The fucking liftgate won’t close.
I pull it up again and move the fuel canisters to the side so I can rearrange the black body bag containing Felix’s present. One of his guys delivered it last week and helped me stash it in the fridge at the back of the storage unit. I have no use for it anymore, and we’ll have to make a pitstop somewhere out of the way where I can torch it.
I’ve already cleared out my apartment of everything that may connect my past to Rocco Pisano. When people realize Ravenna and I have left, and her husband turns up dead shortly after, I don’t want anyone drawing any ties between the two events. The chances of Cosa Nostra being able to track down the hitman Felix hired are slim to none, but I’m not leaving any loose ends.
The liftgate finally locks in place. I take another look around the empty storage unit to make sure I haven’t missed anything, then reach into my pocket and take out a deck of cards. The cards are wrapped in a rubber band, their edges yellow and frayed with age. It’s the same old deck my old man used to teach me to play poker and one of the few things I kept from my childhood. For some reason, I never could make myself throw these away.
The ring of my phone breaks the stillness of the night. I slip the cards back into my pocket and slide behind the wheel, taking the phone off the dash. The screen flashes with Ravenna’s name. She’s probably wondering what’s taking me so long. I can’t keep a smile off my lips as I picture her standing at the window, waiting for me, so my thumb is quick to hit call answer as I press the phone to my ear.
“He’s here,” Ravenna’s frantic whispering comes across the line.
My body stills, ice filling my veins.
The call disconnects.
“I’m coming, Ravi,” I say even though she can’t hear me, and peel out with my heart in my throat.
The storage unit is twenty minutes away from the Pisano mansion. I floor it, ignoring the needle as it rises to nearly 125 on a dial, and try to swallow the wave of panic swelling within me. The vehicles I pass end up being just a swipe of light—there one moment and gone the next. The closer I get, the stronger my fear becomes, as I imagine what that motherfucker could be doing to Ravenna. Knowing that the life of the woman I love depends on me keeping my cool is the only thing stopping me from losing my shit completely.
I pull up and park out of sight of the guardhouse. It’s likely that Rocco gave orders to stop me if the guards see me coming, and I can’t risk them alerting their boss about my arrival. I extract a set of throwing knives I keep hidden under the seat and get out of the car.
Scoping out the area, I spot one guard at the front of the gate, an M16 hanging across his back. The other one is inside the guardhouse, watching the monitors. I creep from tree to tree until I’m close enough to throw one of my knives. It sails into the gate guy’s neck, and the man falls to his knees. His buddy in the guardhouse leaps from his chair and springs outside. I launch two blades at him. The first ends up in his chest, and the other just below his Adam’s apple. Stopping only long enough to slice their necks and retrieve my knives, I double back to take care of the three guys positioned outside the perimeter wall. Keeping clear of cameras along the edge of the property, I pick Rocco’s guys off in quick succession by putting a bullet through each of their heads. The suppressor on my gun makes sure anyone in the mansion remains none the wiser.
The light in the entry hall is on, but no one seems to be around. I’m running to the stairs when a big crash echoes somewhere to my right. Changing direction, I race toward the east wing of the house and the cacophony of breaking glass.
“I can’t wait to get my hands on you, bitch!” Rocco’s yells are coming from the kitchen. “I’ll kill you with my bare hands!”
I rush inside.
Rocco is in the middle of the room, a gun in his left hand but at least he isn’t wielding it at the moment. All around him are shattered plates and glasses. Ravenna is at the kitchen counter, her back may be to the wall but she’s facing the bastard with a kitchen knife in her right hand and a wine glass in her left. Her hair is falling over her face in a tangled mess as she stares at Rocco with a mix of fear and determination in her eyes, ready to launch the stemware at him.
Pride blooms in my chest upon seeing her, so small and terrified, yet facing her abuser and ready to fight for herself. But I’m here now, and never again will she need to defend herself from anyone. Ravenna tilts her head up, her gaze meeting mine. Her hair slides off her face, revealing a huge red mark her left cheek.
