We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Burned Dreams: Chapter 10


Cracking the window just a tad and making sure I remain hidden behind the curtain, I eavesdrop on the conversation happening on the driveway below.

“I could have died, Nino!” Rocco howls. “If the bomb went off ten seconds earlier, I would have been toast! I have a fucking crater in my driveway.”

“I’ll have the car checked out. Maybe the techs will be able to find something.” Nino—the head of the don’s security—approaches Rocco’s car, or what’s left of it, and places his hands on his hips. “Shit.”

“I think it’s that Slovenian motherfucker. Drago,” Rocco says.

“You mean Serbian.”

“Whatever. We had a skirmish a few days ago, and some shots were fired. This is payback.”

“Who fired first?” Nino asks.

“I did. That arrogant asswipe refused to deal with me! I had to make a point.”

Nino pinches the bridge of his nose. “Boss won’t be happy with how you handled that, Rocco. I would keep myself out of sight if I were you.”

“They started it!”

“I’ll call Drago and try to reason with him.”

“When is Arturo coming back? I have my own shit to run. Our construction projects are falling behind schedule, and property acquisition deadlines are breathing down my neck. I don’t have time to deal with the lunatics he collaborates with.”

“No idea. There’s still no news on his sister. He’s losing it.” Nino sighs and heads toward his car. “Someone will come to collect the wreckage later today.”

I move away from the window and head into the en suite to take a shower. Like always, I leave the bathroom door wide open so I don’t feel as if the walls are closing in on me. It’s hard enough to deal with the shower stall, but at least the glass sides help in keeping my anxiety at bay. When they don’t fog up too much.

The smell of smoke and burned plastic permeated every part of the house, making me feel dirty and sick. The windows of the ground level had to be barricaded and are being replaced. They were shattered by the blast. When it happened, the explosion was terrifying. The loud bang jarred me awake. I ran to the window to see what had happened and saw the flames consuming the wreck. For a brief moment, I thought Rocco was inside the car when it exploded. And I was relieved.

As I turn off the water and exit the shower stall, I find Rocco standing in the doorway. He’s got a spiteful expression on his face like he’s ready to wring my neck just for the sheer pleasure of it. I take a step back and plaster my naked body to the cold tiled wall.

“My father’s friends wanted to know why my wife left so quickly last night,” he says and takes a step inside the bathroom. “One of them asked if you perhaps didn’t like their presence. Or mine, for that matter. Is that true?”

“No,” I choke out.

“It certainly seemed that way.” His hand shoots out, wrapping around my upper arm. “I’m in a really bad mood, bellissima. Pay attention to your behavior, or you won’t like the outcome.”

“I will.” I nod.

“Of course, you will.” With his other hand, he pulls the gun out of the waistband of his pants and aims at the overhead light. The shot reverberates through the small space, and the fixture shatters—raining debris from above and shrouding the bathroom in semidarkness.

“No,” I whisper.

“Yes.” A sinister smile spreads across Rocco’s face as he exits the room, closing the door in his wake. The darkness envelops me.

I spring to my feet, running blindly toward the door. Just as I find the knob, the sound of a turning lock echoes in my ears.

“Rocco!” I scream, as panic builds inside my chest. “Please! Please, don’t!”

There is no answer. Only a receding snicker.

I close my eyes and lower myself to the floor, trying to get my breathing under control. I wasn’t such a doormat at the beginning of our marriage. The first time Rocco locked me in the closet and turned off the light, I told him to go fuck himself. I sat on the floor, expecting him to come back. Minutes passed. Then hours. I started hearing things. It was probably just noise from downstairs, but to me, it felt like it was right there. Beside me. Although I’ve never been afraid of the dark—not even when I was a kid—being shut into that small dark space and hearing strange noises all around me, spooked me. When Rocco finally let me out the following morning, I was close to losing my mind. He has done it twice more since then, each time when he was particularly unhappy with my behavior. It left me terrified, and my claustrophobia was born.

