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Silent Lies: Chapter 22


I step out from the cover of a tree and aim my gun at the man crouching by the fountain. The bullet hits him in the back of his head, blood spraying the white marble. I’m going to annihilate every motherfucker who dared to attack my home and family.

My eyes jump to the last window on the top floor. The lights are out, just as in every other part of the house. Sienna is probably freaking out, but Adam said he left Tara with her. That knowledge helps subdue my anxiety somewhat. I almost lost it when I received that second signal from Relja and narrowly avoided crashing into a semi when I floored the gas pedal.

Even outnumbered, my men have done a good job fighting off Bogdan’s guys. Most of the attackers are dead, their bodies littering the lawn and paved surface around the abandoned vans. A few are still alive, trying to keep themselves hidden and waiting for an opportunity to flee. Well, not happening. I’ve already ordered to have the gate secured, and Filip is there with three of our guys, ready to finish off anyone who tries to escape.

Deep growling sounds on my right as I head to the mansion. I glance in that direction and find Perun and Zeus tearing at a man wearing tactical clothing. There is enough light to see matching satin bows around my dogs’ necks. Orange today.

A smile breaks across my lips. It means my wife dressed the dogs after I left. She likes to coordinate their bows with what she wears. My sparkling little bundle of joy, who’s so much more than anyone sees at first glance. Jesus fuck, I’m a goner for that woman.

The rumbling of a vehicle makes me look back toward the mansion. Beli is parking a van next to the kitchen door. Adam exits the house, holding one of my guys in a fireman’s lift. Iliya and Jovan follow, supporting Relja between them. I grit my teeth. Fucking Salvatore Ajello. I can’t stand that man, especially knowing he made Sienna spy for him. I wish I could have told him to shove his offer to have my men treated at his hospital, but unfortunately, we both knew there was no way I would refuse. And I’m certain he’s going to find a way to cash in his favor. With interest, no doubt.

Beli jumps into the driver’s seat and pulls away, maneuvering between the Romanians’ vehicles and the dead attackers, and heads for the compound gate. Getting rid of all the bodies and the vans is going to be a pain in the ass.

Their guns at a ready, Adam and Jovan approach the carnage, the bulk of it amassed before the front doors, checking out the dead. Iliya, meanwhile, heads toward the back of the house.

“Did you find Bogdan?” I ask as I approach.

Adam shakes his head. “I got a glimpse of him earlier, so he was here for sure. Jovan is checking out the backyard. I’ll call the gate and see if maybe they got him.”

“I want everyone on alert until his body is found.”

The gunfire has ceased, and it looks like we’ve finally done rounding up Bogdan’s men, thank fuck, but I’m not calling it finished until I see the motherfucker’s corpse with my own eyes.

With one last glance at the bodies lining the driveway, I head toward the garage to check if some of the bastards are hiding there, but out of the corner of my eye, I catch a reflection of shimmering turquoise blue. My head snaps to the side, zeroing in on the figure standing in the kitchen doorway. The power has been restored inside the house, so I can clearly see my wife, in her mermaid leggings, staring at me. A relieved sigh leaves my lips upon seeing her unharmed and well. The next moment, however, I’m filled with rage. Was she there the whole fucking time, while bullets rained all around?

“What the fuck, Sienna!” I roar, cutting a path across the lawn and rushing toward her. I’m going to kill whoever is responsible for allowing her downstairs. “Get back inside. Now!”

She just keeps staring at me while a tear slides down her cheek. The look in her eyes, as they bore into mine, is of utter relief, and my rage dissipates immediately. She was worried about me.

“I said, get back inside!” I continue shouting, but she just smiles. What am I going to do with her? No one is allowed to ignore my direct order, but when it’s her, I don’t really mind. Damn it.

I’m only a few steps away when Sienna’s eyes dart to the side, somewhere behind me. The smile disappears off her face, and is replaced with sheer terror.

It’s not a conscious move. There is no rational thought, only pure instinct, as I turn on my heel, shielding my wife and facing whatever danger lies ahead. My gun is primed, the metal warm in my palm as I raise my hand, ready to neutralize the threat.

But I’m too slow.

