Guess what finally went live yesterday, one day earlier than planned?
I am so excited to get my French-Italian made man out into the world. He took a little longer to write than normal, as I spent the last three months battling one sickness or another.
But he's here, and I can't wait to share.
You can read the first TWO chapters below, and get introduced to Cara and Gian, respectively.
Unraveled is live on ALL Amazon stores and FREE in Kindle Unlimited.
Pick up your copy below:
AMZ US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071WH1JSC
AMZ UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071WH1JSC
AMZ CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B071WH1JSC
AMZ AUS: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B071WH1JSC
The most devastating emotion was grief.
A horrible, monster of an emotion that embedded its very poison into a person’s soul, and didn’t let go. Instead of eventually freeing its victim from the never-ending torment, to allow them to step back and breathe, the grief continued to spread and infect like a disease.
There was no healing. There was supposed to be. The stages of grief were eventually supposed to move on to a point where a person could go forward, away from the constant struggle, and begin to heal.
Cara Rossi had yet to find that stage.
She didn’t think she would ever reach it.
Her grief had gone far beyond the instant devastation, and straight into a hellish non-existence where no one could possible understand how bereft she was, left in her little world.
There were those people who believed that when a person lost someone they loved, a piece of their soul went with them. Cara wasn’t sure how she was supposed to take that statement every time someone offered their well-intentioned, yet incredibly hurtful, advice.
She hadn’t just lost someone she loved.
Her best friend. The identical face she stared at for everyday of her life since birth. Someone she hadn’t spent more than a few hours away from at a time for two and a half decades.
It wasn’t a piece of her that was missing. It was an entire half ripped away. Twenty-five years together and then … gone.
Her identical twin was dead.
Just like that.
But, it’s been four months, Cara. And, look at the beautiful day outside, sweetheart. More of, she would want you to smile, and to be happy. A few, can’t you try a little more?
Four months was a long time to be missing something so incredibly important to Cara’s everyday life. It was a long time to be walking around out of control of her emotions, incomplete, alone, and lost.
She had a hard time closing her eyes.
She could see that day.
When gun fire rang out …
When white marble steps turned red with blood …
When her twin died.
How was Cara ever supposed to move on, when every time she closed her eyes, she was standing back on the steps of that mansion, staring at her sister’s blood on her hands, and listening to Lea gasp for help?
She never would.
“You could always come back to Chicago,” Tommas said, posing the suggestion quietly. “I could get you a ticket tonight, Cara.”
Cara rubbed at the tension headache beginning to form at the base of her skull, and focused on the words her older brother was saying over the phone. She wasn’t sure how to answer without hurting his feelings. The siblings had already been separated by countries for years, only occasionally coming together for family events. Tommas, in Chicago. And Cara, in Toronto, studying at the university.
“The break might be good for you,” Tommas continued, when Cara stayed silent. “Chicago isn’t Toronto. Things might feel familiar here.”
“Chicago isn’t home,” Cara snapped.
Tommas took a sharp inhale. Cara was even surprised at her outburst, colored heavily with anger. Her brother’s silent response was answer enough. Cara wished that she could check her temper toward her brother, but she didn’t have anything to give him, but for her anger.
Her brother—more than anyone left living that she loved—knew how she felt about Chicago. Or … her parents.
Or rather, the remaining parent she had left.
Addiction, hate, and pain. That was all their childhood had ever been. It was all that was left in Chicago.
“Ma would like to see—”
Cara stopped her brother before he could even attempt to say more. “I don’t give a shit about Ma, Tommas.”
Tommas cleared his throat. “She lost her husband. Give her a break, Cara.”
“A man she hated. A man she only pretended to love and only when she was drunk. A man she beat on. A man she put first before her children. So, her husband is dead, big fucking deal. I doubt she feels even an ounce of the hell that I’ve been living with for four months.”
“We don’t know what goes on inside Ma’s head.”
“I don’t need to know. Her soul is black. Her heart is black. She should be dead like he is. We would all be far better off without them both.”
The truth hurt, but it was better than a blissful lie. Those hurt worse in the end.
Cara and Lea had been eighteen years old when they’d left. Dual Canadian citizenship and the family ties they had in Ontario got them away from their abusive, alcoholic parents. Tommas, however, had been long gone from the house by the time the twins left.
