Amore part 1, p.14
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       Amore: Part 1, p.14

           Bella Jewel
 
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  It’s a long ride home, and by the time we touch down, I’ve gone from being upset to numb. I can’t feel anything.

  I need to talk to my dad.

  Then I need Celia.

  I catch a cab to my parents’ house, wondering how the hell I’m going to bring this up with my dad. Do I just ask him outright? Do I pretend someone said something to me? Do I just tell him the truth? I honestly don’t know how to approach it, but I need to know, to get my answers on if he’s involved somehow with the mafia or not. If he is, I won’t need Rafael’s lies.

  I’ll have all the truths I need.

  My mama is out when I arrive, thank God. Dad is home on his day off and is comfortably settled into the couch watching football. He looks up when the door opens and a smile stretches across his face, until he gets a good look at mine. He places the beer in his hand down and stands, walking over, concern etched in his features. “Julie, what’s wrong?”

  “Daddy, I heard something,” I whisper. “I was . . . at the club uptown that’s run by Rafael’s family. I overheard someone talking about you, saying you are involved with the mafia. I need to know the truth.”

  His expression gives me all the answer I need. I’ve caught him off-guard and he doesn’t have the chance to lie to me.

  My heart feels like it’s being ripped out of my chest.

  “Julietta, I warned you about going near that family.”

  “You’re not answering my question,” I say, my voice trembling.

  “And I won’t because it is none of your business, and it isn’t something you ever need to involve yourself in.” He’s got his stern face on now. Gone is any concern. He won’t break, I know that.

  “Just tell me the truth,” I say. “Does Mama know?”

  “Julietta, I won’t tell you again. Let it go. This is none of your concern, and you need to stop sticking your nose in my business.”

  “Why?” I cry.

  “Because that family is dangerous, and I won’t have you getting yourself into trouble because you go around asking questions.”

  I take a step back. “What about you? What if something happens to you?”

  He shakes his head. “I’m safe. I won’t ask you again. Mind your business, Julietta.”

  His voice leaves no more room for conversation or argument.

  My bottom lip trembles. “I have to go.”

  “Julie,” he tries, but I’m already halfway to the front door.

  I reach it and look back, disappointed for the first time in my life with my father.

  Mostly, though, I’m disappointed in myself.

  For being so damned stupid.

  ~*~*~*~

  RAFAEL

  Where the fuck is she?

  I waited for three hours before coming to the conclusion that she’s not coming back. I continue to ring her phone and text her. Nothing. Something is wrong. I call the airport and using my contacts, find out she got a plane ticket home.

  My bad mood wouldn’t call for that.

  No, there’s more.

  Fuck. Why do I care so much? She’s just a mistress. She doesn’t matter to me.

  Fuck.

  Right?

  ~*~*~*~

  JULIETTA

  “Oh honey,” Celia soothes, rubbing my back. “I’m so sorry.”

  “No you’re not,” I sob into her pillow. “You knew this would happen.”

  “It doesn’t mean I like seeing you in pain.”

  “I should have listened.”

  Frustration bubbles in my chest. When did I get so damned stupid? Honestly? My stomach twists angrily, and I fight down the bile rising in my throat. My chest is heavy with shame. I feel so utterly ridiculous. I let myself fall in love with a man who was just using me. Worse, I actually let myself believe that he cared about me too. What kind of idiot am I?

  “It won’t hurt forever,” she consoles, kissing the top of my head. “I promise you it won’t hurt forever.”

  “It feels like it will,” I wail.

  “It won’t. One day you’ll look back on this moment and laugh.”

  I hiccup. “I doubt that.”

  “It’s going to be okay,” she says, her voice growing softer. “We’re going to get through this.”

  “He won’t just take no for an answer,” I say, suddenly panicked. “He’ll demand an explanation; he won’t stop until he gets one. Celia, what am I going to do?” I sit up, rubbing the tears from my eyes.

