Sempre redemption, p.65
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.65

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 65

 

  Corrado glanced at him. “Would you rather it had been you?”

  “Not Sal. ” He shook his head as the tears continued to stream from his eyes. “My father. ”

  Corrado let out an exasperated sigh and swung a sudden right, pulling the car along the curb and cutting the engine.

  “Your father died a long time ago,” he said, his voice low. “Just because he was walking around and breathing doesn’t mean he was alive, Carmine. We die the day we lose the will to go on. We die the day we stop caring about life. The Vincent I knew, the man who made you, whose blood flows through your veins, ceased to exist when you were eight years old. He died in that hospital room as he held vigil beside your bed, mourning the loss of his wife. I watched every painful second of it as it happened and did nothing to stop his death. ”

  Corrado avoided looking at Carmine, instead staring out at the vibrant full moon in the sky. “He had work to do, so he kept going until it was done. He’d finally finished, so it was time for him to go. To him, it was better than the alternative. He had no intention of going to prison. ”

  “But why would he?” Carmine asked, shaking his head. “It didn’t have to be this way. I mean, the Feds . . . ”

  “You’re wrong,” he said. “Your father didn’t make a deal for himself. He didn’t turn state’s evidence against me. He accepted his fate long ago. Your father cooperated for you. He cooperated for Haven and everyone else you love. He gave them what they wanted so they’d leave his family alone, and in the process he did Maura’s memory justice by saving a young girl. ”

  Corrado paused briefly to collect his thoughts before he continued. “He’d made his decision, but I couldn’t let him do it himself. He wouldn’t find the peace he sought if he did. He wanted to be with your mother. He wanted to live again, with her. I made it so he could. ”

  Carmine stared at him as he processed his words. “Why’d you ask him for forgiveness then?”

  “What?”

  “When you pulled the trigger, you said ‘Forgive me. ’”

  Corrado shook his head. “I wasn’t asking him. ”

  Starting the car up again, Corrado pulled away from the curb. “We have one more thing to take care of tonight, so pull yourself together. ”

  They drove across town to the run-down strip club, the one he had been to before when Corrado killed Remy. The crummy lot was packed, the back row filled entirely with familiar sedans. Corrado parked along the side of the building, climbing out and glancing around cautiously. “Are you registered to vote?”

  “Uh, no,” Carmine said as he got out of the car.

  Corrado nodded, as if that answer didn’t surprise him, and motioned for Carmine to follow him inside. The club was packed, the air thick with smoke. They slipped by the bouncer without saying a word, Carmine keeping his attention on his uncle as they headed to the back room.

  “Voting’s important,” Corrado said, pausing at the cellar door. “People like to feel like they actually have a say in what happens, even if it’s just an illusion. ”

  Corrado opened the cellar door and voices filtered out instantly, but they quieted once they descended the stairs. Carmine hesitated on the bottom step, looking around the small grimy space with shock. There were at least twenty-five men present, mostly Capos from what he could tell—the highest-ranking men left within the collapsing organization. They all looked at Corrado as he entered and he nodded toward another man, who cleared his throat to gain everyone’s attention. “We all know why we’re here. Nominations?”

  A few people said Corrado’s name, while others just murmured in agreement.

  “Any others?”

  The basement remained completely silent.

  “Any objections?” the man asked. “Speak now or take it to the grave. ”

  Carmine looked around. The men appeared nervous, their shifty eyes everywhere except for on Corrado. The room once again remained silent, no one speaking up.

  The entire scene was strange to Carmine.

  “Moretti it is, then,” the man said. “This meeting never happened. ”

  Corrado turned back around, motioning for Carmine to go right back up the stairs without having spoken a single word. They headed out to the parking lot, pausing beside the car not more than five minutes after arriving. “Like I said, people like to believe they have a choice, even if they really don’t. ”

  Corrado got in the driver’s side and Carmine slipped into the passenger seat, eyeing him warily. “You’re the Don now?”

  “Yes. ”

  “What would’ve happened if someone objected? Would they have been allowed to leave?”

  “They would’ve certainly left the room,” he replied. “Just in a dozen pieces. ”

  * * *

  Carmine listened for sounds as he opened the front door, noting the house was completely silent, but the glow from the television illuminated the living room. Haven lay on the couch fast asleep, her shoes kicked off and sitting on the floor in front of her.

  Carmine walked over and crouched down, stealthily slipping his gun under the couch before pushing some stray hair from her face. She stirred a bit but still slept, and he remained there for a moment, just watching her breathe.

  If he hadn’t been sure before, it was at that moment he knew it. It was then, watching her sleep, that he felt it. He didn’t know what would happen in the future, but somehow they would make it if they gave it a try.

