mafiosa - Page 23


I knew he was dead. But he would always be alive in my head, taunting me, freezing me in that moment where I had faltered.

I failed.

I was a coward.

And now I had to face my punishment.

PART II

‘We … are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea.

We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.’

G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION

Nic and Luca sat in stony silence up front, the car moving so fast it felt like we might break the sound barrier. Dom was beside me in the back seat, on the phone to Paulie, who had escaped to a nearby restaurant to wait out the Marino ambush. They were still trying to figure out what went wrong with their intelligence, how they didn’t know the Marino boss was planning to show up when she did.

Dom just kept asking Paulie the same thing, his voice tinged with a strange mixture of confusion and awe. ‘What the hell was she even doing there?’ By the sounds of it, Paulie wasn’t coming up with any good answers, because Dom kept saying over and over again, ‘She must have known we were coming. She must have.’

Finally, they seemed to settle on the same conclusion: ‘We have a rat.’

A rat that was going to die slowly and painfully when they tracked him down.

I tried to take solace in the fact that Jack hadn’t been with Donata. That would have definitely cut our chances of escape in half. I was deliberately avoiding thinking about my father’s whereabouts, how easily he could have sauntered into that room with Donata too.

When we were almost back at Evelina, Luca turned to Nic, his voice deadly quiet. ‘I told you not to do it without me.’

I watched the sides of their faces as they stared at each other. Nic could sense the rage festering beneath Luca’s careful demeanour. We all could. Nic leant away from it, pressing his head against the window. When he spoke again, he sounded like a little boy. ‘But Valentino said—’

‘I told you to wait,’ Luca said.

Nic blinked at his brother, once, twice, and then said, ‘Why, though?’

‘Why?’ Luca repeated. ‘Why?’

‘Donata was a surprise. It’s not like I could foresee that.’

‘Oh, you think? I told you not to do it without me.’

‘I had it under control,’ Nic shot back. ‘She doesn’t need a babysitter.’

‘What the hell is that supposed to mean?’

‘It means we didn’t need you, Luca.’ There was a sharpness to Nic’s words. They hit Luca between the eyes, pulled his brows together. And it wasn’t true, I knew. Because I had needed him. We all had. I needed him even now. If he hadn’t been there, who knew what damage Donata could have done? Who knew if we would have escaped or not?

‘It was always supposed to be our mission,’ Nic added petulantly.

‘Right.’ Luca’s voice was dangerously even. ‘So, who failed then, Nicoli?’

‘What?’

‘If you were supposed to do it together, then I suppose you both failed,’ Luca said. ‘Do you want me to tell that to Valentino?’

Nic’s face fell. ‘N-no. Of course not.’

‘So, what will I say, Nicoli?’ Luca pressed. ‘What will I tell Valentino?’

Nic glanced once at me, his expression torn. ‘Sh-she was supposed to do it, but she couldn’t. I did everything I was supposed to.’ He flicked his gaze to me, apology written in the quirk of his mouth as he happily sailed me down the river of punishment. ‘Valentino will understand. He’ll give her another chance. With the Donata complication and everything …’ Nic trailed off.

‘You would have failed even without Donata’s interruption.’

Nic huffed a sigh. He didn’t disagree, but the truth was, Luca was right. I would have failed either way. I wasn’t able to do it. ‘Valentino will understand.’

‘Will he?’ Luca said.

Nic opened his mouth to respond, and then shut it just as quickly. He didn’t know. None of us did.

Luca let the silence linger, let the panic surge inside the car, which seemed to grow smaller and smaller. Then, at last, he said in barely more than a whisper, ‘She wasn’t ready. She’s not ready.’

‘Her shot is incredible,’ Nic protested. ‘Her aim is practically perfect.’

Luca glared at his brother, a frown twisting his lips. ‘Do you really think I’m talking about Sophie’s aim, Nicoli?’

For the first time, Nic looked at me like I might have the answer, but I was still dumbstruck, listening to a chorus of coward, coward, coward playing on repeat inside my head, feeling my own mortality hammering inside my chest. He looked back at his brother. Then he shrugged, once, heavily.

Luca shook his head, turned his attention back to the road. ‘You are so unfathomably stupid sometimes.’

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

WAITING

We were barely in the door when Luca, Nic and Dom were summoned to Valentino’s office.

A debriefing.

A progress report.

About Donata.

About me.

I was told to wait outside, so I hovered on the stairs, chewing my nails right down to the cuticles. I couldn’t decide which would have been worse, having to sit inside the office with them while they walked Valentino through everything that had happened at The Sicilian Kiss, or having to wait outside on my own until he decided on my punishment for having failed.

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