Read End Game Online

Authors: Vanessa Waltz

Tags: #mafia romance, #Contemporary Fiction, #vanessa waltz, #alpha male romance, #Contemporary Romance

End Game (4 page)

BOOK: End Game
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I’m horrified by her tone. “
Jessica
.”

“What?”

Nathan’s hot gaze glances over the paper to look at me. It’s terrifying. Ugliness twists his face as he glares at me in disgust.

“What did you do to him?” he snarls.


Nothing
,” I say vehemently, appalled by the look on his face. “I had no idea about this. I always thought that you would be the one to inherit his company.
Everyone
did.”

But Nathan doesn’t believe me. The will crumples in his fist. “Did you go behind my back? What the fuck is this, Marisa?”

“L—listen. Why don’t we all settle down and I can read the letter. Maybe it can help shed some light—”

Somewhere behind my shock I feel a ripple of anger. So I would’ve had to con Dad into changing his mind? I’m not good enough to lead the company?

“I didn’t go behind your back. I would not do that!”

Our heads snap towards Mr. Pierce as he begins to talk. “Dear Nathaniel, Jessica, and Marisa. I know that my decision might come as a bit of a shock, but it has come to my attention within the last few years that Marisa possesses all the qualities that the company needs in a leader: fairness, decisiveness, integrity, experience, and compassion. She has proved her dedication to our family’s legacy. She is not only a natural leader, but also a great manager.

“To Nathaniel, I know this must be extremely disappointing, but please keep in mind that this was an excruciating decision I had to make, and it was a decision I made with great care. You’re a very bright, passionate young man, but I think that you lack the ability to develop close relationships with others. I worry that I’ve failed you, because you seem to lack the interpersonal warmth that I expect from my leaders. Coworkers have reported to me that you tend to be cold, and the person who leads this company cannot be cold. Your strengths lie in your ability to execute complex tasks, and I just believe that Marisa would be better suited in a managerial position—”

“That is such bullshit!” He stands up and pounds the desk in front of him with his fist.

Holy crap.

My heart pounds in my throat. It wasn’t pleasant to see Nathan’s reaction as Mr. Pierce read Dad’s words, but at the same time I feel a small thrill of triumph. Dad saw through Nathan after all. He saw behind the pomp and the nice face and saw the ugliness inside.

“Nathan, calm down.”

He whirls on me, lashing out like a maniac. “Don’t you fucking dare. I know you had something to do with this.”

How the fuck can he think like that?

His lips shake as he points an accusing finger at me, his hair trembling around his face.

“You’re out of your damn mind.”

“Who taught you everything about the business? Who set you up with your first clients? I’ve been in this for at least two years longer than you. How the fuck could he pick you over me?”

Red-faced and angry, I search inside myself. Did I ever really expect Dad to hand the company over to me? No, but now that I think about it, maybe I do deserve it. I’m just as capable as he is, and Dad knew it.

Jessica looks at both of us with a wide grin, clearly enjoying the fight.

“This—this is really out of hand. Your father had his reasons—”

“Bullshit!”

Mr. Pierce almost drops his glasses. “Young man, there’s really no need for cursing in this office.”

“I don’t care!” He turns back towards me, his eyes blazing. “You better watch your fucking back. Every wrong move you make, I’ll be watching. I’m still a member of the board.”

The knife in my chest twists. He looks scary. I’ve never seen him so enraged. It reminds me when he was a child and how he would scream and punch and hurt until he got his way. “Nathan, come on!”

He doesn’t wait for another second. Nathan storms out of the office, leaving behind Jess, me, and the stuttering Mr. Pierce.

“Dear me,” he says, clutching his chest.

“Fuck.”

Thanks a lot, Dad.

 

JOE

 

Depression is like disappearing.

Most nights I don’t get much sleep, and when I do my dreams are violent and disturbing. During the day, I walk around in a zombie-like stupor. I’m numb and my eyes burn. Things that used to get my rocks off, made me smile, whatever—they all crumble in my mouth like ash. Tasteless. Odorless. I alternate between pacing restlessly and sitting in front of my TV in a silent torpor. Rage boils in my insides, making me sick, making everyone around me sick, too.

