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Burned Dreams: Chapter 16

Ravenna

As I exit my room to head down to breakfast, the maid rounds the corner and rushes toward me. “The guard at the gate just called, Mrs. Pisano. Mr. Nino is coming to see you.”

“Did he say why?”

“No. He just said it’s urgent.”

I rush along the hallway and down the stairs, wondering what could have happened. The maid dashes in front of me and opens the front door.

“Ravenna.” Nino nods as he steps inside. “We need to talk.”

“What happened?”

“Not here,” he says in a grave voice.

“Okay.” I lead him across the foyer to Rocco’s office and close the sliding door once we’re inside. Nino takes a seat on the leather sofa by the window and leans forward with his elbows on his knees.

“Elio is dead,” he says.

I blink in confusion and lower myself onto the recliner across from him. “I didn’t know he was sick. We saw him about a week ago, and he seemed okay.”

“He didn’t die of natural causes. Someone broke into his house last night and killed him in his bed. It seems like they tortured him first.”

I squeeze the padded arms of the chair as the image of Alessandro’s blood-stained hand flashes before my eyes. The same hand that stroked my skin while he feasted on my pussy two hours earlier. I feel myself grow damp and quickly press my knees together, slightly appalled by my body’s reaction.

“How did he die?” I ask.

“A knife through the heart.”

“You know who did it?”

“No idea.” He shakes his head, and I manage to hide a sigh of relief. “Could have been the Serbs. Rocco believes they are responsible for the hitman who shot him, so he sent mercenaries to attack Popov’s club last night. Serbs could have been retaliating for the attack on the club, but the timing’s too tight. There’s no way they could have done it.”

“Does Rocco know his father is dead?”

“No. I think it would be better if you told him.”

I barely suppress a shudder. “Yes, I’ll head to the hospital as soon as I get ready.”

“Good. And make sure you don’t leave the house without Alessandro until we find out what’s going on,” he says. “I’ll see myself out.”

When Nino leaves, I go back to my room to change and put on a new pair of panties. But as I’m standing in front of my underwear drawer, an unusual urge to rebel rises within me. I look down at the fresh pair of panties I’ve pulled out, then throw them back and close the drawer. As I will be seeing my husband, I’ll do it while bearing the evidence of my attraction to another man.

I pick out a pair of pale peach pants and a jacket that comprise one of the few outfits I actually like wearing. Rocco prefers me in bold colors, such as blacks and reds. The only reason he let me keep this set is because of the jacket’s big gold buttons that show the logo of the brand name.

My purse is on the dresser, and when I reach for it, I’m overwhelmed with loathing at the sight of it. Other women use purses to carry with them their most important items. Documents. Wallet. Their phone. The only things in my purse are a small makeup pouch, which I’ve come to hate, and two packs of tissues. My IDs are locked away in Rocco’s safe, and I’m not allowed any money. I usually just leave my phone on the nightstand. What’s the point of carrying it when I can’t call anyone except my husband? My purse is just another reminder of the things he has taken from me. The things I let him take from me. My gaze moves from the purse up to the mirror above the dresser. I focus on my reflection, eyeing the big diamond earrings, reflecting the light off the stones and the sparkling gold. My long hair is gathered into a high bun, perfectly tight, and heavy makeup covers my face.

“Who are you?” I whisper. The woman in the mirror looks like me, but we have nothing in common.

There’s no answer, of course. I stare at the stranger for a long time, trying to find more resemblance than the mere lines of my face, but I can’t. That bastard made me lose myself along with everything else.

With one last look at my reflection, I grab my coat off the chair while pulling the pins out of my bun at the same time with my free hand.

As I head toward the staircase, the steady cadence of my heels is echoed by the delicate pings of the pins hitting the floor as I keep pulling them out one by one. By the time I reach the top landing, a trail of small black hairpins leads back to my room.

Alessandro stands at the foot of the stairs, a dark look on his face. This morning, he ate me out like a starved man having his first meal in weeks, and then disappeared. I can’t stop thinking about his parting sentence. He said he was going back to his personal hell. What did he mean by that? I am his enemy’s wife, yet there was no gloating, satisfaction, or triumph in his tone. He sounded defeated. There is something else going on.

My gaze moves from Alessandro’s eyes to his lips. Can he still taste me? Will he come into my room again tonight? The sensation of his mouth on my pussy still lingers. It’s more than the sexual act itself that shook me to my core. It’s the way he touched me—as if I’m a precious, valuable thing. He said he hates me. Even planned to kill me. His caresses tell me otherwise.

I’m aware of how a violent, angry man acts more than I’ve ever wanted to be. I can sense one, even through his smiles and pretense. Despite Alessandro’s hostile words, my instinct for self-preservation wasn’t triggered. Not even when he wrapped his fingers around my neck during that self-defense demonstration. Having his huge hand around my throat actually thrilled me. There is something so alluring about giving a man like Alessandro that kind of power over me. How easily he could have snapped my neck if he wanted to, but, instead, his touch made me feel safe. Protected. And it turned me on.

Because I know he wouldn’t hurt a hair on my head.

 

* * *

 

“Why the fuck did you leave the house looking like that?” Rocco snarls from the bed. “You’re not a goddamn peasant who walks around with her hair sticking out in all directions!”

