Battaglia Mafia Series, Book 2
Let there be War…
Don Giovanni Battaglia will have his revenge. A bloody mafia war has ravaged the southern region of Italy. Every man, woman and child born under the name Calderone must be made to atone. That is the law. After two years of blood and bullets the men sworn to follow without question find themselves wanting peace. But how can there be when the one person able to save their Don from the destructive path he is on is beyond their reach. Or is she?
Mira Ellison lives…
In 1991 Mira has learned to begin again. Her best friend is dead, and the fashion empire she built from scratch is now gone. All she has is the fleeting memory of a bittersweet love and a mocha-brown baby with her father’s eyes to remind her of her goal. Survive and hide from the Mafia men she is convinced are out to kill her. But is it all a lie? Soon Mira finds herself face to face with the man and past she doesn’t trust. And Giovanni Battaglia is furious. He gives Mira a choice. She can become his donna or be his enemy. And this time Mira has more than her life to lose.
Prelude to A Reckoning
June 1961 – Mondello, Sicily
“Papa?” Giovanni rubbed the sleep out of his eyes with his small fist. He felt his father’s touch, and heard his voice. When he blinked in the darkness, he realized it wasn’t a dream. Papa had returned. Most nights when Papa wasn’t in Mondello, Giovanni shared his mother’s bed. She’d read to him or tell him stories of the kings and knights of Ireland until he fell asleep resting against her breast. His mother always smelled like the flowers in her garden. When his father returned, the privilege of his mother’s gentle care was revoked. He suspected tonight his father had woken him for this purpose. Soon he’d be marched out to his cold room to sleep alone. He smiled up at the towering shadowy figure. Little Giovanni didn’t mind. He was glad to see his father home again.
The Don was a tall man, bulky in the chest, shoulders and arms. He wore fedoras that always cast his steely dark gaze in a deep shadow. He smelled of cigars, cedar wood, and whiskey. Tomosino stared down at his son in the dark, waiting.
“Yes, Papa?” Giovanni asked.
“Up boy. Come with me, and don’t wake your ma-ma.”
Giovanni nodded. Only four-feet tall he needed a bit of assistance to ease out from under his mother’s protective embrace. In pajama covered feet he held on to his father’s large pointer finger. Together they left the room. Once they entered the hall his father reached down and scooped him up. Giovanni was five years old and very capable of walking. For his father to lift him in his arms meant he would be taken out into the night. He held to his father’s neck, alert, a bit of fear mixed with excitement tightened his gut. He was going for a ride with Papa. Ma-ma would cry if she knew.
Many of his father’s men and brothers waited around vehicles with large bright headlights, making them appear like shadows against the glare. Giovanni was placed in the backseat of a car. Uncle Rocco reached from the front seat to pass him a grape sucker. Giovanni smiled.
“Prego!” Rocco said, which meant have some.
It tasted like the ones from the vineyard his uncle took Lorenzo and him to visit in Chianti. He loved the fat grapes and bitter olives they ate from the vines. He licked the sucker several times, grinning. Ma-ma would be upset that he’d had a sweet treat after bedtime, but she was sleep. She wouldn’t know. Don Tomosino ruffled his hair. He called him a little candy muncher, and the men in the car laughed with the Don. Giovanni stuck out his purple tongue and showed it to his father, which made the Don wink. The drive wasn’t a long one. Their vehicle headed from the cozy serene streets of their small village to the country roads. He could barely see out of the window from the back seat. The glass looked dark and smoky. The only true light was the amber glow of his father’s cigar. Giovanni secretly inhaled the sharp tobacco smell that reminded him of licorice and burning wood. He and Lorenzo couldn’t wait to be older so they could smoke cigars.
“Papa? Sing with me! Lucciola lucciola, gialla gialla… metti la briglia alla cavalla… che la vuole il figlio del re… lucciola lucciola vieni con me…”
Giovanni rocked from side to side. The Don sang the nursery rhyme slapping his hand on his thigh. It was his favorite, one he’d sing often when they went fishing. Uncle Rocco turned in the front seat and sang too, clapping his hands. Giovanni unleashed a gust of laughter. They could be so funny when they sang along.