Tommas also had ties to the Chicago Outfit—a criminal organization that had been bred deep into their family’s blood and name for decades—like their father. It was all he knew. Leaving Chicago, and the Outfit, had never been a thought in her brother’s mind.
Now, seven years later, Cara was twenty-five, their sister was dead, and nothing was going to ever be the same again. Tommas thought going back where she hated the most, to the people of the Outfit that he called family and the place that had taken Lea from her, would fix this.
It never would.
“I’m not going back to Chicago,” Cara said after a long stretch of silence.
“Ever?” Tommas asked.
There was no judgement in his tone. He’d asked it with very little emotion, as though he already knew exactly what her answer would be.
“Not if I can help it, Tommas.”
Cara waited for those words to sink in, hoping that her brother finally got the point. She loved Tommas, even if their relationship was strained from years of separation and the past. She knew that Tommas loved her, too.
“I don’t think you understand how difficult it is to get up in the morning. I pass her bedroom and try not to breakdown. I still have all of Lea’s things. They litter this apartment from top to bottom.” Cara couldn’t bear the thought of getting rid of any of it. But she could barely stand to look at it all, either. “The apartment—and even Toronto—is basically the same thing. I struggle daily, to even leave the apartment and get done what I need to do. Every place I visit, all the sights I see, are touched by a memory of Lea. And that hurts,” Cara said quietly.
There was a lot she didn’t say, too.
Her college marks were suffering, her dream of becoming a therapist diminishing with missed classes. Frankly, she needed to be the one talking to a therapist, but that meant opening the front door and going outside.
It felt like her heart was ripping apart at the seams, the second her hand touched the front doorknob. She was leaving behind the only tangible ties to her sister that were not merely memories.
She was so useless like this.
“Cara,” Tommas said.
The softer tone her brother used brought Cara from the black abyss that was her thoughts. Her new constant companion.
“I know it’s hard—”
“Harder, actually,” Cara interrupted.
“I’m sorry. I want to do something to help, but I need you to give me some kind of direction here, Cara. Or how to help. What do you need me to do?”
Leave me alone, she thought. Stop making me remember. It hurts.
Cara would never say those things to her brother, as they would hurt him.
It had been his people who had taken her sister away, even if it hadn’t been him, directly, who had pulled the trigger. It was still the Outfit. Tommas was an Outfit man. Cara didn’t know how to separate Tommas from the organization.
It was dirty money, bad blood, stained histories, and pain.
“Cara?” Tommas asked again.
She took a deep breath and rolled from her side to her back on the bed. A comforting place that she rarely left, now. Slinging her arm over her face, she blocked out the light that filtered in through the blinds.
“Just give me some time,” Cara settled on saying.
“Is more time actually going to help, Cara?”
“I don’t know.”
Cara stumbled from her bed. The persistent knocking—the bitch of a thing that had woken her up in the first place—continued to echo throughout the quiet apartment.
She’d made it perfectly clear to everyone that she wanted to be alone. She wasn’t without family in Toronto. She had her aunt and uncle, a couple of cousins, and a few friends from school.
As for the family side, Cara tried to stay away from their business as much as possible. Unless it was for something she couldn’t excuse her way out of, Cara tried not to intrude on their lives. And usually, they didn’t intrude too much on hers.
Well, before Lea died. She had seen more of her aunt and uncle since Lea’s death than she wanted to admit. She wished they would all go back to the polite greetings and occasional meet ups.
For good reason … It didn’t seem to matter where Cara lived, Canada or the USA, she couldn’t escape her family’s legacy.
The Rossi family—from the Canadian side, all the way to the American—was marked by crime. The mafia had weaved itself through her family tree from the very distant members, to her closest relatives. Cara needed distance from her family, and all the rest of the shit that they were involved in, as she always had. Now, though, since Lea’s murder because of the mafia, she needed that distance even more.
“Cristo,” Cara swore in Italian as she neared the front door to the apartment. The knocking had yet to cease, and that only kicked her irritation up to another level. “I’m fucking coming, relax.”
Cara flicked the deadbolt lock, and yanked open the door with more force than was necessary. She didn’t even bother to wipe the scowl off her face. She was not expecting who she found waiting.
For a long while, Cara simply stared at the young woman until Bambi’s usual wide smile faded a bit. In a tight, red dress that fell at her mid-thigh, and complimented her ruby lips and dark hair, Bambi was an exceptionally beautiful woman. Cara, with her crazy, red, curly hair and blue eyes, had never quite felt inferior when standing next to Bambi, though.
