Dark Soul (Vol 5)
The saga comes to an end . . .
In “Dark Hunter I,” Stefano Marino must face his most dangerous enemy yet: US Attorney Sebastiano Beccaria, who’s seeking the total annihilation of the Marino clan in the hopes of purging his own dark past.
In “Dark Frost,” a traitor in the organization makes his move, hiring Silvio to kill Stefano. Meanwhile, Silvio struggles to find his place in the Marino home as Donata learns the truth about Stefano’s affair.
The game is up in “Dark Hunter II.” Sebastiano Beccaria confronts Stefano with evidence that will undermine his power and put his life at risk. Stefano faces a bitter choice: fight and risk it all, or flee and protect himself and those he loves. Also, there’s a puppy.
In “Dark Lie,” Stefano makes the only choice he can. With the mutiny brewing and his marriage hanging in the balance, he agrees to leave the life of organized crime. Beccaria has won, but the victory comes at high price—for everyone involved.
In “Dark Heart,” Stefano and Donata have gone to ground in Paris. When a ghost from the past tracks him down, he knows he won’t survive the day if he can’t find a way to make peace with all he left behind.
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Dark Hunter I
“Sebastiano, would you come to my office for a moment?”
Sebastiano looked up from the screen to the woman standing in his doorway. “With you in a minute, Mary.”
She could have sent an email, but she was one of those people who made an effort to every now and then to leave her office. Personal leadership style. The best organizations were run by a visible, hands-on boss. Like the Cosa Nostra.
He sent the email he’d been crafting for the last hour, then got up and grabbed his jacket. Walking into her office in shirtsleeves felt wrong. He even closed the button on the way, aware the action was a physical projection of his need to be prepared.
“Please, have a seat,” Mary said, standing in her office, her small frame impressively flanked by law texts and a shelf of her own academic work, separated out from the rest.
“Thank you.” Sebastiano folded into the leather chair she indicated, over on the Persian carpet in the corner. A coffee table sat in between the chairs, a silver tray with water bottles centered on it. Cookies on a plate, arranged so neatly he imagined they were fake, like the food in the windows of Japanese restaurants. A social visit, then, or she’d have seated him in front of her desk.
He glanced up at her, still at peace with the situation. And keenly aware that she triggered none of his old responses because she was black and female. He was bad with Caucasian bosses, worse with male ones. Defensive. There’d always been friction, until his therapist had tracked it all back to his father. She even sent him to a family constellation workshop last weekend, where some poor bastard had to impersonate his father so they could work on the issues.
The stranger had looked nothing like his father, hadn’t been Italian, wasn’t the right age. Compared to his father, who looked like a gleeful devil had made him from bundles of stripped cables, the stranger at the workshop was chubby and friendly, played the father completely wrong. For one, he’d reached out to touch Sebastiano.
Sebastiano wasn’t a violent man, but he’d lost it then, very nearly attacked the man who wasn’t his father, and everybody in the room must have seen it, felt it, even, stupid emotions to get so out of control. His stand-in “mother,” a kindly woman wrapped in a sari with a red dot between her eyebrows, had stepped between them, which was all wrong, too. And his stand-in brother, a gangly black kid, had just watched. Well, that bit was spot on. But really chilling was his youngest brother, a fat white kid, who’d just rolled himself in a ball.
Those people had no clue. The things that were wrong were painfully wrong, and the things that were right were even more painfully wrong.
He’d turned to the therapist leading the workshop and asked him what the fuck he thought he was doing. He didn’t normally use that kind of language. Strong language meant weak character and weaker arguments.
“Had a good weekend?” Mary asked as she sat down opposite.
I almost punched a man who wasn’t even my father. “Oh, great, yes. I went on a retreat to let Irene get on with her dissertation.”
“How far is she?”
“I’d answer that question in tons of paper if I could. I haven’t seen the dog in a while.”
She laughed. “What about your own ambitions? Is the PhD virus catching? Some men struggle to live with an academically higher-qualified partner.”
“I like to apply the law better than further our academic knowledge of it. From where I stand, the current body of our understanding is sufficient to uphold society. That’s really all that matters.”
So you’re the last bastion between civilization and what, exactly? Irene would ask.
My father. That’s what his therapist told him.
