“It’s been a long time.”
I cringed inwardly at the voice I’d never forget no matter how much time elapsed.
“Not long enough,” I said, full well meaning it.
Cold laughter echoed through the warehouse. “You look just like your old man.” There were few things he could say that were more insulting. “Must have gotten your smarts from your mother.”
“What do you want, Angelone?” I widened my stance as he made a broad circle, looking around into the dark shadows.
“Interesting choice of meeting place,” he commented when he stopped. The look he gave me was pointed. He knew why I’d bought the warehouse, understood my need for power over the past.
“Figured you were familiar with it.”
His lip curled up. “We’re on your turf now, huh?” I was still a scared shitless kid in his eyes and he the big, bad don. He was wrong. I wasn’t even close to the same boy that had stood before him all those years ago.
“Get to the point,” I prompted, itching to do something as he paced.
“Don’t believe I’m here to catch up with my property?”
“I belong to no one,” I grated out, the familiar flicker of my temper igniting.
Angelone tapped his index finger to his lips. Time had been kind to him. He hadn’t aged all that much from the last time I’d seen him nearly thirty years ago. The air of authority still swirled around him. Only this time, I wasn’t afraid of anything he could do to me.
“Hmm. I believe you do, Elliott. You traded one life of servitude with me for another with Salvatore. That motherfucker has you by the balls.”
I clenched my fists at my sides, which only made Angelone grin.
“And if it isn’t Salvatore, then that pretty little girl—what’s her name? Ah, Vivian. It’s Vivian, isn’t it?” I took a step forward, and his smile only broadened. He was goading me. I knew it. Yet it took every bit of my restraint not to tackle the fucker. “She is a lovely piece,” he mused.
I wanted to bash his skull on the concrete floor until he never had another thought about her again. Instead, I ground my teeth and waited impatiently for him to get to the fucking point.
“You owe me.”
“I owe you nothing,” I scoffed.
“Because of you and Salvatore, I spent six years up the river.”
Jesus Christ, he sounded like a poor man's Don Corleone. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said to him, trying not to laugh in his face. I looked down at my suit, examined the lapels of my jacket. “Last I checked, I’m no fed. So I’d say there’s no way that I had anything to do with your trip to prison.” I shrugged. “Maybe you should have tried to be more law abiding.”
His jaw worked as he tried to tamp down his own temper. At least I had an effect on him too. “I want something.”
“Don’t we all?”
He glared, and I shoved my hands into my pockets. “You’ll get it for me.”
“That’s a pretty big assumption.” I feigned disinterest. Even started toward the door.
“Your father was a stupid man. A stupid, stupid man.”
I stopped, my brows dipped as I stared at Angelone. “I won’t argue with that.”
“What he did to you got him killed.”
The hairs on my neck stood at attention. “He killed himself.”
The look was unimpressed, as if disappointed in my naiveté. He lifted a shoulder. “Whatever you say.”
He knew something. I wasn’t going to give him any more information, if that’s what he wanted.
“I think we’re done here.” I spun on my heel, but only made it two steps before he spoke.
Unease slithered through me even as I kept a neutral expression on my face. Donato and I had a buyer looking for the largest known canary diamond, the existence of which was only a rumor to most people. But I knew it was real, and where it was. How Angelone was aware we were negotiating to purchase it had my hackles up. And more than that, how did he know our code word for it?
“I have no idea what you mean.” I feigned ignorance while my insides were churning with possibility. Did we have a rat? Or was the owner of the diamond playing me?
He tilted his head to the side, face awash with disappointment. “Don’t play stupid with me, son. That’s straight out of your old man’s book.”
My lip curled up in disgust. These insults were beneath me, yet they dug deep. I tried to let them bounce off, but he’d struck a nerve.
“You’ve wasted both of our time.” I resumed my trek toward the door.
Angelone placed a hand on my chest to stop me. I looked down at it and rose a brow in an are you sure you want to go this route gesture.
“You. Owe. Me,” he reiterated.
I sniffed. “No. I don’t.”
“I want in on that diamond. I know you know where it is.”
“It makes no difference to me what you think you know. Now get out of my warehouse.”
“You will let me in on this deal,” he said, steel in his voice.
“If there were a deal, I absolutely wouldn’t.”
“I’ll be reasonable. I’ll only take half.” He glossed over my words as if I hadn’t spoken.
My lip curved up in an insincere smile. “Enjoy your half of nothing.”
I shoved past him, was nearly to the door when he spoke. “How about Donato? Is he nothing?”
I stopped. “Next time you want something from me, play a better hand to get it.” I pretended as if Donato didn’t factor into anything. We both knew he did. I hated being backed into a corner, but if he continued down this path, it would be a tricky one to get out of.
“There are many, many ways to make him suffer.” His stare penetrated and spoke of something he hadn’t voiced. “But if you work with me, I can make his situation go away.”
“If you wanted to make him suffer, you’d have done it a long time ago.” There had been skirmishes over the years between the Salvatores and Angelones, but overall, they had remained remarkably civil. If either of them had wanted to get rid of the other, it could have been done a thousand times over. They weren’t allies, but they benefited from each other’s existence. Donato didn’t want a war, and I didn’t believe Angelone did either.
“Very true, but I’ve refrained. Now I see no reason to.” His finger slid across his lower lip. “But maybe ensuring Donato’s well-being isn’t the right incentive for you. Maybe I should focus on Vivian and that other stunning woman who lives with you.”
The way he spoke of them made me lunge for him. I grabbed the lapels of his jacket and shook. He grinned. I’d shown him my weakness. The number one rule, and I’d broken it.
“It would be a shame to mar either of those pretty faces, but—” He shrugged, and I struggled not to kill him with my bare hands.
“Do not threaten my family.” I shoved him and took slight satisfaction when he stumbled.
“Let me in on the deal, and I’ll owe you.”
That gave me pause. I could do with a man like Angelone owing me a favor. He didn’t hand those out easily. But I was trying to get out of this world. Somehow, I kept getting in deeper.
Besides, didn’t he want in to settle the debt he believed I owed him? This reeked to high heaven. There was only one possible response.
I stalked out to my car and cursed under my breath. I had a problem. A fucking whale of one.