He tried, but still continued to smack his face into the water because of how nervous he was.
“Papa, save me. Save me. I’m dying!” he screamed with fear.
The sound pierced my heart. I caught him, pulling him towards my chest... but as if he was smoke he disappeared. All that was left was his scream of terror. Papa, papa, save me, save me. I’m dying.
My eyes flew open.
I was lying on my bed, and my body was slick with sweat. It had been many years since I remembered him with such detail. All around me was darkness and I stared at the ceiling blankly. For the longest time I didn’t even blink. I dare not. I could still hear his happy laughter, and I wanted to keep that for as long as I could. But it went. The same way he had disappeared in my dream. Like a wisp of smoke.
All I could hear was my heart slamming into my chest. And then the terrible, terrible sorrow of his loss came. It filled my body. Every cell was infected with the loss. I squeezed my burning eyes shut. No, not that again.
I had long ago closed my heart towards the memories, even pushing them out of my mind because the pain was too unbearable. The only thing I truly loved in the world had been ripped away from me, and although I felt the lingering emptiness every single day that passed since then, it meant life was bearable.
Now, it had returned with a vengeance.
I knew it was because of Angelo’s child. I didn’t begrudge him his child, I just wanted my boy back. After all these years, I still missed him as if he had been taken away from me yesterday. I felt my hands clench. I wanted to smash everything up and howl with the pain. I thought of the bottle of alcohol downstairs. For months after Rocca died I’d been so drunk I didn’t even know my name. I was in such a rage even the bodyguards, uncertain of what I might do at the slightest mistake on their part, kept their distance. I was a drunken madman in charge of a violent empire.
Inhaling deeply, I counted to three, and pushed my body upwards. Then I swung my legs out of the bed and sat with my head buried in my hands. Slowly, methodically, I regulated my breathing. When my state was somewhat back under control, I walked away from the room without thought. I didn’t even know what time it was, but that didn’t matter either.
All I could think about was getting completely lost in a different kind of emotion. A heady, tumultuous rush that would take me out of my state of despair and bitterness and back into the realm of the living again.
I pushed her door open and was surprised to see that her lamp was on and she wasn’t in her bed. The bathroom door was open, but it was in darkness so I knew she was not in there. I could feel a cold wind and I realized with shock she must be out on the balcony. I walked over to the open door and saw her standing there in her thin nightgown. My bare feet had made no sound, but she turned suddenly.
She gasped and staggered backwards. Her face was pale, her mouth opening in a silent scream. I reached out and caught her before she could fall and hurt herself.
“What are you doing here?” she whispered.
The horror was so real, I slammed her into my body and hugged her hard. Her skin was cold. It reminded me of his skin that day. Oh, God! I nearly gagged with horror. Without thinking I buried my face in her neck, so the warmth from my skin would seep into hers, but she was frozen. I could feel her body trembling. I pulled her into the room and shut the door.
“Luca,” she whispered, but I was already moving towards the bathroom. I needed to make her warm again. I needed to make her skin stop being so cold. I switched on the shower and turned it up so it was hot. Then I pulled her under the cascade.
She didn’t struggle or argue. She let me. The stream was powerful and warm, and slowly it began to warm her. Looking into my eyes she reached out a hand and touched my scar. I shuddered slightly, but I didn’t catch her hand or pull away. Part of me couldn’t believe I was letting her.
“Is it true a tiger gored you?”
I shook my head. The truth was more prosaic and less romantic. “A knife fight when I was fifteen. I got careless.”
“You are the most beautiful man I’ve ever known,” she whispered.
I frowned. “I’m not. My soul is ugly beyond redemption.”