Silvio froze when the phone rang, his blood crystallizing in a split second. He stared at the curtains, sensed the windows behind them. No movement, no hint of danger.
Billowing curtains. Night outside. Phone ringing in a dark house. Drawing him to the living room. Something striking him over the head.
Diego Carbone, stepping close with his skull-and-death grin, flicking his mobile shut.
The phone rang again. Just like then, his blood unfroze, only faster because Diego was dead. He still checked the doors and windows, wishing he had a gun he could pull like a talisman. A lot of people didn’t live to learn from a mistake.
He exhaled and lifted the receiver, settling his shoulders and back against the nearest wall from which he could keep his eyes on the windows. “Yes.”
Silvio blinked, then his legs relaxed and he let his head fall back. Gianbattista. “What do you want?”
“To talk to you.”
Silvio huffed laughter. Yet another ghost from the past. “No, what do you want?”
“Hear how you’re doing over there in America. It’s been two weeks now. How are you ‘getting on’?”
This house has too many windows. “Or—who am I getting it on with?”
Silence. Bull’s-eye. Or Gianbattista was drawing him out, prodding and provoking until Silvio allowed that cold anger to discharge. As much as Gianbattista enjoyed walking around with long metal rods in a thunderstorm, he never got burned, and why was that?
Silvio shook his head. “I’m doing well. How are you?”
“That’s better.” Silvio heard Gianbattista’s smile and it almost warmed him. He remembered the crow’s feet, the silvery hair at the temple he had often brushed aside with his nose or lips when he’d been too lazy to touch Gianbattista with his hands. Remembered being held close against Gianbattista’s shoulder, feeling safe and at home, and willing to pay whatever price it took.
“Here, it’s the same old, same old,” Gianbattista said. “People call me on the phone, I sit on the veranda and read the newspaper.”
And in the evening you sit in the office, drinking wine, gently slowing down those million little cogs in your brain that spin and spin, even during sex.
“The world is going to hell, of course.” Gianbattista chuckled. “Luca has scared me enough that even I have bought gold now.”
Luca, the slimy Milanese banker who did the money laundering by running it through three or four offshore accounts and then a number of private Swiss and Italian banks that, he boasted, were direct descendants of the banks that financed the Crusades. Seemed all money ever did was buy weapons and men, Gianbattista had whispered to Silvio one night.
“You going to tell me to cut up my credit card?”
“God, no, Silvio, of course not.” Gianbattista chuckled and leafed through some paper. “Although your credit card statements have arrived.”
Ah, the reason for the call. Silvio settled in a chair, still somewhat on edge but gradually relaxing into the familiar game. He’d have to do something about the windows. Or the phone. He didn’t need a landline. The mobile phone on silent was distraction enough without being bait in a potential death trap.
“Let’s see. There’s your new bike.”
“I left the old one at Fiumicino.”
“Is it still there?”
“I gave you that bike.”
“Yes, for my twenty-second birthday,” Silvio growled. “That was almost a goodbye present, wasn’t it?” So fuck the bike.
“You loved that bike.”
“Don’t use that word.” You have no fucking right.
Silence again. His pulse was pounding up to his throat now, creating that hollow ache just under his jaw. Adrenaline pumping. This stage of their quarrelling wasn’t pleasant, or at least he didn’t enjoy it anymore.
“The customizations cost more than the bike. At that price, you could have had one built for you.”
“This option was faster. I feel grounded without wheels.”
“When will it be delivered?”
“I’ll pick it up in a week or so.”
“With the leather suit?”
“Oh yes.” Silvio bared his teeth. “Kevlar-plated, matching the paintjob.” Just replacing what he’d lost when he’d left Italy with nothing but a pair of sunglasses and the suit he’d bought at the airport.
“Hmm, and then this . . .” Another pause, as if Gianbattista had to find the item on the statement. “A few hundred dollars spent in a place called ‘Pleasure Dom’—is that a spelling mistake?”
“Not that you’d necessarily be able to tell . . .” Gianbattista chided.
“Are we discussing my dyslexia or what I bought? I got the bag right here, in the living room. Let’s see.” Silvio pulled the bag from beside the couch where it had lived. He’d been too busy to use any of it, but he ensured that the plastic rustled as he dug in. “Lube. They had a special three-for-two on that.” He laughed tonelessly; he could have heard a pin drop over in Italy.
“Dildos. One glass, one steel. I do like them hard.” Silvio lifted the box out of the bag and opened it. Maybe he liked steel because of the guns. Maybe that was why Stefano’s trick had rattled him so much. Of all the things he’d put up his ass, the Desert Eagle had been a novelty. The only use for that ridiculous gun, too. Who shot with that apart from movie hit men and fucking ugly gangster rappers?
“Like that time when you put the dildo into cold water first.” Silvio leaned back in the chair, holding that memory for a while, the cold steel breaching him after plenty of preparation . . . to be so cold and so horny at the same time would have seemed impossible.
“I didn’t get the impression that was one of your favorites.” Gianbattista’s wistfulness hurt somewhere in Silvio’s chest. Way to distract them both from the credit card statement. Which Gianbattista would pay. He wouldn’t even feel that money.
“Getting off is my favorite.”
Gianbattista laughed again, softly. “At my age, other things are more urgent.”
“Don’t say that word.” Not young, not old, not age. Fuck you, Battista.