Rose didn’t want to leave Miami. She felt like a new person and though it was the perfect time to get back to New York she wanted to stay, to be by Luca’s side, to be all alone with no one to bother them. But that could never happen. He was needed in Manhattan, he had things to do, an entire city to take over. Rose watched the scenery outside the window, as she thought about how much closer to Luca she felt and how much stronger she had become during the week they had spent under the sun.
She knew that New York would have its own heat wave now that it was June, but it wouldn’t compare to the heat in Miami.
“What are you thinking?” Luca spoke into her ear quietly. They had an entire compartment to themselves on the train, but they still sat so closely together. She held his hand tightly and then answered him.
“I’m going to miss Miami, I really am.” Rose sounded, she wasn’t looking at him, she was watching the scenery move outside the window still.
“I will too, especially ‘cause I spent it alone with you,” Luca kissed the side of her head, making her look at him as he spoke. “But, we can’t stay in Miami forever, as much as I wanna be there with you.” Rose smiled at him appreciatively, he had just placed a toothpick between his teeth.
“I know. They need you in Manhattan,” Rose stated carefully. “But, don’t forget that I need you too.”
“Of course. I’d never forget that–I need you too.”
Manhattan was quieter than usual, but Cristofano Spinietta always had a good feeling as to why things got quiet. He knew something was going to happen, and he expected that much as he tried to settle his affairs before he sent his last living daughter to California. He’d lost more than he had bargained for when he took on the life of a crime boss with Vicente Changretta as young men. He lost his wife and his two youngest daughters to vendetta’s he had managed to win in the end, though it didn’t feel like much of a win with all the bloodshed and heartbreak he had endured. He protected his eldest daughter with every fibre of his being, but he knew now was the best chance he had to walk away.
Vicente was gone now, his closest friend and confidante. But he knew his son Luca, would take his job and do it well. But the quietness, the calm before the storm he had heard one of his guys saying, he knew trouble was near, and maybe it was the hand knocking at his door.
Cristofano never took outsiders into his home. Only sworn in men from the Spinietta crime family were welcomed into the private estate.
But the knock at the door continued. Cristofano allowed the maid to get the door, and she travelled to it in fear of a possible ambush. But when she opened the door, two men stood on the porch casually. It was Don Enrico Bassano of the Bronx with his eldest son, Alonso.
“Enrico,” Cristofano started off politely. “I don’t do business in my house.”
“It’s an important matter, won’t take to much of your time,” there was a half smile on Enrico’s face as he spoke. Cristofano called for one of his henchmen, and as the threatening man came to his call, Cristofano ordered him to check Enrico and Alonso for weapons. When they were clear, Don Spinietta invited them to his study to here out their proposal.
Luca left the apartment only an hour after he and Rose had arrived. He had told her that business was urgent, maybe even critical. It had been a thought in the back of his mind the entire week he had spent in Miami.
He had confided in Rose, and he never thought he would be in that sort of situation, no matter who he ended up marrying. Rose brought him a comfort he would have never imagined, and that was why he was striving to make things right, too make the first move if he needed to, to make things safe for her. The woman he loved most in the world, and he hadn’t even told her yet.
Don Spinietta was expecting him at his estate, and Luca never had much trouble getting in due to him being the underboss of the family. But as Luca reached the door he noticed Cristofano’s familiar bodyguard standing by the door. Luca kept his cool though he knew something had to be wrong if Cristofano had a bodyguard at the door.
Luca got into the house easily enough, and it was more than just a house, it was your average mansion, with too many unused bedrooms and enough space to house a small army. Luca travelled to the Don’s study.
Cristofano was sat at an oakwood desk, with his leather-bound ledger book at his fingertips.
“Luca,” the Don acknowledged him, but he barely gave him a glance.
“Don Cristofano,” Luca started, “I left information with Donnino while I was away with my wife.” Luca started calmly but he knew that something was wrong, and the Don was still withholding information.
“Yes, the Cubans, I’ll never hear the damned end of it.” Cristofano moved away from his ledger, to look at Luca. “Luca, the Bassano’s came ‘ere today, with no warning–they came to discuss business. But it wasn’t in your favour. They’re fools for coming out here.”
“The Bassano’s are lookin’ for trouble?” Luca smirked as he raised his hand to stroke his jaw with the back of his fingers.
“No,” the Don stated, “not intentionally–maybe. They was asking for the Rossi’s to take Manhattan once I step down. Fools,” Luca’s eyebrows knitted together as he tried to figure out what exactly he had just said.
“They was lookin’ to take a beating, is what they were doin’.” Luca scoffed as he searched for a toothpick to put between his teeth.
“What’d you tell Montesinos, what’d he ask of you?”
“He didn’t ask much too much that was interestin’, but he was bein’ coy with me. He asked how you were doin’, about the liquor business, he asked if we were thinkin' about havin’ our own whore houses out here. He mentioned he had spoken to the Irish.” It was the Don’s turn to scoff. He’d been dealing with the Cubans for ten years now and would never hear the end of how they wanted to be partners in the cocaine and sex trade. But when it came to drugs and whores, it was harder for his men to survive if they were caught. All five families in New York had cops on their payrolls when it came to gambling, liquor, nightclubs and casinos, they weren’t prepared to take on more problems than they already had. They were earning great money already anyway.
