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Silent Vows: Chapter 9

Conner

Always trust your gut. It was the creed I lived by, and it had served me well—saved my life any number of times—so I wasn’t about to abandon it now. My gut told me something was off between Noemi and her father, and I wasn’t going to ignore that feeling no matter how convincingly Noemi assured me I was wrong.

Throughout dinner, I kept my senses trained on Fausto. Umberto was a pain in the ass, but he was just a lackey. If there was going to be a problem with the Italians, Fausto would be at the center of it.

I told myself that no matter what was happening, I needed to stay out of it. Inserting myself into Italian family affairs would not go over well, but the thought of anyone but me laying a finger on Noemi made me itch with the need to paint her entire family tree in shades of red. They were her family. It was their job to protect her, and if they’d failed at that task, my wrath would be merciless.

I shouldn’t have cared. I’d specifically picked her as my bride in the hopes that her silence would enable me to forget she even existed. As if I could ever ignore that fiery resolve of hers. Her presence in a room was louder than most men I knew, commanding attention with every graceful swing of her hips and perceptive flick of her emerald eyes.

Each of her penned words was worth a thousand of her father’s blustered conversations.

With every new glimpse of her bold personality, I wanted to know more about where her strength had come from and why I’d been led to believe she was anything short of extraordinary. Had I been told the truth, I never would have ended up in this mess. I was distracted at the best of times and growing obsessed if I was honest with myself. It was a miracle I hadn’t pressed my lips against hers in that basement hallway and stolen a taste of her glossy lips. That and the approach of a witness were the reasons I’d kept my hands pinned to the wall. Had I allowed my fingers to wrap around her waist and pull her body against mine, any degree of control I’d possessed would have been shredded.

And the way she’d blushed down to her toes when she first laid eyes on me? Jesus.

Sweet and sassy. It was a fucking lethal combination, and my days were dwindling before my eyes.

Her resistance to our connection only made me more determined to have her. While her body would be easy to persuade, I had no idea what her mental hang-up was about. I believed her when she said there wasn’t anyone else. In that case, I didn’t see the problem. We were going to be married, and the heat between us was fucking off the charts. So why the opposition? Why not give in to the desire?

It was just my luck. Or karma. Jimmy and his belief in fate would tell me it was my own damn fault for trying to snag a wife I could ignore—that I’d doomed myself to pine after a woman who couldn’t stand me.

“Something funny?” Jimmy asked, joining me on the sidewalk when we left the restaurant. Everyone else had already departed or were getting into their cars. I’d waited to watch Noemi leave with her father before getting lost in thought after they drove away.

“Just laughing at myself.”

“No reason to laugh as far as I can tell. You did good tonight, Con.” He clapped his hand on my shoulder. “I see great things on the horizon for all of us. My brothers and I, along with your dad, brought this organization back from extinction in New York, and now, you and the next generation will solidify our future. We’ll show the world we’re a force to fear and respect.”

“The alliance will definitely be helpful, but we’ll have to prove ourselves regardless.” The Albanians and others weren’t going to go quietly into the night without a display of the new power we wielded.

“Of course, but you aligning with the Italians is only the first step in redefining ourselves,” Jimmy added conspiratorially, his voice dropping to a hushed whisper.

“Oh yeah? You gonna tell me the rest of this plan?”

He shrugged. “We already got the cops in our pocket—half the damn force is Irish—but if we can get a better handle further up the chain … say … in the governor’s office … then, we’d really be sitting pretty.”

“Evan Alexander is a respectable man. Not many politicians own that distinction, but the governor’s one of them. You’ll have a hard time catching that fish.” I peered at my uncle, curious at the smug quirk of his lips.

“These things have a funny way of happening sometimes.” He glanced at me. “Like you and your girl in there. I saw the way you watched her.”

“It’s in my best interest to be observant where they’re concerned.”

Jimmy’s smirk grew as if he already knew my excuse was bullshit.

“Look,” I said quietly. “I just want to make sure you know that no matter what, I’m a Byrne. I’ll always be a Byrne first and foremost.” I’d worried in the back of my mind since this alliance was first brought up that Jimmy and the others might begin to see me as less trustworthy because of my ties to the Italians. I wanted to be sure he knew my Irish roots would always win out.

My godfather clasped his hands on either side of my face and stared deep into my eyes. “You’re a good boy, Conner. I never would have entertained this scenario if I’d had any doubts in you. Understand?”

“Thanks, Jimmy.” A strange warmth spread throughout my chest, then chilled when he continued.

“So is that the reason Mia Genovese wasn’t here tonight? Seemed like she and her husband were a key part of this alliance.”

I grimaced, knowing he was right. “It just felt like too much, too soon. She’s not my mother, Jimmy, and I’m not ready to pretend otherwise.”

He pursed his lips and nodded. “I suppose I can respect that. Alright, Brenna is probably getting pissed in the car. I better get going.”

“Night, Uncle Jimmy.”

“Take it easy, Con.” He waved, leaving me to wander toward the street where I’d parked hours earlier.

Once I was in the driver’s seat, I took my phone out of my pocket and discovered I had a missed call from Mia Genovese. I sighed heavily, then clicked on the missed message and listened to my birth mother’s voice.

“Hi, Conner. It’s Mia. Mia Genovese. Ummm … I was wondering if maybe we could get coffee sometime. I’d really like a chance to talk with you, if you have the time. You know … when it could be just us. If you’re comfortable with that, of course. Anyway, I’m rambling. Just let me know. Okay. Bye.”

That right there was exactly why I hadn’t wanted to meet her in the first place. I had a family. One who had wanted me from the beginning. I didn’t need to suffer through awkward meetups to fill some gaping hole inside me. Meeting her hadn’t changed anything. And I didn’t feel any sense of obligation to indulge her guilty conscience. Her emotional trauma wasn’t my problem.

I closed out of the phone and tossed the irritating device into the cup holder beside me. I had more pressing matters to deal with, like how to get a certain green-eyed temptress out of my head.

I’d be smart to call up one of my regulars and remind myself that all I needed was a good fuck, but I had a feeling I had a cold shower in store for me instead. Such a fucking idiot.

And I only had myself to blame.


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