This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Worn steel grinding brutally against concrete drove a handful of shivers cascading along my spine, making me awkwardly twitch in the grasp of a masculine female prison guard. From the obvious signs of rust and cobwebs littered with dust, I doubted this part of the prison was in use. That thought brought little comfort.
I racked my brain for some obvious explanation to why I was here. It seemed the ideal place for a beat down, but I couldn’t remember offending anyone lately, I was left relatively alone by most of the girls.
The guard stood in the doorway, silently undoing the handcuffs. Her broad shoulders blocked my view into the room, increasing my anxiety levels. In my moment of freedom, I gently rubbed the red raw skin of my wrists, just a small amount of friction enough to casually remind me of my circumstance and that metal and flesh didn’t really get along.
“Your girlfriend only brought you fifteen minutes, Wells. Make the most of it.”
“Girlfriend?” I mumbled at a lost.
The guard moved away, lightly pushing pass me without a second thought or further explanation. Cautiously stepping forward, the unknown plagued my thoughts. I’d been in prison for almost seven years and with only three regular visitors to my name – visits that typically took place in the general visiting room. I often wondered if that was an honest sign of who I could trust or if I’d just been simply forgotten to live with taking the fall for my half-brothers’ mistake.
My teeth sunk into the dry plump flesh of my bottom lip as I stepped into the bare, dull painted room. I froze two steps in when my hazel eyes locked on the only other person in the room. A woman from my past, someone I’d once considered my best friend sat perfectly perched behind a square wooden table. She painted a picture of perfection, sunlight falling behind her as if God shined his personal blessing over her in this hell hole. Her amplified womanly curves were effortlessly flattered in the sleeveless red and white polka dot dress, and the violent shade painted on her lush lips only magnified her beautiful features when she smiled. Harper Munroe was the trophy wife men would kill for, and she belonged exclusively to my father.
She rose from the plastic chair, her natural ginger waves flowing over her shoulders.
“Evie Wells, only you could make a prison outfit look fashionable.”
I rolled my eyes, awkwardly massaging my wrists. “What the hell are you doing here, Harper?”
“I thought it was about time I visited, we are family after all.”
“Don’t expect me to call you mommy,” I retorted sarcastically.
I walked pass the friend who’d married my father five years before in a lavish ceremony splashed across the glossy pages of many tabloids. The grand statement inadvertently thrust me into the spotlight, creating some unwanted attention from some of the other prisoners.
I’d fought hard to keep my identity a secret until that point, never admitting to being the only daughter of Crime Boss, Antony “the Nose” Baldini. Those that hailed from my neighborhood recognized the name and the blood-stained history my father carved out to leave his humble beginnings and create his own family to hold a secure grip of his childhood neighborhood.
I’d grown up somewhat shielded from his business, my parents divorcing when I was ten and legally using my mother’s maiden name. Nevertheless, in my quest to seek his attention I’d found myself dating some of his men, identified as Made Men – soldiers who did grunt work for the Capo’s, who gave out the orders from my father. My half-brother, Joey was a Made Man, with the cocky attitude and temper he expected would push him up the ranks to our fathers’ side. After Joey’s actions put me behind bars, though, the anger in my heart hoped he’d never been allowed to the run the family.
“Good, I don’t exactly fit the stepmother mold,” she laughed as I stood before the barred window. There wasn’t much of a view, just a crowded parking lot drenched in the midday sun.
“Still doesn’t explain why you’re here.”
“Your father sent me.”
Facing Harper, I folded my arms across my chest, raising an eyebrow curiously. “Are you running errands for the family now?”
“Not exactly, I know Sal and your mom visit you all the time but Antony asked me to come to give you this.”
Curiously I watched whilst she undid the necklace from her neck, extending it to me with a small smile. I noticed the familiar golden cross sitting in her palm straight away and felt myself genuinely smile.
“Nonna’s cross,” I murmured, walking over to take the handcrafted piece of jewelry off her. A brief flash of panic went through me. “What are you doing with this? Has something happened to her?”
“No, she’s fine. Antony wants you to have it as a reminder of where your loyalty should be.”
I frowned at her. “What’s that supposed to mean? If I wasn’t loyal to him and the family I wouldn’t be in here on a bogus drug charge.”
Harper’s hands flew up defensively. “Don’t shoot the messenger!”
