Unraveled: Chapter 22

ALEXIUS

“They’re safe,” Maximo confirms as he comes toward me. “They’re at—”

“Don’t tell me.” I stop him. “No one can know where they are except you.”

He nods, and I place a hand on his shoulder.

“I’ve never thought of you as anything other than a brother. You and Mirabella are as much a part of this family as the rest of us. Your loyalty has not gone unnoticed.”

“My loyalty is out of love and respect for this family.”

Your family,” I urge, squeezing his shoulder. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re blood, and nothing will change that. But I need you to promise me that whatever goes down tonight, Leandra’s and Mira’s safety come first. If a decision needs to be made, you choose them above all else. Even me.”

“It’s not gonna come to that. I won’t let it.”

“Just,” I sigh, “promise me you’ll protect them. Protect my children. If anything has to happen—”

He cuts me off, slapping his hand on my shoulder and gripping it tightly, looking me straight in the eye, his voice low as he says, “I promise, Alexius. I will protect them.”

“Thank you,” I breathe out, and Maximo’s phone chimes with a message.

He pulls it out and slides his finger across the screen before cutting his gaze to mine. “They’re here.”

“Good. Let’s get this over with.” I unlock the doors to the Dark Sovereign room, sliding them into pocket walls. Every time I walk in here, I’m hit with nostalgia, the smell of fresh, polished furniture reminding me of my father and how I sat beside him, taking in every word, every decision with the hope that I’d one day be able to make him proud as head of this family. But the more I walk in his shoes, the more I realize I won’t ever be able to fill his shoes. I’ll never be Vincenzo Del Rossa. But I am his son, and I will be the best leader I know how to be without sacrificing the happiness of those I love.

Nicoli, Caelian, and Isaia walk in behind me. Nicoli’s usual smirk is absent, replaced with sharp edges and hard lines. Caelian has a cigarette dangling from his mouth and a fervent gleam in his eyes as if excited about shit finally hitting the fan. Isaia glances my way as he slips in behind Nicoli, and I notice the reluctance in his eyes. I know what he’s thinking. “Isaia,” I call. “You do not stand at the back. You’re also a part of this family, so take your place next to Caelian.”

He hesitates but then moves in next to Caelian. No matter the differences between Isaia and myself, this feels right, having him here and including him. Hopefully, if tonight goes well, this is how it will be from now on.

“Security is escorting them in,” Maximo says, standing guard by the entry.

“Tell them to back down as soon as they enter the house.”

“What?” Maximo’s brows curve. “No.”

“Tell them to back down,” I repeat, lowering my voice. “We’re settling this like men tonight, and not a bunch of pussies hiding behind a wall of bulletproof-wearing security guys.”

“I think that’s the best pep-talk I’ve ever heard.” Nicoli grins, his energy contagious.

Nicoli exhales a plume of smoke. “Is it strange that I’m a little turned on right now from all this tension? My spine’s all tingly.”

“Just keep it in your pants. No one wants to see your ugly dick tonight,” Isaia says, lacking the grin to go with that dose of sarcasm.

I trace my finger along the gold DS engraved into my black tufted chair—my father’s chair—before taking a seat. If my father was here, what would he say? What would he want me to do? The Dark Sovereign started out as carved in five. Three Del Rossas. Two Savellis. An uneven number to ensure we never end in a deadlock. It was supposed to be the merging of two strong families, a joining that made us as powerful and influential as we are today. But my uncle’s greed fucked that up, creating a rift between us. If Roberto were to retain his place within the Dark Sovereign, it will only be a matter of time before he sells us out to the highest bidder and gathers more allies who will eventually support his cause of getting rid of every Del Rossa. That’s what he’s been trying to do for years. He doesn’t want five around this table. He wants one. Him.

Over my dead goddamn body.

