As an Italian woman, it runs in my blood to love my family. We just do, irrevocably and intensely. It won’t be questioned, and we stick together, no matter how much shit comes our way.
But sometimes, sometimes I wish I wasn’t born as the oldest sister of my idiot brothers.
“Alright, what exactly is going on here?!” I cross my arms in front of my chest when I take in the sight in front of me.
“Nothing, sorella. I swear!” my little brother Luc exclaims, but I can only raise my brows. The smell of scotch lingers in the air and the way he slurs his words gives me an idea of how little really is going on here.
I turn to look at Marcel, who rolls his eyes at me, “Yeah, Emma. Calm down...”
That makes me untangle my arms from my chest and I walk over to both of them sprawled across the two armchairs in our library, desperately fighting to keep their eyes open. “It is three in the afternoon! How the fuck am I supposed to calm down?!” I yell as my palm meets the back of Marcel’s head, “You’re the older one here! He’s eighteen, you can’t just get him drunk like that, for fuck’s sake.”
Luc tries to make a point but almost falls while standing up, luckily I’m close enough to steady him. “Lucas, sit down. You need some water.”
He throws his arm back to loosen my grip on him, but that only ends in him falling back on the chair. “N-n-no, I’m good!”
“Of course you are.”
“Co-co-come on, I’m o-old enough!” he exclaims, his prominent stutter only becoming worse by the alcohol in his blood.
“You’re nineteen. You’re literally not old enough to drink. I’m blaming your stupid brother for this one,” I turn to look at Marcel who almost looks like he’ll fall asleep, “He’s the older one, he should’ve been responsible.”
“Hey, I just gave him a few beers, I didn’t think it would...”
“Yeah, exactly, Marcel,” I interrupt him, “You didn’t think. Madre doesn’t need this shit right now. Get up and bring Luc to bed, and I expect you to be sober and cleaned up by five, got it?”
He groans, “Emma...”
“I asked you a question.”
“Yeah, fucking hell, I got it...” My brother finally sighs, and I’m actually relieved I don’t have to shoot him in the leg for his stupidity.
With one last shake of my head, I make my way into the living room, and as soon as I plop down on the couch I’m being attacked by my giant furball called Hermes. “Are you a good boy?”
He jumps into my lap and rubs his head on my arms, his large husky-statue almost crushing me when he lays down on me. But as much as he’s heavy, and as much as I really wanted to relax, I can’t help but smile when I scratch his ears, placing a kiss on his head just when I hear footsteps behind me.
“I swear to God that dog gets more love than any of us,” my mother chuckles as she bends down to press a kiss on my cheek.
“That’s not true, madre,” but the second the words leave my mouth Hermes starts barking, and that makes even me laugh, “Or maybe it is...”
She laughs, but I see it on her face. Something is wrong. “Is everything okay?” I can’t help but ask, and my mother just sighs as she takes a seat next to me, scratching Hermes’ head with a little too much attention.
My mother never really liked my dog much. Papa was the one who loved, trained and played with him. Hermes was heartbroken when my father died about a year ago, he felt the same loss I did.
“You know ever since your padre died I have tried to keep up with the business. It’s not that easy now that the Esperanza family is in town. They took over most of our areas to get better access, it really wasn’t a coincidence your father was killed only days before he wanted to make a deal with them. A union with the Esperanza’s would’ve given both of our families more power.”
I nod, even though I’m a bit confused since I knew all of that. I’ve been tracking my father’s killer since the day I watched him die. This bastard’s face is etched into my brain, and I will do everything in my power to find him. To kill him.
“You remember we have a meeting in a couple of hours, right?” she continues.
“Yeah, it’s with the Esperanzas, right?” I ask. I haven’t met any of them before since they only recently came into town. We stay out of each other’s business and they respect the boundaries, which is why there never was a reason to pay them a visit.
“It is,” she confirms, “I can’t tell you much about what’s going to happen at that meeting. But please listen before you do anything, okay? Think about what they’re saying before you act on this one, please.”
The way she speaks tells me I will not be happy with this meeting. Great. “Madre, what is going on?”