When the car stopped the door was opened for the Don, and he exited. Giovanni scooted across the seat careful to hold on to his candy and stepped out to join his father. Don Tomosino took his hand. He was no longer treated like a baby in the presence of men. Giovanni understood the difference and managed to step out with his chin tossed upward and his back straight as they crossed the field through tall itchy grass. This he did like a big boy. Soon he saw the others that waited.
Three men were on their knees, one visibly trembling, the other slumped over as if praying. They wore blindfolds, and their hands were bound in front of them. Men Giovanni couldn’t recognize because of the dark seclusion of the location stood behind them with weapons aimed at their backs. Uncle Flavio approached his father and said a few things. The Don nodded. He glanced down at Giovanni and stroked his cheek.
“Watch, son, and learn,” he began. “Betrayers. The weakest of men.” His accusatory finger leveled on the now sniveling trio. Giovanni licked his sucker, unsure of the meaning of his father’s words. “Lies and secrets among brothers for personal glory are never allowed. Weak! A sickness. It can spread like a disease through your family making them all untrustworthy!” The Don bellowed. He swept his gaze at the others gathered to make sure his point was heard. He then smiled down at Giovanni. “You do what is necessary to keep the family healthy, by taking care of your enemy!” Don Tomosino made a tight fist and pounded it into his open palm. “This is justice.”
“Sí, Papa.” Giovanni licked his sucker and stared at the men curiously.
Don Tomosino nodded.
Those with guns raised their weapons. Giovanni paused between licks. His eyes stretched in confusion. Were they going to hurt the men? Before his tender years could make sense of the scene before him, gunfire exploded in the night. The sucker fell from Giovanni’s hand. With each shot fired his body shook with a violent tremor. He wanted to run, to scream and run, but he stood still. His father put a cigar in his mouth and chuckled deep in his throat. Tonight Giovanni learned about justice.
“Where?” Lorenzo asked.
The dancer batted long lashes sprinkled in glitter mascara up at him. He studied her petite face, pale; she had rouge splattered cheeks and bright red lipstick smeared over her lips. She wore a hot pink wig with blunt cut bangs and not much else. Her eyes were a dull shade of brown, soulless. Her small nostrils appeared inflamed from constant rubbing. He imagined if she’d lay off the nose-candy and face paint she could be quite attractive. Her sultry gaze slipped to the right. A few men gathered around a raised stage. They drank and smacked on fish and chips between tossing lire at the dancers’ feet. One in particular looked familiar. Slouched in a black leather jacket, Fish’s head was slightly tilted back and his gaze transfixed on the dancer. Fish had lost weight, a considerable amount, but the scar gave him away. He turned up a mug of malt, and Lorenzo got a clean look at the ugly slash across his neck.
“Porco!” he said through clenched teeth.
“Well I’ll be damned, he’s here.” Carlo chuckled a few feet behind him. “You found the slippery piglet.”
Lorenzo had hunted Fish for two years. From Roma to Istanbul he’d searched for the bastard and always came up short. News returned that Fish had frequented this spot for the past few days dropping more lire than the average farmer in these parts. A tip from one of Carlo’s puttanas proved to be the final lead.
Excitement over victory boiled the blood in his veins. He felt the temperature spike under his wool coat. He wiped his gloved hand down his face. This was the bastard that stuck a bomb under his car and tore the only woman he’d come close to loving in years away from him. He was bound and determined to get his revenge. The coward murdered Giovanni’s princess and took part of his cousin’s humanity with her. Petie ‘The Fish’ Lupo had ruined all their lives.
He and Carlo started through the bar. A few dancers paused in observance. A few men drew back watching them closely. Topless women on raised mirrored platforms in spiked heels rolled their hips and fondled their nipples for leering patrons. The dim lighting, reddish in color against the black walls, was an excellent shadow for their arrival. They would have to strike and move on. The club was owned by the Bonaduces and they were no friends of the Battaglias.
