Salvatore:A Dark Mafia Romance(4)By: Natasha Knight
My heart stopped for a single moment. Everything seemed to still, as if waiting. Something fluttered inside my belly as cobalt-blue eyes met mine.
Not steely but soft.
I remembered how I’d thought that five years ago too. How, for just the briefest moment on that terrible day, I’d thought there was hope. That he’d stop what was happening. But I’d been wrong. Any perceived softness, it only deceived. It hid behind it a coldhearted monster, ready to take.
I would need to remember that. To not to allow myself the luxury of being fooled.
Salvatore blinked and stepped aside, gesturing for me to enter the pew. His father and brother stood watching me, his father’s expression screaming victory. He gave me a cruel grin and held out his hand to the space beside him. I moved, my legs somehow carrying me even as I trembled inside.
I would turn my fear to hate. I would make it burn hot.
Because I would need it to survive what lay in store for me. I’d been sixteen when I’d been made to sign that contract. I knew well the true terror of what it meant was only about to begin.
I took my place beside his father. Salvatore resumed his seat to my right. I had the feeling he took as much care not to touch me as I did not to touch either him or his father. I didn’t turn to look at my sister when she was ushered into a pew across the aisle. I paid no attention to the Benedetti soldiers lining the perimeter of the church just as I hadn’t paid any to the army the Benedetti’s had assembled outside. Instead, I watched Father Samson. He’d been old when I’d been confirmed. Now he looked ancient.
He blessed my father, even though he had taken his own life. He prayed for his soul. After all this time, I didn’t think I cared anymore. But that kindness, it gave me some small comfort.
No one cried. How strange that no one would cry at a funeral. That fact impressed itself upon me, and it felt wrong.
The service ended one hour later. My cousins once again circled the casket and lifted it. Once it passed us, Salvatore stepped out of the pew. He waited for me to go ahead, and I did, stiffening when I felt the slight touch of his hand at my lower back. He must have felt me stiffen because he removed his hand. We emerged from the darkness inside the church out onto the square, the bright Italian sun momentarily blinding. My father would be buried in Calabria. It was his wish, to be returned to his place of birth. Both the Benedetti and the DeMarco families were well-known here, and for once, I was grateful for the soldiers holding the press at bay, even as camera’s clicked in quick succession, capturing everything from a distance.
I stood to the side and watched as they set the casket inside the waiting hearse. The Benedetti men flanked me with Salvatore standing too close for my comfort. Some commotion caught my attention, and I watched as four-year-old Effie escaped from her nanny’s grip and ran toward her mother, my sister, and wrapped her arms around Isabella’s legs. All of us turned, in fact, and I took that moment to break away from the Benedetti men and walked toward them, toward my family.
Isabella greeted me, her eyes reddened, her cheeks dry. She looked different than the last time I’d seen her. She looked harder. Older than her twenty-two years.
She took a moment to look at me, to take in how five years had made the difference between the sixteen-year-old girl she had known and the woman who stood before her now. She then surprised me by pulling me in for a tight hug.
“I missed you so much.”
I let out some sound, and for a moment, allowed my body to give over to her embrace. We’d been so close for so long, but then she’d left. She’d turned her back on me and walked away. I knew why. I even understood. But it hurt all the same, and my anger over everything wrapped even her up into this neat little world of hate I’d created for myself.
The thought that it should have been her, that it would have been her, blared inside me, even though I wanted it to go away. It wasn’t her fault. None of this was her fault. In fact, she was the only one not to blame.
“Mama,” came Effie’s voice.
Isabella released me from her embrace but squeezed my arms as if willing upon me strength. Did she see my weakness in that moment? Could they all see my fear?