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Burned Dreams: Chapter 12


The front door of the Pisano mansion opens as I’m exiting my SUV. Rocco rushes out, carrying a big folder under his arm, and heads down the stone steps toward one of the other four cars parked on the driveway. His suit jacket is unbuttoned, and I can see that he’s wearing a bulletproof vest under his dress shirt. I size up the car he’s getting into. It’s not one of those fancy convertibles he likes, but a sturdy SUV with heavily tinted windows. Seems that last night’s events scared him enough to start using an armored vehicle. Good. I wait until the entourage leaves the driveway, then head inside the mansion.

One of the maids is standing at the foot of the stairwell, polishing the wooden banister with a sour-smelling chemical. Ravenna doesn’t seem to be around, so I turn toward the east wing. I tried catching a nap when I got home this morning, but I couldn’t stop thinking about her.

Unease settles in my guts. From the moment I climbed off that balcony, I had a feeling that I should have stayed until Pisano left the house. And my instincts have never been wrong.

Ravenna is not in the kitchen. The housekeeper is the only one there, putting groceries into the fridge.

“Where is Mrs. Pisano?” I bark.

The housekeeper jumps, startled. “Still sleeping.”

It’s nine o’clock. Ravenna is always up before I arrive. I turn around, intending to calmly walk down the hallway to check out the dining room and the library, but end up running. She’s not there either. Fuck! I’m halfway up the stairwell, heading to check her bedroom when my phone rings. I fish it out of my pocket and see her name on the screen.

“Can you drop me by the pharmacy?” she asks when I take the call. Her voice sounds raw.

I grip the banister to the point my knuckles turn white. “Why?”

“I think I caught a cold.”

My hold eases, blood returning to the extremities.

“I’m downstairs,” I say and put the phone away.

That’s when I notice the maid still at the bottom of the stairs. She’s busying herself by pretending to polish wood but, I spot her watching me from the corner of her eye. I can almost see her inquisitive glower. Shit. I completely forgot about her. It seems I forget things quite often whenever Ravenna Pisano is in the picture. Ignoring the maid’s stare, I pass her by and stand by the front door.

Ten minutes later, Ravenna appears on the top landing. As she descends the stairs, I scan down her body, from the top of her head to her black heels. She seems okay, but I eye her up and down again to make sure. Her powdery scent invades my nostrils as she rushes past me through the door.

Once we’re inside my car, I take a closer look at her through the rearview mirror and notice dark circles around her eyes that are visible even under her makeup.

“The pharmacy is right here.” Ravenna takes a tissue from her purse and wipes her nose.

I park the car and follow her inside. When the man at the cash register rings up her purchases and starts putting them in a small paper bag, I take note of the contents. Nose drops. Pain and fever meds. Vitamin C.

As we’re approaching the car, Ravenna stumbles, and I reach out to steady her. Her eyes zero in on my fingers wrapped around her forearm, then move up until our gazes connect.

“You need to be in bed,” I say and release her arm.

“I have to check on my mom.”

My eyebrows furrow. She’s barely able to stand on her own, and I’m fairly certain she’s running a fever. Without taking my eyes off her, I lift my other hand and press my palm on her forehead, finding it hot. Her emerald irises return my stare, but she doesn’t move away.

“I’m taking you home,” I say, but I don’t remove my palm. She’s wearing a long dark-green coat and a matching scarf that’s wrapped around her neck. Both make the color of her eyes pop on this dreary day.

“Okay,” she whispers.

I nod and let my hand drop to open the car door for her. She looks at the back seat, then heads around and opens the passenger door, taking the seat at the front. I should tell her to sit in the back.

I don’t.


* * *


I do tell her to move before we’re in sight of the gates. I don’t trust anyone not to open their yaps and let Rocco know they saw her sitting beside me. I’m still not sure what happens in that house, but I’m not doing anything to jeopardize her safety and well-being on my account.