All my friends distanced themselves from me because I changed. I changed so much that I hardly recognize the man in the mirror. The sad, miserable sack of a man I’ve become, whose eyes are gouged with deep lines and who hasn’t shaved in a week. Or maybe it’s the man reflected in old photos. I just loathe him. That smiling fuckwit never knew how good he had it. What a fucking moron.

Commercial.

Commercial.

Another commercial.

FX. Starz.

Back to the beginning.

My thumb clicks on the arrow compulsively as I scroll through the channels. My vision blurs because I’ve been staring at the screen for so goddamn long. It’s incredibly bright and it burns my eyes. I can’t see shit, but I still keep clicking as if I’m searching for something.

I want something to fill this
fucking
emptiness.

Giving up, I turn the TV off and the pleasant hum of the screen disappears. The hollow feeling in my chest opens wider and I look around my shitty apartment. So many ways to kill yourself: the Draino under the sink, just waiting to burn through your insides, the kitchen knife grinning on the counter, and the piece strapped to my leg. Sometimes, I lie in bed and try to will my heart to stop beating.

The temptation flies away when I think about my ma’s anguished face when Janice died. She couldn’t take it if I died, too.

I stand up and pace around the coffee table, passing by photo frames I’ve turned around so that I don’t have to see her face. My stomach gnaws, and I’m dimly aware that I haven’t eaten anything all day. I stumble into the kitchen and rip open the fridge. Nothing but condiments and beer. No matter.

Nothing really matters.

In the bathroom, I look at my miserable face and a sudden wave of self-loathing consumes me. That hollow man staring at me isn’t me. He’s a shell of who I used to be. The bathroom fills with the sound of buzzing as I grasp the electric razor and shave myself, attempting to change my appearance so that maybe a sliver of the old me will shine through the mess.

Still the same.

My eyes burn when I think about what I’ve lost, and I strip off my boxers as the pressure in my head builds.

God fucking damn it. It was that girl at the funeral the other day. She wore that little black dress, wearing that slightly shocked expression, as if she didn’t understand how exactly she got there. God, I know that feeling.

It brought back all the memories from my sister’s funeral. All the pain rushed right back to my heart, squeezing me. A few days and I’m at rock bottom. Again.

I rip open the shower door so violently that it rattles, and then yank on the knob as I collapse on the wall in front of me. Cold water sprays over my bare back and my muscles tighten. My eyes squeeze shut.

I see bright, white tiles and Janice’s body lying on the floor, her dark hair spilled around her hair like blood.

No.

My eyes open into the spray, my teeth clenched together as I fight the memory away, but it plays in front of my eyes anyway. It’s as if my brain wants to torture me.

I was at my
comare

s
when my ma called me. I still remember how she wrapped an arm around my waist, her lips trailing my neck when I got the call. Everything was fine. I was a
capo,
a captain in the Vittorio family, and I had a real piece of ass for a girlfriend and a
comare
on the side. I dreamed about this since I was a kid. The world was mine. I was finally making really good money, and people on the street knew who I was. There were millions of girls in New York, and I could have my pick of any of them. Life was good.

“Joseph, you’ve got to come to the hospital.”

My back straightened on the bed, and I pushed the girl away from me. “Ma? What’s wrong?”

She was crying. “It’s your sister.”

She didn’t need to say anything more. I assumed it wasn’t too bad. Janice was a little reckless, sometimes. Sorta like me. I sprung off the bed and grabbed my clothes. My
comare
sulked on the bed as I pulled my clothes on.

“All you ever want to do is fuck,” she said in a low voice.

“Isn’t that the point of having a
comare
?”

I was an asshole with girls.

“How about I tell your girlfriend about us?”

I gave her a deadly look.

“My sister’s in the hospital, you sick cunt. There
is
no us.”

And I never saw her again.

Mom was waiting for me inside the ICU. I started to feel very uneasy. The people in the rooms looked in very bad shape. I walked closer and passed the window. My breath caught in my throat. I remember the moment. The precise moment when it all fell apart—it was when I took the handle of the door to my sister’s room. After that, I changed forever.

