Blame It on the Shame (Blame It on the Shame: Lou-Lou and Ricardo's Story #1) (24 page)

“Whoa, breathe,” Ricardo says. He looks like he wants to touch me but I back away. “Give me a second. I need to wrap my head around this.”

It's not a lie...I really
do
need to wrap my head around how the hell I'm going to process this.

My world is crashing around me. I'm wobbling on my tightrope and I don't know how to right myself.

I guess in my
fucked up
head I thought him killing my father somehow canceled out what he did to me in the conference room that day.

I was so grateful that he killed him, I kept convincing myself that I provoked him.

I kept telling myself that if I didn't go off on him...he would have told me that he was planning on killing my father after the election.

I kept telling myself that if
I
didn't provoke him...he
never
would have done that to me.

I kept telling myself throughout the years that
my
Bruno made a mistake in the heat of the moment in the conference room...because
how
can a man be capable of
that
when he saved me from what he did.

Murder, mayhem, crime. That's all part of mob life...it comes with the territory. It's easy to delude myself about that shit.

I know what Bruno is...he never hid it from me.

But hearing that he did
this
to someone else? That pill is too hard to swallow right now.

Because that means that tiny bit of goodness the 15-year-old me saw in him, the reason I fell in love with him...doesn't exist anymore.

It means it never did.

“H-how do you know this?”

Maybe Ricardo's mistaken...maybe he just assumes this about him because of who he is.

He draws in a ragged breath. “Because he raped my mother.” He looks so dejected it causes me pain. “And
I'm
the fucked up consequence of it, Lou-Lou.”

His words hang in the silence like a thick cloud of darkness between us.

I'm the first to speak. “I'm sorry.”

And I am. I'm so fucking sorry for the pain this causes him and the further pain I'm about to cause him when I ask these questions...but I have to know.

I have to know their history because something tells me...it might determine mine.

“How—” I swallow and try again. “How did they meet? Did she know him? Did—”

“She was his high school sweetheart.” The look I give him causes him to pause for a moment. “I know—it's hard to picture DeLuca having a high school sweetheart.”

“I guess that explains why he killed her the way he did. He really did love her.”

“He killed her because of me, Lou-Lou,” he says gruffly. “He killed her because
I
told him I wouldn't be him and that he was no longer my father after what he did to Graham and that little girl. He killed her to teach
me
a lesson.”

“Ricardo, I know it's hard for you to believe. But
he
killed her...it wasn't your fault. That's on him.”

He shrugs off my words. “Anyway, you want to know the truth don't you?”

I give him a small nod because it's all I can manage.

“I don't know much because most of what I
do
know...I had to decipher through her jumbled ramblings and screams while she was high. When I was in the fight club I was forced to use whatever I could as my fuel to survive in the cage...that's when the flashbacks and nightmares started.”

Jesus, I knew the cage was savage and brutal...but this brings it to a whole new level.

I can't even imagine what stakes you have to be up against to be forced to reach into your subconscious and pull something like
that
out in order to make it out alive.

He runs a hand through his hair. “My mother had a tough life growing up. Her family was poor, her father had left her and there were plenty of nights where one of her mother's boyfriends would beat on her or worse. She met DeLuca in high school after his father moved them here from Italy.”

“That explains how he not only has ties to the five families in America...but also the original mafia that started in Sicily.”

“Yup,” Ricardo says. “Long story short—they met, and he wooed her by killing one of her mother's boyfriends in cold blood after he crawled through her window one night and caught him beating on her.”

He hikes a shoulder up. “He became her hero after that because my mother never had anyone—”

Ricardo stops and I gasp. I know he's thinking what I'm thinking.
Different stories…but similar nonetheless
.

His eyes scan my face. “I can stop. In fact, maybe it's best—”

“Please don't.”

I need to know what happened
.
I need to know my fate.

“Over time, she realized that he was only becoming more evil. She realized that she needed to get away from him. So she came up with a plan. She was still young, 24 actually—” He pauses again because it's all too fucking eerie. “When she realized she had a perfect way out.”

“How? What was it?” He looks taken back and it's only then I realize how desperate my tone is.

“Um—” He swallows. “Well, you see; the DeLuca's are cursed. Some ancient bullshit curse that started in Italy.” He rolls his eyes. ”I don't believe in it—it's a bunch of hocus pocus. However, legend says that DeLuca men can only produce one child. Some say it's the way of the universe 'righting' itself and warding off so much evil in the world.”

Chills creep up my spine and I suppress a shudder as he continues. “My mother knew DeLuca wanted a child. He wanted lots of them actually. So, she decided to save up whatever money she could and bribe a doctor to falsify records claiming she was infertile.”