My body starts to shake, whether it’s from the rising panic or the rapidly cooling floor tiles beneath me, I’m not sure. Probably both. I’m still dripping after the shower, and the air around me grows chilly. My muscles cease up, and I can’t make myself stand to search for a towel. Enduring the strikes of his fists is easier than this. I wrap my arms around my naked form and rest my head on my knees.

I wish I had kept Alessandro’s coat. The idea of wrapping myself into it makes me feel a little less cold. I don’t know why I keep thinking about him. Living with Rocco has made me despise men in general.

When I daydream about the possibility of meeting someone new should I manage to escape my husband, a sick feeling forms in my throat. Before my life with Rocco, wondering about a partner usually consisted of questions such as, would we like the same things? What if our tastes in music differ too much? I’m an early riser, so what if he prefers sleeping in? That kind of nonsense. It didn’t feel like nonsense then. Now? Now the first thing I think about is, will he hit me, too?

Since the days of Rocco’s first blows, I started paying attention to the couples around me. From time to time, I’d notice the subtle tells where the seemingly perfect marriage on the outside, was anything but. Just like mine.

Closing my eyes, I imagine Alessandro sitting beside me, his hand holding mine.

“Seventy-three,” I whisper.

It feels strange talking aloud when there’s no one around, and my voice sounds weak through my chattering teeth.

“Seventy-one,” I continue. “Sixty-nine. Sixty-seven. Sixty . . .”


* * *


The click of the lock alerts me to the opening door. I look up and squint at Rocco. The light spilling from the bedroom outlines his shape, making him look even more menacing. For a frightening moment, I feel as if I’m at the gates of hell, with Cerberus barring the exit.

“Get dressed,” he snaps. “I’m having dinner with an associate and I’m taking you with me.”

I watch him as he leaves, and when I hear the bedroom door shut, I rise from my spot in the bathroom corner. Thousands of needles pierce my legs as I drag myself toward the dresser by the bed where I keep my delicates. A white ornate clock is atop it, showing it’s two o’clock in the afternoon. He kept me in the bathroom for what felt like days, but it was only six hours.

I put on my bra and underwear and look at my reflection in the mirror. I should sneak a screwdriver or another tool into the bathroom and closet, and hide them somewhere so that next time Rocco locks me inside I can try to dismantle the lock. That idea never popped into my thoughts before today. All this time, it’s as if Rocco managed to not only beat down my body and mind but my sense of worth, as well. I stopped fighting him and let him shape me into his obedient dog. With one last look in the mirror, I turn around and head into the walk-in closet.

When I get downstairs, Rocco throws a disgusted look at my black blouse which has a modest neckline, but his lips widen into a smile when he notices the short red skirt that barely covers my ass.

“We’re going to be late.” He grabs my hand and drags me toward the front door.

We exit the house, and I blink in confusion. Four vehicles are parked on the driveway, with the chief of the first security shift standing next to the one in front. A rental car is next in line—it must have arrived while I was locked away—and two other vehicles are bringing up the rear. Rocco rarely takes bodyguards with him when he attends his meetings. Most of them are with people who are not involved in illegal activities. The only constant security detail has been assigned to me, and it had nothing to do with his concern for my well-being.

My eyes wander to the SUV at the back and the man sitting behind the wheel. My heart beats faster, as it does each time, when I spot Alessandro. He has aviator sunglasses on and seems to be looking straight ahead, but I can feel his gaze on me.

“Get in,” Rocco snaps and ushers me into the passenger seat of his rental car.

The vehicle in front of us purrs to life, and it heads toward the gate. Rocco starts the car and follows. I look in the side mirror and notice the last two cars driving behind us. The whole situation is like a scene from a movie—a presidential convoy when he departs the residence.

“What’s going on?” I ask.

“Someone is trying to kill me, that’s what’s going on,” Rocco barks.

