Mafiosa (Blood for Blood #3)

Mafiosa (Blood for Blood #3)

Catherine Doyle


‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.’

William Butler Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’



‘Hold your hand out, with your palm facing upwards.’ The way Valentino was watching me made my heart beat faster. I raised my arm, conscious of how slowly I was moving.

Felice was leaning back in the chair beside Valentino, one stick-like leg propped over the other. His arms were crossed tightly, like he was made of cardboard and someone had tried to fold him up. ‘He’s not going to chop it off, Persephone. Try not to let your cowardice show.’

‘Felice,’ Luca snapped. His jaw was so tight he looked like he could chew glass. He was sitting directly across the table from me, his body half turned away. I wanted him to look at me, to tell me it would be OK, but that wasn’t his job. He had gotten me here, at least – I had a foot in the door. It was foolish to hope for any more.

Nic cut his eyes at his uncle. ‘The initiation is new to Sophie. Let her go at her own pace.’

Felice raised an eyebrow. ‘If you say so …’

‘Just because she’s a Marino doesn’t mean she’s taken a blood oath before,’ he pointed out.

Valentino tugged me towards him. I could feel his ring – thick and cold – pressing against my pulse. ‘Let’s hope not,’ he murmured as he flicked his switchblade open.

I zeroed in on the handle. Valentino. The boss.

It will be easy. It will be quick. It’s just a formality.

The room was nestled in the back of Evelina, Felice’s gargantuan mansion. It was small, and dark, and way too hot. Everything was a collection of looming shadows and bright Falcone eyes.

Valentino punctured the skin at the top of my index finger and held it over an etching of the Falcone crest – a crimson bird half poised for flight. We watched in silence as the blood fell from my hand.

‘At least we know she’s human,’ Felice muttered.

I threw him a dirty look. ‘Try to control yourself, vampire. This is premium-grade initiation blood.’

Felice pointed incriminatingly at me. ‘See, she’s already making a mockery of it.’

Luca balled his fists on the table.

‘Stai zitto, Felice,’ Nic hissed. ‘Stop goading her.’

Valentino released me, and my hand hovered on its own, the blood still dripping on to the paper. ‘Say the words we taught you.’

I cleared my throat. ‘I, Persephone Gracewell—’

‘Marino,’ interrupted Felice. ‘Identify yourself properly.’

I glared at him.

He glared right back. He didn’t want this – a Marino inside his ranks, however ignorant I had been to my own ancestry – but he had been outvoted and it was too late now.

‘I, Persephone Marino,’ I laboured, ‘swear by my heart and my blood to uphold the values of the Falcone family so long as I am living. I will demonstrate honour and loyalty at all times, and will not break the sacred vow of omertà, on pain of torture or death. Henceforth, I pledge my allegiance to the House of Falcone and denounce all others, from now until my last breath.’

‘Withdraw,’ Valentino ordered.

I pulled my hand back and clenched my pricked finger inside my fist. He picked up the paper and pulled a box of matches from his pocket. He struck one, and in that instant I felt my world shrink around me. A breath caught inside my throat as it tightened. I could smell smoke – invading my nostrils, clouding my brain.

I am safe. I am free. It’s just an illusion.

Valentino touched the flame to the paper and it began to burn, blackening and curling at the edges.

In my head, dying screams rang out. I was back in the diner. I was inside the fire again. I saw my mother’s white sneakers inside the flames, winking at me. I could taste the ash and dust, I could feel it rushing into my lungs and parching my throat. My arms were sizzling and burning, the healing wounds ripped open again.

Not here. Not now.

Luca cleared his throat.

I tried to pull my thoughts from the inferno that had ripped my world away. The fire was over. The pain was all that remained. I tried to ignore my mother’s face as it swam behind my eyelids. Those kind eyes, that gentle watery smile. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Mom.

‘And the rest,’ Valentino prompted. ‘Sophie. Finish it.’

I blinked hard. The paper was nearly gone now. The flames had chewed it up into floating silver flecks.

‘Sophie.’ Luca’s voice, quiet and stern, brought me back. I refocused. I remembered why I was here. What I had to do.

‘La famiglia prima di tutto,’ I finished.

The family above everything.

The family comes first.

My family.

Valentino dropped the last shred of paper. ‘Sophie Marino, this ceremony symbolizes your rebirth into the Falcone family. From now on, you will live by the gun and the blade.’ He beckoned me closer. I went, like a puppet on a string, jarred by the streaks of similarity between him and Luca as those deep blue eyes loomed larger.

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