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Mafia Darling: Chapter 30


Four and a half years later

The door knob rattled, followed by a thump. More rattling.

As Marco started to stand from his chair, I put my hand up. “Wait,” I mouthed and hid my smile.

A few seconds later my office door opened and the beautiful face of my two-year-old daughter, Noemi, appeared. She strode in like she was in charge. “Papà! Zio Marco! Mamma says it is time to come.”

I pushed back from the desk and patted to my lap. “Polpetta! I’ve been waiting for you. Come, give me hugs and kisses.”

“Ah, me first!” Marco scooped up my daughter before she could get to the desk and spun her around. She squealed with delight, her short blonde curls flying.

When he set her on her feet, she grinned and wobbled. “I’m dizzy.”

I gave her a second to get her bearings. “Now may I have my hugs and kisses?”

She ran right over and jumped on me, squirming onto my lap. Noemi was aggressive and energetic, just like her brother. And her mother, now that I thought about it.

Noemi stood on my thighs as her little arms wrapped around my neck. My heart turned over as she pressed her lips to my cheek. “There,” she announced. “Is that enough?”

“For now,” I told her. Then I held her hands and let her lean back, one of our favorite games.

“Are you working?” she asked.

“Yes, of course.”

“Mamma said it’s time to come.”

“All right, but only if you lead the way.”

Holding her hands, I stood and let her dangle before swinging her side to side. She begged me to do it again, but I set her down instead. “Later. Right now you have to help Marco and I find everyone.”

“Follow me!” She ran out of the room, expecting us to keep up with her.

“You are in for years of heartache with that one, cugino,” Marco said, chuckling as we walked into the corridor together. “She is going to give you gray hair.”

“I already have gray hair.” A tiny bit on my temples, something my wife liked very much.

“More gray hair, then.”

We headed toward the stables, Noemi charging along the path in front of us in the afternoon sun. Every now and again, she turned around to ensure we were following as she galloped along. Beside the paddock, a long table had been set up, colorful decorations along the fence and chair backs. A group of people stood by the table, but my eyes landed on my wife first.

Every time I saw her, it was like a punch to the gut. Dio santo, she was gorgeous, her blonde hair wild in the breeze, a long flowing dress on. I bet she smelled like my land and the March sunshine.

Terra e sole.

“Papà! Hurry,” Noemi called. “Cake!”

A little boy climbed the wooden fence, jumped off the top, and landed into a pile of hay. I sighed. “Raffaele!” I boomed when he emerged and began to scale the fence again. “Get down.”

He didn’t like hearing this one bit. “But Mamma said I could.”

“I did not,” Francesca told our son. “And you don’t get any presents if you lie on your birthday.”

I went over and kissed my wife first. “You look good enough to eat, monella.”

“Later. Right now, I need you to get your son under control so we can start.”

“Good, because I have a surprise for you after.”

Raffaele was a strong-willed child. Francesca often said I was the only one who could deal with him, especially when the boy was angry. All I did was talk softly but sternly, holding his eyes. It calmed him down every time.

By the time I reached the fence, my son was picking up dirt clods and throwing them as far as he could. He loved being outside every bit as much as my wife did. “Are you ready for cake?”

“What about presents?”

“The presents come after the cake.”

“But he’s not here yet.”

“He’s coming, don’t worry. But we should start.”

“No,” Raffaele said, throwing more dirt. “I want to wait.”

Dio, save me from four-year-olds. “Raffaele, get out of the dirt and come here. Now.”

He brushed his hands off and ran over, his little brow furrowed in unhappiness as he stared at me. I knelt so that I was at his level. “You have to listen to me. I’m your father.”

“Mamma says she’s the boss.”

Oh, she did? I tucked that information away for later.

“That’s true, so you must listen to both of us. He will understand if we start without—”

“There he is!” Raffaele scrambled through the fence and tore past the table, sprinting as fast as his little legs would carry him toward the path.