A gunshot pierces the air.




There are moments that you know will haunt you forever, even if you live a thousand years. Those moments fundamentally shake your existence, changing the trajectory of your life. The new journey before you is one you never saw coming. One you couldn’t plan for. A path you’ve never seen. Whether karma or destiny, those moments are rarely of your own choosing.

Faced with one such moment, you know nothing will ever be the same. It becomes a nexus, a pinpoint in time where everything is thought of as “before” and “after.”

I’ve already had two such instances in my life. When Arturo told us that our parents had died was the first. The second was when I found out my sister was gone, her fate unknown.

With every fiber of my being, I hoped never to encounter another such moment again.

When I saw a man step out of the garage, his gun raised and pointed at me, I froze. Even my lungs contracted, unable to draw in air, and all I could do was stare. The only part of me still capable of movement was my heart. It raced at triple its normal speed, pounding upon my ribcage.

Then, Drago’s huge frame materialized before me. Instead of the gun, my eyes locked on my husband’s broad back.


My hand flies to my chest because, for an instant, I’m certain my heart ceased beating, pierced by a bullet at close range. Drago tenses in front of me. The gun slips from his hand and drops to the half-frozen grass at his feet.


A scream builds inside me as I watch my husband fall to his knees and slowly start listing forward. The moment stretches, and time stops.

Over the top of Drago’s head, I see the man by the garage throw away his gun and reach into his jacket. Air rushes into my lungs, and with it, absolute calm.

Without thinking, I grip the Glock at my back. I forgot I even had it when the gunman’s sights were aimed at me. Although, at that time, I’m not sure I would have taken it out had I recalled. All doubt is gone now.

The attacker is pulling another weapon from his jacket, swinging the barrel to finish Drago off. His choice. And I make mine.

My hand is steady as I lift my gun, and my breaths are even. I’m scarcely aware of the shouts coming from the driveway, growing louder, getting nearer. In a split second, I aim at the guy’s head and, without a trace of hesitation, pull the trigger.


The man jerks backward. A big red hole appears where his left eye had been.

I did that.

I killed him.

I’ve taken a life. And I don’t regret it.

The gun falls from my hand, and then I’m running. To Drago, lying on his side on the cold, dead lawn.

“Baby.” A strangled whisper leaves my lips as I drop down to the grass next to him and carefully roll him to his back.

The front of his shirt is saturated with blood. I grab the sides and tear it open, then press my palms over the two bleeding wounds on his upper chest. Despite my efforts in applying the pressure, the red liquid keeps seeping between my fingers.

There is a touch on my face as Drago’s bloody hand cups my cheek. My gaze snaps up, my eyes lock with his.

“I thought you faint at the sight of blood,” he says, his voice barely a whisper.

Shouts and the sound of running feet are getting closer, but I can’t look away from him.

“Don’t you dare die on me, Drago,” I choke out while tears run down my cheeks. “Don’t you fucking dare.”

Hands grab me from behind, pulling me away. Iliya drops down next to Drago, pressing his bundled coat over the wounds on my husband’s torso. He’s blocking my view, and I can’t see Drago’s eyes. I snarl, kicking my legs, trying to get free. I need to have my eyes on his! For some reason, I’m convinced that for as long as I can hold his gaze, I’ll be able to keep him alive.

A car pulls up beside us, and then Filip and Jovan are lifting Drago and laying him on the back seat. I scream. Howl. And bare my teeth. Strong arms hold me back, keeping me in place. A man’s voice says something about me giving them room. I sink my teeth into his forearm, and a metallic taste fills my mouth.

“Jesus!” someone yells. “Let her go, Adam. She can ride in the back with him.”

The moment I’m free, I rush toward the vehicle and climb inside. I kneel on the floor of the back seat and press my palms over Drago’s hands while he’s holding Iliya’s coat to his upper body. My God, there’s so much blood.

“Look at me!” I cry as the car lurches forward.

I’m not sure if he heard me, but his eyelids flutter open, and his green gaze meets mine.

“Good.” I nod. “We’re going to a hospital where they’ll patch you up. And you’re going to keep your eyes open the entire way there.”

