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Burned Dreams: Chapter 17


“You are not rotating yourself enough,” I say and release my grip on Ravenna’s hair. A quick glance at my wristwatch tells me we still have some time before the household staff get here in an hour. “Again.”

We’ve been practicing defense moves against an attack from the rear for twenty minutes. Every time I pull on her locks, even though I do it lightly and know that I’m not actually hurting her, it kills me. This is one of the most common onslaughts a woman may experience, and it’s important that she learns to defend herself against it. Rocco won’t ever hurt her again, but it’s good for her to have this training anyway. The world is filled with plenty of assholes.

A murderous rage ignites in my stomach the moment that thought forms. She shouldn’t need to defend herself from anyone, ever.


I raise my hand and tangle my fingers in her strands, but instead of twisting them in my grip, I let my palm slide down the silky lengths. Ravenna. The name suits her.

She turns around, the tendrils slipping from my grasp, causing almost physical pain in my chest at the loss of that small contact. What should I expect when Rocco is dead and it’s time for me to go? I reach out and trace the line of her chin. What if someone dares to hurt her again and I’m not there?

“I’m leaving soon,” I say.

Ravenna sucks in a breath, but she doesn’t say anything as she locks her eyes with mine.

“You don’t have to worry,” I continue. “Even with me gone, you’ll be safe. Always. I’ll make sure of it.”

“Interesting. Do you keep everyone you hate safe?”

“No.” I grind my teeth. “Just you.”




I watch the maelstrom in Alessandro’s eyes. I’ve been too focused on his cruel words and his behavior, believing that he doesn’t give a fuck about me. I should have paid more attention to his eyes. It’s easy to lie with words and actions, but eyes always reveal the truth. And there is no hate in his now. It hasn’t been there for quite some time. A different emotion lurks amid the anger and frustration. It’s despair. I don’t know what’s going on in that thick head of his or the reasons for his lies.

“Are they for my sake, or yours?” I ask.

“What?” His thumb glides to the corner of my mouth, tracing over the shape of my lips.

“The lies, Alessandro. Are they for me or for you?”

His hand stills and his body stiffens at my words.

“They’re for me,” he says. His voice comes out sullen.

I want to leave him to his falsehoods, but I can’t make myself turn away. He’ll be gone in less than a week, as soon as he kills my husband. I may have missed out on college, but I’m far from stupid. The conversation he had with the biker revealed enough for me to put two and two together.

The thought of Rocco dead should excite me because I’ll finally be free. But instead of reveling in that hopeful future, the only thing I feel is dread. With Rocco gone, Alessandro will be also.

“You know what?” I take a step closer, plastering myself to him. The proof of his lack of indifference presses into my stomach. “Both you and your lies can go to hell.”

I turn on my heel, intending to walk out on him just as he did with me, when his arm wraps around my waist, pulling me to his body.

“I’m already in hell, Ravi,” His free hand slips inside the waistband of my shorts and cups my pussy. “I’ve been there for a while.”

A moan escapes me, and I grab his forearm as his finger slides inside my folds, teasing, driving deeper with every stroke. His thumb moves to my clit, applying small pressure.

“My descent began the moment I set my eyes on you.” Another stroke over my pussy, and then he lifts me off the ground and carries me across the room. “And with each look, with every delicate touch, I fell further into the abyss.”

He stops in front of the cushioned bench set in front of the bookshelf, letting my feet touch the soft upholstery and keeping his finger buried deep. His breath fans my hair and tickles my nape as he takes a whiff of my scent. With his other hand, he peels my shorts and panties from my body.

I whimper when his finger leaves my pussy, but mewl feeling his huge cock at my ass. With shaky hands, I grab the bookshelf before me, bracing myself against its solid form.

A kiss lands on the middle of my back. Excruciatingly slow, his lips glide up my spine, all the way to my shoulder blades. My breathing hitches with each reverent touch as I await what’s coming next.

I press my forehead to the bookshelf and widen my stance. Alessandro’s rough palms sweep around my ribcage and then down my stomach to my mound. Every cell in my body is humming, a tight coil ready to spring free. All I need is to have him inside me. When his cock finally slides home, I almost come at that very moment. My pussy clenches around his girth, and tremors rack my body, making it hard to stand. I let go of the bookshelf and wrap my fingers around his right wrist to guide his hand up around my throat.

“I want you to hold me here,” I whisper.