The cool metal burns against my throat as I secured the necklace around my throat. I wasn’t a religious person, but I held my Nonna on a pedestal that couldn’t be toppled. I’d always hoped I could become like her – strong-minded, with an influential grace respected by the masses. So far I was failing miserably.
“You won’t be in here that much longer, Antony is making arrangements; by the end of the week you’ll be a free woman.” Harper smiled pleasantly, brushing a flippant hand back through her hair.
“What?” The single word passed through my lips in a gust of shock. “I haven’t seen or heard from my so-called father since I got locked up, and now you’re telling me he’s decided to pull his finger out. Does he know the coke was Joey’s?”
“Of course he does, there’s not much he doesn’t know about.”
Harper’s hands braced upon her shapely hips, whilst I struggled to contain the bitterness raging like wildfire in me. It crept up on me without notice, strangling my words, twisting them sharply into a nastiness Harper didn’t necessary deserve. My father deserved the brunt of my anger. Harper was just delivering a message, being a good little wifey. My gaze lowered to the diamond bracelet secured around her wrist and imagined that was her reward for coming upstate to talk to me. The girl never did anything unless she got something out of it for herself.
“Joey has paid, Evie, believe me, only Rosa could stop Antony from killing him with his bare hands.”
“Nonna defended Joey, big surprise,” I muttered darkly. “He’s always been her favorite.”
“Hasn’t Sal told you what’s been going on?”
I held back a weary sigh.
“You know what Sal’s like; he doesn’t talk about the business around us.” My ponytail swayed against my shoulder blades as I walked over to drop down into the other plastic chair. “Sal’s an old school Underboss, business is for the men, and you keep the women and children out of it as much as you can.”
“Well, times are changing, Lucky was killed last week.”
My gaze abruptly left my bitten nails to look at Harper. “Lucky Leo Mancini?”
A somber tone enfolded the room, a flash of memories hit me as Harper curtly explained how the man I considered an uncle came to his end.
“He got two to the back of the head, left in the alleyway behind the restaurant.”
My tongue slid over my parched lips. “Shit. Who the hell killed him?”
“Russians apparently. They’re moving into the neighborhood, even brought the Bianco’s bakery last month! It’s some God-awful restaurant now, reigned by our old friend Cleo Vega.”
“Cleo Vega? I thought she went to L.A to be an actress.”
“She did, but now she’s back with her old Russian husband.”
It was a bit rich for Harper to criticize Cleo’s taste in men, nevertheless, I didn’t pass judgement aloud.
“Do you have any names?” I demanded.
“I think his name is Ivan Egorov or something like that. Her brother’s working for him too.”
“Yeah, well, Diego always had delusions of being Al Capone.” I rolled my eyes.
“I’m not worried about them, Evie. All I care about is your father, he’s worried. I’ve never seen him like this before, he hardly sleeps, barely leaves the house. He snaps at me for no reason –“
“Okay, okay,” I interrupted her, jumping up from the chair to grab her hands, holding them tightly to refocus her on the subject. “Why does he want me out of here? I’ve only got a couple of years left on my sentence.”
“I told you, he’s worried, Evie! They got Lucky…a Capo, in our own neighborhood. They know Antony has a kid in prison, if they figure out it’s you, you’re dead! They want Antony gone, to take over! And he wants you home, to protect you.”
I stared into Harper’s green eyes, willing myself to find the smallest amount of deceit. The two of us hadn’t talked in years, and while I didn’t like she’d married my father, I could only see the honest to God truth and a healthy dose of fear in her eyes. I wanted to have faith in her being just as concerned about my well-being as my father was but realized if he was taken out, she would lose everything. We all would.
“I know I haven’t been the greatest friend these past few years, but you gotta believe me, Evie, Antony loves you.” She squeezed our clasped hands, desperate to prove her worth to me.
“So he’s really getting me out then?”
“Yeah, he’s been calling the lawyers all weekend, arranging everything himself. He said he’d get Sal to pick you up on Friday morning.” She released my hands and threw her arms around me in a tight hug. “Everyone will be so happy to have you home.”
I forced a tight smile as we parted, doubtful that my homecoming would be the fairytale ending playing out in Harper’s mind.
