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Burned Dreams: Chapter 15

Ravenna

“I can’t believe someone tried to kill Rocco!” Eleonora, Capo Giancarlo Medici’s wife exclaims. “You must be devastated, my dear.”

I pluck a glass of wine off the tray a waiter is holding and take a big gulp. “Yes. It’s terrible.”

“Do we know who did it?” She leans forward to whisper in my ear as if we’re longtime confidantes. “I heard it was probably the Serbian clan. A payback for some quarrel they had.”

“Maybe.” I take another sip and move my gaze to the massive figure in a black suit standing in the corner of the room. As soon as my eyes fall on him, my heart starts to bleed once again.

Alessandro has been pretending that nothing happened between us this morning. He fucked me like there was no tomorrow, giving me the best sex of my life, then left the library without a word, slamming the door shut in his wake. I stood there—sweaty and flustered, his cum dripping down my legs—staring at that door for who knows how long. And I cried. Confusion. Hurt. Remorse. All those emotions raged inside my chest as I tried to understand what the hell happened and why he stormed out as he did.

You were my payback, he said.

Is that all I’ve been to him? Payback for something my husband has done? Were those kisses and caresses all just a lie? Yes, they probably were.

I look down at the wineglass in my hand and swallow. I’ve fallen in love with a man for whom I’ve been nothing but a revenge fuck. A sad laugh escapes me. I must be the biggest idiot who’s ever lived because I thought he had feelings for me, too. I guess it’s true what they say, there’s nothing more blind or stupid than a woman in love.

“Well, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the Serbs,” Eleonora continues. “All of them are absolutely crazy. Serafina told me she saw that Popov guy cut off a man’s finger on the bar of his club. He did it in front of the patrons. An animal.”

I tune out Eleonora’s rambling and observe Alessandro. He’s standing with his hands clasped behind his back, watching the crowd with a grim expression on his face. The entire evening, I’ve been trying to avoid looking directly at him because it hurts so much, but my eyes keep being pulled to him like magnets. Just as they are now.

After what happened in the library, I didn’t see him until this afternoon when he took me to the hospital so I could do my wifely duty and visit my husband. The drive there took longer than the actual visit. Both Rocco and I knew we were doing it for show because, God forbid, someone may notice and comment that something is wrong between us. I stepped inside his room, delivered the things he asked me to bring, and left. It lasted less than a couple of minutes, but it still wasn’t fast enough, and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.

When I was done with that chore, Alessandro drove me to the mall where I’d bought more clothes, and then he took me to my mother’s place, where I left her with the stuff I purchased for Mrs. Natello. When we returned to the house, he disappeared into his room until it was time to head to this fucking party.

Alessandro looks up and, for a fleeting second, our gazes connect, but he quickly looks away. It stings. Especially since I’ve never felt as I did this morning, surrounded by his body, his hot breath on my face, and his cock inside me. I felt . . . free. Like nothing and no one could ever reach me, or hurt me again. His presence was an impenetrable wall, sheltering me, and protecting me from harm.

I should be ashamed of cheating on my husband, but I’m not. If I could turn back time, I would do it all over again. I want to feel Alessandro’s body next to mine again, and it’s not only about sex. It’s him. Since the day we met, I’ve felt a pull toward him. I thought he felt something toward me, too. In my pitiful need to be loved, I let myself see the things that weren’t ever there. He just wanted to bang his boss’s wife as payback.

“Ravenna, my dear?”

“Sorry,” I quickly look away from my bodyguard. “I was lost in thought.”

“It’s understandable. You must be worried about Rocco. Did they say when he can come home?”

Bile rises up my throat at that notion. “In a few weeks.”

“Oh, so long? You must miss him. The two of you are such a beautiful couple.” She smiles and starts to say something else but shouting erupts somewhere in the room.

I turn toward a group gathered at one of the tables, just in time to see an older man swinging his fist at another guy.

“I knew that man was trouble waiting to happen,” Eleonora says next to me, nodding toward the younger fellow who avoided the punch and is now responding with a kick to his opponent’s stomach.

“Who’s that?” I ask.

“Damian Rossi. His brother is the don in Chicago.” She smirks. “Ortensia says he’s a beast in bed.”

“He was allowed to come here?” I ask. Members of the other Cosa Nostra families are strictly forbidden from entering the New York area without our don’s permission.

“Ajello has some sort of big business happening with his brother. Damian must have got the approval, which I’m sure will be revoked soon. That man, the one trying to strangle him, is Ortensia’s husband.”