“Sebastiano, let me be frank.”
“You have tremendous potential. I’d say you’re the most gifted young man I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Do you know why that is?”
“I have a guess.”
She weighed him. “You’re tenacious, disciplined, bright. But that’s not all. You’re a believer. Whatever the job will throw at you, I doubt you’ll ever lose the passion, the vision, and above all, the sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.”
My little crusader, Irene would tease. You know I love you for it, right? But do think of yourself every now and then.
“You got me in a nutshell.” Sebastiano shrugged. “What can I say. Everything worth doing at all is worth doing right.”
“The thing is, Sebastiano, I got an extremely big case in today that’s the most important I’ve seen in a while. It really would be Bob’s, but with his health situation what is it . . .”
“Sheryl has five years on you in this office, and I know I could trust her with this.” But I want to trust you with this, her expression said. Make me.
“Kenneth?” God, not Kenneth, but he had to bring him up, for fairness’s sake. He was nothing if not fair, even if he had to keep his teeth from clenching. “What kind of case is it?”
Sebastiano swallowed, felt his skin’s electric resistance change, an almost unpleasant tingle that made him want to scratch himself all over. “The mass-murder of the Russians?” Talk about a heavy-handed, bizarre crime, spiking the coffin of a suspected crime lord with C4 and blowing all attendants of the funeral to Kingdom Come, or wherever Orthodox Christians went if they were gangsters. Everybody but the priest, who was on TV all night and day now and praising God for the miracle.
She nodded toward a pile of big folders on her desk. “The FBI has been investigating the Russians, and apparently there were very strong indications of an impending turf war between them and the local Cosa Nostra.”
“Which fits the violent attack on Stefano Marino several weeks ago,” Sebastiano completed without thinking.
She smiled at him, proudly, he thought. “That particular attack was the work of freelancers—the FBI didn’t see it coming despite their surveillance. But it does confirm the suspicion that Stefano Marino took over for his father, despite his age.”
“He’s not the youngest boss in the history of the Cosa Nostra,” Sebastiano murmured. “Just atypically educated. He finished college with decent to good grades. I’d wager that went down really well with the rest of the family. Of course, he’s compounding it with his Yuppie lifestyle and looks. If you met him, he probably wouldn’t look any more dangerous than a McKinsey consultant.” He smiled. “Mind you, never underestimate a determined consultant.”
Mary’s face had turned pensive. “How much do you know about Marino?”
“I was cursorily interested in his father, Al ’The Butcher’ Marino. Big player in the meat trade, especially meat that came back onto the market after it had been deemed unfit for human consumption. He was fined, but they never traced anything more interesting back to him, which to my mind makes him very much the previous boss of what we might as well call the Marino clan. It’s easier to nail something to the underbosses and capos, but the boss stays out of the big criminal activities. And nobody ever sold him to the police. Granted, few people have tried taking the Marinos on. They are extremely local, fairly low profile in the bigger game ever since Al’s father lost his seat on the Commission. So, a small, prosperous outfit, and ever since everybody’s hunting domestic terrorists and Islamist conspiracies, the Cosa Nostra hasn’t been high on the agenda. And when it was, people concentrated on the large families and New York City.”
“What about you?”
“I know more about the big families than the Marinos. But I did follow the trial of the Marino consigliere, Rodolfo ‘Rude Boy’ Mancini.”
“He had some moral fiber, but not in the right places. He didn’t sell his boss to the police and claimed up to the last minute that he was a victim of a miscarriage of justice. I’d expect him to claim that still, if anybody’s listening. It’s gone quiet about him recently.”
“He’s a model prisoner,” Mary said. She reached over for a bottle of water and offered it to him. He nodded, and she poured them both two tall glasses. “We don’t know who’s taken his place in the organization.”
Stefano watched her drink, then took his own glass, thoughts whirling. He marshaled them back into line, but maybe it was all so raw and right under the surface because of that latest therapy experiment.
“What are you thinking?”
“That the case might be too important to not go to the best person in the office,” he said slowly, fighting back the desire to beg her for it. Yes, he did believe he was the best one in the office, but he was younger and less experienced than just about everybody else. What qualified him apart from his obsession with the Cosa Nostra? Exactly that. For anybody else, it would be just one of those other cases. But this one was special. The body count alone was enormous, quite possibly the crime of the decade in the district. Which, he reflected glumly, was exactly why he wouldn’t get it. Who trusted a rookie, even if he was eager and smart and ambitious?
