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Burned Dreams: Chapter 11

Ravenna

I pull the blanket tighter around me. Why is it so cold? Did I leave the balcony doors open? I’m not sure. The last thing I remember is lying in bed, glaring at my bedroom door, and expecting Rocco to arrive. Maybe I dozed off.

Sitting up, I glance at the clock on the dresser. Half past five in the morning. Rocco didn’t come to my room last night. A sigh of relief leaves my lips. It’s possible he got drunk after the game and went straight to bed upon returning home, but that seems unlikely. He gets even more riled up when he drinks. Whatever the reason, I was spared last night, but it doesn’t mean I’ll be lucky again next time. Dread floods my veins and a shudder of disgust runs through me.

A slight movement catches the corner of my eye, and I look at the balcony doors, finding them closed. It’s still dark outside, but even with the curtains disrupting the view, I recognize Alessandro’s imposing form. He’s there in one breath, and then just disappears in another.

I rush toward the balcony doors, wrapping the blanket around me as I do, and slide it open. Cold morning wind blows into my face, making the long sheer curtains flutter on either side of me while I take in the empty terrace. I’ve nearly convinced myself that I only imagined seeing Alessandro out here when my eyes get caught on a metal hook grappled over the railing. I move two steps forward and look down over the edge.

“What the . . .?” I mumble as I watch my bodyguard swiftly climb down the rope attached to the hook.

Alessandro is still several feet above the ground when he leaps and gracefully lands on his feet. My jaw hits the floor. How can someone his size be so agile? I’m still in a state of shock when he looks up and our gazes collide.

“The hook,” he says calmly as if scaling onto people’s balconies is the most natural thing in the world.

I glance at the hook, then back at him.

“Now, Ravenna.”

Without breaking our eye contact, I unhook the metal thing and let it fall to the ground. Alessandro bends to collect his equipment and then casually walks away, heading toward the garage. When he’s halfway there, he makes a sharp turn to the right and continues in that direction for a dozen or so feet. He reaches the oak tree next to the garden fountain and changes direction once again. What the hell is he doing? If someone sees him, he’s dead.

But there’s no one around this close to the house, except Rocco who’s probably asleep, is there? Just the cameras. I survey the lawn, taking in the lampposts and the cameras mounted on them. I’m sure those are still recording. The security in the guardhouse monitors the stream twenty-four seven, but I don’t see any of the men rushing out here to apprehend the intruder.

Alessandro heads right, toward the back lawn, out of my sight. I rush out of my bedroom to the hallway. There is a big window at the end, and I reach it in time to see my bodyguard swinging his grappling hook over the outer wall. The dimness of predawn makes it hard to make him out clearly, but I’m pretty sure that just before he starts climbing, he glances back at the window where I’m standing. Moments later, he disappears over the wall.

Right as I get back to my bedroom, my phone vibrates on the nightstand.

05:47 Alessandro: Go back to sleep.

I stare at the message, then type a reply.

05:47 Ravenna: What were you doing on my balcony?

Several minutes pass before he responds.

05:54 Alessandro: My version of a spa treatment. Kinda like yours every Wednesday and Saturday, Ravenna.

Laughter surges in my chest, threatening to burst. I bury my face in the pillow and let it out.

 

* * *

 

I dozed off again, finally feeling more calm after spending a restless night dreading Rocco’s return. When I wake just after eight, I’ve got the worst headache on earth and my nose won’t stop running. I rarely get sick, so I don’t keep any medicines in my room. Maybe one of the maids has something? Rocco has forbidden me from leaving my room without makeup, but he should have gone to a meeting he mentioned last night. It’s probably safe for me to quickly go downstairs and get something for the pain. I exit my room and head down the hallway, when I hear the door to Rocco’s bedroom open.

“Ravenna!”

I take a deep breath and slowly turn around to face him. His eyes travel over my nightgown and then drift up, stopping on my makeup-free face.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going looking like that?” He takes a step forward.

“I just need to get some medicine from the kitchen, and I’ll come back upstairs to get ready.”

“And what have I told you about walking around and looking like something the cat dragged in?”

His hand wraps around my neck, making it hard for me to draw air. I grab at his fingers, trying to pry them off, but his hold only tightens.

“Don’t defy me, bellissima.” He brings his face close to mine. “I’m not in the mood to deal with your disobedience. If I must, you won’t enjoy your punishment.”

With one more squeeze, he lets go of my throat, and I double over, coughing and struggling to fill my lungs.


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