I’ve heard the term blind rage several times, but I’ve never experienced it myself. Until this moment. It starts off as utter calmness but then fury and rancor explode like a supernova, filling every fiber of my being. I take a step forward, coming behind Rocco, and wrap my right arm around his neck while grabbing his left wrist with my free hand. My eyes lock on Ravenna’s as I squeeze Rocco’s limb with all my strength. The gun falls out of his hand as he thrashes within my hold, trying to free himself. I snake my other arm behind his neck, trapping his head in a rear naked choke. It’s a very effective tactical move that allows me to put pressure on both sides of his neck at the same time. I can feel his labored breaths as he fights for air, his face turning a disgusting shade of purple, but no sounds penetrate my ears. A few seconds more and he’s done.
Too easy. And way too fast.
For some reason, my mind goes to that old deck of cards in my pocket and my lips curve into a smile. I release my hold and let Rocco Pisano’s limp body drop to the floor.
The expression on Alessandro’s face, as he looks down at the unconscious Rocco on the floor, is really strange. He seems controlled, but the look in his eyes is simply feral. His eyes find mine, and the ferociousness within them dissipates, replaced with worry.
“Ravi baby?” He steps toward me, then stops. “Are you okay?”
“Yes,” I say. My voice trembles, and my legs are shaking, but that’s from the adrenaline.
Alessandro takes another step and crouches in front of me. “I’m not going to hurt you, Ravi.”
“Why would I think you’d hurt me?” I mumble in confusion. “And why are you crouching?”
“I’m trying to make myself less intimidating in your eyes, baby.”
“I find you equally intimidating when you stand and . . . like that. Which is not at all.”
A small smile pulls at his lips. “Would you mind dropping the knife if that’s the case?”
I glance down and realize I’m still gripping a steak knife in my outstretched hand. “Oh . . . sorry,” I choke out and lower my arm.
“Can I hug you? Please?” he asks as his eyes search mine.
His face is set in sharp lines, and his jaw is clenched tightly as if he’s trying to contain himself. I’m momentarily confused by the way he’s acting and his question, and then it dawns on me. He’s afraid I’m in shock and considering him a threat, too. Silly man. I toss the knife on the floor and place my hand on his cheek.
“Yes,” I say.
Alessandro leaps up, wrapping his arms around me, and lifts me.
“I’m sorry,” he says into my mouth while he crushes me to his body so hard, I can barely breathe. “I should have been here.”
“It’s okay. I got the chance to try out those moves you taught me,” I mumble and bite his lower lip.
“You won’t ever need to use those moves again as long as I live, Ravi. I swear on my life.” His mouth drifts along my chin to the bruise on the side of my cheek. “Are you packed?”
“I just need to finish something and we’re leaving. Okay?”
“Good.” He slowly lowers me to the ground, then bends and takes my face between his palms. “Wait here until I come back for you. Please.”
Alessandro drops another kiss on my lips, then heads to Rocco. He grabs my husband by the back of his suit jacket and drags him out of the kitchen. I wait by the counter for a few seconds, then dash after them.
I rush across the entry hall to the office and peek inside through the open door. Rocco is still unconscious as Alessandro puts him on one of the big baroque chairs by the wall, just under a huge oil painting. Rocco commissioned that piece shortly after our wedding. The composition is of a group of men seated at a cloth-covered table, playing cards on a pristine white surface. It reminds me of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper in some disturbing way.
Alessandro moves the coffee table in front of Rocco and grabs another chair from the corner of the room. He then sets it on the other side of the table, facing Rocco.
“Time to wake up, Pisano,” Alessandro says as he takes a seat and places his gun on the table surface.
Rocco’s eyes flutter open. For a moment, he just stares at Alessandro, then leaps up off the chair, his left hand reaching for the gun.
Alessandro is faster. He snatches the weapon and sends a bullet into Rocco’s thigh. “That will keep you sitting.”
Rocco falls back onto the chair, screaming at the top of his lungs. Alessandro ignores his wailing and puts the gun back on the table. Calmly, he reaches into his pocket and takes out a deck of cards.
“I’m going to fucking kill you, you piece of lying shit!” my husband roars between the sobs, spit flying in front of him. His face is red, either from rage or pain.
