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Burned Dreams: Chapter 5


There’s something soothing about watching the sunset when silence envelopes the surroundings and no one else is around. Well, no one except for my bodyguard who’s been the ever-present dark shadow following me around for the last seven days. I take a quick glance back at Alessandro, who is standing by a tree about fifty feet away, his arms crossed over his chest.

With my previous bodyguards, I had no issues ignoring their presence, but that’s not the case with Alessandro. It’s hard to overlook a mountain of a man who pursues your every step. And even when he’s out of sight, I can still feel his proximity. He, on the other hand, pretends I’m a faceless, loathed task he needs to fulfill.

It’s been a week since he took on this role, and his behavior hasn’t changed since the first day. He does his job and doesn’t talk to me unless it’s absolutely necessary. He won’t even look at me directly, his eyes are typically focused somewhere over my head. But a few times our gazes connected, and I could still see the despise in his depths. He hates me, just as he did the moment I met him. I don’t know why. I just know that he does.

I reach out to carefully break off a frozen rose flower in front of me, and look at the fragile and wilted yellow petals in my hand. The roses were in full bloom when I first came to this house just over a year ago. It was also the day I met my future husband.

Both of Rocco’s maids had caught a stomach bug, and since my mother often cleaned houses for Cosa Nostra members, including for one of Rocco’s security guards, she was called to fill in. I came with my mother to help because she’s been having back problems for years. The doctor told her she wasn’t allowed to do heavy manual work, but what I earned at my accounting job and the diner wasn’t enough to cover my father’s medical bills, so she had no choice but to work, too.

We arrived at seven in the morning and left after nine in the evening. I saw Rocco only in passing then. I was mopping the foyer when he came home and went into his office, leaving wet footprints all over the floor I just washed. He was yelling at someone on the phone and hadn’t even noticed me, but even that brief encounter rubbed me the wrong way.

We came again the following day because the house was too large for two people to scrub it clean in one go. I was dusting one of the sculptures in Rocco’s office when he came in and started shouting at me to be more careful. I can still recall the degrading way he looked at me then. As we were leaving, I swore to myself I would never set foot in that house ever again. Fate had a different plan for me, unfortunately.

I crush the frozen petals in my hand and throw them away. Turning around, I head toward the small gazebo off to the side. The living shadow follows me.

It’s too cold for the mere wool sweater I’m wearing, but I can’t make myself go back into the house to get a jacket. I’d rather risk getting a runny nose than go inside that dreadful place if I don’t absolutely need to.

One of the chairs inside the gazebo has a cushion, a slight barrier against the cold. I turn it so it’s facing away from the house and take a seat. A few moments later, the crunch of frozen leaves alerts me as Alessandro comes to stand somewhere at my back. Closing my eyes, I tilt my head toward the setting sun and inhale, letting the smell of chilly winter air fill my lungs.

“Do you have a nickname?” I ask.

A few more leaves get crushed under his feet, a little closer this time.


His voice has such a pleasant timbre to it. Like the purr of a big, wild cat. A panther on the prowl. Just before he eats you up. I wait for him to continue, but the only thing I can hear is a distant whir of a vacuum cleaner coming from the mansion.

“And, will you tell me what it is?”


I lift my hand and press my fingers over my mouth to stifle a laugh. He really likes his answers monosyllabic. Or maybe he doesn’t like the idea of talking to me. I should probably leave the man alone but I like the sound of his voice too much. And since we’re both facing away from the house, no one can tell that we’re talking.

“What is it, then?” I prod. “I bet it’s something short.”


A giggle escapes my lips. It doesn’t get shorter than that. I like his full name better.

“Rocco mentioned you worked for the don before you were transferred here,” I say. “Security detail, as well?”


“For the don?”

“His wife.”

I try to remember what Salvatore Ajello’s wife looks like, but can’t. They both attended my wedding, and I recall people gossiping about her, however, I was too distracted that day to pay attention. “How is she?”

A few moments of silence ensue before he answers, and when he does, I almost fall off the chair at his response.


“I’m not sure it’s wise to call the don’s wife whacky out loud.” A snort escapes me as I chortle the words.


I glance over my shoulder. Alessandro is leaning on the tree by the gazebo, his gaze fixed on me. Suddenly, as if everything else fades from existence, his hard, dark eyes capture mine, and I find myself unable to look away. Alessandro pushes off from the tree and, taking a few large steps, comes to stand right behind my chair.

“But you’re good at keeping secrets.” He lifts his hand and places his index finger under my chin, tilting my head up. “Aren’t you, Mrs. Pisano?”

There’s that hostility in his eyes again, but his touch is so gentle, barely there. I blink and quickly look away, his finger slipping from my face. Pulling my legs up, I wrap my arms around my folded knees and turn my gaze to the expanse of orange sky above the horizon. The sound of retreating steps echoes behind me as Alessandro walks away. I don’t try to see where he’s going, too absorbed in the still lingering feel of his fleeting touch and the fluttering it inflicted in my chest.

A few minutes later, I hear him approach again. Or maybe I just feel him. I’m still focused on the sky when something soft and fluffy lands on my back. I look down, staring at the edges of the blanket Alessandro placed around my shoulders, while the last rays of the setting sun sink behind the bare branches of the trees.


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