Rome enters the room first, specks of snow glistening on his black trench coat. We greet each other with a curt nod and a knowing look. I glance at Maximo, a silent sign for him to do as we planned, and he stomps out just as Roberto walks in looking like the smug, fat bastard he is. Not even an Armani suit can make him look less repulsive.

“I see we’re all here.” He stops short, and his cruel gaze finds Isaia. “What are you doing here, if I may ask?”

“You may not,” I interject. “He’s my brother, so his place is here with the rest of us.”

“He has no place here. There are only five.”

“Then what the fuck are you doing here? You no longer have a place here since your son took yours.”

Roberto scoffs. “I’m merely here for support. Teaching my son the ins and outs, showing him the reins.”

Ricardo comes walking in, pale as a fucking ghost and eyes bewildered.

“Look who finally decided to show up,” I say, leaning back in my chair, glowering at the coward who hardly ever shows his face around here.

Nicoli snorts. “He’s never here because, just like the rest of us, he knows he doesn’t belong here, do you, Uncle?”

Ricardo barely makes eye contact with Nicoli, cautiously glancing at Roberto from under his dark brows.

“Fuck knows why someone would think you have something valuable to offer,” Nicoli continues. “You’re just here to fill a seat. But lucky for you, we have far better-suited candidates to take your place. So do us all a favor and fuck off.”

“Is that any way to speak to your uncle?” Roberto snaps, his eyes lit with disdain.

“No,” Nicoli says, stalking closer. “It’s the way to talk to a coward and his backstabbing, low-life piece of shit brother who has an ass for brains because everything that comes out of your mouth is complete and utter shit.”

I hear Caelian snort behind me, and I watch in silence as my twin brother and uncle keep their glares locked in a silent battle of power. It’s Roberto who looks away first. Of course, it is. We all know he doesn’t have the balls to take on any of us, especially not Nicoli.

“So,” Roberto turns to me, “where is your lovely wife this evening?”

“Vacation.”

“Oh, well, that’s too bad. I hoped to congratulate her on her father’s early parole.”

I bite the inside of my cheek, trying to keep my composure and not lose my shit so early in the conversation. “No need to congratulate her. You might want to pay your respects since he’s dead.” I shrug. “You know, from one piece of shit to another.”

His expression falters. “What do you mean he’s dead?”

“What I mean is I planted a bullet in his skull.”

“You killed your wife’s father? I have to say, Alexius, that’s cruel even for you.”

“Cut the bullshit. We all know you’re behind it. You arranged for Federico Dinali to be granted parole.”

“Why on Earth would I do that?”

I want to wipe that smug grin off his face. Patronizing fucker knows how to turn my blood to fire. “I know about your plan, Roberto.”

“What plan? Seriously, Alexius, you’re not making any sense.” He straightens his sleeves.

“The plan to have that perverted son of a bitch go around town telling everyone he has ties with the Del Rossa family. To have him get close to my wife, blackmail her, keep her in your sights until you’re ready to strike.”

Silence passes, and he doesn’t even fucking blink. My chest burns with cruelty aimed at my uncle, a savage need to cut his throat and watch him choke on his blood, a brutal desire to hear him scream from the pain caused by the tip of my blade grating down his spine.

“That’s preposterous,” he snarls. “This is exactly why you shouldn’t sit in that goddamn chair. You’re a conniving little shit who will conjure up lies so your actions are justified.”

I scoff. “I don’t need to justify anything. I have all I need to get rid of you. The recording of how you planned on killing my father. Your plan to kill my wife.”

“Kill your wife? That’s insane.” His fat fingers struggle to button his suit jacket. “How did you come up with these blatant lies?”

“A little birdie told me.”

“A what?”

I cut my gaze to Rome, who steps closer, his shoulders squared, nothing but pure resolve painted on his features. “I told him.”

Roberto’s eyes flash with shock, and I’m sure all the blood just drained from his body. A sheen of sweat beads along his eyebrows as he turns to look at Rome. “You?”