I rose and shoved my hands in my trouser pockets, trying to hide my pleasure. Part of me longed to run to see him, too.

Giulio grabbed Raffaele and tossed him in the air. “It’s the birthday signorino!”

I pressed my lips together, the tightness in my chest nearly unbearable. My first-born son hadn’t been here in seven months, but each time he returned almost had me in tears. I knew where he lived and what he was doing, because of course I did, but we never discussed it. He was happy, which was all that mattered. He visited the castello once or twice a year, and that had to be enough for me. His life was elsewhere now.

Francesca had been the one to convince me a short visit every now and again wouldn’t hurt. She said the other mafia men were too terrified of me to ever hurt Giulio. That was probably true, but I still worried. I didn’t want my choices to ever hurt my children.

Noemi dragged Francesca toward Giulio. My daughter didn’t know her half-brother as well as Raffaele did, so she could be a little shy around him. Giulio put Raffaele down and held out his arms for Noemi. She looked up at her mother, unsure. Francesca lifted Noemi and they hugged Giulio together.

Giulio was surrounded after that, first by Zia and then Marco. Benito and Nesto came over and shook Giulio’s hand, slapping my son on the back. Finally, he caught my eye and excused himself. I hadn’t moved, merely stood by the fence and watched all the people I treasured most in this world.

Raffaele tried to follow his older brother, but Francesca grabbed the boy and took him to see his cake. I was grateful, as I always liked a moment alone with Giulio. My son looked good. Strong, fit. The haunted expression he’d worn in those last few months here had disappeared completely.

“Ciao, Papà,” he said quietly.

“Figlio mio. You are looking well.” I kissed his cheeks and hugged him.

When I released him, he gestured to my temples. “More gray hair. Is it from Raffaele or Noemi?”

“Both, most likely.” I cupped his face in my hands. “Everything is well? You have enough money?”

“Papà,” he sighed and rolled his eyes. “Stop worrying. I told you, I’m fine.”

“It is my job to worry.”

“You and Zia and Francesca. I keep telling all of you to stop.”

“We love you.”

“I know. Come on. Raffaele’s going to throw a tantrum if we don’t have cake soon.”

“We’ll catch up later? I kept that bottle of cognac you sent.”

“I brought a different bottle you might like, as well as some gifts for Francesca and the kids.”

Putting my arm around his shoulder, I led him to the table. There was cake and singing, and then Raffaele opened his presents. Paper was everywhere by the time he was done.

“Wait!” Giulio said. “There’s one present missing.”

“There is?” Raffaele clapped his hands. “What is it?”

Giulio put his fingers in his mouth and gave a sharp whistle. One of the grooms emerged from the barn, leading a pony out toward the table.

“Oh, shit,” Marco murmured at my side.

“Tell me you didn’t, G,” my wife said, shooting Giulio an angry look. “Giulio! We said no big gifts this time.”

“He’s my brother. I’m allowed to spoil him.” Giulio went and took the reins from the groom. “Raffaele, come see your pony.”

With an excited whoop, Raffaele darted off his chair and hurried toward his half-brother. The joy on my youngest son’s face was infectious and I found myself grinning.

“Fausto,” my wife growled. “This is serious. He cannot do this every time he visits. It’s too much.”

“Can I have a pony, too, Papà?” Noemi’s eyes were wide and hopeful, a father’s weakness.

“Yes,” I told her, ignoring my wife’s gasp. “When you turn four.”

Francesca turned away in her seat, her jaw clenched. She wanted our kids to grow up humbly, not as spoiled mafia princes and princesses. I respected her wishes. Usually. But I would not deny my daughter equal treatment.

I had to put my wife in a better mood. “Dolcezza, come with me.”

“No. I need to clean up and get the kids back to the house—”

“Zia and Giulio will see Raffaele and Noemi inside. You’re mine for the rest of the night.” I’d already arranged everything. All I needed was her.