When we reach the mansion, I follow Ravenna inside. I don’t think she even notices me walking behind her, too focused on finding a tissue in her purse and blowing her nose. Why in hell do I have a ridiculous urge to make sure she goes straight to bed? I should hate anything and everything that’s connected to Rocco Pisano. His wife included. Especially his wife. At the same time, I need to know that she’s okay. And that’s all kinds of fucked-up.

Ravenna starts ascending the stairs, but then stops at the third step and falls into a fit of sneezing. The sound reminds me of a little kitten. It’s hard to believe, but she looks regal even when she sneezes. Shaking my head, I lean forward and scoop her into my arms.

“What?” Ravenna gulps in surprise, then sneezes again.

I carry her up the stairs, keeping my eyes fixed directly ahead, trying to ignore the overwhelming enjoyment of having her so close. Denying myself the need to pull her even closer against my chest. Her face is just a fraction away—I can feel her breath fanning my neck. When I reach the landing, I carry her down the hallway and lower her to the ground in front of her door.

“Um . . . thank you. It wasn’t really necessary, but”—she sneezes, then looks up at me—“thank you.”

I watch her, noticing how red her nose is from wiping it with a tissue at least a hundred times, and how tired she looks. I want to take her back in my arms, as if it would somehow make her feel better.

Instead, I just nod once more.

Ravenna blinks at me and then smiles. My breath catches the same way it did the very first time I saw her.

“People really need to dig to get a word out of you, Alessandro.” She cocks her head to the side.

The scarf around her neck has come loose, and my eyes fall to her throat. Or more precisely, to the vibrant red marks on it. Murderous rage ignites in my chest. I plant my palms against the door on either side of her and lower my head until our faces are only inches apart.

“Was it Rocco?” I say through gritted teeth.

A gasp leaves Ravenna’s mouth.

“When, Ravenna?”

She turns around, twists the knob, and disappears into her room, closing the door behind her. I squeeze my hands into fists and take a deep breath. And another one. He dared to touch her. Hurt her. It must have happened this morning, after I left.

Taking out my phone, I open the tracking app. I didn’t have a chance to put a tracer on Rocco’s new car, but I do have his security vehicles tagged. And where Rocco goes, they follow.


* * *


The highest level of this unfinished garage gives me an unobstructed view of the surrounding area. I lower my bag to the ground and look down at the construction site on the other side of the street.

Rocco is standing by a makeshift table placed off to the side. The man, who looks to be a site manager, is across from him and is currently staring at the blueprints spread out between them. Rocco’s security men—five of them, with hands never leaving their holsters—are spread in a ten-foot radius around him.

I crouch next to my bag and start reassembling my rifle. There are not many sniper rifles designed to be assembled on the spot. Most are intended to be transported and used as complete units because each time the precision weapon is disassembled and reassembled its accuracy is impacted. This beauty has the barrel and optic assembly in one piece, so it remains zeroed in and ready to fire. It cost more than my car, but the alternative would be carrying a meter-long weapon around. Only a lunatic would do that. Well, a lunatic or Kai Mazur.

None of the guys in my old unit were exactly sane, but Kai Mazur was a unique type of crazy. He reminded me of a trained bloodthirsty animal who never forgot his feral nature. I wonder if they found him in a fucking jungle, taught him to feign civility, and pushed him into the program. Kai was the only member of the team who was sent on missions before he reached the age of eighteen. I think our commander, Kruger, eventually regretted recruiting Kai and kept sending him on the most dangerous missions with the hope he wouldn’t return. But that maniac always came back. Except for that one time he got picked up because he was strolling through the city with a damn sniper rifle on his back in the middle of the day. Attracting the attention of local law enforcement was a big “no” in our line of business, but I’m pretty sure Kai did that on purpose, just to rile up Kruger.

I finish assembling my weapon and take cover at the unfinished parapet wall. Rocco, still in a heated discussion with the site manager, leans forward over the table, his palms planted on the wooden surface. I look through the scope and aim at the bastard’s head. So easy. It would be so fucking easy to end his life here and now. I imagine the bullet passing through his temple and dwell on the idea of his brain matter exploding through the other side, but then, I shift my aim lower until I’m zeroed in on the middle of his right hand. The hand that’s responsible for the bruises on Ravenna’s neck.

