“You’re not compelled to pass listening devices around, Theresa.”
“The attempted murder of Scott Mabat. The loan shark.”
His breath was deep and sharp. “When I murder Paulie, it will be for that.”
“You said you wouldn’t,” I said.
But he would; I knew that. If he wasn’t protecting a relationship with me, and the opportunity arose, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill Paulie.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said as if admitting to a crippling weakness he’d hidden his whole life.
“Yes, you do.” I brushed my hand against his cheek.
“I don’t. There’s no solution.”
“There’s always a solution.”
He just shook his head. He believed it. He’d done the math and come up with the best, most selfless solution he could. Walk away.
“Fight, Antonio. Fight for me.”
“I am fighting for you,” he said.
He whispered it back to me. “Fight harder.” Then he smirked, shaking his head a little. “Of course. I’ll die fighting for a life with you. If they kill me for it, my fate is set. I’m marked for hell. I’m damned, and once this life is over, we’re separated for eternity. So while I’m on this earth, every second I have is yours.”
“And my seconds and my minutes and hours are yours. Will you take them?”
“I am yours, Contessa.” He kissed my breasts and belly. “Solo tua.”
The particular strain of his voice, hinted with both intensity and hopelessness, gave me pause. But it was a short pause because his tongue was between my legs, finding ridges and edges, working around my core and then upward, tickling my clit.
He came up to me, face to face, leaving me still wanting his tongue. He hitched my hips up and slid his dick into me. “Forever. Everything I do with you is forever.”
“Wait. A second. Wait. Just. Ahh.” He fucked me so hard every thought went out of my head. He fucked the brains out of me, the common sense, the grounded quality he loved so much. I was gone. Every thread of maturity, wisdom, and care was gone.
I’d been his long before that moment. He owned me the first time he put his body on mine, since the first thrash of violence on my behalf. He’d owned me the minute he wanted me, even before I wanted him.
But it wasn’t until he spoke to me in vulnerability, until I heard panic, until he came to me with nothing, that I owned him.
It was only at that moment that his salvation came under my care, and I became responsible for my own destruction.
She understood. I thought she wouldn’t. I thought she’d dismiss how serious our power and our traditions were. But she was from an old-fashioned family. I don’t think I realized that until Thanksgiving.
“I want you to come,” she said over the phone as I stood in the driveway, watching Zo go over building plans with his workers. Someday the house would be done, even if I never lived in it. “Thanksgiving is important here.”
“I want you to come. That should be enough.”
“No. It’s that simple.”
I couldn’t believe we found the time to argue about something so mundane. It felt like practice for real life.
“I’m not some kid looking to show you off. I want you to meet these people. They’re important to me. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
I did. And maybe I didn’t want to go for just that reason. “I want to talk about this when you’re in front of me and I can occupy your mouth with something besides your demands.”
“Don’t avoid this,” she said.
“Ti amo, Contessa.”
“I’ll text you the address. I expect you there.”
I’d found myself in the position of trying to talk her out of our escape plan. She would be better off without me. And I tried to convince her, but only wound up fucking her. I tried to slip away, but she caught be by my dick and had me.
I’d promised to protect her. It was a promise I realized I couldn’t keep. I felt resigned to the difficulty of the path and also to the potential of it. The trick to dying without dying was to make arrangements without making arrangements. The strategy was to not break up, to not stay together, to not change. And the question I’d pose to her when she was in front of me would be, “Would I go to Thanksgiving dinner with your family under different circumstances?” I didn’t think I would. Not yet.
“This has to be done,” my father said over the phone as I opened the door to the basement. Lorenzo and I clattered down the wood stairs.
“I understand.” Zo handed me a box on handguns. I had an armory under the house that had been moved from l’uovo. I had the phone tucked between my shoulder and ear as I pointed to one of the guns and mouthed the word ammo.
“She’s a nice girl,” my father said. “You’ve met her?”
I chose the one thing I’d need: a small handgun, built for a woman’s hand but large enough to stop a man. Zo took a box off a shelf and shook it. Full.
“When this is done, I want you back here. This is going to put a lot of vendettas to rest. You and Irene will be safe.”
What was the answer? What would it be if I was going to live past the next few weeks?
“No,” I said taking the box from Zo and heading upstairs. “I’m not going back.”
You didn’t say no to Benito Racossi. You said yes, boss. But I wouldn’t have said yes. I would have said no and gone to Napoli anyway.
“Is this about la rossa?” he asked.
“She’s American, Pop. It doesn’t work like that here.” I pocketed the weapon and put the rest away, and we clattered back up the stairs. Zo shut the light and closed the basement door behind me.
“It’s all right. I’ll figure it out,” I said. The conversation with my father was such a play. I felt like an actor reading lines.
“You always do, son. You always do.”
I didn’t think he knew what was going on, but he was suspicious. I could hear it. We hung up soon after. Zo put the box of bullets on the kitchen counter.
“Who’s this for?” Zo asked.
“Nice. She’s hot, you know? You gonna, you know, get to know her better?”
“After the Bortolusi wedding.”