He inhaled deeply. “I’d love that case.” He’d never say, I’d kill for this case. Not ever. Killing wasn’t something spoken of or offered lightly.
“I just need to know, why? What are your motivations? I know you have history. Family history.”
Of course it had to come up; and it was clearly the reason she’d put him at ease first before talking about the case. Did she have any doubts about him? He nodded. “If anything, it makes me a better hunter. I know how these people think, how they respond. I took this poison in with my mother’s milk.” And with every black-eyed stare from my father. “Which makes me immune to it.” Please, give me the case. He folded his hands between his legs, leaned forward on his elbows. “I know how to take them, too. It’s what I’ve been waiting for.” What I studied law for. Take them all down, rebalance the scales of justice and fate. “I can work with the Feds on this and get an indictment, Mary.” He looked up, met her eyes. He tried a small smile, but knew it did nothing to diffuse his intensity. “It would also get me out of Irene’s hair for a while, so she can finish her work. I’m ready for this.” Please.
Mary sighed, stood and came over to him, placed a hand on his shoulder. “What about your family? Will they be involved?”
“As far as I’m concerned, I only have my wife and her parents for family. I haven’t been in touch with anybody else for years.” He shrugged. “I’m past this, Mary. I’ve chosen between my blood relations and the law, and I can’t say I’ve regretted it for one day.”
“If you need help at any stage, call me. You know I’ll be here to support you.” She nodded and removed her hand. “Tomorrow morning, you’ll find the files on your desk.”
* * * * *
Stefano groaned when Silvio moved on him, sliding slowly down on his dick, clearly relishing every motion. His hands were on the back of the sofa left and right of Stefano’s head, close enough that Stefano could have kissed them.
Silvio was facing him, completely naked, just like Stefano, their bodies joined. Only Silvio really moved, while Stefano dug his fingers into Silvio’s sleek powerful thighs that opened over his. Every movement came from them, the flex and relax of the big muscles accompanying the delicious tension of fucking.
Silvio moved with the deliberation and concentration of a dancer, his long lean upper body taut with the effort and gleaming with sweat. For Silvio, going slow was incredibly difficult, but wow, did he give it his best shot now.
Stefano reached over and grabbed Silvio’s neck, pulled him even closer, Silvio’s breath cool and hot on his face, before he kissed him deeply. Right now, rapt in pleasure, Silvio was utterly pliant, completely focused on the sensations, on moving with the utmost deliberation, riding him as slowly as he’d ordered. And what kind of power trip was it to force Silvio to prolong the sex. His face empty of any other emotion, just pleasure, strangely turned inward as if trapped in his own mind.
Black eyes flickered to him as Silvio arched against him. No response, though, just an acknowledgement of the name.
Stefano decided he’d tortured them both enough and wrapped his hand around Silvio’s dick. No lube; Silvio rather enjoyed the dry friction, and Stefano loved that tinge of discomfort that Silvio couldn’t deny. He began to pump him, and Silvio promptly arched against him, offering everything, from his dick to his flat muscular belly to his pecs and that long neck.
Stefano grabbed Silvio’s neck with the other hand and bit into his throat, hard enough to cause real pain. Silvio jerked and tightened, thrust forward, and came against Stefano’s belly. Stefano released him and thrust up, forcing Silvio to bounce on his dick until he was done.
With a groan, he came, crushing the lean body to him, feeling sweat and cum mingle between them.
It was Silvio who moved first—lifting a damp hand to brush some hair from Stefano’s forehead. But he didn’t leave his place on Stefano’s lap.
Stefano blew out a breath. “Shit, that was good.”
Silvio nodded and ran his hand over his flushed face. “Starting to get sore,” he muttered, but it was just a random observation, hardly a criticism.
“We are making good progress on that box of condoms.” Speaking of which. Stefano reached down and secured the condom with one hand, prodding Silvio with the other to get off him.
He got rid of it in the bathroom, splashed some water on his face, then dried himself.