Their previous meetings had been passing, brief moments when Bambi’s friendship with Lea had managed to involve Cara as well, and politeness was expected.
“Hi,” Bambi said, shifting the diamond-studded clutch she held from one hand to another.
Cara said nothing.
She didn’t know what to say, truthfully.
While she would consider Bambi a friend of sorts, the girl had been much closer to Lea. Despite being close, and twins, the girls hadn’t always shared the same likes, dislikes, or behaviors.
Lea had been out-going, making friends wherever she went. Cara preferred to stand off in the shadows and watch people interact in all sorts of situation. To her, that was fascinating. To Lea, interacting and growing her circle had been the interesting part of life.
“So …” Bambi said, drawing the word out for much longer than what was necessary.
Finally, Cara’s mouth decided to play catch-up with her brain, and work. All she managed to say was a confused, “So.”
Bambi didn’t look offended over Cara’s lack of response to her presence, never mind her lack of enthusiasm at conversing like a normal human being. No, if anything, Bambi looked happier, her smile growing all over again.
And then Cara had to go and open her mouth to ruin it with, “What exactly are you doing here?”
Bambi’s smile vanished instantly, replaced by a hurt dancing over her pretty features. “I’m sorry. Am I not allowed to visit a friend?”
First, Bambi had always been more of a friend to Lea than Cara, for the most obvious reason … being Bambi’s lifestyle. For lack of a better word, Cara thought.
She could be brutally honest—Bambi liked her made men. Mafia men were just her thing. But the second reason why Bambi should not be knocking on Cara’s door?
Cara looked at the clock on the wall. “It’s eleven-thirty at night.”
Jesus. Was it really that late already? Hadn’t she been talking to her brother that afternoon?
Cara had literally slept her day away. She’d missed another round of classes. An exam. An assignment that was due. A lecture.
And she needed groceries.
She was a mess.
She didn’t even know how to go about fixing it. Or even if she wanted to.
Bambi only stared at Cara as though she had suddenly grown a second head in the span of seconds. “What are you talking about?”
Cara pointed at the clock. “It’s late.”
“Yeah, if you’re fifty.”
“I have school in the morning.”
Bambi cocked an eyebrow. “Tomorrow is Saturday, and I remember Lea saying once that you don’t have classes on Saturdays.”
Was tomorrow Saturday?
What was happening to her life?
Cara rubbed a hand over her face. “What do you want?”
“I was in the neighborhood. I thought you might like to see a familiar face.”
“You thought wrong.”
Cara could have softened that blow, but she didn’t have the patience to. Bambi didn’t seem all that offended. In fact, she looked as though she had expected that.
“Yeah, seems I’m not the first person you’ve chased off with your nasty attitude lately. People talk, and others tend to take notice and listen. I know we’re not the greatest friends, but your sister looked out for me a lot, and I’d like to think that Lea would be super pissed at me if I didn’t offer the same to you.”
Cara cleared her throat, more uncomfortable than ever. “I’m fine.”
“Well, that’s a lie.”
“You look like shit just came over and took another shit on your head.”
“Okay, that’s enough,” Cara said, grabbing the door to close it in the woman’s face. “It’s time for you to go.”
“Wait.” Bambi put her body into the doorway, effectively stopping Cara from closing her out. “One night, Cara. You can take one night to get out of this apartment, away from this …” Bambi waved at the darkness behind Cara. “Whatever this mess is, and do something. Maybe it’ll be fun. Maybe you won’t have to think for a while. Maybe you’ll even smile. What would it hurt to try?”
It could hurt a lot.
“I’m not even dressed or done up,” Cara said weakly.
Bambi smiled slyly, gesturing at herself. “That is why you have me.”
“I can dress and do my own makeup, thanks.”
“And I will be right here to make sure you actually do it. A new club opened up three blocks away, last week. I happen to know the owner is a great guy, and throws an awesome fucking party. Give it a chance.”
Cara was too mentally tired to argue. Or maybe it was that she wanted to feel normal for a minute. Even if that meant using alcohol and deafening music to do it.
That was that.
“All right,” Cara said. “Give me fifteen minutes.”
Bambi looked her over. “Twenty, at least.”
“You could be nicer.”
“You could look less dead.”
“You’re looking terribly miaou tonight.”