Oh, this is one substantial motherfucking biblical moment, watching the surprise on Roberto’s face as he stares at his son, the shadow of betrayal clouding his expression. “Is this your doing, son?”

Rome licks his lips, straightening as he pulls on the hardened demeanor of a son who carries the secrets of a boy who has been wronged by the man who’s supposed to protect him. “I can’t stand back and watch you ruin their lives as you’ve ruined mine.”

“What?” Roberto’s eyes flash with a scheming glint. “Jesus, son. What lies have you told them?”

“I told them the truth.”

Roberto shakes his head lightly, sucking his bottom lip into his disgusting mouth. “Then I guess you’ve told them about your problem?” he says with a smooth but fake tone of disappointment.

Rome narrows his eyes. “What problem?”

“It pains me to bring up this delicate matter, son, but I can’t have you go around slandering my name and making up stories.”

“Oh, believe me, no one can slander your shitty name as much as my brothers and me,” Nicoli remarks with a cocky grin.

Roberto shoots him a deadpan look, then returns his fake sympathetic stare at his son. “You’re a compulsive liar, Rome. And you have been since you were a little boy, always making up stories, trying to stir conflict.”

Rome starts to laugh, a cackle of mocking amusement. I remain silent as I watch the dominoes start to fall in place, and I’d be a liar if I said I’m not enjoying every goddamn moment of it.

“You really think they’ll believe you?” Rome asks, pointing at us while glaring at his father.

“It’s the truth.”

“You’ve burned this bridge, Dad. No one trusts you anymore because you’re a greedy, sick, two-timing asshole who doesn’t deserve a goddamn bowl to piss in.”

“Amen,” Nicoli chimes in. “I’m starting to like our cousin.”

Roberto stalks up to Rome, who is almost a foot taller than his old man. “You are a liar. And the truth is, you’re a fucking disappointment. I should have kill—”

“Since we’re on the topic of lies,” I cut him off, rounding my desk, wanting to be in my uncle’s face when I say this. “You were right, Uncle.”

“Right about what?”

“About Jimmy.” I shrug. “I did kill Jimmy. I shot him right after I cut his finger off.”

Roberto’s cheeks turn bright red, and his nostrils flare. “I knew it. I knew you killed Jimmy. You couldn’t stand him.”

“Because just like you, he was a low-life piece of shit who didn’t deserve to be a part of this family.”

“He was my son!” Spit flies from between his teeth. “You killed my son.”

“No. His arrogance is what killed him. And he was not your son. You have one son, and he’s standing right there.” I point at Rome, who now stands next to Nicoli. “He’s your blood, yet he can’t stand you either. For weeks he fooled you, pretending to be on your side and helping you keep a hold on the Dark Sovereign by taking your place. But he would rather betray you than be your fucking puppet. I’d say that makes you a real shitty father, don’t you agree?”

“Like your father was a goddamn saint,” he sneers. “As if you’ll do better. Oh, talking about fatherhood, I hear you’re having a little girl. Congratulations.” His lips curl at the edges in a malicious grin, his eyes almost vibrant with ill intent.

“About that.” I snap my fingers, and Maximo walks in with the traitor who has been feeding my uncle information, forcing his ass into a chair next to me. “I found your rat. You should really pick them better, Uncle. This one is as subtle as a heart attack, pretending to bring us a clean set of towels after my doctor almost trampled over him. Fucker was standing outside the door eavesdropping for twenty minutes and didn’t realize he was being recorded on a security camera.”

The vein in Roberto’s neck bulges, his lips pursed, and guilt creased along his forehead as he stares in shock at the fucker sobbing, tugging at his tied hands.

Nicoli hands me his knife, and I move to settle behind the rat who starts to piss himself, the rancid stench of urine and fear a sharp precursor of death. “When will you realize that you can’t outsmart us, Uncle? That, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t have what we Del Rossas have.” I let out a low snarl, reach over, and slice the blade clean through the rat’s throat. “Power,” I say without blinking, and the gargling sound of the fucker choking on his own blood is music to my ears. There is no mercy shown to traitors. Never.

