“I’m not going to tell you his name,” I interjected, knowing where this was going, and really hoping he wouldn’t get angry again.CHAPTER THIRTEENDante pulled up in front of my old home and turned off the engine before he faced me. “I assumed as much. I still don’t understand why. That man you’re protecting, he’s not your blood and from what I gather you were never close, after all he stole your husband, so why do you insist on choosing him over me?”
“I don’t choose him over you,” I said, honestly shocked. “But I know what you’re going to do to him, what you have to do to protect the Outfit, and I can’t condemn him to death. If you swear that he won’t come to any harm, then I might change my mind.”
“You know as well as I do that I can’t swear it. There are rules for a reason. We have to protect the secrets of the Outfit. If details about our structures, our business, or traditions went public, many people you know would go to jail, me and your father included.”
“He would never tell anyone about the Outfit. Antonio told him about our oaths.”
“But he isn’t bound by it. We all keep the silence because we’re bound by honor and duty, and because we would all pay the price if we didn’t, but that man has no reason to keep our secrets now that Antonio is dead. Not everyone honors a dead man’s wish as much as you do.”
“But he loved Antonio.”
“How can you know that? But even if it were the case, wouldn’t that make him hate our world even more?”
“What do you mean?”
“Because of the rules of the Outfit, Antonio couldn’t live his sexuality openly. He had to hide his desires and his lover, and ultimately he died because he was a Made Men. The Russians killed him because he was one of us. You see, the man you’re protecting has a lot of reasons to despise our world and want it gone.”
I’d never considered it from that standpoint, and was seriously freaked. What if Dante was right? I hadn’t seen Frank since I’d told him about Antonio’s death a year ago. He’d left quickly, silent and out-of-it. He hadn’t tried to contact me, and I had only known his mobile number, but that had stopped working shortly after the funeral. I’d simply assumed Frank had wanted to cut off anything that linked him to the mob. Had he talked to anyone about Antonio? About the Outfit? I didn’t want to believe it. He had reason to detest the Outfit and its ways. Not only had he been forced to hide his relationship to Antonio but he didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye to him. Neither had I. All that had been left of Antonio was a burned corpse. I’d never seen it. Father had forbidden me from doing it. He’d said there was nothing left for me to recognize. The Russians had even cut his head off before they’d set him on fire. The Outfit never found it.
Dante watched me closely. Or was he trying to manipulate me? Even so, what he’d said was the truth.
“Will you come to the door to say hi to my mother? She’ll be disappointed if you stay in the car,” I said to distract him.
Dante had a knowing look but didn’t try to push the topic of Antonio’s lover. He got out of the Mercedes, walked around the hood and opened my door for me. His hand found its usual spot on my lower back as we walked to the front door. I’d barely rung the bell when the door was already opened and my mother beamed at us. She’d probably been spying on us through the windows.
“Dante, I didn’t expect you to come. How wonderful of you to pay us a visit,” she said with a wide smile. She pulled Dante into an embrace. He remained stiff but briefly patted her back. At least he was against public displays of affection in general and not just with me.
“I’m only here to drop Valentina off. I don’t have time to stay. There’s still much work to do.” He straightened and Mamma had no choice but to release him.
Her face fell. “Of course. Now that you’re Capo, you have many responsibilities. How wonderful of you to take time out of your busy schedule to drive Valentina around town.” Mamma smiled at me. “You got yourself a gentleman.”
I gave Dante an I-told-you-so-look. A flicker of something softer filled his eyes before he excused himself and headed back to his car. The moment he’d driven off, Mamma closed the door, gripped my arm and practically dragged me into the living room. “Giovanni! Valentina is here!” she screamed.
“Papà is here?”
“I told him you’d be coming over. He wanted to have a word with you as well.”
“Don’t be like that. Your father and I are worried about your wellbeing. We want to know if married life is treating you well.”
“You mean you want to make sure I’m not messing up with Dante.”
Mamma pursed her lips. “You are twisting my words in my mouth today.”
Papà came into the living room, closing his cufflinks, his checkered jacket slung over his shoulder. “I don’t have much time. I’m actually having a meeting with the Consigliere and your husband later. So how are things between you and the Boss?”
“If you’re meeting my husband anyway, then you could ask Dante how my marriage is going so far and if he’s satisfied with me,” I said in an overly sweet voice.
“Sometimes I think I wasn’t strict enough with you. Your insolence was much more endearing when you were a little girl,” he said affectionately. I stood and wrapped my arms around his middle. He pressed a kiss against my temple. I knew as Underboss Papà was almost as ruthless as Dante and probably had killed more men than I had fingers, but for me he’d always be the man who’d carried me on his shoulders when I was younger.