I take my sunglasses from my purse and slip them on my face, secretly observing Rocco as I do. At first glance, he seems angry. His jaw is clenched and a scowl mars his face. But I look harder, and there are tells that don’t escape my notice. The way his eyes dart to the rearview mirror and to the sides every so often. Beads of sweat gathered along his hairline. And finally, his breaths, coming faster than normal.

A smile threatens to pull at my lips, and I’m narrowly able to hide it. Rocco Pisano, the man who proclaims to have the biggest balls in the world, is scared shitless.


* * *


The hum of several dozen people talking at once. Laughter. The clang of the cutlery on the plates.

Each sound drills a small hole into my temples. I lift the fork to my mouth, but I don’t feel like eating. My throat feels sore and, even though the room is well-heated, I’m cold.

“Are you all right, Ravenna?”

I look up and offer a faux smile to the woman sitting on my left. Rocco introduced me to her and her husband when we arrived at the restaurant, but I can’t remember her name.

“I think I’m coming down with something,” I say.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, sweetie.” She looks toward Rocco who is engaged in a deep discussion with her husband about real estate. “Rocco, Ravenna is not feeling well. Maybe you should take her home.”

“Oh?” Rocco tilts his head and pins me with his gaze. “Are you sick, bellissima?”

“No.” I quickly shake my head. “I’m okay.”

“Sure? Maybe you should head home and get some rest.” He leans to the side until his lips are just next to my ear and whispers, “I have a big game tonight. Make sure you’re ready when I get home in the morning.”

A shudder runs down my spine.

Rocco is a frequent poker player. He usually plays at Luigi’s with the other Cosa Nostra men, but he doesn’t find those games challenging enough. They simply sustain his addiction. Every three months, however, there is a poker tournament held at an undisclosed location outside of the city, and Rocco has been obsessed with it.

The game is an invitation-only event, and the attending players are concealed. Their identities and presence are kept secret, even from their competitors, but Rocco still loves to brag about it, especially in front of the other capos. The previous tournament was just after our wedding. Rocco won and, when he came home—high on adrenaline and full of himself—he woke me up in the dead of night and demanded I beg him to fuck me. I spat in his face when he told me to remove my clothes and kneel on the floor. He hit me with such force that I ended up there anyway. The following morning, I woke up to a message on my phone. It was a close-up photo of my sleeping mother, a gun pointed at her head. It was a threat of what will happen if I dare to disobey him again.

“Okay.” I rise, ready to leave the table.

Ever the doting husband in public, Rocco stands up as well and waves his hand at Alessandro, who’s been waiting by the exit with the other two security guys. As Rocco’s kiss lands on my cheek, my eyes wander to Alessandro while he’s approaching us with a murderous glare in his eyes. It looks like he’s back to hating me.

“Take my dear wife home,” Rocco says and strokes my hand before he sits back down.

Alessandro follows me out of the restaurant and to his SUV in silence. He doesn’t say a word as he starts the vehicle and pulls out onto the street. I manage to keep it together for almost an hour, but as we turn onto the road leading to the mansion, anxiety skyrockets in my chest.

“Please stop,” I choke out.

Alessandro immediately pulls to the side of the road. The moment we park, I get out and lean my back on the side of the car. Closing my eyes, I focus on taking deep breaths, trying not to think about what will happen when Rocco comes home.

I don’t hear Alessandro’s approach around the car. But it doesn’t matter. Even with my eyes tightly shut, I can feel him standing before me.

“You know,” I say, as the wind tingles my face, “when I was a kid, I thought I was going to be a math teacher.”


“I like numbers. And kids. I guess that’s how I saw myself.” I sigh. “You? Where did you see yourself?”

Silence stretches before he answers. “In jail.”

The last thing I feel like doing is smiling at the moment, but his response makes my lips curve up anyway. “Wanna elaborate?”


Of course not. I wrap my arms around my middle, but I doubt it’s because of the cold. A heartbeat passes, and then, a slight caress feathers my face. My eyes snap open to find Alessandro leaning over me. His left palm is braced on the car, just next to my head, while he traces the line of my jaw with the back of his other hand.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“Nothing. And everything.”

