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Ruined Secrets: Part 1 – Chapter 11

Luca

“So, we all agree with the decision that Luca Rossi is going to take over the Family?” Francesco asks.
Under Giuseppe’s rule, Isabella’s father was a consigliere to the don. I plan on keeping him as my adviser.
The men sitting around the table turn toward me. Donato nods first. Franco Conti follows, then Angelo Scardoni. Orlando Lombardi and Santino D’Angelo are next. It appears Isabella was right. Francesco turns to Lorenzo Barbini. Lorenzo looks up at me, seeming outwardly relaxed, but I notice the way he’s clenching his jaw. Prior to Giuseppe’s death, I was reporting to him and to the don. From this point forward, he will be my subordinate. It doesn’t happen often that a capo takes over the Family. By appointing me as his successor, Giuseppe basically declared that he didn’t find his underboss fit for the role. It must be a hard pill to swallow, but with five other capos in agreement, Lorenzo has no other choice. He nods.
Francesco comes to stand before me, and bends to place a kiss on the back of my hand. As a consigliere, he is the first one to swear his loyalty.
“Don.” He nods and returns to his seat.
As an underboss, Lorenzo is next. He approaches with his spine rigid and his face set in hard lines, but he bends and kisses my hand. The capos follow one by one. When everyone is once again seated, I lean back in my chair and regard them.
“I heard there were some discussions regarding branching out into the drug business,” I say and fix my gaze on Lorenzo. “It won’t be happening. We’re keeping the same setup we had under Giuseppe. Donato and I will keep handling the gun deals and laundering the money through real estate. Lorenzo, Orlando and Santino are staying in the gambling business, with Franco laundering their income. Everyone will be reporting to Lorenzo, no changes there, either.”
I turn toward the young Scardoni. He’s barely twenty-five and only recently became a capo following the death of his father. “Angelo, you will work with Franco and set up more businesses we can use to launder the money. We’re running close to the limit with what Franco and Damian can process.”
He nods.
“If I ever hear that you’ve set foot in Mexico again,” I continue, “or that you’ve met with Mendoza’s men, you’re dead.”
“Yes, Boss.”
I turn my gaze to the other men around the table. “I don’t want any more problems with the Russians. Next week, I’m meeting Roman Petrov to assure him we will keep the truce the Bratva agreed to with Giuseppe. Petrov let the fuckup that Bruno created slide because he knew Scardoni’s deal was outside the official channels. But he won’t do it again.” I look at Francesco. “How much money did we lose during the three-month war with the Russians earlier this year?”
“If we include the infrastructure damaged or lost, a little over seven million,” he says.
I curse. “No more quarrels with the Russians. Unless you want to see one of your daughters or sisters married off to the Bratva.”
After everybody nods, I rise from the table. “That’s all.”

