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Stolen Touches: Chapter 22

Milene

“The bride doesn’t look excited,” I comment, looking at the dark-haired woman in her early twenties sitting next to Rocco. Instead of looking happy, she’s sitting with her head lowered and eyes focused  on her hands which are folded on her lap. “Arranged marriage?”
“Kind of,” Salvatore says next to me. “Her brother has a gambling problem. He spent everything they had and then borrowed money from Rocco. He spent that, too.”
I inhale sharply. “Rocco took her as a loan repayment?”
Salvatore nods once. “Yes.”
The groom sits next to his bride, talking to a man on the other side of the table and laughing as if the marriage will be the best experience of both their lives. His arm is resting on the back of his wife’s chair. There is no missing the way she is leaning forward as if she’s trying to move away from him as much as possible.
“That’s sick,” I say.
Rocco’s handsome, so why force a woman who obviously doesn’t want to be anywhere near him into marriage? There must be a reason why she looks so . . . scared.
I move my eyes away from the newlyweds and scan the room. Yup, people are still staring at me. From the moment we arrived, I felt like some exotic animal in a zoo—people looking at us constantly. I expected some stares since it’s the first time I was meeting members of the New York Family, but I didn’t anticipate seeing fear in their eyes. Most of them have kept well away from where Salvatore and I are standing, but they haven’t stopped gawking at us. Or, more specifically, at Salvatore’s arm, which he’s kept around my waist for the entire event. No one has approached us except for Arturo. And he only came by to share some confidential information with Salvatore.
“I like the dress,” Salvatore says and places a kiss on my bare shoulder. “Goes well with the bracelet.”
“It seemed shameful to let it lie unseen in a shoebox under the bed.”
“You’re keeping the bracelet in a shoebox? Under our bed?”
“Where the fuck should I put the million-dollar thing?” I whisper. “You won’t let me use the safe.”
“There is only one place where it deserves to be, Milene.” He traces the tip of his finger along my neck and down my arm to my wrist.
The intensity with which he looks into my eyes feels like a living thing, and a slight shiver passes me.
I’ve watched Salvatore interact with his men. He doesn’t talk much. And while he listens attentively as they speak, he also seems to keep the rest of the room in sight. This, the way he’s looking at me now, is different. It’s both alluring and frightening to be the sole focus of a man like Salvatore Ajello.
“Time for the fireworks!” someone shouts from the other part of the room.
A collective cheer fills the room, and from the corner of my eye, I see guests heading toward the exit. Salvatore doesn’t move from his spot but continues tracing my forearm with the tip of his finger. His left hand cups my cheek, thumb caressing the skin below my eye.
“You forgot to put your glove on,” I say, not taking my eyes off his, and lift my hand to cover his. At first, he was only removing it after he came home in the evenings, but now, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen him wear it.
“I don’t forget things, Milene.”
The first explosion booms outdoors as colorful lights flash against the inside walls, the brightest of these accentuating the hard lines of Salvatore’s face.
I tilt my head to the side, leaning further into his touch. “I thought seeing your hand bothered you.”
“It does.” He bends his head and places a kiss on my neck, below my ear.
The bangs of the fireworks continue, but my heart is beating even louder. Burying my hands in Salvatore’s hair, I crush my lips against his. He takes a step forward, and then another, forcing me to move back until I’m pressed against the cold surface of the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the garden.
“Why has no one approached us this whole evening?” I ask, then shudder when I feel his hand on the inside of my thigh, inching upward.
“Because I made sure they all knew I didn’t want anyone coming near you.
His hand reaches my panties and deft fingers pull them to one side, exposing me.
“Why?”
“I wasn’t in the mood”—his finger teases my clit and moves to my entrance, while his amber eyes stare at me with the intensity of a bird of prey homing in on its next meal—“for sharing your attention with anyone.”
“You’re so unbelievably self-centered.” I smile, then suck in a breath as his finger enters me.
“Yes, I am.” Another finger slips inside.
I quickly glance over Salvatore’s shoulder and see Aldo and Stefano standing in the opposite corner of the otherwise empty room. They are both staring at the ceiling, offering us their discretion in the process.
