The Falcones were going to feel cheated. A sacrificial virgin was to be given to the monsters in Las Vegas for a promise of peace. I was never given the chance to be a virgin. That choice had been taken from me. Painfully ripped from me.
Fear, acute and raw, clawed at my chest as my husband led me into our room for the night and closed the door to the grinning faces of his brothers. Nino released me, and I quickly created distance between us, moving toward the bed.
Six years had passed, but the memories still woke me at night. I was scared of being close to a man, to any man, especially this man—my husband.
Standing a few steps in front of the bed, my eyes swept over the white sheets—sheets my family expected to the see stained with my blood in the morning.
Blood that wouldn’t be there.
I crept closer to the bed. There had been blood the first time, the second time, and even the third time. Lots of blood, pain, terror, and begging. There had been no presentation of the sheets back then. Our maid, who had never come to my aid, cleaned them.
I wouldn’t beg tonight. It hadn’t stopped my abuser many years ago.
It wouldn’t stop my husband.
I knew the stories. I had seen him in the cage.
My only consolation was that I doubted he could break me more than I already had been all those years ago.
BEFORE – NINO
“You do remember what I told Luca last time I saw him? I doubt he’ll have any kind of interest in working with us after that,” Fabiano muttered, pacing the room. “He will kill me the moment I set foot in his territory, trust me. Fuck, I would kill me if I were him.”
Remo shook his head. “He is angry, but he will see reason.”
I nodded. “He wanted to protect his property, his wife, but he’s still a businessman, and we have good arguments for cooperation. Drugs are still his main business, and our contact in his lab tells us they can’t produce enough for the increasing demand. Luca needs to import drugs, but he can’t because we hold the west and Dante holds the middle. His smugglers lose too much of the shit before it reaches the East Coast. If he works with us, we can guarantee safe transport through our territory and in return he promises us to stay out of our fight with Dante Cavallaro. We don’t even want his help.”
“We don’t need it,” Remo insisted, dark eyes hardening. We disagreed on that point; additional help facing an opponent like Dante Cavallaro would have been very appreciated, but like Luca, Remo let emotions get in the way of rational decisions.
Fabiano frowned. “Luca isn’t like you, Nino. Not every single one of his decisions is based on logical reasons. He’s furious because we insulted Aria, and his pride might stop him from making the logical decision. Trust me on that.”
Pride and fury. Neither were useful.
“If you tell your sister that you gave Leona that bracelet, she will convince him. She’ll think you are her little brother again. She’ll want to believe it. Take Leona with you. Make it out to be a family visit, for all I care, but convince Aria and Luca to talk to us. Tell him I’m going to meet with him personally,” Remo said.
I gave Remo a slanted look. Last time he talked to Luca hadn’t gone over too well. Years had passed, but if Luca held on to grudges, he’d remember that too. And Remo had a way of provoking people that didn’t go over well with the other Capo.
“He won’t believe that we’re trustworthy,” Fabiano said. “And you talking to Luca is the fucking worst thing that could happen. Remo, you are a fucking time bomb. You get a hard-on just imagining how it would feel to bathe in Luca’s blood, damn it. Do you really think you could stop yourself from trying to kill him?”
Remo leaned back with a smile on his face that I’d learned to be wary of. “The Famiglia is all about bonds to ensure peace, aren’t they? We give them what they want, what your sister wanted for you and everyone else.”
He hadn’t answered Fabiano’s question.
Fabiano stopped his pacing and crossed his arms. “And what’s that supposed to be?”
“Peace and love.” Remo’s mouth twisted as if he was going to start laughing. “We’ll suggest a marriage between our families. It worked between the Outfit and the Famiglia for a while.”
Remo hadn’t mentioned anything to me. Usually he consulted with me before he made these kinds of decisions. For Remo, it was a surprisingly reasonable plan. Marriages had prevented many wars over the centuries of human history—of course, they’d started just as many as well.
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