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Shattered Vows: Chapter 38

BASTIAN

Morina’s heart turned on me like my mother’s had turned on my father that day.

The look in her eyes mirrored the one my mother had when my father told her she couldn’t leave him, that he would continue to do everything he wanted and she would just have to live with it.

She’d been so mad at my father about a shipment and they’d argued and argued. He’d finally walked up to her and instead of trying to smooth things over, he’d smacked her hard across the face.

I’d just turned ten. I remembered the day because she’d made me a birthday cake the night before and when he hit her, she caught herself on the table, her hand landing in the cake. Fingers covered in white frosting and a cake ruined, she raised her face and shook her head at him in disgust.

Mario’s eyes darkened, like he couldn’t stand his wife realizing he was scum.

The first instinct for humans was always fight or flight, and in a boy, it was an even more innocent reaction. Gone was my fear of trouble or pain, I jerked forward, ready to stand between them. I knew my father’s rage better than anyone. I knew he would hit her again. Yet, Cade caught me.

My little brother’s brown eyes pleaded with me as he held my arm with both hands. “Dad’s going to leave and we’ll take care of mom then. You go to her and he’ll drag you off with him.”

I ripped my arm away and stormed into the kitchen. When I confronted my father, my mother started crying and, just as Cade had said, my dad dragged me out of the house.

I saw a lot of blood that night as he made me watch the real dealings of the mob.

His first born wouldn’t be soft, he told me. It was better for me to learn now.

It changed my mother and it changed me. Our family morphed from one that made the best cannoli into the head of the mob’s family. That night, I came home and she said, “Bastian, my love, I’m going to teach you to cook.”

The only farewell gift she knew how to give us was the passion in her cooking.

Now, I stood wondering if Morina would take something with her as she left me.

I would let her go.

Morina Bailey didn’t deserve a man in the mafia. She deserved a man who put her first, who didn’t make deals with demons and wasn’t the devil himself. Yet as she rummaged around in her room, I still went to stand in her doorway. Over the crushed crystal, I walked to my doom, sure this was the walk of shame I deserved.

“Morina, I–”

“Don’t try to explain, Bastian. I listened to so much explaining as a kid.” She shut her eyes, and tears rolled down her cheeks. “Did you know I believed every single explanation? How gullible was I? Is that what everyone sees me as? This gullible, stupid girl who can’t get it together.”

“Morina, that’s never what I thought. I didn’t see the point in bogging you down with the details of–”

“You couldn’t bog me down, why? Because you thought my attention span couldn’t handle it or because it hit too close to home? You can’t possibly think having more oil brought over won’t risk the water.”

“There’s always a risk,” I threw back. “I’m taking a risk here with you. You took a risk the day you married me.”

She slumped. “It wasn’t supposed to be a risk of my heart.”

“Don’t say that, ragazza.” Her words made me want to lock her up and keep her here. “I have to love my family and it requires me to consider every decision I make. This was the best for everyone. We keep good relationships and we move toward clean energy over time.”

“What if something happens, Bastian? What if that oil refinery does something wrong? You shook their hand when you wanted clean energy. How will that look?”

“Nothing will happen. I’m making sure of that. Can you just… let’s go to get something to eat, huh? I’ll explain it to you.”

She stared at me in her baggy shirt and tiny shorts, her legs long as she stood up and narrowed her eyes at me. “I should say no but I want to say yes. So, I guess you’ll get my full attention through one more meal. You should be happy that, for some reason, it doesn’t stray when it comes to you.”

She walked past me and put her shoes on. I mentally congratulated myself at the small victory. I could talk sense into her, I could make this work.

We drove to a little place in the city. The drive was silent but tension swirled in the car. She breathed in and out, slow and even, and I knew she was doing some exercise as she twisted the bracelets on her arm. She didn’t touch her ring and it made me wonder if she ever would again.

Greenery scaled the restaurant’s walls and ceiling, with plants weaving in and out of blown glass structures. “We didn’t go out to eat a lot over these past couple of months. I should have taken you out more.”

“No reason to. This was an arrangement.” She shrugged and looked at her menu, dismissing our relationship.

“You know that’s not true, ragazza. This was more than an arrangement. It was a marriage and if you want it to be over, it will be, but don’t discount it.” My voice came out firmer than I wanted it to.

I took a deep breath and she rolled her eyes. “That’s right, Bastian. Keep it all together.”

Fuck me.

I would, even if she tried to make me lose it. I didn’t need to become my father and compromise always worked better. “In order to do what I do, Morina, a level head and compromise is necessary. You can’t just go with your gut all the time and hope it works out.”

“Is that your fatherly farewell advice to me?” She lifted a brow.

I chuckled in irritation. “You like getting under my skin and you’re probably better at it than most. I swear to God if I didn’t love you–”

She gasped at my words. They’d slipped out in my irritation but I wouldn’t snatch them back now.