The fireworks are still lighting up the sky, and everyone is in the front yard, some distance beyond the window. It’s dark outside, and with the bright lights in the room, anyone who looks in our direction will have a prime view.
“People will see us,” I whisper, then let out a low moan when Salvatore’s thumb presses on my clit.
“I don’t care about people.” He bites my lower lip and moves to my chin. The fingers inside me keep moving, stretching my inner walls.
“I am people, too, Tore.” I breathe, then gasp when he bites my lip again.
“You are not people.”
“Oh?” Tremors rock my body so hard I can barely manage words. “And what am I?”
His mouth stills. Slowly, he lifts his head and stares into my eyes.
“Mine,” he says and thrusts his fingers all the way in, hitting that spot only he has ever found. “You are mine, Milene.”
I shudder as I come, sagging against his chest for support.
Salvatore removes his hand, then grabs under my thighs and lifts me. I wrap my legs around his waist and attack his sinful lips, feeling his hard cock behind the fabric of his dress pants as it presses into my core.
The sound of screeching tires somewhere outside reaches us. Salvatore’s head snaps up, and he looks over my shoulder toward the front yard, visible beyond the window.
“Stefano! Aldo!” he shouts, turns around abruptly and heads across the room, still holding me tightly. “Go through the kitchen. Aldo first.”
As Salvatore barks the orders, I stare over his shoulder at the yard through the window. Two black cars have parked at the edge of the lawn, and men with guns are getting out. Shots ring out a second later.
Salvatore lowers me to the ground and takes my chin between his fingers. “You’re going with Stefano.”
I blink at him, terrified and confused. The next moment, Stefano’s hand grips my upper arm, pulling me away.
“What . . . Tore!” I yank my arm, trying to free myself from Stefano’s hold. I’m not going anywhere without my husband.
Salvatore looks at me, then moves his gaze to Stefano and gives him a nod. “With your life, Stefano.”
“With my life, Boss,” Stefano says next to me, grabs me around the waist, and runs.
Salvatore remains standing in the same spot, watching us for a few seconds as we retreat, then reaches inside his jacket. I stare in horror as he takes out a gun and turns in the direction of the double glass doors on the opposite side of the room. The doors that lead to the front yard where, based on the screams and the sounds of gunfire, all hell just broke loose.

Salvatore

It’s chaos.
Some of the guests are running, trying to find cover or shelter within the house. More than a dozen bodies are scattered around the lawn. I’ve spotted at least eleven shooters. Two are lying on the grass, probably dead already. Six are using the cars as cover, shooting at Rocco’s security detail. The rest are scattered, firing randomly.
Arturo is standing at the edge of the lawn, taking out the shooters with his guns. He’s the only man I know who shoots equally well with his left and right hand. Learning to aim and shoot with the non-dominant hand requires immense determination and practice, something I know from personal experience.
One of the gunmen separates from the group behind the cars and heads toward the house, hitting Rocco’s man with a well-aimed bullet along the way. I raise my gun and fire off two shots in his direction. The first bullet misses, but the second gets him in the chest. He stumbles. I shoot again, this time hitting his stomach, and he ends up facedown on the grass. A bullet whizzes by my head, and I quickly step back, taking cover behind a thick stone column on my right. Five more of Rocco’s people run out from the house and charge toward the shooters on the lawn, picking them off first before focusing on the group behind the cars.
The phone in my pocket vibrates once. Stefano’s signal that he has Milene secured in the vehicle. The pressure in my chest loosens.
When I leave the porch and head toward the attackers’ cars, most of the shooters are already dead. Rocco might be a little slow where business is concerned, but he knows how to choose his security.
The last two assailants are crouched behind one of the vehicles, hiding from Rocco’s men, who are peppering them with bullets from high-powered weapons somewhere on my right. The hostiles don’t notice me approaching since they’re too focused on keeping their heads low and returning fire. I aim for the head of the shooter closest to me and let a bullet fly. His head snaps to the side, and he crumples instantly. The other shooter looks down at his fallen comrade, then lifts his gun to aim at me. I shoot him twice in the chest before he has time to pull the trigger. The gunfire ceases. Rocco’s men scatter around to check for life among fallen people.