Gian Guzzi gave his mother a kiss on her head. “Mamma, it’s not appropriate to catcall your son. Even when you’re doing it in French.”
“Am I the first woman to tell you that this evening?”
“I came here from the penthouse. Where would I find a femme to catcall me?”
“Well, one would think in your penthouse, considering.”
Gian chose to ignore that jab, if only because Celeste Guzzi meant no harm. She wished for better things for her two sons and one daughter—happier things. At the moment, Gian was the only one of her adult children that she felt was not happy, for a multitude of reasons. Especially at his twenty-nine years of life, she wanted to see more from him.
He could only give what he had.
“I have a club opening,” Gian explained. “New suit, one of several, since the season is going to change.”
“Armani, I think.”
His mother knew her brands well.
Gian smiled. “Oui, Armani.”
“Give me another kiss before you run off to find your father and grandfather,” Celeste ordered, pointing to her cheek, but never looking up from her magazine.
He indulged his mother, bending down to kiss her again before straightening to his full six-foot, four-inch height again. Something else he had taken from the male, Italian side of his family, and not the short, pale-skinned genetics of his mother’s Acadian Français side.
“And show off that new suit!” his mother shouted at his back.
Gian waved a hand over his shoulder, offering nothing else.
He loved his mother dearly. As a child, he had been enamored with her ability to never fail, never falter. She always wore a smile, and she had loved her husband, unwaveringly, through his many faults. If possible, he would prefer to have a woman like that. Silent strength and steadfast love.
Wishes, however, were not for made men whose lifestyle—one governed by the rules of Mafioso—was meant to benefit la famiglia, not the individual man. Especially not one like Gian.
As it were, he had been given too much privilege being born with his last name. According to some, anyway.
Gian navigated the halls of the mansion, heading up to the second level where he knew he would find his father and grandfather. Usually, he would meet his grandfather—the boss of their Cosa Nostra famiglia—at his home across the city, but tonight had been a change in scenery, for whatever reason.
From all the way down the hall, Gian could already hear the Italian murmurings between a father and son in the office. It never failed to amuse him—or confuse the fuck out of people he brought around as a younger man—that depending on which part of the house a person was in, the language could change. From French, to Italian, to English. Some, like he and his siblings, or his parents, could easily navigate between the three languages without issue in both reading, writing, and conversing.
His half Italian, half French, but fully Canadian family was certainly … colorful.
In more ways than one.
Well, considering the men were criminals and the women were wives of those same criminals, he supposed that led a little credence to the color.
Gian’s presence was instantly noticed when he stepped foot in the opened doorway of the office. His grandfather—Corrado—sat in one of the many chairs, while Gian’s father stood next to the windows, peering out over the darkness that had settled outside on the massive, private property.
“Il mio ragazzo!” his grandfather greeted.
Corrado made a face. “No boss nonsense tonight.”
Gian nodded. “All right. I interrupted a conversion, didn’t I? The Raptors game, I think. Someone thinks they’re going to lose the next one.”
Corrado passed Frederic a look. “They’ve been on a streak. Every time that damn team goes on a streak, they choke.”
“Oh, they do not, Dad,” Frederic argued. “They’re the best basketball team in—”
“Merda! You only believe that nonsense because you’re attached to the team.”
Maybe Gian should have left the conversation lie with his arrival. “Argue about sports on a night when I don’t have somewhere to be, huh?”
His grandfather’s sharp, dark gaze skipped to him in the doorway, but the irritation was quickly replaced with the sort of mirth only an eighty-five-year-old man could have. Perhaps had it been another made man, and had Gian’s tone not been so playful when he spoke, his grandfather might have gotten up from his chair, ready to discipline his subordinate as only a Guzzi Don could.
But it was Gian.
And this was his Grandpapa.
He often got away with more than he should.
Gian tried not to abuse his grandfather’s affections. Corrado only looked old on the outside, as his mind was still as sharp, volatile, and prone to violence as it had ever been. He didn’t let Gian get away with very much when others were around.
Others not including Frederic, of course. Gian’s father was not a made man like he and his grandfather. Those rules of respect did not apply.
“You’re late tonight, Gian. You almost missed me, I was going to head home and go to bed. It’s been a long day.” Corrado pushed up from the large leather chair, wincing a bit as he stood. “My bones are getting too old to be up this late.”
