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Burned Dreams: Chapter 18

Alessandro

I lean my back on the side of the gazebo with a clear view of the second-floor window. It’s after midnight, but the light in Ravenna’s room is still on.

We haven’t spoken since yesterday morning when I told her about Natalie. The only communication we’ve had was a text message she sent me earlier today, asking if I could drive her to her mom’s place, and another after we returned to the mansion, saying she wouldn’t be going anywhere else for the rest of the day. She sat in the back of the car on both those journeys.

I used my free time to go to the hospital and check out the security, looking for ways into Rocco Pisano’s room. There weren’t any. Two men are posted outside the door around the clock. All hallways have cameras, which are monitored by an off-site company with a firewall more sophisticated than I could crack, preventing me from getting into their network systems. Getting inside to kill the motherfucker isn’t possible.

The only way to take him out is with a shot through the window. I scouted the building next to the hospital for a spot with the direct sight of Rocco’s room and found one on the top floor. It has the perfect angle to the bed. The only thing left is to get my rifle and do the deed. I could have done it today, but instead of completing my mission, I came back here to scope another window. I’ve been standing in the shadows, staring at the light in Ravenna’s bedroom for several hours.

I miss her. I miss the small touches, like when she hooks her pinkie with mine. Her subtle teasing. The feel of having her in my arms. Last night, I almost caved and went to her bedroom. My body twitched, as if an electric current flowed through me, all because of the need to embrace her, to inhale her powdery scent, and to feel her soft black strands in my hands. I was going out of my mind and barely managed to restrain myself.

I miss her, even though she’s there.

I told her I hate her. Several times. But the truth is, it’s not her I hate. I don’t think I ever truly did. I hate myself.

Because I’ve fallen in love with her.

The heart of the lost, lonely boy I had been loved Natalie, our feelings rooted in shared need to survive as homeless teens. I wanted to protect her, and that slowly transformed into caring, and then love. It was the kind of love that started as a small forest stream and gradually swelled into a river. Big and steady as it follows its path. Sensible. Natural.

My feelings for Ravenna Pisano don’t resemble a forest stream. They’re a fucking waterfall. Unexpected. Ferocious. Passion, desire, and beautiful madness. I crave her more than a condemned man wanting his next breath.

The heart of a man who went through hell and back, the man I have become, is desperately in love with a woman I planned to kill.

The lights in Ravenna’s room turn off, casting it in darkness.

I should go get my rifle, dispose of Rocco, and leave. By this time tomorrow, I could be in Europe, away from this city filled with bad memories. Away from her.

But I don’t move, just keep watching Ravenna’s window for another hour before I push off and head inside the mansion. Instead of retrieving the hidden weapon from beneath the floorboards in my room, I climb the stairs.

It’s pitch-black in the long hallway. I approach the last door on the left and reach for the knob. My hand stalls on the piece of ornate metal, so cold under my fingers but it still sears my flesh. I shouldn’t be here. I need to turn around and leave. It’s no wonder she wouldn’t talk to me after everything I told her yesterday. What the fuck is wrong with me, confessing my plans to kill her? She must be scared shitless. I could have at least skipped the part about being a hitman, but it just came out, as if my subconsciousness wanted her to know. With Ravenna, I have the urge to get down on my knees and lay all the awful things I’ve done before her. And that scares me to death.

This has to stop. I’m ending this before the sun rises. It will take me three hours to collect my things, get to the hospital, and kill Pisano. By the time anyone notices he’s dead, I will be out of the country. Yes, I’ll do that. I just need to have one last look at Ravenna.

As quietly as I can, I turn the handle and step inside the moonlit room. Ravenna is lying in her bed, her back toward the door. Asleep.

Just a minute or two, I tell myself as I sit on the edge of the bed. I’ll watch her just a minute, and then I’ll leave.

 

Ravenna

 

I’ve always found those few moments before coming fully awake as mystical. The boundary between dream and reality starts off as a blurry line, then it becomes more solid as night figments fade away and consciousness seeps in.

I dreamed about him again. Birds were chirping as we lay sprawled on a field of soft grass under the hot sun while he trailed his fingers through my hair.

My eyes open slowly, lids still heavy from sleep, and my vision focuses on the view through the balcony door. A sparrow is hopping along the iron railing, chirping happily. Like in my dream.

And as in my dream, someone is threading their fingers through my hair.

“I’m sorry for waking you.”

I close my eyes for a second and just enjoy his touch. “It’s okay.”

“And I’m truly sorry for scaring you.”

The mattress springs as Alessandro rises. I’m still facing the opposite direction so I can’t see him, but I can hear his steps as he walks away.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been scared of you,” I whisper.

His footsteps fall silent. “Even after I confessed my intention of killing you?”

I flip over in the bed and find him standing at the door, his back toward me.

“Do you remember that day in the elevator? When it got stuck and the lights went out?”

“Yes.”

“You played that numbers game with me because you knew I was having a panic attack,” I say.

“So?”

“I’ve spent months stuck with a man who found great satisfaction in torturing me, Alessandro. Both mentally and physically. Psychological torture may not leave visible marks, but the wounds it inflicts are much worse.” I pin him with my gaze. “You hated me for some reason. I didn’t know why then, but I saw it in your eyes. You could have just stood by and watched me lose my shit. And still, you didn’t. Even though you despised me.”

Alessandro drops his head, staring at the floor. “I tried so hard to hate you. Believe me, I tried. In the end, I ended up hating myself.”

My heart hurts, and I feel the squeezing in my chest. This pain is real, not some remnant in my mind. If the situation was different, I would have tried to fight for him. But I can’t fight a ghost. It’s clear that he loved his wife very deeply. And probably still does. That love sustained him through eight years of plotting his revenge. I can’t handle the idea of being his consolation prize. Maybe, for another man, I could have lived with that. But not with Alessandro. And I can’t bare knowing that he would hate himself for being with me.

There’s a question that has been eating at me since he told me about his wife. I was too afraid of the answer, but I can’t take it not knowing anymore.

“Did you imagine being with her, when you were with me?”

Alessandro looks over his shoulder, and our eyes connect.

“No.” he steps out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him.

That soft click of the latch feels so final.

 


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