Sempre redemption, p.13
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.13

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 13

 

  “You broke up?”

  Carmine nodded.

  “After what everyone risked for that girl, you’re not even together anymore?”

  Again, he nodded.

  “She’s off on her own? Free to do as she wishes?”

  Another nod.

  “And you’re not. ”

  Not a question that time, but Carmine nodded anyway.

  After a bout of strained silence, Sal broke the tension by laughing once again, abruptly loud and genuinely amused. “Well, I believe there’s a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. ”

  “What’s that?” someone else asked.

  “No matter how beautiful you think a woman is,” Sal said, “she’s never worth the trouble. ”

  The men erupted in cheers, toasting Sal’s words, while Carmine remained silent. Picking up his glass, he sipped the hot liquor, absorbing the bitterness into his bloodstream. He watched as Sal turned back to the young brunette, putting his arm around her again. He pulled her to him, whispering, “Not you, baby. ”

  She blushed and giggled, while Carmine grimaced. Fucking sick.

  “There is an upside, though,” Sal declared, glancing back at Carmine. “You can join in the fun around here. There’s no reason for you to have to go home alone tonight. I’m sure Ashley’s friend, Gabby, would be happy to show you a good time. ”

  Carmine looked to the blonde when Sal motioned toward her. She smiled devilishly, her blue eyes scanning him slowly, surveying, and judging. “Absolutely. ”

  Shaking his head, Carmine looked away from her. “No, thanks. ”

  “Not your type?” Sal asked. “There are plenty more around here—redheads, blondes, brunettes, girls in all shapes and sizes. Just pick your poison. ”

  “I’m just . . . not interested. ”

  “My godson, not interested in a woman? Unheard of! Pick one. My gift to you. ”

  Carmine tried to think of a way to explain it that didn’t make him look susceptible. The last thing he wanted to do was expose his biggest weakness in front of so many. “I’m not in the mood right now. ”

  “You don’t have to be in the mood,” Sal said. “These ladies know what they’re doing. Ten minutes alone with one and you’ll be begging for more. ”

  “I don’t beg. ”

  “I seem to remember you begging me once, Principe. And correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t it because of a girl? A girl you’re no longer with, at that. Maybe you should’ve just left her where she was. Maybe we’d all be better off. ”

  Anger swept through Carmine. He clenched his hands into fists in his lap but fought to keep it from showing on his face. Sal stared at him, challenging him to react.

  “Come on now, Boss,” Corrado’s voice rang out directly behind Carmine, startling him. Heavy hands clamped down on his shoulders, keeping him locked in place so he couldn’t turn around. “Cut the boy some slack. Even you know what it’s like to make mistakes. He’s just being cautious so he doesn’t make another. ”

  “I suppose that’s admirable. ” Sal relaxed again as he took a sip of his drink. “The last thing I want is another careless man on my team. ”

  “Especially one that’s careless with a woman,” Corrado said.

  Sal laughed bitterly. “Like his father. Vincent’s only flaw was his choice in females. Talk about a man who made mistakes . . . ”

  Carmine’s calm mask slipped, his eyes narrowing. He shifted forward a fraction of an inch at the insinuation about his mother, preparing to pounce without a second thought, but Corrado’s grip on Carmine tightened.

  “You live and you learn,” Corrado said. “Carmine here will do both, hopefully . . . as long as he remembers his place. And I think right now, his place is at home. He hasn’t even unpacked and he’s already partying. ”

  “True, true. ” Sal waved his hand dismissively at Carmine. “Get out of here. ”

  Corrado let go of Carmine, stepping to the side so he could stand up. He glanced around the table one last time before nodding his head. “Good night, sir. ”

  He briskly walked away, relief soothing his nerves as he bolted for the exit. As he approached the bouncer, the man suddenly jumped from his seat and stood at attention. Carmine’s brow furrowed at the reaction until he heard Corrado tell the man to relax. His uncle was right on his heels, walking out behind him.

  “Thanks for that,” Carmine said quietly once they were outside, taking a deep breath of the cold night air. A cloud surrounded him as he exhaled.

  “You’re welcome, but I won’t always be around,” Corrado replied. “You have to learn to control yourself, no matter what he says. ”

  “I know, but I just didn’t expect that. I mean, fuck, he flipped on me quick. It caught me off guard. ”

  “He’s testing you,” Corrado said, “and based on the little bit I saw, I have to say you’re going to fail. ”

  10

  After two weeks of fleeting hunger and fits of insomnia, Haven’s grip started to slip. Every time there was a knock at Dia’s door, a swell of hope ran through Haven that it was Carmine, but each time she would end up crushed all over again. She grew anxious, conjuring up wild scenarios of where he was and what he was doing. She couldn’t understand how he tolerated being away from her. If he loved her as he claimed, he had to feel the same pain she did.

  Didn’t he?

