Mafia Wife (Book #2 - Mafia Series)

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Chapter 4

“Are you gonna keep that pissy face inside too?”

Gabriella flicked her tongue against the back of her teeth. “No, I’m not. I don’t feel like breaking my mother’s heart.”

“He plays the peeping tom and you’re pissed at me?”

“I’m pissed at you because you kept going.”

He ran his fingers through his hair, flattening the dark locks. “Fine.”

“Fine? Seriously?”

“What do you want from me, Gabby?”

She scoffed, shaking her head before leaning into the leather seat of the car. He was right. She was being stupid; what could she possibly want from him? What did she expect him to say or do? “Nothing, forget it.”

“It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Not…” She took a deep breath and then pursued her lips as she exhaled the air in her lungs. “There is no way you believe that. Look, good for you, you like to play the part of the guy that doesn’t give a shit - but even your cold dead heart as to know that wasn’t right.”

“I think you’re making a bigger deal out of this than it is.”

“And I think you’ve been playing this role for so long, you forgot how to be a goddamn human. And for the record? A shitty life isn’t an excuse to be a shitty person. My life has been a shitshow since I meant you, and I still have the decency to be a human being with feelings.”

Gabriella ran her hand over her face. “You know what? It is my fault. I set my expectations too high. You show me a new low, and I keep thinking, gotta move past it, can’t get any lower than this. But then you do.”

“You agreed to marry me.”

“Because it appeared to be what was best for me. So I’ll pretend, I’ll play the game. But don’t forget that I think you’re disgusting.”

He saved her life. He rescued her from the Devil. She owed him that much, fine. He wasn’t the worst scum of the earth as far as human beings went. As far as getting involved with him? She had let it get too far.

Gabriella wasn’t in love with Niccolo, but she wasn’t a robot. It was hard to separate both and that feeling of disappointment? The sinking feeling in her gut that had them twisted in knots? She felt this way because she had expectations.

She shouldn’t.

Initially, it was sex and sex alone.

Somewhere along the way, she sought comfort, she expected him to be there. If she thought about it properly? He kept her around this long because it benefited him. Else, he would have moved on a long time ago.

“Whatever you say, sweetheart.”

Why did she think? That he would agree with her? That he would change? They both knew he wouldn’t - she shouldn’t waste her time. Hopefully, she would be a good enough actress to fool her mother. And she would not fall prey to Niccolo’s tricks. He knew she was displeased with him - he would use it to his advantage.

He would do anything to get a rise out of her. This didn’t mean as much to her as it did to him.

“We’re here,” he said with a smile, tilting his head in direction of the window. “Showtime sweetheart.”

“There is no showtime until she opens the front door,” she began, rushing past him to get out as Theo was opening the car’s door.

Gabriella heard him chuckle as he let her go first, following close behind. He had pulled the total: a nice suit, combed hair… the nice cologne. He was planning on charming her mother like he had done every other time.

It wouldn’t be enough.

It would be one thing if she introduced him as her boyfriend - it was another to suddenly announce that she was getting married. She opted for that version of the story. It was better than, oh we’re already married. If her mother thought she missed her daughter’s wedding, it might break her heart.

She didn’t want to do more damage than necessary.

“You know, we have to be so crazy in love that she has to believe we have to get married.”

“I know.”

“Or you could tell her the truth.”

“I’m not putting her in danger.” More danger.

“Then you better put your poker face on sweetheart,” he said, sliding his hand around her waist, pulling her to him.

Gabriella’s instinct was to pull away but as she found herself staring at the front door, she knew she couldn’t.

“You know,” he said, leaning closer to her as to whisper in her ear. “You were a lot more affectionate drunk.”

“Alcohol makes me stupid, what can I say?” Yes, the sex was good. And before, the sex was good enough to make up for the fact that he was a complete ass. Not anymore. Especially not after learning about the show he had put on for Sebastien.

Never again.

“Should I knock or…?”

Gabriella threw him a glare before raising her hand and knocking on the door. Alright too late to back down now.

Knock! Knock!

She waited, unable to stop the rapid tapping of her foot on the concrete step. Eventually, the door opened, revealing her mother. She was wearing an apron, covered in spots and stains, her eyebrows knitted together.

“G-gabby?”

Gabriella’s heart leaped in her throat, guilt wracking her body. She hadn’t seen her mother in so long. The only thing she wanted to do was throw herself in her arms and cry it out. She couldn’t. A happy about-to-be married girl wouldn’t do that.

Her chin dipped to her chest, her posture slumping as she tried to put her best face on. Come on. She hid her palms by moving her hands to her back. She didn’t know what was worth, the pain in her throat, or the swelling and thickening of it, rendering swallowing nearly impossible.

“Hey, mom.”