I plucked a half-full bottle of wine off the table and two glasses, then went to her. I held out my hand. “It’s time for your surprise.”

“Is Papà taking you someplace special?” Noemi asked Francesca. “Can I come?”

“No, this is just for Papà and Mamma,” I said. “Kiss us goodnight and we’ll see you in the morning.”

Noemi did as I asked, then we said goodnight to Raffaele. The sun had begun its descent and soon the kids would go to bed. They would barely miss us, if at all.

“Wait.” Giulio held out a piece of paper. “That’s a present for you, Papà.”

“For me?” I put down the wine and glasses, then accepted the paper. It was an address in Pozzuoli, outside Naples.

I instantly knew, but I still had to ask. My gaze flew to him. “Is this . . .?”

“Sì. A friend of a friend found that for me.”

Sensing the direction of the conversation, Marco was suddenly at my side. I handed my cousin the slip of paper. “Four and half years and my son is the one to find him.”

“Dai, I can’t believe it.” Marco clapped Giulio’s shoulder. “Grazie.”

The repercussions of this, of what it could mean for Giulio, dimmed my happiness. “Does this put you in any danger? I don’t want anyone connecting you to me.”

Giulio shook his head. “The friend, he’s like me. He knows who I am but he’ll keep it quiet. Don’t worry.”

I did not find this reassuring. I growled, “Giulio—”

“Papà, it’s fine. He has more to lose than I do, trust me. I’m safe.”

“I want to hear more about this later.” I pointed at him. “I won’t have you risking yourself to help me.”

“Okay, that’s enough business talk for now.” Francesca snatched up the bottle and glasses, then grabbed my arm. “You two can settle this tomorrow, when we’re not in front of the children.”

I took Francesca’s hand and started toward the vineyards. After a moment, she rested her head on my shoulder as we walked, cuddling close. “You aren’t really going to buy her a pony, are you?”

“In two more years, yes.”

“Paparino . . . .”

“I don’t want to talk about the kids tonight. I want to spend time with my wife.”

“Are we going to the winery?”


“It’s too cold for the vineyards.”

“I’ll keep you warm.”

“Seriously? We’re going to the vineyards?” When I smirked at her, she shook her head. “You’re up to something.”

“Always, mia bella moglie. You should know that by now.”

By the time we reached our vineyards, the sun had set. We walked hand in hand to the middle, and Francesca stopped when we reached the row where I’d asked Vincenzo to place a pile of blankets.

“We have a perfectly good bed upstairs,” she said.

“Yes, but I like to fuck you in the dirt.”

“That is because you like me dirty and filthy.”

“That’s true. You know what else I like?”

She loosened my tie and tugged it off, then slipped the silk into my coat pocket. “My ass? My pussy? My tits?”

“Sì, I like all of those things. And I also like when you are round with my child.”

Her hands paused in the process of unbuttoning my shirt. The moonlight played off her gorgeous face as she stared up at me. “So that’s what this is about.”

“We conceived Noemi out here. I want to get you pregnant with another baby.”

She bit her lip, her breath coming faster. “You’re going to come inside me?”

I’d been pulling out for months. It was no hardship, as I loved seeing her drenched in my come. But the idea of shooting inside her was hot, too.

I lowered my voice and shifted closer, crowding her with my body. “Are you going to drain me dry like a good little girl?”

“Oh, God.” She swayed a little then put a hand on my chest to steady herself. “Yes, I want that so badly.”

“Then get naked and get on the blanket. I’ll fill you up, pump you full of my come.”

Turning serious, she put her hand on my face. “Games aside, as you sure? We could stop at two.”

Her second pregnancy had been easier than the first, but I still had to ask, “Do you want more?”

“As long as you hire another nanny so I can finish my MBA, I’ll have as many babies as you want, paparino.”

I smacked her ass. “You promised me four. We’re only halfway there.”

She whipped her dress over her head, and the beauty of her mostly naked body sent lust rolling through me. “Then you better get to work.”


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