  She started imagining things that weren’t there again, whispered voices in the night calling out to her as she struggled to find solace in sleep. She heard noises in the apartment, footsteps outside her door, and loud bangs that sent her heart wildly racing. It got to the point where it felt like someone was always there, lurking around the corner, watching, waiting. She could hear them moving around but they were always out of sight, never within her reach. He was haunting her, his memory lingering everywhere she looked, while his absence cruelly taunted her.

  Until, suddenly, one day, she saw him there.

  Haven stood in place, staring at the vision in front of her. Carmine sat in a dark room in nothing but a pair of gray sweatpants, hunched over his piano with his fingers ghosting across the ivory keys. He didn’t press down on them. There was no music, no sound at all—nothing but strangled silence.

  Nothing but him.

  She reveled in the sight, the contours of his muscles and the rise and fall of his chest as he breathed deeply. His hair was a mess, overgrown and unkempt, sticking up in every direction and falling forward into his eyes. She could even make out the scar on his side, shining a shade lighter than his naturally tanned skin. She longed to touch it, to trace the old wound with her fingertips.

  “Tesoro. ” He whispered the word in a shaky voice, as if saying it any louder would hurt too much. “Ti amo. ”

  She opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. She clutched her throat, startled, unable to find her voice. It was gone.

  I love you, too, she thought. I always will.

  “Only you,” he whispered. “Sempre. ”

  Sempre.

  “You’re my life,” he said. “I’d die without you. ”

  I’m yours. I always have been.

  His shoulders slumped. “Forgive me. ”

  For what?

  “I destroy everything I touch. ”

  She shook her head. Not me.

  “Maybe not you, yet,” he said. “But I will . . . if you let me. ”

  You won’t. She took a step closer. You wouldn’t hurt me.

  “I hurt you when I left,” he whispered. “But I had to do it. I had to. ”

  He slowly turned in her direction as he lifted his head, and Haven’s heart pounded furiously as he looked straight at her. Instead of the bright vibrant green she had expected, there was nothing but darkness. There was no life, no light, no spark. His words were just as cold. “I would’ve destroyed you had I stayed. ”

  A violent shiver tore down her spine as she frantically shook her head.

 
; Over his heart, where the words Il tempo guarisce tutti i mali were inked on his skin, a small black circle appeared. She watched, horrified, as it expanded rapidly, his face twisting in anguish as the blackness took over his body.

  A loud crack shook the walls as he vanished into the darkness.

  Haven sat straight up in bed, her heart pounding erratically. It was pitch black, no streetlights shining through the window, not even the glow from the alarm clock nearby. She rubbed her burning eyes, disoriented, and colored splotches sprung up in her line of sight like splatters of translucent watercolor paint.

  A severe storm waged outside, rain splattering against the building as the wind screeched. The noises echoed through the room as a prickly sensation danced across Haven’s feverish skin, almost like there was an electrical charge in the air.

  Glancing toward the bedroom door, her panic flared as a thump rang out in the living room. “Dia?” she called out, her voice gritty. She swallowed harshly, trying to get a grip, and pushed the comforter away. Her legs shook as she tiptoed toward the door, pressing her ear against the crack to listen.

  A gust of wind whipped by, violently rattling the window, and Haven turned to look. Confusion rocked her as her eyes fell upon the glass, and in the blurry reflection she caught a glimpse of a pair of eyes. Not just any eyes . . . familiar eyes, ones that had beckoned to her since the first time she gazed into them.

  “Carmine,” she whispered, the pain in her chest intensifying at the sound of his name. Tears formed and she blinked, trying to force them back. When she reopened her eyes, the image was gone. “Carmine!”

  Another strong gust of wind hit and the tears slipped past as she started to tremble. She hit the light switch, frantically flicking it up and down, but nothing happened. No electricity.

  Flinging open the bedroom door, she gasped as shadows swept across the living room. She heard the click of the front door and panicked, looking up to see the chain lock dangling, swinging from having been disturbed.

  “Dia,” Haven yelled, running to her friend’s bedroom. She pushed open the door without knocking and blinked to clear her vision, dread running through her when she saw the bed was empty. She quickly searched the house in the darkness, finding Dia nowhere.

  “I can’t do this anymore,” Haven said, panicking. Running back into the bedroom, she slipped on some shoes and grabbed her things in a frenzy before heading out of the apartment. In too much of a rush to wait for the elevator, she descended the six flights of stairs as fast as she could. She nearly tripped when she reached the second floor, pausing when she heard footsteps in front of her. A moment later they stopped and the outside door opened, a crack of thunder echoing through the building as whoever it was disappeared into the storm.

  Rain pelted Haven the moment she stepped outside, the water startlingly cold against her skin. Stepping off the curb, she started to dart across the street for the Mazda when a yellow taxicab pulled up in front of her. A man climbed out from the back seat and was about to shut the door when he saw her.

  “You need the taxi, lady?” he asked. She stared at him, debating his question. She had no idea what she was doing, her confusion deepening as she took in his concerned expression. “Hello? Are you all right?”

 
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