Security guys approach Damian Rossi, trying to subdue him. In all the commotion, the betrayed husband yells something and reaches into his jacket. I don’t see what happens next because a solid mountain of muscles masquerading as a black suit materializes before my eyes. A gunshot rings out.

Two large arms enfold around me, and I find myself with feet dangling off the ground as Alessandro carries me across the room. I can’t see where he’s going or what’s going on because my face and body are plastered to his front. I can only hear shouts and another gunshot somewhere behind Alessandro. Meanwhile, he casually continues to saunter toward his destination. I understand that this kind of shit must happen often in his line of work, but shouldn’t we run or something when there is gunfire raging all around?

“Are we going on a stroll?” I mumble into his chest.

“No.”

“Maybe you could walk faster then?”

“No bullet will hit you, Ravenna.”

Of course, it won’t hit me when my whole body is covered by his! “It may hit you!” I snap.

“Chances of that happening are slim.”

Behind us, the chaos in the room seems to have died down because now only quiet murmuring can be heard. I wouldn’t doubt if the party guests have already switched from hysterics to gossip. Alessandro’s measured steps come to a halt, and he lowers me to the floor but keeps his arms firm around me.

“Don’t move,” he says before finally letting me go and turning to survey the room.

I can’t see anything except his ridiculously wide back, so I lean a bit to the side to peer around him. Damian Rossi is being dragged away by a couple of guys. He looks pissed off but unharmed. The other man, Ortensia’s husband, is slumped in a nearby chair, holding a bag of ice to his chin. The rest of the guests are gathered in small groups of three or four, snickering among themselves and waving to waiters to bring more drinks. Typical.

“It’s safe,” Alessandro says.

I don’t even look at him as I step around and head toward the bar where Eleonora is standing with Pietro. The feeling of being held tightly in Alessandro’s arms won’t fade. I want more. It’s like an instant addiction that only he can feed. I despise it.

“Gin and tonic,” I say to the barman and take a spot to Eleonora’s right.

If my husband was here, he would have had a fit. Rocco Pisano’s wife would never be seen with anything other than wine. Well, fuck Rocco. And fuck Rocco’s wife. I’m my own person I have my own likes and dislikes. And I detest wine. He tried his best to suppress the person I am, and I let him. With every degrading remark, with every hit, I let myself sink deeper and deeper until almost nothing was left. It took being fucked and then discarded by my bodyguard for me to come to my senses.

“My God, that was awful,” Eleonora exclaims. “One of the bullets damaged the ceiling. I don’t think we’ll be allowed to rent this place again.”

“Probably not.” I shrug, pick up the tumbler the bartender had set on a coaster before me, and take a big gulp.

“I need to find Giancarlo. Maybe he can reason with the manager. Pietro, can you keep Ravenna company?”

“Of course.” Pietro nods. “How are you holding up, Ravenna?”

“Compared to my wedding, this is just a minor quarrel.”

“Yes, I remember that night.”

“Me, too. Very well,” I say.

During my wedding banquet, the Irish mercenaries attacked while everyone was outside watching the fireworks. Several people died, and Rocco had to deal with the authorities until morning. He came home furious and tried to fuck me. Then, he beat me instead.

“Nino tells me Rocco lost one of his security people the other night. Federico, right? Poor bastard, to choke on his food like that.”

The tumbler slips out of my hand, crashing to the floor. My gaze darts toward Alessandro where he is once again lurking next to a wall. His stance is rigid—spine ramrod straight, and his eyes fixed on Pietro.

“Ravenna? Are you all right?” Pietro asks.

“I’m fine,” I whisper.

Is it just a coincidence? It can’t be. He asked me the name of the security guard who knew Rocco hit me that very same night. My heart leaps in my chest. Maybe he feels something for me after all? Stop. I need to stop thinking about him. He made his feelings about me very clear this morning.

“You don’t seem fine to me, Ravenna.” Pietro places his hand on my upper arm.

I freeze, unable to move a muscle. Even without Rocco here to witness the touch, a wave of panic still engulfs me at the idea that someone will notice and tell my husband. That man has turned me into one of Pavlov’s dogs.

“Do you want me to take you home?”

I don’t want Pietro to drive me home. I want Alessandro to do it.

“Yes, that would be nice. Thank you.” I smile.

 

Alessandro

 

I park next to Pietro’s car at the Pisano mansion and grip the steering wheel until my hands hurt as I watch him escort Ravenna to the front door. Only once Pietro is back in his vehicle and pulls out of the driveway do I allow myself to leave my car. I would have snapped his neck otherwise. I hoped fucking Ravenna would get her out of my system, cure me of the damn obsession I’ve developed for her, but it has only made it worse.

