Authors: Vanessa Waltz
Tags: #mafia romance, #Contemporary Fiction, #vanessa waltz, #alpha male romance, #Contemporary Romance
The breath catches in my chest as the air suddenly turns ice-cold. The phone almost slips from my hand.
“That sounds like a trap.”
Are you worried about that guy? Vince and I have no love for the Lucchesi outfit, you know that.
“All the same, I wasn’t born yesterday.”
This is always how it is. How many times have I watched him trick guys into meeting with him?
If he wants me, he’ll get me. There’s no hiding from Giacomo Vittorio.
Joe, stop being an idiot. We
re meeting them on our turf, and I need you there to help me calm Vincent. You know how he is.
Briefly, an image of Vince hurling a beer bottle in my living room flashes through my mind. “Yeah, I do.”
Meet me at the deli.
* * *
It’s a breezy night and the sand under my feet reminds me of running on the beach with Marisa on Coney Island. My heart flutters at the memory, filling me with painful regret. My hand keeps patting my gun as I walk down with the others.
Nicky walks behind me, his little sour face twisted into a smile I’ve never been able to trust. We’re meeting Carmine’s crew under Brooklyn Bridge. Vincent and the others walk ahead of me, talking. The diseased water laps gently on the ruined shore. I step aside and stop walking.
I can’t fucking take this anymore.
My limbs shake as Nicky stops beside me with raised eyebrows.
“Walk ahead of me.”
He somehow takes it as an insult. He always takes everything badly. “What the fuck is your problem?”
Vince twists his head around and gives me a brilliant smile. “He thinks he’s here to get clipped. Not today, Joey.” Then he laughs as if he said something hilarious and continues down.
Not fucking funny.
“This is no place for a sit-down. It’s more of a place to lure someone so that they can get fucking killed.”
To my surprise, Nicky’s face cracks with a smile. “Oh, so you care about dying now? I told you all you needed was to get laid.” He slaps my arm affectionately, and I absorb the blow stiffly.
The short man walks ahead of me and I allow myself to exhale a little. It’s hard. My lungs feel like boulders. I walk down the shore and turn around to see Jack, Vince, and Nicky surrounding a man I recognize as Jamie Tucci. A man with the reputation of a snake. He wears a neat pinstripe suit, his gray hair delicately swept back. His long face stretches into a taut leer when he sees me.
“Ah, Mr. DiFiore. You wouldn’t happen to know where my associate is, would you?”
My face is a mask of cool when I walk between Jack and Vince, shrugging my shoulders. “Who?”
His face tightens. “Frank Costa. My enforcer. He went to Worlds Casino to collect a payment, and never came back.”
I bristle under the heat of his gaze. This guy has the fucking balls to get angry at me, when that moron shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Beside me, I feel Vince’s heat. He was never good at controlling his anger, and it’s close to boiling over. I’m not surprised to see a look of deep loathing on his face.
“You’ll never see him again. I had my associates chop him up.”
Jamie hisses through his teeth, an inhuman sound that reminds me of a serpent. “Well, that’s unfortunate because he
a made man. Carmine will want justice, of course.”
His eyes narrow over mine, and I stare right back.
Go ahead, asshole. Try it.
“Listen, asshole. The less you mention Carmine, the better this will go.”
He merely looks at Jack, adopting an oily tone as he watches both of them. “We know all about the hit you ordered on Carmine. It’s not going to happen. He has a lot of allies in the joint and people fear him after what he did to the Rizzos. No one’s going to fuck with him.”
The man beside me steps forward violently, but I grab one of his arms and yank him back. Nicky shoves Vince’s chest and forces him backwards, but his face is red with rage. “I don’t see Carmine anywhere. What the fuck is stopping anyone from gunning you down
Jack continues in a louder voice. “Let me make this clear. The purpose of this sit-down was to give you a warning. Frank’s death will be the first of many, unless you back off. I have
you to exist because I was hoping for better leadership than Tony Rizzo or Carmine Lucchesi, and I’m not yet convinced by some of the other outfits in Jersey, but if this disrespectful behavior continues, we will hunt you down
He steps back and raises his hands.
