I lay in Nino’s arms, overwhelmed by his confession, our breathing ragged from...making love? We’d made love. Nino had told me he loved me, really loved me, no fake emotion, nothing false, just love.
Nino raised my hand and pressed a kiss to my wrist. “Your pulse picked up again,” he said, regarding me closely. “Are you okay?”
I smiled, couldn’t help it. It felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest, as if everything I hadn’t even dared to dream, much less hope for, was suddenly in my reach.
“I’m just happy. For a while I thought it was something about me, something inherently wrong with me, why I couldn’t be happy, why bad things kept happening to me.”
Nino swiped his thumb over my pulse point. “Life doesn’t work like that. Bad things are not fate, or punishment of an almighty power. Sometimes bad things just happen.”
I shrugged. “I know that now, or I think I do. But when I was a young girl, Father always blamed me or Mother when something went wrong, and so did my brothers even when they had messed up, and I believed them. If you’re told something often enough, you just take it for the truth. When Father hit me, I thought I deserved it.”
Nino’s body became tighter, his gray eyes sharper. “Your father got what he deserved. Luca didn’t give him an easy death.”
I pushed myself up onto my elbow. That was news to me. Felix and Egidia always told me Father had been killed by a bullet to the head. “Luca tortured him?”
Nino’s dark brows pulled together, his fingers on my wrist tightening once more. “You didn’t know?”
I shook my head. Nobody had bothered telling me the details. I wasn’t sure if it was to protect me, or because they thought I had no right to know as a mere girl. I bet my brothers knew. “I thought Luca shot him.”
Nino’s mouth twitched, something dark and eager flashing in his expression. “He shot him in the end, yes, but before then Luca did what he does best.”
I wasn’t sure how I felt with the knowledge. My father hadn’t been a good father, or a good man. He’d hit me and made me feel like I was worth nothing, had shot my mother, but other than Durant, who’d destroyed my innocence, I never wished for him to suffer. “You respect Luca for it.”
Nino looked at me in surprise. “Of course. Luca destroyed an entire MC chapter by himself, chopped them to pieces, skinned them. He loves the personal kill, the close kill, and doesn’t mind getting his hands bloody. It’s easy to give a kill order or shoot someone from afar, but killing them when you feel their terrified breathing, when you smell their cold sweat, see the terror in their eyes, that’s something entirely different. Luca crushed his cousin’s and uncle’s throat, how many people could do that? Not just on a physical level? When Remo and I were still on the run and our father was still alive, we’d sometimes talked about how we wanted to kill him, and Remo’s dream was to do it like Luca...”
For a moment I only stared at the man before me. He looked so relaxed, so ... approachable. Not harmless, not nice, but not as monstrous as his words made him sound. They reminded me of his nature. Maybe that was why he had the tattoos of roaring flames and screaming grimaces, as a warning of what lay beneath his beautiful exterior. “That sounds as if you and Remo admire Luca.”
“I wouldn’t call it admiration, but he’s one of the few men who might be able to kill me, and it wouldn’t be quick or clean.”
I touched his chest over the inked image of a screaming skull that seemed to be swallowing a knife, feeling his calm heartbeat, and wondering if only their past had turned Nino and Remo into what they were today, or if it had always been in them. Savio harbored darkness as well. Even Adamo had killed, and I wasn’t sure if he was really bothered by it or only bothered by his lack of regret. Would our children harbor the same darkness? And even if they did, what would it matter? I’d love them regardless, like I loved Nino.
“Did your brothers ever hit you like your father did?” Nino asked, throwing me off with the change of topic.
“Father occasionally made it their task to discipline me, yes. They are seven and nine years older than me, so...” I considered Nino’s expression. “Nino,” I said quietly but firmly. “I don’t want you to kill them because of what they did when they were children.”
“They must have been teenagers, Made Men, when they disciplined you. Grown men, by our standards.”
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