Sempre redemption, p.28
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.28

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 28


  “No, sir,” he said quickly, squeezing his eyes shut at his words. “I didn’t mean any disrespect. ”

  Corrado put the gun away and let go of Carmine. “There’s no justification for you following me. Where I’m going doesn’t concern you. ”

  “Doesn’t it?” he asked, trying to stop trembling as he stood up straight. “If you’re going where I think you’re going—”

  “What did I just say?” Corrado asked. “I told you in Durante to make your decision and you did. You need to be a man of your word. ”

  “So I’m right?” he asked exasperatedly. “You’re going to her?”

  “You have no right to intervene. ”

  “I’m not trying to intervene,” he said, shaking his head. “I just . . . Christ, I wanna know where she is, what she’s doing. Why the fuck you’re running off in the middle of the night. Is something wrong? Is she hurt or something?”

  Corrado stared at him as he rattled off questions, his expression blank, but Carmine could see the annoyance in his eyes. He knew he shouldn’t have been questioning him, but he needed something, anything . . . just a bit of information to keep him going.

  Glancing at his watch, Corrado sighed impatiently. He looked as if he were going to speak and hope swelled through Carmine, but it was trampled when he instead raised his gun again. Carmine recoiled as his uncle fired off two shots in his direction, the unexpected noise startling him. Carmine turned to look incredulously, seeing the driver’s side tires of his car rapidly deflating.

  “If you’re going to tail someone, at least be discreet about it. ” Corrado placed the gun back in his coat. “Call for a tow truck and go home. I don’t need you slowing me down any more than you already have. ”

  “Just fucking great,” Carmine muttered as his uncle walked away.

  Corrado paused. “That’s an order, Carmine. ”


  Haven nervously watched the clock, waiting for the black rental car to slowly pull up the street. It parked in a free spot directly in front of the brownstone, and Corrado climbed out, fixing his tie and looking around before heading inside. He tapped once on her door, patiently waiting for her to open up.

  She started stammering as soon as he entered, trying to explain what had happened, but he held his hand up to stop her. She flinched from the sudden movement and he froze. “I have no intention of harming you. ”

  Haven stood still by the door as he checked out the place. The apartment appeared undisturbed and Haven felt ridiculous, wondering if Corrado had flown out for nothing.

  “Is your upstairs neighbor home?” he asked.

  “Uh, no, not yet,” she said. “Kelsey stayed with a guy last night. ”

  “Look around and tell me if anything has been taken,” he said. “I need to check her apartment and make sure neither of you have been bugged. ”

  “Yes, sir. ”

  She sorted through things, taking inventory, and found nothing missing. Even the cash she kept in a drawer was still there. Always use cash, Corrado had said, never leave a paper trail.

  Corrado came back downstairs after a bit, leaving the door open a crack as he lingered near it. “The place is clean. Anything missing down here?”

  “No,” she replied. “I don’t really own anything valuable, though. ”

  “Value doesn’t always equal a monetary amount,” he said. “No diaries?”

  She shook her head before it dawned on her. “Oh, crap!”

  Darting into the living room, she scanned the bookshelf and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the worn leather book amongst the others. “I have Maura’s. ”

  Haven turned to him and started to speak, to ask what she should do, when the front door thrust open, catching Haven off guard. She gasped as Corrado turned, reaching into his coat for his gun. He clutched it but didn’t pull it out as Kelsey appeared in the doorway, her eyes darting between Haven and Corrado.

  “Who’s the DILF?” she asked, leaving the door wide open as she motioned toward Corrado. Her eyes scanned him, a small smile coming upon her lips.

  Haven’s cheeks flushed. “Kelsey . . . ”

  “Is this your missing friend?” Corrado asked. “The one that lives upstairs?”

  “Missing?” Kelsey’s brow furrowed. “Are you a cop or something?”

  Corrado glanced at her. “Do I look like a cop?”

  “Sort of,” she said. “I mean, you do have a gun. ”

  Corrado immediately removed his hand from his weapon, covering it again with his coat.

  “He’s . . . ” Haven started, unsure of how to explain it.

  “Corrado,” he said, finishing her statement as he politely held out his hand.

  “Kelsey,” she said, shaking it. “Obviously you already know that, though. ”

  “Yes. If you’ll excuse me, I need to make a phone call. ”

  He walked to the kitchen, pulling out his phone. The moment he was out of earshot, Kelsey jokingly punched Haven’s arm. “Where the hell did he come from?”

  “Uh, I’ve known him for a while,” she mumbled.

  “I’m not gonna lie—I was hoping you wouldn’t go home alone last night. I hoped you’d get some of that stiffness knocked out of you, if you know what I mean, but how did you pull that?”

  “You think we . . . ?” Haven was stunned. “No way! He’s married!”

