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Excerpt

Excerpt

Sempre: Redemption

One

Carmine sat in his usual chair in the library, casually strumming his guitar. A sliver of light filtered in from the large window, illuminating his somber expression in the darkness. She called his name but he remained still, continuing to pluck at the strings almost as if he hadn’t heard her. She took a step toward him and was about to say his name again when he let out a long, deep sigh. “I had a dream.”

“Another nightmare?” she asked, walking over to him. He glanced up at her as his fingers stilled, the music stopping, but Haven barely noticed. She couldn’t focus on anything but the green eyes boring into her. Once so alive with passion, she saw nothing but deep sadness marring the bright color.

Carmine set the guitar aside and moved his legs to make room, motioning for her to join him. She climbed into his lap and he wrapped his arms around her.

“Not a nightmare this time,” he said. “It was a good dream.”

“What was it about?”

“You,” he said quietly. “You made a painting—some abstract shit, I don’t know—but it was so good they hung it in a museum and raved about how talented you were. It was like you were the next fucking Picasso, tesoro.”

She laughed. “I don’t even know how to paint, Carmine.”

“You could learn,” he said. “Would you want to?”

“Maybe, but I don’t know how good I’d be.”

“Oh, you’d be good,” he said confidently. “You shouldn’t doubt yourself. You can do anything you set your mind to.”

“Except for play the piano,” she said playfully. “Or the guitar.”

He chuckled. “Yeah, for the sake of everyone’s ears, we ought to leave music to me, but the rest is all you. You can probably do all of that, you know. Draw, paint, sculpt shit into weird shapes and tell people it’s something it doesn’t look anything like. That takes talent.”

She smiled. “And you think I have that kind of talent?”

“Of course,” he said. “There’s gonna be no stopping you once you get started.”

“Thank you,” she whispered, a swell of emotion surging through her at his words. “It means a lot that you believe in me.”

“I’d be an idiot not to,” he said, kissing the top of her head.

Two

The smile fizzled from his face as he strolled through the house, heading straight for the drink table. He grabbed a small glass and filled it from an open liquor bottle, disregarding Corrado’s warning. The burn lessened the pressure in his chest, unwinding the knots and loosening his taut muscles.

He leaned against the table as he drank, his attention shifting to the front door. Hours had passed, yet the girl still stood there, as silent and still as ever. He studied her, wondering where she had come from and how long she had been trapped in Sal’s home. He couldn’t recall her ever being there before.

She snuck a peek after a moment, tipping her head up slightly so her blue eyes met his. Her brow furrowed when she saw him watching her, and she dropped her gaze again quickly.

“What’s your name?” Carmine asked curiously.

She peeked up once more but didn’t have a chance to respond before laughter sounded out behind him. Carmine turned at the noise of a clinking liquor bottle and froze, the glass nearly slipping from his hand as he stared at the badly scarred face. The familiarity took his breath away.

“Her name’s Annie, I think,” Carlo said, casually pouring a glass of scotch.

“Abby,” the girl whispered, her voice shaking as she corrected him.

“Not that it matters,” Carlo continued, shrugging. “You can call her anything you want.”

Carmine couldn’t tear his eyes away from him. Everything about the man screamed vile, from his callous words to his horrid face. “I prefer to call her by her name.”

Carlo looked over at him, studying him carefully. “DeMarco’s kid.”

“Yes.”

“Makes sense.” Carlo brought his glass to his lips. “She’s your type.”

Anger swept through Carmine. He fought to control himself, forcing his feet to stay where they were. He wouldn’t be provoked. Not here, not now. “Excuse me?”

“Ah, no reason to be ashamed,” Carlo said. “If it’s any consolation, I’ve always liked to sample the help, too. Little Annie over there is a sweet thing. Submissive. Didn’t even put up a fight. Not that any of them do. Well, except yours. Feisty one, isn’t she? Didn’t get that from her mother.”

Carmine’s rage spiraled over. “You son of a—!”

Before he could leap over the liquor table and pound his fists into the man’s grotesque face, the noise in the room grew louder as a slew of guests filtered in. They scattered through, some heading for the door while others made their way to the back den. Carlo took a step back, tipping his glass at Carmine with a menacing smile. “Nice to officially meet you, kid. I’ll see you around.”

He sauntered away as Corrado approached, grabbing the glass from Carmine’s hand and slamming it on the table. “Your ability to listen is astounding.”

“Do you know what that motherfucker just said to me?” Carmine asked, clenching his hands into fists. “He just—”

Corrado cut him off. “I don’t care. He’s made, Carmine. You don’t disrespect a man who earned his button.”

Three

“How long ago did you initiate?” the other officer asked casually, changing the subject.

Carmine glanced at him, surprised at his nonchalance “Initiate what?”

“La Cosa Nostra.”

He scoffed. “You’re joking, right?”

“Do I look like I’m joking?” he asked, raising his voice. “We know you’re involved, so there’s no sense denying it.”

“You must’ve watched Scarface one too many times,” he muttered. “That shit’s not real. It doesn’t exist.”

He sighed exasperatedly, giving Carmine an annoyed look. “We know it exists. We’re not stupid.”

“Neither am I,” Carmine snapped. “Take your bullshit questions about the Mafia elsewhere, because I have nothing to say about it. Period. End of motherfucking story.”

A tense silence fell over the room before Agent Cerone cleared his throat. “I saw her, you know.”

“Who?” Carmine asked, the shift in topic catching him off guard.

“Haven,” he clarified, his lips twitching as he fought back a smile.

“How . . . ?” His confusion deepened. How the fuck? “You’re lying.”

“I’m not,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about looking her up again.”

