‘Oh, you know, just seething in a fresh vat of my own vengefulness.’
He offered me a half-smile. ‘Sounds productive.’
I shrugged. ‘What’s up with you?’
He tilted his head, his mouth quirking to one side. ‘Just looking for someone to get vengeful with.’
‘You sound like you’re being serious,’ I pointed out.
We looked at each other for a long moment. It was comfortable – the silence between us. It felt nice to have an ally, someone who could see the ugliness inside me and didn’t expect me to shy away from it.
I broke the silence. ‘So they know where I am.’
‘They’re an embarrassment to our culture,’ he shot back.
‘I’m going to make them pay.’ My breath hitched, but I smoothed my features. I wanted him to believe me; I needed him to believe me.
‘Of course you are.’ Nic’s features had hardened into a mask of conviction; his jaw set, his eyes blazing. He sat forward, his elbows on his knees. ‘It will be a bloodbath, Sophie. Donata won’t know what’s coming. We’re going to take everyone from her. It will get rid of your sadness, when you know she’s not out there terrorizing innocent people. We’re going to stand over her and show her just how wrong she was to mess with—’
Nic bit the rest of his sentence off. Annoyance clouded his expression as he turned around. Luca was standing in the doorway, his arms folded across his chest.
‘What?’ Nic asked, exasperatedly.
‘Can you go upstairs?’ Luca said, in what I assumed was his attempt at politeness. It was not remotely polite. ‘I want you to check on Dom and Gino.’
‘We’re in the middle of a conversation.’
‘I can see that,’ said Luca, nonplussed.
‘So, now I’m telling you to go upstairs.’
There was a wavering silence. Nic looked at me and then at Luca and then back at me. He paused, deliberating. Luca didn’t do anything; he just waited, irritatingly sure of Nic’s concession. Nic huffed a sigh, pulled himself to his feet and marched past his brother, leaving a ‘Fine, whatever,’ behind him.
We watched him go, his shoulders sloping away from us.
Luca stepped inside the library, and I wondered if he could smell the smoke as keenly as I could. It was fused to every part of me, stuck inside my nose and my brain.
‘Don’t let him get into your head like that,’ Luca said, his tone turning reproachful. ‘You’re smarter than that.’
‘So now you want to talk to me?’ I said, trying to act casual when I was ten seconds away from imploding.
I rolled my eyes. ‘You’ve barely talked to me since I got here,’ I said, looking at the collar of his shirt, avoiding his bright blue gaze. ‘You leave rooms to avoid me. You don’t even look at me most of the time.’
‘You mean the way you’re looking at me right now?’ he shot back.
I raised my gaze, cut my eyes at his stupid, perfect face and scowled. ‘You know what I mean, Luca. You’ve been ignoring me.’
He lowered himself on to the arm of the chair across from me. ‘I didn’t come in here to argue.’ I let the silence linger, determined that he would fill it, not me, not when I’d spent the last two weeks trying to get his attention, trying to find out what the hell was going on in his head. I had had to find out about today’s initiation from Gino.
‘Don’t let Nicoli paint his intent with false glory. Don’t fall for his rhetoric.’
‘Says the guy who constantly sounds like he’s quoting poetry.’
‘I’m giving you advice.’
‘Do you want some in return?’ I offered. ‘Next time you’re going to eavesdrop on my conversations … don’t.’
‘What about when I see my brother wrapping you around his little finger? Should I let him finish manipulating you, or should I intervene?’
‘Don’t, Luca.’ I let my voice lag, the weariness seeping through. ‘I’m not in the mood.’
‘He doesn’t have the cure for what you’re feeling right now. No one does.’
‘That’s a message for me.’ I gestured at the window. Somewhere beyond it, the skeleton of my mother’s car was heaving in the driveway. ‘And I want to kill Donata for it.’
He shook his head, a frown rippling across his forehead. ‘This is exactly the response they want. They want to draw you out, towards them.’
‘When do I get to kill my Marino?’ I asked.
Luca gaped at me. I studied his chest, his uneven breaths pushing it upwards. The silence grew. I decided to slice into it. ‘I’m not really up to date on proper assassin etiquette yet, but judging by this dramatic reaction of yours, I’m getting the sense I’ve just committed some kind of faux pas?’
He dragged a hand across his cheek. ‘Look, I get that you’re angry right now. I get—’
‘When?’ I interrupted him. ‘Valentino said I’d get my target soon, so how soon is soon, Luca? When?’
The act of having to kill a Marino just to test my loyalty had dropped into my stomach like a block of lead, but with the heat of those flames still burning inside me, I realized I wanted to hit back at Donata. I wanted to show her I wasn’t afraid, that she would pay for all that she took from me, that this was only the beginning. I wanted the target. I wanted my target. I wanted somewhere to direct all the rage festering inside me.