“I’m not getting married,” I mutter, shaking my head and reaching for the buttons on the elevator. I remember my father saying to me over and over again. Soon, you’ll be a mafia bride. Soon, you’ll be like your mother. A wife. Soon, you’ll have children. Soon, soon, soon.
My heart sinks like a stone. Soon just became now. I start to hyperventilate. “I can’t breathe. I need to get out.”
Pietro snarls. “Now look at her, she’s panicking.” He shoves me to the back of the elevator. “Relax, you’ll live longer.”
I do what I used to, in through the nose, out through the mouth. Slow, and steady. “Tell me you’re kidding,” I say when I can breathe again.
He mimes zipping his mouth.
“Who am I supposed to marry? At least tell me that.”
“No one knows his name,” Ken says. “We just know he’s got a reputation so scary it made your father give you up without questioning him.”
“Seriously,” Pietro snaps. “Shut the fuck up.” He turns to look at me. “Listen, does it matter? Mafia marriages are all about the duty, not the love. You do your duty for Don Belucci and your husband to be, and everyone’s happy, all right?”
“Except me. I’m pretty fucking far from happy right now.”
“Well, let’s be honest, Toots. Who do you think gives a shit about your opinion?”
My mother screams. I can’t get to her. I hear the shots. One, two. I know she’s dead even though I can’t see her. The cries cut off in an instant. The house is silent but only briefly.
My ears ring as more shots fire. My sisters. Emilia, always fixing her hair, always late to dinner. Dead. Little Vicky. The baby of the family. Dead.
Only me and my father left. I can’t mourn for them. I must get to my father. I must help the Pakhan of the Volkov Bratva fight this battle.
I find him in the study. He’s loading his gun.
He sees me come in, grabs hold of me, kisses the top of my head. “Don Belucci betrayed us,” he says. “Must have watched me punching in the alarm code last time he was here. Son of a bitch.”
Another shot, somewhere in the west wing.
“Sold me out to the Mexicans rather than pay his debts. Never trust anyone, Alexsei. You hear me?” He slaps me across the face. “No one. The only person you can ever trust is yourself. You need to run. Keep our bloodline alive.”
“I won’t leave you. We can take them. Give me a gun.”
He hasn’t let me carry weapons since I started drinking. Too much risk. “I need you to stay alive,” he says. “Go.”
He hits the button that swings open the hidden door in the bookcase behind his desk.
I fight him. Tell him we can take them together.
“You will obey my orders,” he says, putting the gun to my forehead, forcing me through the door. “I love you, son. Make me proud. Get revenge on the Belucci famiglia. Take the daughter for your own, destroy her.”
He shoves me through, pulling the door shut before I can get back into the study. My last sight of him is a pair of flint like eyes watching me as the door slams into place.
I think about hitting the button to open the door again. “Don Belucci says hello,” a gruff voice says before shots ring out.
I could open the door but I have no gun. My father is dead. I know it in my heart. I’m the only one left in my family. All because we trusted Don Belucci when he told us he wanted peace between the Italians and the Russians. Wanted us to work together to destroy Garcia’s cartel.
I walk down the stone steps, along the long dark corridor to the edge of the estate. All of a sudden I’m back in the house. My mother is screaming. Shots fire. A knocking sound. Where’s that coming from? It’s all happening again. An endless loop.
Another knock. The house fades away from my mind.