She pulled herself away from Niccolo and threw her arms around her mother’s neck. It took a second but her mother quickly returned the hug, her hands feeling warm as they touched her.

Home. She felt at home. She was home.

“Niccolo,” her mother acknowledged as they pulled away from each other.

“Mrs. Conti.” He went in for a hug, which her mother gladly returned.

“What a surprise! What are you two doing here?”

“Well, you see,” Gabriella began before clearing her throat. What the fuck was she supposed to say? Did she talk about the wedding right away? Where to start?

Her attention was abruptly focused somewhere else when Niccolo intertwined their fingers. “We wanted to talk to you,” he said, obviously emphasizing their joint hands.

Her mother looked down at their hands, then at Niccolo, and finally, her eyes landed on Gabriella. Come on, smile. And she did. She felt the corners of her mouth twitch upwards, and she hoped the trembling was all in her head.

“Come on in. I guess we have a lot to talk about!”

For the time being, she wasn’t upset. Of course not. She liked Niccolo and she thought this was a… normal relationship. Why would she be upset? She wanted Gabriella to have a boyfriend, a life. Not a marriage though.

“Thank you,” Niccolo answered for her as he dragged her inside - and she let him.

Her heart was beating so fast in her chest, she was surprised she hadn’t puked yet. Her steps were unsteady as her mother led them to the living room. She sat on the lounger while they took the couch.

The moment they were sitting, Niccolo’s arm snaked around her, his fingers digging into her hip. He would take every chance he had. He knew she’d be uncomfortable if he touched her, especially after she found out the truth. Ass.

“So, I am guessing the two of you are in a relationship?” her mother began, a ghost of a smile on her lips.

Her mood would turn sour soon enough.

“Actually, it’s a little more than that.”

“Oh?” Her mother’s eyes hardened before widening. “Gabriella Conti, are you pregnant?” Rage seeped from her every word and Gabriella hurried to wave her hands in front of her.

“No, no! Mom!”

“Because I taught you a lot better than…”

“We’re engaged,” Niccolo interrupted.

Her mother blinked. And blinked again. And again.

Oh dear lord, they had broken her mother. Rendered her speechless… unable to form a thought. Yup. Hell was going to rain down on her. Punish her for this.

“You’re what?” she finally asked after what felt like forever.

“We’re engaged,” Gabriella repeated. Nope. Mia was hoping Gabriella would repeat something else than what Niccolo had said. “I know - this is sudden.”

“Sudden? I would - I do not think sudden is a strong enough word.”

Fuck.

“I love your daughter, Mrs. Conti.”

He said it effortlessly. Not a bump, not a waiver of the voice. If she didn’t know him any better, she would also believe it. He could lie his way out of anything.

“I wanna do right by her.”

“We’re not in the olden days anymore. I don’t think you two need to get married so fast.”

“We want to, mom. I want to marry him.” She reached out for his hand, encapsulating it with both of hers. “I’ve become a different person. A better person.” Stronger was the right word. But she was different there was no doubt about that. “I- I wanna take this step. You married dad after a few months of dating. You always talked about how you met, how you knew he was the one. And you were right. That’s how I feel.”

Her parents′ story was completely different. It was a real love story, love at first sight. Her dad almost got run over by a car trying to get to her mother. That was how star-struck he was. Nothing to do with her and Niccolo.

“I know he’s the one.”

“And I know she’s the one,” he added, lifting her hands so that he could press his mouth to her skin. “I’ve always known it. From the moment I met her.” He wasn’t looking at her mother when he was talking - he was looking at her.

“I- I understand that you might feel this way. I know your father and I rushed into it… but it doesn’t mean… You don’t have to do this because we did. Is it - did you… is this because your dad is gone? Because sweetie, you can be in love without getting married.”

“Mom, this isn’t about dad.”

No, it was about her grandmother

Instead of spending a year planning a wedding, why don’t you two spend the time dating and getting to know each other a little more?”

“Next week actually,” Niccolo provided. “The wedding would be next week.”

“Next week?” Gabriella could tell that even her mother was surprised by how loud she had asked her question. Sweat beads were dripping down the side of her face and her hands were trembling.

This was overwhelming her, it was too much for her.

She couldn’t reel it back. She couldn’t take it away. It was already done.

“I have family visiting - from far. They won’t be around again. This felt like a good opportunity for them to attend the wedding.”

And by family - he meant her family.

“I see.”

Then nothing but pure silence. Her mother had no words and neither did Gabriella. What was there to say? She was announcing a relationship, a marriage proposal, and a wedding all at once.

And on top of all that, she would have to find an excuse to slip away and try to find her grandfather’s hidden secrets. How could she do it all? How could she break her mother’s heart and then go do more things behind her back?

