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Burned Dreams: Chapter 9


I loathe visits to Rocco’s father. Not only because he’s a misogynistic pig, but because my husband has an extremely sick need to show off in front of his dad. We’ve been to Elio Pisano’s three times, and on each occasion, the experience was worse than the last. Considering that the business partners will be present tonight as well, it’s bound to top all previous occurrences.

I finish fixing my hair and look at myself in the tall mirror. The tight red dress with its ridiculously low neckline that I purchased for this event makes me feel like a slut. Before marrying Rocco, my tastes skewed to casual clothes—jeans and tops, sometimes simple dresses. I favored comfort and pastel colors. I also wore my hair down and never put on makeup, except for special occasions. Rocco insists on a prim and proper hairstyle of a tight, sleek bun and heavy makeup because, in his eyes, it makes me look older and classier. He caught me clean-faced once when he came home from work early. I had to apply a double layer of concealer and foundation for the following week to hide the bruise on my chin.

With one final look in the mirror to make sure everything is as it should be, I leave my room and head downstairs.

Rocco is standing at the bottom of the stairwell, talking with someone on the phone. When he hears me coming, he looks up and nods. I guess my outfit is approved because he turns away and continues with his conversation in a hushed tone. As I’m descending the stairs, my eyes wander to Alessandro who is standing by the front door, and I almost stumble from the intensity of his gaze. Does he like what he sees?

Since my life fell apart like a house of cards, I’ve been feeling like crap. I’m a punching bag for a perverted man who makes me dress like a call girl so his friends can salivate upon seeing me, only to have him “punish” me for it afterward. But there is a palpable difference in my bodyguard’s reaction compared to Rocco’s. My husband’s face showed satisfaction upon seeing me literally half-naked. An amply revealing outfit means that more men will be ogling me. The expression on Alessandro’s face, however, is completely blank, but the look in those steely depths shows disapproval.

I want to laugh and cry at the same time. For months I’ve detested the heated looks other men have been giving me because it meant I’m going to pay for each one. And now, when I secretly yearn to have his lust-filled eyes on me, I’m gifted with disdain instead. Well, these days, I’m used to that, too. Even though it feels more pointed somehow. Breaking our locked stares, I walk toward the front door, looking straight ahead.

Rocco walks up to his shiny new convertible that’s parked on the driveway and holds the passenger door open for me. He was in an exceptionally good mood when he drove it home from the dealership and never even commented when I mentioned having spa days on Saturdays, as well. With the end of the year approaching, there is more work to be done, and Hazel jumped at my offer to come twice a week.

Swallowing the bile that rises each time I have to touch my husband, I take his outstretched hand and slide inside the car. Rocco walks around the hood and gets behind the wheel, jabbering about the horsepower and the speed the new car can reach.

“That son of a bitch Cosimo will die of envy when he sees this baby.” He laughs as he brushes the white leather upholstery. “I heard him telling Pietro that he was eyeing this exact model but didn’t want to spend a hundred grand. Do you know that he still drives that tin can he bought four years ago?” He makes a disgusted face. “Some people have no self-respect.”

Sometimes he reminds me of a spoiled child who has a tantrum if anyone has a shinier toy than him. Cosimo happens to be an especially touchy subject for Rocco. Whether the other capo realizes it or not, Rocco’s in an all-out duel with the elder man. He tries to best him at every turn. Whatever Cosimo gets, Rocco needs to surpass. Whatever Cosimo wants, Rocco needs to possess first. I think it’s all because the don seems to defer to Cosimo’s advice more, and Rocco can’t handle it.

Rocco continues rambling as he starts the engine and drives toward the gate. I pretend that I’m listening to his nonsense while my eyes wander to the side mirror. Alessandro’s SUV is following closely behind us. I can’t see his gloomy face in the mirror’s reflection, but I can almost feel his eyes on the back of my head. He didn’t say anything when he drove me to the Wellness Center this morning, even though we both knew I wasn’t going there to have a facial. And when we went by my mom’s place afterward, I’m pretty sure he noticed me slipping a purse I got for Mrs. Natello behind the sofa. He didn’t comment on it. Why hasn’t he said anything to Rocco?

I recall Alessandro’s hardened glance when he asked if Rocco had hurt me. The tick in his jaw when he questioned me about the things I buy. The edge in his voice when he assured me of his silence about my time at the spa. Maybe he hates my husband more than he dislikes me.

I dreamed about him again last night. We were in an elevator, facing each other, while a dozen Zippo lighters hovered overhead, throwing yellowish light on Alessandro’s face. I wasn’t scared of the tight space as I would be in reality. It was as if Alessandro’s presence alone chased away the fear and anxiety. He took a step toward me, grabbing the two sides of my dress. The sound of ripping fabric filled the small space as he tore the dress off my body in a single motion. I was naked underneath.

His eyes held mine while he undid his zipper and released his cock, then grabbed under my ass and lifted me, pressing my back to the cold elevator wall. The chill dissolved when his rough palms caressed my smooth skin. His touch seemed so real. As did the absolute bliss once he buried his cock in me with one swift plunge. The flames suspended above us flickered to the rhythm of Alessandro’s thrusts, making the scene even more surreal.

