Where the Sun Hides: Prologue #MafiaRomance - Coming Soon!
Hey, all!

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As promised, I am sharing an excerpt, well, more like the entire Prologue of Where the Sun Hides today!

Where the Sun Hides releases on June 6th.

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PROLOGUE

There were days when Alberto Gallucci thought it would be easier to have the mind and ideals of a child. Children didn’t concern their little selves with worldly things or the issues of men. As long as their tiny hands were filled and their mouths were distracted with food or talk, the rest was unimportant.

The small things didn’t bother children.

Alberto couldn’t remember what that felt like.

Except for his Violet.

She was not like most children. She wanted to know everything—all things. Her questions never ended, and her innocent curiosity couldn’t be contained. Most times, he didn’t mind indulging his daughter with her constant chattering, or giving into her demands when she stomped her foot and pouted.

Violet stood at her father’s side; her bob of golden curls haloing her features. She barely reached above his knees in height. Sometimes he worried that her tiny size was a sign of some health problem, as his son had stood nearly to his waist at the same age, but the doctors assured him that Violet was completely, entirely normal.

He didn’t think she was at all—she was far too special for that.

She grabbed a fistful of his slacks and tugged hard. “Daddy?”

Alberto patted Violet’s head, hoping she would stay quiet for just a little while longer.

He shouldn’t have bothered.

“Daddy?” Violet asked again, pulling firmly on his pants.

“Hush, topina,” Alberto murmured, running a hand over her hair.

There was a chill in the air, the shifting colors of leaves giving way to the promise of fall. And even the rolling gray clouds, obscuring the sun on what was meant to be a clear day, were a grim reminder as to where Alberto and his daughter waited.

Cross Hills Cemetery—the poor man’s graveyard.

Over the years, there had been a number of meets, many of which had taken place in far worse locations than the one he was currently standing in, but Alberto would wager this was one of the most important.

How long had they stood there already? Watching. Waiting. But above all, anticipating. His first attempt at reaching out to the man he was meeting had gone unanswered. And why wouldn’t it? They were on opposite sides, both fighting for a piece of something each wanted to possess. It wasn’t until much later, with a simple spark in the air, that both men had ultimately been brought around.

The rules for this meet were simple. No weapons, no men, and as a show of good faith, Alberto suggested bringing along the children. No man, not even those as unstable as the Russians, would dare plan an attack at the risk of a child being hurt.

It’d been the harming of a child that had ultimately brought them to this place …

The familiar wave of guilt washed over Alberto, knowing the error he had made and what it nearly cost another man.

Children were so important in la famiglia, much like wives, mothers, and grandmothers. Hurting children was unacceptable, even in the midst of a brutal, bloody street war that had no time or concern for loss of life. After all, that was the only thing street wars were really good for, in the end.

He was regarding a tombstone to his left, a bouquet of dying roses resting in the vase beside it, when something—or someone rather—caught his attention, forcing his gaze from the stone to the man that was now entering the graveyard.

Alberto’s hand found the fur-trimmed hood of his daughter’s coat as the other man came a bit closer to his spot. He wanted to keep Violet still for the moment. She had been bouncing and chattering away, ready to jump out of her damn shoes. She very well might bolt forward, at the presence of someone new. His daughter was open in that way. She was too young to understand that their visitors were not friends.

Russians and Italians could never be friends.

At the man’s side, a young boy stayed close. The boy’s hand was firmly enclosed within the man’s, and he wore a pair of black, thick-rimmed glasses with shades too dark to see beneath.

Alberto winced internally, knowing the cause of those sunglasses on the boy, who had been just one part of his men’s mistake.

“Daddy?” Violet asked.

For what, the millionth time?

Alberto touched the back of Violet’s head gently. “What is that game we always play, topina? The one when we need to be quiet, hmm?”

Violet’s gaze drifted between her father and the newcomers. At four, she was far too perceptive for her own good. He hoped that later in life, her inquisitiveness would be a virtue, and not something liable to get her into trouble. As it were, he already knew there would be no hiding his activities from his children.

