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Silent Vows: Chapter 36

Conner

“Your mother was Agostino’s sister, wasn’t she?” I’d meant to let the subject rest until morning but couldn’t settle my racing thoughts. Noemi had yet to fall asleep herself, so I decided maybe a brief talk would be necessary before we could find rest.

“Yes. She and Aunt Etta were twins, and Uncle Agostino is their older brother.”

That was what I’d been afraid of. “He and Renzo would want to know the truth, but I’m not sure it’s our place to say something.” I’d been debating the issue in my head for the last ten minutes. As far as I could tell, one crucial bit of information was missing. “Why did Fausto kill his wife, Noemi?”

I’d been holding her cocooned against me, so it was easy to feel her body stiffen in response to my question. I wasn’t surprised. When she first unveiled the truth about her mother’s death, I’d sensed she was holding something back.

“Does it matter why?” she asked quietly, her voice worn from months of anguish. It had to have been hell living with the man who’d inflicted so much pain in her life.

“I’m afraid it does. I need to know what happened.” Yet again, I sensed the tension in her body intensify, so I continued. “Normally, we don’t involve ourselves in the domestic disputes of people outside of our organization. But if there’s more to her death than a violent husband, your uncle may need to know.”

“You would get involved if there was more to it? My father would likely know that you were the source of that information.”

“Yes, but we owe a certain loyalty to the Donatis. I don’t like inserting ourselves into a Mafia matter, but if we’re the only ones who have that information, it may be necessary.”

She was silent long enough for unease to prick at the back of my neck.

“I agree that it’s a delicate matter,” she finally said. “That’s why I think you should leave it to me. Let me keep this in the family.”

My reaction was visceral. No way in hell was I sending my wife into the middle of a potentially dangerous situation. “It’s not happening, Em, so don’t even try.”

Noemi wrestled out of my hold to turn and face me in the dark. “Please, Conner. I’m the one who should talk to my uncle. I wanted to from the beginning but was so worried about protecting Sante that I held off. I should be the one to do it, and then you and your family won’t be thrown into the middle of it.”

I didn’t like it one bit, but she wasn’t entirely wrong. Had I been in her shoes, I would have argued the same. “You know your brother is no safer now than he was before.”

She sighed, relaxing back into my arms. “I know, but it needs to be done. And I’d rather this way than … well, let’s just say that bringing you and your family into it would only make things worse.”

I grunted, irritated that she made sense. “I’m not making any promises, but I’ll think about it.”

Setting up a meeting for her to talk to her uncle wouldn’t be so bad, but I couldn’t imagine not attending. And if I was present, I might as well handle it myself. The whole thing was a shit situation. I didn’t like any of the options but knew we had to commit to something, even if that was to ignore the whole thing.

I lay there and continued to think as my young wife relaxed into sleep. She might have felt better after our talk, but I was all too aware that she’d avoided answering my question about why her mother was killed. Fausto hadn’t lashed out and accidentally struck his wife with too much force. She’d died in a car wreck, which meant her death was premeditated. That wasn’t domestic; that was murder.

But how could I fault Noemi for holding back when I’d done the same?

I still hadn’t told her about my father. I should have, but the words were bottled up inside. The truth still felt too raw. Too unbelievable to be real.

And if I wasn’t already overwhelmed sorting my feelings about Mia’s revelation, the jumbled storm of emotions my wife evoked would have certainly pushed me over the edge. I’d been so fucking angry when I got home and found the place empty. Angry and worried and frustrated as hell. Yet the second I saw the genuine fear she’d felt for me, for my safety, all of it had melted away and left nothing but scorching desire.

It was a good thing she offered herself to me because I’d been so damn ravenous for her, I wasn’t sure I could have resisted what I’d wanted. What I’d needed.

I trailed my fingers down the delicate indentation of her spine. Pliable yet strong, just like her.

I’d never met a woman who was so deceptively resilient. I had thought I’d wanted her gentility, but it was her fierce tenacity that hooked its claws into me. I couldn’t help but respect her strength.

In my world, respect was everything.

It prompted the question whether I’d earned her respect. Apparently not, considering she was still keeping secrets. Respect went hand in hand with trust. What did I have to do to prove I was worthy?

A dull ache radiated in my chest at yet again finding myself faced with that question.

As a boy, I’d spent years asking myself why my birth mother had given me away. Once I’d matured and learned she’d been a teen mother, I’d accepted that her actions weren’t a reflection of how she felt about me; however, the echo of those feelings still stirred down deep in my memories.

I wanted to be certain of Noemi’s feelings for me. I wanted to know she was just as irrevocably drawn to me as I was her, and there was only one way to accomplish that—I would have to become the air she breathed. Make myself so indispensable that she couldn’t imagine a life without me. And the first step in that process was eliminating Fausto Mancini from her life, no matter the cost.


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