Sempre redemption, p.63
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.63

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 63

 

  “Black coffee. ”

  “Seriously? All of this fancy caramel chai frappe cappu-fucking-ccino venti latte bullshit and you get plain coffee?” She nodded and he chuckled, pulling her hand up and pressing a kiss on the back of it. “That’s the Haven I remember, the one who likes the simple shit. ”

  The barista asked Carmine for their order and he muttered, “Two regular black coffees,” his expression daring her to try to correct his lingo. She simply nodded as she rang it up, and he groaned when he saw the price.

  “I have some cash on me,” Haven said, reaching into her pocket. “I think. ”

  “Don’t even dare,” he said, shooting her an incredulous look. “I’d rob the place before I let you pay. ”

  She removed her hand as he grabbed his wallet, pulling out a twenty-dollar bill. The woman gave Carmine his change, eyeing him warily, and he slipped a ten into the tip jar on the counter.

  “That was generous,” Haven commented.

  “Yeah, well, I kinda just threatened to rob the place, so I figured I probably shouldn’t stiff them on top of it. ”

  “You wouldn’t actually rob the place, though,” she said confidently.

  “No, I wouldn’t,” he replied. “As long as I wasn’t ordered to, anyway. ”

  Carmine grabbed their drinks, leading her to a table in the corner away from everyone else. They sat and Carmine took a sip from his steaming cup, gagging from the taste. “This shit is bitter. ”

  She took a drink of hers. “Tastes fine to me. ”

  He dumped in as much sugar as he could fit, adding some creamer to make it a bit more tolerable, but he still had no desire to drink it. They chatted as Haven sipped her coffee, and he listened intently as she told him about her life in New York. She talked about going to school and creating art, about the people she had met and the friends she had made, before she explained about hearing the details of his father’s death on the news.

  “This wasn’t the first time I wanted to come. When I was in Charlotte, I ran out in the middle of the night and took a cab to the bus station. ” She laughed humorlessly at the memory. “I was out of my mind, hadn’t slept in a while. Your father stopped me. That’s what I was talking about at Celia’s. ”

  Carmine gaped at her. “You could’ve been arrested for suspicious behavior. The cops don’t fuck around, you know. Everyone’s worried about terrorism. ”

  She laughed it off. “I don’t look like a terrorist. ”

  “Well, neither do I, but looks don’t mean shit. ”

  “But you aren’t a terrorist,” she refuted. “So that proves my point. ”

  “No, it doesn’t,” he said. “It doesn’t prove shit. I terrorize people. ”

  “That’s not the same,” she said, narrowing her eyes as annoyance flashed across her face. “You’re being too hard on yourself. ”

  “No, you’re just being too easy on me,” he said. “You don’t even know . . . ”

  “Then tell me,” she said seriously.

  “I can’t. ”

  “You can’t tell me anything?” she asked, cocking an eyebrow in challenge. “Or is it just that you don’t want to tell me because you don’t want me to know?”

  “It’s because you don’t want to know. Trust me. ”

  “If you think I’m going to run out that door because of something you tell me, you’re wrong,” she said. “If you can’t tell me, I understand, but don’t hide things from me just because you believe it’s better if I don’t know them. ”

  “No good can come from you knowing,” he said. “You’ll look at me and you won’t see me anymore. You’ll see them. You’ll see the people I’ve hurt and the things I’ve done, so excuse me if I sorta fucking like you seeing just me. ”

  She opened her mouth to respond but hesitated briefly, leaning her elbows on the table and moving closer to Carmine. “Have you had to, uh . . . ?”

  “Kill?” he asked, finishing her question. She glanced around anxiously to make sure no one was listening before nodding. He could see the curiosity in her eyes, but he could also see the apprehension. That was something he never wanted from her. “Would it make a difference?”

  “No,” she said. “If you did, I know it’s because you had to. ”

  “Then why are you asking?”

  “I just want to know. ”

  “No. ”

  She looked at Carmine cautiously. “You aren’t going to tell me?”

  He sighed. “That’s the answer, Haven. No. ”

  “Oh. ” She was quiet for a moment, appearing deep in thought. “Is that what you see when you look in the mirror? The people you’ve hurt?”

  “It’s hard to see the good when there’s so much damn bad. ”

  “I see the good. ” She smiled softly as she gazed at Carmine. “It might help you to talk to someone, though. You shouldn’t keep it all bottled in. ”

  “I’m still not going to tell you that shit,” he replied, shaking his head.

  “I know,” she said. “I meant, like, a professional. ”

  His brow furrowed. “Are you suggesting I go to a shrink?”