Drago moves his gaze to the top of my head, his eyes crease in the corners. “I should have known.”

“Known what?”

“Orange bow. Like the dogs.” He laughs, then breaks out in a cough, wheezing as he struggles for breath.

I press my lips together as a half laugh, half sob threatens to burst out of me. “I knew you’d love it.”

My voice breaks, and I swallow hard, struggling to keep my composure and my balance. Whoever is behind the wheel seems to be driving like a maniac. I feel every bump, every curve in the road, the side of my head hitting the back of the passenger seat with every shift.

“I love every single thing about you, my glittery little spy.” He turns his hand, entwining his fingers with mine.

“Even my chicken jacket?”

“Especially”—he takes a shallow breath—“especially your chicken jacket, mila moya.”

I can’t hold the tears at bay anymore, so I let them fall. “I love you, Drago.”

A faint smile pulls at his lips. “I know.”

His hand trails along my arm to my neck, pulling me down to whisper next to my ear. “I fell in love with you the moment I saw you in that dreadful gold onesie.”

I close my eyes and press my lips to his. “Please, don’t leave me.”

The car screeches to an abrupt halt. The doors fly open, and people in medical scrubs lift Drago, putting him on a gurney. By the time I scramble out of the car, they are already bursting through the sliding doors of the hospital.

My eyes are glued on their retreating backs as I run, run after them and my husband. I’m not letting him out of my sight.


* * *


My blood-covered palms press to the glass as I stare at the doctors and nurses gathered around the operating table. One of the medical staff insisted on me staying in the waiting room, but I told her I’d kill anyone who tries to keep me away from my husband. She must have believed me because shortly after I was escorted to this small observation lounge. That was hours ago.

“He’s going to be fine,” a female voice says next to me.

“You don’t know that,” I croak, not bothering to look at the person who’s spoken.

“Trust me. My mother-in-law has more experience with gunshot wounds than the entire emergency department of a New York City hospital.” She taps her nail on the glass window. “She’s the classy lady who’s currently elbows-deep inside your husband’s chest. Ilaria.”

I steal a quick glance at the woman by my side. Milene Ajello. The don’s wife.

“Last week, I saw her digging out a bullet from Pietro’s thigh with her bare hands,” she continues. “Sometimes, I really fucking hate this life, you know?”

“But you still married our don,” I say, back to keeping my vigil over what’s happening in the operating room.

“Yeah, well, he kinda threatened to start a war if I didn’t.” Milene’s tone is serious, but in the reflection of the glass, I see her lips curl into a smile. “If I wasn’t mad as hell at him at the time, I might have thought it was romantic.”

I find it hard to imagine Salvatore Ajello being considered romantic. It’s akin to calling a guillotine adorable.

“Does it ever get easier? Being scared all the time? Worrying that something bad will happen?” I ask.

“No. Not really.” She wraps her fingers around my forearm and squeezes lightly. “It’s how it is when you’re in love with a dangerous man.”

We both stare into the OR. They must be wrapping up. The frantic pace and urgency that enveloped the room when the surgery began has eased, and I decide it’s a good sign.

“Would you like me to find you a change of clothes?” Another squeeze to my arm. “You’re covered in blood.”

“I’ll ask Jovan to get me something,” I say, keeping my gaze glued on Drago. With so many medical personnel around him, I can only catch a glimpse of his arm and legs.

Milene leaves, her footfalls echoing through the hallway as they recede. Inside the OR, the don’s mother steps away from the operating table and takes off her blue surgical gown and gloves, throwing the garments into the trash can. She pulls down her mask next while addressing a nurse at her side.

When Ilaria looks up, our gazes connect through the window. My handprints mar the otherwise spotless glass. My husband’s blood. So so much of it.

As Ilaria exits the room, heading in my direction, the panic I’ve been keeping under tight control swells. I take a step back and attempt to calm my heart rate as she opens the door of the observation lounge.

I hold my breath.

“He’ll live.”

My lungs expand as I inhale. The first real breath I’ve taken in the last four hours. Ilaria is saying something else—details of what was done during the surgery and the expectations for the recovery process—but I barely hear it as only two words are running on repeat through my brain.

He’ll live.



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