Authors: Cristina Grenier
Tags: #mob romance
Marked for Love
By: Cristina Grenier
Chapter One: The Assassin
He was the last resort.
It had been that way, it seemed, for the last ten years. Since he’d learned to hold a gun and, even more importantly, since he’d learned to shoot one.
Now, he sat in the corner, half shrouded in shadows, completely bored as he watched his stepfather work the magic that had earned him the nickname “the devil of Sicily”.
Tonight, Giorgio Acconci had finally caught up to a man who owed him over one hundred thousand dollars. While the fool had been offered some semblance of protection by a rival gang, it hadn’t taken much for the devil to find him.
And he was most certainly displeased.
It took a very special man to warrant the attention of Giorgio himself and this one – his name was Mario something or other – sat bound in a chair before the crime god, his face bloodied almost beyond recognition. The devil had been working on him for a good hour or so, taking what he wouldn’t give in cash out of his hide.
Formerly gleaming brass knuckles shone with a sheen of blood and sweat as Giorgio wiped his brow, his expression oddly neutral for a man dead set on beating the life out of another. Vicente, however, was one of the few who knew exactly how much the Don enjoyed the violence he inflicted. Giorgio lived to spill blood, and often times there was nothing he liked more than to see a man’s skull cracked wide open.
Perhaps he would spill Mario’s brains tonight.
At first, the man had begged. He had pleaded for mercy, been dragged in on his hands and knees. Of course, the humility that had deserted him at the gambling tables was all too suddenly present. He had effortlessly bluffed himself one hundred thousand dollars into the hole and after fleeing for six solid months,
he wanted forgiveness?
The very idea was laughable. Giorgio was not a forgiving man – not for cowards and not for one hundred grand. So now, Mario writhed, barely conscious, as the Don stared down at him as if he undertook a process no more severe than admonishing a child.
“Six months.” Giorgio mused, his deep voice booming about the room in perfect Italian. “Six months I have been chasing you, Mario, to find you in a hotel. The belly of my enemy. I’m sure I don’t have to explain how badly this reflects upon you.”
Vicente stretched out in his chair, his glossy black hair pressed against the wall as he watched the exchange through half-lidded eyes. It was nothing he hadn’t seen before. Giorgio would toy with the man until he was tired of seeing him suffer. Then and only then, would he end the game.
“You owe me a lot of money, Mario. But then again, you knew this. Perhaps it’s why you fled, yes?”
Vicente had been ten. Ten years old the first time he’d walked in on his step father disciplining one of his own. At that point, Vicente had been a young and impressionable school boy, shielded from his new step-father’s profession by his over protective mother. Of course, he and she had been afforded everything they’d ever dreamed of. Vicente had attended the best private schools and he and Amya had been treated as queen and prince respectively.
But it wasn’t meant to last.
Discovery had been inevitable, and that time, like this time, Giorgio’s brass knuckles had gleamed with blood as he had destroyed the life of another.
All while Vicente watched.
Then, he had been helpless, but now, he quite literally held the power in his hand – and he was certain it was a power he’d soon be asked to use.
For an additional hour, Giorgio continued his ministrations. In the years since Vicente’s mother had died, the Don spent more and more of his waking hours brooding long after everyone else was asleep. There was no wife warming his bed, no embrace with which to stifle the horrors of his profession.
So instead, he relished in them – made them a shroud that protected him from the outside world. Giorgio beat Mario across his already pulverized face until the man could hardly breathe, and when he relented, it was to the gurgling from an amorphous gash of a mouth. By that point, the man was visibly winded.
It wasn’t every sixty five year old that spent his energy mutilating men. It was verging on three in the morning and yet more than ten guards stood in the room, vigilant, ready to follow the Don’s slightest whim the moment it left his lips. When Giorgio didn’t get what he wanted, people died.
No one wanted any such mishaps tonight.
The devil left his prey only reluctantly, sliding his bloodied tools from red fingers to take the fluffy white towel offered to him by a man at his side. He cleaned his hands slowly and thoroughly before casting disgusted look back in Mario’s direction. Stepping away from his disgraced, disfigured body, he shook his head in disapproval. When he next spoke, Vicente felt his chest tighten in awareness.
“Finish it, Vicente.”
He hardly needed to be told twice. Rising in a smooth motion from his chair, the dark-haired man stalked over to the center of the room to confront the mess that had formerly been Mario. Had he still been coherent, he might have pleaded for his life as Vicente raised the gun to press against his forehead.
Not that it would have mattered.
When Vicente pulled the trigger, he felt little. It wasn’t the first time he had spilled a man’s brains across Giorgio’s marble floor and it wouldn’t be the last. Mario had passed from the world and still his debt remained unpaid. It would, no doubt, be taken from those closest to him.
That was Giorgio’s way.
“Get me a cognac, will you, Vicente?” Without a word, he holstered his gun and moved to the tray that stood at the edge of his stepfather’s desk. The view beyond was stunning. Even in the wee small hours of the morning, the lights of Sicily sparkled like pinpricks in the darkness, revealing the many occupants of the city’s criminal underbelly.
Devils who didn’t sleep.