“Jack, we meant no disrespect, but we had an arrangement with Mr. Toffoli before he passed, and the girl has missed several payments. It’s unacceptable.”
I wondered when her name would crop up. Jamie’s face is filled with carefully restrained rage.
“You’ll take the ten grand we got from the girl, and that’s it.”
The smirk is back on his face. “All I can do is deliver the message.”
The meeting over, I breathe a sigh of relief as they turn around and we walk back to our cars. I got a slimy feeling from that Jamie Tucci. I doubt he’ll hold up his end of the bargain, particularly where I’m concerned.
caused a lot of problems for us,” Vince snarls at me as if it’s my fault.
The insult worms its way under my skin. I know that his rage isn’t directed towards me, but I still feel nettled. She doesn’t deserve this bullshit.
“It’s not her fault that her old man made a bunch of bad decisions.”
“She’s just as much to blame. If we would have known this earlier—”
“What?” I snap. “What would have been different?”
His head turns around at my tone and I get up in his face, heart pounding in my chest. The guys around us exclaim excitedly.
For a moment, he looks like he wants to knee me in the balls, but the tense moment breaks and he lets out a little laugh. He backs up, leaning against his arms on the roof of his car as he gives me that sarcastic grin that I can’t fucking stand.
“Jesus Christ. You’re falling for this girl, aren’t you?”
A sudden sensation runs through me like missing a stair on a staircase. “I’m not falling for her, but she’s my
so shut the fuck up.”
Nicky and the others laugh their asses off, the sound making the hair on my arms singe. Vince’s long legs shift as he sits up slightly, crossing his arms, a glare forming over his face.
My raised voice attracts Jack’s attention, who looks at us curiously. “What’s going on?”
Vince opens his stupid fucking mouth before I can. “Joey here is in love with that Toffoli broad.”
Jack raises his eyebrows at me and I roll my eyes, pretending to be annoyed rather than filled with violent rage. Laughter shakes from Vince’s broad chest, his dark hair falling into his eyes. “Look at how angry he is,” he tells Jack.
Red rage flashes over my vision. His laughing, sneering face seems to echo around me, and suddenly my hands are wrapped around his throat and I’m slamming his head into his car hood. He shoves me off his chest, screaming, and my fist smashes against the side of his face and his jaw whips to the side. At least three guys slam into my chest, pulling me back before I can get another shot at him. Vince steps back, momentarily dazed. He touches his face and looks shocked to see blood shining on his fingers.
Jack shoves my chest. “Who the fuck do you think you are? What’s wrong with you?”
I lunge for Vince again, who looks at me as if he’s never seen me before. I can’t explain the violent tornado of emotions inside my chest.
of being disrespected by you!”
He sneers at that, wiping the line of blood at the edge of his mouth. “Respect is for those who deserve it, not for those who demand it.”
Nicky hisses in my ear. “Watch your fucking mouth!”
“All this for that fucking whore?”
Vince was always an asshole, but he’s never been nasty to me. Everyone’s shouts rise to the stars as
falls from his lips. It’s not just an insult against her, it’s one against me. I don’t fuck whores. Never have, never will.
Piece of shit.
The thin band of restraint snaps inside me. I wrench my arms out of Nicky’s grasp and tackle Vince. His back slams into the concrete and I slam my fists into his face, crunching against bone and muscle. He snarls at me and his head launches forward. He strikes the bridge of my nose, which sears with pain. I grab it and he shoves me over. A ruthless kick to my side sends a deep pain through my body, the sharpness of his shoe jutting into my skin.
“Stop it! Vince—
Only the boss’ voice reins him in. His feet scrape the pavement as he moves away from my body.
No one laughs when I drag myself to my feet, glaring at Vince with a corrosive hatred so strong I can almost smell it. Jack’s whitened face blocks Vincent’s from mine. He clasps my shoulder and shakes it slightly. “Joey, what the hell’s gotten into you? The girl is none of your concern—”
, Goddamn it.”
I just snapped at the boss. Fuck’s sake, do I want a death wish?
Jack’s fingers painfully grip the back of my neck and shove me towards my car. “Go home and sleep this off.”
