Revenge—the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.
I’d heard more than once that revenge was best served cold. While I’d laughed at the expression, given ice ran through my veins, perhaps the saying was fitting. I enjoyed the act of retaliation, especially to those who truly deserved it. No one would ever call me righteous. In fact, I was one dangerous, ruthless man. I enjoyed being given the moniker over the past few years, relishing the power it offered.
The Benedetti family had been powerful for generations, ruling the majority of Italy as well as other European countries for well over a century. We were polished, well educated, and trained in all aspects of warfare. We had it all.
But that hadn’t mattered on a sunny day only three months before. We weren’t immune to the ugliness of those less fortunate.
My family had faced a tragedy we hadn’t expected, the slaughter of my father in a popular Italian eatery in the heart of New York City. While the perpetrators had been located, the actual gunmen as well as the man behind the horrible deed killed, the remaining members of the Benedetti family had been steadfast in our determination to bring all parties responsible for his murder to their knees.
And so, the three Benedetti princes resolutely sought vengeance on the three powerful men ultimately responsible for our father’s death.
I didn’t have the same traits as my older brother, Matteo, powerful yet yielding to the politics of becoming the Don of the most merciless mafia family in Europe. I was the ruthless one, a man incapable of any level of humanity. And I thoroughly enjoyed destroying our enemies.
Corrupting the innocent.
Stripping away the armor surrounding the vulnerable.
Feasting on my prize in whatever form it came.
Today was no exception. Today I would begin to take what already belonged to me.
The three months of waiting had been agonizing, but the shock of my demand would be even sweeter.
My Capo and another soldier had traveled with me to New York to continue fulfilling a revenge plot Matteo had thought up. While I’d been against the rather low-level act at first, I’d grown fond of my brother’s undermining efforts in recent days. Besides, I could enjoy watching the downfall of what was considered the most influential man on the East Coast.
I took a deep breath as I stared out the floor-to-ceiling window, the man’s office a reflection of his slide into depravity. I’d found his humidor, enjoying the scent of his collection of Cuban cigars. After selecting what I considered to be the perfect choice, cutting and lighting, I inhaled the smoke. The aroma was spectacular, the taste better than I’d experienced in a long time.
As I gazed out the window, I thought about what I was going to say to the man. While I wanted nothing more than to put a bullet in his head, that wasn’t the plan my two brothers and I had decided on.
Senator Doug Starling was considered iconic in the bowels of New York. He’d come from being a lowly attorney barely making ends meet to becoming one of the most influential men in New York and a number of the Eastern states. I’d learned a significant amount of information about the man, including he’d gained most of his fortune from his dead wife.
Victoria Chenault had come from a wealthy family, their roots going back generations. She’d been the belle of the ball in her twenties, the arranged marriage between the two families securing their wealth as well as extreme power over various politicians and members of law enforcement.
Tragically, she’d been killed in a drive-by shooting several years before.
That had left Doug to indulge in his dark and sadistic proclivities, many of which I not only understood but had partaken in. However, his alliance with the brutal and unforgiving local Irish mob had presented significant difficulties in his plans on becoming the next president of the United States.
And on this beautiful, sunny day, I planned on reminding him what fucking with the Benedetti Empire would do to his aspirations.
I’d left Italy only hours before, prepared to provide the kind of punishment the man certainly wasn’t prepared to handle. While it was likely he’d already been warned of my family’s intentions, the fact Matteo had already married the daughter of one of the three men responsible for our father’s slaughter hadn’t altered his methods of operation to any degree.
Or his personal behavior.
As it seemed of all men who believed their shit didn’t stink, he’d yet to invoke additional security or alter his behavior. I expected him to come through his office door at any time.
I took another deep puff, swirling the very expensive glass of scotch I’d poured from the ornate crystal bottle positioned in the very center of his well-crafted wooden bar. While I wasn’t a patient man, this was worth waiting for.