And I squeeze the trigger.




He saw.

I can’t believe I forgot myself and let Alessandro see my neck. I always make sure I cover the bruises with foundation, but I was so exhausted this morning that I decided to use the scarf to hide them. Applying a full face of makeup drained what little energy I had.

I reach for the pain and fever meds on the nightstand and take two pills. My head feels like it’s going to explode. Bundling myself under two blankets, I close my eyes and let myself drift to sleep.


* * *



I squeeze my eyes shut and throw the blanket over my head.

Bang. Bang.

“Mrs. Pisano!” the maid’s voice carries through the door.

“I’m sleeping,” I choke out and turn toward the wall.

“Nino needs to talk with you, Mrs. Pisano. He said it’s urgent.”

I sit up. What would the don’s head of security need with me?

“I’ll be downstairs in fifteen minutes,” I say and drag myself out of bed.

After a quick shower and putting on a new layer of makeup, I leave my room and head downstairs. The fever had broken while I slept, so I feel slightly better. It doesn’t show on my face, however, so I made sure I put enough war paint on to hide that fact. When I enter Rocco’s office, Nino is standing by the desk. Alessandro is a few steps behind him, his back leaning on the wall.

“There has been a shooting, Ravenna,” Nino says.

“A shooting?” I don’t understand why he is telling me this. Nobody ever tells me anything about the “business.”

“Someone tried to kill Rocco. It was a sniper, but he got away before we managed to locate him,” Nino continues. “Rocco is at a private hospital. Doctors are trying to save his hand.”

“His hand?”

“Yes.” Nino nods. “The shooter missed. The bullet hit Rocco in his right hand.”

My heart rate skyrockets, a wave of emotions surges through me but I’m too overwhelmed to make sense of any specific one. I move my eyes from Nino to the shadow looming at his back. There are no words that could describe the look in Alessandro’s eyes as they pierce mine. Bottomless, dark-blue depths regard me with unblinking determination. So full of rage and spite, but also satisfaction. He tilts his head to the side and moves his gaze to my neck where the bruises are hidden under several layers of concealer. Then, back up until our eyes meet again.

And I know.

The sniper didn’t miss.

“Ravenna,” Nino asks. “Are you okay? Do you need to sit down?”

I make myself look away from Alessandro and shake my head. “I’m fine, Nino.”

“There won’t be any visits allowed today, but Zanetti can take you to see Rocco in the morning,” he says and looks over his shoulder at Alessandro. “Go pack. I want you back here in three hours.”

“Pack?” I ask.

“Zanetti will stay in the mansion with you until Rocco gets released.”

I definitely should have sat down. Fairly certain my heart is about to punch its way out of my chest. “All right,” I manage to say. “Anything else?”

“That’s all. I’ll let you know when Rocco is out of surgery. Don’t worry, these doctors know what they’re doing, and it’s not the first time they’ve treated Cosa Nostra men.”

I follow Nino with my eyes as he leaves the office. When he’s out of sight, I take a deep breath and face Alessandro who is still silently leaning against the wall on the other side of the room. He straightens and heads toward me. Each step he takes feels like a zap within my chest. He stops in front of me, his huge body towering over my frame, and I tilt my head up to meet his gaze.

“It was you, wasn’t it?” I whisper, staring into his eyes.

Alessandro doesn’t reply. He just regards me for a couple of moments, then lifts his hand and lightly brushes my cheek with the back of it. It’s a very light touch, but it still feels like I’ve been hit by lightning. Without moving his fingers from my face, he bends until his mouth is just next to my ear.

“If your husband still has his hand when he comes home,” he says in a deep, controlled voice, and a shudder ripples down my spine, “I’ll correct it immediately.”

His touch disappears, and I close my eyes for a second, mourning the loss of his warmth. When I open them again, he’s gone.


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