Vince’s high voice stabs the back of my head. “You better watch your fucking back!”
What the fuck have I just done?
* * *
Once I’ve sent Ben home, I find Marisa on my bed, sitting on the comforter. She hugs her knees and turns her head slowly to look at me standing in the doorway.
“Well, you look like shit. What happened?”
“Got into a fight, that’s all.”
I can’t see her face in the darkness, but I imagine a smirk spreading over her pointed face when I hear her snort.
My insides crawl. I just need to get out of this place, to get what Vince said out of my mind. “Let’s go out.”
“Go out? Where?”
“I don’t care. I just need to feel normal for one fucking night.”
Her legs slide off the bed as she gracefully sweeps up to her feet. “Me too.”
It takes her about a half hour to get ready, even when she’s hogging up the whole bathroom. I peek at her reflection as she applies mascara or whatever the fuck it is.
“You don’t need all that shit, for chrissakes.”
She looks up at me from the mirror, halfway through powdering her face with a giant brush. “Yeah, I do.”
“Oh, so now you’re going to argue with me?” I slide up behind her so that I can run my hands over her perfect ass. The black skinny jeans she wears don’t leave much to the imagination. My head bends around her neck. “Have you forgotten? I’m the boss.”
Her breath catches in her chest when I squeeze her ass. I kiss her flawless neck, fighting the urge to leave a huge hickey for everyone to see.
She turns around, hands lightly touching my face. Her lips touch the places where Vince punched me.
“It’s not as bad as it looks.”
“Well, I suppose you’re the expert.”
We leave the apartment on foot, and Marisa stops for a moment to appreciate the fresh air. I just needed to get out tonight. To think.
My feet pound the pavement next to Marisa’s, and I think about how I used to walk just like this for so many nights after my sister was killed, my eyes raw and my lungs burning. Just restlessly searching for my little sister. In a big city like this, anything was possible, right?
Now I feel just as lost. My position in the family is probably more uncertain than ever. My right hand still throbs from beating down Vince.
Fucking asshole had it coming for a long time.
Still, he’s the underboss.
Marisa takes my hand and a bit of warmth enters my chest from the small gesture. God, this almost feels normal. It’s as though she’s really my girlfriend, and I’m just taking her out. We walk to one of my favorite bars and I hold the door open for her, grinning. She half-heartedly returns my smile.
Her eyes are still fractured with the pain from my rejection. How can I tell her that it was a lie? That she makes me happier than I dared thought possible?
It’s a bar completely covered with wood—with oak barrels cut out as makeshift seats. Candles hang in tiny holes in the walls, on the tables, soft golden light making everyone look just a little bit more beautiful. Marisa orders one of their cocktails and I get a scotch, and then we sit together, tucked away in the corner like a couple.
She smiles to herself. “You know what we look like?”
“Like we got into a physical fight, and I won.”
I snort into my drink, scotch dripping down my face. My hand is swollen and my face hurts like a bitch. She’s probably right.
“Imagine that—you winning a fist fight.”
Her small shoulders lift in a shrug. “You’re really not going to tell me what happened?”
The amber liquid burns down my throat, warming my face when I desperately want it to cool. “I got into a bad fight. I hit someone I really shouldn’t have.”
Her tall pink drink pauses near her lips. “Why?”
“If I told you it was because I was defending your honor, would you believe me?”
She gives me an unhappy look, as though I made a poor joke. Ironic, really.
“Who did you hit?”
My jaw tenses. “Vince.”
.” Marisa takes another measured sip and looks away from my face. “I hate him.”
“Yeah, he can be a dick.” I set my drink down, studying the grain of wood through the glass. “But he has a lot of power over me, and he has the boss’ ear.”
“So? What can he do?”
What couldn’t he do? “He could send some guys to beat the shit out of me, teach me a lesson. Mock execution. He’s been known to do those. He might demand for a bigger cut.”
She stares at me, open-mouthed. “You people are a bunch of savages. Although, I don’t know why I’m surprised.”
I blink at her and throw up my hands. “What? Things are settled pretty violently, but it’s effective.”