Isabella

I open the notes app on my phone and look up at Damian. “Do you want me to hire private security for the banquet, or will you have your own men in place?”
“We’ll have our men at the gate and inside the house. Hire ten people to patrol the grounds, just in case.”
I make a note in my planner. “I’m meeting the catering people today to pick the cake and decide on the menu. Do you have wine preferences?”
“Nope. Take whatever they think will work best with the menu,” he says and looks up from his laptop. “Luca upgraded your security detail. You’ll have two bodyguards from now on. Marco and Sandro.”
“It would’ve been nice if he informed me about that himself,” I mumble.
Three days. He’s been avoiding me for three days, ever since I sneaked into his room. I barely see him. If I do, it’s usually only during breakfast. He goes out and returns well after midnight. There must be a lot to handle since he took over as Don, in addition to his own business, but still. I considered resuming with my daily visits to his office, but have decided to wait a few more days.
“He’s busy,” Damian says.
“Of course, he is.”
“And extremely agitated. Care to share what the hell is going on with you and Luca?”
“Why do you think it has anything to do with me?”
“Please. I know my brother better than he knows himself. You’re the only person who ever riles him up so much.” He starts chewing on the end of his pen. “I wonder how you do it. Luca doesn’t lose his shit that easily.”
“I told him if he doesn’t want to sleep with me, I’d find someone who will.” I shrug.
“Interesting. So, you two had sex, I take it?”
“Yes. Now he’s avoiding me.”
“I told you not to push him.”
I put the organizer on my lap and cross my arms. “I’m done being treated like a flower arrangement in this marriage, Damian.”
“You don’t seem like a delicate flower to me, Isa.”
“Because I’m not. And it’s time your brother realizes that.” I press my lips together and look back at my notes. “What about the music?”
“Anything but jazz. Luca hates it.”
“How unfortunate.” I smile.
“You’re mean.” Damian laughs. “Remind me never to get on your bad side.”
“I don’t usually have a bad side, Damian. Apparently, it only surfaces when your brother’s around.”
“You know, sometimes I don’t get you two and all this drama. Why can’t you act like mature people and have a normal relationship instead of circling around one another in this cat and mouse game? There’s more than enough shit to deal with without it.”
“I couldn’t agree more. Hopefully, Luca will get the memo.” I stand up. “I’m off. If you change your mind about the wine, call me.”
I leave Damian’s office and head downstairs to look for Marco just as Luca comes through the front door. He looks me up and down as I pass the foyer, his eyes focusing on my behind. I barely managed to squeeze into these white skinny jeans. With the way my butt is straining the material, they might not be appropriate for a business meeting. I don’t give a fuck. I’ve been feeling like crap for days and wanted to doll up. They’re my favorite pair, and they go amazingly well with my beige top and nude heels. After everything that’s happened with Luca, I needed a moral boost.
“Where are you going?” he asks.
“I have a meeting with the catering company,” I say and head toward the kitchen. “Have you seen Marco and Sandro?”
Silence stretches for a few heartbeats before he barks out, “I’m taking you.”
I stop and turn around. “I thought you were busy.”
“You thought wrong. Go upstairs and change.”
“Why?”
“You won’t be wearing those in front of people.” He saunters over until he is standing right in front of me and nods at my skinny jeans.
“Can you be more specific? People as in strangers or . . .”
“Anyone but me. Is that specific enough for you?”
I raise my eyebrows. “They’re jeans.”
“Extremely tight jeans. Go find an oversized shirt and put it on. Or change the pants. Whatever.”
“Why?”
“I don’t want men ogling your ass.”
“Well, my ass is rather huge, it’s hard to miss.” I laugh.
“Your ass is a fucking piece of art.” He bends his head until his eyes are level with mine. “And it’s only mine to look at, Isabella.”
I blink at him. A piece of art? And only his to look at? “Are you jealous?”
His lips press into a tight line as he regards me while that vein of his keeps pulsing on his neck. “No.”
“Perfect. Then it shouldn’t bother you what I’m wearing and who ogles my ass,” I say and turn toward the front door, intending to head to the car. Luca’s hand shoots out and grabs me around my waist, pulling me to him.
“Go. Change,” he whispers into my ear.
My breath catches and I close my eyes, trying to compose myself. He’s finally started showing some reaction to me, which means we’re getting somewhere, but he still hasn’t touched me intimately since the night I gave him my virginity. The stubborn mule is still fighting it.
“If you want me out of these jeans, Luca,” I say and lean back into him, feeling his hard cock at the small of my back, “you’ll have to remove them yourself.”
Luca’s breath fans the skin on my neck as he tightens his hold around my middle. “What did I tell you about trying to manipulate me, Isa?”
Grinding my teeth, I turn and look up at him, this stubborn man who just won’t let me through his shield no matter how often I hit and slash at it. I wonder if it’ll always be like this between us. When will I finally be able to stop hiding the feelings I have for him? I’ve suppressed them for so long, they want to burst out of my chest. I reach up and hook my finger into his hair tie, pulling and releasing his hair so that it spills down and around his face. He doesn’t say anything, just regards me as I tilt my head up until the tip of my nose touches his.
“You’re so damn stubborn,” I whisper, “but I will keep banging at this fucking wall you set between us, Luca, until it crumbles into dust.”
His fingers get a hold of my chin, tilting it slightly until my lips are almost touching his. “You may not like what you’ll find lurking behind that wall, tesoro,” he says, his breath teasing my lips.
“Oh? But what if I do?”
The phone in Luca’s pocket rings. He doesn’t stop looking into my eyes as he takes it out and puts it to his ear. “What?”
I don’t hear the reply from the other side, but it must be something serious because Luca suddenly straightens, his hand falling away from my face.
“I’ll be there in an hour,” he says and cuts the call. “I have to go. Reschedule the meeting with the catering company for tomorrow. I’ll be taking you.”
“All right.” I nod as butterflies flutter in my chest.
He watches me for a few moments, and I hold my breath, my eyes focused on his lips. Instead of kissing me as I’d hoped, he turns and walks out the front door, leaving me to stand in the middle of the foyer, clutching his hair tie in my hand.

