I dropped everything I was doing and headed to the second vineyard, the vineyard Cane operated autonomously. It was twenty miles away, on beautiful roads that showed the Italian landscape that was so breathtaking it seemed like God had molded it with his bare hands.
When I arrived at the property, I found Cane in the production facility, and I grabbed him by the arm and spit out everything that transpired, that a beautiful summer day had been disrupted by a past that had been locked away over a decade ago.
He was initially in shock, but he quickly reverted back to his old ways, picking up his former identity and focusing on a solution to the problem we found ourselves in. “Was I an idiot for thinking we could ever really get out?”
“If you’re an idiot, I’m an idiot too.”
“Well…I already knew that.”
I narrowed my eyes because now wasn’t the time for jokes.
He left the line of barrels and stepped outside with me so we could get away from the workers who stepped in to grab the product for the next shipment. There was a table outside in the shade, showing a view of the vineyards and the houses in the distance. We took a seat.
My shoulders slumped, and I let out a sigh, wishing I had continued to retain a security team who could have blown them to pieces when they stepped onto my property. But that would have started a war I couldn’t have possibly won.
“We’re doing this, then?” Cane asked.
My eyes squinted because the landscape was so bright, the sky so clear that I could see hills for miles and miles. “We have to. Do you know Bartholomew?”
“Never heard of him. Must be Piero’s son.”
“I don’t remember Father ever mentioning that name.”
He stared at the surroundings for a while before he turned back to me. “What are we going to do about the girls?”
I dreaded telling Pearl that I’d been pulled back into the underworld, that the beautiful and peaceful lives we’d created were being interrupted by a past that I released…but that had never really released me. I didn’t want to see the disappointment on her face, the heartbreak in her eyes. I belonged at home with her and with Vanessa and Conway, not out chasing material possessions that meant literally nothing to me. But I didn’t have a choice. “We have to tell them. I can’t lie to Pearl, and if she knows, she’ll tell Adelina, so you can’t lie either.”
He shook his head slightly. “Bellissima is going to kill me…”
“Button won’t be happy either.” I felt like I’d failed her by agreeing to do this. Our beautiful lives were ruined within an instant, and there was nothing I could do to protect us from it. We’d both already endured so much. We shouldn’t have to endure anything but joy.
“So…we talk to Bartholomew and then get the diamonds back. Should take a few weeks at the most.”
“I have a feeling it won’t be that easy.”
“Because Bartholomew won’t agree to help us.”
“Why not? Our families go way back.”
“But his hatred for the Skull Kings is stronger—I can guarantee you.”
Cane turned quiet, knowing I was right. “Yeah…I’m not their biggest fan either. Our entire weapons business wasn’t enough…they always want more. When they were coming further into power, someone should have stepped in and prevented them from monopolizing the market. Instead of being the peacekeepers, they’re the bullies. There are too many to kill. There’s no way to bring them down. I can’t believe I used to be one of them…”
“We all have things we’re ashamed of.”
He turned back to me. “What are you ashamed of?”
The flashback came to my mind, the way I lost my temper and slapped Pearl. It still made me sick to this day, to know I touched my wife like that. She shouldn’t have put herself in harm’s way, but I shouldn’t have taken it so far. But I didn’t say that out loud because the shame was still too much…all these years later. “That I agreed to let the kids get a dog…”
His eyes relaxed with a look of amusement, and then a quiet chuckle followed shortly afterward. “You? Crow Barsetti?”
He laughed again. “I love it.”
“Uncle Crow is getting a dog?” Carter’s voice came from behind us since they lived at the vineyard in their own home, slightly extended from the property.
Cane’s face immediately dropped when he heard his son’s voice. “Shit…”
I grinned. “Looks like you’re going to get a dog too.”
Carter came to the front, his eyes wide in excitement. “Dad, they’re getting a dog? Then can we get a dog?” He was the same age as Conway, having the same Italian features that kept the Barsetti line fresh.
I grinned in victory.
“No,” Cane said. “How was school?”
“Why not?” Carter whined. “If they can get one, why can’t we?”
“Think about it this way,” Cane said. “When we all get together, you can play with their dog.”
“But I want my own dog,” Carter said.
Carmen came next. “Oh my god, we’re getting a dog?” She practically screamed at the top of her lungs. Adelina walked behind them, just getting home after picking them up from school.
I relaxed in my chair, interlocked my fingers behind my head, and grinned as I watched my brother drown.