Twisted Roses

Page 53

In the wake of Stefania’s death, everything’s been a shitshow. First from piecing together the puzzle surrounding her death. Florina claims Stefania had been poring over old photo albums, a circle of empty wine bottles to keep her company. She’d been a hysterical mess, sitting collapsed on the floor in tears.
Eventually, Florina and other staff picked her up off the ground and dragged her kicking and screaming to her bedroom. Florina says she’d checked on her periodically through the night. In the morning, Stefania was found face down in a pool of her own vomit.
The cause of death was ruled to be alcohol poisoning/asphyxiation.
Nothing nefarious about that at all ’til we discover those old photo albums have disappeared. Vanished without a trace. Along with Stefania’s cell phone. Florina claims she didn’t see what happened to them, but a phone and some photo albums don’t just grow legs and walk away. The house is crawling with Lucius’ staff at any given time.
One of them had to take it.
Lucius returned from his business trip for her funeral and then left town right after, presumably to continue his expansion efforts in other parts of the country. Rhino claims he’s heard Lucius is having a hard time with the loss.
I’m not buying it. Lucius hated Stefania. He made sure he neglected and ignored her at every opportunity for decades. He’s incapable of giving a shit about anyone but himself and his ego. He’s up to something.
For the past couple weeks, I’ve been trying to figure out what. I’ve been searching for any nugget I can find that clears up what’s going on.
I don’t mourn Stefania. How can I when she was never a mother to me? She never bothered to care about the son she chose to bring into this world—if anything, I’m pissed she’s once again inconvenienced me. This time by dying out of the blue.
For once, I had been hoping she’d come through with info about Lena and that evening on the VHS tape… and she failed like always.
So the last thing I need right now is Delphine acting reckless and getting herself into trouble. I’d been in Westoria, visiting Lucius’ house again while he’s out of state, tearing apart Stefania’s closet with hopes I’d find something. Anything that could possibly reveal more about that time period.
Delphine slunk amongst the shadows. I’d recognized her immediately. Even in the night with only the street lights on. She’d had a troublesome vibe about her, like she was up to no good. I knew it for certain when she turned down the block leading to Little’s home.
I’ll give credit where credit is due. Delphine expertly broke into his place. She struck a balance between moving quick yet not making a noise. From observing, it was clear she’d put a lot of thought into this.
Unsurprising. Delphine tends to dedicate her all once she commits to something.
I followed upstairs and came across the scene before me—Delphine and Skip Little grappling on the floor. Skip gained the upper hand and was about to kill her.
“Delphine,” I say when seconds pass and she says nothing. I grab her by the elbow and wrench her toward me. “What the fuck were you doing?”
“You saw it with your own two eyes. We weren’t friends meeting up for a chat.”
I glare at her, my eyes sharp and piercing. “Am I to understand you broke into his home to off him?”
“He’s guilty. He was supposed to be suffering behind bars. But guess what? That didn’t happen. I was merely correcting the error—”
“It’s not your place to do so!”
“It’s exactly my place! When criminals get off—when the system fails and they go scot-free, who’s place is it but mine to make sure that they’re punished? That the mistake is corrected?”
My free hand clamps shut around her other arm. I hold her clinched within my grip as if about to give her a hard shake. Looking her dead in the eye, my expression tight and cold with fury, I issue my only warning.
“It’s not your fucking place. Do you understand me?”
Delphine doesn’t back down. She glares at me just as furiously. “No. I don’t understand you. Because I’ll do whatever I want.Regardlessof what you say, Salvatore.”
“And if I hadn’t shown up? If I hadn’t rescued you?”
“I had it under control. I wasn’t going to let him—”
“That’s what you call under control?” I interrupt with a sneer in her face. “He had you pinned to the ground. He was about to do whatever-the-fuck he wanted to you. Is that your idea of being in control?”
“I don’t give a damn what you say. I wasn’t giving up. I was going to beat him—”
“Did you want him to hurt you? Is that what you wanted, Delphine? You have some sort of death wish? Some sort of kink for being taken against your will?” At the disgust that passes over her face, I laugh. The sound dark and cruel as I walk her back a step. “You’ve been going out looking for trouble all these late nights. You’ve been poking sleeping beasts. What did you think was going to happen when those beasts woke up? You’d be on your merry way, skipping home?”