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Silent Lies: Chapter 1

Sienna

Present

 

I approach the big ornate door and knock twice.

“Enter,” a male voice says from the other side.

I walk inside the office belonging to the boss of the New York Cosa Nostra Family, my green heels clicking on the polished floor as I approach.

“You wanted to see me, Don Ajello,” I say in my sweetest voice.

Salvatore Ajello’s eyes drift from my grass-green dress to the top of my head and stop on my bun. Feathers are sticking out of it, the same color as my dress. It took me months to find the exact shade.

“Have a seat, Sienna.” He nods at the chair opposite him.

I drop into the chair and smooth out my dress, wondering why he called me. It’s not every day that someone as meaningless as me, as far as the Cosa Nostra hierarchy is concerned, gets invited to a private meeting with the don.

Ajello leans back and regards me. There’s something disturbing in his gaze, and it makes me feel like I’m being dissected.

“Your sister got married a while back,” he says. “You two were very close.”

“We are close, yes.”

“But she’s in Chicago now. It must be hard for you.”

“Asya loves it there, and I’m happy for her.” I grin, trying to keep my voice casual. He really knows how to pick the nerve to poke.

“It’s important to make sure one’s family is happy. And what about Arturo?”

I narrow my eyes at him. Is there a point to this conversation? “What about him?”

“Your brother is thirty-six, Sienna. He’ll probably marry soon. Have his own family. What will you do when that happens? Will you stay with him and be a third wheel?”

Every word he says buries itself like a dagger into my chest. I already feel bad for spending my days doing nothing but hanging out with my friends or reading while Arturo works the entire time. Months ago, I promised myself I’d find a business program to attend so I could finally start doing something with my life, but I still haven’t done anything about it.

“I would never stand in the way of my brother’s happiness,” I say. “When that happens, I’ll probably move out. Find a job.”

“Why didn’t you go to college? Is that still in your plans?”

“I’m not college material, Don Ajello.”

“No? And yet, you speak several languages. Arturo told me you learned them all on your own.”

“Yes. Italian. English, obviously. Spanish and Portuguese. And I have some knowledge of Russian and Japanese.” Does he need a translator for something?

“How long would it take you to learn a new language?” he asks.

“Um, well. It depends. Just speaking or writing as well?”

“Good enough that you can understand what’s being said. No writing.”

I think about it for a moment. “Three months. Maybe four. Depending on the language.”

Ajello nods while his piercing eyes bore into mine. “Perfect. Let’s arrange the wedding, then.”

“Oh? And who’s getting married?”

“You are, Sienna.”

I blink twice, wondering if I heard him correctly. Ajello is sitting back, relaxed in his chair. His arms are crossed over his chest as he regards me.

“You wouldn’t want to end up alone, would you?” he says with his head tilted to the side.

This bastard. It’s as if he can see inside my soul, find the worst of the fears that fester there, and pull them out against my will.

My fingers tighten on the skirt of my dress. “No.”

“Then a marriage is a perfect solution.”

“Yes, it would seem so.” I make myself smile.

“I’m glad we agree on this. I already have someone in mind for you. For the past few years, I’ve been trying to plant someone inside his organization. This is a great opportunity.”

“You need me to spy on my future husband?”

“Yes. You’ll be doing a huge service to the Family.”

“He’s not from Cosa Nostra?”

“No. He’s a business associate.” Ajello cocks his head. “Your brother won’t be happy when I tell him. I need you to convince Arturo that you’re okay with this marriage.”

“What if he doesn’t believe me?”

“Arturo is my underboss. I would even go so far as to call him . . . a friend. I don’t have many friends, Sienna, so I’d prefer not to have to kill him for disagreeing with my plans. Make sure he believes you.”

“I’ll try my best.” I force another smile. “Is that all?”

Ajello raises an eyebrow. “You didn’t ask who you’ll be marrying.”

“I guess it doesn’t matter.”

“Perfect. I’ll make the arrangements. You can go.”

He stops me as I’m heading toward the door.

“One more thing, Sienna.”

I turn around. “Yes?”

“Start learning Serbian. You have three months.”

 

* * *

 

When I exit Ajello’s building, I stand in the middle of the sidewalk as people rush by. Parts of various conversations reach me. Laughter. An angry mother calling for her child. The noise washes over me, and it’s like I entered a beehive, its walls closing in on me. I want to leave, but I can’t make my legs move. Someone bumps me with their elbow, making me stumble to the side, but I’m still stunned and barely register the impact.

Am I really going to marry a man I’ve never met? I could refuse, but in Cosa Nostra, the don’s word is the law, and going against his orders is akin to treason. I could tell Arturo the truth, and he might be able to convince Ajello to drop the idea. My brother saved his life about a decade ago, so I highly doubt the don would actually kill him. But the thing is, Ajello is right. My brother did put his life on hold when our parents were killed. I need to leave.

A shudder passes through my body just thinking about it.