I can’t get my bearings where this woman is concerned. I might hate her, but my dick says I don’t. The things she makes me feel are something I’ve never experienced before. Not even with Natalie. I loved my wife. But with Ravenna, my need for her is no longer a craving I can deny. She lodged herself under my skin, a tattoo on my psyche. When did protecting her become more important than killing her to carry out my plan? Saving one woman means I’m betraying another, betraying the promise I’ve made at her grave. But taking Ravenna’s life? I may as well put my own gun to my head.

I climb the stone steps and head inside the mansion. It’s almost midnight, so there’s no one around as I walk down the hallway to my bedroom. Once inside, I remove my jacket and holster, and pull out the house blueprints, spreading the schematic on the small desk tucked into the corner. I need to do something to make me stop thinking about Ravenna.

Two hours later, after I make the ninth mistake in marking the weak spots of the ground floor, I throw the pen across the room and push the papers away.

Leaving my room, I tread along the empty foyer and up the staircase to the second floor. It’s well into the night and, other than the ticking of the grandfather clock on the landing, the house is silent. I turn to the left and head down the hall, stopping at the door to Ravenna’s bedroom. The knob is cold under my palm as I carefully turn it, nudging the door open just a bit. Ravenna is asleep, her long hair spilled across the pillow. A fluffy white blanket is lying tangled at her feet.

I approach the bed and reach out to move a strand that has fallen over her face and neck. Not so long ago, I imagined slicing that delicate throat and watching her blood spill. But now? Now, just the idea of anyone hurting her in any way makes me go completely feral.

When I got this job and came here, it seemed like everything would be so easy. I had a goal and one way of reaching it. But I didn’t count on Ravenna Pisano and her sad green eyes disrupting all to hell.

I need another distraction. Anything that would take my mind off Ravenna. And I need to move forward with my plan. Reevaluate and adapt, I’ve been trained to do that. No plan survives contact with the enemy. So, time to shift.

Messing up Rocco’s construction business will take focus and days of preparation, but, currently, I’m too wrought up to handle anything requiring either. I must have blood. Now! Seems like the moment has come for Rocco’s father to die. Unfortunately, Pisano won’t be there to watch.

I haven’t had a chance to study Elio Pisano’s house, and I don’t know the movement of the security guys. From what I saw while escorting Rocco and Ravenna there, the alarm systems are very basic, but the whole property is heavily guarded. It would be too risky to try and infiltrate it without sufficient recon of patrols. But it doesn’t matter.

Throwing one last look at Ravenna’s sleeping face, I pull the blanket over her and silently exit the room.

 

* * *

 

Elio Pisano’s home is nestled between two other houses. At the one on the left, the garden lanterns are lit, but the lawn around the house on the right is shrouded in darkness. It’ll do.

I use the unlocked garden gate to enter the neighbor’s property and creep along the fence wall that connects it to Elio Pisano’s, approaching the maple tree that’s growing over the divide. Its branches creak and bend under my weight as I ascend to scan the surroundings.

There are two guards at the main gate, but none along the outer perimeter. Inside the fence walls, however, there’re at least five men patrolling the grounds, and more are stationed at the front door. I don’t see any monitoring cameras except for the one at the gate, which seems to be the only entrance to the property.

I climb back down off the tree and walk along the fence wall until I reach the spot I’ve chosen as my entry point, extracting the grappling hook and rope from my backpack. During my missions with the Z.E.R.O. unit, we always used state-of-the-art pressure-powered grapnel launchers, but those are designed to secure access to very high-up locations and they tend to be too loud. Regular house walls require old-school equipment.

It takes me three tries until the hook finds its purchase. Using the rope, I climb the smooth wall, throw the hook to the ground on the other side, then jump down.

Most of the courtyard is well-lit, but there are trees and decorative shrubs scattered around. I use them for cover as I move toward an unguarded door at the back of the house. I’m almost there when a security guard rounds the corner and stops in front of the entrance. When he doesn’t leave after five minutes, I use the shadows and foliage to reach a corner of the building. The guard’s back is to me, and he is looking down at his phone. I approach him from the rear, press my palm over his mouth, and wrap my other arm around his neck. The man thrashes and tries to free himself, but I squeeze my arm tighter, snapping his neck.

