I swallowed, worrying where this was going. “Who are those friends?”
Antonio shook his head. “I can’t tell you, but they want what’s best for the Outfit. Once they are in power, I can safely return and be a part of the Outfit again.”
“Did you tell them you were gay?”
“Not yet, but I will eventually.”
“They won’t accept you.”
“That’s for me to worry about when the time comes. What matters is that I will get the chance to live in Chicago again, to return to you.”
“What is it you want me to do?” I asked quietly.
“It’s too risky for us to attack Dante in the open. We don’t want an open war. Once Dante is out of the way, things will fall into place. Old Fiore Cavallaro will be easier to dispose of once his son is dead. But we need you for our plan to work.” Antonio pulled a small vial out of his pocket, checked the aisle, but we were the only customers, except for an elderly lady at the counter chatting up the pharmacist. He held out the vial in front of him. “You are the only one I trust enough to ask and who has direct access to Dante.”
“What’s that?” I whispered, even though I knew.
“It’s poison, Val. All you have to do is sneak it into Dante’s drink and you’ll be rid of him.”
I backed away, out of Antonio’s hold. My stomach was churning. “You want me to kill my husband?”
“I’m your husband, Val,” Antonio grabbed my hand and pulled me toward him, eyes imploring. “Does he love you like I do? Does he even care about you? We’ve known each other all our lives.”
I couldn’t breathe. I searched Antonio’s eyes for a sign that he was joking, but found none. He held out the vial. “Take it.”
I grabbed the vial, stared at the colorless liquid inside of it.
“He won’t notice. It’s taste– and odorless, don’t worry.”
I still didn’t pocket the vial. I seemed unable to move a muscle.
“It works quickly. It’s a muscle relaxant, and causes the lung and heart to stop working. A quicker death than he deserves.”
“You really want me to kill someone?” My voice was almost toneless. “If something goes wrong and I’m found out, they’ll kill me.” Or more accurately, Dante would probably kill me himself after such a betrayal.
“You are too clever to be caught, Val. And once he’s dead, we’ll be taking over power in no time. You’ll be under my protection. Everything will be fine.” Antonio leaned down and brushed my lips lightly with his. I was too stunned to pull back. Slowly I eased the vial into my bag.
“You should do it tonight. The sooner we move, the better. I don’t want to risk staying in Chicago like this for much longer.”
“Does Frank know about all this?” I had to ask, had to know. I fought the tears that wanted to rise into my eyes.
“Yes. It was actually his suggestion. He thinks it’s safer than risking a gun fight. Dante is a damn good shot, and the bastard never lowers his guards, except when he’s home.” Antonio smiled brightly at me. I was a means to an end for him – again. Once before he’d used my feelings for him to lure me into a fake marriage and now he wanted to manipulate me into killing my husband. Maybe I should have tried to talk him out of it, but the moment I’d tried, he would have gotten suspicious, gone into hiding again and attacked Dante another time. It was too much of risk.
“I’d really feel more comfortable if I knew the names of your friends. I trust you, but what about them?”
“I trust them.”
I gave him a pleading look.
Antonio brushed a strand of hair from my face. The gesture was so tender and loving that it made me choke up with emotion. Antonio must have seen it because he nodded. “I can give you one name, but the others will stay a secret until things have settled down.”
“Raffaele, you know him from the casino, right?”
Oh I knew Raffaele. And he was the last person in the Outfit who’d ever accept Antonio’s homosexuality. “Yes, I do.”
I was close to bursting into tears. To hide it from Antonio, I pretended to look at my watch. When I was sure I was in control of my emotions, I raised my face.
“So will you do it tonight?” Antonio asked almost eagerly. “For me, for us?”
I patted my bag where the vial was hidden, then I reached up and cupped Antonio’s cheek. “I’ve loved you since I was fourteen. I was so happy when we married.”
Antonio smiled, eyes brimming with satisfaction. “I know, Val. I should have been a better husband to you.”
Yes, you should have been.
“But soon things will change. And this time everything will be better.”
I nodded. No, it won’t.
I drew back. “I need to return to the car before Enzo gets suspicious.”
“Here’s my number. Call me once it’s done, okay?” He slipped a piece of paper into my pocket.
I nodded again.
“Say goodbye to Dante from me,” Antonio said with a wink. He was still so very confident in the power he’d once held over me, but I wasn’t the doting naïve girl I used to be.
I turned around and slowly walked out of the pharmacy and back to the car.
Goodbye.CHAPTER TWENTYI twisted the vial in my hands over and over again. The tears had dried by now, and my face felt hot and sticky from crying, but my decision was made. There was only one thing I could do. Dante’s step rang in the corridor and I quickly pocketed the poison. The door opened and Dante stepped in, then stopped with a surprised look on his face when he saw me standing in front of the window.
“Valentina, what are you doing here?” His gaze swept over my teary face. “Did something happen? Are you alright?”
“We need to talk.”
Dante closed the door slowly, every motion deliberate and calculated. He knew something was up. I didn’t have to see my face to know it gave everything away, not only because of my swollen eyes. I had never been so shaken in my life as I was today. He approached me carefully, then stopped out of reach. I searched his face for something, some kind of gentleness, but he was only alert. This was the man who’d accused me of having cheated on him, who’d rejected our unborn child because he thought it wasn’t his. A man who never let me close. Would he ever love me? Would I ever find in this marriage what I so desperately wanted?