Strong. She had to be strong. If she didn’t do this - then she couldn’t help them. That had to be her motto. Her mother - would recover. One day, she might be able to spill the whole truth.

Gabriella watched as her mother’s hands crumbled into fists, the pulse point in her neck visible. She was stressed out.

“I know the bride’s family usually gives a gift… but…” Niccolo’s voice broke the silence, nearly startling Gabriella. He reached inside his pocket, pulling out a check and Gabriella held her breath. “I thought you could use this.”

A check? He didn’t tell her anything about a check. Why was he giving her mother money? Was he trying to buy her like she was a cow or something? Here’s a goat, give me your daughter?

Her mother took it from him too fast for her to see the amount but she saw a lot of zeros. Too many zeros. What the fuck Niccolo?

“W-ow that’s hm, I can’t take this. This isn’t - I don’t care about money Niccolo.”

“Nonsense. We are family. Families take care of each other when they need it.”

She thought her mother would return the check, maybe even rip it in two. She didn’t. Instead, she folded it and put it down on the coffee table. “How about I finish making dinner while you two, hm, relax a little?”

“S-sure. But mom, I can help.”

“I’ll be fine sweetie. I think I need a minute.”

Disappointment. That was what she heard in her mother’s voice. Her mother wasn’t confrontational. She had never been. She wouldn’t yell, and she wouldn’t get mad at her. Yet she would have preferred that. Now she was stuck feeling like she had let her mother down.

It was her burden to bear. Whatever her mother was feeling, whatever she threw at her - Gabriella had to learn to take it. She was doing this to protect her, to gain enough power that she wouldn’t need to depend on anyone else. Right now, her family’s protection rested on Niccolo’s shoulders.

One day, she wanted to be the one protecting them.

Her. Not him.

***


“I need you to be honest with me.”

He had learned over the years that this was never the beginning of a good conversation. It had been easy to determine that Gabriella’s mother was more than displeased with their nuptials, but to take him to the side while her daughter was upstairs packing?

She was pissed.

Already half the evening had been in complete silence - both parties processing the information. It was obvious that Mia had time to think it through and come up with questions regarding their relationship. She was both the mother and the father - surely she would question him and his intentions.

She wouldn’t be wrong to do it. He didn’t have good intentions - but he couldn’t let her know that.

“Always am ma’am.”

First lie. Big lie.

“You know that we are about to lose the house.”

“Yes.”

He needed leverage, a way to convince her. He knew they were already married and they would go through with this regardless of her opinion but - Gabriella valued her mother’s opinion. A lot more than she valued other things. He didn’t want her to make a mistake.

Mia began fiddling with her fingers, her glance aimed at the ground. “When I met my husband, his mother had passed away a long time ago. His father was present but secretive. It got worse when my husband died. Then he got sick.”

The first time he came, she welcomed him with open arms. Surely she would not have done that if she had known what her father-in-law was. She would have also kept her daughter far away from him - there was no way this was going the way he thought it was.

“He was - warmer. Nicer. He talked to me a lot more as his disease progressed. Some of it made sense, and some of it didn’t. I chalked it up to the disease. I thought he was confusing reality and TV.” She chuckled. “You met my daughter there, correct? At the center?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Because you have family there.”

“Yes.”

She nodded. “You seemed nice. My daughter has never been… I think she tried to be quiet, to not stand out. Between me having to raise them alone and taking care of her grandpa… she didn’t want to give me trouble. I thought it would be good for her to have someone who might bring her out of her shell.”

He did do that - maybe not in the way her mother had imagined. Gabriella wasn’t as tamed as she used to be. It made sense that she masked part of herself all this time. She loved her family - she would do anything to protect them. He knew that.

Her mother was looking for him to reassure her.

“Then she started sneaking out… disappearing… lying.” She twisted her mouth. “The cars, the drivers, the money…” she shook the check. “This money. The marriage… so sudden.” She rolled her top lip inward, biting it. “Is she in danger?” she asked, her voice cracking. “Am I making connections in my head that aren’t there or…” She cleared her throat. “Niccolo, is my daughter safe?”

He looked into her eyes, fully intending on giving her the perfect answer. Except he didn’t say a word. He knew that look in her eyes. His mother - she had once… she had once looked at him like that. It was a look only a mother could give.

It froze his blood, it took his breath away. His composure broke down, his shoulders curving inwards, his jaw trembling. If he lied - she would know. He was charming, he could talk his way out of anything if he wanted to - he had spent his life using his good looks and charm to his advantage.

For the first time, he didn’t think he could do it.

He couldn’t lie.

He didn’t know how much she knew, or how much she thought she knew… but it was enough for her to be concerned - and that wasn’t a good thing for him. The more she knew, the more she might accidentally get herself in trouble.

“I won’t let anything happen to her.”