“You will not, Dad.” Frederic jumped into the conversation from his spot at the windows. “It’s late, you don’t need to be driving all the way across the city tonight. You can sleep in the room you like upstairs. The one with the terrace overlooking the backyard.”
“I like that room in the spring, when the birds are back from wherever the hell they go for the winter.”
“You’ll stay here,” Frederic said firmly, shooting his father a look. Then, he gave his son a smile. “Did you say hello to your mother?”
“Would she recognize me as her son, otherwise?” Gian asked back.
“Point taken.” Frederic finished the last of the whiskey in his glass, and set it on the corner of his desk. “I’ll leave you two alone, then. Keep it at a dull roar, Dad. The room upstairs will be waiting when you’re done.”
“Yes, yes.” Corrado waited until his son was gone from the office, and the door was shut, before he spoke to Gian again. “The new club is opening tonight, sì?”
“Opened a while back, actually. This is the first night I’m going in to see the place in action. It’s fashionable to be late, or so I’m told.”
His grandfather chuckled. “Only when a boss is not involved, or …?”
Gian smirked. “Or you are the boss. I know, Grandpapa.”
“You have to learn, Gian, even the stupid, small things. Someday, I won’t be here to repeat this same, old shit to you every day of your life, and then who will? How will you remember when the time is most important?”
“You’re going to be here forever,” Gian said, “so what in the hell do you mean?”
“Not forever.” Corrado sighed, turning to face the window. “I’m as old as dirt, and you know it. There are too many people who continue to remind me of how old I am, Gian, and how it would be better if I stepped down for—”
“Fuck those people.”
A dark laugh escaped his grandfather as he turned back around. “Yes, what you said.”
Unfortunately, what his grandfather said had a lot of merit. Most Cosa Nostra bosses did not live long enough to see eighty-five. Never mind the fact that Corrado had already held his position for forty-five years. Bosses usually retired their seats before their age started to become too prevalent, as no good made man wanted to be seen as weak or senile to his men.
And now, their famiglia had gotten to a point where there were, at times, three generations sitting around the table with a voice wanting to be heard. His grandfather’s generation, men of his father’s age, and then their sons, too. Younger made men who didn’t get much of a voice.
Gian didn’t fall entirely into the young Capo category, considering he was his grandfather’s underboss with his own seat at the table, but he understood and sympathized with their frustrations.
“Well, I’ll send you off then, since there’s nothing to chat about that can’t wait until morning,” his grandfather said, passing him by with a clap on the shoulder.
“My evening is never as important as you are. I can wait.”
“It’s fine, just the usual nonsense with the men. I was thinking maybe we could work to erase some of the lines between the generations if we sat down and talked about it, but it can wait until tomorrow. Enjoy your evening, Gian, and behave.”
Gian scoffed. “I behave.”
“Define that word, and then we’ll talk.”
Corrado was already leaving the office. Gian followed behind his grandfather, only separating at the stairs, where Corrado went up, and he went down to the bottom level of the wing. He expected to leave, as his visit was over, but he found his father waiting at the front door, and nursing another glass of whiskey.
Frederic didn’t see his oldest son approach, and for a moment, Gian was struck at how young his father looked in the dim light of the hallway. It was almost like looking into a mirror, although an older one.
All the men in his family shared the same dominant traits—a strong, squared jaw, brown eyes with gold flecks, a nose with a straight, sharp slope, and lips that, even when not smiling, almost seemed to be pulling into a grin of some sort, just from their shape alone. Even their hair was the same dark brown, from his youngest brother Domenic, to their grandfather. Gian wore his hair slightly longer, leaving a bit at the top to be styled if he wanted, while keeping the sides sheared short.
“He didn’t keep you up there long,” Frederic noted.
“You know how he is.”
Something in the lilt of his father’s tone caught his attention, and not in a good way.
“What is it?” Gian asked.
“Corrado needs to slow down, Gian.”
“I’m aware. Tell him that.”
“I have, and so have his doctors.”
Gian’s brow knotted together. “Pardon? He won’t go to his doctors for more than a checkup or a flu shot.”
Frederic glanced down the hall, behind Gian, as though he were looking for someone to be standing there. No one was. “He’s not going to tell you, if he didn’t tonight.”
“Tell me what?”
“That he’s not well. Some strange results showed up in his bloodwork. He went in a month ago to have another round of tests.”
“He didn’t tell me about any tests.”
His father sighed, tipping his glass higher for another sip. “I think he tells no one. I know because I’m the surviving son, I need to know.”