But he would like for Violet to stay ignorant for a while longer.

Once the newcomers were only a few feet away, the man released the boy’s hand. He bent down and muttered a few low words—Russian words—to the boy. His hand skimmed the dark, short hair of the boy, and then he patted him on the side.

With a nod and nothing more, the boy walked a few steps off the stone pathway, his hands held out, as he couldn’t see with those sunglasses of his, and came to a stop at a cracked, weather-beaten, marble bench. The boy sat down, and stared off to the side, silent.

“How’s his eyesight?” Alberto asked.

The Russian man’s gaze cut to Alberto with a flash of pain. “Better, but it’s difficult when he’s outside. The brightness of the day makes his eyes hurt. Frankly, the brightness of any light hurts his eyes.”

Alberto cleared his throat. “Your other boy, why not bring him?”

“He’s too old. He understands much more. He favors his uncle.”

Alberto nodded. “Your girl, then? I heard you had a daughter, Vasily.”

The Russian’s stare dropped to the blonde, green-eyed girl at Alberto’s side.

“She was occupied,” Vasily murmured.

Alberto chose not to push, but he believed Vasily’s reasons for not bringing another one of his children to the meeting were different from the ones he had given. Perhaps because the sight of a ten-year-old boy wearing sunglasses to protect his damaged eyes caused by a bomb that Alberto had ordered to be set was enough to cut at even the hardest and coldest of men.

Children should not be brought into the affairs of the mafia, if it could be helped.

After half a decade of fighting between the Markovic Bratva and the Gallucci Cosa Nostra, a street war that killed nearly thirty men between their respective organizations, a single bomb had quieted the streets.

But not in the way Alberto wanted it to.

He’d intended to stop the fighting, to reclaim part of the Brooklyn streets leading into Little Odessa that had always been the Gallucci grounds. A great portion of his family’s business was tied into the warehouses and connections they had made. When the Russians started to push back against the Gallucci’s demands, it had all snowballed from there.

A shouting match led to a sit-down.

The sit-down led to name-calling.

Italians and Russians simply didn’t work well together. They were two entirely different criminal organizations, following codes that might have seemed similar on the surface, but were actually quite different in some ways—from family dynamics both in and out of their respective organizations, and even from the way the two conducted business. Cosa Nostra was steeped in tradition and smothered by rules. Working with other organizations outside of their systems and beliefs was practically impossible.

Alberto brushed off his inner thoughts, knowing they weren’t important now. “Violet, what’s that game I asked about?”

His green-eyed daughter was staring at the quiet boy twenty feet away on the marble bench.

“Counting clouds,” Violet said in her childish, sweet voice. “We count clouds to be quiet.”

“Why don’t you go do that for a bit, huh?” Alberto was going to tell his daughter to leave the boy alone and find her own spot to play—Violet had a knack for annoying others at times—but she was already making a beeline for the bench. “Well, at least they will be entertained.”

Vasily’s lips curled up at the corner in what seemed to be disgust, but he quickly tampered back the reaction when his son patted the bench as Violet approached with her quiet hello.

“Kazimir is a guarded boy … even for his age.” Vasily glanced to the side and took in his son, who was openly chatting away with Alberto’s daughter. “Or he usually is, anyway.”

“Violet doesn’t let people have walls,” Alberto replied, chuckling. “She barrels right through them with a smile.”

For a moment, one second of suspended time, they were just two fathers taking in the sight of their children enjoying the company of each other. It was simple. It was innocent. It was peaceful, something both had longed to provide them with.

But in the end, the pair had come to this place with a purpose. One that Alberto could no longer put off.

“Why were you the one to finally accept my offer of a meeting?” Alberto asked. “I expected your brother. He is the boss, isn’t he?”

Vasily bared his teeth when he flashed a smile. A cold smile. “Gavrill has no intention of backing down against your family.”

That was not what Alberto expected to hear. It set him on edge instantly, and he once again found himself sweeping the graveyard with his gaze, looking for something he might have missed. Had he made the wrong choice in doing this with the Russian?

