Authors: K.A. Ware
Copyright © 2015 by K.A. Ware
All Rights Reserved
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
Editing by Mitzi Pummer Carroll
Cover Design by Pink Ink Designs
To my readers, thank you for believing in this story and asking for more.
hey thought I was dead
. They still had no idea that I’d plotted my revenge, made nice with the Russians, and double-crossed them.
My entire life I’ve lived in the shadow of my cousin. He was bigger, stronger, smarter, more charming, and more successful. He was the golden boy to my black sheep. He took everything from me when he went off to become a hero. I was alone in the shadow he’d left behind, but I made my way, carving a path of my own. One that would lead me to the crossroads where I could finally face him and show him what I had become.
They had underestimated me my whole life, but I was about to show them what I was capable of. How fierce and cunning I could be. I learned patience, lurking on the edge of the shadows for years formulating my plan and laying the groundwork. He’d left me for dead outside that warehouse and it had only solidified my hatred for him.
I sat in the idling car watching them. They were all there. He was sitting between my mother and my aunt, the perfect son and nephew comforting them while they cried over the empty casket as it was lowered into the ground.
There was nothing left of the bodies that had been dragged into the warehouse, thanks to some serious explosives I’d set off just before the police and fire department had arrived. I had to make sure there wasn’t enough evidence to positively identify all of the bodies. There were enough obliterated body parts strewn about that warehouse that it would take years for the police to put it all together. Not that they would.
I’d made sure that Marco’s body was near the entrance so it wouldn’t be too severely damaged. Just like I’d planned, they were able to identify him quickly, which ultimately put the entire case on the back burner. Marco was the leader of the Diablos after all, just another street thug. No one wanted to waste time and resources on identifying a bunch of lowlife gang bangers.
Frankie had witnessed Kashnikov’s men shoot me and drag my lifeless body into the building; she had no reason to question what she’d seen. So even without physical evidence of my death, they moved forward with the funeral. They’d given up on me so easily and now they were burying an empty fucking casket.
Anger boiled in my gut as I watched
comfort her and pretend to be distraught. It was all an act. If he’d ever actually cared, he wouldn’t have turned my family against me. He wouldn’t have taken everything that was mine.
He’d stolen the heart of the girl I loved, but I would get her back. Because above all else, I had one undeniable truth that guided my way.
She. Was. Mine.
. But I'm good at pretending. I pretend I have it together, but I don't. I pretend that he doesn't affect me, but he does. I pretend I don't care, but I do. I pretend that every time he looks at me with those blank eyes that it doesn't break my heart, but it does.
Every goddamn time.
Each morning I promise myself that today is going to be the day that I finally stop pretending and get over him. But each day my heart crumbles a little bit more when I realize I don't have the strength to stop loving him. No matter how much I will myself not to; no matter how much my heartbreak has turned to anger and resentment there are still the tiny pieces of my heart that remain intact and hope that one day he'll let me stop pretending and love me back.
The heart is a stupid thing. No matter how well you convince the mind of something, you simply can’t reason with the heart. That’s why love is so devastating.
It’s not logical; I can’t convince myself to stop loving him. There is no formula or algorithm to fix my broken heart. I just have to suffer through the pain and hope that one day it will ebb. Until that day comes, my anger will keep me sane. I never knew it was possible to love someone and hate them at the same time, but it is, and I do. God knows I have every right to.
hat the fuck
?” I asked as I walked into Mia and Carlo’s massive kitchen. Mia was standing at the island and attempting to assemble what appeared to be a lasagna.
Mia’s head snapped up. “What?” she asked, bewildered at my abrupt introduction.
“When you invited me for dinner I assumed Elena was cooking. I’ve heard stories about your attempts in the kitchen, and whatever you’re doing right now is just solidifying my preconceived notions.”
“It’s not that bad,” she protested.
“Lasagna is meant to be in layers, not all mixed together. Dude, it looks like you upchucked in the pan.”
“It’s not my fault!” Mia shouted abruptly. “The noodles kept tearing and then the ricotta wouldn’t spread and it all just kind of… fuck!” In her frustration, she threw her arms in the air causing the spoon she held in one of her hands to fling sauce across the kitchen. I had to duck to avoid a tomato-sauce facial.