Gian didn’t like where this was going. “What is it, then? What’s wrong?”
“Colon cancer, it seems. Aggressive. He’s supposed to start treatment within the week, but you know how he is.”
Corrado wouldn’t put himself in any situation that would give another made man in the organization a chance to point at him and call him weak--unable. This would do that, entirely. But not getting aggressive treatment would mean certain death, wouldn’t it? If the cancer was already at an aggressive stage …
“Does it matter if he gets treatment?” Gian asked quietly.
Frederic’s gaze dropped to the floor. “It’ll give him a bit more time.”
“A year or two, with treatment. Six months, maybe, without.”
Gian grimaced as pain shot its way through his whole body all at once.
“I’m sorry, Gian,” Frederic murmured.
He loved his family. It was what Italians did.
But his grandfather?
It was far more than love. It was respect, and an adoration that had followed Gian since he had been a young boy under his grandfather’s feet. His relationship with his grandfather had always been different. Sometimes difficult, always strong, and never wavering.
“I … don’t know what to do,” Gian said lamely. “Do I bring it up to him or no?”
“It’s up to him, either way. He’s eighty-five; he’s old and wise enough to make this choice. Don’t ask him, or tell him you know, if he doesn’t bring it up to you first.”
“Yeah, I got it.”
He didn’t like it, but he understood. Apparently, like his grandfather, Gian was supposed to simply pretend nothing was wrong. And in six months, when it all went to shit, where would that leave him?
Gian didn’t know.
“Try to forget about it for the night. You’re young, Gian, and he knows that, which is probably why he didn’t want to upset you tonight. I’m not like him, though, and the longer you were made to wait before being told, the angrier you would be. Enjoy your time, deal with the rest another day.”
His father’s words seemed simple enough. That didn’t mean they would be easy to follow.
Gian bypassed the line at the front door of the new club--Danza—and went in through a back entrance where he had a man standing guard. He nodded a greeting to the enforcer as the man stepped aside, and held the metal door open.
“Packed full, boss.”
It was the little things, like calling an underboss “boss” whenever the actual boss wasn’t around, instead of his name. Made men appreciated those things and remembered when it was time to give a man his in to the family. Although, Raul had been given his button years ago.
Gian clapped the guy on the shoulder. “Good. I won’t be long, and then you’re free to do what you want for the rest of the night.”
Gian moved through the back hallways that were used for storage, and then up the spiral staircase that led to the offices. One for the manager, and one for his personal use. He didn’t run the club full-time, but it was nice to have a place to hide away if the need arose.
Waiting papers rested on his desk, and Gian quickly flipped through what the manager had left for him. He tossed the papers aside again before moving toward the one-way mirrored windows that covered a whole portion of one office wall. He surveyed the people down below, looking for faces he recognized in the crowd.
Only a couple stood out.
But it was a couple of faces he gave a shit about, too.
Stephan Zito and Constantino Rossi sat in the sectioned off VIP area of the club at a circular booth that allowed their backs to be at the wall, while their fronts faced the crowd. Both were Capos for the Guzzi Cosa Nostra, though Constantino was closer to Gian’s age, while Stephan was nearing his mid-thirties.
Gian put up with Stephan for the sake of respect, but otherwise, he didn’t have a lot of patience for the guy. Constantino, however, had been one of the few men Gian had grown up with—a friend from childhood. Those were hard to find and keep in their world.
It was too damn bad that Constantino enjoyed Stephan’s company a lot more than Gian did.
Gian brushed off the irritation at seeing Stephan in his club, his gaze passing over the other people sitting in the booth with the two men. An enforcer for both Capos sat opposite to them at the booth, and a familiar woman sat beside Stephan.
Bambi, Gian thought her name was. Stephan’s goomah.
The guy was not very quiet about the mistress he had, not that it was exactly required for him to be so. Made men were a lot of things, but faithful didn’t have to be one of them. Especially, if their wives didn’t make too much of an issue out of it.
Gian’s gaze skipped to the woman sitting on the other side of Constantino, her red hair—a fiery ruby shade that was almost shocking under the lights of the club—set in perfectly-managed curls fell halfway down her back. That was all he could see of the woman, but guessing by the way she kept her body angled away from Constantino, she was not his date.
Gian wondered who she was, or rather, how she had gotten into his VIP section with made men. He planned to find out.
