Respect

By: Aleatha Romig

The Making of a Man




Disclaimer





The Infidelity series, as well as this novel, contains adult content and is intended for mature audiences. While the use of overly descriptive language is infrequent, the subject matter is targeted at readers over the age of eighteen.

Respect is a stand-alone novel, a spin-off of the five-book Infidelity romantic suspense saga.

The Infidelity series does not advocate or glorify cheating. Respect, as well as the series, is about the inner struggle of compromising beliefs for heart. It is about cheating on yourself, not someone else.

I hope you enjoy the epic tale of RESPECT, the making of a man!





Respect - An Infidelity Novel





“The making of a man”



Standing at what I believe is the precipice of my life, I, Oren Demetri, was too young to understand that it wasn’t and too old to imagine that it couldn’t be.



The already hefty accumulation of my successes and failures, bravery and fears, and rewards and suffering, had brought me to this point. It was hard to contemplate the things I’d done, and yet in reality, I’d only begun to learn the possibilities.



I suppose that’s how it was for me at twenty-nine years of age on the brink of all I’d ever wanted without fully realizing the price I would pay. Yet in that moment, I knew there would be no cost too great or sacrifice I wouldn’t make. I had no idea how far-reaching that moment of self-discovery would be because as the congregation’s murmurs quieted, bleeding into silence and allowing the thump of my heart to be the only sound I heard, I was a man filled with love and adoration, emotions in stark contrast to those I needed in the world I’d built or the one I was about to enter.



Angelina Costello was my dream and now my reality. I’d worked diligently to move beyond the actuality of being a dockworker’s son to becoming a self-made, successful entrepreneur, all in an effort to earn the right to call her my own. I’d overcome servitude to others, collecting their paychecks and lowly praises, to become the one who signed the paychecks and offered the accolades when they were rightfully earned.



The world was my oyster and walking toward me on the arm of her uncle was my pearl. I’d found her amongst the empty shells life had offered. There was no need to pry open another possibility. Angelina was all I wanted. Yet my path was uncharted. There was more for me to earn, lose, and willingly give.



The top of that list was respect.



This stand-alone novel may be read without reading the Infidelity series.





From New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author Aleatha Romig comes a stand-alone novel, a spin-off from her beloved Infidelity series. With classic Aleatha Romig twists, turns, deceptions, and devotions, this new epic romantic thriller will delve into a world where family takes on new meaning, and even the inhabitants are suspicious of the next chapter.



Have you been Aleatha'd?





A glance into the future and the past





I held tightly to Angelina’s hand as the salty breeze cooled our skin. The gray sky didn’t detract from the stunning view of the New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. My wife’s red wind-kissed cheeks rose as she looked from the view back to me. Her blue eyes shone as she took in the possibilities I’d explained in some detail—the plans for shops, apartments, and parks.

Like a sharp stab to my chest, I realized the rarity of the sight before me. I stared at her radiant smile, knowing it was no longer a daily sight.

“This,” she said, “Oren Demetri, this is the man I married.”

“It’ll take time.”

“Time to do what’s right. Time to make more from less.”

“And money.” My head once again filled with the figures I’d spent days, weeks, and months crunching. There would be contracts and commitments. I’d make promises and secure debts, but if it made Angelina’s face light up on a dreary day, it would all be worth it.

It wasn’t a new idea. The renovation of the waterfront began when I was still a student at NYU. In 1972, the city approved the urban renewal plan: over two hundred acres for a new port, hundreds of housing units, and even a waterfront park. However, the timing hadn’t been right. The hold on the shipyards and docks at that time was still too strong. It would take more than a document submitted by a community board.

“There was a time,” I began, no longer seeing the view before us but recalling a time when youth was my enemy. “...when this was all I knew.”

Angelina squeezed my hand. “Use that. Keep it in your heart. This is part of you. Make this place great again for Salvatore and Paola. Make it a place where children and parents can make memories.”

