Sempre: Redemption

Sempre: Redemption by J. M. Darhower Read Free Book Online

Book: Sempre: Redemption by J. M. Darhower Read Free Book Online
Authors: J. M. Darhower
are,” he responded coldly. “I’ll watch her.”
    “Like Maura was watched?” Celia raised her eyebrows. “You told me to stay out of it, to mind my own business. A lot of good it did then, huh?”
    “Maura was not my responsibility. She was Vincent’s.”
    “You’re right,” Celia responded, “but Haven is yours.”
    Corrado stood silently and stared at her, his expression blank. Celia stared right back, her gaze unwavering. The tension in the room mounted with each passing second. Uncomfortable, Haven fidgeted, feeling dizzy as the blood rushed furiously through her.
    “I, uh . . . I probably shouldn’t be here,” she whispered, turning for the door. She made it as far as the foyer before Corrado’s firm voice rang out, the sound of it halting Haven in her tracks.
    “Stop.”
    She turned around as Corrado stepped into the foyer, glancing at her briefly and nodding before heading for the great room. She watched him for a second, unsure of what to do, before following slowly behind.
    The sun started to peek over the trees outside, but the room remained eerily dim. Haven was as quiet as a corpse as she took a seat on the couch and picked at her brittle fingernails, purposely avoiding Corrado’s powerful gaze.
    “Do you know what it means to vouch for someone, Haven?” he asked, breaking the tense silence that quickly enveloped the room like a thick, toxic cloud.
    Without looking at him, Haven nodded stiffly. “Carmine said it meant if I ever told about where I came from, you’d get in trouble, but I swear I never will.”
    He held his hand up to silence her before she could really start pleading her case. “It’s more than that. It’s not just what you say and who you say it to . . . it’s what you do, too. People like me—we vouch for others every day. Associates, friends, family. We swear they’re good people, that they’ll never bring us any harm. We swear they’re trustworthy. If we’re wrong, it means we lied. It means they don’t benefit us by being out there in the world, by being alive, and frankly, maybe we shouldn’t be either. Your life may be your own now, but I can’t have that doubt lingering over my head, so there are some limitations because of the circumstances.”
    Haven tensed. “Limitations?”
    “Yes, limitations,” Corrado said. “It’s better than the alternative.”
    “What’s that?”
    “Going to stay with Salvatore,” he said. “Or death. I’m not sure which you’d find worse, but neither would be pleasant. So limitations it is. Besides, everyone has them. Most people are ruled by petty laws—wear your seat belt, don’t take what’s not yours. Catholics follow the Commandments—don’t covet thy neighbor’s wife or take the Lord’s name in vain. Nuns commit themselves to celibacy, lawyers and priests rely on confidentiality, and we, Haven, take a vow of silence and loyalty. We all live through the same Hell, just with different devils.”
    Pausing, Corrado tinkered with his wedding ring. Haven wasn’t sure what she was supposed to say, so she said nothing. He continued after a moment. “Our devil doesn’t give the benefit of the doubt. Our devil shoots first and asks questions later, if at all. One look, one wrong move, and you’re guilty. They’ll carry out your punishment before you even know you were accused. Our devil shows no mercy. He can’t. You got that?”
    She nodded. “Yes, sir.”
    “If you want to stay safe, stay out of the limelight,” he said. “Mind your own business, lay low, and never associate with the police. If a cop ever tries to question you, ask for your lawyer and call me. I don’t care what it’s about. And never invite one inside your home. Never .”
    The color drained from her face, coldness running through her as she immediately thought of Officer Baranski. “I, uh . . . I didn’t know . . .”
    “Didn’t know what?”
    “An officer came by to ask about Nicholas. I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to

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