Silence surrounded them and he could barely find it in him to hold her gaze.

It wasn’t a lie.

Well - something had happened to her but to be fair, it wasn’t under his watch - and he had gotten her back. He had tried to keep her away from all the fuckers, and if she had listened, they wouldn’t be married right now.

In the end, he had to protect Gabriella from Gabriella more than anything else.

But he had done it so far.

It took a moment, but Mia eventually nodded, clasping her hands together. “If you’ll excuse me. I’ll go see my daughter.”

“Of course.”

He watched her as she climbed the steps, her posture stiff but she never looked back at him. He waited, hearing footsteps and doors, but unable to see anything. This was not random. This was not her seeing her daughter after having this talk.

This was a specific action. He knew it. He knew people, he knew how to read them. Else he wouldn’t have made it this long.

He waited for a beat - until he couldn’t hear anyone moving around. Once, he was certain they were in a fixed location, he began heading up the stairs. Each step was slow and careful and he never put more than the tip of his toes on the step. He didn’t want them to hear him.

After a while, he reached the top. From his location, he could see that Gabriella’s bedroom door was cracked open. If he listened, he could hear whispers coming from inside. This wasn’t meant for his ears.

One step. Two steps.

Sometimes he had to retract his foot: the floor would creak. He managed to quietly make his way close enough, pressing his body to the wall, and then… he listened.

… never asked. He said to give it to your father…”

“But dad was already dead…”

“He was so confused… I didn’t wanna peak. I figured I’d give it to one of you two when he passed away… I don’t know everything that’s going on… but he said it would protect your father. So I want you to have it.”

“Mom…”

“Please, just - please take it.”

Niccolo flicked his tongue against his palate. Was this it? Whatever they wanted to look for, whatever he thought the old man might have? Had Gabriella’s mother handed it to them on a silver platter?

She hadn’t wanted him to know. Of course not - she didn’t trust him. That was fine. Gabriella should tell him later. They said they needed to find something to tie her to Isabella. That might be it.

Niccolo peeled himself from the wall, walking backward to head back downstairs. He would give her the chance to tell him first. She was pissed, but that shouldn’t mean she would act like an idiot.

She had to tell him.

***


“You alright?”

Niccolo popped his head up, his eyes landing on Vanessa. He carefully put his glass of scotch down, barely holding it by his fingertips.

“Peachy.”

She chuckled, as she gripped the edge of the doorway, leaning her upper body inside of the living room. “If you’re peachy, how come you’re sulking by your lonesome, handsome self?”

“I like the darkness,” he replied, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he leaned into the couch.

He had a bad day - he wasn’t in the mood for bullshit. Gabriella had yet to mention the box her mother had given her. He was giving her a chance but - she wasn’t being very generous with her information and possessions. Did she want to look at it first? Did she plan on keeping it a secret?

Vanessa pulled her body away from the doorway, taking long strides in his direction, baring her bare legs to him. Whatever she was wearing, it didn’t qualify as shorts. “Married life boring you already? Haven’t heard Gabby scream in a while.”

His jaw tightened, the pulse point in his neck quickening. “What do you want Vanessa?”

“Tsk, tsk,” she began, walking past the couch so that she could make her way behind him. “Why so angry?”

“I’m a busy man.”

“Busy all by yourself? Probably. You have a new wife and yet you gotta have your fun all alone. How sad.” She pressed her pouty lips to his ear, nibbling at the shell. “Remember all the fun we used to have?” Her hand dragged lower as she slipped it further into his shirt, threatening to reach his navel.

You’re disgusting.

He sniffled, his mouth twisting as his body stiffened. A shudder traveled through his shoulders and he pulled away from her. Her fingertips remained on his chest, but her body was no longer pressed to his back.

Her nails. They were long. Longer. Longer than what? Longer than whose?

Hadn’t she helped Gabriella pick her wedding stuff? Didn’t she throw her a bachelorette party? Now she was here, her hands all over him. She was fake - everything was fake.

Vanessa applied a slight amount of pressure, nails digging into his skin. She liked it rough. He did too. It could be fun, relaxing even. He lifted a hand, and then surprising even himself, he gripped her wrist, yanking her hand away from his body.

“Get the fuck off me.”

“Excuse me?” she asked, straightening up, snatching her hand away from his body.

“Are you stupid and deaf?”

“You don’t have to be so rude! You could have said no.” She huffed, turning around and storming out, slamming the door on her way out.

Yes. Yes, that was what he could have said.

Except he didn’t.

Niccolo reached for his nearly empty glass, wrapping his whole hand around it. Son of a bitch. Using all of his strength, he threw it against the nearby wall. It shattered on impact, liquid spilling everywhere, shards of glass flying all over the place.

Fuck.

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