True to form, I heard his roaring laughter just outside the door only minutes later. I remained where I was, still enjoying the gorgeous view.
When I heard the door open, a smile slid across my face.
“What the fuck?” Doug exclaimed as he barged further inside.
When I heard the sound of my Capo slamming the door behind Doug’s entrance, my grin grew wider. I’d brought Cassis as well as another soldier with me on the trip, ensuring that if we were ambushed, the assholes behind the weapons would meet their maker within seconds. No matter the number of assassins. My men were that good.
I took my time, enjoying another puff before cocking my head, catching my first sight of him. I’d seen pictures of the pompous asshole online, memorizing every line on his face as well as the extra weight he carried across the middle from days spent sucking down a few drinks. While I enjoyed a good glass of scotch more often than I should, I refused to give in to those particular indulgences.
Others were impossible to resist.
“Senator Starling. I was almost certain you’d altered your usual schedule. Now, I admit, that would have pissed me off.” I turned around to face him, gazing all the way down his garish golf attire to his ugly shoes. Why the hell did a grown man actually think that plaid trousers and a pale pink shirt worked for any fucking reason? I should blow his fucking head off for his fashion sense alone.
“Who the fuck are you?” he demanded, finally realizing that we weren’t alone. I was glad that he seemed nervous.
After taking another puff, I flicked the glowing ember directly in the center of his desk. “I think you know exactly who I am and if I had to guess, I’d say you know why I’m here.”
Doug shifted his gaze back and forth. If the man thought he was getting out of the room, he was sorely wrong. “What do you want, Benedetti?”
“What do I want. Let me think about that.” I rubbed my jaw as I walked around the desk, sitting on the edge and taking another swig of my drink. “What I want is for my father to be alive, but that’s just not going to happen. You and your buddies made certain of that.”
He held up his hands, his lower lip quivering even though he offered a smile. “I had nothing to do with that.”
After taking another puff, I stubbed out the end on a set of files he had on his desk. Then I took my time with acknowledging what he had to say. “While you certainly didn’t have the balls to get your hands dirty, you and I know that you’ve formed an alliance with Police Commissioner Wiltcher as well as the head honcho of the Irish mob, Michael O’Sullivan. I’m not here to negotiate your involvement.”
“Then why are you here?” Doug demanded.
I was surprised he had enough chutzpa in him to confront me. His affront forced me to curtail my rage. “To offer you a compromise instead of killing you right here. Right now. Well, I admit it’s not a real offer, merely a demand that you will accept.” I placed the tumbler on his desk, swirling it back and forth for a few seconds.
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
By the gleam in his eye, I could tell he’d already figured out what I was going to say. While arranged marriages within the world of mafia kings were traditional, his white-bread world had yet to understand the magnitude of that kind of coupling. He would soon learn about the benefits, including keeping him alive.
Sighing, I glanced at my Capo, laughing from his expression. With a single wave of my hand, the fucker standing in front of me would be dead. I had to admit, it was a lot more fun watching beads of sweat trickling down both sides of his face.
“This isn’t about what I want, Doug. This is about what I’m taking.”
His face exploded in a shade of crimson, and he dared to walk closer, pointing his finger at me as if that would matter. “You will not take my daughter. She is off limits.”
Chuckling, I folded my arms. “You don’t have a choice. She now belongs to me.”
He stared at me with cold eyes. Then he burst into laughter. “You obviously don’t know a thing about my daughter. She’s a free spirit, doing things her own way. She will never agree.”
I moved to a standing position, inhaling then taking the two long strides necessary in order to tower over him. “This isn’t about her agreement. This is about righting wrongs. Now, you can give me your blessing, or you will face my wrath and I assure you that you won’t like the kind of punishment you will face.”
He took a few seconds before answering, the smile crossing his face forcing me to lose my patience. “You can’t have her. If you try and hunt her down, you’ll never find her.”
