waist and gently pushed me towards the front seat. “I will drive. Enrico, sit at the back.”
Pietro was not just on my nerves, but on everyone’s. I wondered why Antonio still kept him around. Was it because he was the underboss? Or, was there a bigger reason for it? But then I realized that this was not my forte and I should mind my own business, let them deal with it. They were the men. They knew the mob better than I ever would, not that I was any bit interested. It was a pain in the arse.
Fabio left. Enrico, to give us a moment, settled himself on the leather seat and closed the door shut. My eyes met my husband’s who had already pinned me down under his scrutinizing gaze. The wind ruffled his dark locks and my hand twitched to fix the unmended.
“Don’t look at me like that,” I told him. “My question was valid.”
“It was,” he agreed. “However, your timing to express it was inopportune. I want to give my consigliere a moment of doubt before I embark on feelings of animosity towards him. He is wise and he is aware of what is best for him.” Antonio walked away, leaving me stranded alone against his car.
“And what if he doesn’t?” I inquired, turning around and glaring at his broad back leaning against the trunk of our car. I watched as he lit a cigarette and pulled the cancer stick up to his lips, letting the smoke bask his shadow of today’s night. He extended a hand towards me.
I sighed before walking up to him, glaring at his outstretched palm and then finally skimming my nails against it. He instantly clutched my fingers and yanked me closer. I slowly trailed my eyes up his frame to his charcoal eyes. He eyed me with a lazy smirk, bringing his cancer up to his lips and then blowing at my face. I scrunch my nose up at the stench.
“Then there is a penalty for a reason,” he husked, pulling my hand over his neck and wrapping his arm around my waist. He licked his lips, putting the cancer back against his sinful mouth again.
I shook my head in stupefaction.
“What’s wrong?” he questioned, leaning lazily against the trunk with his elbow and the cigarette twirling in between his fingers.
He pulled me closer.
I tried to shrug out of his hold.
He held me tighter.
I gave him a mild look of irritation. “Your brother is waiting to leave.”
He lifted a shoulder before dropping it carelessly. “Probably reading the news.”
“Your brother is obsessed with that,” I remarked.
He smiled fondly. “He loves investigating, finding clues–all that stuff through reading.”
“So, like forensic police officers?”
He rolled his eyes. “The Feds are dogs. My Dante will never be part of that shit.”
“Alright, alright. What does he do then?” I asked, tilting my head up.
He looked down at me, his eyes peeking at my lips with an iniquitous look. “Law,” he whispered.
I licked my lips. “Isn’t that your favourite as well?”
His eyes snapped back to mine, the momentary lewd desires long forgotten.
“I saw the law books in your office,” I explained.
He nodded in understanding. “It’s not my favourite. It’s my career. Well, at least in the normal world.”
I took a step back. “You are a lawyer?” It never occurred to me that he, too, could have attended university and lived a life apart from the mob.
“Yes, now stop changing the topic. What is wrong?” he pressed again. There was no way I could get my way with this man. It sometimes infuriated me.
“There is nothing wrong.” I did not want to sound pathetic in front of him.
He stared at me in perplexity. “Are you jealous?”
“Excuse me?” I hissed. “Why would I be jealous? What makes you think that I am jealous?” I cleared my throat. I was making it too obvious.
He shrugged his shoulders again. “If there is something bothering you, then I am obligated to take away that problem, but I cannot do that unless I know what is going on in that lovely head of yours.”
“Wow, so I’m your obligation now?”
He clutched my arm, throwing down the cigarette. “Do not put words into my mouth. What is wrong with you?”
I looked away defiantly. I was just embarrassing myself, but he did not know how much it hurt to see someone you put on such a high pedestal have more faith in someone other than you. Not once did he doubt his consigliere or think of taking a measly test. How was that fair? He was giving the man a moment of doubt, then why did he not give me one?
“Nothing. There are more important matters to see, like, where Alessandro is right now.” He opened his mouth to retaliate, to defend his favourite person. “I am not doubting him, Antonio! He genuinely could be in trouble and believe it or not, I did mean it when I called him brother.” I move to walk away.
“So this is the real issue?” he said.
“You are jealous of Sandro?” He phrased it like a question, but we both knew it was not. “Francesca, it’s not like that. I have known my consigliere for years.” I heard him step closer until his back touched mine. He held my shoulders softly and his breath fanned my ear. “We grew up together. I went from looking up to him to leading him. He understands me as well as I do him.”
I closed my eyes in shame. How pathetic am I? “I’m sorry. This was not the right moment.”
He placed his head on top of mine. “I meant what I said, Francesca. If there is something bothering you, then I am obliged to know. No one knows better than you that if I do not care, I will never ask to tend to them.”
“You care about me,” I stated, smiling through my teeth. How was it that he always managed to make me feel so giddy with mere words? It was unfair.
“I do,” he admitted. “And it is about time I accept it. I am trying to understand your insecurities, your anger, your jealousy, your emotions, all of which are justified. I brought this on you, on us. I crushed your spirits and I won’t let you pick them up alone anymore. That is a husband’s promise. Lies and manipulation in marriage will only entangle me with more burdens than necessary. Marriage is supposed to be peaceful. It is supposed to be the solace only some are lucky to have. I have neglected it far too many times to be foreseen.” I looked up and he smiled down at me, turning me around in his arms till I faced him. “And I do intend to change that, bambola.”
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