“Irish?” I ask as I approach Arturo while he’s looking over one of the dead shooters.
“Most likely,” he says. “How do you want this handled?”
“With the spilling of blood.” I take my phone and call Nino.
“I need twenty armed men,” I say the moment he picks up the call. “I’ll meet them in an hour at the gas station near Fitzgerald’s house.”
“They’ll be there.”
“Good.
“Boss?” he adds. “Are you okay? Stefano called to tell me what happened.”
“Yes,” I answer. “Rocco lost three men. A dozen or so guests are wounded. A few of them seriously. At least two dead.”
“Should I call Ilaria?”
“No. This it too big of a fuckup to be covered up. Somebody’s probably already called 911. I’m leaving. Rocco will have to deal with the authorities. Call Greg. They’re going to need a lawyer here right away, before the police arrive.” I cut the call and turn to Arturo. “Go. I don’t want you here when the authorities show up.”
“You think Rocco can handle this?”
“I don’t give a fuck. He’s disposable. You’re not,” I say and head toward my car. It’s time to deal with Patrick Fitzgerald.
I’m turning on the ignition when my phone rings. Stefano’s number.
“We’re just entering the garage,” he says.
I lean back in the seat and close my eyes. She’s safe.
The sound of jostling comes from the other end of the line.
“Give me that fucking phone!” I hear Milene shout. “Jesus fuck, Salvatore! Are you okay?”
“Yes.”
“Sure?”
“I’m fine, Milene. There’s something I have to handle. I’ll be home in a couple of hours.”
A few moments of silence follow before she speaks again. I notice her voice is shaking.
“You scared the fucking shit out of me. Don’t you dare send me away like that again,” she whispers. “Next time, you’re coming with me.”
I grind my teeth. She has no idea how hard it was to trust her safety in Stefano’s hands instead of getting her out of harm’s way myself.
“Stefano is faster than me, cara.”
“I don’t fucking care!” she snaps, and the line goes dead.
I lower the phone and stare at it. No one ever dares to hang up on me, and yet, she does it all the time. It’s strange.
* * *
I park my car in Fitzgerald’s driveway and head toward the front door, where Nino is waiting.
“Fitzgerald’s not here,” he says.
“Deegan?”
“Pasquale has him in the kitchen.”
“Let’s go and chat with him,” I say and walk inside the house, avoiding the fresh array of bodies under the dim porch lights.
We’ve had people watching Fitzgerald’s house for weeks, so getting inside didn’t pose a problem. They already knew the guards’ routes and Alessandro disarmed the outdated security system in less than five minutes.
When I step inside the house, I pass the house staff, gathered together in a corner and facing the wall, some of them visibly shaking. Two of my men stand guard over them. I follow Nino toward the rear of the house.
Fitzgerald’s second-in-command is sitting at the dining table with the barrel of Pasquale’s gun pressed against his left temple. The Irishman looks up, then follows me with his eyes as I approach the table and take a seat across from him.
“Where’s Patrick?” I ask and lean back in the chair.
“I don’t know,” he snaps.
I nod at Pasquale. He lowers the gun and shoots Deegan in his thigh. The Irishman screams.
“Where is Patrick, Deegan?” I ask again.
“I don’t know!” he chokes out. “When he heard the raid had failed, he got into his car and disappeared. He’s probably in one of his safe houses.”
“Figures.” I will never understand how a coward like Fitzgerald ended up as the head of a major criminal organization. The Irish were probably in disarray when the Bratva killed off most of their leaders four years ago, and he took an open opportunity to rise fast within their ranks. “Do you know the locations of the safe houses?”
“No. Patrick never shared those with me.”
“Too bad.” I look up at Pasquale. Another gunshot pierces the air. Deegan twitches once, then slumps forward, blood pooling from the fresh hole in the side of his head.
“What should we do with the staff, Boss?” Nino asks.
“I’ll leave it to you to decide. If you think any might talk, dispose of them.” I stand up. “Tell Alessandro to burn down the house. I don’t want any evidence we were here.”