“I know you enjoy playing for high stakes,” Alessandro says as he shuffles the cards. “Since we don’t have pretty rocks on hand this time, we’ll play for something else. How about body parts?”
Rocco’s eyes flare. He leans back in the chair, staring at Alessandro, and the surprise on his face morphs into fear.
“Let me go,” Rocco blurts out. “Let me go, and I won’t tell Ajello anything. But if you do me harm, and the don finds out, you’re done, Zanetti.”
“I don’t give a fuck. You’ve dared to touch someone I love, so you’re going to pay for that, consequences be damned.”
I bite my lower lip. He decided to exact revenge after all. It’s probably why he asked me to stay in the kitchen. So I wouldn’t know.
“She’s my wife, you motherfucker!” Rocco snaps. He obviously concluded that Alessandro is talking about me and not his late wife.
“Your soon-to-be widow, you mean?” Alessandro cocks his head to the side and starts dealing the cards. “Yes. I’ve been in love with your future widow from the day I stepped into your home. Now, shut up and play. Or I may decide to fuck up your other hand and then you won’t be able to hold anything.”
I press my trembling hand over my lips. He’s doing this for me. The last of the doubts that were still in my heart fade away, and I let myself believe that the dreams I once had and thought were burned to ashes, will come true.
Tucking the sides of Alessandro’s suit jacket tightly around me, I sneak closer but hide from view behind one of the bookshelves. I wish I could run over there and kiss him, but I won’t dare distract him and risk Rocco getting the gun.
I thought poker could only be played with three or more people, but it seems I was wrong. Alessandro deals two cards for each of them, face down, then places three more on the table, face up.
“I fold,” Rocco sneers after he looks at his two cards.
“There is no folding in this game of mine, Pisano,” Alessandro replies as he places two more up-facing cards on the table. “We’ll also skip a step or two to save some time. Now, let’s see what we have.”
Rocco stares at the cards, then moves his gaze to the gun. I can see it in his eyes the moment he decides to reach for it. His body goes rigid as he leans slightly forward. I open my mouth to warn Alessandro, but there is no need. Alessandro’s hand shoots to the right, grabbing the weapon. A gunshot pierces the air the next moment.
My husband screams and presses his hand over his bleeding shoulder.
“Does it hurt?” Alessandro asks as he lowers the gun, but Rocco just keeps wailing.
“I asked, does. It. Hurt?” Alessandro leans over the table and clasps his fingers around Rocco’s bandaged hand.
The sound that leaves Rocco’s lips is more animalistic than human. “Yes!”
“I’m glad. Let’s continue.”
I stay hidden behind the bookshelf and watch as they play three more rounds. Each one concludes with a bullet to Rocco’s body. His right bicep. Left foot. The other thigh. The pool of blood spreads all around Rocco’s chair. He’s barely able to sit straight. Even his sobs have lost their ardent zeal, with only a whimper sounding every now and then. The time seems to stretch into an endless span, but it’s barely been five minutes.
Alessandro deals the cards again. Rocco sways in the chair and then falls forward, his head hitting the wooden surface of the table. Cards scatter around, hitting the floor one by one. Alessandro takes the gun and grabs Rocco by the hair, pulling his head up.
“Game over, motherfucker.” He fires the gun, the bullet striking its mark in the center of Rocco’s face.
Blood and brain matter spray out of the back, covering everything in a grisly mess.
Alessandro lets go of Rocco’s head, and it falls back down onto the wooden coffee table. The last card left on the table slips down and slowly flips in the air before it lands on the puddle of blood by Alessandro’s foot. The ace of hearts.
I leave my hiding spot behind the bookshelf and take a step into the room. Alessandro looks up, his body coming to an abrupt halt the moment he notices me. The front of his shirt is splattered with blood and there is some on his face and right hand, too.
“Jesus, Ravi. How long have you been standing there?”
“From the start.” I take another step forward, then run to him.
When I reach him, I jump into his arms, knowing without a doubt he will catch me. And he does. I wrap my arms around his head, fingers frantically skimming the short hair, and slam my mouth to his.