“You think the Bassano’s are talking to Montesinos? How else would he know when I’d be there, or how the trip went, right?” Luca was trying to put pieces together in his head, but as much as he wanted it to make sense, something still felt off.
“It’s possible, but they’re real fuckin’ dagoes for coming all the way out here. To my damn house!” Cristofano almost shouted. A gangsters home was sacred, rarely did he conduct outsider business in his home, and the Bassano’s knew that.
“Is Carla here?” Luca was only asking to make sure she was safe. He had once been tasked to watch over Carla after her youngest sister Olga had died by a gunshot wound.
“I sent her off with Henry just yesterday. Northern California, she said she always wanted to go there.” Luca nodded at his answer. “Keep your eyes open, son. Until we figure this out.” That was Luca’s cue to leave.
As he left the estate he couldn’t help but look both ways and behind his shoulder. His brief meeting with the Don made him feel like someone was after his position maybe after his head.
Not much had changed when they got back to Manhattan. Rose was happy to see the apartment when she got back, the familiar bedroom, the familiar kitchen, just the familiarity eased her.
It was late in the evening and Luca had gone out on Don Spinietta’s request. Rose was alone for the night, with nothing to do. Boredom had become her friend.
As the next three days had all included the same sort of routine. She’d wake up with Luca to make him breakfast and see him off and then she’d do work around the house, cook, or read. Bianca showed her face a few times but she didn’t stay long, and she never said why.
It was mid-day, four days after returning to Manhattan and Rose had grown tired of sitting at home waiting for Luca to come home. She was dressed in one of the summer dresses Luca had bought her in Miami, and she had a thin cardigan to cover her arms. She wanted to look modest for where she was about to go.
She took the elevator down to the lobby and began her trek on the streets of lower Manhattan. There was a flower shop nearby the apartment, so she picked up something pretty and meaningful, a single sunflower surrounded by pink carnations. Rose took a taxi then and made her stop on a street full of row houses.
She knocked at the door, half expecting Bianca to answer the door, but Audrey answered it. Rose was there to see her anyway. Rose had a polite smile on her face, as she greeted her.
“Mrs. Changretta, these are for you,” she still didn’t know how to call her, Audrey had never made it clear to her.
“What for?” Audrey took the flowers as she moved out of the way for Rose to step inside the house.
“We all deserve flowers to brighten our moods.”
“Well, you’re not wrong,” Audrey said carefully as she walked toward the kitchen to look for a vase to put the flowers into, Rose followed meekly.
“What brings you here, Rose?” It was weird to Rose to hear Audrey speak her name as if it weren’t a curse on her family. She could tell that Audrey had stopped trying to fight Rose’s existence as Luca’s wife. She wasn’t as hostile as she normally was, and it eased Rose’s heart. she couldn’t bear to be hated by someone so close to Luca.
“I was hoping you could teach me how to cook, maybe some traditional Italian recipes. I’ve been learning mostly through books, but Catarina told me that authentic Italian food can’t be found in books. So, I was hoping you could teach me–I know the basics–I’ve tried–“ Rose was rambling, she was more nervous than she had thought, but Audrey cut her off.
“You just want to learn how to make Italian food?” Audrey asked quizzically, Rose nodded her head in response. “Very well, how about we try some cookies, something simple. I have enough ingredients to make them, and I’m running out of cookies anyway.” Audrey was speaking half-heartedly, doing her best to not show to much emotion to Rose, but it had always been one of Audrey's dreams that Luca’s wife or Angel’s would come to her to learn some of their husband’s favourite dishes. Though all Audrey could think about was how she was deprived of another daughter-in-law. She knew it wasn’t Rose’s fault, Luca had told her many times how it had happened. But, Audrey could see John, Arthur and Tommy in Rose’s pale-blue eyes, she looked more like her brothers every time Audrey set eyes on her.
They baked in silence, only Audrey spoke when she gave Rose instructions. Her final product had turned out perfect, and Rose almost caught her breath when she saw a ghost of a smile on Audrey’s face.
“Are you getting bored in that tower?” Audrey asked speaking of the apartment she shared with Luca.
“It’s big so it keeps me occupied most of the time, but yes, I don’t have much to do.” Audrey had served her coffee so they could properly try the cookies Rose had made. They sat across from each other at the small round table in the kitchen.
“What did you do when you were in Birmingham?” Audrey had found it difficult to keep up the hostilities, it drained her energy the first few weeks Luca and Rose had arrived, and she was an older woman, she didn’t have the time to continue acting this way. So she was civil, and the look on Rose’s face just made it more clear that Rose was surprised to be receiving any sort of kindness from her. It made Audrey feel bad slightly, but she pushed the thought away trying to listen to her daughter-in-law.