Like in the previous dream, he fucked me without mercy for what felt like hours, not a single word uttered aloud the entire time. It was raw. Wild. Unapologetic. And I enjoyed every second of it. I was free. When I awoke, I was so drenched that I had to change my underwear.

“Make sure you behave, bellissima,” Rocco says, pulling me back to earth.

I look up at the windshield and regard the shape of a big white house visible over the fence that stretches down the street. We’re almost there. I take a deep breath, trying to mentally prepare myself for what’s to come.

“You know the rules,” Rocco continues. “No talking unless someone asks you a direct question. No one is interested in what you have to say.”

“Yes, Rocco.” I nod.

When we park in front of Elio Pisano’s house and head toward the front door, I steal one fleeting glance over my shoulder. Alessandro is walking a few paces behind us, a towering shadow on a snow-covered landscape. Our eyes meet for a fraction of a second, and my heart leaps in my chest as his gaze burns through mine.


* * *


“When can I expect a grandson, Rocco?”

My body goes stone-still upon hearing my father-in-law’s question. I don’t dare move my eyes from the plate in front of me.

“Ravenna is still young,” My husband says next to me. “We’re planning to wait for a couple of years.”

“You are thirty-five,” Elio roars. “You don’t have time for waiting. What if the first one is a girl?”

“Maybe Rocco wants to enjoy having his wife only for himself a little longer.” A man sitting further down the table snickers. “I know I would.”

Everyone around the table bursts out laughing. I take the edge of the tablecloth between my fingers and squeeze.

“Makes sense. There’s nothing grosser than a woman’s tits after she’s done breastfeeding. Make sure you book a plastic surgeon for her right after,” Elio jeers then nods toward my right hand, noticing my stilled movement as I was about to set down the fork. “What happened to her hand? Are you being too rough in bed, Rocco?”

“I would never,” Rocco says with a grin, and another burst of laughter ensues.

“Let’s go play cards and relax. Rocco, send your woman home.” My father-in-law stands up, motioning for the rest of the men to follow. And just when I thought I couldn’t feel worse, his next words prove me wrong. “Did you know that my son got his wife in a game of poker?”

I can’t take it anymore. Grabbing my purse, I rush toward the other side of the dining room. I don’t stop when I reach the foyer, just continue at the same pace to the front door where Alessandro is standing by the wall in his usual stance, spine ramrod straight and his hands clasped behind his back. I grab the knob and, without waiting for him, dash outside. Only when the cold fresh air hits me, do I find the ability to draw a breath. When Alessandro comes outside, I’m already standing by his car, shaking from the cold. I completely forgot to grab my coat on the way out.

I expect him to ask what the fuck is wrong with me, running out like that. He doesn’t. Instead, he takes off his coat and holds it out for me. My eyes start to twitch, tears are threatening to spill as I glance at the coat he’s holding. I’m shivering from cold but I don’t dare take it. If Rocco sees me accepting my bodyguard’s offering, Alessandro will be as good as dead.


My heart skips a beat. It’s the first time Alessandro has used my name. I tilt my head up and find him watching me, his eyes focused on my cheek. He raises his hand, cupping my face, and brushes away the stray tear with his thumb. Tiny hairs at the back of my neck lift at the sensation of his skin touching mine. I can feel every callus on his palm as he strokes under my eye one more time before removing his hand.

“Now, Ravenna.” His voice is deeper than usual, and there is a strange incensed tone to it, almost as if he’s mad about something but trying to hide it. Snowflakes are caught in his black hair and on his suit jacket. I hadn’t even noticed it was snowing until this moment. He raises the coat in front of me again.

I look toward the house and only once I’m sure there’s no one in sight, I turn around and slip my arms into the sleeves. On Alessandro, the coat reaches his knees. It swallows me up to my ankles.

I shift my gaze to Alessandro’s hand, holding open the door to the back of the car, then walk around him. Tugging on the handle, I hoist myself up onto the passenger seat, shutting the door behind me. Then, I wait.

A few seconds later, the driver’s side opens, and Alessandro slides behind the wheel. He doesn’t say anything. Not then, and not during the hour-long drive back to the mansion.




The only light in my bedroom is from the laptop in front of me, throwing the pale glow onto the notes and picture-covered walls. I stare at the photo of Natalie, absorbed in her warm brown eyes that seem to return my gaze. Looking at this image has always calmed me. Hurts as well, but it helps me stay focused on my purpose. Every time I fall asleep, her face is on my mind.

The day before I set foot in the Pisano mansion, I visited her grave and reaffirmed my vow that I’ll avenge her death. An eye for an eye. Rocco Pisano’s wife for mine. I swore to it.