If it was anyone else but him, I’d be too ashamed to even ask. Afraid they’d think I’m a basket case, damaged and fucked in the head, begging to be treated in the same manner as her abusive husband had done.

Alessandro’s body stills behind me. “Why?”

“Because having your hand wrapped around my neck and knowing you would never do me harm turns me on,” I say. “It makes me feel safe.”

He doesn’t move for a few more moments, but then his large fingers wrap around my throat. “Like this?”

His hold is too lax, just barely there. I wish it was more snug.

“I asked you a question, Ravi,” he says right next to my ear.

“I need it a little tighter. Please.” I pant, then bite my lip. “Do you think I’m nuts for asking?”

“Never say that again, Ravenna.” The hold on my neck draws tighter, making me moan. “Better?”

A pleasant shiver races through my body. I nod.

“Good. As long as you don’t ask me to hurt you, I will give you anything you want. But we should have some rules. If it gets too much, and you need my hand off, you’ll tell me right away.”


“Good girl.” He kisses the shell of my ear and continues his unhurried pump.

He is so big that even with him going slowly, I still gasp for air with every stroke. His hand on my neck makes the sensation more thrilling. My legs shake, threatening to turn to jelly, and I need to hold on to the bookshelf with all my strength or risk losing my footing. When he fills me completely, I close my eyes and a steadying breath leaves my lungs.

Alessandro stalls, his right hand still at my throat, while his other hand glides upward and over my hip.

“Uncomfortable?” he asks as he gently squeezes my side.

“Just a little,” I whisper. It’s more intense, having him take me from behind.

“I’ll make it better.”

His hand slips back down, long finger sliding between my folds. He circles my clit, his movements leisurely and controlled, while his other hand matches the caresses at my neck. My breathing picks up and, with every breath, the feel of his swollen cock within me heightens.

The circling rubs around my clit get faster, and every stroke to my core just a bit more profound. His fingers on my neck follow a similar rhythm, and I can’t quite decide what I should focus on. I’ve lost all ability for rational thought.

Alessandro moves his hips, slowly rocking into me. “Are we good?”

I can’t reply because I’m drowning in the sensation.


“God, yes,” I choke out. “More.”

He slides inside me to the hilt, and I’m ready to explode.

“It shouldn’t feel so good,” he rasps next to my ear. “I can’t describe how incredible it is to be buried in your warmth, hearing your moans, feeling your pulse under my fingers. There isn’t a comparable sensation to that, and I’m losing my mind over it, Ravi.”

He pulls out and then slams back in, pinching my clit and lightly squeezing my throat at the same time. I scream, and stars burst behind my eyelids as I come.

Keeping his hand around my neck, he continues to pump while I ride the currents of weightlessness.




Ravenna’s arms are wrapped around my neck as I carry her across the foyer toward the staircase.

“The front door camera,” she mumbles into my neck.

“It only covers a five-foot radius around the entrance.”

“How do you know?”

“I hacked the surveillance feeds.”

She is silent for a few moments as if mulling over my reply, and then I hear a muffled laugh. “I thought it was the bird poop.”


“When I saw you zigzagging across the lawn. I thought you were trying to avoid bird poop or something, but you must have been taking a route that will keep you off cameras.”

My lips curve up. “Clever girl.”

Reaching Ravenna’s bedroom, I take her inside the bathroom and lower her next to the shower stall. The light is off so I flip the switch on the wall, but nothing happens.

“Rocco shot out the light fixture,” Ravenna says, her voice sounding unusually meek.

I look up at the ceiling, then scan the small space until my eyes snag on the polished brass knob on the opened door. It takes me a moment to comprehend that there is something seriously wrong with the locking mechanism. The outer part includes the turn button, but the inner handle does not. What’s more, the inside knob is missing a pinhole that allows the lock to be released in case of emergency. This set provides neither privacy nor safety, and no competent tradesman would ever mount it in place.

My head snaps toward Ravenna. “The elevator.”

“Yeah,” she says, staring at the floor.

I bridge the distance between us and take her face in my palms. Tilting her head up, I find she’s closed her eyes. “Look at me.”

She just shakes her head.

“I’m so ashamed for letting him make me into this.” Her voice is so tiny when she says it.

“Please, look at me.”

Ravenna’s eyes flutter open.

“You are a fucking warrior,” I say. “You entered that battlefield without any weapons, and you fought a much stronger opponent with your bare hands.”