The warm summer rays warmed my toes at dawn, streaming through the barred windows in the high ceilings to illuminate the concrete confines of my shared cell. While my cellmate snored, peacefully lost in her dreams, my thoughts had been too restless to allow sleep to creep in. The beautiful morning was a welcome reminder that today if Harper had told me the truth, would be my last day in this hell hole.
I rolled onto my side, discovering a guard at the cell door. “Yeah?”
“Time to go.”
I climbed off the bunk bed in an excited haste, exiting the cell to shadow the guards’ footsteps. “Am I being released?”
“Yeah, the papers came through yesterday, all you need to do is sign them and you’re a free woman. You must have some friends in high places to get you out of here so fast.”
“Only when it’s convenient for them,” I muttered dryly.
While I went through the motions of signing release forms and donning the clothes I’d arrived in, I mentally prepared myself for what the day could potentially hold for me. My six-year stint took me away from the comfortable life I’d grown accustomed to, not to mention the instant respect that came hand in hand with being Antony Baldini’s only daughter. If I hadn’t known Sal would be the one picking me up, I’d probably run away as far as I could, start a new life somewhere I was an unknown stranger wanting a fresh start. I heard from my cellmate that Canada was nice this time of year.
I adjusted the hem of the short, black cocktail dress – having been out clubbing with friends when my older half-brother, Joey found us, puffing about cops on his tail. Before I could comprehend what was happening, he came up with the bright idea to stuff a few baggies of coke down my bra. The heavy sentence brought down on me after my arrest was a statement to the family, a fuck you to my father who operated outside of the law every day of his life. The joke was on the justice system. My father didn’t seem to give a shit about me until now when he apparently feared me being killed by a bunch of Russian gangsters.
I wasn’t convinced by the change of heart.
Stepping into the pair of black glittery stilettos, I walked over to the small, cloudy bathroom mirror, running a hand back through the loose chocolate-colored waves as I sighed. My hazel eyes appeared dim but I put that down to my pale complexion, a couple of weeks outside in this summer heat and my Italian heritage would become clear. My stomach even rumbled in anticipation of sampling Nonna’s cooking and washing it down with a bottle of wine. The lack of personal possessions and evil looks I could handle, but prison food was the worse form of torture anyone should be subjected to.
“You look nervous, Wells.”
I caught the burly guards’ attention as I exited the bathroom. “Six years is a long time to be locked away from the world.”
She handed me a plastic bag of my belongings – a useless old cell phone, a few folded twenties and my wedding rings, a beautiful white gold bridal set where the engagement ring centered on a cluster of diamonds, supported by a further halo of diamonds that held the two thin bands together. Surprised to see it with the rest of my belongings, I would’ve thought such a prize would take any girls breath away. I certainly adored having it proudly displayed on my finger. I loved being a wife for the short two years I was married to Nico Durante, grateful to have found someone I assumed I would spend the rest of my life with.
With a rough swallow, I forced my unresolved feelings down, stalking the guards footsteps to the entrance where freedom came in a burst of fresh air when the doors slid open. For the first time in a long time, hope flooded me and eased the thoughts racing through my mind.
“I hope that means we won’t be seeing you again?”
I flashed her a genuine smile. “No ma’am, you won’t.”
“Enjoy your second chance then.”
I walked out of the building and into the sunlight, its warm rays sinking into my bare skin as if I’d just slipped into an inviting hot bath. A hand automatically rose to shield my eyes until they adjusted to the blinding light, giving me a chance to study the parking lot. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for until I abruptly stopped at the curb of the footpath.
A milky white Range Rover with tinted windows drove towards me, coming to a stop before me. My hand dropped from my forehead, the other clutching the plastic bag holding my belongings tightened until my knuckles cracked. I was helpless to do anything but watch as the driver, dressed in fitting black jeans and leather jacket rushed to open a rear door. A shiny black shoe set down on the ground as a body gradually emerged into view.
A painful squeeze in my chest consumed me, paralyzing me on the spot.
“Nico.” I breathed his name as a way to kick myself back into reality. A vain attempt to remind myself that the man with luscious black hair and come-hither smile, wanted to divorce me the moment he learned I was going to prison.
Nico Durante no longer looked like the hoodlum I’d fallen for eight years ago. Now outfitted in an expensive three-piece navy suit, intuition told me he’d gone up in the world, and my downfall had secured his position in the family.
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