A towel covered Raul’s injury, and he sat in a cell until a doctor came to check on him.

Raul loathed anyone seeing his back, due to the scars his father had put there, but thankfully the doctor didn’t comment on them. He took one look at the gaping wound and shook his head.

‘This is too big to repair under a local,’ the doctor informed him. ‘I’ll tell the guards to arrange your transfer to the hospital.’

‘Is Bastiano still there?’ Raul asked, and the doctor nodded. ‘Then you’ll do it here.’

The thought of being in the same building as Bastiano tonight was not one he relished, and a hospital was no place for his current mood.

‘It’s going to hurt,’ the doctor warned.

But Raul already did.

The closure of the wound took ages.

He felt the fizz and sear of the peroxide as it bubbled its way through raw flesh, and then came the jab of the doctor’s fingers as he explored it.

‘I really think...’ the doctor started, but Raul did not change his stance.

‘Just close it.’

Deep catgut sutures closed the muscles and then thick silk finally drew together the skin.

He was written up for some painkillers to be taken throughout the night when required, but he did not bother to ask the guards for them.

Nothing could dim the pain.

It was not the wounds of the flesh that caused agony, more the memories and regret.


He should have known what was going on.

His mother’s more cheerful disposition on his last visit was because she’d had a lover. Raul knew that now.

And there was guilt too—tangible guilt—because she had called him on the morning she had died and Raul had not picked up.

Instead he had been deep in oblivion with some no-name woman and had chosen not to take the call.

Raul lay on the hard, narrow bed and stared at the ceiling through the longest night of his life.

There would be many more to come.

Light came in through the barred windows and he heard a drunk who had sung the night through being processed and released.

And then another.


Raul was in no rush for his turn.

‘Hey.’

The heavy door opened and a police officer brought him coffee. He was familiar.

Marco.

They had been at school together.

‘For what it’s worth, I’m on your side,’ Marco told Raul as he handed him a coffee. ‘Bastiano’s a snake. I wish they had let you finish the job.’

Raul said nothing—just accepted the coffee.

God, but he hated the valley. There was corruption at every turn. If memory served him correctly, and it usually did, Bastiano had slept with the young woman who was now Marco’s fiancée.

Just after nine Raul signed the papers for his release and Marco handed him his tie and belt, which Raul pocketed.

‘Smarten up,’ Marco warned him. ‘You are to be at the courthouse by ten.’

Raul put on his belt and tucked in his shirt somewhat but gave up by the time he got to his tie. One look in the small washroom mirror and he knew it was pointless. His eyes were bruised purple, his lips swollen, his hair matted with blood and he needed to shave.

Groggy, his head pounding, Raul stepped out onto the street into a cruelly bright day and walked the short distance to the courthouse. Raul assumed he was there to be formally charged, but instead he found out it was for the reading of Maria Di Savo’s last will and testament.

His father, Gino, was there for that, of course. And he sat gloating, because he knew that apart from the very few trinkets he had given her in earlier years everything Maria had had was his.

Raul just wanted it over and done with, and then he would get the hell out.

He was done with Casta for good.

But then, for the second time in less than twenty-four hours, the man he hated most in the world appeared—again at the most inappropriate time.

‘What the hell is he doing here?’

It was Gino who rose in angry response as an equally battered Bastiano took a seat on a bench. His face had been sutured and a jagged scar ran the length of his now purple cheek. Clearly he had just come from the hospital, for he was still wearing yesterday’s suit.

And then the judge commenced the reading of the will.

This was a mere formality, and Raul simply hoped he might get the crucifix Maria had always worn.

That wish came true, for he was handed a slim envelope and the simple cross and chain fell onto his palm.

But then out slid a ring.

It was exquisite—far more elaborate than anything his mother had owned—rose gold with an emerald stone, it was dotted with tiny seed pearls and it felt heavy in his palm. Raul picked it up between finger and thumb and tried to place it, yet he could not remember his mother wearing it.

He was distracted from examining the ring when the judge spoke again.

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