Home > Rocco A Mafia Romance

Rocco A Mafia Romance
Author: Sarah Castille

ONE

“He was a nice boy.”

“Yes, Papa.” Grace Mantini crossed herself as the pallbearers carried the coffin of Benito Forzani across the grass of the Las Vegas Shady Rest Cemetery. As the daughter of a high-ranking Mafia boss she had attended so many funerals over the years she could go through the motions of the formal burial service in her sleep.

“He would have made a fine husband.”

“I’m sure he would have.” But not for her. Was she a terrible person for being relieved that the Mafia soldier her father had wanted her to meet had been found dead in an alley the day after her father and brother arrived in Vegas?

“He wore a baseball hat so you couldn’t see his missing ear,” her father continued, with the faintest hint of a smile. Unlike many other Mafia fathers, Grace’s dad had no interest in forcing his daughter to marry into the mob, but that didn’t stop him from playing matchmaker any time they were together.

“Yankees?” she asked, hopefully.

“Red Sox.”

“It wouldn’t have worked out,” she said. “I like winners.”

Her brother, Tom, stifled a laugh and reached around their father to poke her in the side. Four years younger than her, he had been groomed since birth to take over the family business. One day he would become a “made man” like their father, Nunzio Mantini, now the underboss of the powerful New York Gamboli crime family. Grace hoped it wouldn’t be too soon. Men changed when they became made, and once that line was crossed, the serious business of living in a world of crime and death weighed heavy on their souls.

She smoothed her expression when she caught a few people looking in their direction. The graveyard was filled with members of the Toscani crime family who made up the Las Vegas faction of the New York−based Gamboli crime family, all dressed in black despite the blazing sun overhead and the unbearable ninety-degree heat.

“You could have come home if you married him.” Her father sighed. “He had a new job in New York. Don Gamboli asked Benito personally to handle all the family accounting.”

“I like it here in Vegas,” Grace lied. “I can buy a house, party twenty-four hours a day, sunbathe all weekend, and I have my career…”

In fact, she hated Vegas. A New Yorker, born and raised, she had been happy with her two days of nice weather a year, the postwar on First Avenue she’d lived in with her aunt, a wallet with no driver’s license, and a man she’d loved with every ounce of her being. Now she had an old Mitsubishi Mirage with a pathetic 74 hp under the hood that she had to flog to get anywhere, a permanent sunburn, and instead of a postwar, she shared a characterless ranch house with her best friend Olivia, and two jazz musicians, Miguel and Ethan.

But that’s what happened when your family was in the mob. You didn’t get to choose the kind of life you wanted to live. You didn’t get to do the job you had always dreamed about doing. You didn’t get to live in the city of your heart. And you didn’t get to keep the things you loved.

She scrambled for a new topic of conversation. The last thing she wanted was for her father to find out she wasn’t actually making use of her psychology degree. Instead, she was making ends meet by recording radio jingles during the day, the closest she could get to her ruined dream of becoming a jazz singer. Her father had tolerated her decision to move to Vegas six years ago only because she had been so distraught after the attack that she’d told him was a mugging gone wrong that she could barely function. If he’d known the real reason she’d left—no, run—from New York, he would never have let her go.

The priest finished the last rites, and the crowd responded with the proper prayers. She felt the whisper of a breeze against her neck, the softest caress. A shiver trickled down her spine but when she turned slightly hoping to catch the soothing air, the breeze died away.

“You can always come home if things don’t work out,” her father said. “You can stay in the house and look after Tom and me like you did after your mother died. We haven’t had a good meal since you left. Eight years is a long time to go without braciola the way your mother used to make it.”

Grace didn’t miss his emphasis on the word “left” or the undertone of judgment that went with it. Her decision to move to Vegas had been acceptable; her abandonment of the family two years prior had not. But everything had changed when, at sixteen, she discovered that her life had been a lie. Her kind, doting father was not actually an insurance salesman; the weekly funerals they attended weren’t just because her family was unlucky; and her mother hadn’t bled to death in the arms of her ten-year-old daughter as the result of an accidental shooting by an overzealous cop.

And while the revelation that Papa was in the Mafia explained some of her father’s behavior—the respect he received when they went out, the small favors that were bestowed upon him that hinted at his real power and influence—she was unable to process some of the larger concepts. How could her loving father be a criminal and a murderer? How could she wear the clothes he bought her, eat the food he paid for, or live under his roof when he had blood on his hands and everything had been paid for with dirty money? How could she even begin to understand the horrifying things he had done to achieve his position as second-in-command of one of the most powerful organized crime families in the country?

After her father had told her the truth, she’d run away. Just as she’d tried to run away after her mother died. Her mother’s sister had offered to take her in, and her father, distressed by her total and utter rejection, had agreed. She’d thought nothing could be as devastating as discovering her father wasn’t who she thought he was, but it was nothing compared to the night her heart was ripped out of her chest.

She felt a tickle on her neck, not a breeze this time, but something she knew instinctively as a warning. Someone was watching her. She took a quick glance over her shoulder, but she saw only trees glimmering in the sunshine, beckoning her with the promise of a respite from the heat in their cool shadows.

“You can get braciola in any good Italian restaurant. You don’t need me.”

“I’m getting old.” He sighed again. “I worry about you being all alone. I want to see you settled.”

“Setting me up with your friends’ sons isn’t going to do it. You know how I feel about … what you’re involved in.”

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