I slip my hands into the pockets of my coat so he won’t see them shaking, and take a deep breath. “I need to tell you something.”

“I don’t give a fuck!” His face flushes red as he roars and leans over the side of the bed, pointing to the bathroom door with his good hand. “Get in the bathroom and put your hair in order!”

“There’s nothing wrong with my hair,” I say. “Nino asked me to pass you some info.”

“What info?”

“Your father is dead.”

Rocco’s body goes still, and several emotions race across his face. Shock. Denial. And then, a barely detectable excitement he’s trying hard to hide.

The relationship my husband had with his father was always ambiguous. On one hand, he revered Elio and sought his approval relentlessly, while on the other, he despised his father for never showing Rocco respect. In public, Elio always boasted about how Rocco is one of the don’s most trusted men, but behind closed doors, he enjoyed speaking down to his son, saying he’s not good enough to become an underboss.

“How did he die?” he asks.

“He was killed at his home last night.”

Rocco’s eyes go impossibly wide. “You’re lying!”

“I’m not.”

Rocco’s face turns an even deeper shade of red, his nostrils flare, and the vein in his neck pulses. He reaches for his phone, which lies on the bed, and hurls it at me like a surly kid. I notice his intention in time and step to the side, letting his phone hit the door and crash to the floor. My eyes don’t move off Rocco’s indignant form as I crouch and pick up the cell.

“This is the last time you do that,” I say. “I’m done being your punching bag. Next time you raise your hand to me, I’m going straight to the don.”

“You slimy little bitch! I’ll show you.”

I throw the phone at him with all my strength, and excitement fills me when it hits him in the chest. Rocco grabs the side of the bed, yelling and shaking the railing. I simply turn and leave the room.

Alessandro is sitting in the waiting room at the other side of a long hallway, but he stands up when he sees me coming.

I stop, face him, and look up. “Can I get another self-defense lesson tomorrow morning?”

Alessandro’s eyes narrow. He watches me for a few beats and then slowly nods.

 

Alessandro

 

We exit the hospital and head toward my car when a biker driving way too fast through the parking lot stops just a few yards in front of us. His bike is completely black, except for the prominent design on its body panel—a white skull with a thick cross over the forehead. Fuck. I grab Ravenna’s wrist and pull her behind me.

“Do not move,” I say, keeping the biker in my sight. “Confirm that you understand, Ravenna.”

Silence stretches for a few moments before she replies, “Yes.”

The rider dismounts the bike and removes his helmet. My eyes are locked on him as he approaches us with slow, measured steps until he stands before me.

“Zanetti. Was your buyer satisfied with the product?” His accented voice is steady and calm.

“They served their purpose,” I say. “What are you doing here, Drago?”

Drago Popov looks up at the hospital building, zeroing in on Rocco Pisano’s window. “I have some accounts to settle.”

So, he knows Rocco is behind the attack on his club. Fucking perfect. “I’m afraid it’s not possible.”

“How so?”

“That account is held in reserve. By me.” I glare at the Serbian leader, and I know he understands what will happen if he makes a move on a man who’s mine to kill. People pass by us as they enter and exit the hospital, but no one pays much attention to our conversation.

“Personal debt?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“You have a timeline for settling the account?”

“Within a week.”

Popov casts another look toward Rocco’s window, then nods and walks back to his bike.

“You have seven days, Zanetti. And that applies only to him. Not to others involved in the attack on my property and my people.” He thrusts the helmet onto his head, climbs on his bike, and rides off.

“Who was that?” Ravenna asks behind me.

“Bad news.”

A slight touch feathers the back of my hand as she drifts the tip of her finger along it and then hooks her pinkie with mine. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, hoping it’ll stifle the need to take her into my arms. It can’t happen.

This morning, after returning to my room, I stared at the ceiling for hours as I mentally made changes to my plan. The idea of fucking with Rocco’s mind for several weeks disintegrated into dust. The notion of tying him to a chair while I torture him at my leisure—gone. I need to find a way to get into his hospital room and end him there. His death will be too fast, and that pisses me off, makes me want to hit something, but there’s no other way. I can’t wait until he is released. To preserve my sanity, Rocco Pisano needs to die as soon as possible. And then, I’ll leave. I can try rationalizing that decision, find an excuse for myself, but it won’t change the truth—I’m running away.

I spent a decade completing the most dangerous secret missions. Been shot at so many times, I’ve lost count. Held captive and tortured, twice. The last time I managed to escape on my own and, basically, dragged my blood-covered body back to base. And on top of that, I’ve nearly been blown to smithereens on more than one occasion. Then, came my years with Cosa Nostra. I wouldn’t call this a safe work environment, either. The number of people I’ve killed thus far is in the triple digits. More than fifteen years of violence and death, and I’ve never fucking ran from a battlefield.

Until now.

And I will be running away, not from a more formidable enemy, but from a woman with emerald eyes. Her crystal depths are pulling me in, and I don’t have the strength to resist the capture.

“Let’s go,” I say and head toward my SUV on the other end of the parking lot, tightly holding Ravenna’s pinkie with mine.

She falls into step beside me as the wind whips her silky black strands into the air.


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