“I love you,” I whisper into his lips.
He squeezes me to his chest so tight, that I find it hard to breathe.
“I don’t think love is a strong enough term to describe what I feel for you, Ravi,” he says between the kisses. “I wish I could find the words to describe it. It’s like a beautiful flame engulfing my heart, which has transformed into full-blown burning madness. Everything else is insignificant to its light.”
“Then let’s burn together,” I utter and scrape my nails on the skin of his neck.
A low rumbling sound leaves Alessandro’s mouth as he carries me across the room and places me on the big desk in the center of the room. He strips his suit jacket from my shoulders, then proceeds with tearing off the rest of my clothes until I’m sitting on the desk completely naked.
“So beautiful.” He places his hand around my neck, stroking the skin there with his thumb, and I feel myself getting wet instantly. “And finally, only mine.”
He keeps his palm on my throat while his other hand travels down my front, the tip of his finger tracing a straight line down my chest and stomach, then slides it into my pussy. A gasp leaves my lips when he curls his finger inside me.
“How does it feel to be only mine, Ravenna?” he asks while the hold on my neck tightens slightly.
I take a deep breath and lean forward, marveling at the feel of his hand pressing into my neck. “Like I’m finally free.”
Alessandro’s dark-blue depths peek into mine as he removes his finger from my pussy and lifts his hand to his mouth. His gaze doesn’t waver as he licks my juices off his flesh.
“Each time I taste you, your nectar is sweeter,” he says, staring at me like a hungry beast preparing to pounce. “I’m finding it really hard to decide whether I want to have you with my cock first, or with my mouth.”
A shiver passes through my body. I place my hands on the collar of his bloody shirt and pull. The top two buttons fall to the floor while his hand again slips to my pussy, teasing at my entrance. I pull on his shirt again, ripping off another button, and revealing more of his inked chest. In response, the hold on my neck tightens just a fraction as the tip of his finger slides into me.
It’s strange to go so slowly when thus far, our every encounter has been an explosive burst. Still, I find myself enjoying the look of restraint on Alessandro’s face. I see the barely controlled frenzy in his eyes, and I know that he’s struggling not to impale me with his cock right away.
Another button falls, and his finger slides a bit deeper.
“You seem to enjoy torturing me, Ravi,” he rasps.
A small smile pulls at my lips. “I see you’re playing along.”
His finger slides in fully, making me gasp. My hands are trembling as I undo the last two buttons and move to the zipper on his pants.
“I need you to go faster, Ravi baby,” he says as he presses his thumb over my clit. “Or I’m going to lose it.”
“That’s something I would very much love to witness,” I say as I push his pants down his hips.
A growl leaves Alessandro’s lips. His finger vanishes from my pussy in an instant, and his hand releases my neck. I let out a frustrated cry, which quickly transforms into a squeal as he grabs around my waist and turns me around.
“Bend your legs, baby, and kneel on the desk,” he says while I dangle in the air.
I might be short, but I’m certainly not scrawny, and the way he’s holding me like I’m a doll makes me so wet, it’s embarrassing. But I nod and do as he says as he slowly lowers me to the desk’s top.
“Lean forward and widen your legs so I have a better view of that sweet pussy.”
I lower my chest and press my forehead to the wooden surface, an electric current running up my spine where Alessandro’s palm travels up my back.
“Look how well we fit,” he whispers as his hand comes around my neck. “Deep breath, Ravi.”
I grab the edge of the desk and inhale, and Alessandro slides inside. His cock fills me, stretching me almost to the point where I can’t take it anymore. My moans morph into screams of ecstasy when he starts slowly rocking his hips.
It’s blasphemy. I’m kneeling on my dead husband’s desk, getting beautifully fucked by the man who killed him. Only steps away from the still-warm body of our foe.
I don’t care. God help me, but I don’t care.
My body starts to shake, and I’m getting closer to the precipice each time Alessandro slams into me. The pressure builds under his steady rhythm until I feel myself becoming weightless and explode.
* * *
“The camera . . .” I say as Alessandro carries me toward the stairwell.
“Doesn’t matter. No one is left alive to watch the video feed.”