  He fought back tears again, still unable to get himself under control. Life overwhelmed him, tugging him in opposite directions while he stood stagnant, trying to remain whole. He was surrounded by violence and death, the ugliness eating away at him, but then, on the other side, there was her. She was peace, and hope, and pure fucking beauty. She was the good that he hoped would overpower the bad.

  “Haven,” he whispered, running the back of his hand along her cheek. “La mia bella ragazza. ”

  She stirred again and opened her eyes, blinking rapidly with confusion. It seemed to strike her where she was, a sleepy smile curving her lips. “You’re back. ”

  “And you waited. ”

  “Of course I did. I told you I wouldn’t run from you, Carmine. ”

  “I won’t either,” he said, smiling softly. “I won’t leave you again. ”

  “You swear?”

  “You fucking know I do. ”

  She laughed, eyeing Carmine curiously as she sat up. She placed her right hand on his cheek, gently stroking his skin and brushing her thumb along his mouth. “Have you been crying?”

  “Maybe,” he replied, leaning forward to softly press his lips to hers. She didn’t pull away that time, didn’t turn her head. Instead, she moved her mouth in rhythm with his. It was sweet, and innocent, but it was enough.

  He ducked his head and nuzzled into her neck, inhaling deeply as he kissed the exposed skin. Her presence was overwhelming, the touch and scent and taste of her driving him wild.

  “Do you still feel that?” he asked, nipping at the skin near her collarbone. “The electricity between us? Please tell me you feel it. ”

  “I feel it,” she whispered.

  “I need you, Haven,” he said, his voice cracking as the words caught in his throat.

  “I know. ”

  A strangled sob escaped his throat, the sound causing her to grip him tighter, and she whispered quietly as he cried in her arms. He couldn’t seem to stop himself—she destroyed his walls all over again, broke Carmine down so it all came flooding out.

  42

  Life was a whirlwind, each day rapidly morphing into the next. Haven stayed with Carmine, things between them relaxed as she made herself at home. It was platonic, except for the occasional kiss and gentle touch.

  Exhausted, Carmine grew wearier every day. Nightmares plagued his sleep and he tried his best to stay sober, but the liquor seemed to call to him. Haven never said a word about it, but he could see the concern in her eyes whenever she saw
him take a drink. The looks got to Carmine, guilt chipping away at him every time he swallowed the harsh liquid.

  But it wasn’t enough to make him stop.

  Despite that, things were going well—almost too well, in fact. Carmine was waiting for everything to cave in around them. It felt too good to be true, like he had missed the fine print listing an expiration date.

  People left them alone, though, much to his surprise. He thought for sure his brother would be knocking the door down to see Haven, or Corrado would be calling to deal with business, but there was nothing.

  No visits, no phone calls, not a goddamn thing.

  It was almost a week later when there was finally a knock on the door. Carmine begrudgingly opened it, surprised to see a mailman standing on the porch. He glanced down at an envelope in his hand, squinting as he read the name. “Carmine DeMarco?”

  “That’s me. ”

  “Certified mail,” he replied, handing a small card to Carmine to sign. He scribbled down his name before giving it back, and he handed Carmine the letter. He thanked him before shutting the door, strolling to the living room and plopping down on the couch beside Haven. He saw it was from the lawyer and tore the envelope open, pulling out a piece of paper.

  “What’s that?” Haven asked.

  His eyes scanned the letter. “They’re reading my father’s will on Monday. Apparently he left me something. ”

  “Why do you sound surprised?” she asked. “You’re his son. ”

  “I don’t know,” he said, shrugging as he set the paper down. “It still doesn’t feel real. I mean, I know it is—I know he’s gone. I fucking saw it. But it’s still hard to believe it really happened. ”

  “I bet,” she replied. “Do you want to talk about it?”

  He shook his head. “That’s the last thing I even want to think about right now. ”

  “Okay,” she said, leaning over and pushing Carmine backward on the couch. She wrapped her arms around him and settled her head onto his chest as he grabbed the remote, turning on the TV and flipping through channels. They stayed that way the rest of the evening, forgetting about everything except what was happening within the walls of the house.

  Once again, it didn’t last. The next day, at the same exact time, there was another knock on the door. Carmine grumbled as he walked over to it, pulling the door open. The same mailman was standing on the porch, holding a familiar-looking envelope in his hand. “Fucking déjà vu. Weren’t you just here for this shit?”

  He nodded and looked down at the envelope in his hand. “Haven Antonelli?”

  “Oh, yeah,” he responded, opening the door farther and yelling for Haven. She appeared, looking between Carmine and the mailman in confusion. He motioned toward the letter. “It’s for you, tesoro. ”

  “Me?” she asked with surprise, taking the card from the man. She signed her name to the bottom of it, her handwriting precise and perfect cursive. He smiled watching her, knowing how hard she fought to learn to do that. She handed the card back and he gave her the envelope, telling her to have a good day before departing. She didn’t respond, just stood at the door staring at it.

 
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