“Jesus,” Roberto mutters, his eyes wide with shock. “You’re a fucking psychopath.”

“And you’re in over your head.” I wipe the bloody blade clean on my sleeves and start to circle Roberto like a predator in the mood to play with his prey. “First, you tried to take what’s not yours by plotting to have my father killed, then wiping out the Del Rossa bloodline by killing my brothers and me. Time after time, I sat in this room listening to you argue with my father about changing the rules, changing our legacy by getting more allies on board because you’re too greedy for your own good.” I scoff. “It’s funny, really, how a man who has no idea how to wield power wants more of it.”

Roberto stares at the dead rat, whose head hangs eerily to the side, blood still pouring from the wound onto my expensive goddamn carpet.

“You should have walked away when I gave you the chance, Roberto. You should have just cut your losses and disappeared. But no. You had to try to fuck with me by bringing Rome here to take your place so you could still have an influence on what happens around here.” I shrug. “But little did you know that Rome wasn’t eating the bullshit you were feeding him, and your entire plan to kill my wife got shot to shit.”

“You do not deserve to lead the Dark Sovereign,” he bites out, his jaw clenched and veins bulging at his temples. “You are nothing but a spoiled fucking brat who desperately sought his father’s approval. Even now, with your father dead and buried, you’re still so goddamn desperate to prove you have what it takes. It’s pathetic.”

I hand Nicoli’s knife back to him, and shift in behind my chair, tracing my fingers along the gold weaved letters. “What’s pathetic, dear uncle, is that even after almost twenty fucking years of plotting, you’re now farther from this seat than you’ve ever been. In fact, I’m going to make sure your name is erased from every document, every piece of paper, every article, every little fucking thing that ties you to the Dark Sovereign. You are a disgrace to this family. You are a sorry excuse for a man and father, and I will make it my life’s mission to ensure that I expunge you from this fucking world entirely, and it’ll be as if you never existed.”

Roberto’s lips twitch, his eyes dark with the kind of rage that turns men into irresponsible fuckers. Adrenaline floods my system, the back of my neck prickling with warning that shoots to every nerve. There’s a violent glint as we both draw our guns, aiming them at each other. My heart is pounding, and I hear my brothers draw their guns behind me.

I smirk. “This is where you realize that you’re truly and completely fucked.”

“I should have killed you in your sleep when you were a fucking baby.”

“Lucky for me, you didn’t have the balls. You still don’t.”

Sweat drips down Roberto’s face as he keeps his gun aimed at me, and the way his eyes turn void, he knows as well as I do that there’s no way he’s walking out of this alive.

“You know what?” Roberto’s top lip curls into a snarl. “I won’t kill you.”

“Smart move.”

“I’d rather die knowing you have to live with the reality that I killed someone you loved.”

My mind splinters. Horror slams into my chest, and air rushes from my lungs. I scream as Roberto moves his aim, the sharp crack of a gunshot crashing straight through my gut, ice shattering through my veins as I watch Nicoli stagger back, blood spreading like crimson tentacles seeping through his white shirt.

I’m still screaming, rage and shock pulsing, gripping every muscle, every molecule, every fucking thought as I spin around, aim at Roberto’s face and pull the trigger.

Every sound is muted, and Roberto falls back in slow motion, half his face gone. Everything goes blank, and I don’t know how I got there, but I’m on my knees next to my brother, my ears ringing, my heart pounding. My hands are on his chest, blood seeping through the creases of my fingers and coating my hands. I know I’m saying something. I’m telling him to hold on. Begging him to stay with me. Pleading for him not to fucking die. But I don’t hear a single word that comes out of my mouth.

The first thing I hear is the roar that ruptures from my chest, followed by the wail that destroys me from the inside out…and that’s when Nicoli closes his eyes.


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