Unruly: A Legacy Novel (Cross + Catherine Book 3), page 1
For my niece, Olivia, who inspired Cece.
UNRULY: A LEGACY NOVEL
Sometimes life was better when it was slowed down. Most times that was impossible for Cross Donati. There was no such thing as slowing down life for a person like himself. He was always going from one thing to the next, bouncing back and forth from one responsibility to another like a ping pong ball on speed.
It could be too much if he let it.
At thirty-three, he had learned how to slow down the things around him, but it was nothing more than an illusion. He could hand off jobs to others, and rearrange responsibilities as needed. Eventually, it still caught up with him.
That was life.
Usually, he didn’t mind.
Lately, he wished for peace.
Cross knew that was impossible, at least for now.
“What about Arnold Callaghan?” Cross asked.
His gathered Capos quieted at his question.
Tribute was one of his favorite times of the month. Money, good food, and business was always had at the meetings. As the boss of the Donati Cosa Nostra, tribute was meant to be only his day. His made men gathered to see their boss and pay their dues from the dirty money earned since the last tribute. He liked to hold the meetings in one of his many restaurants because he had the best chiefs in New York State working his kitchens.
And the conversation?
It was good, too.
“Well, what about the Senator?” Cross asked again. “Was progress made, or not?”
Zeke, his long-time friend and consigliere, waved a fork at Cross’s question. “Bobby’s on that, boss.”
Cross turned to the Capo in question. “Bobby?”
“We got him three weeks ago at the Four Seasons restaurant. Our girl got his attention, so contact was made on that end.”
Nodding, Cross grinned. “Good.”
“It’ll take a bit to work his angles, but no worries,” Rick, his underboss, assured. “We’ll have that asshole in our back pocket by the spring, boss.”
Rick had a point, and Cross settled himself on knowing these things took time. Patience was a crime boss’s best virtue in most situations where money and connections were concerned. Not all things could be done overnight, after all.
It took work.
Good extortion took time.
Republican Senator Arnold Callaghan was one of Cross’s many ventures. The senator had a hand with the police in the state, given his family’s long history with three separate, major departments. He also had a massive stake in his family’s contracting company that mainly focused on construction jobs. From appearances, the senator seemed to use his connections to line his family’s pockets using his own company.
The Republican also had a pretty wife. A woman sixteen years his junior, and four kids from two previous marriages. He put on a good show when it came to politics, making sure his beautiful family was front row and center, and so were the cameras every time he attended yet another Evangelical sermon on Sundays.
It was the perfect storm.
Cross smelled construction rackets, bribes, blackmail, and good old extortion rolled into one coming his way very soon.
Familiar. Dirty. Illegal. Textbook.
Kind of smelled like home, really.
“Danny,” Cross said, tilting his head to the side, so he could peer at the Capo sitting at one of the far tables facing the windows. “What’s happening with that shipment from last week that was late?”
“Got it in yesterday, boss,” the thirty-year-old Capo replied through a mouthful of scrambled eggs. “Twenty-thousand cartons of illegal cigarettes. I haven’t cracked open every case, but the ones I did looked fine.”
“You’ve got this all locked down with Guzzi again, right?”
“Money’s coming in from Marcus tomorrow.”
“Perfetto,” Cross said, pleased.
Canada’s tobacco market was a fucking shit-show controlled by their government. In an effort to force their citizens to quit smoking, or make it impossible for them to afford, a pack of cigarettes was already tipping nearly fifteen Canadian dollars. A pack in the States was a third of the cost. Illegal cigarettes were even cheaper to produce, and the black market in Canada gobbled the shipments up like crazy. Cross got in on that deal as fast as he possibly could, and with a damn smile.
Now, they were up to several shipments of illegal cigarettes a month, and working on liquor, too.
The Donati Cosa Nostra wasn’t the biggest organized crime family in New York with their eight Capos, an underboss, consigliere, and a boss, but they were successful. They made money—a hell of a lot of it—and that’s what mattered.
Cross had little interest in growing his famiglia to bigger proportions. Not when as it was, the schemes, deals, rackets, and other illegal activities his men partook in cleared them a good five to seven hundred grand a month.
He finally understood what his father, Calisto, had been trying to tell him all those years ago when Cross struggled to balance being a made man and a gunrunner. He allowed his men to focus on many things separately. Each man had a particular focus that took up most of their time. They gave their all to that one thing, and thrived because of it.
He was not about to upset the delicate balance of his control, success, and bottom line with his men simply to change the direction of their business.
Rick finished stuffing the last stack of bills into a black duffle bag at his feet. As Cross’s underboss, it was Rick’s job to collect the men’s tributes, count it up, and stash it away until the boss was ready to leave.