It was by accident that I found out about Alessandro Zanetti’s skills with fire. I sent him to dispose of some competition a while back, assuming he would shoot them. Instead, he tied them up inside an abandoned shack and set the thing on fire. It burned down so thoroughly and so fast the bodies couldn’t be identified.
I’m halfway to my car, with Nino at my side, when the sound of gunfire rips through the air. It’s coming from the direction of the garage to our left. Nino takes out his gun and runs toward one of our soldiers, who is already returning fire by the overhead door. It looks like some of Fitzgerald’s men decided to hide in the vehicles. Nino slips inside while I take my gun out of the holster and head to the other side of the building’s door to cover him.
A man, gun in hand, rushes out of the garage and turns to aim at one of my men changing his magazine next to the door. I send a bullet flying. The Irishman falls, blood oozing from his neck. There’s another body sprawled on the ground a few yards back.
Inside the garage bay, Nino is crouching behind a vehicle, trying to neutralize the last two shooters, who are raining bullets in his direction from behind another car. I fire a few bullets in their direction, but they both duck. Nino straightens and runs toward the other car while one of our soldiers and I cover for him. He kills one of the foes immediately, but the last one launches toward the exit, shooting randomly. Bullets tear into him from all directions, and he falls to his knees, then topples over.
I throw my gun on the ground and take off my jacket, pressing it over the bleeding wound on my left side.

Milene

I check the time on my phone. Half past two in the morning. Where is Salvatore? He told me he needed to take care of something. That was hours ago. I open the call log and swipe over his name again. He didn’t answer on the last two calls. That never happens. I half expect this one to go unanswered, too, but a sigh of relief escapes my lips when I hear his voice on the other end.
“Tore? Is everything okay?”
“Yes,” he says in a clipped tone.
“Where are you? Has something happened?”
“No. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” He cuts the call.
I grip the phone tighter as my hand shakes for a moment. Taking a deep breath, I open the contact list, find Nino’s number, and hit the green call button.
“Mrs. Ajello?”
“Where is he?” I bark into the phone.
“Who?”
“Don’t fuck with me, Nino. Where is Salvatore, and what happened?”
A short silence falls across the line before he answers. “We’re downstairs.”
“In the office?”
“No. The infirmary.”
“Why? Did someone get shot?”
“Yes.”
“Jesus! Who is it this time? Why didn’t anyone call me, damn it?” I spin around and head toward the front door. “I’m coming down.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Mrs. Ajello. Boss said he doesn’t want you here.”
I still as I’m about to turn the handle. “Why the fuck not?”
“Because it’s him who got shot.”
“What?”
“The doc is digging out the bullet.
The phone falls from my hand, and I run out of the penthouse. I don’t wait for the elevator. Dashing, instead, down the stairwell, I run across the hallway toward Stefano at the entrance to the infirmary. When he sees me coming, he blocks the way and raises his hand as if to stop me.
“Mrs. Ajello, Boss said I can’t let anyone in.”
“Fucking, move!” I swat his hand to the side, grab for the door, and get inside, only to stop dead at the threshold.
Salvatore is sitting on one of the gurneys. Ilaria is next to him, sewing up a wound in his side. A bunch of bloody gauzes are scattered on the floor around her feet. I suck in a breath, and upon exhaling, something like a whimper leaves my mouth. Salvatore looks up at me and lets out a curse.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” I yell, brushing the tears from my face and marching toward him. “Can’t someone else get shot for a change? Or is that your exclusive right?”
“Milene, calm down,” he says as Ilaria ties the last stitch.
“Don’t you dare tell me to calm down, you reckless, negligent idiot.” I grab at his shoulders and continue shouting, paying no heed to Ilaria and Nino, both of whom are standing to my left and staring at me with shocked expressions on their faces. “I’m done counting the gunshot wounds on your body! Do you understand?”
“Milene—”
“This is the last one!” I bark into his face, then burst out crying. “Promise me!”
“It was probably a ricochet. It barely went in.”
“I don’t give a fuck if it’s a bloody paintball capsule, Salvatore!” I sniff and grit my teeth. “Next time you get shot, I leave.”
His left hand grabs me at the back of my neck, and he stares at me with his nostrils flaring. “You will never say that again, do you hear me, Milene?”