Did the son of a bitch actually think that he could simply tell me no? I snapped my hand around his throat, digging my nails into his skin. Within seconds, I’d cut off his air supply, his face turning even redder than before. “You don’t have a choice and I refuse to take your insolence.”
Doug started choking, smacking his hands against my arm as if that was going to make a difference. “Pu-lease,” he managed to sputter.
My patience was all but gone; however, I’d come here for one reason only. Anything less was unacceptable.
I would take his daughter with me, forcing her to understand that she was nothing but an object, a possession of the Benedetti family. Alexandra would become my wife and she would learn to obey my every rule.
Or face harsh punishment.
There was nothing that would be more satisfying than to snap his neck, but as my brother had mentioned, the game we were playing would allow us to eliminate our enemies as well as increase our territory. I was game for playing for a little while, even if I wasn’t fond of his methods. Still, enjoying the spoils of the battle we’d initiated would be delightful. I would enjoy performing sadistic acts on a girl who’d lived a premier lifestyle up to this point. Never wanting for anything. Always enjoying the finer things in life. She would soon learn what being in the claws of a monster felt like.
Yes, I would enjoy every moment of stripping away her innocence.
After a few seconds, I released my hold, taking a deep breath. I didn’t like losing my temper for any asshole.
Coughing, Doug slapped his hand around his throat, stumbling back several feet. I turned away on purpose, grabbing the drink, my intense hold capable of crushing the thin glass between my fingers. I swirled the liquid before taking a sip, closing my eyes briefly as the smooth liquid slid down the back of my throat. I waited for a few seconds, taking a deep breath. When I spoke, I was certain to keep my voice low and my tone even. There was no need to interfere with the employees he paid very little for surrendering their souls.
“You have five seconds to decide, Doug. No longer. Either you condone the wedding, or your fate will be sealed.”
“You don’t understand. Alexandra and I don’t get along. She’s gone off on another one of her vacations, refusing to tell me where she’s gone. Trust me. You won’t be able to find her. She has a way of disappearing when she doesn’t want to be bothered.”
Snickering, I polished off the drink, taking my time to return the glass to the bar. “Senator, you obviously don’t know my family very well. Not only do we always get what we want, but we have distinct methods of making certain that happens.” I turned to face him. “I will find Alexandra and when I do, she will understand very quickly that she belongs to me. At that time, you will either announce our upcoming nuptials or she will die a painful death. Only after you are provided with vivid detail of exactly what I’ve done to her will I return for you. After that, you’ll beg me for your death. It’s that simple.”
I moved past him, heading for the door.
“You wouldn’t kill an innocent woman. She’s done nothing to you.”
His words struck me as odd. “No, but you have. You know the old saying. The sins of the fathers? She will pay for what you’ve done to my family with her total submission. If not, I have no issue taking not only her beauty but her life. When I call, you will answer. Period.”
I didn’t wait for his answer. Quite frankly, I didn’t give a shit. He would comply or not. It was that simple.
As far as the gorgeous redhead, there wasn’t a single location in the world where I couldn’t find her. I would enjoy every minute of capturing and controlling her.
Even if it meant breaking her.
Having power had certain responsibilities and it often came with a hefty price tag including the loss of family and friends. I wasn’t the kind of man who gave a shit about people in general. They were just cogs in a machine, often nothing more than a hindrance. However, there had been times when the most unassuming individuals had provided information necessary for a mission’s success.
Even if they’d had no intention of providing it.
This was one of those times.
I’d learned everything I could about the senator and his family, including normal routines. I knew the senator’s golf schedule, the few hours he bothered to show up at his office, the location of the high dollar barber he used. I also knew the room number of the hotel where he met with his mistress every Thursday night.
Then there was the senator’s younger wife, Natalie. She was the epitome of a blonde bombshell, her hourglass figure augmented by years of plastic surgery. She’d been nothing but a trophy wife, a selection made when he’d decided to run for the state’s legislature years before. Somehow, I doubted his press manager had intended on Douglas selecting a woman of such a questionable background. They’d remained married, but in name only. Natalie spent her days shopping or having her hair done, enjoying the spoils of being married to such a famous man.
