Unraveled: Chapter 15

ALEXIUS

I’m not sure if it’s hysteria or just a giant motherfucking “ah-ha” moment when I burst out laughing.

“Of course, it’s our dear Uncle Roberto. My God, how did I miss that?”

“My dad’s been upping his game,” Rome says as he strolls into my office. Just like the rest of us, except for Isaia and Maximo, Rome always looks immaculate in well-tailored suits, Italian leather shoes, and the cut of his dress shirt fitting his physique. The stock market has treated him well. “He’s cashing in every favor owed to him,” he continues. “Blackmailing every sorry son of a bitch he has dirt on so he can fuck you over.”

“I didn’t even know his reach went that far. The legal system? Judges?” I lift a brow. “I hate to say it, but I’m impressed.”

“I told you not to underestimate my old man. He’s a different kind of beast when cornered.” Rome pours himself some whiskey, sits next to me, and takes a sip from his glass, closing his eyes as he appreciates the smooth taste.

He straightens his blue tie down his chest. “The fact that he reached out to me and groveled, begging me to come back home after I’ve caused him nothing but embarrassment, proves just how desperate he is.”

“Desperate has been your father’s middle name for years.”

“Can someone please tell me what the fuck is going on here?” Nicoli’s face twists in confusion as he studies both me and Rome. “You two hate each other, or am I missing something?”

Rome and I glance at one another before I look back at my brother. “Turns out our cousin here isn’t the enemy but rather an ally.”

“So, you two have been, what? Docking dicks this entire time?”

Maximo stifles a laugh while I merely glare at my twin, deciding it’s safer not to provoke him into saying more stupid shit. “When he gatecrashed our meeting wanting to claim his father’s spot in the Dark Sovereign, I was just as surprised as you.”

“Your surprised faces had to be real,” Rome chimes in. “I couldn’t risk coming to you beforehand. As I said, my dad is desperate and like a fucking Rottweiler, smelling bullshit a mile away.”

“So…what?” Nicoli pulls up his shoulders. “You and my brother sat down with some tea and macaroons afterward, scheming?”

“Well, not tea,” Rome replies flatly, and Nicoli shoots him an unamused look.

“Listen,” I move to the edge of the couch, “Rome approached me and told me that his father asked him to come back and join the family business.”

Our family business,” Nicoli sneers. “He’s not getting Isaia’s spot.”

“I don’t want Isaia’s spot,” Rome interjects. “Do you really think I came back because I suddenly want to be a part of all this shit after I left to be fucking free of it all?”

“You’re a Savelli,” Nicoli barks. “Who knows with you lot?”

“Need I remind you that your mother is a Savelli, too?”

“Need I remind you that I have a loaded gun and an itchy finger?”

“Oh, you mean this finger?” Rome flips him off, and Nicoli bares his teeth. “I can assure you, I don’t want any part in Dark Sovereign business, and I have no desire to sit at that goddamn table.”

“Then why did you come back? Why go through all this trouble to pretend to fall for your father’s bullshit, only to tell Alexius about it?”

“I’m trying to do the right thing.”

Nicoli stretches his arm along the back of the couch. “Yeah, and what’s that?”

“If you remember correctly, I was there on your father’s birthday seventeen years ago, listening to my dad speak about how he plans to take out your entire fucking bloodline. That was when I decided I’d break free from this goddamn family the first opportunity I got.”

“Pussy,” Nicoli mutters.

“Family is supposed to protect each other, not kill each other.”

“Yeah, well, we’re special,” Nicoli says while lighting another cigarette. “And you’re still a pussy.”

“Call me whatever the fuck you want—”

“Cuntface.”

“Nicoli,” I warn, and he snarls in my direction. “Every question you’re asking now, I’ve already asked. Every doubt you have, I’ve had it threefold. So far, the only thing our cousin has done to piss me off is talk to my wife.”

Rome grins. “It’s so easy to get under your skin.”

“Touch my wife, and you lose your spleen. As easy as that.”

“Is that what you tried to do to Isaia? Tried to pull out his spleen through his face?” Rome grins, and Nicoli snorts.

“How about we just keep my wife out of this, shall we?”

“Yeah. I’m rather fond of my spleen, thank you.” Nicoli leans his head back, opening his mouth and letting the smoke trickle out, spreading like tendrils, drifting upward, weakening into faint wisps.

