Six years later, New York City
“Ma’am.” Julia’s small voice filtered through the door as she knocked softly.
I slanted a glance at the clock over the fireplace mantel. It was almost five in the morning. For some reason, I hadn’t been able to sleep all night. Every time I dozed off, a sharp pain in my chest woke me up.
“Come in, Julia.” I sat up in bed. “I’m awake.”
“I’m sorry to disturb you, but it sounded important.” She brought in a phone. “Don Valentino’s right-hand man has been trying to reach you.”
“What nonsense.” I grabbed my phone off the bedside table. “So he has. What is it?”
“It’s urgent. That’s all he said.” She handed me the device.
As soon as Lorenzo, Giovanni’s right-hand man heard my voice, he started talking. “Don Valentino was ambushed yesterday. He’s called for an extraordinary board meeting later this morning. But he wants to see you first.”
“Is he home?”
“I’ll be there shortly.” I climbed out of bed and rushed to the bathroom, where Julia already had clothes waiting for me. “Get the driver. And my niece. Whatever happens with Giovanni today, she needs to be there.”
“Of course.” Julia nodded and disappeared.
I managed to get ready and head out the door without giving into the pain gripping my chest. The more I thought of Giovanni being hurt, the worse it got. No, that old man couldn’t do this to me. He couldn’t die on me.
These days Giovanni lived at the Crucible. When he took over as king for Michael Alfera, over eight years ago, he moved into the penthouse. I instructed my driver to enter the building through the secret entrance. Our enemies were always watching. Showing up at his home at this hour might give them the idea that something was wrong inside the walls of the Society.
As soon as the SUV pulled up to the small lobby, I climbed out and headed toward the door. The whole way, my heart threatened to punch a hole through my chest. Giovanni and I had been through thick and thin over the years. Everything we had worked so hard to achieve was finally ours. He couldn’t leave me.
“Don Salvatore.” One of Giovanni’s men came out to greet me at the elevator bay. “This way.”
“I’m assuming the doctors are already here.”
“Yes, ma’am. Don Valentino will explain.” He opened the door and gestured toward the grand staircase.
“I know the way.” I darted upstairs.
When I reached the landing, the men standing guard stepped aside to let me through. I had managed to keep my composure the entire trek here. But seeing the great Don Valentino in bed, looking older than he really was, my world began to crumble.
“What happened?” I asked the doctor. “Why is he not at the hospital?
“He wanted to come home.” The doctor’s gaze shifted between my face and Giovanni’s. As injured as Giovanni was, he was still our king. He out ranked me. “He was in surgery for hours. We did what we could.”
“He was stabbed multiple times. Two—”
“That’s enough, Doctor.” Giovanni’s voice boomed in the bedroom. “Leave us.”
“How is the pain?” The doctor checked the IV. “I can increase the morphine. Just let me know.”
“I’m comfortable. No more drugs. I need to speak with Don Salvatore.” Giovanni motioned toward the door. “Tell the others. No more visitors.”
“As you wish, sir.” The doctor vowed, holding the gesture for much longer than usual. “I’ll stay until it’s time.”
The minute the door clicked shut, I rushed to the bed. And I didn’t even care that I was sobbing like some teenager. “You’re dying? What the hell happened?”
“You heard the doctor. I got stabbed.” He smiled at me as he reached to wipe my cheek. “Don’t fuss, woman. Didn’t we decide a long time ago that no man was worth your tears.”
“You’re no man. You’re a lion.” I attempted a chuckle, though it came out more like a whimper. “Don’t you dare die on me. I will never forgive you if you do.”
“Vittoria.” He offered me his arm. “Must we spend our last moments fighting.”
In that moment, the promise we made so many years ago to never get this close again went out the window. I curled up next to him, laying my head on his shoulder. “Whoever did this to you will pay with his life and the life of everyone he loves. I swear it.”
“I know, my dearest Vittoria. You’re the only one who can do what needs to be done next.” He inhaled, then kissed the top of my head. “If I’d known I had to be dying to get you back in my arms, I probably would’ve taken a bullet sooner.”
“Don’t joke about this. None of this is funny. You have to try harder. Stay with me. Stay a little longer.” I pressed my lips to his temple.
“I did. Try.”
“No, you didn’t. You’re here. You should be at the hospital surrounded by a legion of doctors.”
When I tried to sit up to look at him, he tightened his hold on me. “Enough. That’s not important anymore. What’s done is done. I need you to find the traitor who did this to me and make sure he never finds a way to do the same to my son, Rex.”
“You have my word.” I placed a hand gently on his chest. Bit by bit, blood seeped through the bandages covering his abdomen. “Don’t talk anymore. You need to rest.”
“The time for rest will come soon. Please hear me out.” He paused for a minute.
“A name is all I need.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I sat up to glare at him. “I told you to be careful. I told you he would not stop trying to get to you.”
“I know. He got lucky tonight.” He swallowed, then winced. “He thinks I didn’t see him. The coward stood in the corner and watched them cut me to shreds.”
“I will make sure the entire Gallo family is wiped out. I promise you, it will be done. He won’t see me coming.” I cupped his cheek. “Let me stay with you. At least until the sun comes up.”
“I was hoping you’d ask.” His eyes fluttered closed. “I’m glad you’re here.”
Being in Giovanni’s arms again was like coming home. This was our forbidden dream, the one we could never speak of. All the power and money at our feet, and we could never have this. Suddenly, the sleepless night washed over me, and I was able to find some peace.
“I never loved anyone the way I loved you.” His heartbeat leveled off, as if it too was falling asleep.
“I know.” I braced my arm on the pillow and kissed his lips. “I never loved anyone but you.”
The world around us was falling apart. But I’d given too much already. I deserved to be here with him until the end. I settled back into his embrace and fell into a deep slumber.
Hours later, when the sunlight peeked through the tall windows, I woke up and found him dead. The king was dead. I wanted to scream. I wanted to punch a hole through the wall. I wanted to beg him to come back. But what would that help? There was only one thing Giovanni had asked for. And I had every intention of making good on my promise. Maybe not tonight, or tomorrow night.
But soon…revenge was a dish best served cold.
Sinfully gorgeous Professor Luca Gallo has zero tolerance for the remarkably spoiled Donata Salvatore. The last time their paths crossed, she almost ruined his life with her lies. Now she’s in his classroom asking for favors and an easy grade. Professor Gallo has a lesson for Donata. One he’ll make sure she never forgets.
Hot for Teacher
“The spice and how Luca gets Donata to do spicy things omg wild.” - GraceBookReviews
“Imagine coming face to face with someone who almost ruined you. Imagine coming to class and finding the one man you're obsessed with as your teacher." - GoodReads Reviewer
The conclusion to the Wicked Knight Duet comes out this Fall. Get started on this series today!