  She shrugged. “Why not? I know there are some things you can’t tell them, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help at all. I saw a movie where a mobster guy went to a psychiatrist, and so did that other one in that TV show. He was the boss, too. ”

  Carmine smirked when it struck him what she had said. He tried to contain his amusement, but his laughter escaped when a blush overtook Haven’s face. “Aw, don’t be embarrassed,” he said, reaching across the table and cupping her cheek. It was warm against his palm and she leaned into his touch, smiling sheepishly. “It’s sweet of you to worry, but this isn’t like TV, tesoro. We can’t do that shit in real life. ”

  He stroked her cheek softly as she whispered, “I wish you could. ”

  “Me, too. ”

  * * *

  The sun had set by the time they left the coffee shop, darkness surrounding everything. He held her hand as they strolled through the parking lot toward the car, the atmosphere between them light once again. It felt like a weight had been lifted from his chest, his world just a tad brighter since she had walked back into it.

  The carefree feeling didn’t last, though—not that he had actually expected it to. They made it back to his house and he asked if she wanted to watch a movie, but they barely made it through the opening credits before his phone rang.

  He pulled it out hesitantly, tensing. Corrado. “Sir?”

  “Be in front of my house in five minutes. ”

  “Yes, sir,” he grumbled, but responding was pointless because Corrado had already hung up. He slipped the phone back in his pocket and looked at Haven, running his hand through his hair anxiously.

  “You have to go,” she said quietly, a tinge of sadness in her voice, but she forced a smile. “I understand. ”

  She started to stand but he grabbed her arm to stop her. “Don’t leave. ”

  She looked at Carmine with confusion. “What?”

  “I just . . . fuck. Just stay, okay?”

  “I don’t know,” she said. “It’s late. I should find a hotel. ”

  He groaned loudly, the noise sounding like a growl. “Look, I’m not telling you what to do. If you want to go, tesoro, by all means go, but I’d rather you stay. ”

  “I, uh . . . ” she started, but she trailed off when his phone rang again.

  Five minutes had already passed.

  Carmine cursed, answering it quickly. “I’m coming, sir. ”

  “Now,” Corrado barked before hanging up.

  Carmine stood, eyeing Haven carefully. ”Just . . . wait for me, okay?”

  She didn’t say a word but she also made no move to leave, so he wasn’t sure what she was thinking. He didn’t have time to stick around and figure it out, though, so he gave her one last look before grabbing his gun and bolting for the door. He stepped outside as a memory hit him, the
last time he had said those words to her running through his mind.

  She had refused to wait for him that day.

  He glanced behind him at the house as he headed down the street, hoping like hell she would wait this time.

  41

  Carmine’s phone was ringing again by the time he reached Corrado’s, but he didn’t bother answering it since he was so close. Corrado’s car was parked along the curb, the headlights blacked out but engine running. Carmine climbed in the passenger side and gave his uncle a cautious glance, seeing the look of impatience on his face, and tensed in anticipation of him snapping. Corrado closed his phone and Carmine’s instantly stopped ringing, but he didn’t say a word.

  Corrado pulled away and sped down the street, waiting until he was a block away before flipping on his headlights. Carmine surveyed his uncle, noticing he wore his black leather gloves, and instantly knew something serious was happening.

  “I hope you had a nice time with Haven tonight,” Corrado said, shattering the tense silence.

  “Uh, yeah, I did,” Carmine replied. “Thank you for everything you did for her. She told me about it all. ”

  “No reason to thank me,” he said coolly. “I was only doing the job that was given to me, Carmine. That’s what we do. Personal feelings are irrelevant. We follow orders and one thing you should know about me by now—one thing I hope you respect me for—is the fact that I don’t fail when I take on a task. Ever. ”

  Carmine nodded. “Yes, sir. ”

  “Good. And I didn’t want to interrupt your evening, but it’s time. ”

  Carmine eyed him warily, wondering what time it was, but Corrado didn’t elaborate and Carmine knew better than to question him.

  A bad feeling seeped into Carmine’s bones as Corrado drove without saying another word toward a rough area in the south side of Chicago. It was fairly deserted except for the occasional scraggly passersby, the street aligned on both sides with condemned buildings covered in graffiti. It was gang territory, the part of town where they battled for control of corners no one really wanted in the first place. They killed one another for the fuck of it, for the right to rule the forsaken streets.

  The fact that they were there, moving deeper into the midst of gangland territory, didn’t sit well with Carmine. He reached under his shirt and felt his gun secured in his waistband, his thumb flicking the safety off just in case.

  “Do the thugs in this neighborhood scare you?” Corrado asked, noticing his movement.

  “No,” he replied. “I just know anyone who comes to this side of town is up to no good. ”

  “True,” Corrado responded, pausing before adding, “It’ll be over quick. ”

  His cryptic words sent Carmine’s heart pounding furiously. They neared the end of the main street and took a left onto another narrow road, stopping halfway down. Corrado cut the engine and opened his door, hesitating as he glanced at Carmine. “Leave your gun in the car. You seem to have an itchy trigger finger tonight. ”

 
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