“I’m afraid we can’t do that.” Rome’s face tightens, and the atmosphere in the room turns as heavy as the frown Maximo’s had on his face for the last fifteen minutes. “It’s why I came over here. There’s been some new developments. Or rather, my dad seems to want to up his game.”

“He wants to get my wife’s psychotic pervert dad out of prison. How in the name of fuck does he want to top that?”

Rome slams back the rest of his drink and places his glass down, the sound rocking through the sudden silence. I don’t like the sudden shift in him. My skin prickles with an awareness, a warning that has me wary, knowing I’m not going to like a single word that comes out of his mouth next.

“What is it, Rome?”

He shifts in his seat, not looking in my direction like he’s uncomfortable. Good. He might be my cousin and on our side…for now. But I’m still the fucking king who demands respect and the tyrant who ruins those who don’t show it.

Rome taps his finger on the armrest. “You’re having a daughter.”

A chill surges through me and settles deep. “How the fuck do you know that?”

“It seems my dad’s reach doesn’t stop at your gates, I’m afraid.”

My mind goes nuclear. It’s a goddamn atomic blast that bursts through my insides, and I leap to my feet. “What the fuck are you saying?”

Maximo is next to me in a nanosecond, glaring down at Rome, ready to choke answers out of him. “Speak.”

Rome stands to face us, moving the sides of his jacket back and sliding his hands into his pants pockets. “Someone in your house is feeding my dad information, and he just got a call about you and Leandra having a little girl.”

“Someone who?” I demand.

“I don’t know. I didn’t even know he had someone on his payroll.”

“Then find out!” Maximo is barely able to restrain the anger tightening the tendons and thickening the veins in his neck. “You better give me a goddamn name, Rome.”

“I said, I don’t know.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to start killing everyone in this goddamn house!”

“Enough!” I snap. “We’ll figure out who it is, Maximo. But right now, I want to know what my uncle intends to do with the information.” I turn to face Rome. “If it were simple as having a mole inside my house, you would have told me this over the phone. But you wanted to see me in person, which leads me to believe there’s more.”

“There is.” He draws in a breath, and I know I’m about to lose my shit. “My dad knows where to aim so it hits the hardest. He knows the only way to get to you is through your wife.”

I ball my fists.

“The plan is to get Leandra’s dad out of prison and shove him back into her life to stir shit. Federico is already going around prison telling everyone and their mother that his son-in-law is Alexius Del Rossa. Now, imagine the kind of influence that gives him.”

“You’re not telling me anything I don’t know yet.”

“I know I’ve said this to you before, but my dad’s hate for you has consumed him. Especially after he got that anonymous letter confirming what he suspected, that you killed Jimmy.”

“I didn’t kill Jimmy,” I lie with the straightest fucking face ever.

Rome’s forehead creases as he scowls at me with a silent we-all-know-you-did-it look. I lift my chin and stare him down. No one intimidates me. I’ll never confess. My brothers will never tell. When we vow to take something to the grave, that’s exactly where it goes, no matter what.

“Your father has always been jealous because he wants to own the Dark Sovereign.”

“That’s where it all started,” Rome says, his voice steady and controlled. “For years, he had to watch you be groomed for the position he covets more than anything. Then it was your stunt with the recording—”

“Stunt?” I shoot him an incredulous look. “You say that like I wronged him in some way when he was the fucker who planned on killing us all.”

“That’s not what I’m saying. But my dad saw it as a pissing contest, one he lost.”

“It’s not my brother’s fault your dad has peanut-sized balls.” Nicoli slaps his hand on the leather armrest. “It is what it is. No use in starting a war about it.”

“This war started years ago,” I say.

Rome nods. “You made it clear you plan to get rid of him.”

“Because he doesn’t deserve to be a part of the Dark Sovereign legacy.” I can’t stop the malice that pours from my lips. My hate for him seeps from my soul, and I know that I will never be rid of it…not until I plow his corpse into the fucking ground.

“I get that. Believe me, no one is more aware of my dad’s faults than I am. But did you honestly think he’d just sit back and let you kick him out? That he would pack his bags and leave with his tail between his legs? No. Of course, he’s going to retaliate, fight for what he’s always felt is his.”