Five minutes later, the bouncer at the roped-off section of the VIP area stepped back to allow Gian through. On the way, Gian had grabbed a glass of whiskey at the bar, the one drink he would allow himself for the evening. It didn’t look good for a man to be drunk and acting foolish, even in a place he owned that was meant for drunken foolishness.
A smile split Gian’s lips at his oldest friend’s shout. Constantino was already pushing his way out of the booth, offering little more than a fast apology to the redhead sitting beside him.
“You’re late,” said his friend.
“The boss called. I sent you a text and said I had to run over to Ma’s.”
That was all he gave as an explanation.
Constantino didn’t ask for more.
“Well, you’re here now and—” Constantino’s words cut off as his gaze fell on someone in the crowd over Gian’s shoulder. His eyes narrowed, and Gian knew then that whoever his friend had recognized was about to wish that Constantino hadn’t seen him. “He owes me a grand, that fucking cocksucker.”
“All right, try not to break anything while you’re in here, huh? Keep any blood spills to a minimum.”
Constantino flashed a grin. “For you, always.”
“Yeah, yeah. Play nice.”
“Whatever you say.”
He smacked Constantino hard in the back of the head as the guy walked past him, dark laughter escaping him as he ducked an incoming swing from his friend.
“You’re getting slow, cafone,” Gian taunted, his back now facing the booth that Constantino had come from. “You’re supposed to be the young one here.”
“Give me fifteen minutes,” his friend shot back. “We’ll see how slow I am.”
Then, Constantino was gone, disappearing from the VIP section and off into the swelling crowd of people.
“I see you finally climbed off your grandfather’s dick long enough to show your face around here, Gian,” came a voice from behind him.
Gian stiffened, his teeth grinding. Reason number too-many-to-count why he hated Stephan Zito.
Turning slowly, Gian faced the grinning Capo at the booth, paying no mind to the other people at the table. “Do you want to try that again, Stephan?”
“No, I think I got it right the first time.”
“Do you? Think really hard, now. You’ve got some time.”
“Because I’m pretty fucking sure that to you, his name is boss, and nothing else. And if we’re going to be talking about climbing on dicks, I’ll let you take the lead on that one, since you seem to have quite a grasp on which man likes which dick the best. You’re the only one speaking up about it, anyhow.”
Stephan’s face reddened.
Gian only smiled.
“Stephan, grab me another one of these, would you? They’re delicious.”
Bambi’s high voice broke the staring contest between the two men, making Stephan look to his goomah’s hand, where she held out an empty martini glass. The girl was smart; Gian had to give her that. It was not the first time she had stepped in to divert her man’s attention and kept him from getting his face broken.
Made men didn’t fight. It was against every rule Gian knew. He’d break that one for Stephan, if pushed the wrong way.
“Yeah, sure, babe,” Stephan said, grabbing the glass. “Pretty sure that’s what the fucking servers are for in this place, though.”
Stephan was pushing out of the booth and heading past Gian without a look back.
Gian couldn’t help himself.
“Grab me another drink, too, Stephan,” Gian said at the man’s back.
Stephan’s steps hesitated, and Gian could almost hear the man’s refusal trying to force its way out. The guy wasn’t entirely stupid, and kept walking. Underbosses trumped Capos, after all. Stephan didn’t have to like Gian when the rules came into play.
“You could try not to antagonize him as much,” Bambi said quietly.
Gian turned to face the woman again. “Like he does for me?”
“That’s just Stephan’s ways.”
“And those ways will eventually get him killed.”
Bambi frowned, but wisely chose not to respond. Then, she turned and said something to the woman at her side but a couple of seats away in the booth, drawing Gian’s attention there.
To the redhead.
A woman he thought he hadn’t known from Adam. She had been so quiet at the table, her attention on the few people at a booth across the way from theirs, and not making a spectacle of herself as Stephan had done for him and Bambi. It suddenly made sense then why Constantino had not been treating the girl as a disinterested date.
It was his cousin, or rather, one of them.
At first, Gian thought Lea Rossi. But his mind quickly corrected that, as Lea Rossi’s death—an event that had been widely publicized, due to the nature of the murder—had happened months ago. He only knew of the Rossi twins, as their uncle was an older Capo for the Guzzi famiglia.
