Broken Queen

Page 2

A jacket is draped over me, and I smell a familiar aftershave. It’s warm. He just took it off. A hand closes on the back of my head, cupping it tenderly. But it’s that gentle touch that brings out the animal inside me. It’s then I find my voice and scream and scream. I spin as I scream bloody murder grabbing hold of a shard of glass because I will dig it into his eye even if it cuts me through. Even if they kill me for it. But I won’t let them touch me. I won’t let any of them touch me.
“Fuck!” Glass crunches under Bastian’s shoes. He catches my arm and squeezes my wrist, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. “You’re safe. Vittoria. Look at me.” I shove against him, and he releases my wrist. The jacket slips from me as I try to scramble away through this carpet of broken bottles.
“Vittoria. Look at me.” It’s Amadeo’s voice now. I’m backed into a corner, the wall cold against my bare skin. “Vittoria.”
I claw around me for a weapon. More glass. A gun. Anything. And when he puts his hands on me and gives me a shake, I attack, clawing at his face and arms and screaming like an animal until he slaps me, stunning me.
My head jerks to the side, and I’d fall over if he didn’t catch me. Pulling me to him, he presses my face into his chest. My cheek stings from where he hit me, but it has its desired effect. I’m not screaming. Clawing. Attacking like some beast.
“Shh. Quiet now. You’re safe.” I can’t tell if it’s Bastian or Amadeo’s voice. My arms are behind me, wrists held tight by one brother while the other cradles the back of my head and whispers that I’m safe, I’m all right. I’m safe.
But I’m not all right. I haven’t been all right for a very long time. And I’ve never been safe.
“We need to get her upstairs and out of here,” Bastian says. “Away from these men. This place.”
Amadeo straightens and lifts me up, cradling me against him. I wrap my arm around his neck and bury my face against him. I taste blood.
What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, princess.
I feel my resistance giving way. Hot tears stream down my face as I cry ugly and loud. The smell of the room, of basement and beer and whiskey and violence, is too much, and when that cry is over, I’m so exhausted. Empty. Physically. Emotionally. Mentally. I am so fucking tired, and this emotion has drained the last of my energy. I can’t fight anymore. I can’t.
Amadeo must feel me yield because he tucks me closer and tells me it’ll be all right. He looks down at me, and I meet his eyes for an instant before turning my face back into his chest and burying it there.
“Get them all in the back of the truck,” Bastian says. “You know where to take them. No one touches them without my order. Understood?”
“Yes, sir,” a soldier answers.
Amadeo begins the climb up the stairs. I open my eyes briefly to see Bastian following, eyes locked on me, so I close mine again, breath heaving as years-old tears stream like never before.
“I’ll get the kit,” Bastian says as I carry Vittoria through the dark house, past the open door of her bedroom and to my own. Adrenaline sends blood pounding through me.
We knew something was wrong the minute we drove through the still-guarded gates of the Naples house. Bastian commented on how dark the house was as the thought formed in my own mind. I’d been thinking about Sonny’s strange mention of one of our houses being attacked. About rats. Was it his warning? Had he already ordered the attack while we were at the Ravello house talking? While he was visiting and making nice with mom? When we walked through the front doors, we saw right away that less soldiers were inside than should have been. The house was dark. Too dark. And the stink of cigarettes, aggression, and fear permeated from the basement.
But those soldiers down there, they were ours.
We were attacked from within, and Vittoria was their target. I failed to protect her as I promised I would.
Bastian draws the blankets back, and I lay her on the bed. The jacket falls open, and I see the sudden panic in her eyes as she looks up at me. But her eyes are unfocused, so it’s not me she sees. She tries to claw at me again, making that strange keening sound like a wounded animal cornered but still fighting.
“It’s me, Vittoria. It’s Amadeo,” I tell her, seeing the print of my own hand on her pale cheek, feeling the guilt of having injured her. I did it to draw her out of her head, but still, I hurt her.
“Those men would have done worse,” Bastian says when he sees what I’m looking at. He sets the black duffel on the foot of the bed. He’s washed his hands and discarded his bloodied T-shirt for a clean one, but he missed a smear of blood on his jaw. Unzipping the duffel, he takes one of the syringes out. There are half a dozen because we’d prepared for taking her. The instant Vittoria sees it, her strength renews and she redoubles her fight.
“No one is going to hurt you, but we need to get the glass out,” I tell her, folding her arms across her chest and pressing them down. Wide, wild eyes stare up at me. She’s shaking her head, and I’m not sure she hears me as she struggles, her eyes darting from me to Bastian to the syringe.
“Her neck,” Bastian says calmly once he’s pushed the air from the barrel.
“No! No!”
I keep a tight hold of her and turn her face away while Bastian finds the injection site and pushes the needle in.
Vittoria whines, but I keep her steady until he’s done.
Her gaze moves to Bastian, then to me, and I can see her struggling to keep her eyes open as her arms fall to her sides when I release them.