“Not much really, Aunt Polly never let me take bets, and Tommy never let me work at the company, it attracts too many bad people they said. I’d usually go out to the dress shops with my sister, she always liked to pick out what I should wear,” Rose smiled to herself as she continued. “My youngest brother Finn, he’s good at not listening to the rules, so sometimes my Aunt Polly would have me look out for him, but he was usually in top shape when I was around. Arthur has a house in the country-side. It’s beautiful there, enough space for horses, and a garden. I spent most of my time there, and Arthur had me move in with him. Horses were always special to me, John–” Rose stopped speaking as she realized what she had said. She looked at Audrey apologetically, thinking she might get kicked out of the house.
“It’s fine,” was all Audrey said as she nodded her head for Rose to continue.
“John–he would–he would take me to the races. Tommy said he’d always take me, but he was always too busy. John would always take me to do fun stuff, he took me and Ada to the pictures in London once to watch one of Charlie Chaplin’s films.” She was doing her best not to cry, and it was working. She didn’t want Audrey to know that John’s death had hurt her, though it made sense that it would.
“Have you asked Luca to take you to the races?” Rose composed herself, as she looked at Audrey’s face carefully. Her greying hair was pulled back into a bun, and she had modest clothes on.
“I–I didn’t know there were any race tracks in Manhattan.”
“There isn’t, you would have to leave the city and go west for a proper track. The Saratoga race course is under Don Spinietta's payroll,” Audrey took a gulp of her coffee.
“Oh, I see.” Rose took a sip of her coffee as well.
“It’s good you came here today, I appreciate the flowers as well.” Rose nodded again, unsure of what to say. The atmosphere was calm and Rose left in a lighthearted mood. The sun was beginning to set, when she had said her goodbye’s to Audrey and took a motor cab back to lower Manhattan, she wasn’t sure when Luca would be back but she was hoping he’d be home soon. She was planning on waiting for him.
Luca had spent most of the week with Don Spinietta and had been at his home since the early morning that day. The sun was already low in the sky when the Don called a meeting with all the caporegimes. Cristofano had grown more irritated throughout the days Luca had gotten back, and as all the caporegimes gathered into the Don’s study, he began to speak.
“It’s unclear–well, is it really?” Cristofano glanced at Luca who was holding onto a cigar that Montesinos had sent to him in solidarity. Luca had given the Don half the box of cigars as a tribute. “The Bassano’s came to me a few days ago, and they gave me some information, enough for me to think that we might have a problem with the Cubans, or maybe even a snake in the grass on our side.” The Don looked at everyone dangerously. Being the Don was difficult, there weren’t many people he could trust, the only person he could trust was himself.
“Don Cristofano,” It was Luca’s cousin, Donnino, who spoke. “Are you implying that one of us is working with the spics down south?” Donnino looked insulted. Luca was closest to him; sat in an armchair the cigar between his teeth, and his arms rested lazily on the armrests. Luca tapped the front of Donnino's tailored suit with the back of his hand. It was meant to calm him, but Donnino kept the same expression on his face. Luca knew that Donnino was loyal, and wasn’t that stupid to work with the Cubans in secret, let alone the Bassano’s. He also knew that Donnino would never throw him under the bus, especially if there was a chance that he could become underboss after Luca took Manhattan. But Donnino still hadn’t heard the whole story, Cristofano was withholding most of the information.
“Carla’s gone, but I’m postponing my retirement until this is over.” Luca wasn’t surprised, he had felt that Cristofano would do this after he had returned to Miami with Cuban news. But Luca wasn’t worried, neither were any of the caporegimes that stood in Cristofano’s study attentively.
Luca was still looking over his shoulder everywhere he went. After the meeting with the Don and the caporegimes, all he wanted to do was go home and see Rose. To forget about the possible target on his head and to just melt into her.
The ride wasn’t too long. He watched the sunset and the stars glitter in the sky as it grew darker. He made his way closer to lower Manhattan in the front seat of his expensive motor car, with Rose on his mind.
He thought of her the entire time he drove, and he thought of her as he had the valet take the car to the parking garage. He thought of her as he walked closer to the revolving door of Tessa Tower. But a strong voice snapped him away from his thoughts.
“Changretta!” Was what he heard. Luca turned to the voice an angered expression on his face, he was practically home.
As he turned, he watched as a stalky man in a fedora held a gun up toward Luca. Luca moved his hand under his coat quickly, but he could hear the blast of the gun that wasn’t his own before he could even touch the gun hidden beneath his suit jacket. The people walking on the streets had begun to scream and run from the scene, it was the only thing they could do.
Luca felt a familiar pain, a bullet in the shoulder. But he was still on his feet, and he took the opportunity to pull the gun out of his jacket with his good arm. Luca took a shot and missed the assailant.
The stalky man fired back and took out Luca’s right hip. But it was the third shot that got him, right in the centre of his chest. Luca fell backward, his wounds were already bleeding profusely. The last thing he heard was the commotion of people around him and the lobby man that usually stood at the desk inside the tower stood over him shouting for someone to call the police, but all he really wanted to hear was Rose’s voice.