The Sweetest Oblivion read online free by Danielle Lori (2024)

MY HOME WAS PICTURESQUE. A red front door with a golden knocker. Black and white checkered flooring. A wooden staircase with a lacquer shine and a sparkling chandelier. However, I’d always wondered, If I pulled back a corner of the wallpaper . . . would it bleed red? If this world was as transparent as glass, soft splats would drip a pool to the marble floors.

I stared at the TV in the corner of the kitchen, hardly processing the newscaster’s voice, but when murder passed her ruby red lips, the word resounded in my mind. My throat tightened as I twisted the ring on my middle finger.

While my home, my life, was built on piles of dirty money, I’d always been able to say I hadn’t contributed to the balance. Not until earlier this year, that is. Now, blood was on my hands and guilt watched me while I slept.

Voices from the foyer drifted to my ears every time the swinging door opened as our servants came in and out, preparing for lunch.

A feminine trill of a laugh, my cousin Benito’s lively timbre, and a voice I’d vaguely recognized as I left the church this morning. It was low, smooth, and indifferent. The hair on the back of my neck rose. I knew it belonged to my future brother-in-law.

And it was partly—wholly—the reason I was hiding in the kitchen, though I would never admit it.

“You are too beautiful for that frown, Sweet Abelli,” my mamma said, as she entered the room with the cacophony of our guests’ conversations following her.

I shifted under the weight of her words. For obvious reasons, I hadn’t heard that nickname in a while. I’d grown out of the name some, especially when I realized I was the girl adored for all the wrong reasons: I wasn’t hard to look at, I was quiet when I should be and polite when I wasn’t. Like a childhood dress that didn’t fit anymore, I was stuck in the world’s expectations for me. It took years of feeling like a pretty bird in a cage until it all became too much . . . and I escaped.

“I don’t know why you watch this, Elena,” Mamma said, stirring the sauce on the stove. “All that nonsense is depressing.”

Mamma was married to Salvatore Abelli—a high-profile boss of one of the biggest organized crime syndicates in the United States. Sometimes I wondered if the naivety was denial, or if she would truly rather watch Days of Our Lives than worry about my papà’s affairs.

“I’m not sure who to vote for in the election,” I answered absently.

She shook her head in disbelief, and I guessed it was odd for the daughter of a mob boss to care about the legalities of the government.

“Your papà isn’t happy with you,” she said, looking at me under her dark eyelashes with that pursed-lips-you’re-in-trouble expression.

“When isn’t Papà unhappy with me lately?”

“What do you expect after what you did?”

Six months had passed, and I swore she brought it up every day. She was like a dog with a bone, and I honestly thought she enjoyed the mistake I’d made because she finally had something to chastise me about.

“Why didn’t you come meet the Russo after church today?” She pointed her spoon at me. “I’m not buying the act that you forgot and were waiting innocently in the car.”

I crossed my arms. “I just didn’t want to. He’s . . . rude.”

“Elena,” she scolded. “You don’t even know him.”

“You don’t need to meet someone with his reputation to know his character, Mamma.”

“Oh, Madonna, salvami,” she muttered.

“And he won’t understand Adriana,” I added tersely.

She snorted. “Not many will understand your sister, figlia mia.”

The gardener did . . . but I wasn’t going to share that with Mamma, or by the end of the day he’d be at the bottom of the Hudson.

Earlier this week, Papà had announced that Adriana would be marrying Nicolas Russo, the don of one of the five families in New York. My past transgressions were still tender wounds, but with this news added to the list it was like they’d been cut back open.

I was the eldest sister; therefore, it was my responsibility to marry first. But because of my mistake, my sister had been thrown under the bus—and to a man with a reputation. Everyone knew that when someone had a reputation in this world it meant one thing: stay the hell away from them.

“Besides, Nico is a perfect gentleman. If you would’ve met him this morning after church like you were supposed to, you would know that.”

I’d strode right out of the church doors and to the car before I could be corralled to meet my future brother-in-law. I was practically a pariah to my papà, so I was surprised he’d even noticed my absence. Besides, I was sure Nicolas Russo’s gentleman act was nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Since Nicolas’s papà had died five years ago, the twenty-nine-year-old and youngest sitting don had become well-known in the underworld. Following his father’s footsteps, he was a cheat, had more blood on his hands than the entirety of the New York State Penitentiary, and was unremorseful about it all. At least I imagined he was unapologetic. The newscaster wouldn’t have reported a new victim with the name “Zanetti” every morning for a year—the family Nicolas had once feuded with for killing his papà—if he felt at all guilty. He was going straight to Hell with that attitude if you asked me.

“I did meet him, Mamma.”

She raised a brow. “You did?”

“Well, no.”

Her expression darkened.

“But I shared a look with him,” I insisted. “And that was all I needed to see to know he wouldn’t be good for Adriana.”

She rolled her eyes. “Ridicolo.”

A glare and a look were the same things . . . right? It was an accident, really. It was as I was walking down the church steps that my gaze caught on the meeting I was supposed to be attending. Papà and Mamma stood on either side of Adriana and across from Nicolas Russo—and that was usually how a bride and groom met in this life. Arranged marriages were par for the course in the Cosa Nostra.

In annoyance at the entire situation, my eyes had narrowed slightly before glancing at my future brother-in-law, only to find he was already looking at me. That was how the glaring occurred—an accident, you see. But I could hardly convey that to the man, and if I had smiled it would’ve come off condescending, so I just . . . went with the glare and hoped it wouldn’t get me killed.

Nicolas’s gaze had hardened a flicker to show he didn’t like it, but after a second of heavy eye contact, he returned his attention to my papà like I was nothing but a leaf blowing by. I’d let out the breath I was holding and went to hide in the car. There was no way I was meeting him after that exchange. I’d just avoid him until the end of my days.

“Stop worrying and trust your papà.”

I made a hmm noise because I’d overheard from my cousin Benito that the alliance was for collaboration on some weapons deal, nothing more. My sister was a pawn in some large-scale trafficking agreement. How romantic. Even so, we knew this day would come. I held no expectations for a marriage of love, and neither did Adriana.

The problem was, my sister believed she was already in love.

With the gardener.

“Elena, go see if Adriana is ready for lunch.”

The Sweetest Oblivion read online free by Danielle Lori (2024)
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