Vicente poured his stepfather a drink, and then another for himself, knowing he would be expected to drink with the man who was the closest thing to family he had left. When Giorgio turned from the window to face him, he considered the figure before him as he handed him his glass. Though it had been almost twenty five years since Giorgio had first entered his life, he had aged amazingly well.
He was tall, age having yet to bend him. He stood just inches below Vicente’s own lofty six feet four inches, and his formerly inky black hair was shot through with gray. Unlike most Italian men his age, Giorgio Acconci had no gut. On the contrary, he was fit from hours of boxing and saber wielding, as well as his daily five mile jogs. Anyone under the impression that sixty seven was too old to be a threat would be quickly corrected should they tangle with the devil.
He wore one of his beloved dark suits; while he had always been partial to navy, they had always been black in the years since Amya had died, though the period for her mourning was long over. Everyone knew that Giorgio had never recovered from the loss of his wife. But he still had his stepson – a steady comfort to him. He often confided in Vicente when they were alone.
The younger man would admit that the brand of love he had learned from Giorgio and the love he had for him were twisted – equal parts fear, respect and obedience. While he knew that the Don would take revenge should anything ever happen to him, he was also acutely aware that it did not take much to cross him.
And so he hovered on edge, maintaining a delicate balance.
“Why do people run from me, Vicente?” Giorgio sipped from his drink with a quiet dignity, his brow knitting in consternation. “I always find them.
“You do, father.” Since he’d made his way into the fold, killing his first man at the age of seventeen, Giorgio had insisted that he call him that. While Vicente was sure the man had many more bastard sons, he never paid any of them the slightest bit of favor. He doted on Vicente in an uncommon way; and as a result, Vicente found himself the man’s confidante and advisor even as he wondered if his own life was on the line. “Without fail.”
“One hundred thousand dollars.” Giorgio cursed fluently in Italian. “No small sum.” He appeared to contemplate for a moment before he sighed. “Sell all of his possessions. And bring his wife and daughter to me.”
“Of course, father. I’ll see to it immediately.”
The cognac was silky smooth, burning its way down his throat to warm his stomach. After all this time, Vicente tried not to think of the fates that befell those brought before Giorgio. It was better that way. One became a stone to avoid shattering. Emotion turned one into glass – perhaps the most dangerous thing to be when the devil was involved. “And speaking of money…” The don exhaled hotly, sipping from his decanter. “It’s time to collect on a number of debts we are owed. You will be at the forefront of my team, of course.”
Vicente inclined his head in respect in deference, saying nothing. The Don didn’t make requests. He made demands. One had no choice but to follow those demands. “I tire of this, my son. Of running around in this ungainly manner and forcing people to remember my name. Asserting power at my age is nothing more than a game, and I’ve been considering to whom I should pass my empire.”
Now, Vicente knew, every man in the room who feigned cool detachment would be listening with bated breath. While Vicente was a favorite of the Don’s, it had long been contested exactly who would fill his shoes once he’d gone. There were several powerful generals in which he places his trust, in addition to a few members of their number that he owed substantial favors.
All would be in the running.
“We will have to have a discussion once you return.” Giorgio drained the last of his cognac, setting his glass on the edge of the desk as he turned to stare out of the window onto the city below them once more. It was his way of dismissing his stepson, and Vicente bowed out respectfully, unaffected by the tension evident in the other occupants of the room.
Of course, Giorgio would want them to fight amongst themselves. He would want a man willing to prove his worthiness through violence. While Vicente had no doubt that things would come to that sooner rather than later, for now, he was tired. He left the Don’s study to make his way through the expansive manor and out into the cool night air.
Summers in Italy were always something that he treasured. The scent of the Mediterranean on the breeze, the warmth of days with over sixteen hours of sunlight, and the welcoming sights of the earth unfurling after a long winter.
Of course, summer was also quite a busy time for the mob. It was from his immense compound in Sicily that Giorgio ran the entire southern hub of his organization. Gambling, extortion, prostitution, embezzlement – any crime you could name, Giorgio had his hand in. He was Italy’s undisputed king of darkness, and had been for almost thirty years.
Being his stepson had always cast somewhat of a shroud over Vicente’s life – one that showed on his face.
Sliding into his gleaming silver Porsche, the man turned the rearview mirror towards himself, taking in his reflection critically. A weathered man in his mid-thirties stared back at him, gray eyes dark with exhaustion and wariness. A five o’clock shadow was cast over angular features – a strong jaw and high cheekbones.
His nose had been broken not once, but twice; according to his friends, it lent his tanned face a dangerous air, but for Vicente it was a reminder of exactly how dangerous his lifestyle was. One of the occasions upon which he’d broken his nose had been in an attempt on Giorgio’s life – one he’d almost mindlessly thwarted by throwing himself in front of the man.
Dark hair curled down over the collar of his starched shirt, though he wanted more than anything to be in a pair of silken pajamas instead of the garb he currently wore. To be in Giorgio’s presence meant to dress impeccably. When he’d been about fifteen years old, his stepfather had taken him to an Armani suit shop to have him fitted while the terrified staff catered to their every need.