“Leave her the fuck alone,” Carmine spat, standing and shoving his chair back in haste. “I swear to God if you—”

Before he could finish, Mr. Borza grabbed his arm and pulled him back into his seat. “Threatening my client’s loved ones isn’t going to help you.”

“I wasn’t threatening anyone. I was simply saying—”

“We’re all well aware of what you were saying,” Mr. Borza said, “and it was nothing but a thinly veiled threat. You claim to want his cooperation, but yet you bring up Miss Antonelli in an attempt to upset him further.”

“I did no such thing,” Agent Cerone said. “As far as I’m concerned, he doesn’t care about her. In fact, last we spoke, he denied even knowing her.”

“Then why bring her up at all?”

Four

Carefully, so not to wake Haven, he slipped from underneath her and climbed out of bed. He tiptoed across the room to the window and pulled some slats of the blinds apart to look out into the night. It was nearing three in the morning, the sky pitch black and the city quiet. Carmine surveyed the street, looking for any sign of trouble, and tensed when his eyes fell upon a car out front.

A vaguely familiar looking dark Chevy Camaro.

He stepped back from the window and gave Haven a quick glance before heading out of the room. Instinct took over, every move calm and calculating. He found his pants and pulled them on before grabbing his gun downstairs. He made sure it was loaded as he quietly slipped out the back door. He headed around the house and came up behind the Camaro, eyeing the license plate.

The moment he saw the letters JK, his adrenaline kicked into overdrive.

Staying in the shadows, he watched the car for a bit. The man was alone with the driver’s side window down, his attention focused away from Carmine’s house. Every time headlights flashed nearby he would watch them like a hawk until they passed. He was waiting for something, but Carmine wasn’t sure what until a set of headlights shined their way. The man ducked as a black Mercedes sped by them before swinging into a driveway about a block away.

Corrado.

Carmine wasn’t sure what to do, torn between reacting and alerting Corrado, but he didn’t get much time to consider his options. The driver’s side door swung open and the guy climbed out, keeping his head down as he started down the block. Without even thinking Carmine followed him, dodging streetlights while trying to keep up with his pace. The man slowed when he neared Corrado’s house, staring at it peculiarly like he was trying to assess how to get inside. The living room light was on and Carmine could see shadows, Celia’s laughter faintly filtering out of a cracked window.

The man ducked beside Corrado’s house and Carmine hesitated, taking a deep breath and clutching his gun before darting behind him. The invader had almost made it to their backyard when he heard Carmine’s footsteps. He swung around, alarmed by the presence, but it was already too late.

Carmine slammed him into the side of the house, shoving his gun against his temple. “If you move, I’ll blow your fucking head off.”

He cursed and shook as Carmine patted him down, frantically pulling everything out of the guy’s pockets. He found a gun in his coat and made sure the safety was on before sticking it in his waistband.

Grabbing the man’s wallet, Carmine flipped it open and yanked out his driver’s license. “Oisin Quinn. What kinda name is that?”

“Don’t hurt me,” he begged. “I’m not looking for trouble!”

“Bullshit,” Carmine spat. “You don’t lurk around this neighborhood with a gun if you aren’t looking for trouble.”

“I swear it’s a mistake!”

“What is?”

“This!”

“What the fuck is this?” Carmine asked, pulling him away from the house and shoving him into the backyard. He stumbled but caught himself before he fell, and hesitated for a second before he took off sprinting through the yard.

For a brief moment, Carmine remained frozen in utter disbelief. He had just let go of the guy. How fucking stupid could he be?

Adrenaline kicked in again. Carmine aimed with his finger on the trigger, a hair away from pulling it, but lowered the gun and took off after him instead. Carmine managed to catch him, tackling him in the grass at the edge of the yard. Panicked, the man swung, trying to fight Carmine off, and his fist connected with the right side of his jaw. Pain ripped through his cheek, sending him over the edge.

If he wanted a fight, Carmine was going to give him one.

He pulled his arm back that clutched the gun, slamming him straight in the face with it. A lifetime worth of aggression came pounding from his fists, disappointment and anger, shame and heartbreak. Carmine didn’t know the man, but that mattered not—he took his pain out on him, battering him with pent up hostility he needed to let go of.

After he was beat down, Carmine pulled him across the yard and forced him on his knees right outside Corrado’s back door.

“Stay there, motherfucker,” he spat, giving him a swift kick in the side out of frustration. His jaw ached and he was out of breath, blood splattered on his hands.

“I’m certainly glad you decided not to shoot him.”

The voice caught Carmine off guard. He looked up, seeing Corrado standing motionless at the back door, watching them. “Fuck, how long have you been there?”

“Long enough.”

“And you couldn’t help me?” he spat, annoyed he had just watched.

“You seemed to have it handled,” he said. “Besides, it was quite entertaining.”

Carmine glared at him. “Entertaining? There’s nothing entertaining about this!”

“I disagree.”

“Well, you’re wrong,” Carmine said, reaching into his waistband for the guy’s gun. He cursed yet again when he came up empty-handed and glanced around, realizing it had fallen out during their scuffle. He found it a few feet away and picked it up, handing it to Corrado when he stepped outside. “He could’ve killed me.”

Corrado laughed dryly. “You’re exaggerating. You had him, no problem.”

“You couldn’t have fucking known that.”

“Yes, I could. He didn’t do his homework if he parked in front of your house.”

“How do you . . . ?” Carmine stopped, narrowing his eyes when it struck him. “Wait, you knew he was there?”

“Of course I did,” he replied. “He wasn’t sly, Carmine. Even you noticed him.”

“Son of a bitch,” he grumbled, aggravated. “I did all of that for nothing?”

“I wouldn’t say it was for nothing,” Corrado replied, smiling with amusement. “Like I said, it was entertaining.”

Sempre: Redemption
by by J.M. Darhower