She was flat on the hospital bed, comatose. My ma was bent over her, crying.

“She was shot. Your sister was shot.”

Shot? How was it possible? I was the one in the life. I was the one who had a need to pack heat, not her.

I didn’t understand.

Then the details filtered in. She was at a convenience store, which was robbed. The gunman panicked and shot at the store after he left, hitting Janice in the chest. The paramedics told me that she asked for me, in the few precious minutes that she was still alive.

And then she was not.

The next week was a haze—a bunch of guys, patting my back as they moved down the coffin and a shitload of food delivered to my ma’s house that we didn’t touch because we had no appetite.

It wasn’t
fair
. She didn’t deserve to die. I did. I’m the asshole who cheated on his girlfriend, who has committed every kind of violent crime. Why my sister?

My fist smashes into the shower wall as a strangled yell leaves my throat. Again and again I pound the wall, until my hand hurts so badly that it distracts me from the pain I’m always carrying around. Like a chronic illness that always burns inside you, the pain never quite disappearing, just fading to a dull ache.

The one who deserves it is still breathing, but he’s unreachable. I would have killed the man who did it, but unfortunately the cops got him first. He’s serving a life sentence.

I could get his brother.

Fuck it. I can’t stand this anymore. I’ll have my revenge and if Jack has a fucking problem with that, he can kill me.

So be it. I don’t give a fuck anymore.

I slam the knob in and it cuts off the spray. Acid runs through my veins as I grab the hanging towel and pat myself down quickly before throwing it into the hamper with all my strength.

I’ll get rid of that fucker, and no one’s going to stop me.

There’s hardly any clean clothes left in my bedroom. I’m supposed to meet Jack later, so I take the remaining suit left in the closet and pull it on. I reach underneath my pillow and grab the revolver. The metal feels hot to the touch and it blazes up my arm, almost as if it’s an extension of my hand. Then I tuck it in my waist and shrug on the jacket.

For the first time in months, I feel something other than numb disbelief and crushing despair.

What should I do with his body?

I can figure that out later.

* * *

The inside of my car is hot, or at least I imagine that it is. My temper keeps my chest burning and it radiates outward, until the whole car feels like an oven. I glance inside the darkened windows of the restaurant and hold my gun in my lap, running my fingers over the sharp edges. I can’t catch a glimpse of him yet. It’s only three, but he should be inside, prepping for the night shift.

A shadowed form moves inside the restaurant and I make my decision, signing on the dotted line.

I’m condemned. Going to Hell. Whatever, I’ve known that for a long time.

I open the door and leave the car, not even bothering to hide the gun in my hand. Why should I hide it?

“Joe.”

A small voice I recognize makes me turn my head. Nicky Santoro stands ten feet away, his short figure rigid with shock. How the fuck did he find me here? The muscles in my face harden as Nicky walks closer to me. I have good reason to hate this guy. He took my position when Vince decided I didn’t have the chops to be
capo
anymore.

“You shouldn’t be here, man. You’re supposed to be meeting with Jack.” His voice becomes taut as his eyes look me up and down. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“What’s it look like? I’m going to kill the bastard’s brother.”

“In broad fucking daylight? Are you out of your mind?”

Yes, and I don

t care.

Nicky walks closer to me, unperturbed by the gun clenched in my hand. “Put it away before someone sees us.”

Fuck.

“Do not fucking stop me, Nick. I need this.”

I hate the way his eyes wrinkle as he looks at me.

I don

t need your fucking pity.

“It’s the least you can do after taking my fucking job.”

“Put the gun away,” he hisses. “Have you lost your mind? Jack told you not to—her death was all over the news. You’ve already beaten the shit out of the guy—”

I got him after he left the restaurant and he didn’t even fight back when I beat his fucking face in. I beat him so badly that I sprained my wrist, and even then Vince had to subdue me to stop me from killing the guy.

“It wasn’t enough,” I say in a raw voice. “His brother gets to get up in the morning and do whatever the fuck he wants, but Janice can’t do anything ever again. He killed my sister, and I’ll kill his brother.”

BOOK: End Game
7.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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