Salvatore:A Dark Mafia Romance(4)

By: Natasha Knight



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.

“Lucia.”

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?

“Mama,” Effie repeated with the impatience of a child, tugging at Isabella’s skirt. Isabella picked her up.

“Why did you come back?” I asked, my voice sounding foreign. Cold. “Why now?” It was that or falling apart, and I would not allow the latter.

She looked taken aback. Her little girl watched me while I tried not to look at her. It was impossible, though. Pretty, blue-gray eyes watched me, seeming to bore right through me. I wondered if they’d come from her father, but Isabella had always refused to tell anyone who that was.

“This is Effie,” Isabella said, choosing to ignore my question. “Effie, this is your Aunt Lucia.”

Effie studied me for a long moment, then gave me a quick smile, a small dimple forming in her right cheek when she did.

“Hi, Effie,” I said, touching her caramel-colored curly hair.

“Hi.”

“Why are you back?” I asked again. I felt so much anger, and I wanted to burn everyone up with it. Everyone who had abandoned me. Who had so easily given me up.

“Because I should never have left. Forgive me.” She glanced at the hearse. “Life is too short.”

I knew she’d not had a choice. When my father had found out she was pregnant, he’d freaked. Firstborn daughter to the boss of the DeMarco family pregnant out of wedlock. As modern as my family was, there were some things that did not change. I still wonder if my father regretted his decisions. It had cost him two daughters.

But then again, we seemed to be easy to give away. If he’d had a son, perhaps things would have been different.

“I’ll come see you next week.”

“Why? Why bother now?”

She lifted her chin, a stubborn gesture I remembered from when we were little.

The sound of a car backfiring made us all jump. The soldiers circling the square all drew weapons until we all realized there was no threat. Before I turned back to her, though, I noticed Salvatore, who stood by his car, tuck the shiny metal of a pistol back into its holster beneath his jacket.

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