“Jesus, pregnancy is making you crazier than normal,” I said, shucking my leather jacket as I made my way farther into the kitchen.
“Don’t you dare,” she said, pointing the spoon in my direction. “I am not hormonal; I’m just frustrated.”
“Of course not,” I said, the sarcasm in full force which earned me a signature death glare from the mama-to-be.
“I just wanted to make a nice dinner for everyone. Is that so fucking wrong?” she asked, throwing the wooden spoon into the pan of mush.
“Dial back the temper tantrum,” I said, inspecting her setup on the counter. “You’re only one layer in, so you have enough to start over.”
“Here,” I said disposing of the monstrosity and pulling out a clean pan. “Start with a little bit of sauce on the bottom so the noodles don’t stick. Now, lay the noodles in a single layer in the pan. Be gentle with them,” I warned.
Mia followed my instructions, albeit slowly. From what Angelo had told me, the woman was positively hopeless when it came to cooking. She could take out a Russian mob boss without breaking a sweat, but ask her to make anything more sophisticated than Easy Mac and she fell apart—go figure.
“Where’s Elena?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Mia sighed. “She helped me make the sauce and stuff, scribbled down some instructions and left. I didn’t think it would be this complicated.”
“Okay,” I said ignoring her last statement, because it
complicated. Not really, but I’d been assembling lasagna since I was five. “The key is to spoon small amounts of the ricotta mixture all over so you don’t have to spread it very far to cover the noodles.”
Mia continued to follow my instructions, and in a few minutes, we had a perfectly layered lasagna.
“Where did you learn to cook?” Mia asked.
“My mom?” I said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. I immediately regretted my words when I saw Mia’s lips purse and she gave a quick nod.
Good job, Frankie, remind the pregnant lady about her own shit-tastic parents.
“Mia—” I started, but she cut me off.
“So it says here that I need to bake it covered for the first part and then uncover it for the last few minutes to let it brown. What do I cover it with?”
“Foil is fine,” I said, letting her drop the uncomfortable subject with ease. She quickly focused her attention back to the pan, covering it in foil before placing it in the oven.
Mia and I had grown close in the past couple months. I guess it wasn’t that surprising considering the shit that we’d been through together in such a short amount of time. Since we were the only two females in the inner circle of the DeLuca family, it was pretty much inevitable that we’d become each other’s confidant.
While we had gotten close and we had shared secrets, but she didn't know
my secrets, and I was certain I didn’t know all of hers. There were things about our pasts that we’d discussed briefly but didn’t get into details—just enough to understand some of our common history. Mia and I were cut from the same cloth. Neither of us were very touchy feely, so we gave each other allowances. We didn’t push, and it worked.
It had to work, because just admitting some of the secrets I held buried in my mind to myself had my stomach rolling. The thought of actually telling another person and letting the wounds bleed out in front of them had pain slicing through my heart. It was bad enough I tortured myself in the dark.
“So, you going to tell me what the whole Betty Crocker kick is about?” I asked as Mia started on the salad.
She shrugged. “I’m pregnant.”
“Isn’t it a little early for nesting?” I asked when she didn’t elaborate.
Mia let out a sigh. “I don’t want my child to grow up like I did. I want to be a good mom.”
“You realize being able to cook doesn’t make you any more of a mom, right?”
“I know,” she said, placing her hands on her small belly. “I want this baby to have a family—a real family. Carlo doesn’t have a lot of family, and I have none. You guys are the closest thing we have. I’m sick of being isolated out here. That’s why I invited everyone over for dinner. Carlo and I have spent years alone, so it’s time to start letting people in, building a foundation for our kids. I mean, what if something happens to us?”
“I get it. So is this going to be like a thing? Dinner, I mean.”
“I’d like it to be. My grandmother used to have us over for Sunday dinner every week when I was a kid; I’d like to continue that tradition for my own kids.”
“So who all did you invite?” I asked casually.
“You, Angelo, Antonio, and Enzo, but he couldn’t make it.”
“Why?” I asked automatically.
Mia gave me a sideways look causing me to cringe, but she didn’t call me on it. “I don’t know; he just said he was busy but he’ll be here next week.”
“Oh. So, what else do you need help with?” I asked changing the subject.
