Sempre redemption, p.36
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.36

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 36

 

  “Tell me,” Corrado demanded. “I want to know who’s been supplying you. ”

  “But I—”

  “Tell me!”

  A shuddering breath escaped Carmine’s lips, with it the lone name. “Remy. ”

  Corrado’s eyebrows rose with question. “Tarullo?”

  “Yes. ”

  Before he could elaborate, Corrado’s strong hand shot out and wrapped around his throat. The cardiac monitor went wild, frenzied beeping filling the room as Carmine struggled to take a breath, his lungs burning, begging for oxygen.

  “Rule number one,” Corrado whispered, leaning close so he hovered over a thrashing Carmine, his mouth near his ear. “You never rat out your friends. ”

  He let go, and Carmine inhaled sharply. Tears stung his eyes, his vision blurred as he watched his uncle head for the door. “I’ll be back. I have to do some thinking on how best to handle you. ”

  The sun was just starting to rise outside, blinding light filtering into the window as it bounced off the windshields of the cars in the parking lot. Seven in the morning, he guessed, maybe earlier.

  Carmine lay there on the lumpy, uncomfortable bed for a while, humoring the nurses as they poked and prodded, taking vials of blood and checking vitals, before he decided enough was enough. Tearing the IVs out, ignoring the blood running down his forearm, he disconnected himself from the machines. Doctors rushed in as the cardiac monitor flatlined, gaping at him as he pulled on his clothes. He ignored their pleas to get back in bed, brushing past them and walking straight out of the hospital against medical advice.

  He didn’t make it very far. A block or so away, he strolled into a small tavern with a fluorescent OPEN sign flickering in the window. Head pounding viciously, eyes burning, and throat dry, he wanted nothing more than to drown in a drink.

  “Just give me whatever’s on tap,” he muttered, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a few crumpled-up bills.

  “Do you have ID?” the bartender asked. Carmine glared at him, making no move to answer. He wasn’t sure if it was the look in his eyes—the I’ll-fucking-cut-your-balls-off-for-a-drink glare—or maybe the blood on his ripped shirt, but something changed the man’s mind. “Never mind. You look old enough to me. ”

  He poured Carmine a beer, setting it on the bar in front of him, and wordlessly took the cash. Carmine picked up his mug and took a sip, grimacing from the bitter taste. He was about to take a second one—bigger this time—when someone grabbed him from behind. He flew off the bar stool and hit the floor with a painful thud, the beer spilling all over the front of him.

  “What the fuck?” Carmine spat as the person clutched his arm and dragged him toward the door. He saw his uncle as he finally got to his feet again. “Corrado?”

  “You walk out of the hospital to go to a bar?” Corrado seethed, pulling him onto the sidewalk and toward his Mercedes parked along the curb. Carmine tried to yank his arm away, but Corrado’s grasp was too tight. He forced him in the passenger seat of the car before climbing in beside him and speeding away. “You nearly died last night. ”

  “Yeah, well, I didn’t. How the hell did you find me? Do you have a GPS chip planted on me?”

  “Of course not,” Corrado said. “Although maybe that’s not such a bad idea. Is that what you want? Me to inject you with a chip like your father did your girlfriend?”

  “Ex,” Carmine muttered. “She’s not my girlfriend anymore. ”

  “Lucky for her,” Corrado said. “That means she dodged a bullet . . . unlike you. ”

  Carmine tried to keep a straight face as his uncle reached over, pinching his cheek where he had been shot. The wound stung almost as much as his harsh words.

  Corrado drove the two of them past Luna Rossa, his eyes surveying the club. “I’ve owned Luna Rossa for decades, and until last night there wasn’t a single incident here. Not one. Murderers and thieves come in and out of my doors every day, and it took a coward to blow my perfect streak. ”

  25

  Come home with me. ”

  Haven looked up from the book in her lap as Kelsey burst into her apartment, half a dozen bags awkwardly juggled in her arms. Frazzled, she breathed erratically, her eyes so wide she appeared unhinged.

  “What?” Haven asked. “Why?”

  “Why?” Kelsey dropped her luggage on the floor by her feet. “Because it’s Christmas, that’s why. The semester’s over, you have no work to do, so there’s no reason why you can’t come home with me. ”

  Haven closed her book, sighing. “But it’s Christmas. ”

  “Duh, that’s what I said. ” Kelsey rolled her eyes. “You shouldn’t be here all alone. It’s not right. ”

  “What about your family, though?” Haven asked. “I don’t think Christmas is really the time to bring a stranger home. ”

  “Are you kidding me? You clearly don’t know my family. ” Kelsey shook her head, laughing dryly as she muttered something quietly to herself. She turned back to Haven after a moment, her expression suddenly severe. “Seriously, come home with me. Please don’t make me go alone. ”

  Haven laughed. “They can’t be that bad. ”

  “Like I said, you don’t know them,” Kelsey replied. “So come meet them, eat Christmas dinner, and then we’ll talk about whether or not they’re bad. ”

  Hesitating, Haven looked away from her friend. “I don’t have anything packed. ”

  “Do it now. The car will be here in ten minutes. That’s plenty of time for you to pack. I mean, really . . . ” Kelsey eyed Haven, scrunching up her nose. “. . . It takes less than that for you to get ready in the mornings. ”

  “Fine. ” Haven tossed the book onto the couch beside her before standing. “I’ll go. ”

  “Awesome,” Kelsey shouted as Haven walked into the bedroom. “And change your clothes while you’re in there! You’re totally not wearing sweats in public with me. ”

  Rolling her eyes, Haven slammed the bedroom door behind her.

  Ten minutes later, she reemerged with a duffel bag full of clothes and necessities, wearing a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved pink blouse that matched her Nike’s. She pulled her wavy hair back into a ponytail and grabbed her coat, standing in front of her friend for inspection. “Better?”

  “Good enough. ” Kelsey turned to the window as a horn blared in front of the building. “Oh, perfect timing! Car’s here!”

  Haven locked up the apartment before following her friend out of the brownstone, her footsteps faltering the moment she stepped outside. Along the curb in front of her sat a black stretch limo, the driver hurriedly taking Kelsey’s bags from her to toss in the trunk. Kelsey thanked him with a smirk before turning to Haven. “What are you waiting for?”

  What was she waiting for? She blinked a few times, squeezing her eyes shut tightly the last time, expecting the car to be gone when she reopened them, but it wasn’t. It idled there, both Kelsey and the driver looking at her strangely.

  “I, uh . . . nothing. ” Haven shook her head as she walked to the limo. She attempted to put her own bag in the trunk but the driver stopped her, prying it from her hands. “Uh, thank you. ”

  “My pleasure,” he replied, opening the back door for the two of them. Haven climbed in, the smell of fresh leather strong in the vehicle. The seats and floor were immaculate, not a speck of dirt anywhere.

  “First time in a limo?” Kelsey asked, casually lounging in the seat.

  “That obvious?”

  “Maybe,” she replied. “My father sends them for me all the time. ‘Nothing but the best for my baby girl,’ he says. ”

  Haven smiled. “He sounds nice. ”

  Kelsey’s abrupt laughter bounced through the confined space. “Nice? Yeah, just wait . . . ”

  Her words made Haven’s anxiety flare. “You said he’s a politician, right?”

  “Right. Good ol’ senator from the great state of New York. Not like he actually does anything, though. ”
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  “What does your mom do?”

  “Drinks wine and harps on people,” Kelsey replied. “So basically the same as my father: nothing. ”

  Even though it was only a few miles away, it took them nearly forty-five minutes in traffic to reach Kelsey’s parents’ estate, a large three-story mansion on the Upper East Side. Haven gawked at it as they pulled onto the property, admiring the manicured lawn with elaborate fountains. “You lived here?” she asked with disbelief. “Why in the world did you move to a tiny apartment?”

  Kelsey sighed. “My father offered to get me a place nearby, but I wanted to live in Chelsea. We waited so long it was hard to find a place near the school, but he made a few calls and managed to get the apartment above yours. ”

  Haven shook her head, too dumbfounded to understand as the limo came to a stop, the driver opening the door for them. He retrieved their bags when they climbed out, the front door to the house opening right away. Two men appeared, wordlessly taking the bags from the driver and hauling them inside.

  A third man appeared then, strolling casually out of the front door. He wore a tie and coat, his dark hair perfectly sculpted, a few gray strands gleaming in the sunlight. He paused, eyeing the two of them intently. “Kelsey. ”

  “Father. ”

  “It’s good to see you. ”

  She muttered under her breath, the words inaudible but tone petulantly scathing, before she cleared her throat and replied. “You, too. ”

  “I see you brought a friend. ”

  Haven’s cheeks suddenly grew warm as the attention shifted to her.

  “Yeah, this is my neighbor, Hayden Antoinette,” Kelsey said. “I invited her for Christmas. ”

  “That was, uh, nice of you,” he said. “Uncharacteristically so. ”

  Kelsey narrowed her eyes. “I know how to be nice. ”

  He ignored her statement as he stepped forward, holding out his hand to shake hers. “Hayden Antoinette, is it? Any relation to Marie?”

  “Marie Antoinette?” Haven’s brow furrowed as she shook the man’s firm hand. Something about his grip, his commanding presence, made her nerves flare further. “Well, uh . . . she was a French queen, right? And I’m just, uh . . . well, I’m not royalty. ”

  He let out a laugh as she stammered, her cheeks turning even redder. “I was just joking, dear. It’s nice to meet you. ”

  “You, too . . . ”

  “Cain,” he said, letting go of her hand. “Just call me Cain. ”

  “Just call me Cain,” Kelsey mocked her father in a fake deep voice. “Are you done kissing ass now, Senator? Can we go inside?”

  Cain swept his hands toward the entrance. “By all means, sunshine, go on in. ”

  Kelsey grabbed Haven’s hand and pulled her past her father. Cain watched them intently like he was studying their every movement, his gaze making Haven’s hair bristle a bit.

 
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