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The Sweetest Oblivion: Chapter 5

Elena

“There are three sides to every story. Mine, yours and the truth.”

—Joe Massino


I PADDED DOWN THE CARPETED hall to the distant beat of the Misfits leaking from under my sister’s door. As soon as I entered my room, I left a trail of clothes to the bathroom. Bypassing the mirror, I turned the shower on hot and climbed in.

It burned.

Something had to wash this memory away. Today took me back to six months ago. It was the last day I’d had someone else’s blood splattered against my face.

The hot water spilled from the faucet, matting my hair to my face and shoulders. I imagined it was paint—the red running down my body and swirling into the drain. If only guilt was so easy to get rid of.

I closed my eyes.

Shouting. Cold barrel against my temple. One second, two seconds. Hesitation—

Bang.

My eyes flew open.

That gunshot hadn’t been in my mind.

The back of my neck prickled. Hopefully it was only Tony shooting another one of Nonna’s vases. But until now, I hadn’t thought of the consequences Tony might face after the trouble he caused . . .

I hopped out of the shower and dried off as fast as I could. Leaving my hair wet and uncombed, I threw on a t-shirt and shorts before running down the stairs. The marble floor was cold against my feet as I took the turn toward my papà’s office, and once again, I collided with something solid.

A lungful of air escaped me. I’d been going so fast I would have fallen to my butt on the floor, but an arm wrapped around my waist as I teetered backward and steadied me. It was an incredibly warm and heavy arm.

“Jesus,” Nicolas muttered with annoyance.

My stomach tightened as it pressed against his. The contact made me tingle everywhere, but I didn’t have time to analyze the feeling more. I was spun out of his way and left to watch Nicolas’s back as he continued down the hall.

His underboss’s cold indifference touched me as he passed, and I was suddenly and surprisingly glad I’d run into Nicolas instead.

A burning sensation remained around my waist, and my heartbeat fluttered from the impact and the worry creeping in. “Did you kill my brother?”

“Should have,” was all Nicolas said before the front door shut behind the two men.

I inhaled in relief, but it was short-lived when Tony left my papà’s office and swayed down the hall like he was drunk. He was bare-chested and his dress shirt was wrapped around his hand. Blood dripped bright red to the marble floors.

My brother was tall, slightly brawny, and covered in scars. From the two bullet wounds to an innumerable amount of others that I could only guess the cause. Probably from the illegal fights I knew he participated in.

Tony didn’t say a word as he passed, but I followed him into the kitchen. With the swinging door pressed against my back, I watched him grab a bottle of whiskey from the cupboard and struggle to open it with one hand. He eventually managed by holding it against his chest and twisting. He took a long pull before sitting at the island. “Go away, Elena.”

“You need to see Vito.” He was the vicar at church, but also had medical experience to patch up wounds. It was the Lord’s work, after all.

“I’m fine.” He took another pull on the bottle, spilling some down his bare chest.

He wasn’t fine. He was smearing blood across the countertop. And he’d appeared drunk before he started drinking like someone had just broken his heart.

“I’ll call Vito.” I went for the cordless phone near the fridge.

Tony glanced at me with a remorseful expression. “I’m sorry, Elena. Didn’t know it’d go that way. Honest.”

My heart squeezed. “I forgive you.”

He laughed weakly. “You shouldn’t.”

Tony usually had a smug look on his face, but when he smiled—a real smile—it drifted away and he became pretty charming. This was the brother I loved, even if I didn’t get to see him often. Sometimes it felt like you needed to be the worst you could be to survive in this world.

I didn’t know why he’d killed whoever Piero was, but I would pretend it was self-defense. Tony had been thrown into this life as a young man, and while my chains were tight, so were his in a sense.

“Can’t help it,” I replied.

He shook his head when I began dialing. “Don’t call Vito. I’m fine.”

“You’re not fine. Tony, you really don’t look so good.” His tanned complexion was sweaty and pale.

“I’m fine, Elena.”

I sighed. It was just like Papà to leave Tony bleeding without calling for help. I hung the phone back on the hook because my brother had said it in that voice. Even if Vito came, Tony wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Too stubborn.

I crossed my arms and leaned against the counter with my hair still dripping water to the floor. “Why don’t you like Nicolas?”

He snorted and took another drink. “Lots of reasons.”

“Well, what’s the number one?”

“He fucked my girlfriend.”

My eyes widened. “Jenny?”

Another pull.

“Did she tell you?” I asked.

He shook his head. “He sent me a picture.”

Ouch.

“Are you sure it was her?”

“Butterfly. Lower back.”

“Oh . . . well, that was rude of him.”

Honestly, it was hard to feel sorry for Tony. He’d cheated on Jenny with that servant Gabriella and I wouldn’t doubt others. I didn’t take Nicolas as a man to sleep with other men’s girlfriends for the hell of it, though, and I had a feeling . . . “What did you do to him?”

A not-so-nice smile tugged at Tony’s lips.

And there it was. There were always two sides to every story.

He took another pull, and with a frown I watched the blood drip down the side of the island and collect into a small pool. Drinking was only going to make him bleed more. I pushed off the counter and pulled the bottle straight from his lips. Whiskey splashed down his chin and chest.

His eyes narrowed, but his next words were slurred. “Jesus, Elena.” He looked wasted, or really close to passing out.

I unwound the shirt from his hand and recoiled. “Oh my god! You have to go to the hospital, Tony!”

A bullet-shaped hole went straight through his hand like the barrel had been placed directly to it. I covered my mouth, the urge to gag rising in my throat. As I backed up to find Benito, Tony passed out. He fell sideways out of his chair, leaving a smear of red across the counter, and landed with a heavy thunk on the kitchen floor.

Crap, crap, crap.

“Benito!” I yelled.

“Why are you shouting?” Adriana asked as she breezed into the kitchen in galaxy leggings and a sports bra.

“Your fiancé shot Tony!”

“Dead?” She raised a brow, focused on picking the best apple out of the bowl on the counter.

“Where’s Mamma?” I asked.

She shrugged, peeling the sticker off a green apple.

I sighed. Fine. If they want to play this game . . . I nudged open the swinging door and shouted into the hallway, “I’m calling 911!”

On cue, Benito, Dominic, and my papà pushed their way into the kitchen.

Papà narrowed his eyes on me, but then noticed his only son lying on his back in a lot of red. He spoke quietly to Benito—he always spoke quietly unless he was mad—and then my cousins hauled Tony up, one under his arms and one by his ankles, and carried him out of the kitchen.

“Not Vito,” I told my papà. “The hospital.”

“Yeah, yeah, Elena. They’re taking him,” he said dismissively, his gaze coasting over the blood on the floor.

I eyed him, wondering if he was telling me the truth. My papà never took any of us to the hospital without a fight.

He glanced at me, noting my suspicious gaze. “It’s just as good as a hospital,” he snapped.

Ugh. I had no idea where they were taking my brother. Most likely a doctor Papà had on his payroll.

“Hey, has anyone seen my drawing pencils?” Adriana interrupted.


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