“I want to have a look at the other bedrooms,” he says.
I follow him and am almost to the door when I hear a sound. It’s so soft I almost doubt that I heard anything at all, but I stop and listen. It’s quiet, unnaturally still. Graveyard still. Amadeo leaves, but something tells me to wait. A full minute passes before I hear it again. It’s so quiet it’s almost nothing. Not quite a whisper. Almost not noise at all. I take my pistol and cock it as I turn back into the room.
Not many places to hide. I can see under the beds from where I am. No one’s under there. Not that a soldier would be hiding under a bed. The bathroom door is ajar, and I push it fully open. No one’s behind the shower curtain. No one’s here at all. I walk inside and open the cabinet under the sink, feeling stupid for looking there, but I do it, and it’s empty. Which makes me feel stupider.
I straighten, shake my head, and cross the room to the door when it comes again, and this time I stop and turn to look into the closet with its still-open door. I cock my head as I take in the array of stuffed animals and dolls. And I hear it again. I step toward the pile and re-engage the Glock’s safety before pushing it into its holster. And this time when I hear the sound, I think I can make out a word.
My heart races as I crouch down to push the animals out of the way, and I almost don’t believe it when I see a cloud of curly blond hair, then big brown eyes. Big, terrified brown eyes that stare up at me, her scarred face streaked with tears. She’s moving her mouth, muttering one word. Trying to make a sound.
Relief like I’ve never felt floods my system. It’s a moment of light as Emma reaches out to me. I take her in my arms and feel her tiny body press into mine as her arms put a stranglehold around my neck.
“Emma,” I say, standing, carrying the little thing with me as she sobs quiet tears into my neck and keeps trying to say that one word.
“Help. Help. Help.”
I walk out of the closet and sit on the edge of her bed. She’s holding on to me so tightly that it takes effort to draw her back far enough to see her face. I wipe her eyes and try to offer a reassuring smile.
“I heard you, Emma,” I say. “I can hear you.”
She hugs me, then reaches for something. The pig. It’s just out of reach so I grab it for her and look her over, make sure she’s unharmed. She is.
“You hid well,” I tell her.
“Vittoria,” she says, the sound so quiet it’s not even a whisper. “Vittoria is gone. Bad man. Bad.” And she starts to sob all over again, her body wracked with it. I wrap a hand over the back of her head and draw her to me, standing as I do.
“We’re going to get Vittoria back,” I tell her as I walk out of the room, keeping my hand on her head so her face is buried against my neck. I don’t want her to see the carnage.
A part of my brain is telling me I’m making a promise I may not be able to keep, but I tell that part to shut the fuck up and walk past the open door of Vittoria’s empty stripped-down bedroom to Amadeo’s. He’s sitting on the bed on the side he doesn’t sleep on. Vittoria’s side now, when she sleeps in his bed. And in his hands, he’s holding her tank top, the one with teapots on it. He has it pressed to his nose.
“Look who I found,” I say.
Amadeo stiffens, and he stands with his back to me for a moment. I think he’s composing himself. When he turns to us and sees Emma, a wide smile spreads across his face.
“Emma.” He comes to her, rubbing her back and patting her hair. She looks at him, then at the tank top.
“Vittoria,” she says, reaching a hand to the tank top. I meet my brother’s eyes over the top of her head. His face is set, hard, that smile vanished. It’s the way he looked before, in the beginning. As we plotted our revenge.
“We will get Vittoria back,” he tells Emma in a voice I barely recognize. But I understand why. Because we will get her back. Just not sure in what state.
Igot the soldiers out of the bedroom as fast as I could. I didn’t struggle more than I had to to show that I was struggling. I just needed them gone. They wanted us both. They searched for her, but they were in a hurry to leave. I knew why once we were on the chopper. An entourage was headed to the villa. Amadeo and Bastian? Had they flown through the night and were arriving just this morning? What a scene would greet them.
My mind wandered to Hyacinth, Nora, and Francesca. Did they spare them? Because they had shot every guard dead.
At least Emma is safe. They’ll find her. I just hope they do it before she comes out of her hiding place. She can’t see what those soldiers left behind.
The chopper carries us near to Naples and once it touches down, the soldiers I’m riding with drag me out. I keep my head low as I run with them. They put a blindfold on me and have my wrists bound behind my back so I will fall flat on my face if they let me go.
Car doors open and shut. I’m shoved into the back of a low vehicle and sandwiched inside by a soldier on either side of me. We drive for about an hour, maybe more. I can’t see through the blindfold, but all the city noise is gone by the time the car stops. When they haul me out, my arms scream at the angle. I trip over some stairs, but they keep me upright, and soon, I’m indoors.
“Downstairs,” a man says, and I tense as I’m half-carried through the house and down a set of stairs to a space too cold to be above ground. It takes all I have to keep the panic from overtaking me. I try to think of Emma. I saved Emma. That’s the most important part. I just need to focus on that.