I haul the body behind a bush and reach into my backpack to get the alarm jammer that’s compatible with the security system I spotted installed in Elio Pisano’s house. A minute later, I’m inside.

The layout of the house is similar to Rocco’s—huge foyer and equally decorative wooden stairwell, frescos on the ceiling. A quick look around confirms there’s no one in the vicinity. The stairs creak under my boots as I climb to the second floor and then turn left. All four bedrooms on this side are empty, so I head back the other way when I hear footsteps and the squeak of the floorboards. I press my back to the wall and take out my knife.

A man in a butler’s outfit steps onto the landing. I have no idea what business he has roaming the house at three in the morning, but today is not his lucky day. I grab the front of his jacket and simultaneously swipe my knife across his neck. Blood pours over my hand as his body twitches a few times. I carry the dead butler to one of the empty bedrooms, then continue with my search.

I find Elio Pisano in the far bedroom. He’s sprawled in the middle of the four-poster bed, wearing nothing but his boxer briefs—snoring. Reaching into the pocket of my tactical vest, I pull out a small box that holds a syringe and approach the bed.

For a few moments I just watch Rocco’s father, enjoying the thrill of what will come, then I cover his mouth with my palm and bury the needle into his neck. Elio’s eyes snap open, and I revel in the panic I see in them. His hand shoots out, grabbing my forearm, only to fall back down onto his chest. Limp, like the rest of his body.

I remove my hand from his mouth and watch his bulging eyes as they stare at the empty hypodermic needle in my other hand.

“It’s a convenient little cocktail,” I say as I put the hypodermic back into its box. “Military uses it sometimes. It paralyzes the body so the person can’t move or speak.”

I unstrap the knife from my thigh and place the edge of the blade on the tip of his thumb.

“You want to know the fun part? It doesn’t numb the pain.” I smile and slice off a part of the flesh from his finger.

Only once before have I witnessed a man scream with his eyes. It was more than a decade ago, a time when Kai went AWOL following a mission, and Kruger decided to teach him a lesson afterward. He pumped Kai full of the same cocktail I’ve just used on Elio and stabbed him randomly. But there’s one very big difference between then and now. The look in Kai’s eyes showed a scream of fury. Elio’s eyes show only terror.

“Let me tell you a story.” I move the knife up Elio’s hand and forearm, making a shallow incision as I drag the tip. Enough to inflict significant pain without the possibility of making him bleed out. “It’s a story of a woman who was taking a morning stroll through the neighborhood because she liked the smell of blooming trees in springtime.”

I stop when I reach his elbow. There are certain parts of the body where the nerves close to the surface are more sensitive to pain. Fingertips. Knees. The arch of a foot. The tibia. Elbows. I bury the tip of the knife in the center of his, right through the ulnar nerve.

“A man in a souped-up car ran a red light and hit the woman as she was crossing the street,” I continue as I twist the knife in his flesh. “He was drunk and driving twice the speed limit. And he fled the scene without ever looking back.”

My nostrils fill with the smell of urine. When I look up, Elio’s eyes are bloodshot, and a fine layer of sweat covers his forehead. I lean over him and drag the knife up to his neck, leaving a thin red trail behind.

“And the driver’s daddy—a newly made capo trying to impress the new don of New York—made sure to cover everything up so well, it took me years to find the culprit.”

I slide the edge of the knife across his neck, keeping the cut shallow, then trail a line down and stop right above his heart. When I have the knife in place, I bend my head until my mouth is just next to his ear.

“That woman was my wife,” I whisper. “As you are dying in a puddle of your own blood and piss, think about what I’ll do to your son.”

I grip the knife harder and plunge it into his heart, all the way to the hilt.

 

Ravenna

 

The sound of a turning doorknob and the creak of wood floors under slow steps wakes me. My eyes snap open but I don’t dare to move. For a moment, I think it’s Rocco, coming to force himself on me. Then, I remember—he’s not here. I sit up in the bed, clutching the bed covers to my chest, and notice Alessandro on the recliner by the balcony door. Based on the pale light peeping through the window, it must be early morning. He doesn’t look like he’s slept at all, and the strange outfit he’s got on leaves me without a doubt.

“What are you doing in my room?” I ask, scanning his getup of black cargo pants and a long-sleeved shirt. A black military vest is dangling over the arm of the recliner. Other than in the library, during my self-defense lessons, I’ve never seen him wear anything but suits.

Alessandro doesn’t reply, only keeps glaring at me.

“Leave,” I snap. “You got what you wanted yesterday. It won’t happen again. Out.”