“It’s either nothing or everything. Can’t be both.” His eyes peer into mine. Steady. Enigmatic.

“Why do you care? You don’t even like me.”

“I’d say that neither like nor dislike are suitable terms in this situation, Ravenna.”

I arch an eyebrow at his cryptic words. “No? And what is?”

“Something raw.” His face is shrouded in shadows which heighten the sharp lines of his face.

“What?” I whisper.

Alessandro’s touch vanishes from my face. He lowers his head until his lips hover close to mine, just a few inches apart.

“I’m still trying to figure it out myself,” he says and leans into my body.

I should be timid, having such a hulk of a man pinning me down. With the mess my psyche has become as a result of abuse by my husband, I should feel threatened by Alessandro’s size and strength. But instead of fearing his closeness, I want him nearer still.

My most recent dream invades my mind. Thoughts fill with images of him rocking into me against the elevator wall and me screaming in pleasure. How would it feel? Would it be like I envisioned?

“Ask,” he says.

“Ask what?”

“The question I see in your eyes.”

I shiver at the timbre of his voice. “I was wondering if it would feel like in my dream?”


“You,” I whisper.

Something flickers across Alessandro’s face upon hearing my words—a fleeting emotion, there one second and gone the next. He clenches his jaw and takes a deep breath, steeling his self-control so it seems. Our faces are so close that I can feel his warm exhale caress my mouth.

I tilt my head up ever so slightly. The tip of my upper lip touches his bottom one. It’s not a kiss. Just the tiniest brush, but it hits me right in the core of my being. I don’t dare move. I don’t even breathe.

A vehicle zooms past, its rumbling sound breaking the spell. Alessandro takes a step back.

“We should get going,” he says. “I have somewhere to be, and I’m already late.”

I nod and quickly get inside the car.




The organizers of the poker tournament certainly made sure they keep the identity of the players a secret.

I get out of the car and look toward the scantly lit one-story house. There are no other vehicles around, so I assume that each player was scheduled to arrive at a different time. A man waiting at the front door escorts me inside, across the unfurnished hall, and into a small room on the left side of the building where another man, wearing a three-piece suit and black gloves, is seated behind a desk covered in a black tablecloth. I guess that makes him an inspector.

“Quality check,” he says and taps the surface of the desk with his palm.

I reach into my pocket for the velvet pouch, undo the string, and let the contents spill over the ebony surface.

The inspector grabs a small magnifying glass and, taking one of the rocks, lifts it toward the light. The gemstone shines in the brightness the same way Ravenna’s eyes do when she smiles.

“Green diamonds. Nice,” he murmurs while looking at the stone from all sides. “Very nice. Popov’s?”


“Exceptional quality.” He places the diamond on a small scale. After he checks the weight, he makes a note in a leather-bound notebook and moves to the next one.

There is no specific requirement on the size or color of the precious gems that will be used as stakes for the game, as long as each is worth at least twenty-five grand. One stone equates to a chip. It doesn’t matter if the actual worth is over the minimum value. For people who attend this particular game, a few grand here and there don’t matter.

I move my eyes to the page where the inspector is jotting down the estimate, scanning over the numbers. If Drago fucked me over on even one rock, they won’t let me participate.

After the jeweler checks all twenty of my diamonds, he places them back into the pouch and nods at the man who escorted me here.

“He’s good,” he says and returns the pouch to me. “Steven will be your host for the evening. I wish you a great game, sir.”

My host ushers me to a curtained-off space somewhere in the depths of the house. The alcove is encased in heavy black floor-to-ceiling curtains that hang on either side of the door, creating a funnel-like tunnel to a curved bench and chair placed at the far side. At the end, a window—set just above the bench—allows me to see beyond. Once I walk up and take a look, I realize that the curved bench is actually a round table, partitioned by the curtain dividers and the window screen, which appears to be a one-way glass. I can see out, no one can see in.