Luca

I am done, I say to myself as I’m driving down the highway. Fucking done with pushing Isabella away, trying to stifle this mad need to grab her every time I see her, to envelop her in my arms and never let her leave my side. As soon as I get back home, I’m throwing her over my shoulder and fucking her senseless the moment we get inside the bedroom. Our bedroom. Starting tonight she’ll be sleeping in my bed. Our bed. I’m calling my mission of waiting for her to turn twenty-one a failure. I can’t keep her at arms length anymore. And I fucking don’t want to. We’re turning a new leaf, everything else be damned. Tonight, when I get home, everything will change.
I’m exiting off the highway onto a narrow road and driving uphill when I notice two black SUVs in my rearview mirror, taking the same turn. The route leading to the warehouse where we keep heavy weaponry is usually deserted. There’s nothing around for miles except a few abandoned factories, so seeing two cars following me immediately raises a red flag. My hand slips inside my jacket, freeing my gun from the holster. I put it on the dashboard so it’s within reach and maintain my speed. There’s an intersection in about a mile, and I decide to wait and see if they’ll turn off or stay on this road. I pass the crossroads. The SUVs stay on my rear and start speeding up, closing in on me. The road continues uphill, with a rockface on my left and a ravine on my right. The only option I have is to keep driving forward. There are no other intersections for miles.
That call was a scam. A setup. There was no explosion like the guard said. Looks like someone wants me dead. I floor the car.
I manage to keep my distance for a couple of miles, but the SUVs start gaining on me after that. A shot rings out. Then several more. I throw a look in the rearview mirror and spot the passenger of the nearest vehicle leaning out of the window, aiming his gun at my tires. Another shot echoes. Trying to shoot back is not an option, there are too many bends in the road. The best course of action I have is trying to lose them. A couple of more miles, then the road will start going downhill and get wider. I’ll have more options for maneuvering there. Another shot. The car swerves under me. Fuck. They’ve hit one of my tires.
I fight to maintain control of the car and manage to straighten it, but then one of the pursuing vehicles rams me from behind, making my car lurch forward and lose traction, throwing the vehicle into a sideways skid. With a flat tire, there’s no way I can escape them, so I hit the brakes, managing to stop just before I reach another curve in the road, and grab my gun. I have my hand on the door handle, intending to get out and start shooting when the other SUV rams into the side of my car. The last thing that I see before my car tumbles down the ravine is the glaring face of a man I haven’t seen in years.

Isabella

“I’m not sure we can risk having the banquet outside in September. I’ll order some tents to be placed on the lawn,” I say as I motion for Damian to pass me the salad bowl.
“Tents?” Rosa squeaks. “So, it will be a camping party?”
“No.” I laugh. “These are just white party tents. They’re not for camping. They’ll just provide cover in case of rain or shade from the sun.”
“Oh. Can I go anyway?”
I look at Damian, but he just shrugs. “You have to ask your dad,” I say. “If he’s okay with it, then you can come. But you’ll still be able to see everything from your window, even if you have to stay inside.”
“Can I invite Clara? We can watch it together?”
“I don’t see why not. There’ll be a huge cake.” I wink.
“Did Luca say where he was going?” Damian pipes up. “I’ve tried calling him, but he’s not answering.”
“No. Someone called earlier, and he said he had to go. I don’t know who it was, but it sounded urgent. Maybe he’s in a meeting and turned off his phone?”
“Luca never does that.”
“Will there be a band?” Rosa asks. “Or a DJ?”
“I’ve hired a jazz band.”
“Oh no, that’s boring. And Dad hates jazz.”
“I know.” I laugh at the same time as Damian’s phone rings.
He looks at the screen and takes the call. A moment later he abruptly gets up from his chair. For a few seconds, he just listens to the person on the other end, his face going ghostly white, then nods.
“We’re coming right away,” he says and disconnects the call. “Rosa, go to your room.”
“But I haven’t—”
“Now!” he shouts.
Rosa jumps up off her chair and dashes upstairs as I stare at Damian. I’ve never heard him raise his voice.
“We have to go.” He takes my hand and starts pulling me with him across the entry hall toward the front door.
“Damian? What happened?”
“There’s been a crash. Luca’s car went off the road and into a ravine,” he says, and I stumble as my heart stops beating.
“Is he . . . alive?”
“Barely.”
There’s a piercing pain in my chest as if someone has thrust a knife into me. As soon as we get into Damian’s car, he hits the gas. I’m finding it hard to breathe, so it takes me a few tries to form the words. “How bad?”
“Head trauma and second-degree burns.”
“Burns?”
“His car caught fire. I don’t know anything else.”
I watch the road in front of us, trying to control the urge to scream.
* * *
The smell of antiseptic and medical supplies infiltrates my nostrils. People quietly talk around us. Someone is crying in one of the rooms. The sound of my heels clicking on the tiled floor echoes as we run down the corridor. Every single thing I see and feel gets tangled up in a mess of sensations. All I can make out for sure is Damian’s hand squeezing mine as he drags me behind him, his long legs covering the distance much faster than my own. A man in a white coat comes around the corner and heads toward us.
“How is he?” Damian chokes out when we reach him.
“Mr. Rossi suffered significant trauma to his head. We managed to get the swelling under control, but we won’t know if there will be any lasting damage until he regains consciousness.”
I grab Damian’s forearm and ask the doctor, “When do you expect him to wake up?”
“It’s hard to say until he’s out of recovery. He might end up perfectly well, or there may be serious long-term effects.”
* * *
Damian is sitting on a chair next to me, talking with someone over the phone, but all I can do is stare at the wall in front of me. We’ve been here for twelve hours now. Luca came out of surgery an hour ago, but he’s still in the recovery room.
“They finished processing Luca’s car,” Damian says. “The car was totaled, but there’s some evidence that the scratches and dents on the side and rear may have happened before he crashed.”
I stare at him. The preliminary report said Luca lost control of the car and slid off the road into the ravine, rolling twice. It was pure luck that a fire truck was passing by and noticed his wreck and the fire. “What does that mean?”
“It means someone pushed him off the road. Based on the tire marks, probably two vehicles. Looks like someone may have rear-ended him, while another vehicle hit his side.”
My heart skips a beat. Someone tried to kill my husband.

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