“I. Will. Leave.” The words tumble out as tears continue to roll down my cheeks. I reach for him, pull his face to mine, and slam my lips to his. “Damn it, Tore.”
Someone clears their throat, and I turn my head to find Ilaria standing next to me, one hand on her hip and the other holding a roll of bandages. “If you two are done, I’d like to proceed,” she says, then looks at Salvatore. “And I’d like to join the ‘last time’ club for good measure. I’m done patching you up. Next time, find someone else. Milene, he’ll have to take antibiotics for the next ten days, can you check whether we have any in the locker?”
“No.” Salvatore grabs me by the waistband of my shorts, keeping me in place. “Nino, go check the locker.”
Nino nods and goes to rummage through the drawers while Ilaria bandages Salvatore’s wound. I caught a glimpse of it before she started, and it didn’t appear too bad. Still, I can’t make myself stop shaking. When Nino told me Salvatore had been shot, the worst of all scenarios flashed before my eyes. Even seeing he’s okay does little to quell the feeling of dread.
“I’m going to get you a shirt,” I say and turn toward the elevator, but Salvatore’s hold on my shorts tightens.
“Nino, have someone go upstairs and get me a shirt.”
Nino throws Ilaria the box of antibiotics and takes out his phone.
“I could have gotten your shirt,” I say.
Salvatore presses his lips together, then bends to whisper in my ear. “You said you were going to leave me. Until I manage to forget that, Milene, I’m not letting you out of my reach.
“No physical activity for at least a month, Salvatore.” Ilaria states.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” He gets down slowly off the gurney. “It will heal in a few days.”
“Oh, for all that’s holy.” She shakes her head and turns to me. “Please try to reason with him.”
Stefano rushes inside, carrying a white dress shirt in his hand, and offers it to Salvatore. Reluctantly, my husband finally releases his hold on me. He puts the shirt on, but when he tries to fasten the buttons, I move his hands away and take over.
“There’s no reasoning with him, Ilaria. He’s as stubborn as a mule,” I mumble as I move down through the buttons.
Only when I’m on the last one do I become aware of an eerie silence in the room. Nino and Stefano are frozen in place a few feet away, their eyes glued to my hands and the front of Salvatore’s shirt. On my other side, Ilaria’s clutching the box of antibiotics, staring at my hands in a similar fashion. I run my finger down the row of buttons on Salvatore’s shirt, wondering whether I’ve accidentally skipped a hole. I haven’t. Shaking my head, I finish the last one.
A kiss lands on my forehead. “Let’s go upstairs.”
“Sure.” I nod and turn to Ilaria. “Would you like to come?”
She doesn’t reply right away. She seems too preoccupied with my hand clasped in Salvatore’s, our fingers entwined. “No . . . I have some things to do.” She looks at me, then quickly turns and heads toward a chair to take her coat and purse. Things to do at three in the morning?
“I’ll call you tomorrow. Don’t tear your stitches,” she throws the words over her shoulder, and then she’s gone. I’m not exactly sure, but I think I saw tears in her eyes before she hightailed it out of the infirmary and into the elevator, the doors of which promptly closed.
When we get to the penthouse, I head toward the kitchen. “Do you want something to eat?” I ask.
“Yes.”
“Okay, I’ll check if Ada left anything in the fridge. Do you want something in particular?”
“Yes.” Salvatore pulls on my hand and turns me toward him. “You. Get on the counter.”
I raise my eyebrows.
He takes a step toward me. “Now, Milene.”
When I don’t make a move, he takes another step forward, forcing me two steps back. And another. My back makes contact with the cabinet.
“Up.”
I grab the edge of the countertop and hoist myself up to sit.
“You’ll tear your stitches,” I say.
“I won’t. Stand up.”
Wondering what he has in mind, I do as he says, watching him all the while through narrowed eyes. He takes a step closer, places his hands on the counter, one on either side of my feet, and looks up at me.
“Take off your shorts and panties.”
He can’t be serious.
As I look on, Salvatore grips my ankles and leans forward.
“Now,” he says and bites at the denim covering my pussy.