  Her eyes find mine. “You know there is only one way to get him to leave.”

  “How?” I whisper.

  She reaches over, squeezing my shoulder. “Honey, you have to break the rules.”

  Dammit.

  She’s right.

  I have to break the rules again, and this time my heart at the same time.

  CHAPTER 26

  JULIETTA

  I stare into his eyes.

  Rafael Lencioni’s soulless, perfect, brown eyes.

  They’re the kind of eyes you never forget. Not for a single second of your life. His fingers are curled around my arm, his mouth is millimeters from mine, and his breath is hitting my cheek in short, hard bursts. It’s been days since I ran from him, and if I didn’t know better, I’d say the comfort I feel from standing here in front of him is real.

  But we both know it isn’t.

  His lies are breaking my heart. He’s tearing it into a thousand tiny pieces because I have to do something I honestly believed I’d never have to do. There was one rule I shouldn’t have broken—he was never meant to mean anything to me.

  My own brown eyes don’t disconnect from his. Instead, we just stare at one another, so much passing between us, the main thing being a sense of desperation.

  A desperation to change a life we have no say over.

  “Why, Julietta?” he rasps, his voice low, deep and husky.

  I love the way he says my name like he means it, like it’ll be the only name he ever murmurs for the rest of his life.

  “Answer me,” he demands, carefully, precisely, with an order you can’t shy away from, even though he’s not raising his voice.

  His hand gently moves from my arm up my neck and there he cups my jaw, bringing my face closer to his, as if he’s going to kiss me. But he’s not. He won’t. Not here. Not in public. That would break all the rules and Rafael does not break rules. That’s the problem.

  That’s always been the problem.

  “Let me go, Raf,” I breathe, trying to move away from those intense brown eyes.

  “Not until you tell me why.”

  Why I’m here.

  Why I ran from him.

  Why I’ve avoided him.

  Because I had to. I have to. I can't take it anymore. The lies, yes, but mostly, the pain. The intense, desperate pain. The agony of needing someone you can't have. It leaves me only one choice. I'm going to do the one thing I know will make him turn his back on me. The one thing I know will make him run in the opposite direction. The one thing I'm certain will ensure he doesn't come back.

  The thought of never again touching him, kissing him, laughing with him makes my heart twist and an agonizing ache forms in the pit of my stomach, but I have to do it. I have to. For him. For me. For us.

  So, I part my lips and say the words that'll take him from my world forever. "I'm in love with you."

  I see it before my words are finished leaving my lips. I see the way his eyes flash. I see the way his body stiffens and he straightens, looking broken, looking confused, looking furious. His hand slides from my jaw and everything inside me screams to reach out and grab it back, but I don’t. I let it fall, taking my heart along with it. He takes a step back, and his eyes shut down right along with his body. I watch him shove my words into a place he doesn’t allow himself to access.

  He slowly turns away, putting his back to me, letting me know my words have achieved what I wished. Before he’s gone, he looks back over his shoulder and gives me eyes I’ll probably never see again.

>   I try to capture his face in my memory, try to remember every curve and every line. Try to remember how rich his laugh is, and how he makes my heart pound.

  Brown eyes connect with mine, and in a low, husky voice, he murmurs, “I told you not to do that.”

  My knees shake, and I lower myself right there on the sidewalk.

  I don’t think I’ll ever get over this.

  ~*~*~*~

  JULIETTA

  It’s been the worst two weeks of my life.

  Most days, I barely get out of bed. I took leave from work, saying I was going on holiday.

  Liar.

  I’m barely leaving my room.

  It’s not meant to hurt this much. It’s not. But I can’t stop the dull ache radiating from my chest. Every day I wake up and it just hurts so much more. I can’t think. I can’t breathe without pain. I can’t eat. I barely drink. Showering is a feat. I’m a pathetic, weak, broken mess.

  Rafael hasn’t once tried to contact me. I guess that shows exactly how little I meant to him.