I take a seat at the table, contemplating my surroundings. The game is set for four players, judging by the three other screens marking the spots. A dealer’s seat is the only one left not concealed, occupied by a stocky man in a bow tie. The black curtains, though sturdy, drape in soft waves. Their color reminds me of Ravenna’s hair. It’s like she is haunting me everywhere I go.

The hunger that has burned in me by having her body pressed to mine hasn’t dissipated, even though it has been hours since I left her at the mansion. I brush my thumb over my bottom lip, recalling the touch of hers in that fleeting moment. It took all of my self-control not to grab her that instant and bite at her tempting mouth.

I expected that problems may arise, that something may jeopardize my plan of vengeance or make things harder along the way. But I didn’t expect these to come in a shape of a woman with jewel-like eyes, who’s been constantly invading my mind. I want her out of my head. I wish I could take a fucking pair of pliers and dig out every single thought about her. It probably wouldn’t help. Even now, two hours after I dropped her off, I still have her scent in my nose.

My host comes to stand on my right, so I refocus on where I am. The small gap between the window and the table is barely ten inches high, just enough to allow my hands to slide through. Everything else is hidden behind the one-way glass screen.

The other three players are already in their seats, their faces hidden, but I can see their presence through the gaps. I’m assuming they each have a host at their side, just like mine is hovering close by. The man across from me has his right hand on the table, holding a lit cigar between his fingers. A thick gold ring with a red jewel is on his forefinger. Rocco Pisano.

I smile and place the pouch with the diamonds in front of me. Let the game begin.


* * *


“We’re done,” says the host to my opponent on the left.

Through the gap under the screen, I spot the man in a white suit slowly rise and leave his enclosure. His host follows him. The player to my right departed half an hour ago. That means only Rocco and I remain.

I lean back and observe Rocco’s hands visible beneath the one-way glass. He’s gripping the edge of the table so hard, that his knuckles turned white. There’s only one diamond left in front of him. Just enough for the ante, but he won’t be able to continue the game. All other stones used in the game so far are now mine.

Rocco’s hand shoots to the side, grabbing the wrist of his host standing to his right, pulling him closer. There is murmuring, and then the man steps back.

“We would like to continue with checks, if you’d allow it,” Rocco’s host says.

I raise an eyebrow. Only precious stones are allowed as chips, and when you’re out of them, you’re done. Switching to checks is allowed only if all other players agree, and the “house” accepts the responsibility for handling the transaction. It is almost never done, due to one very specific reason: The player who uses anything other than stones to place a bet loses the option to fold, and he’s forced to call, match, or raise the bet. He must continue playing until the round ends.

Keeping my eyes on Rocco’s hands which are yet again gripping the table, I nod and throw a single emerald toward the center of the table.

“Approval granted,” my host declares, and the dealer proceeds with the next hand.

Obtaining the details on how much money Rocco Pisano has in his bank accounts, both legitimate and overseas wasn’t easy. It took Felix a few weeks to get that information for me. The total is a little over two million. I was rather surprised by that sum. Based on how much he spends on cars, I would’ve expected ten times that amount.

When the time comes to place a bet, I take twenty gems from the pile in front of me and slide them forward. I can’t see Rocco, but I can imagine the look on his face. He sits unmoving for a couple of moments, then takes out a checkbook, scribbling something with curt, angry moves. His host accepts the check Rocco hands him.

“One million,” the man declares and places a house chip in lieu of Rocco’s check in the middle of the table.

I can barely stifle a laugh. Not only did the stupid motherfucker call my bet, but he also doubled it. He must be desperate to get his diamonds back. I take the rest of my stones and push them forward, raising the total bet to two million.

Rocco Pisano has two options. To match my raise by adding another million. Or to raise again. However, according to the rules of this tournament, the new raise must be double the sum of what I just put forward. And I know he doesn’t have enough money left in his accounts to do that. He reaches for his pen and writes another check.

“One million, amounting to a total of two million dollars,” Rocco’s host says and adds another house chip to the table.

“The bet has been called. Please show your hands,” announces the dealer.