I tighten my arms around his neck and kiss him on his stubbled jaw. “So, what happened to the security guys at the guardhouse?”
He stops in the middle of the stairway and looks at me. “They posed a threat to you, so they have been neutralized. I won’t apologize for that.”
A man of few words indeed. With that declaration, he resumes climbing the stairs.
Once we reach my bedroom, Alessandro sets me down on the bed, then walks to the foot of it and kneels on the floor.
“What are you doing?” I blink at him in confusion.
“Downstairs, that was me losing control.” He wraps his hand around my ankle and lifts my foot to his mouth, placing a kiss on my sole. “Close your eyes, Ravi baby.”
I let my eyes flutter shut and concentrate on his lips trailing soft kisses up my lower leg.
“And what is this?” I whisper.
“This . . .” He moves to my other leg, kissing the arch of my foot there, too. “This is me worshipping you.”
Alessandro’s palms slowly glide up my legs, inch by inch, followed by his lips trailing small kisses along the path—one on my right leg then on the left, the pattern repeating. When he reaches my inner thighs, I feel the mattress dip as he climbs onto the bed.
“Keep your eyes closed,” he says in his rough voice, “and no peeking.”
A kiss lands on my lower belly while his palms stroke the inside of my thighs.
I bite my lower lip and fist the bed sheet with my fingers. His hands glide up toward my pussy, while his mouth moves down at the same time. Kiss and stroke. Kiss and stroke. I wonder what will reach my core first—his hands or his mouth, and the sweet anticipation is just heightening my arousal.
His lips press to my clit at the same instant as his fingers come to my entrance. “Deep breath,” he instructs.
I don’t even need to do it consciously because his mouth closes around my clit just as his finger enters me, and I gasp for air. Wetness seeps down between my butt cheeks as his warm tongue licks at my bud, his strokes hard but slow. His finger slides deeper, little by little. My already sensitive pussy aches with need, wanting more, but he is relentless. Such a sweet torture. Unhurried, methodical laps of his tongue, and then another finger plunges inside. My legs shake and my core clenches. I let go of the sheet and grab his hair instead, pulling his head more toward me.
Alessandro’s lips press to my clit, and he starts sucking on it. Shivers shoot up my spine, all the way to the base of my skull. I arch my back and moan as the pressure in my core builds.
“Please,” I pant. “I’ll go mad.”
“You won’t,” he mumbles into my pussy and resumes licking my clit, while his rough fingers slide in and out of me, sinking just a tiny bit deeper each time.
“Alessandro!” I yell, losing my composure.
He thrust his fingers in completely and sucks at my clit so hard that I burst into a million pieces the very next moment.
I’m still shaking from the aftershocks when he licks my pussy one last time and lifts his head.
“I’m not done, Ravi baby.”
“What?” I choke out.
Placing a quick kiss on my pussy, he stands up and starts removing his clothes.
“Did you think that my mouth would be enough?” he crawls over my body and places his elbows on each side of my head, dipping his head toward me and ensnaring me in his dark-blue pools. “I could never get enough of you.”
His gaze keeps mine as he slides his cock inside my molten core. I shudder.
“Sensitive?” he asks.
Wrapping his arm around me, he rolls us until I’m on top of him. I rotate my hips slowly, loving the way it feels to have him under me like this. His cock is huge, filling me to the brim, and each little move ignites every one of my nerve endings. I revel as his hand travels up my stomach and chest to wrap around my neck.
“I’m so sorry,” he says suddenly, his voice sounding broken.
Alessandro doesn’t reply, only watches me with a strange look in his eyes. I lean a bit forward, and Alessandro lifts and places his other hand on my cheek.
“I love you, Ravenna. More than anything or anyone else I’ve ever loved,” he whispers. “Please, remember that.”
I don’t understand why he sounds so . . . sad. Rocco is gone. We’re finally free.
“What’s going on?”
“Nothing, baby.” His lips curve up into a small smile. “I just wanted you to know. That’s all.”
I keep riding him, marveling at the feel of his body under mine, while he keeps staring at my face, that sad smile ghosting his lips the entire time.