Twisted Roses

Page 123

The sweetest revenge imaginable.
As if the bull knows I’m thinking about him, my phone buzzes with a text from him. Simple and short and to the point:
Meet me at the house. Three o’ clock.
A thread of confusion and curiosity twines through me. I stare at the message and consider its implications.
It’s not only unexpected, it’s strange.
Lucius never texts. He never requests a formal sit down. Though it’s not spelled out in the text, what else could it be?
He’s not dumb enough to try anything. Not when he still doesn’t know where my insurance against him is located. So what does he want to talk about?
For months he’s been out of town, establishing outreach in other parts of the country. He returned only briefly for Stefania’s funeral before resuming to his cross-country endeavors. It’s possible now that he’s returned he’s going to attempt to offer a deal. Likely a final attempt in the months leading up to the Five Families gathering.
I’m not interested in peace with Lucius. I’m only interested in his destruction.
But I’ll bite.
I’ll hear him out and see what he has to say.
* * *
Lucius sits in the den waiting for me. Nobody else is around when I walk through the front doors except for Florina. In the wake of Stefania’s passing, gray hairs have started to show in her curly raven tresses, and her round cheeks have lost some of their fullness. She aims a wary smile at me as I cross the foyer and make it down the hall.
I enter the den to the sight of Lucius seated at the table along the far back wall. A bottle of fifty-year-old scotch sits out, along with two glasses. His eyes are already trained on the door when I walk in, his hawk-eyed gaze setting the tone.
I approach the table, my own expression one of composed indifference. I can’t help noting the spot across from the window where he once shoved me against the wall and popped me in the mouth. That was the morning of senior prom, where his fist filled my mouth with so much blood, I had to spit it out into the rose hedges outside.
So many fond memories.
Just about every spot in this house from hell has a violent memory attached to it. As did every other house we lived in throughout my childhood.
Kitchens were for carving knives into skin. Bathrooms were for waterboarding. Closets were for indeterminate darkness and isolation. Dens and family rooms were for beatdowns and what other violence he doled out with his meaty fists.
“Hello, Pop,” I say, stopping in front of him. “You look like shit. Rough summer?”
He ignores me, gesturing to the empty chair. “Sit. It’s time we have a discussion.”
“I’ll stand.”
“Salvatore,” he says, his tone a mockery of a stern father. “Sit.”
It evokes a strange emotion out of me—the twinge of sadness to be so unfamiliar with such a concept.
I’ve never had a father. The role Lucius has played in my life has been far from that of a traditional father, where we play catch in the yard and he provides advice as I grow up.
Those fathers were always on TV. Never a reality of mine.
Still, in this moment, I listen. I pull out the chair and lower myself into it.
Lucius surveys me for a couple beats and then reaches out for the bottle. He pours me a glass before filling his own.
“Your mother wouldn’t have wanted this,” he says finally. “It made her upset when we fought.”
Bitterness clenches inside me and I spit out, “Is that what you call it? When we fought? It sure didn’t feel like a fair fight when I was eight-years-old and you were giving me black eyes—”
“Your mother,” he continues, louder, “drank herself to death because of us. All the violence.”