Sneak Peek 2: Devoted to the Don

Devoted to the Don cover: shows a shirtless Finch with his face in shadows; Luca is behind him, dressed in a suit, with one hand on Finch's arm as though holding him back.

Chapter Six

Luca

After I came close to painting a warehouse with Nick Fontana’s brain matter, Finch told me many times that I needed to let it go, get over it, move on. He didn’t seem to understand how deeply the whole thing affected me, how wounded I was by Fontana’s betrayal. For Finch, it seemed like things done for love were forgivable no matter what.

“He loves Carlo. You can’t fight love, baby,” he told me on more than one occasion.

But Finch had never really understood what it means to be a Morelli. It wasn’t just a betrayal of me when Fontana went behind my back, refused to follow my orders. He betrayed the whole Family, his brothers, all of us bound to him by blood oaths and sacred traditions.

It was as shocking and terrible to me as if would be to Finch if his priest friend Aidan suddenly threw down the rosary he always carried and set it on fire, pissed in the holy water, called out a Hail Satan.

But then, Finch was an iconoclast at heart.

I wasn’t the only one who could not—would not—forgive Fontana for his duplicity. Al Vollero might have been keeping his mouth shut around me, but there was no way to miss the evil looks he sent Fontana’s way every time the senior Family members met. One night his heckling of Fontana got so bad that I kept Vitali behind to question him about dissent in the ranks.

He hedged until I told him to give it to me straight and then, with reluctance, he gave in. “Okay, Boss. Just don’t shoot the messenger. Vollero’s not happy, but it’s not only about the fact that Fontana’s still breathing. It’s about—”

“His granddaughter.”

Vitali nodded. “He don’t like Sophia’s involvement in our business, that’s for sure. And he likes her training under Fontana even less.”

“She’s training with you, too.”

“Yep. But I’m not the one who has the reputation as a rat.” My face must have betrayed my thoughts, because Vitali held up his hands. “You told me to give it to you straight, Boss. I got no problem with Fontana, but he’s a rat in Vollero’s eyes. Vollero’s giving me a free pass on Sophia, but only because he feels more justified in hating Fontana. So Fontana’s getting all of it, deserved or not.”

“Mostly deserved,” I muttered, and then wished I hadn’t. It wasn’t wise to let anyone know what I was thinking, even the man responsible for Family security. “Pull Vollero into line,” I said after a moment.

“Will do, Boss.”

It wasn’t Vitali’s job. Fontana, thanks in large part to his boyfriend’s logically-reasoned and difficult-to-ignore argument, was supposed to be my Enforcer, but I could hardly get him to tackle this issue. So Vitali it would have to be. I wanted to avoid any of my senior members locking horns where I could. Al Vollero was getting lazy in his old age, but he had standing in the Family, and the men working for him were effective at their jobs.

As for Fontana, he could still be useful to me in his own way.

“Alright,” I said to Vitali. “Anything for my ears only?” Some of the security issues I preferred to keep between Vitali and me; there was no point widening a circle of knowledge if it was unnecessary. Vitali hesitated again. “No shooting of messengers,” I reminded him. But I already knew what he was going to say.

“Well, Boss, it’s about expanding Mr. D’s security detail options—”

“No. And don’t sigh at me. I said no, and I’m still saying no. We keep the current arrangements.”

“There are other—”

No.” My voice rang out a little louder and a little harsher than I really meant it to, but at least it shut Vitali up. He snapped his lips together and gave a tight nod.

“Understood, Boss. I’ll say goodnight, then.”

I waited until Vitali had left the warehouse before I called out, “Come on, baby bird.”

I heard his footsteps heading towards me, and reminded myself that I was Don Morelli, and I feared no one. But when Finch’s face appeared with fierce, glittering eyes and a thin, straight mouth, my heart did skip a beat.

It wasn’t that Finch ever scared me. But marital harmony was important to me, and occasionally tricky to find, given our mutual stubbornness.

“Don’t start with me,” I tried preemptively, but he was shaking his head, his brows drawn.

“You said.”

“I know what I said, but what I told Vitali is also—”

No, Luca. You said.” He was actually shaking his finger at me, so mad that he could barely get the words out. I knew if I smiled it would only make the time bomb of his temper explode, but he looked like a pissed-off toddler. “You promised me you would talk to Vitali about getting me a new security detail.”

“Baby bird, I know I did, but—”

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Suddenly his anger was not amusing at all. “What do you mean?”

“I mean I can’t have you keeping me wrapped up like fine china, Luca. I love you, but I’ve got my own shit to do.”

By our current arrangement, I was his security. On the nights I really couldn’t do it, I made sure Carlucci and Vitali were both with him, along with a few of his own Kismet staff whom I knew, without a doubt, to be loyal. But Carlucci and Vitali were running themselves down between guarding Finch and their other jobs for the Family, and I…

Between my insomnia and my work and my watching over Finch, I was surviving on a couple of hours’ sleep a night, and worse, he knew it.

“I did promise I would find an alternate arrangement,” I agreed slowly. “And I’m sorry I didn’t speak to Vitali about it tonight.”

Finch, standing in front of me then, crossed his arms and raised one eyebrow. “And?”

“And I’ll talk to him at the next meeting.”

“No, you fucking won’t. You’ll call him up tomorrow and get him into your study and talk to him then.”

He was no longer angry enough to combust. Still annoyed, still exasperated, but I’d been forgiven for tonight at least. It was difficult not to smile about that, too, but it would only earn me another tongue-lashing. Finch was never more adorable to me than when he was bossing me around. “Alright, angel. I’ll do that, just as you say.” I moved forward to hug him, but he took a step back, face still mutinous.

“I mean it, Luca. I love the hell out of you, but I can’t have you standing over me like you have been the last few weeks. It’s not…” He sighed, dropping his arms.

“It’s not what?” I demanded, irritated now. I’d promised to talk to Vitali, hadn’t I? What more did he want?

“It’s not healthy,” he murmured, his eyes searching my face. “You know that, right?”

I took a deep breath before I replied, because Vitali had annoyed me and now Finch was doubting me. “I’m fulfilling my duty as your husband. I’m protecting you. It doesn’t matter if I miss a few hours’ sleep.”

“It’s not a few hours, and it’s not your sleep that I’m worried about—not primarily, anyway.” He took my hand and pressed it to his cheek. “Luca. It’s not good for your mental health to try and take total responsibility for me…and it’s not good for us as a couple, either.” He kissed my palm and then added bluntly, “I’m your partner, not your pet. I might be your ‘baby bird,’ but you can’t lock me up in a cage. You feel me?”

“I feel you,” I said automatically.

But it was a lie. I had no intention of standing down.


Devoted to the Don – coming December 2021