  I was so naïve. So. Damned. Naïve.

  “Right.”

  I look up from my pillow to see Celia storming through my room, jerking the curtains open.

  “Get up.”

  I moan and wave a hand, rolling over and shoving my face back into my pillow.

  She takes it and jerks it out from beneath me. “Up. Now. You’ve wallowed for too long. Plus, your credit card isn’t going to pay for this sad fest vacation much longer.”

  “No,” I groan, trying to snatch the pillow back. The sun burns my eyes.

  “You’ve barely moved from this bed,” she snaps. “Have you seen your hair lately?”

  I run a hand over the tangled mess. Oops.

  “Get up, shower, do your hair. We’re going out for breakfast. My treat.”

  The thought of going out there, facing the world? No. Just no. “I don’t want to go out.”

  “If you don’t do as I ask, I’ll go and tell your mom and dad just what you did.”

  My eyes widen. “You wouldn’t.”

  “Oh, I would.”

  “You’re a horrible”—I throw my legs from the bed—“terrible”—I stomp towards the bathroom—“awful friend.”

  “Why, thank you!” she chirps.

  I shower and wash my hair, twice. With a dull, empty ache in my heart, I move towards the closet and pick out the most basic clothes I can find—a pair of cut-off shorts and a tank top. I brush my hair and throw it up in a messy ponytail—that’s the best anyone is getting out of me today.

  “There she is, less zombie-like.” Celia smiles when I walk into the kitchen.

  “Just so you know, I’m not happy about this,” I mutter.

  “Get over it. Come on. We’ll just go to the café two blocks down. I won’t strain you too much on your first outing.”

  “How kind of you,” I mumble, grabbing my purse but leaving my phone. I don’t even like looking at it these days. It brings too much pain. Purely because it doesn’t matter how many times I check it each day, there is never a new message or missed call.

  That kills.

  We leave my apartment, and everything in my body hurts. Celia makes light conversation, but I’m off in my own little world.

  “I just have to pop in here and grab some tampons. Aunt Flow is in town,” she says, nodding to a store.

  I stop dead in my tracks.

  I blink a few times.

  I start frantically calculating.

  I haven’t had a period in more than five weeks.

  I turn to Celia, my blood running cold. “Celia,” I whisper.

  “What’s wrong?” she asks, stepping closer.

  “I’m late.”

  Her eyes widen. “What?”

  “I’m . . . late.”

  “Okay. Okay. Don’t panic. It’s probably stress. Don’t worry. You’re on the pill, right?”

  I nod.

  “It’ll be okay. Come on, we’ll get a test from in here.”

  My mind starts spinning. I’m on the pill. It’s not possible. Right?

  No. Of course it isn’t. It’s stress. It has to be.

  Celia rushes inside, but I just stand there. Numb. This isn’t happening. No. It can’t. The world wouldn’t be that cruel.

  Five minutes later, Celia re-appears with a bag clutched in her hand. “Come on, let’s go and do this. It’ll ease your mind.”

  Or ruin my life.

  CHAPTER 27

  RAFAEL

  “Nobody came,” Vincent says, staring at me.

  I don’t look at him. I keep my eyes focused on the window I’m staring out of.

  My dummy shipment was a fail. Someone knew it was a test and didn’t show up, which means we are right—someone close to me is going behind my back.

  “Someone is betraying us,” I say, my voice devoid of emotion.

  “Yeah, someone is betraying us. Right now, I think we need to keep our plans amongst the closest of us. We can’t trust anyone until we figure out what’s going on here.”

  I nod.

  “Raf, you’re my boss but beyond that, you’re my brother, and I don’t like seeing you like this.”

  I flinch. “Like what?”

  “Like a miserable fucking dog. You let her in, didn’t you?”

  My shoulders tense. “I have work to do, Vin. Get out of my office.”

  “Nothing wrong with letting someone matter,” he says, his voice dropping low.