My neck stiffened at the sound of my parents’ names. My memories of this shore weren’t of picnics and kayaks. This was where my father worked, where I worked, where my mother died.

Angelina’s tone saved me from the dark turn my thoughts had taken.

“They would be as proud of you as I am,” she went on, “if they were standing here today.”

Is it wrong for a man in his forties with more life lived than others experience in ten decades to feel a twinge of joy at the thought of making his parents proud?

“And your parents too,” I said. “They’d be proud of you. You’re why we’re here.”

My wife’s ambition to pay it forward, to do good with the bounty life had granted us, was why we were standing on a cold shore with the briny air that unsuccessfully masked the reek of fish and the smell of decayed iron and steel. The odor still hung thick in the air just as it had when I was a boy. The only missing elements were the cigarette and cigar smoke and the soundtrack of manual labor: supervisors barking orders over the cranks hoisting shipments in nets in the days before cargo containers and hydraulic lifts. Nevertheless, the stench alone served as a reminder that while things changed, they stayed the same.

Angelina shrugged. “I can hope. My family was different. My parents believed in Cosa Nostra. It’s what killed...” She didn’t finish.

“They believed in family, in honor and respect,” I interrupted, keeping her from her darkness too. “My parents taught me to work hard. Your family’s lessons have been more specific.”

“Oren...”

I shook my head and forced a smile to my lips. “Your family is another reason we’re here.”

“Change takes time. Now, with Uncle Carmine grooming Vincent...”

My wife was usually right. This was no exception. Change took time. It also needed prompting. Vincent’s mindset was the future of the Costello family. Like the shipping industry, times have changed since I was a boy. The wool overcoat draped over my designer suit and my leather loafers that were currently spotted with the dusting of snow and ice, if sold, could have significantly supplemented Salvatore Demetri’s annual salary.

My father taught me the meaning of hard work and earning a paycheck. The Costellos taught me different lessons. I could blame them or thank them. I was the man I was because of both influences together: the Demetris and Costellos. The combined DNA made our son.

The end justifies the means...It has all been worth it. If only I could appreciate the spoils.

This outing on the Brooklyn shore was the exception, not the rule. Angelina approved of this Oren Demetri, the one who made legitimate deals and helped others, the husband who took time to be with her, held her hand, and listened to her thoughts. Yet as in the gray skies and darkened skyline, within me—between us—there were layers, dimensions, and sacrifices.

Time was the greatest loser. Or perhaps it was the victor.

It never stopped.

There was only so much and so many ways it could be divided.

I tugged Angelina’s hand and led her back to the waiting car. “Thank you for coming to see it.”

“You asked.”

“Testa will drive you back to Rye.”

Her steps stuttered. “I thought maybe we could go to the city for dinner or visit...we’re so close.”

Close to Brooklyn. Close to her family and where we used to live.

“Another night. It’s Thursday. Carmine...”

Angelina’s neck stiffened as we both slid into the warm waiting car.

“Franco,” I began. “Drop me off at the office and take Mrs. Demetri back to the house.”

Angelina appeared to concentrate on the outside scenery as we rode in silence, the chill in the heated car icier than the outside wind. Finally, I tried for a thaw. “How about a Broadway show on Saturday?”

She didn’t turn as she spoke, the emotion from before gone. “Don’t make promises you won’t keep.”

I wanted to keep them. I did. I tried. There were only so many balls one person could keep in the air. We hadn’t reached our final destination: a life together with unlimited time. That was my goal. Yet there were miles to travel. Though the journey had already been long, it wasn’t over.

In many ways, it was like the Todd Shipyard where we’d been. It had been the sight of successes and failures, and there would be more. The road that trailed behind us and the same one that stretched before us couldn’t be considered easy or safe. Someday, I prayed we’d look back and see that even though it had taken decades and bloodshed, it was worth the cost.

Success and dreams took time. The images from my childhood resurfaced. Sometimes it was difficult to fathom. A young boy. A small apartment—devoid of amenities and filled with love. My life now was not merely different, but previously unimaginable to that young boy.

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