“I didn’t fight. The only thing I’ve been doing is trying to find a way to escape.”

“That’s what you do when you’ve been captured by an enemy.” I bend my neck, leveling my head with hers. “You are a warrior. I want to hear you say it, Ravenna.”

“I’m a warrior,” she mutters.

“Damn right, you are. And don’t you dare ever think otherwise.” I slam my mouth to hers, sealing that declaration.

Her hands lock around my neck, pulling me closer. Without breaking our kiss, I grab her under the ass and lift to sit her on the bathroom vanity. My cock is so hard, it’s close to bursting. The need to be inside her again is driving me insane. It doesn’t matter that I just had her barely ten minutes ago because my body craves more.

Ravenna wraps her legs around my waist and grips the back of my T-shirt, trying to tug it over my head.

“Not here,” I say into her lips. We’re not doing anything in a place tainted with bad memories. I lift her off the counter and carry her into the bedroom.

When we reach the bed, Ravenna untangles her legs from around my waist and stands on the edge of the bed. Her hair is a complete mess, strands knotted and jutting in different directions. She is wearing a white top and gray shorts, which are turned inside out. I don’t think she noticed when she put them back on. I love seeing her like this.

Grabbing a fistful of my T-shirt, I take it off. Ravenna’s eyes flare upon seeing the ink on my chest, and the realization hits me—we’ve never seen each other naked. So many barriers between us, but I can easily knock this one down. I quickly shed the rest of my clothes and stand before her, letting her eyes explore to their content.

Ravenna’s gaze slowly moves down my chest and abs to stop at my fully hard cock. She bites her lower lip and traps it between her teeth as she glances back into my eyes. I need all my self-restraint not to pounce on her immediately. Reaching for the hem of her top, she pulls it over her head, revealing a lacy white bra cradling her firm breasts, the dark brown areolas visible under the intricate fabric.

“I need to see all of you,” I mutter and snake my hand behind her back to unclasp her bra, then take the waistband of her shorts and slip them down her legs.

The white lace panties are next, and I take my time sliding them off, inch by slow inch. When I have her fully undressed, I step back and just stare at her perfection. My deepest fantasy comes to life. My eyes move down her delicate neck and mouthwatering breasts, then over her narrow waist and generous hips, all the way down to the tips of her toes. Even her feet are fucking perfect.

“You can’t be real.” I place the tip of my finger at her collarbone, inching a straight line down her front, and halt at her pussy. “Hold your breath.”

I wait for her to inhale, then dip two fingers inside her pussy. Ravenna moans and grabs at my free hand, guiding it to her throat. My fingers stroke the soft skin of her neck in a leisurely gait that matches the fervent massage of her sweet pussy. Her body trembles under my touch, her sharp nails dig into the skin of my forearm. I’m pretty sure my cock is gonna blow if I don’t get it in her soon, but I push that urge away. This is about her.

“Do you still dream about me?” I ask and slide my fingers even deeper inside.

“Yes.” She pants as she grinds herself on my hand. “And do you dream about me?”

I slip my fingers out of her pussy and press my thumb on her clit. “Every fucking night.”

Ravenna gasps and comes all over my hand.

My thumb keeps stroking her clit, prolonging her pleasure, as tremors overwhelm her frame. Only once her body sags, do I lift my hand off her pussy and scoop her up into my arms. I wish I could hold her forever, but I slowly lower her on the bed.

“You want to know a secret?” I ask as I cover her body with mine. Rising her leg by the back of her knee, I bend and fold it to the side, and finally slide my cock inside her liquid heat.

“Yes.” She grabs the headboard above her head and hooks her other leg behind my back.

I start pounding into her, our gazes locked the entire time, absorbing each of her pants and moans. Safekeeping them for later.

“I dream about you even when I’m awake, Ravi.”

I crush my lips to hers, thrusting into her until I come with a roar and fill her with my seed. I’m still coming down from the high, my face buried in her neck, when I hear her whisper next to my ear.

“Will you take me with you when you leave?”

An earthquake strikes inside my mind, shaking my metaphorical fortress. The thought has been nudging me for days. I want to take her with me. We could run somewhere far away, somewhere no one could find us. Until they eventually do.

It won’t be just Kruger I’ll need to worry about. Once I kill Rocco Pisano and the truth of who offed him eventually comes out, my name will be at the top of the Cosa Nostra hit list. Ajello won’t stop until he hunts me down. If I take Ravenna with me, she’ll become a target, too.