Fourth day of his self-chosen exile, and Silvio and he had mostly spent the time fucking each other’s brains out. Well, it was really him who did the fucking, despite Silvio’s not-so-subtle offers that they could turn the tables.
Living with Silvio in one hotel suite was really like being sixteen again—constant hard-ons, and that mix of trepidation, outright horror, and attraction when it came to sex. By now, though, he figured he had a decent enough idea how to make love with a man. To a man. Whatever. His brain had stopped stumbling over the idea. Secluded away from the rest of the world, he really didn’t care if anybody thought of him as a faggot. Not if Silvio came with that faggot deal.
He returned to the living room, where Silvio was just getting into his jeans, making himself decent. Not that there was anything decent about his upper body, or the livid bruise blooming on his throat.
“Damn, I’ve . . .” Stefano was about to indicate his own throat, but aborted the motion and walked over to Silvio instead to touch the bruise. “Oops.”
Silvio smiled tiredly and closed the top button of his jeans. “I look worse after a caning. Don’t worry about it.”
“That something you want me to do?”
Silvio glanced up. “Maybe. I’ll have to show you how. It’s a bit of an art form.”
“Did Falchi do that?”
Gianbattista Falchi still stood between them. Like his ghost was lingering around Silvio, and Stefano wished he knew how to dispel it. Then again, maybe Donata was his ghost and Silvio sensed her. Against that, the thought of Falchi became so much smaller. The one thing he really wanted was to make things right again between Donata and Silvio and himself.
“Yeah, sometimes. When he figured I needed some real pain. He could make me come like that.”
Stefano licked his lips, tried to imagine Silvio being beaten and coming from it, that expression of pain-ecstasy; the image came easily enough. “Do you need that? I can learn.”
Silvio smiled at him and kissed him. “Right now, I’m good.”
Did that translate into You’re sufficient?
“If Gianbattista did it for you . . .”
Silvio shrugged. “Not here.”
“Just not safe enough. I gotta fall deep into myself, and I can’t do that where Di— people could just show up.”
“Diego? Carbone? He’s dead.”
Silvio looked away, then back at him. “The place I go when I’m caned or tied up, that place doesn’t remember he’s dead. He could still be around the corner. Waiting.”
How odd to see Silvio so evasive. Silvio took everything else head-on. More, he never cared about consequences. What had made him so wary about Carbone? “What did he do?”
Silvio reached for his black T-shirt. “Nearly killed me, that’s what he did.”
“Silvio. Would that really still linger? What did he do?”
Silvio’s voice was so flat and weak that Stefano only made out the word by combining what was left of the consonants. “Shit. I shouldn’t have asked.”
Silvio swallowed and shook his head. “Took Battista forever to get that out of me. He talked to the doctor who treated me after. Gave him an advantage. He always has that, right?”
Sly way to change the topic away from something that Silvio still wasn’t done with. Silvio didn’t want to linger, and it might be best to simply let him move on. Dragging him back to the only thing he’d ever shown fear of didn’t seem fair. No doubt he’d brought Gianbattista up because he made him feel safe.
Stefano shook his head to clear his thoughts and focus on Silvio. “The advantage? Yes, he does.” In any competition, whether it was about power or being Silvio’s lover. Gianbattista would always win out, even if he was now just the ex-lover.
And yet, he told you what Falchi had to dig out of him. He simply told you when you asked.
Silvio smiled weakly. “Can’t keep a secret from him. Man deals in secrets.”
“Yeah, he’s a shark.” Stefano shrugged and stepped closer, drawn into Silvio’s magnetic field yet again. “Let’s get cleaned up and find a place to eat.”
He ran his fingers over Silvio’s chest, thrilled and nearly incredulous at the ease with which he could touch him these days. Natural. Real. Honest. Like he had a right to. Like there was nobody out there who would kill them both for it.
This is a series that did the impossible, it made you root for the bad guy. Aleksandr Voinov has created a masterpiece that has me sad to leave this world but excited for what he brings us next.
Voinov does it again. And he does it fabulously.
Undoubtedly this is one of the best series I've read in this genre. Recommend one thousand times over.
I can do nothing but applaud.
[The series] ended just perfectly for me and I was impressed how nicely Voinov ties together the five books to both resolve many things, and still leave us with just the right amount of uncertainty. I loved this series and recommend it highly.