mafiosa - Page 56


Felice spent his time watching Luca, and I spent my time watching him.

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

DECEMBER 23RD

In the Council room at Evelina, Luca stood at the head of the table with his back to us. His black hair brushed against the base of his neck, his head tilted to the side as he faced the photographs on the wall. The others were looking at them, but I was looking at Luca, the way his shoulders tensed, how his voice arced. I could hear the exhaustion in it. He swept a hand through his hair, then gestured towards the photo on the far right.

Uncle Jack. A recent photo of him coming out of Eden and ducking into a car. His grey hair was buzzed short, his right eye still scarred and pink around the edges. My handiwork.

It was two days before Christmas, and I had never felt so joyless. We were planning our final, full-force strike, and every active Falcone member in the state had been called in to prepare for it. D-Day was approaching and I was right smack in the middle of it, finally about to get my revenge.

I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

‘Jack Gracewell aka Antony Marino will be at Donata Marino’s house, along with the others,’ Luca said without turning around. ‘Marco, her youngest son, will also be present. We suspect he has been appointed underboss following Zola’s death. Her cousin, Romano Marino, recently released from prison, has also risen in the ranks. Our sources tell us he’s become a key player in Zola and Libero’s absence.’ He shifted his attention to the photo on the far left, where a stocky skinhead boy was glaring at the camera. Beside him, a photo of a scowling Marco Marino: cropped brown hair, a hooked nose and a silver lip ring. Sara’s eyes, Donata’s harsh curving mouth. ‘And of course, Donata will be hosting.’ The photo of Donata was taken at Zola Marino’s funeral. She was mostly hidden under a netted black veil, those piercing eyes glazed over. She wasn’t crying. She was a woman who had spent all her tears long ago.

‘And what about Michael Gracewell?’ asked Dom. ‘Is he expected at Donata’s too?’

Luca straightened just a little. ‘We have no recorded sightings of Vince Marino Junior.’

Not since my mother’s goodbye ceremony.

Where the hell was he? Hidden so deeply inside the Marino framework, we had barely heard a peep from him. Was he that afraid of being hauled back to prison? Or was it us he was hiding from?

‘Well, if he’s there, we’ll just kill him, too,’ Felice remarked, his eyes on me while he said it. ‘The same rule applies to all of the Marinos. Is that not correct, Don Luca?’

There was no respect in the way he addressed Luca, and everyone around the table knew it. He was still looking at me while he played his game, while he tried to make Luca sign my father’s death sentence in front of me.

‘I doubt Vince Marino will be there.’ Luca’s voice was even. ‘He might be halfway to Fiji by now.’

‘But if he is,’ Felice pressed, grinning at me, ‘we are to kill him too, yes?’

‘Yes,’ I said, taking the reins before Felice could do any damage. ‘Of course we kill him. Why wouldn’t we? He’s a Marino.’

I tried not to let the pain of my response show on my face. If Luca couldn’t confirm my father’s impending death, then I could. It didn’t matter how deeply it cut into me, how jagged the words tasted in my mouth. There was no going back now, and the father I knew was long gone.

Felice’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Persephone,’ he said, his smile curling. ‘You surprise me. You would put your own father to death …’

Luca whirled around so fast that Gino jumped in his chair. He had his finger half an inch from Felice’s face, his twin brother’s thick ring shining on his left hand. Pure, unfiltered rage flashed behind his eyes. ‘I will tell you this once, Felice. You will not, under my leadership, presume to exploit the grief or pain of anyone in this family for your own amusement. You will not goad or tease or stir any more. If you do, I will demote you. If you push me, I will punish you.’

Felice swirled his response around in his mouth. We were all tellingly silent. It was a game, and it was not for us to play, but to wait on edge for it to end. Of course Felice would not cower, not in front of his audience, not even against his better judgement. He raised his eyebrows, and as innocently as he could make himself sound, he said, ‘Are you speaking to me as my boss or as Persephone Marino’s lover?’

Luca backhanded him.

The sound was a thick, hulking smack in the airless room. The ring smashed into Felice’s mouth, nicking a cut along his lower lip. Felice blinked up at Luca, the blood dribbling down his chin. He sucked it into his mouth and hummed as he tasted it.

‘Felice,’ Paulie warned. ‘Don’t.’

Felice stared at Luca. ‘You are crueller than your brother was, Gianluca.’

Luca hunkered down, his face inches from his uncle’s. ‘This is a different family now, Felice. Your words will have consequences, as will your actions … or lack thereof.’

He held his stare. The room seemed to grow colder. Luca would never forgive Felice for what happened that day in Holy Name, just as he would never forgive himself.

Felice swallowed a mouthful of his own blood. He broke eye contact, moving his gaze back to the photographs behind Luca. It was over.

Luca straightened up. ‘Capisci?’

Felice nodded. ‘Capisco.’

Uneasiness bound us into silence as we watched this new version of Luca, a boss just like the one his grandfather thought he would be. He was cold, calculated, intelligent. Grief had made him something to cower before – he held his temper on a short leash but it still flared inside him, and we could all feel it.

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