It’s either her or my revenge. I can’t have both. The choice before me is a double-edged sword. Can I throw away all I’ve worked for in the last eight years? My purpose in this life? The promises I made to me and Natalie? Can I live with that?

I close my eyes and inhale a lungful of Ravenna’s scent. “I can’t.”




I stare at the ceiling above my bed, following the tiny little cracks that spread from the spot where the chandelier is attached. I’ve spent quite some time staring at this ceiling and this is the first time I’ve noticed the damage. Alessandro is lying next to me, staring at the ceiling, as well.

“I know you’re planning to kill my husband before you leave,” I say.

If he’s surprised I’ve connected the dots, it doesn’t show on his face. His features remain completely stoic.

“I am,” he says. “The don will quickly figure out who did it and will come to ask you questions. Tell him everything, except that you knew I was going to kill Rocco.”

“You think Ajello will come after you?”


I reach out and brush his cheek with the tips of my fingers. “What did he do? Why do you want to kill Rocco?”

Alessandro stiffens and, for several minutes, he doesn’t utter a word.

“It was Friday morning, a little over eight years ago,” he finally says. “I just got back from a mission and drove only a block away from my house on my way to the headquarters. I could have gone straight home and debriefed later, but I didn’t want my wife to see all the blood on me.”

A sinking feeling grips my stomach as I stare at his profile. His wife?

“She believed I worked as a security guard, while the truth was, I’ve been killing people for the government,” he continues. “It’s strange how trying to protect someone you love can get them killed. If I went directly home, she would probably still be alive. That was my last mission, and we planned on leaving that same day.”

“What happened?” I choke out.

“A drunk driver, going almost twice the speed limit, ran a red light. He just left her injured on the street and fled the scene.” He turns his head and meets my eyes. “Your husband.”

His voice is hushed and sullen, but the words explode in my head as if he shouted them. My hand on Alessandro’s cheek starts shaking. I open my mouth to say something, but no words come out. The only thing I can do is watch his face—hard lines etched in granite.

“I spent years searching for the man responsible. Rocco’s father covered everything up so well that I only discovered the name of the driver a few months ago.” He moves a lock of my hair that has fallen over my face, revealing my neck. “I intended to destroy Rocco Pisano’s life—piece by piece—and the final step before ending it completely, I was going to make him watch while I killed his wife.”

Alessandro keeps his eyes locked with mine as he moves his hand to my neck, placing the tip of his finger just below my ear.

“Eye for an eye,” he whispers as he slowly slides his finger across my throat in a straight line, all the way to my other ear. “His wife for mine.”

I never thought that silence could be physically oppressive, but as his eyes bore into mine, I can feel the weight of it pressing down on me from all sides. The absence of sounds is so absolute, it’s almost like someone muted a movie.

Alessandro’s touch vanishes from my neck. He kisses the pad of his finger and then presses it to my throat, over the spot where he meant to slice my throat.

He gets up off the bed and puts on his sweatpants, giving me a view of his bare back covered in ink. The scene is ghastly—a heap of charred skulls engulfed in flames, and atop the pile, a man hanging on a rope, his head bent as orange flames rise to lick at his legs. Above the image, scribed across his shoulder blades, a Latin script.

Oculum Pro Oculo

An eye for an eye.

I blink, trying to stop the tears from falling, but they escape anyway. How many times upon seeing me has he been reminded of what my husband took from him? So much pain and hurt.

I can’t believe I asked him to take me with him. Somewhere deep inside, I knew his answer even before he voiced it, but I still hoped he’d say yes. I would gladly follow him anywhere. I’m so desperately in love with him, it doesn’t matter if he loves me back. I only hoped that he would eventually.

Now, after what he just told me, I know that hope is futile. How could he ever love someone who represents so much of his despair?

Alessandro reaches for his T-shirt discarded at the foot of the bed, and as he does so, a leather string around his wrist comes undone, slipping to the floor. I noticed that bracelet the first day I met him and found it unusual. He doesn’t wear any other jewelry.

He collects the leather string with a small teddy bear pendant hanging off it and heads to the door.

“Was that your wife’s?” I whisper.

He stops at the threshold and, for a few pregnant moments, just stands there before replying. “Yes.”

The door shuts after him with a soft click. I press my hand over my mouth, desperate to stifle a sob, but it slips out regardless of my efforts.


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