I’ve never lived alone, and I don’t think I can handle it. It’s already too lonely with Asya gone and Arturo being away so much for work, so I usually spend time during the day hanging out at Luna’s. But the nights are hard.

After what happened when Asya was kidnapped, I promised my brother that I would never take sleeping pills again. But I have considered it. Not to hurt myself; I just can’t sleep in an empty house.

If I ask Arturo to stay home more, I’m sure he’ll say yes, but I would never do that. He has enough of his own shit to deal with and doesn’t need my crap on top of it. My brother’s social life has been nonexistent for fifteen years. Outside of work, his sole focus has been on raising Asya and me. He hasn’t even brought a woman to our house, ever, and I’m afraid he won’t as long as I’m there. It’s as if somewhere down the line, he forgot that he’s not our parent. I’m not a child anymore and I can’t let this continue. Arturo needs to live his own life.

But the mere idea of living alone, with no one to talk to, is sending me into a full-blown panic. I can’t do that. I can never do that. If marrying a stranger is the only way not to end up on my own, I’m going to take it. I just need to convince Arturo that it was my idea. He would never allow me to be married off simply because the don ordered it.

“Ms. DeVille.”

I look to the right and see my driver standing by the car, holding the door open for me. I cross the distance in silence and slide in the back.

“Is everything okay, Ms. DeVille?” the driver asks as he gets behind the wheel.

“Of course.” I give him a beaming smile. “Head to the mall, please. I hear there are some big sales today.”

As the car pulls onto the street, I fish the phone out of my purse and dial my brother. It rings several times and goes to voicemail. He’s probably in a meeting again.

“Hey, Arturo,” I chirp after the beep. “I know you’re busy, but I wanted to tell you the news. After Asya got married, it got me thinking about my life, so I went to see the don this morning and asked him if he could arrange a marriage for me. He said yes!” I giggle. “I hope it’ll be a lawyer. Or some CEO. Anyway, just wanted to let you know. I’m heading to the mall right now. There’s this amazing multicolored chiffon dress I saw online. It’s pleated and the shades just blend together so beautifully! It looks like it was made just for me. Love you!”

I throw the phone back into my purse, quickly brush a stray tear off my cheek, and focus my gaze on the street beyond the window.

 

Drago

 

I observe the man sitting in a puddle of blood at my feet. The left side of his face is so swollen, it looks like it’ll burst any second. I grab him around the neck and lift, pressing his back to the wall.

“So, you just happened to blurt out sensitive info while our competition was present?” I ask.

The man whines and wraps his hands around my wrist, trying to free himself. I slam him against the wall and lean close to his face.

“Do you know what I do to traitors, Henry?”

The man’s eyes go wide as saucers and he shivers. A moment later, the stench of urine fills the air.

“I see that you do.” I smile and reach for the knife lying on the nearby table.

When I press the tip of the blade to Henry’s abdomen, right above his navel, he starts thrashing around, so I put more force into my hold. His face gets redder as he fights for air. Keeping my grip on his neck, I drag the knife straight up, slowly. Blood trickles down Henry’s naked torso as he screams in agony. When I reach his collarbone, I move the tip of the knife below his left nipple and repeat my efforts, only, this time, slicing horizontally toward his right side. The man chokes a few more times and his body goes limp. His glazed-over eyes stare blankly at me. I finish the shape I’m carving into his front, clean the blade on the leg of his pants, and let his body fall to the floor.

“Bolt him to the wall,” I say to the two men standing off to the side and then I turn toward Filip—my second-in-command—who’s lounging on the couch. “What did Ajello want?”

“He wants to meet,” Filip says. “He has a business proposition for you.”

I grab the kitchen towel off the counter and wipe the blood off my hands. “Call him back. Tell him he can shove his proposition up his ass. We’re done doing business with Cosa Nostra, as I’ve already told Arturo countless times.”

“Now’s not the time to ruffle the don’s feathers, Drago.” Filip leans forward. “Especially with the new plan we’ve set in place. Bogdan will retaliate the moment he finds out you’ve decided to push him out of the arms business. We can’t take on the Romanians and the Italians at the same time.”

“I doubt that Ajello would give a fuck about our plans. He doesn’t work with Bogdan anymore, so I don’t see why he would butt into our business. As for his feathers, I wouldn’t worry too much about them.”

“Everything that happens in New York is Ajello’s business. If he thinks the war between us and the Romanians might have even the slightest impact on his projects, he’ll do something about it. I actually find it interesting that he picked this exact moment to try reestablishing a collaboration between us.”

“You think he found out about the arms deal we’re negotiating?”

“He probably knows we’re into something, but I don’t think he’s aware of the details. Then again, you never know with Salvatore Ajello.”

“Fucking perfect.” I throw the bloody rag on the table. “Call Ajello. Tell him I’ll be out of town for the next couple of months, but I’ll think about his request. We can talk when I get back.”

“And will you? Think about it?”

I grab my jacket and helmet off the chair and head toward the front door. “No.”


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