“A little over three hundred,” Rick told him.
Three hundred thousand wasn’t a bad month, but it certainly wasn’t their best, either. Given it was the end of November, and the holidays were coming up, Cross expected a lower bottom line. There were always certain times of the year when money dipped, and the upcoming Christmas and New Year was one of them.
“Walk it to the Rolls with me,” Cross said. “Zeke, you too.”
Zeke stood from his seat without a look back at his half-finished meal. Cross stood as well, and shrugged on a leather jacket over his dress shirt. All these years, and he still preferred a good leather jacket to a blazer or suit jacket. Some shit never changed.
At the same time, the rest of his men stood, too. His part at the meeting was finished. His plate was empty, his hands proverbially full with cash, and his questions about upcoming business were satisfied. His men no longer needed him there, and he had better places to be.
Someone was waiting on him in Newport.
“Boss,” the men collectively said as he headed out of the restaurant.
Cross waved a single hand
“Corbin, go grab some grub,” Cross told the man.
Instantly, the barrel-chested enforcer darted for the restaurant. It left Cross alone with his underboss and consigliere for the moment. Which he needed.
“You’ve got everything handled for the next week?” Cross asked Zeke.
His old friend nodded. “Absolutely, no worries.”
Cross looked to Rick. “And you, make sure you deflect any direct requests for my presence or conversation.”
Rick waved a hand. “Got it.”
Cross swung the Rolls-Royce Phantom keys around his finger, and looked down the street. “I’m going to have a gun run coming up. A few months, but maybe less. We’ll work something out to make sure I’m not out of town more than a couple of weeks.”
“They’re used to going through me before ever getting to you,” Rick said. “Direct contact with the boss is a privilege, not a right.”
Years earlier, Cross had made a deal with the Marcello family that kept him sort of in their debt where gunrunning was concerned. Five years later, and he was still holding up his end of the bargain. He smuggled their guns when and where they needed him to, but he did it by his rules, and was paid just the same as any other gunrunner would be.
Still, it caused his attention to be split a lot of the time. Between his famiglia, and his job for another family’s boss. Cross couldn’t afford for his men to believe that his attention was being divided between their family, and another one. It could possibly cause someone to assume his devotion to Cosa Nostra, and their life was on shaky ground.
It might make him a target.
Frankly, Cross had a great deal of faith and trust in his Capos, and their associates. They respected, liked, and yet still feared their boss. And for good reason. He had no reason to assume their knowledge of his other business dealings might set one of them onto the path of betrayal where he was concerned, but he didn’t want to test the waters, either.
Rick clapped Cross on the shoulder. “Have a good trip tomorrow, huh?”
“I definitely will.”
“You heading straight home?” Zeke asked.
“No, I have to grab the principessa first.”
His friend smiled. “The little firecracker.”
That she was.
Cross barely made it through the front door of his parents’ Newport home before the stomping started.
Click, click, click, click.
Like goddamn plastic hammers hitting the floor one right after the other. All he saw was a tiny human-shaped tornado with wild brown curls coming his way before his three-year-old daughter crashed into his legs.
Cross’s hand skimmed overtop the crown of his daughter’s head as she peered up at him with a beautiful, toothy smile. Girlish, child-like features that matched her mother’s looked back. Her big soul-brown eyes were all him, though.
That, and her attitude.
Damn, though, he loved his little girl. She was everything that was bright, beautiful, and perfect in his life. That, and her mother. Cecelia “Cece” Donati made her way into the world on the second of September just two years into his and Catherine’s marriage. She had not exactly been planned, but they hadn’t prevented anything, either. Oh, he adored his child beyond measure. Nothing was more perfect than her angel face when she looked at him. The rest of the world ceased to exist.
Cece blinked up at him, smiling impossibly wider. “Hi, Daddy!”
Her little feet stomped in her excitement, making that damn clicky noise against the hard wood once more. He tried to get her to wear mini Doc Martens. His girl wanted heels like her mother.
No one would ever know how difficult and irritating it was to drive from one side of New York to the other looking for toddler girl shoes with something resembling a heel. A heel that was not too high, if barely there at all, yet visible enough to satisfy his daughter, while also sounding like heels.
She wore them all the time.
It was the end of November, and she was still wearing them.
“I see someone put the clicky shoes back on,” Cross said.
Cece beamed. “Grandpapa.”
Calisto rounded the kitchen entryway and came in their direction. “She wanted them on, son.”
“Where’s Ma?” Cross asked.
“Packing up Cece’s things.”
Cece tugged on her father’s pants with a firm hand. “Daddy?”
Instantly, Cross was on his knees. He drifted his fingers through his daughter’s waist-length brown waves as she grabbed his face in both her tiny hands.