My hands are shaking slightly as I unbutton my shorts in haste and kick them off, along with my panties. The moment I straighten back up, Salvatore buries his face between my legs. I expected him to start slow. I was wrong. He sucks on my clit with such vigor, I scream and thread my hands in his hair, squeezing at the dark strands as he licks and laps with his tongue. His right hand moves upward along my inner thigh, higher and higher.
“Stitches,” I rasp, then whimper when his tongue licks at my folds again.
“They’re on my left side,” he says as he slides his finger inside me.
My eyes roll back into my head, and my legs shake. Another finger enters me. I gasp and reach to grab the shelf on my right. Salvatore keeps licking at my pussy while his fingers move inside me, stretching my walls, once again, sending me into a state of total bliss.
“Dear God,” I moan and throw back my head. When I feel the slightest of bites against my clit, I come so suddenly, I almost fall off the damn countertop.
“Your legs are shaking,” Salvatore says and slowly slides out his fingers.
It’s not just my legs. My fucking brain is shaking along with the rest of my body. I let go of the shelf I’ve been clutching and lower myself down to sit on the counter.
“We could have both ended up on the floor,” I say when I manage to catch my breath. “You’re insane.”
He cocks his head to the side and places his palms on my cheeks, watching me with hooded eyes. “I thought I was ‘dear,’” he says, “and ‘god.’”
I snort in exasperation. “And humble, too.” Then, I shake my head and press my mouth to his, tasting myself on him.
“No, not really.” His hands squeeze a little. “And I would never let you fall, Milene.”
“I know,” I whisper.

Salvatore

Milene is standing in front of the medicine locker on the other side of the room, going through the contents, and making notes on a pad of paper. Probably doing inventory. It takes great willpower to remain seated instead of going to her and bringing her back with me, so she’s by my side.
“You let her button up your shirt,” Ilaria says while changing my bandage.
“I did,” I say.
Ilaria stays silent for a few moments, fumbling with the bandage, but I know she won’t let the subject slide.
“Was it a one-time thing? You didn’t want to distress her even more yesterday?” she asks, her tone a forced kind of casual.
“No. She’s been doing it for quite some time.”
My mother’s hands go still momentarily while dressing the wound. She looks up, an expression of shock written across her face as our gazes connect. With two unusable fingers and nerve damage to the other three, doing things that require finesse has been a problem of mine for years. A weak spot. Letting someone button up a shirt for me is something I would never have allowed. Especially in front of witnesses. And she knows it.
Ilaria’s eyes travel down, stopping on my left hand, which is gripping the edge of the gurney. She reaches out and brushes the back of my hand with the tips of her fingers.
“I forgot how bad it was,” she says.
I attempt to straighten the fingers but can’t. I went through six rounds of surgery on that hand alone. And still, it wasn’t enough. My nerves are too damaged. I hate it. Just looking at the scars, and remembering what they represent, makes me want to kill someone. I never tolerate weaknesses in others, but especially in myself.
There is a question in Ilaria’s eyes as she waits for me to respond.
“I want to feel her skin when I touch her,” I answer. “And I can’t do that if I’m wearing a glove.”
She watches me for a few moments, then whispers, “Are you in love with her, Salvatore?”
For that question, I don’t have an answer. Yet, I can’t keep my attention away from the other side of the room where Milene is still studying the medical supplies intently. She’s wearing jeans and an awful yellow T-shirt I can’t stand. Her hair is gathered into a bun at the top of her head and secured with two pencils.
“I have no idea, Ilaria,” I say. “You know I’m not good with emotional shit.”
“I do know.”
I’m getting up from the gurney, intending to leave, when Ilaria speaks again.
“What would you do if someone hurt her, Salvatore?”
I turn my head rapidly to face her, pinning her with my stare. She takes a step back, but I know it was unconsciously done. Everyone does it. Except Milene. She usually juts her chin up. Or smirks.
“If even a seed of an idea of hurting my wife formed in anyone’s head, I would smash said head open with my bare hands like it’s a fucking watermelon,” I spit out. “Next, I would take out their sick brain and squeeze it so hard the only thing left would be mush.”
My mother smiles and heads toward the medicine locker, humming to herself.

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