I throw my hand over my mouth...that's a bit diabolical and a bit brilliant.

“So that's what she did to escape? She claimed she was infertile?”

The wheels are spinning in my head because Bruno's never spoken of this 'curse' before.

In fact, he once told me how happy it would make him if I were to bear his child.

He
also
warned me that if he ever found out that I somehow obtained birth control...he'd slit my throat and throw my corpse off the Brooklyn bridge.

There's
no
way Bruno believes in this curse, either.

Maybe there's hope for me yet. Maybe I can do what she did and he'll let me go for good.

Ricardo gives me a strange look. “Well, yeah,” he says. “But it didn't work.”

His face falls and I feel like such a bitch for ever feeling an ounce of possible hope for
me
while hearing this horrible story.

“He let her go at first...just like she wanted. His father wouldn't allow him to marry an '
infertile whore
' as he put it, so DeLuca had to get rid of her. But—” His face contorts in a mixture of both anger and sadness.

I already know the ominous end to this story. “But he found out that she lied,” I finish for him.

Because somehow...Bruno
always
finds out. There's no deceiving him or tripping him up.

“Yeah,” he says. “And his punishment came in the form of a brutal rape. After that, he left her alone. That is until one of his men reported that he stumbled upon some kid playing ball in the Bronx who happened to have his eyes.”

He hangs his head. “In between all that...my mother became a heroin addict because of all the pain he caused her. The heroin brought out her true feelings regarding me and how I was conceived. What she said and did when she was high made me realize what happened. And when DeLuca came for me, he confirmed they were high school sweetheart's and told me what she did to deceive him. I went with him willingly because I didn't want him to hurt her again.”

His eyes become glassy. “I wish I was never born. Then I wouldn't have hurt her either.”

My heart plummets. Ricardo didn't ask to be the product of such a despicable act.

He looks down, appearing to be fighting to keep it together.

That's when I realize that he's never told another soul about this. He's kept it all bottled up inside in a tomb of shame.

If there's one thing I can do right now to help him through this...it's this.

I throw my arms around him and squeeze him tighter than I ever have.

“Please don't wish that,” I say, my voice cracking. “Because I need you. I need you in ways I never knew existed.”

He pulls back and cups both my cheeks which are now damp with tears. “I'm so glad you were born, Ricardo. And even though you think being born destroyed her—I'm pretty sure it's saving me.”

He leans forward until our foreheads are touching. I feel the electrical charge that causes a shift between us. My mouth becomes dry, my pulse begins to race and I stop breathing altogether.

His eyes drop to my mouth before he tilts his face and moves closer.

I know what's about to happen.

What I don't know is how I'll be able to stop him from crossing this line.

Because I want him to. G
ood god in heaven do I want him to kiss me.

I want him to be my first kiss, my last kiss, and every single kiss in between for the rest of my life.

Dread fills my stomach because I
know
his kiss will be
all
of those things for me.

And his kiss will be my downfall.

I'll never be able to go back to DeLuca. I'll never be able to let him touch me and I'll certainly never be able to tell him that I love him.

I'll
never
be able to pretend again.

And I'll never forgive myself if DeLuca figures out that the reason I can't do any of those things anymore is because of his own
son
.

And Ricardo will never forgive
me
when DeLuca kills Jackson and Tyrone because of it.

As much as I want this...I don't want to hurt him more.

I have to make Ricardo think I'm still in love with DeLuca. This way I can push him away
without
losing him altogether.

“No. You—c-can't,” I stutter because it hurts to utter those false words.

“Okay,” he says. “I already told you, I'll never take what you don't give me and I meant it.”

He backs away and I feel the immediate pang from the loss.

“Please, don't leave—” I can't even finish that statement because I'm two seconds away from becoming a sobbing mess all over again.

“I'm not leaving. Come here,” he says, gesturing to his lap.

I make the few short movements over to him until I'm snuggling against his chest and he's rocking me in his arms.

He flicks off the light beside the bed and sifts his fingers through my hair, lulling me to sleep. “I would give you everything if I could, Ricky,” I whisper before I close my eyes.

Sunlight streams in through the curtains, baking the room in a mid-morning summer glow.

We must have changed positions in our sleep because his front is against my back and his perfectly sculpted muscular arm is draped across my waist.

I'm breathing hard and fast when I realize that the hardness I feel pressed against my backside is
him
.

I angle my head to look at him. His eyes are closed, his brows are furrowed and his mouth is parted slightly.

In other words, he's asleep and completely unaware of the visceral reaction he's currently awakening in me.

It's definitely something I've never felt before.

I can't help but swivel my hips ever so slightly against him. My breath hitches when I realize
just
how long and thick he is.

And...
wait a minute
....is that?

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