  “I’m married. She was a quick, fun fuck. Now, get out of my office.”

  He sighs and leaves.

  I hear the door click shut, leaving me alone with my thoughts. I just keep staring out the window, completely numb.

  It doesn’t matter if I let her in or not. This is how it has to be.

  No matter how much it fucking hurts.

  ~*~*~*~

  JULIETTA

  No.

  Please.

  It has to be wrong.

  It has to be wrong.

  No.

  Oh God.

  No.

  I’m pregnant with the child of the Italian mafia leader.

  No.

  Oh please.

  No.

  CHAPTER 28

  JULIETTA

  I move quickly down the street, a shopping bag clutched in my hand. It’s full of food for my road trip. My road trip out of this town.

  I’m leaving. I have to. I can’t stay here. Not now I know I’m pregnant with Rafael Lencioni’s child. He’ll never let that be okay. He’ll never just let me move on with my life. He would never give up a child carrying his blood. He’ll want the child to be a part of his world, especially if it’s a boy.

  No.

  I have to leave. It’s my only choice.

  “Julietta.”

  I flinch at the soft sound of Maria’s voice. What is she doing in this part of the city?

  I turn slowly and see her standing on the footpath, staring over at me. I take a deep, shaky breath and force a smile. “Maria.”

  “I saw you walking down the street; I thought I’d see how you are. I know you’re not seeing Rafael anymore. I’m glad you took my advice.”

  I didn’t take her advice. I should have taken her advice when she gave it to me. Instead, I listened to that lying, nefarious scumbag.

  Dammit.

  I don’t mean that. I should, but I don’t.

  “Yes, me too,” I say, my voice tight.

  “I was just going to a little boutique up the street.”

  I wish you’d just go away. “Well, enjoy that. It was nice to see you,” I say, trying to avoid her.

  “Ladies.”

  We both turn to see three men approaching. They’re dressed in black suits, and I recognize none of them. Maria steps closer to me, obviously sensing something wrong.

  One of the men moves his coat to the side, showing a gun. “Don’t scream. Don’t run. Just get in the car and you won’t get hurt.”

  What? I shake my hea
d, confused. “I don’t know—”

  The man leading the group steps forward and grins. “Must be our lucky day. We were hoping to get Maria, but would you look at that? His mistress is here, too. Perfect.”

  What? “I’m not his mistress,” I cry. “I was just—”

  “Shut your mouth and get in the car.”

  My hands tremble, and I move behind Maria towards a black SUV on the curb. The door opens and we climb in.

  “Smart girls. Nobody wants to see brains being blown out on the sidewalk.” The man laughs, climbing in next to us.

  The moment the doors are closed, he pulls the gun out and trains it on us. “If you try and run, I’ll kill you without hesitation.”

  Oh God. I’m going to be sick.

  “What do you want with us?” Maria asks.

  “Oh come on now, Maria. You already know the answer to that.”

  “Rafael,” she whispers.

  “Indeed. We have orders from our boss that it’s time to take him out. You see, we don’t like how everything is being run and figure it’s time for someone else to step up.”

  My mind spins.

  “Who?” Maria asks.

  “We can’t answer that now, can we? That’ll be telling secrets, and we don’t trust you with secrets.”

  Maria looks to me, and I shrug nervously.

  “If you do as you’re told, you’ll get out alive. I don’t particularly like killing women, but I will if I have to.” His eyes flick to me. They’re brown, almost black. His hair is long, flowing down around his shoulders. “I can see why he picked you. Pretty little thing, aren’t you?”

  I clamp my mouth shut.

  He laughs. “Smart girl.”

  I swallow down the bile rising in my throat.

  Rafael had said his world wouldn’t touch me.

  He lied.

  Again.

  ~*~*~*~

  We arrive at a warehouse in an industrial park in the suburbs just on dusk. There are five trucks parked out front, and a solid ten men waiting around. One of the men in the car with us waves the gun and mutters, “Get out.”

 
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