“I do love you. I don’t think that’s a question.” I held her gaze as my heart thundered with the words. “I love your inability to finish a file without doing a million things in between and your complete disgust with my negotiation skills. I love that you adore the water and you go with the flow like the ocean. I love you. That’s why I have to let you go for this.”

She shook her head, her face falling at my words as she whispered, “You’ll let me go?”

Maybe I would have changed my mind had I sat there and stared into those sapphire eyes that sparkled like the ocean she loved so much.

Yet, Ronald, the man that should have never been talking to my wife in the first place ambled over, his white teeth glinting in the dim light.

“Bastian, Morina.” He stood over us, then grabbed a chair from behind him and pulled it up to our table. Security that I had in the corner moved, but I held up my hand. Let him make his bed. I wanted him to sleep in it. Permanently.

My body vibrated with an emotion I knew I wouldn’t be able to contain. Keep it all together, Morina had said but Sebastian Armanelli, head of the mob, knew that this man was going against me, was talking to my wife behind my back, and was ruining the one thing I loved.

“Ronald,” I said without looking at him. I was looking down at that gold ring on my hand, the weight of a family symbolized in it. “I’m having a meal with my wife. I don’t want to talk with you right now.”

“She talked to me earlier, though. You must know. I hope it didn’t cause any harm.”

I tapped the ring on the table two times, trying to pull my anger back before I lashed out. I was a man of the family, a man who had done so well to create alliances everywhere.

“No harm.” The words came out so quiet, I wasn’t sure anyone heard. They were the last words of Bastian, he was suffocating under the rage of the other man I tried to keep hidden from everyone.

“Oh, good. Good. Morina,” Ronald turned to her. “Once this whole arrangement you and Bastian have is over, remember I’ll pay you twice as much. You’re for sale it seems.”

Her fork clattered down onto her plate. It was the only sound before a voice that sounded foreign even to me rumbled from my mouth. “What did you just say”–I rubbed my jaw, trying to calm down–“to my wife?”

He glared at us and didn’t repeat himself.

“Apologize.” It came out louder than it should have. Someone moved behind Ronald but my security took care of it. No one was coming to our table now. Ronald had to rescue himself.

He sat there with his hands fisted like he was struggling with his own pride.

Patience wasn’t Sebastian Armanelli’s virtue. Certainly not with an idiot. I was tired of being accommodating and working the system. So damn tired. And there was one place I wouldn’t do it anymore.

And that place was with her.

The gun tucked in my back belt loop was the easiest weapon to access. In a second it was in my hand, and I spun the glock so I held the barrel. I swung it at Ronald’s face like a makeshift hammer as I grabbed the back of his head and brought it down on the metal swiftly.

He screamed as it connected with his face.

I let him have a moment as I heard commotion in the restaurant. My security was probably filing people out to leave. I didn’t care. I leaned in and said to Ronald, “Next time it will be the other side of my gun in your face. And I’ll pull the trigger, Ronald. Don’t disrespect her again, you understand?”

Blood started to pour from his nose and he whispered something but it wasn’t loud enough for me to make out.

“Bastian…” Morina said softly, like she was trying to call that gentleman mobster back. He was gone, ragazza.

And Ronald, he wasn’t begging for his life yet. Did he want me to kill him? He deserved it at this point. I spun the gun again and grabbed his gray hair as I pushed the barrel into his temple. “I should kill you.” I stood and shoved it against his head.

His eyes bulged in fear.

“No one would miss you. And after that disrespect for my marriage, it’s what you deserve.”

He was pleading now, saying sorry over and over and over.

“Bastian!” Morina screamed, and when I looked at her, the whites of her eyes were showing, her face scared as she stared at the devil that was me. “You can’t, Bastian, you can’t.”

I growled and drew my hand back before whipping it across Ronald’s face. He cried in pain and I glared at Morina. “We’re leaving now.”

She nodded fast and followed me out of the restaurant with stares following us the whole way.

Silence again on the way home. She said my name softly once but I cut her off. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

When we got back to the penthouse, I stared at the shattered crystal on the ground, our marriage as broken as the rock, vows and promises and deals were all destroyed.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered as we both stood there staring at it all.

“For what?”

“I don’t think I understand your way of life the way I thought. I think… you have more responsibility than I ever had.” I tried to cut her off but she held up her hand. “You’re a mafia king, Bastian, but you can’t control everything by weaving in and out of partnerships. Your aura is all fucked up from it. I felt your anger back there and it’s catastrophic and brilliant at the same time. You have to be the bad guy somewhere sometimes or it will tear down not just a city, Bastian. You’ll tear down much more than that.” It sounded like disgust or defeat in her soft voice and I wouldn’t correct her because she was right.

Was that what she thought? “I’ve made sacrifices over and over again, Morina. I’ve trained myself to contain my emotions for everyone’s protection. This is about my family, my legacy. It’s about you needing protection too. I can’t risk all that because I have feelings for you.”

