The cars with Dante’s reinforcement came to a halt next to me. Enzo shot me a short glance before he jogged toward Dante. I didn’t know what they were saying, but Enzo walked toward Raffaele, grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and yanked him upright. Of course Raffaele’s legs gave away again, and Enzo started dragging him behind despite Raffaele’s cries of pain. With the help of Taft, they loaded Raffaele into the car beside mine.
Dante appeared at my window. I couldn’t even move to open it. My fingers, my body, my entire being seemed paralyzed. After a moment, Dante opened the door. He squatted beside me. It was an unusual enough gesture for him that my eyes settled on his face. “Valentina,” Dante said carefully. “Are you capable to drive yourself home or do you want one of my men to do it?”
I want you. I need you, now more than ever. “No, I’m okay. I can drive.”
Dante scrutinized me. His hair was still perfectly combed back, his suit as impeccable as ever. Nothing that indicated he’d just killed one man and wounded three others. “I’ll send Taft with you,” he said firmly. “It’ll be a while before I’ll be home.” He didn’t need to say more. I didn’t want to hear more. I nodded simply. Dante stood and waved Taft over, who slipped into the passenger seat without a word. He slanted me a quick look. I probably looked as if I was close to losing it. And that was exactly how I was feeling.
Dante hesitated before he shut my door and took a few steps back from the car. As if in trance, I pressed my foot down on the gas. I didn’t look back, couldn’t. I’d said my goodbye to Antonio this afternoon. No, actually I’d said goodbye to him a long time ago.
Taft kept looking my way. I was driving too slow, but he didn’t comment. My throat was tight and I was feeling sick, not the sickness I’d experienced as part of my pregnancy. This was something that seemed to take hold of my entire body, but I fought it. I needed to keep up appearances. Dante was a proud and strong man, and I was his wife. I wouldn’t throw up in front of one of his men. I wasn’t sure how long it took to reach the manor, but if felt like eternity. When I finally parked the car in the garage, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I opened my door and stepped out. As I headed for the door leading into the house, my legs buckled. Strong hands grabbed me under the arms and stopped me from hitting the floor hard. Driven by pure determination, I forced my legs to stop shaking. “Are you alright?” Taft asked. “Should I call the Boss?”
“No,” I said quickly. “He’s got to take care of business.” Of Antonio. A new wave of sickness crashed down on me. I stepped forward, out of Taft’s hold, my head high and back stiff. Barely breathing, I made my way into the house and, clutching the banister in a death grip, I dragged myself upstairs. I stumbled into the master bedroom and straight into the bathroom where I emptied my stomach into the toilet. My abdomen constricted painfully and for a moment I froze in fear, but then the sensation was gone.
I stood and slowly, shakily began undressing, letting my clothes lay strewn about on the floor. I turned the shower on and stepped under the hot water stream, closing my eyes and finally letting sobs wrack my body. I leaned against the shower stall and slowly glided down until I sat on the cold marble floor. I pulled my legs tightly against my chest, and cried. Cried for Antonio, for the boy I’d grown up with, for the man I’d once loved, for someone I’d betrayed the Outfit for once before. But today I’d made a decision and it had been against Antonio. I’d known what it would mean for him, had known I’d signed his death warrant the moment I told Dante about the plan. And yet I hadn’t even hesitated. I’d chosen Dante and I’d choose him again. He was my husband, he was the father of my unborn child, he was the man I loved even if he’d never given me reason to. I buried my face against my legs, hurting, hurting so much I couldn’t stand it. There was blood on my hands now. I cried even harder.
That’s how Dante found me. I wasn’t sure how much time had passed, how long he’d been gone. I was shivering, skin shriveled and red from the hot water. Dante stood in the doorway for a couple of moments, watching me, before he strode toward the shower. He wasn’t wearing the same clothes he’d worn when I’d last seen him. He’d changed. Had to change. My throat closed up. I stared up at him, shaking and crying silently. He reached into the shower, still fully dressed and shut the water off. His cool blue eyes settled on me as I cowered on the ground. There was concern and sympathy, riddled with something raw and dark in his face. I didn’t move, couldn’t.
He bent down, slid his arms under me and slowly straightened with me pressed against his chest, soaking his expensive shirt. My fingers clawed at his shoulders almost desperately. He set me carefully down, but didn’t let go of me. I wasn’t sure I could have stood on my own. He grabbed a towel and started drying me unhurriedly, his eyes following his hands as they rubbed the fluffy fabric over my skin. I pressed my face into the crook of his neck, soaking in his familiar scent, now mixed with gunpowder and blood. Blood. Sweet and metallic. Blood, so much blood.
“Oh God,” I gasped, and gasped, and gasped but couldn’t breathe. Dante lifted me into his arms again and carried me into the bedroom where he lowered me on our bed. He took off his shoes and lay down beside me, cradling my face until my frantic gaze settled on his intense eyes. “Shh, Val. It’s okay.”