His nostrils flare and a guttural groan leaves his lips. I lower my eyes to his hands. He’s gripping the arms of the recliner, his body taut. The sleeves of his shirt are rolled up to his elbows, revealing the strained muscles on his forearms. Dark red stains mar the back of his right hand and fingers.

“Is that blood?”

“Yes,” he says through gritted teeth. “I was trying to distract myself.”

“What kind of a distraction leaves a person with blood up to their elbows?”

“The killing kind.”

I blink at him, waiting for the terror to race down my spine. It doesn’t. The thought of my husband being home makes me want to run and hide, but the fact that Alessandro sits just a few feet from me after he apparently ended someone’s life, doesn’t scare me at all. The only things that terrify me are the need to curl onto his lap, and the belief that it will make everything better.

“And why did you need such an extreme distraction?” I ask.

“To stop thinking about you, Ravenna.” He rises from the recliner and takes a few steps until he’s standing at the foot of my bed. “I’m afraid it didn’t work.”

He grabs the edge of the bedcover. The fabric slips from my hands as he tugs and throws it to the side. In my sleep, my nightgown has ridden up to my waist, leaving my lacy blue panties on full display. My breaths quicken as Alessandro’s eyes slowly travel up my body and stop at my mouth.

“Do you like Pietro?” he asks without removing his gaze from my lips.

“He was a friend of my father, and he was always nice to me.”

Alessandro’s eyes move up, meeting mine. “Let me rephrase the question. Do you want him to keep breathing?”

“Yes.”

“In that case, please don’t ask him to drive you home again.”

His eyes glide down again and rest between my legs.

I bite my lower lip and lean back in bed, sliding my hand into my panties. “Why do you care who drives me home?”

“I don’t,” he barks as he grabs my ankles and pulls me toward the end of the bed.

The feel of his skin on mine as his palms slowly drift up my legs makes goose bumps break out all over my body. They follow the path of his caress as he hooks his fingers into the sides of my panties and meets my gaze. His eyes are two dark pools, and a storm is brewing in their depths.

“Tell me to stop,” he says in a strained voice.

I press my lips together and lift my hips in invitation.

Something flashes in his eyes. The tempest clears for only a fraction of a second, letting me glimpse the hidden secrets beyond. There one moment and gone the next, obscured once more by passion and desire. I didn’t have time to grasp what they were, his secrets remaining locked.

Once he slides the lacy material off, Alessandro kneels on the floor and buries his face between my legs.

A moan escapes me at the first stroke of his tongue over my slit. I’ve never experienced oral sex before, never even considered it. It’s too carnal. Raw. I didn’t think I’d feel comfortable letting a man get so personal.

Another slow stroke and then I feel Alessandro’s tongue slipping into my core. I glide my fingers over his short hair and open myself wider to give him greater access.

“Faster,” I whimper.

He ignores my plea and continues at the same pace, slowly sliding his tongue in and out. Torturing me. His palms caress my thighs, my skin burns everywhere he touches. When he reaches my ankles, he moves my legs apart, opening me even more.

“I’ve imagined doing this for days,” he says between licks. “Eating your pretty pussy. Seeing if it’s as sweet as I suspected.”

“And is it?” I ask, absolutely shocked by my words.

“Yes. Even sweeter than in my fantasies. A forbidden fruit, sure to send me straight to Hades now that I’ve dared to taste it.” I can feel his breath fan my skin as he inhales my scent. “I’m doomed.”

A tremor starts at the base of my spine and then washes over me like a wave as he feasts on my pussy, each stroke of his tongue slightly quicker than the last. He moves his left hand along my inner thigh and slips his finger inside me while continuing to torment me with his mouth. My back arches as I suck in a breath. Wetness pools between my legs, dripping over his face while I tremble. Alessandro keeps lapping up my juices, sliding his finger in even deeper.

“Come for me, my emerald-eyed angel,” he whispers between the licks and presses his lips to my clit, sucking on it.

White light explodes behind my closed eyelids. Alessandro keeps ravaging my clit, and just as I start to drift completely out of my mind, he slips another finger inside.

I scream.

It’s loud and wild. A shrill of passion, but also freedom. The ecstatic cry of a liberated soul, finally freed of its shackles.

Alessandro places a kiss on my pussy and takes his fingers out, rising to his feet. I’m still shaking from the aftershocks as he picks up the blanket off the floor and covers me with it. Then, he turns and heads toward the door.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

He stops with his hand on the knob but doesn’t turn around.

“Back to my personal hell, Ravenna.”


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