“Worry not, comrade,” Vasily said like he could read Alberto’s mind. “The graveyard was a good choice to meet up. No one would ever desecrate the final resting place of so many souls, no? And our children, of course. I wouldn’t have brought my boy along, had I thought for a second that you might hurt him.”

Again, Alberto added silently.

“Forgive me,” Alberto started to say, shrugging, “but we haven’t exactly been amicable in the past.”

Vasily tipped his head to the side like he was brushing the statement off. “I accepted your offer because I believe the best thing to do is stop the fighting.”

Alberto had to agree.

When street wars got to the point that innocents were involved, it had already gone too far.

“You just said—”

“I came here without my brother’s knowledge or permission,” Vasily interrupted before Alberto could finish. “I know his intentions, and that he wishes to open the Markovic Bratva territory beyond the streets of Little Odessa. To do that, the feud between our families will have to continue. My interests are not aligned with my brother’s, but at the moment, it seems ours are, Alberto.”

“So it seems,” Alberto echoed.

Out of the corner of his eye, he watched Violet point to an oak tree filled with colorful leaves that were just beginning to fall from the thick branches. The boy at her side shook his head, and Violet frowned with her pout firmly in place.

“I assume,” Alberto said, still watching the two children, “... that if your interests are not tied in with your brother’s, then that will be a problem you’ll have to deal with. Won’t it?”

Vasily sighed, tossing his hands into his pants pockets. “Perhaps, but I don’t want to keep fighting for possession of something that doesn’t belong to us. And if I did, at what cost will it come to me? You nearly took my son from me the last time.”

Alberto flinched. “That was a mistake that never should have happened. The bomb was intended for your brother.”

“A mistake that would have resulted in a war far greater than you could imagine.” Vasily’s tone never changed from one of casual indifference, but Alberto could still hear the warning behind his words. “And you call us Russians savages.”

Alberto was on guard, waiting for the moment when the Russian would strike. The Markovic brothers were volatile by nature. It didn’t take much to set one off.

Even so, he kept his composure as he said, “It was a mix up of cars, and certainly not intentional on my part.”

Vasily met his gaze. “Nonetheless, you came too close.”

He had.

Even Alberto knew it.

“How do you intend to fix the little issue of your brother’s interests, if they don’t fit with what you want, then?” Alberto asked. “That’s a bit of a mountain to climb over, considering he’s the boss of your operation.”

Pakhan,” Vasily corrected. “We call him Pakhan.”

“Same thing, isn’t it?”

“About the same as someone from the outside addressing you as Don, Alberto,” Vasily said.

He wondered, if briefly, whether the Russian was intending to be offensive, or if it was just his nature. “Understood.”

“And my brother … He seems to be a problem for us both, no?”

Alberto took Vasily’s seemingly innocent statement in, absorbing what the man might be alluding to. Often times, discussions where business was forefront were held with a sort of vague secrecy surrounding them. A man should never come right out and say what he wanted or needed done, but rather, hint at it and let the other side draw its own conclusions.

“He’s certainly a problem for me, if he intends to make his way any farther into Brooklyn than where he already is,” Alberto said. “As it is, he’s severely cut off some ties my Capos have to warehouses that we use for storing things needing to stay hidden for a while. I don’t like losing out on money because someone wants to play keep away with my streets.”

Vasily chuckled. “You don’t have other storage facilities to use?”

“None close enough to keep attention away from the fact that things are traveling,” Alberto answered, not giving away much else.

His hand in the cocaine trade had long been a source of debate between his syndicates and other Cosa Nostra families that he sometimes did business with. Cosa Nostra liked to tote themselves as upholding standards, but also keeping away from being the moral police.

Yet, when a Don decided to handle substances as a way to make money, someone always took issue.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Alberto asked.

Vasily lifted a single brow high. “About what I intend to do with my brother, you mean.”

. About him ...”

The Russian smiled again, in that cold way like he had earlier. “I was hoping we could work something out that would be to both of our benefits where Gavrill is concerned.”

Alberto stood a little straighter.

Were they actually getting somewhere now?

“Keep going,” Alberto pressed.

