Owned:A Mafia Menage Romance

By: Meg Watson

“Bunny, you understand that what I do is very important. For us. For the family.”

Oh Lord, he's giving me the speech about family responsibility.

“Did I ever tell you how your mother and I met?”

I gulp, feeling like he’s just taken an abrupt left turn. “Mama? You never… No I don't think you ever did.”

“I can't believe I never told you,” he says in a faraway voice. His eyes crinkle already as he seems to be remembering her. Thoughts of Mama always make him sort of sad so I don't know why we’re talking about this now. “I was just a young guy, you know? Still wet behind the ears and everything.”

Despite my curiosity about what he’s clearly avoiding telling me, I can't help but be excited to hear this story. I always imagine his younger life in some kind of sepia-toned newsreel style. I mean, he's not that old. This would've been like the 70s or something, but I always imagine it with flapper girls and fedoras.

“Well, your mother was a New York girl. Some uncle’s wife's sister's cousin’s kid or something like that. So when Nonno told me about her, you can imagine what I thought. Right?”

I shake my head. How am I supposed to know what he thought?

“Well, I thought she was going to be ugly. I mean, the only girls I'd ever seen from the New York side of the family looked like grown men by the time they were 18. I didn't expect much, is what I'm saying.”

Nodding slowly, I realize my mouth is dry. I should've poured myself a bigger drink.

“So when Nonno called me to the house and we set down, I basically thought my life was going to be over. But you know how it is, you gotta do what you gotta do.”

I narrow my eyes at him. This is starting to sound suspiciously like that speech he gave me last year when he told me he was marrying me off to one of those Russian guys.

“But when she walked in, I almost cried for joy. Hand to God. I almost cried, right there in front of everybody. She was the most beautiful girl I've ever seen in my whole life. Hands down. The most beautiful, your mama.”

His eyes glisten with tears, and I move my hand to cover his in sympathy. I understand how much he misses her. You can see it all over his face. He's never been the same. I wish I had known her, but she died when I was just a baby, taken by a sudden aneurysm. One moment there, the next gone. Even though I never really knew her, the pain in his heart is so fierce it’s almost like the ghost of her. She’s still with us, in a way.

“So what I thought was a duty to the family, to your Nonno e Nonna, turned out to be the biggest blessing of my life. That's what love is. Having a woman to love is the biggest blessing in any man's life. A woman… Children…”

His voice trails off wistfully. I see his eyes go vacant as though he’s far away. Though I would like to be more sympathetic, I’m really hoping he will just tell me what’s on his mind and get on with it.

“Daddy, what are you trying to say?”

He shakes his head, lips pressed hard together. “Just that it's the most important thing in the world. It's the only thing worth fighting for, is your family. We’re nothing without our family.”

I nod. My head is starting to swim.

“These Russian guys, they're not so different from us, you know? They're just the same sometimes. Maybe they do things a little bit differently here and there. Maybe our business interests don't always align. But deep down, all men are the same, Marie. You should know that.”

Yeah, I'm starting to get that impression.

“I mean, I was so happy that you were willing to join with Dimi…”

“But he's gone, Daddy,” I interrupt. For once, he either doesn't seem to mind or doesn't seem to notice. He hates being interrupted, even though he could really go on and on sometimes. Waiting for Daddy to finish with his long stories is part of my family obligations, you could say.

That he crosses himself quickly and kisses his knuckle in respect. “May God rest his soul,” he mumbles.

“May God rest his soul,” I repeat numbly. I'm starting to get the picture, and the picture is terrible.

“I just wanted you to know that your mama was the best thing that ever happened to me… In my whole life…”

“But, Daddy, Dimi is gone. I know that I said that I could —”

“They have someone else now,” he says, his eyes going stony.

My breath hitches in my throat. I know I'm shaking my head, I can’t control it. When I heard about Dimi’s death I was sad for him, of course, but in a remote way. I'd never even met him. The men had decided that I would be the bride of somebody in the Russian organization without ever talking to me.

Daddy gave me a speech about family obligation, and Uncle Joey had just been killed in the middle of the street. We were all so sad about Joey, how could I say no? Daddy promised me that it would mean peace for everyone if I would make the sacrifice.

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