“But it is not his!” I shout, maddened by Roberto’s nerve to think he can challenge me. “The Dark Sovereign is not his, and it will never be. Not as long as I breathe.”

“Believe me, he’s well aware of that.”

“If he plans on killing me,” I spread my arms, pushing out my chest, “then let him come. Let him give it his best fucking shot. I have all the motivation in the world to drive a stake through his heart before he can even touch me. But let’s say by some miracle he accomplishes this impossible endeavor by taking my life. I am not afraid to die. And I have three brothers who will continue this war without me.”

“He knows that, too,” Rome says, deadpan. “Which is why he plans on killing you…without taking your life.”

“Killing you without taking your life?” Nicoli grimaces. “A riddle. Seriously? So, you’re not just a pussy. You’re a nerd, too.”

Rome glares at Nicoli, then looks at me, pulling a hand through his hair. “There’s only one thing worse than death for a man with a family, and that’s losing his loved ones and being forced to live without them.”

Ice fills my gut. A red haze explodes in my vision, and my anger is a roar that rips the air from my lungs, blood rushing to my head. Outside, there’s a storm approaching, and the rumbling thunder is an echo of the madness that slams against my chest. I grab Rome by the collar, jerking him close so he can feel the fire on my breath. “If you, anyone, harms a single hair on her head, I will wipe out every last Savelli, no matter how far down the bloodline they are.”

“Hey,” Rome grabs my wrists, “I’m not the enemy here, remember?”

“How long have you known about this?”

He jerks free, nostrils flaring and dark eyes glaring. “We were discussing his new plans when he got the call about you having a daughter.”

“What plans?” I growl.

Rome wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, his cautioned gaze cutting to mine. “His plan to use her father to get close to her.”

“How the fuck would he do that? Except that there’s not a chance in hell I’d let that sick fuck near her, she wouldn’t want anything to do with him.”

“She won’t have a choice,” he snaps. “The plan is to have Federico blackmail her, get her alone with him, away from you so they—”

“Can kidnap her. Hold her for ransom until all his demands have been met.” Nicoli finishes the sentence as he stands, buttoning his suit jacket. “Your dad sure as fuck lacks some originality. That’s the oldest trick in the book.”

“Not kidnap her, no.” Rome’s eyes turn dark. “Kill her.”

If I were a bomb, this would be the moment I’d explode, tear people’s limbs from their bodies and have their intestines cover the walls. “Hell would freeze over before I let anything happen to her.”

“I have a suggestion,” Rome says, and I can hardly contain my anger long enough to listen, my fists clenching and unclenching, my blood a vicious swoosh of venom.

“What is it?” Maximo asks.

“Her father.”

“What about him?” I snap.

“Stop trying to put a stop to his parole.”

“Not a chance.”

“You’re only delaying the inevitable,” he says in earnest. “Federico will be free sooner or later. My dad will make sure of it.”

I lose my tie and pull it from around my neck while I pace. “If you think I’m just going to sit here and do nothing so that sick fucker can walk the streets and sink his claws back into my wife, you’re as dumb as you are ugly.”

“What I’m saying is,” Rome starts, “if we focus our attention on the details of his parole instead of trying to stop it, we can get the upper hand.”

“How so?” Nicoli lights another cigarette, the coal turning into burning embers as he drags it in deep.

Rome looks my way, and I’m pretty sure he can feel the ripples of my displease and rage. “The way I see it, Federico Dinali can’t do much harm if we get to him before my dad does.”

“Man’s got a point,” Nicoli says. “With Dinali out of the picture, it’s one less fucker to worry about.”

I look at Maximo at the same time he looks in my direction. The knowing look he gives me tells me where he stands, what his opinion is of Rome’s idea. It’s a stupid fucking idea, but it’s the best one we’ve got right now.

I grab my phone off the desk and dial a number, my nostrils flaring as I glare at Rome who seems confident in this plan of his. “Pull back,” I say into the receiver. “Call it off. Let the parole happen, but I want to know every last detail, from his last meal served in prison, the last shit he takes in that place, right down to the second he walks out,” I bark at my lawyer. “I want to know everything.”

I hang up, my pulse racing, and warning stabbing a thousand blades in my skull. “This plan better fucking work.”

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