For Eli … because you’re perfectly awesome. And you should know it.
Table of Contents
ily DeLuca felt like stone as she stared at the two-storey yellow home from where she sat across the road on the sidewalk. Immovable and cold. Someone must have resided in the house—new people—because it used to be a pale blue. A sidewalk of colorful stones now led up to the walkway of the front entrance as well.
Time changed everything.
Everything but Lily.
Well, she knew she was different, of course. Older. A woman now and not a child anymore. She knew homes didn’t keep dreams and love protected and safe within their four walls, but instead, only gave the semblance of those things. She was no longer naive and stupid to the things and people around her.
No one was deathless in their world.
Even the innocents couldn’t be saved.
Blowing out a puff of air, Lily tilted her head up again and blinked at the home. She swore she could still hear her older brothers’ encouragement and hollering as she finally learned to ride her bike without training wheels. At four-years-old, they got her stuck in a tree in the backyard the first time they taught her how to climb it. She kicked her oldest brother Dino in the balls just after her fifth birthday in the front driveway when he let her spider out of its jar.
Dino and Theo DeLuca always let her tag along back then. They never acted like she was some annoying little sister out to ruin their fun.
Lily glanced down the quiet street, wondering if anyone recognized her. Melrose Park had long been home to a large American Italian community as well as the Chicago Outfit. A lot of people in the area probably knew who she was, but if they didn’t, they would surely recognize her name.
Maybe she shouldn’t have come here at all.
“Miss,” the cab driver called, chomping loudly on his wad of gum. “You almost done or what?”
“Is the meter still running?” Lily asked back, not even bothering to look at the man parked beside where she sat.
“Is my credit card still good?”
Lily shrugged. “Then no, I’m not done.”
“Whatever, kid,” the guy muttered.
The cell phone in Lily’s pocket rang for the fifth time since she left Dino’s place a couple of hours earlier. Dino had gave the damn thing to her and took the one she had away, saying something about burner phones.
Lily figured that was just one more way for Dino to keep an eye on her.
She ignored the call.
The two-storey house, however, couldn’t be ignored at all.
An ache stabbed in Lily’s chest, spreading outward. It only continued to grow in intensity. The longer she stared and thought about the day her so-called family took away what that house was supposed to mean and murdered the dreams it held, the more she hurt.
Oh, she hurt all over.
“Time to stop running, Lily.”
The words Dino spoke to Lily when he ordered her to leave Europe and travel back to the States plagued her mind.
He was right.
Lily still wanted to. Coming back to Chicago felt like a death sentence.
What did this place want from her?
God knew she didn’t have much left to give.
She could finally start college, maybe, but she didn’t even know what she wanted to study. Her brothers owned a dozen and one different businesses around Chicago to keep her busy working, but how long would that keep her interested?
She couldn’t be
Lily DeLuca in Chicago, Illinois. She couldn’t be just anyone here. Not a tourist or a traveler, not a pretty face in a crowd of people. No, she was Lily fucking DeLuca; the daughter of a turncoat, dead father and mother; a sister to rival Capos in the Chicago Mob. And while she didn’t want to think about it, her age made her a prime target for the Outfit to look at her for other reasons, too.
Christ, she should have fought Dino harder.
How long would it take before the Outfit took something else away from Lily that she loved?
“What is this place, anyway?” the cab driver called out the driver’s window. “S’not anything special to look at, girl.”
To him, it wouldn’t be.
To Lily …
It didn’t even matter.
She pushed up from the sidewalk, brushing off the legs of her skinny jeans.
“Nothing,” Lily said. “It’s nothing.”
he weight of a debt could crush a man. It was one of those things a person knew always followed close behind. It never really left, even if it seemed like it was gone.
Damian Rossi lived for a decade waiting to finally pay for the debt he owed. Dino DeLuca never once mentioned when Damian would be required to step up and answer for the dues he owed, but it still hung there … waiting like the anvil ready to fall.
“Come on over. It’s time to talk about paying up, Damian.”
Eleven words had never felt quite as heavy as those did.
For Damian, life was dominated by the mafia. Or rather, The Chicago Outfit. Being only twenty-seven-years-old meant Damian answered to everyone else before he ever got to give himself what he wanted. It didn’t matter that he had finally received his button—his in to the family—a little over a year ago. Nobody cared that Damian was just as made as they were in the Outfit. No, because he was still a fucking young gun to them.
If an older Capo needed an extra pair of hands and called on him, Damian had to go. If the boss wanted something from him, regardless of how seemingly unimportant it was, Damian needed to find it. It didn’t matter if he was running on four hours of sleep in three days, Damian didn’t get to make his own choices when it came to the Outfit.
The Outfit made those goddamn choices for him.
Most times, Damian didn’t mind. He chose the life, and he was good at it. But he also didn’t know anything different. After his mother and father died in an automobile accident when he was five, the only thing he had left was the Outfit and the people inside who raised him when his drunk aunt and uncle couldn’t.
“You owe me, D.”
Debts never went away in the mafia. They could disappear for a short time but someone always came back to collect, eventually. Damian supposed it was just his time to pay up. He didn’t exactly like that Dino hadn’t given him much of a reason why now was the time or how he could pay it back, but it just was.
That was how it worked.
Dino DeLuca’s home rested on a large estate of thirty well-protected acres outside of the city limits. After he’d been let in through the gate and parked his car, Damian pulled out a cigarette and lit up. He still had twenty-minutes before he needed to meet the Capo, after all.