But she just shakes her head, gets up, and quickly squeezes my shoulder. “Like I said. Please just think before you act.”
A sigh escapes my throat when she leaves the room. I can’t wait for this meeting to be over, although it hasn’t even begun...
“You want to go for a walk, Hermes?” I ruffle his fur in an attempt to calm myself, but he jumps at the word walk and instantly wiggles his tail. “Yeah, thought so. Come on.”
I grab my leather jacket on the way out and walk toward the forest behind our house. Hermes and I spend a lot of time here. He might be missing a leg, but he still loves to accompany on my morning runs. Well, he generally doesn’t leave my side, and running with me at least keeps him fit as well.
He digs out a stick and brings it to me, placing it by my feet before looking up at me. For a dog that was already grown up when I rescued him he really did learn well. He’s about the best-trained dog that I have seen. I smile as I pick up the stick and throw it in the forest, and Hermes immediately runs after it. We keep playing for a while, and I even end up in the mud when he runs into me with a way too large stick in his mouth.
“Ow, Hermes,” I chuckle, “Guess that means we need to head back, huh?” My fingers skim through his grey fur before he shakes himself, spraying even more mud on me. “Well, thanks for that.”
After glancing on my watch I realize that it’s close to five already, and I need to hurry if I don’t want to look like a muddy poodle in front of our guests today. Jogging through the forest with Hermes by my side, I make my way back to the house. The second I turn around the corner I notice two men, one of them standing behind the car, fiddling with something in the trunk while the other one reaches for his gun in his holster.
I immediately stop and pull out my gun, aiming it straight at them. “Guardia,” I whisper to Hermes, who immediately stands in front of me and growls at the intruders, the sound eliciting a reaction from one of the men who now looks up at me. “Put the gun down. Now,” I order, motioning my gun to his hand. But the older man just laughs, his own gun now pointed at me.
“And who are you to tell me what to do?”
I take off the safety and move forward, Hermes following me with every step. “You are standing in my fucking driveway, so if you don’t put that gun down now, I’m going to have to shoot you.”
“Whoa, lady, no need for that,” another voice exclaims. I turn to see the younger man stepping away from the trunk, about to reach into his jacket, but I instantly take a step toward him.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” I now stand right between the two strangers, Hermes growls at the older one while I point my gun at the hand in the younger one’s jacket.
But the guy doesn’t even bother, he just grins, runs his other hand through his disgustingly beautiful blonde hair, and then moves deeper inside his jacket, unholstering the gun from his side.
I don’t even hesitate before I shoot the guy between his feet, sending him jumping backward, his amused face now looking seriously pissed off. “What the fuck is wrong with you?!” he yells at me, but I just shrug.
The older guy laughs at that, but I keep my focus on Mr. Arrogant-Asshole in front of me, who now has his hands in the air, one of them holding the gun I warned him not to pull out. “I said. Put. The gun. Down.”
I have to stifle a smile when he actually listens to my words and places the gun back in his holster, “Woman, did you just fucking shoot me?!”
“I didn’t shoot you. I shot between your legs.”
“You could’ve hit me!”
God, what a baby...
“No, I couldn’t. I know my aim. Also, I gave you a warning, didn’t I?”
He just stares at me while I keep my stance, gun in hand.
I’m not dumb. I notice the way he studies me, checks me out. Not that I can blame him, I know I’m good-looking, but somehow this obvious evaluation pisses me off even more.
“I don’t think you know who you are talking to,” he suddenly says.
“And I don’t think you who I am either, ” I scoff, “So why don’t you introduce yourself before I shoot you again?”
The guy is about to answer, but just at that moment does the door behind me open and my mother steps outside. Shit. She won’t be happy about me shooting strangers in the street.
“Emma! Lower your gun!” she orders, and I turn to look at her. I want to argue. I want to explain, but if there’s one thing everyone knows about mafia families, especially Italian ones, it’s that you never argue with your mother. They’re the
highest form of respect in our culture.
And so I lower my gun and place it in my holster before I release a whistle, sending Hermes right in front of me.
“Emma,” my mother speaks again, “There are Leonardo and Mauricio Esperanza.”