“What, mia topina?”
It was a horrible nickname for her.
She was nothing like a little mouse.
Not at all quiet.
She still loved it.
He kept using it.
“Cary has baby brudder,” Cece said.
Cross chuckled. “Does he?”
Cary, a four year old neighbor that lived across the street from his parents’ home, regularly came to play with Cece when she was with her grandparents.
“Yes, and I wants one, too.”
Cross tried to hide his smirk as he looked up at the ceiling. “That’s not really how it works, Cece.”
“I wants one, too, Daddy!”
Did he mention his daughter was spoiled?
Because she was.
“We can get a brudder at the shop,” Cece said matter-of-fact.
“First, you can’t go to the store and get a baby brother. We don’t shop for siblings, Cece. That’s not how it works.”
“Can, too. Grandmamma says! I wants one, Daddy.”
Calisto cleared his throat from his position leaning against the wall. “Yes, Cross, go get her a baby brother from the shop.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
He shot his father a glare over his daughter’s shoulder, silently shouting for the man to shut up. Once Cece got her mind made up on something, she was having it no matter what anyone said. She also learned pretty early on that her parents weren’t very good at telling her no.
“We can get a brudder at the shop, Daddy.”
“No, you can’t, but—”
“I’s telling Ma.”
Yes, his daughter’s best defense when she was told no by her father was to go to her mother. Or vice versa. At this moment, that absolutely worked for Cross.
“You tell Ma, then.”
Cece’s eyes narrowed. “I wills!”
“Okay,” he said seriously.
His daughter huffed, and stomped a heeled foot to the floor once more before she turned and darted back down the hall. Over her shoulder, he heard her say, “Gonna has a baby brudder.”
Once the little hellion was out of sight, Cross stood back to his full six-foot-three height. He rolled his eyes at his father’s chuckles.
“That was the best conversation between you two yet,” Calisto said before cackling. “I was waiting for her to ask something about where a baby brother comes from if not the shop.”
“You all get too much enjoyment of that kid and her antics.”
“Yes, and I thank God every single day that you had a daughter like her, Cross. You can’t possibly understand how much joy this brings me that she is your very own wild child.”
“Oh, I think I can,” Cross muttered.
“How are you going to explain the whole baby brother topic to Catherine?”
Cross shrugged, grinning. “Well, frankly I was going to let Cece open the topic up because I’m not against it.”
“Things are just … busy.”
“This life always is.”
“I wanted to wait for a better time.”
Calisto’s lips curved at the edges a little. “And yet, it seems like there is never a better time, huh?”
“Not really. One of us is always on the go. Things are always coming up.”
“Cece still came along, didn’t she?”
Cross laughed under his breath. “Yeah, but not because we expected her to. We never even talked about it, really, just … didn’t decide not to have a child.”
“Have you talked to Catherine since she’s been in Italy?”
“A couple of times. I missed her calls today. She didn’t answer when I called back.”
His wife had to come and go a lot given her position as the right-hand to her mother—a very successful Queen Pin dealing drugs to the rich, famous, and anyone who couldn’t afford a scandal. Sometimes Catherine spent three weeks out of the month at home, and the next she might only be there a week or more. Cece often traveled with Catherine, if it was safe, as she preferred to be with her mother when she was gone for long spells of time.
It was difficult.
It made life even busier.
They still loved.
“Not sure how to bring the topic of more children into the conversation given she’s been home all of fourteen days this month,” Cross said with a sigh.
“You’ll get it figured out,” Calisto replied.
Their conversation quieted as his little principessa, her mother’s mini-me and the blood taken straight from his veins, came back around the corner. His mother, Emma, was right on her heels with a pink, princess-decaled duffle bag in hand.
Cross took the bag from his mother, and kissed her cheek. “Hey, Ma.”
“You hungry? You could eat before you go, Cross.”
“I would, but I have a bunch of stuff to get ready for tomorrow.”
Cece pulled on his pants once more. “To see Ma?”
Cross patted her head, but didn’t answer. “Make a date, Ma, and I’ll come over to help you cook something. Sound good?”
Emma smiled sweetly. “That sounds perfect, my boy.”
Thirty-three, and still his mother’s baby.
Yeah, some things never changed.
Other author's books:
- Forever: The Companion (Renzo + Lucia Book 4)Chris (The Guzzi Legacy Book 3)Beni (The Guzzi Legacy Book 4)Contempt (Renzo + Lucia Book 3)Corrado (The Guzzi Legacy Book 1)Harbor (Renzo + Lucia Book 2)Cross + Catherine: The SagaAlessio (The Guzzi Legacy Book 2)
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