Fish sat close enough to the spotlight to be seen. In Lorenzo’s haste he bumped a dancer who squealed with delight and tried to entice him by pulling on his coat sleeve. Her dramatic flair gave away his presence. Fish spotted him and was up and running. Lorenzo and Carlo began to turn over tables and knock naked women and their customers out of the way in pursuit. Fish hit the back door of the club and raced into the alley.
Cristo! I should have had Carlo covering the back!
The family was barely keeping it together thanks to the weight of this never-ending war. Bologna, once neutral territory for Calderone and Battaglia, had now become the forbidden zone. Angelo took refuge under the protection of the Bonaduces in a secluded village that was always heavily armed. Don Francesco Bonaduce was extremely upset over the unrepentant way in which Giovanni had taken his thirst for vengeance out on all of northern Italy in pursuit of Angelo. Especially the unsanctioned murder of the now deceased Don Calderone and his son Giuseppe. Codes were broken and alliances soured. The families fought to hold on to their turf.
Without Flavio to consult, Don Giovanni Battaglia, led with an iron fist and a heart of stone. If he suspected another family aided Angelo in any way, he took extreme measures to make examples of them. The Polizia di Stato always remained one step behind, and the code of silence among these men prevented Giovanni’s name from being fingered as the cause of the mayhem. His gun dealing and trafficking with the Irish and subsequent trade in Sicily and some countries in Africa, made any effort by other families to resist futile. Lorenzo once thirsted for this unyielding power and ruthlessness, but even he could no longer hold his head up without shame. They’d done some really brutal shit to those who were innocent and those who were guilty, all in the name of revenge. It had to end. Finding and killing The Fish and Angelo Calderone may finally bring his cousin back, the man of compassion who wanted to legitimize the family. It was his only hope, and tonight he had the future within his grasp.
* * * * *
“Have I told you I love you?” she whispered. “Ti amo. My beautiful, strong man, I love you so much.”
Full lips, soft and lush, brushed his. She cradled his face in her delicate hands and her fragrance, sweet as vanilla and crisp as a field of flowers in spring, unfurled in his nostrils. When he parted his lips to speak, her kiss greeted him. The tip of her tongue flicked the roof of his mouth before plunging inside in a tantalizing swirl that left him breathless, desperate and needy. No woman has said the word love to him since she died.
Giovanni drank the sweetness of her kiss, reclined into a stack of pillows with her breasts pressed against his chest. His senses reeled as if short-circuiting. His pulse raced and thoughts of loss, heartache, and lonely pain mixed in with this dreamlike reality. No. This wasn’t a dream. It was the death he prayed for. He found her again on the other side and he was free to have the love they shared for eternity.
Tightness coiled in his groin, and he could feel it bulk underneath the soft press of her sex. Her hands pushed gently against his shoulders, and her body covered his, keeping him conveniently in place. Now he felt loved. Whether she said it lately or not, he felt it deeply.
“Mirabella,” he breathed through their kiss. His beautiful Mirabella had only been his for a brief time but she forever changed his heart, his desires, and his peace of mind.
Her lush thighs, and the sweet moist center under the petals of her sex, buffeted him in warmth with her straddling his waist and moving in a lovely slow slide along his erection. The longing and desire he suffered day in and day out burned away his hope for them two years ago. How could she be dead when she was in his arms once more? To answer his question Mira released him from her teasing kisses and her head lifted. She smiled down at him. The smooth brown skin of her oval face held pale golden undertones. Eyes the deepest shade of hazel brown shone with brilliance, reflecting her forgiveness under a dark ring of lashes. Her slender nose and full lips rounded out the face of an angel.
“I’m yours. You’re safe with me,” Mira said.
“I lost you.”
“Shhh…” Mira pressed her finger to his lips and kissed his brow. “Have faith. Please, Giovanni, for us.”