However, looking at Natalie’s picture now stirs different feelings in me, the same ones that have been brewing in my soul. Remorse. Shame. Guilt. They’ve been eating at me for a while because it’s not the brown eyes I see when I fall asleep anymore. It’s the green ones. Instead of dreaming about killing Ravenna Pisano in cold blood, I’m imagining how it would feel to have her under me, moaning as I take her, declaring her mine.

Earlier tonight, when I watched Ravenna walk next to her husband, his arm around her waist, I nearly exploded in anger. The urge to remove the motherfucker’s hand off her was barely containable. I wanted to grab her and shout, “She’s mine!” for everyone to hear.

It’s madness. And this madness needs to stop.

I click the icon in the upper left corner, and the camera feed from outside Rocco’s house fills the screen.

When I came into Rocco Pisano’s household, the plan for his demise was already set in stone, thought out to the smallest detail. I imagined my vengeance plan as a big rock fortress rising toward the sky. Solid. Unshakable. Unless an unintended variable arises, making it necessary to act sooner than intended, the plan stays in place. No exceptions.

The printed-out timeline of every fucking stage, all steps strategically spread over the course of two months, hangs above my bed. The garage was phase one. The second is destroying his construction business and making him look like an incapable fool in front of the don. Roco’s finances would be the next. Only after I have finished with the material stuff, had I planned to move forward with phase four—playing with his head.

Constant fear for one’s life, knowing that there is a threat lurking in the shadows, is the most intense torture. The uncertainty. Looking over your shoulder all the time. The plan was to make Rocco believe someone is trying to kill him and to drag that stage out for weeks until the mere pop of a wine cork makes him shit his pants. Offing his father would come after that. And at the end – his wife. Just before killing the fucking Rocco Pisano and burning down his pretty house to ashes.

On the screen, Rocco’s white convertible enters the camera’s frame and parks on he driveway. I glance at the detonator at my side. The signal from the bomb I placed under his sports car is still active, ready to be activated remotely. If executed well, being blown into oblivion is a very quick and rather painless death, unfortunately. And the demise I have in mind for Rocco Pisano is neither quick nor painless. I’ve planned to blow up this car in two weeks, as a scare tactic. And when I put a plan in motion, I never deviate from it.

My thoughts drift to Ravenna, seeing her stand on the snow-covered driveway while the wind blew a few strands of hair that escaped from her bun. I shake my head trying to get rid of the image. Instead of disappearing, the scene continues replaying in my mind, looped on her sad face and the tear sliding down her cheek.

My rock-solid fortress starts shaking. Long thin fissures appear on its sides, and one big chunk of its fortifications breaks off.

Its distant thud thunders through my mind as Rocco exits the car and heads toward the mansion. I feel the aftershocks as I pick up the detonator and place my thumb over the red button.

Eight years of searching and planning . . . compromised. All because of a tear from the woman I swore to kill.

A drop of water upon a stone. Tenacious.

Rocco climbs the stairs, reaching the front doors.


I press the button.

The car blows up, its sleek sporty body propelled a few feet into the air in a torrent of fire, smoke, and debris.

A smile pulls at my lips as I watch the orange glow on Rocco Pisano’s terrified face while he lies sprawled on the ground. It might be from the blast, but I’d bet it was from the shock. I wonder if he pissed himself.

Well, I leaped from phase one to phase four. Time to realign and get back on track. The son of a bitch will lose everything he holds dear before I’m through with him. His gilded life is about to fall apart.

I keep my eyes on the screen as I pick up my phone and dial Felix. The call rings twice, then disconnects. I hit it again.

“What?” he roars.

“Did you get me in?”

“It’s one in the morning!”

I switch the feed to another camera which has a better view of Rocco. “So what?”

“I go to bed at eight!” Felix hollers.

“Stop whining and answer me.”

“Do you know what’s in the pot? Diamonds! You’ll need at least half a million worth of rocks to play with them.”

“I know. Did you get me in, Felix?”

“Yeah, yeah, I got your crazy ass in. Players are not allowed to arrive directly, so they will be sending a vehicle for you. Secrecy and all that. You’ll get the pickup time and location the morning before the game.”

“Good.” I switch the feeds again. Rocco and some of the guards are in the process of trying to put out the fire. “And where are we with the body I asked for?”

We aren’t anywhere. I’m being the goddamned undertaker and digging around for you. I need the date when you want it delivered.”

“Just take it when a suitable candidate turns up and store it for me until I call.”

“Store it?” he shouts. “It’s a fucking dead body!”

“You have a freezer, don’t you?”

“And what should I say to Guadalupe if she decides to make carne asada and finds a fucking dead body in the freezer?”

“Who’s Guadalupe?”

“My girlfriend,” he snaps.

My eyebrows hit my hairline. “You’re ninety.”

“I’m seventy-five! And for your information, Lupe says I don’t look a year over fifty.”

“Tell her, ‘Sorry, baby, it’s just work.’ She’ll understand. And maybe take her to get her eyes checked.”

“Oh, go to hell, Az.”

The line goes dead.

I grab the black velvet pouch lying on the desk next to the laptop and take out a small green rock, lifting it toward the light. Drago Popov certainly has a nice product.


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