Mia and I spent the next hour preparing the rest of the meal. We discussed plans for her and Carlo’s upcoming wedding, which she’d decided had to happen before the baby was born in July. I’d tried to talk her out of it. Trying to plan a wedding in a matter of a few months while pregnant was a recipe for disaster, but she was determined. When Mia wanted something, she got it.
Dinner was nice, albeit a little awkward. Before Mia, Carlo had been closed off and cold, even towards his cousins Angelo and Antonio. He’d made a point in the past not to socialize with his employees. I guess it
smart not to make attachments in our line of work. Mia wasn’t having any more of his antisocial behavior, and because Carlo would do anything to make Mia happy, he gave in.
“We have another shipment coming in next week. Is everything ready?” Carlo asked, directing his attention to Antonio.
“Everything’s set. The arrangement Mia worked out with Mouse’s parents has worked well,” Antonio replied as he picked at his lasagna. It may not look all that pretty, but it still tasted good. I kicked him under the table when Mia wasn’t looking causing his head to snap up. Giving him a stern look I deliberately took a bite of my food, never breaking eye contact. At least he had the decency to look contrite.
“Can we please not talk about business? This is supposed to be a family dinner, not a fucking board meeting,” Mia said angrily, stabbing at her salad.
Carlo reached over and placed a hand over hers. “Of course.”
“Thank you,” she muttered.
“So, Antonio, Angelo, how’s your mother?” he asked in an, albeit stilted, attempt to shift the conversation.
Angelo shifted in his chair uncomfortably, clearly not having expected the new line of questioning. His eyes shifted to his brother before moving back to Carlo.
“She’s well; thank you for asking. So Mia, have you made any new wedding plans?” he asked, immediately changing the topic yet again.
I gave the brothers a curious look. What had that been about? If a single, straight man asked a woman about her upcoming wedding plans, you could bet your ass they were avoiding something. I’d have to keep my eyes on them, there was definitely something up there.
Of course I’d done my homework on everyone I’d come into contact with since I’d started working for Carlo. Angelo and Antonio’s mother Donatella was Carlo’s aunt on his father’s side. From the intel I’d gathered, she and her husband had nothing to do with the business. Instead, they’d opted to live the high life without ever getting their hands dirty. From the little information I’d gleaned from Angelo over the years it had come as quite a shock to their mother when both Angelo and Antonio had decided to start working with Carlo, and had become quite the point of contention.
As a rule, the men never discussed their mother or any sort of family connections. Not for the first time, I wondered if it was a form of protection for themselves and their families. After all, that was why Carlo had been so keen to keep his connection with Mia under wraps for so long.
Carlo had always called his organization a family, but aside from financial support, he’d never taken a vested interest in anyone from what I could tell. It seemed that Mia had different ideas though. It could’ve been the pregnancy, or what had happened with the Russians infiltrating the ranks of the DeLuca family, but she seemed determined to create a close bond between who she considered to be the leaders in the family.
“Frankie?” Mia’s voice called, pulling me from my speculation.
“Hmm?” I asked, trying not to make it obvious that I hadn’t been paying attention.
“We’re still on for dress shopping next week, right?”
“Yeah, of course. Text me with the time so I can put it on my schedule,” I said smiling through the dread I felt at stepping foot inside a bridal boutique.
“Good, finding a dress that will cover this thing in a few months is going to be a bitch,” she said rubbing her belly once more. Again, I saw Carlo’s eyes dart down to her stomach and that slight smile pull at the corner of his lips.
There was a change in him. He’d always been sharp and hard, but she’d domesticated him somehow. The way Carlo watched her when she wasn’t paying attention or how his eyes would soften whenever she absentmindedly rubbed her belly, it was obvious he was a man in love. While I was happy he and Mia had found each other, their every look, touch, and kiss reminded me of what I didn’t have.
Which is why I made an excuse to leave immediately after dinner. There was only so much nauseating happiness I could take before I succumbed to self-pity and curled into the fetal position. Besides, Enzo wasn’t there, and the longer I stayed, the more I tortured myself wondering what he could be doing—or who. I’d spent too many years missing him and wondering where he was and what he was doing. I couldn’t afford to let myself fall down that rabbit hole of darkness and pain again, because there was no end.