Alexandra was different. She’d worked hard her entire life, maintaining a four point two average in college, graduating with honors over a year early. From what I’d been able to tell, she’d lived a lavish but quiet life, spending more time making other people money than enjoying her youth. My mouth watered at the thought of all the filthy things I was going to do to her.
However, I would need to secure her location first. She’d gone off the radar, disappearing after leaving her office two days before. I’d checked the airlines, train stations, and rental car facilities in an attempt to find her. Given her passport hadn’t been used, she remained in the country. Time was of the essence, and I wasn’t willing to play the game of cat and mouse any longer. Every hour spent in New York gave Michael O’Sullivan, leader of the Irish mob another opportunity to initiate a hit.
Exhaling, I made the last turn, glancing out the windshield at the tall apartment building the man in question lived in. David Walker had been hired as Alexandra’s bodyguard, something I suspected she hated. She seemed to avoid many of her father’s pomp and circumstance celebrations, shying away from the cameras, but I’d seen enough glossy pictures of her to be intrigued.
In every photograph, her eyes were dazzling but always haunted. As if she held a dark and unwanted secret deep in her soul.
If anyone knew where she’d gone, he would, even if he dared not admit it to his employer. David’s reputation was solid, his previous work in the military making him an ideal candidate. The fact he’d remained in town meant she’d given him the slip. Or she’d made a deal with him that he hadn’t been able to refuse. Either way, his self-imposed seclusion in his apartment would be to my benefit.
There was no security on the building itself, which didn’t surprise me. David believed in his highly trained skills to keep him unharmed.
Unfortunately, he had no idea what he was about to face. I wasn’t the kind of man to take no for an answer. I’d waited until after nine at night on purpose, the darkness allowing for some cover against unwanted eyes. As I walked in, the sound of various televisions and stereos coming through the thin walls gave me a slight smile. A noise barrier just in case the man was inclined to call out for help.
Both Cassis and Donato remained directly behind me, keeping watch on neighbors curious as to why three well-dressed yet oppressive men were standing on the landing. I tapped on the door then unbuttoned my jacket.
As I’d predetermined, David was cautious as he opened the door, the old chain lock almost a surprise.
“Yeah? Can I help you?” he asked gruffly.
“Actually, you can.” With one hard kick against the door, I was able to push my way inside. Before he had a chance to reach for his gun placed in the small of his back, my two soldiers had already pointed their weapons to his head, Donato closing and locking the door behind us. “I don’t think you should consider doing anything stupid, David. I wouldn’t want your neighbors to get hurt in the process of our… discussion.”
He gave me a hard look, his upper lip curling. Fortunately for him, he decided to raise his arms.
Donato wasted no time in retrieving the man’s weapon, pocketing it in his jacket.
I took a deep breath as I glanced around the perimeter of the sparsely furnished room. At least with the exposed brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows, the dark place had atmosphere going for it.
“Who the fuck are you?” David demanded.
“At this point, you should consider me your friend,” I answered. “I’ll remain that way as long as you cooperate.”
“What do you want?”
I rubbed my jaw as I walked further into the room, admiring the bass guitar positioned in a stand near one of the walls. “Do you play?”
He seemed confused by my question, turning slightly in my direction. “Yeah. Why? You here for a lesson?”
I could tell he was proud of himself. Sighing, I rubbed my index finger down the instrument’s neck, plucking one of the strings. Then I turned my attention to the bar he’d positioned in one corner of the room. As I headed toward it, I glanced out the windows. “You have an impressive view of the city. Just beautiful.”
He growled under his breath, obviously trying to figure out who I was. He certainly hadn’t been allowed to be in the know about one of his employer’s enemies. Working with a dangerous man like O’Sullivan wasn’t something the senator made public. That would ruin his career. I poured a glass of scotch, taking a sip before turning around.