Gian had met Lea Rossi on a scarce few occasions when their paths crossed for different events or whatever, but he had never sat down and had an actual conversation with the girl. He had been told by Constantino—the twins’ cousin—that the twins lived in Toronto.
He knew Lea had a twin. He did not realize her twin was identical.
That red hair of hers that had been so striking under the club lights from up above, was even more stunning close up. A shade that a woman couldn’t buy in a bottle, and couldn’t quite be duplicated in a salon.
A black double-wrapped velvet choker rested around her throat, showcasing tanned skin and the delicate line of her neck. A simple bow was tied at the middle, making Gian wonder what she would look like with the choker on, looking up from her knees.
He wasn’t quite sure where that idea came from, but it was a good one.
Cara, he thought her name was. Wasn’t that what Constantino had said before about his cousins—Lea and Cara.
Gian didn’t pay attention to names, unless it served him some purpose to.
Her ice-blue eyes looked him over, and Gian was taken aback by the lack of makeup on her pixie-like features. Most woman put too much makeup on instead of too little, determined to make a man focus on attributes instead of imperfections. But all she wore was just enough to shape her wide eyes, and a red tint on her full lips that matched the color of her hair.
From what he could see, her tight black dress fit to her curves perfectly, and guessing by the way she crossed her legs out to the side, she was not a short woman.
All of that and more came to mind.
“You stare a lot, don’t you?” the woman asked.
Gian came out of the daze with a bang. “Am I not allowed to stare?”
Bambi glanced away from the two, hiding her smile. “I think I’ll go find Stephan and see what’s taking him so long.”
Do that, Gian wanted to say.
He said nothing until Bambi was gone. The two men left at the booth, quickly followed her lead, leaving Gian alone with the beautiful redhead. He didn’t sit, though, simply stayed where he was.
“It’s Cara, right?”
She glanced up, her blue eyes widening further. “How do you know my name?”
Gian smirked. “Family friends.”
“Right.” Cara flashed him one of her own smiles. “It’s Gian, right? Gian Guzzi.”
He lifted a single brow. “My name is well-known around this place.”
“The owner—I know. Constantino told me.”
“And Guzzi isn’t exactly a … little name, either.”
“Would you like a drink, Cara?”
She didn’t even think about it before saying, “No.”
“Then why are you here?” Gian lifted a hand, waving at the club behind him. “That’s sort of what you do in a club, bella donna.”
“I do speak some Italian.”
“Good, then you know what I think of you. A very beautiful woman.”
She did manage a smile that was slightly truer than her first. “You’re terribly arrogant. Flash a smile, say a few pretty words, and I bet most women eat out of the palm of your hand.”
“The men of my family like to say it’s a learned talent, actually.” He grinned, and didn’t miss how for a moment that Cara was silenced by the sight. “And as of right now, I’m not trying any of those things on you.”
“How do you hold all that cockiness and those damn grins in then?”
“And everyone melts.”
“I’m not looking at everyone. I’m looking at you.”
Cara laughed lightly, a sweet sound that helped to light up her pretty features. “Smooth, Gian.”
“That was nothing, only the truth. But seriously, if you don’t want a drink, you don’t want to dance, and you don’t have a date …” Gian left that one hanging for Cara to finish for him.
“No date, either.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“I wanted to feel normal for a night. Not so suffocated, I guess, or out of control. Also, someone showed up at my place and wouldn’t take no for an answer.”
Had someone else said those words, Gian might have been confused. He thought, considering this woman had recently lost someone important in her life, that her statement made a hell of a lot of sense.
“Your sister—your twin.” Her lips turned into a frown, a question in her stare. He quickly added, “Her face was all over the news, and Constantino is a very old, and good friend of mine.”
“That’s what you meant, though, isn’t it?”
Cara shrugged. “I’m supposed to be having fun, not being sad tonight.”
Gian knew better than to engage Cara in any more conversation than what he already had done. He certainly didn’t have the time to invest to be interested in the woman, never mind struck by her unassuming beauty. It would be different, if he wanted nothing more than a quick ride and little else from a woman, but in that moment, he wasn’t looking for that, either.
He was, of course, but not right then. Cara was still sitting, staring at him, and waiting. He wouldn’t usually bother to talk at all.
“Are you going to sit?” Cara asked.
He knew better.
Gian took a seat in the booth when Cara moved in farther.
Knowing better meant nothing to Gian.
Author. Canadian. Mother. Lover. I write about bad guys who fall for their women and fall hard.