  “So?” She shrugged. “A man like that needs more than just one woman to take care of him. I can’t believe you spent all night with him and still didn’t get laid. ”

  “Why do you think I spent all night with him?”

  “You have the same clothes on from yesterday,” she said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Did you at least blow him?”

  “Kelsey, shut up!”

  “You’re such a prude,” she said, smirking. “If you won’t, can I?”

  “No!” Haven shook her head furiously. “Oh, God, why would you want to?”

  “Are you seriously asking me that?” she asked. “Are you blind? He has that whole mysterious and dangerous look about him. There’s no way a man like that isn’t well endowed. ”

  “Stop!” she hissed.

  Kelsey rolled her eyes. “Oh, relax. I get it. You have no interest in men, except for Cartman . . . ”

  “Carmine,” she corrected her.

  “Cartman, Carmine—same difference. I’ve known you a few months now, honey, and I’ve yet to see that guy. He doesn’t call, he doesn’t write, he doesn’t visit. He may as well be a ghost, but that fine specimen in the kitchen? He’s real, he’s tangible, and there comes a point where you have to give up the fantasy for the reality. ” She paused and glanced down the hallway as Corrado headed back in their direction. “And it doesn’t hurt when the reality looks a hell of a lot like my fantasy. ”

  Corrado stepped in the room, slipping his phone in his pocket as he gazed at Haven. “You should be safe here, but I’m going to have the locks replaced. ”

  A tense silence fell over the room as Kelsey’s eyes clouded with suspicion. “Did something happen?”

  “Someone broke in,” Haven mumbled. “They were here when I got home. ”

  Kelsey’s eyes widened. “Did they get anything? Did they hit my place, too?”

  “She scared them away before they could make it that far,” Corrado chimed in. “No harm done. ”

  Haven nodded, confirming the lie. She looked at the clock as another bout of tension swept through the room. “I need to get ready. We have somewhere to be. ”

  “I’d rather you skip it today,” Corrado said.

  Haven shook her head. “I can’t. ”

  He gave her a curious look. “Can’t, or won’t?”

  “Won’t. ”

  He nodded as if he had expected that answer. “Proceed, then. ”

  Haven left the two of them alone in the living room to get dressed. Kelsey was sitting on her couch eating when Haven returned, but Corrado
was nowhere to be found.

  “He stepped outside,” Kelsey said before Haven had a chance to ask. “Got a call from what I assume is his wife. Major mood killer. ”

  Haven shook her head. “He’s not your type. He’s a serious person. ”

  “I noticed,” she said. “He’s intense. You’re not in, like, WITSEC are you?”

  “What?” Haven asked.

  “WITSEC. You know, witness protection, where the government gives you a new identity so gangsters can’t find you?”

  Haven cracked a smile at the irony, considering it had been the gangster to give her a new identity to hide from the government. “No, it’s not like that. ”

  “So how come I’ve never seen him here before?”

  “He doesn’t live around here. ”

  “Where does he live?”

  “Why are you so nosy?”

  “Because I am,” she said, laughing. “How did you meet him?”

  “He’s a . . . friend of the family. ”

  “Really? He looks really familiar, like I’ve seen him somewhere before,” she said, standing. “It’s strange. He is a cop, though, right?”

  “Why the questions?” Haven asked.

  She shrugged. “I’m just trying to figure out who he is. Is it a crime to want to know about my friend’s life? You don’t talk much about it. ”

  “There’s not much to tell. ”

  Kelsey rolled her eyes. “Whatever, let me get dressed and we’ll go. ”

  Corrado’s car was gone when they headed outside. They shared a cab in silence to the Rainbow Art Center and spent the morning cleaning the place, organizing everything and gathering up all of the kids’ artwork. They carefully framed them all and spent two hours affixing the paintings to the wall and decorating for a party. Kelsey left at one point to get snacks and drinks as Haven blew up balloons. She turned around to get something, nearly colliding with someone standing there. The person grabbed her shoulders as she screamed, caught off guard.

  “Relax,” Corrado said. “It’s just me. ”

  “How did you know where I was?” she asked.

  He raised his eyebrows. “You think I don’t keep tabs on you?”

  “Well, sure, but I didn’t know how closely. ”

  “Close enough that I could find you at any given moment,” he said. “It’s my job to know. It’s nice what you do here, by the way. ”

  “Oh,” she said, flushing. Was that a compliment? “Thanks. I enjoy it. ”

  “I imagine you do,” he said. “Maura did similar things. She always said if she helped just one person, it would have been worth the sacrifice. ”

  “She mentioned that in her journal,” Haven mumbled. “I feel the same way. ”

  “So you understand why Carmine left you, then?”

  Haven cringed from the question, not expecting it.

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