Envy:An Eagle Elite NovellaBy: Rachel van Dyken
One Thousand and One Dark Nights
Once upon a time, in the future…
I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.
I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and
the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast
library at my father’s home and collected thousands
of volumes of fantastic tales.
I learned all about ancient races and bygone
times. About myths and legends and dreams of all
people through the millennium. And the more I read
the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered
that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually
become part of them.
I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher
and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I
would not be telling you this tale now.
But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off
One afternoon, curious about the myth of the
Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to
see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar
(Persian: شهريار, “king”) married a new virgin, and then
sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written
and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,
the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand
Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived
in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged
places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had
never occurred before and that still to this day, I
Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have
taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can
protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to
protect herself and stay alive.
Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.
And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a
point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.
And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that
he might hear the rest of my dark tale.
As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new
one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before
“Gotcha!” I grabbed Serena’s chubby foot and pretended to shove it in my mouth. She squealed and pulled it away, only to put it back again with a giggle. Babies. I shook my head and did it repeatedly for the next twenty minutes, causing hiccups of laughter. She was only eighteen months but the cutest baby I’d ever seen, next to the little guy currently trying to stack blocks on Serena’s right. I called him Junior since he had his dad Phoenix’s same name.
Nixon, the boss to the Abandonato family, walked by and winked at his little one, careful to hide his Glock in the back of his jeans as he bent over and kissed her on the head.
I looked away.
I never stared too long.
Fact: My parents specifically told me not to speak to any of the bosses unless spoken to.
To drive their point home, they told me a story about one of the made men interrupting family dinner and getting shot in the kneecaps.
They let him bleed on the floor for an hour before finally helping him—the guy still walks with a limp to this day. I wish I could say they were scary stories you told your kids to put the fear of God in them, something you and your siblings whisper about late at night.
But I knew it was true. All of it.
The mafia was a very real beast.
And it took no prisoners.
It would rather kill them.
With a sigh, I kept playing with Serena and tried to make myself small. I didn’t need the attention, and while Nixon had always been nothing but kind to me, I knew what he was capable of.
Phoenix Nicolasi walked into the room next—no, he commanded the room, the very air that dared touch his skin—he wielded it with his silence.
Terrifying…did not adequately describe him. And the fact that he had black folders, one for every single person connected to the family, including the cappo—our version of the Godfather if you want to get specific—well, it was petrifying.
I had friends from college that complained about working at coffee shops or in the mall during the summer. I lied and said I worked at a doctor’s office.
Phoenix pulled out his gun and checked to make sure it was loaded.
Yeah. Not quite a place that saved lives and cured runny noses.
Serena tugged on my hair to get my attention. It was like she could sense my fear, the way that my body carried a slight tremble whenever the men were near me and the women weren’t in the same room.
It was normal behavior for those guys.
To bust out their weapons at any point without thinking about the little eyes that watched, that wanted to be just like Dad, killer and all.
I tried not to judge.
It was hard.
They were mafia bosses—I got it.
Or at least I thought I understood it since I had grown up around it. But my upbringing wasn’t as severe. My dad was a Nicolasi and always kept things quiet around us. It wasn’t until I was twelve that I realized it wasn’t normal for us to make as much money as we did through two jewelry stores and five laundromats.
I wrongly assumed that every business owner with a lot of cash drove a bulletproof Mercedes to protect their family. The older I got, the more horrified I became of the life my father lived, the life he forced us to live, and the complete unrest I felt every time I closed my eyes and prayed for him to come home.
He was a made man.
One of the best in the family, which meant Phoenix trusted him, which in turn meant he trusted me to watch his little boy. And every time Phoenix looked at his phone I wondered if it was my dad texting, if he was alive, if he was okay. He’d been gone for a month. We hadn’t heard from him except for a few “hey, I’m alive” texts.
I hated this life.
And I wanted out.
“Renee.” Nixon leaned down and touched my shoulder. “Are you okay?”
Remembered not to look directly into his eyes and forced a smile. “I’m just tired, you know how it is.”
“Kids do that to a person,” Phoenix piped in, finally sheathing the knives he’d apparently pulled out in the last few seconds that I’d been thinking about my dad. “We need to leave in five.”
I looked away.
I had to.
It made me sick to my stomach the blood these men had on their hands and the way they so casually talked about killing as if they were discussing the latest episode of This Is Us.
I forced a smile at Serena and Junior just as the front door swung open, nearly coming off its hinges.
There he stood.
Vic Corazon Abandonato.
In all his gory glory.
Tight black pants.
Tight black shirt.
Enough guns strapped to him to win an all-out war.
And no smile.
The man never smiled. It wasn’t in his makeup to smile. The one time he smiled was at Chase, and I think it was just a happy accident because Chase looked as shocked as the rest of the group did. I glanced away, again making sure I wasn’t drawing attention to myself, and fed the kids.
Vic was a silent killer. I imagined that people didn’t even know they were dying until they saw the blood running like a river from their chests.
That’s what assassins for the mafia did. They weren’t made men, they weren’t in line for boss. They did the dirty work-and they took the fall for it. They had one job. Protect the family at all costs.
He was the exact opposite of what I wanted for my life. He wasn’t the happily ever after.
I suddenly couldn’t wait to leave for school the following week. I was studying journalism at Brown, and even though I was going to be leaving the kids behind, I was ready to leave all of this behind too.
The death, the blood, the stares from Vic when he thought I wasn’t looking.
I self-consciously tucked my cropped black hair behind my ears and stood, picking up both kids and carrying them out of the room just as Nixon laughed and said, “You scared her away.”
Vic’s smooth, arrogant voice fired back. “It’s what I do best. Scare people.”
Seconds later I walked back into the room to grab one of the discarded toys Serena needed. I didn’t miss the way his eyes locked on me before he gave me his back. I exhaled the breath I’d been holding with a shudder and moved the kids as far away from the devil as I could.
If only I could save them.
Protect their innocence for more than one summer.
And keep the darkness at bay just a little bit longer.
She made it impossible not to stare, with her luscious pink lips and hooded brown-eyed gaze, almost like she was Sleeping Beauty waking up from a long, much-needed nap. It hurt like hell knowing that a woman like that would never look twice at a man like me.
A foot soldier.
I had no heart or soul to give her—I’d already sworn it to the families. Besides, what use did I have for fairytales?
“You’re scarier looking than usual.” Nixon piped up from the back seat, smug expression firmly in place. Between the ink on both arms, chest, and the lip piercing, he looked anything but a mob boss. More like a motorcycle gang leader who’d gotten lost in the Chicago suburbs.
Phoenix cracked a rare smile while I kept my eyes locked on the road ahead of me, on the task at hand. I pulled up to Chase’s house and waited.
When he didn’t show after five minutes, Phoenix leaned over the console and honked the horn.
Bringing attention to us.
I scowled and quickly checked the perimeter.