She winced at my words. “I don’t want to just be a concern for you. Your feelings shouldn’t be a risk, Bastian. They should be the things you listen to because you need to be happy too.”

“I’ll take unhappiness if it means you’re protected from all this.” I confessed and meant it even as the pain in my chest suddenly felt catastrophic.

“I don’t want your protection.” She shook her head.

“You’re an Untouchable, Morina. You can go anywhere in the world and I’ll be protecting you. I’ll have eyes on you forever. That’s the price I paid when I married you.”

“The price you paid?” She stormed up to me. “I don’t want your security on me. I didn’t ask for any of this and I don’t want it. You need to focus on yourself. Feel something, Bastian. Feel us.” She took a shaky breath. “You almost killed a man, Bastian! That wasn’t for nothing.”

“And if you hadn’t been there, I would have. Don’t you think that’s a problem, Morina?” The words bellowed out of me and Moonshine trotted to Morina. The dog might have acted like it had allegiance to me but in the end, a pup knew its mother.

I stared at her petting Moonshine almost subconsciously, and like a mom soothing her child, the innocent gesture stirred a protectiveness in me that I’d only experienced one other time in my life. “I won’t keep you here like my father did with my mother. I won’t ruin you because I love you too much to do so. Staying with me would expose you to all the filth you don’t deserve.”

“Shouldn’t I get to decide that?” Her eyes filled with tears.

“We need time away from each other, ragazza.” I wanted to reach for her, to tell her it was all going to be okay but I didn’t trust myself enough to do so.

“You want that time to turn back to Bastian when all I really wanted was Sebastian. I can’t love you if I can’t have all of you, you know?” She clutched at her heart.

“That’s fair.” I agreed with her because it was the right thing to do.

“Oh, shut the fuck up with your fair. You should try being unfair for once in your life, Bastian.” She threw up her hands. “Go with the flow and see how it takes a weight off your soul. See where it gets you.”

Caging an animal that was better off free never worked. Still, if I could have tied her to the bed and still had her love me in some way, I probably would have.

Instead, I had to let her go.


On the first day she was gone, I got a call from our lawyer. The shares were almost through probate, and Morina wanted to donate all of them to me. He could draw up the legal documents as soon as possible.

I hung up on him and tried to call her. I’d never take them for free. Morina had better believe I was going to set her up for life and do what was right and fair by her.

Try being unfair, she’d told me and now she was forcing me to.

I grumbled as I took Moonshine downstairs to go to the bathroom. The dog had whined since her mother left and she laid down on the grass instead of walking around to piss. “You’re going to have to go to the bathroom sooner or later, girl. We can mope together later.”

She peered up at me with her brown and black fur shining in the sunlight and whined.

Petting her head, I whispered, “Remember how you took your mom’s side yesterday? I forgive you because I would have taken her side too. I’m a fuck up.”

The dog sighed and looked away from me.

I just needed a few days to make it right.

A few days of hell was what we got instead.

I got the call from my brother as I was boarding the jet to fly to LA for a meeting. “The oil refinery is pushing illegal imports to another terminal. We got a boat full of women over there that the FBI just intercepted.

“I shook that bastard’s hand,” I whispered.

“I know. I think, fuck, man. I don’t know. If I could, I’d kill him myself. They had kids on there that are Ivy’s age.”

“Katie and Rome with you?” I pinched the bridge of my nose.

Katie spoke first. “I want the whole refinery to suffer. I want to kill one or two of them myself.”

Cade chuckled. “Bastian’s not going to allow that. We need to be discreet and try to work out a solution.”

My gut reaction yanked me one way. The immediate response was to shut it down but instead, I remembered her words. Morina made these quick decisions all the time, she went with the flow. She followed instinct rather than logical reason.

“I want the man dead,” I said quietly.

“What?” Cade asked, his voice high.

“Rome, you’re retired from this, I know that. You tell me the best man to do it, then, or I’ll do it myself.”

“Bastian,” my brother said, “we can’t–”

“Why can’t I, Cade?” He’d been made an accommodating man because of me; now I had to unmake that man. “They’re killing families all the time. Why can’t I?”

“We’re better than them,” Katie announced. “You’re better than them. You do what we can’t. You see the silver lining, Bast.”

“Morina left.”

“I know,” Cade said. “You’ll both figure it out though. She’s an Untouchable now and she’ll understand.”

“Understand that I shook hands with this man? It’s specifically what she told me not to do.”

Someone sighed over the line.

“What do you want us to do?” Rome said it like he was ready to spill blood again. “We’ll do whatever you need.” He had a little girl though and a family that needed him.

“I want his cybersecurity system breached for the oil refinery. Make it known it’s us and infect the networks with ransomware. If he doesn’t agree to pay five times what he’s made on those families back to them, I will crush his whole business.”

“That type of breach will be deemed a national emergency, Bastian. That’s… are you going to call the president?”

“The president can call me, Cade. I’m done fucking around.”


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