Since I was the one who made the last raise, I should be the one to show my cards first. It seems like my opponent is too eager because he throws his cards down, and his hysterical laugh fills the room. I look down at his hand. Full house.

Rocco is still laughing when I place my cards on the table, then his laughter dies. Silence descends over the room, and only the sound of labored breathing can be heard from behind Rocco’s screen.

“We have royal flush here,” my host announces and turns to face me. “Congratulations, sir.”

I wait while the inspector approaches the dealer and replaces the chips with the equivalent number of stones. He then slides the diamonds toward me, and my host collects them and places them into my pouch. I take out four rocks and hand them over as a fee to the tournament organizers. With the transaction complete, my host motions for me to follow him out. Glancing at the screen to where Pisano is still sitting, I smile and leave the room.

The car that brought me to this location awaits when I exit the building. The driver is hovering by the back door and springs to open it as I approach. I stop before him and lift one gem in front of his face.

“Sir?” he asks as his eyes go wide at the sight of the shiny rock.

“I need to borrow this car.” I throw the diamond at him. “I’ll leave it at the same spot where you picked me up.”

“Yes, yes. Certainly.” He nods eagerly as he shuts the rear door, rushing to the driver’s side to get that one open instead. “Just leave the key in the glove box. I have a spare.”

The moment I get behind the wheel, I floor it, peeling out of the driveway.

When I get close to the Pisano mansion, I find a spot where I can get the car off the road and park behind some bushes which will conceal it from view should anyone happen to drive by. The remaining distance, I cover on foot. My analysis of camera placements on the perimeter wall and at the gate, as well as the field of view they cover, leads me to a location with direct sight of the entrance but falls into a blind spot. Then, I wait.

Half an hour later, headlights appear down the road, nearing the gate.

I know men like Rocco Pisano—arrogant, self-important bastards who can’t deal with the reality when someone bests them. They often need a way to shake off their ire when faced with their own failure, and usually with violence while blaming someone else. In the weeks I’ve been with Pisanos, I haven’t seen Rocco hurt his wife, but something still doesn’t add up. I can’t get that haunted look in Ravenna’s eyes out of my head.

An angry man may resort to violence, but a scared one will likely seek a hole to hide in. I want to make sure Rocco is the latter. So, as his car stops at the gate, waiting for the metal door to slide to the side, I take out my gun and aim at the back of the car. Then I empty my magazine into the rear window, fender, tail lights—anything I can, but avoid actually hitting Pisano.

The security guys rush out of the guardhouse, guns raised, and head toward the car to check on their boss. By the time they start combing the terrain around the gate, I’m already partway to the other side of the property where last week I hid a rope with a climbing hook in one of the bushes.

Getting over the wall poses no problem, but going across the yard takes me more than ten minutes because I need to zigzag my way along a specific path that keeps me out of the view of the cameras. When I reach another blind spot by the west wing of the mansion, I throw the hook up where it catches on the balcony handrail. The skin on my hands feels raw from climbing the rope with no gloves on by the time I get to the top. I pull the rope up and crouch behind the parapet so I’m hidden from view.

The glass door is closed, and the curtain is pulled over it, but the white sheer material still allows me to see through it. Ravenna is sleeping curled under a blanket. I’m not even sure when I started thinking of her as “Ravenna” instead of “Mrs. Pisano,” but that’s what she is now. I can’t handle labeling her as a Pisano anymore. That asshole’s name is too filthy for her to bear.

I shift my attention to the bedroom door on the other side of the room and take the gun out of my holster.

The yells and hustle of the security guards as they search the grounds draw near. They must be moving this way.

What the fuck am I doing—keeping watch over the woman I’m planning to slay? Risking exposure because I need to be sure that the son of a bitch won’t be hurting her? I shake my head as if it’ll help clear my fucked-up mind.

Maybe Felix was right. Maybe I’ve gone insane, but not because of the gore and violence I’ve seen and done. The trigger for my madness is sound asleep only a few feet away.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode