Sempre redemption, p.42
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.42

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 42

 

  The last time he had been there, things hadn’t gone over very well.

  Slowly, he walked over to the bar. “Vodka, please. ”

  The bartender raised an eyebrow. “Do you have ID?”

  Carmine hesitated. What the fuck? “You know me, man. ”

  “You’re right,” the bartender said, not sounding impressed in the least. “I do. ”

  “Yeah, so are you gonna give me a shot?”

  “Sure,” the man said. “Just as soon as you show me some ID. ”

  Carmine stared at him, stunned. “Are you fucking with me?”

  The bartender sighed. “Look, I feel for you, but you know your uncle . . . I ain’t losing my life just so you can drink. He said you were cut off permanently. ”

  “This is fucked up,” Carmine muttered, wishing he had something to soothe his frazzled nerves before he had to face Corrado. “Where is my uncle, anyway? He told me to meet him here. ”

  “He’s in his office,” the bartender said, motioning toward the hallway. “You know which one it is. ”

  Frustrated, Carmine pushed away from the bar and slowly made his way to the back. He knocked on the door and waited. The last thing he wanted was another fight with Corrado.

  “It’s open,” Corrado yelled.

  Carmine stepped inside. Corrado sat in his leather chair, nonchalantly flipping through paperwork. Not wanting to interrupt, Carmine wordlessly plopped down in a chair in front of his desk.

  Corrado glanced up at him and stilled his movements. “Did I tell you to sit?”

  “Uh, no. ”

  “Then I think a man of reasonable intelligence can conclude you should still be standing. You’re by no means a genius, but even a two year old can follow simple commands. ”

  Carmine’s mouth drew into a thin line as he tightly pressed his lips together, fighting hard not to respond to the insult. He should be used to it by now, but his temper still often got the best of him.

  He stood back up.

  “Now you can sit. ”

  Motherfucker.

  Carmine plopped back down, fidgeting as he drummed his fingers on the arm of the chair. A sheen of sweat formed on his brow, the lights in the room feeling too bright and uncomfortable. His heart hammered in his chest as he waited for Corrado to tell him why he had been called there, but the silence lingered on. Corrado returned to his paperwork, ignoring his presence.

  Nearly twenty minutes passed—excruciatingly uncomfortable minutes—before his uncle looked up at him again. “Are you on something, Carmine?”

  “No,” he said, his eyes narrowing defensively. “I haven’t. Not since . . . ”

  “And you better not,” Corrado said. “It’s unacceptable. Disrespectful. I’ve put a bullet in men for less than what you did, and . . . ”

  Sighing, Carmine slouched in the chair as his uncle went on and on, the same shit he had heard more than a dozen times the past few weeks. He knew it all—in fact, he knew it before the incident even happened—and he was getting tired of constantly being berated for his mistake.

  He had paid enough, he thought, the aftermath something he would never forget.

  His mind wandered then, drifting, until the sound of a phone ringing shattered his train of thought. Corrado immediately stopped talking as he glanced at it, his eyes darting straight to him, his expression severe. “If you say a single word, I’ll make you suffer. Understand?”

  He blanched, nodding, suddenly too terrified to reply.

  “I mean it,” Corrado warned. “Don’t even breathe too loud. ”

  Reaching for his phone, Corrado answered it as he brought it to his ear. “Hello, Haven. ”

  And just like that, the air flew from Carmine’s lungs. Corrado narrowed his eyes at him as he let out a shuddering breath, but he couldn’t help it. The room felt smaller, stifling, suffocating.

  He wanted to puke. He wanted to cry. He wanted to sucker punch his uncle and snatch the fucking phone from him just to hear her voice one more time.

  But he did nothing. He merely sat there, staring across the desk, straining his ears in hopes to hear something, anything . . . just a part of her again.

  “I just called to tell you I’d be away for a while,” Corrado said. “It’s nothing to be concerned about, but I may be out of touch for a few months. ”

  Corrado was silent as he listened to her response. He pulled his phone from his ear after a moment, laying it on his desk as he pressed a button on the screen. Carmine’s stomach sunk, figuring he had hung up, until he heard her sigh through the line. It was subtle, barely inaudible, but it was there. Speakerphone.

  “How’s school?” Corrado asked, sounding disinterested, his eyes glued to Carmine as he asked the question.

  “It’s, uh, good,” Haven replied. “The new semester starts tomorrow. I’m all signed up for my classes. ”

  “That’s great. ” Corrado tapped his fingers against the desk. “I hope you’re enjoying yourself and making friends. ”

  “I am. ”

  “Good,” Corrado said. “I’m glad you’re well. Take care of yourself. ”

  “You, too, sir. ”

  Carmine closed his eyes as his uncle pushed another button, this time ending the call. They sat in silence for a moment before Corrado addressed him. “I’m not going to be around to keep an eye on you, Carmine, so you better stay straight. ”

  “Where are you going?”

  “Jail. ”

  Carmine blinked a few times. “What?”

  “They’re revoking my bail as we speak,” he explained. “They think I had something to do with your father going missing. ”

  After a strangled bout of silence, Carmine forced the million-dollar question from his lips. “Did you?”

  Corrado waved his hand, turning back to his stack of paperwork. “You’re dismissed, Carmine. ”

  29

  The moment Corrado stepped in his house later that night, the succulent aroma of marinara assaulted his senses. He took a deep breath, inhaling it as he strolled toward the kitchen. Celia stood in front of the stove, the sleeves of her blouse rolled up to her elbows and her usually pristine hair pulled back in a sloppy bun. A blue apron was tied around her, protecting her clothes from splatter as she stirred the homemade sauce.

  Corrado silently watched her, a ghost of a smile tugging his lips. She hadn’t heard him come in and continued to concentrate on her cooking, oblivious to her husband’s presence. Corrado loved these moments, when Celia was in her element and the world around her faded away. She glowed radiantly, beaming like the sun as she floated along. It was what had drawn him to her in the first place—her ability to bring light into such a devastatingly dark world.

  He would miss it. There was no doubt about it. His world would soon be a much colder place.

  He let out a deep sigh, not wanting to think about what would come tomorrow, and Celia jumped at the noise. Dropping her spoon, she spun around and clutched her chest. “You scared me! I didn’t know you were home. ”

  Corrado’s smile grew, but he said nothing as he took a few steps toward her. Carefully, he untied the apron from around her waist, and Celia eyed him skeptically as he tossed it aside. He reached up and tugged on the band securing her hair, making it fall loose. It was messy, an unruly wave cascading past her shoulders.

  “What are you doing?” Celia asked as he took her hand.

  “Taking you upstairs,” he said, “and getting you out of those clothes. ”

  She tried to dig in her heels to make him stop, but he was much stronger than her. “Corrado, hold on! I’m cooking!”

  “So?”

  “So my sauce might burn!”

  “You can make more later. ”

  “But the stove is on!”

  “Who cares?”

  “Who cares?” she asked incredulously as he pulled her toward the stairs. “What if it catches on fire?”

  “Then I’ll buy you a new st
ove. ”

  “It could burn down the whole house!”

  “Then I’ll build you a new house. ”

  She laughed with disbelief. “It’ll burn down with us in it, Corrado. ”

  He glanced at her, cocking an eyebrow. “Do you really think I’d let that happen?”

  Her comeback was snappy. “Do you really think you could stop it?”

  Corrado was momentarily silent, still clutching her wrist as they stood near the bottom of the stairs. He pondered her question. Did he think he could stop it?

  “Bellissima, I’d stop time for you. I’d give you the moon and the stars; I’d learn to defy gravity. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do, nobody I wouldn’t kill, if you asked me to. If you needed me to. Saving you from a fire would be nothing, purely instinct. ”

  She stared at him for three beats, not budging, before her body relaxed and she gave in. It wasn’t as if it was a hard decision for her—as much as Corrado would do for her, they both knew she would never deny him anything. Whatever he needed, come hell or high water, Celia would be there every step of the way.

  Their hands linked together, Corrado took her upstairs to the bedroom. He shut the door behind them, locking out the cruel world that would tomorrow tear them apart, but today—tonight—it would just be her and him.

  * * *

  Hours later, Corrado descended the stairs and made his way to the dark kitchen. He turned off the stove and dumped the scorched sauce down the garbage disposal before rinsing out the pot. He scrubbed it for a minute but when it refused to come clean, he tossed the entire thing in the trashcan.

  He headed back upstairs and showered, standing under the spray of hot water until it started to grow cold. He shaved then, using a thin razor blade under the bright lights of the quiet bathroom to remove the stubble along his sharp jaw. Afterward, he slicked back his thick hair before dressing in his most expensive black Brioni suit. With his Rolex affixed to his wrist and his Italian leather shoes on his feet, he wandered into the bedroom and gazed at his wife under the moonlight.

  Celia snored lightly, snuggled up to his pillow. Corrado leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Sleep well, bellissima. ”

  He made his way back downstairs, using his cell phone to call for a car service to pick him up. It only took the town car a few minutes to arrive, and another few minutes for them to make it through the city. He tipped the driver handily when they arrived and he climbed out, waiting for it to leave before he started to move.

  He strolled into Metropolitan Correctional Center shortly before three o’clock in the morning, his head held high and a swagger in his step. He may have been there to surrender himself to a bright orange jumpsuit and confinement in a rat hole, but he saw no reason why he couldn’t at least do it in style.

  30

  Grip firmly, everybody, and use deep strokes. Up, down, up, down. ”

  Strangled laughter echoed through the small art room. It sounded like someone was choking on air.

  “Experiment with light and hard touches. Play around with it. Find out what feels good to you. ”

  Kelsey leaned over, elbowing Haven as she whispered, “Do you think she does that on purpose?”

 
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