“You have interesting tastes in liquor. Not the best but I’ve certainly had worse.” I returned to the window, leaning against the glass. “I’m going to make this very easy on you, David. You’re going to tell me Alexandra Starling’s whereabouts. After that, I’ll leave you alone to enjoy your night.” I took another sip, the slight burn as it slid down the back of my throat just another reminder I couldn’t wait to get out of the city.
He cocked his head, narrowing his eyes as he studied me. I could swear I almost noticed recognition on his face. Inhaling, he held the breath for a few seconds, darting a glance toward my soldiers. “I don’t know who you’re talking about.”
“There’s something you should know about me, David. I’m not a patient man on any level. If you refuse me, then I’m likely to get angry. Very angry. You won’t like what I’m capable of if I’m forced to lose my temper. I’ll ask you one last time and I’ll be very clear. I know you’re Alexandra’s bodyguard hired by our good friend, Senator Starling. I’m also aware that she’s gone off on a vacation all alone, disappearing without a trace. However, since you are so good at what you do, I have no doubt you followed her until she left the city. You figured the time to yourself couldn’t hurt anything. All you need to do is provide where she’s gone. I can handle the rest. Now, does that seem too difficult for you?”
After a few seconds, he laughed.
I swirled the drink then gave Cassis a nod.
As both men punched him several times, I turned away. When I was younger, I enjoyed the violence. Tonight I found the need repulsive. Why couldn’t there be honesty? As his grunts escalated, I waved my hand. “That’s enough. I think David is an intelligent man.”
David’s body swayed and he held his gut, hissing as he glared at me.
After placing the glass on the bar, I walked closer, keeping my eyes locked on him. “Contrary to what you might believe, I don’t enjoy the thought of destroying your future in the industry. Since I consider myself a fair man, you’re going to get one last opportunity to provide the information I need. I assure you that the senator won’t give a shit what you knew all along.”
When he snarled, I issued a single hard punch to his throat. That brought him to his knees. I backed away, my patience all but gone. “Well, if that’s your answer then I think it’s best to allow you to see your fate.”
Donato grinned as he walked into the kitchen, finding the meat cleaver in one of his drawers.
“What the…” David hissed, unable to finish his sentence. Coughing, he tried to fight Cassis’ hold as my Capo threw him against the counter, smacking his hand on the surface several times.
“As you can see, my soldiers are prepared to teach you a lesson over a period of time. I don’t think you want that.”
I knew what David’s reaction would be. He sputtered and moaned, struggling to get away yet losing the battle, his mind likely one big blur as he tried to figure out a single scenario in which he could get away.
No such chance.
I was a man of my word after all.
“I’m sorry, David. Your time is up.” I gave the okay to Donato.
“No! Please. I’ll tell you,” David yelled louder than I thought he would.
I threw up my hand, even though it was for effect only. Both my soldiers knew my methods of operation.
“Excellent. I’m glad to hear you say that. Where is the lovely Alexandra?”
“She flew to Miami. Okay? South Beach. Some friend of hers has a house down there.” David’s tone reeked of anguish, but if I had to guess, I would say it was more about breaking down after only a few minutes.
“Any idea of the friend’s name?”
“Barbie or Candy or something like that. Ms. Starling is extremely private. She doesn’t like having me around.”
“Are you certain she got on that flight?”
He shifted, still fighting with Cassis’ hold. “Yes, I’m sure. I was there at the damn airport. She thought she could get away from me, but she was wrong.”
I wasn’t going to bother asking why he hadn’t caught the next flight. I didn’t care. “You did very well, David. I’m proud of you. And as promised, I’ve remained your friend. Oh, please keep in mind that you are not to tell anyone about this visit, and I do mean anyone. I will know if you do, and you will not like what happens.” I headed for the door, yanking my phone from my pocket. Time to call my pilot. We were headed for someplace tropical.