“Hang them from the meat hooks. Wait until they come around to kill them,” I tell Dominic’s soldiers.
“And do it slow,” Bastian adds. He wipes blood from the corner of his mouth and turns his back on the scene. I can see he’s rattled. But more than that, he’s pissed.
“Lucien Russo is mine,” he says.
Ipace the penthouse, my mind whirling. What just happened? How did things go sideways so quickly? I perch on the edge of the leather chesterfield of this very modern, masculine space and set my head in my hands. It’s pounding. I look out the window at the busy street below, but we’re too far up for me to recognize any of the hundreds of SUVs that pass.
Bruno is also pacing. He’s as worried as me, and I realize how strange this is. How he and I are both concerned about the brothers. Days ago, would I have cared at all?
I get up, discarding my heels on the Persian rug and crossing the room to the bathroom where I search the cabinet for aspirin. I find some and take two with a handful of water from the tap. I splash water on my face and pat it dry when I finally hear them in the other room. I rush out to find Bastian and Amadeo walking into the penthouse, Amadeo carrying some of Bastian’s weight and both looking like they’ve been through hell. Bastian especially. He’s barefoot, shirtless, and I gasp, covering my mouth with my hand when I see how his chest is covered in strange bruises, bloody circles.
They stop when they see me. I drag my gaze to Bastian’s face to take in the bruise around one eye and the cut on his lip, then look at Amadeo and see the blood on him. It’s not his blood at least.
Bastian was tortured. Lucien did this. Lucien ordered this to be done. How? How did he gain so much power? And who are the men who carried out the false arrest in front of our eyes? The torture that followed. Because when my father was alive, they may have had dealings with local crime families, but Lucien never had men like those at his command.
Bruno is talking to them, something about a doctor being on his way. I walk toward the brothers. On the one hand, I’m relieved, but on the other, I don’t know. How could this happen? How could Lucien attack them so openly?
“Dandelion,” Bastian says. “Don’t tell me you were worried about me.”
I want to have some smart retort—something clever to say—because I shouldn’t care. But I do. And I find at that moment, all I can do is try to manage this swell of emotions because there’s no reason for me to be crying. Yet here I am, standing in the middle of a stranger’s house crying for the men who kidnapped me, who forced me into a marriage with one. Who had me sign away my inheritance and used my love for my sister to get what they wanted.
But who also took care of me when I was attacked. Who risked everything to bring my little sister to me and get her away from a man who I know now is more monster than human.
“Is it that bad?” Bastian asks Amadeo, his tone light, but I notice how he winces as he shifts from one foot to the other. I know what effort just standing here and trying to make light of this is taking him.
“You have looked better,” Amadeo says.
“I’ll always look better than you, brother,” Bastian tells him with a pat on the back. I think this banter is for my benefit. And there’s that feeling again. That strange skipping of my heart.
“Doctor’s here,” Bruno says, and we all turn to find a short, middle-aged man carrying a medical bag escorted in by two soldiers. Dominic Benedetti’s men, according to Bruno. He’s the head of the ruling family here and the man who helped Amadeo find Bastian as quickly as he did. Beside him is a woman in a nurse’s uniform.
“Mr. Benedetti sent me,” the man says and introduces himself as Dr. Lawler. He looks at Bastian. “Let’s go into one of the bedrooms. This way.”
He very clearly knows the layout of things, so we follow him.
“Vittoria,” Bruno calls.
“Let’s go over a couple of things in your filing for guardianship of Emma while the doctor looks Bastian over.”
“I want to be there.”
“It’s probably best you’re not. Let him work.”
Amadeo closes the bedroom door without a glance at me, and I stand staring at that closed door for a moment feeling left out. Hurt, if I’m honest.
“Vittoria?” Bruno calls.
I turn to him. I need to remember who I am then. Remember it was my brother who ordered the attack. Of course they don’t want me near them.
I follow Bruno into the dining room. It has impressive views from the large floor-to-ceiling window, but all I see is that closed door as Bruno takes out the paperwork and goes over it with me, telling me where to sign and what it all means even as I half-listen, trying to work out where I stand. What I want. What it is I’m feeling.