Vasily passed his son and Violet a glance before quickly turning back to Alberto, his face a mask of passive indifference. “As I see it, we really only have one option, Italian. You don’t want to keep fighting, and neither do I. Given that this is a triangle with my brother being the peak, we have to consider him, too.”

“He does want to keep fighting.”

“Yes.”

Alberto weighed his options, and the Russian’s actions. Vasily had accepted the offer to meet. He’d followed all the rules—came alone, brought his son, and was amicable.

Even respectable, to a point.

Vasily hadn’t needed to do any of that. His organization was slightly smaller than the Gallucci syndicate, but as both families had already proven, they were more than capable of making the streets of Brooklyn a living hell. It needed to end.

Alberto finally found a Russian who seemed like he might be willing to do just that.

“No problem is unfixable,” Alberto said.

“My thoughts exactly,” Vasily agreed. “And I know, being the Sovetnik that I am to my brother and our organization, that not everyone is happy with his … choices.”

“One more dead man might correct all of that.”

Vasily shrugged. “It could, as long as it didn’t create problems within the Bratva.”

“And how would that work?”

“Don’t you already know, Don?” Vasily asked.

That time, Alberto could hear the snideness in Vasily’s words. The man hadn’t even tried to hide it. He let it go.

“You want me to pave your way to the top, is that it?” Alberto asked.

Vasily grinned. “Win-win, Italian.”

Would it be?

The fighting would stop.

No more dead men.

Alberto found his daughter sitting beside Vasily’s son, ruffling the tulle layers of her pink dress under her long coat.

He would be able to breathe when his children left his home.

“I will still take the blame for it, despite the fact you’re asking—without really asking—me to do it,” Alberto murmured. “And that concerns me, because that leaves me open to retribution when you suddenly decide that your brother’s death needs avenging. Isn’t that how the mafia goes? An eye for an eye.”

Vasily barked out a laugh. “You do not have very good insight into the Bratva, comrade. We are not like the Italians and sometimes the one death is enough to end it all. We don’t feel the need to keep spilling blood after it’s already stained the ground.”

Well, then …

“I want a guarantee, if I agree,” Alberto said.

“I’m listening.”

“The Markovic Bratva stays out of Brooklyn, barring Little Odessa, of course. Even your businesses and your men’s businesses. I know you simply use Little Odessa as the home base to your operation. You don’t need territory, being an arms trafficker, Vasily. Most of your work is done out of state and country.”

“I’m fine with that demand,” the Russian said. “As long as Coney Island can remain a no man’s zone. No one owns it, so to speak. And while Brooklyn remains your territory, I want a guarantee we can still come and go for personal reasons … safely.”

It didn’t escape Alberto’s notice that Vasily hadn’t confirmed or denied his hand in the arms trade, but he didn’t bother to call him on it.

“Of course, I’ll steer clear of you and yours, and this,” Albert said, and gestured around them, “will never have to happen again.”

A nod from the Russian.

What Vasily was asking for, would be no easy task to complete. Alberto knew firsthand the level of protection one needed as the boss. If Gavrill were half as smart as Alberto thought he was, the man would be surrounded at all times. It wouldn’t be easy, what Alberto was agreeing to, but if it meant his city would finally sleep, he was willing to take the risk.

That, and more.

Alberto also knew that no one could ever know about what had transpired between him and the Russian in this cemetery with their children playing just feet away. It would look shameful for an Italian Don to work with a Russian for any reason, even if it was to his benefit. And he strongly believed that Vasily would feel a similar shame from his people, should it come out that he had worked with an Italian to have his brother killed so that he could take the man’s spot in his organization.

No one could know.

“I’ll see it done,” Alberto said.

Alberto extended a hand, waiting for Vasily to accept and seal the deal between them. With the slightest of smiles, if the dark amusement on his face could be considered one, Vasily gripped his hand. For the first time, Alberto noticed the spider inked on the back of his hand.

It was only a second before Vasily was pulling his hand away, but the sight of it sent a shiver of apprehension through him.

Along came a spider

Alberto had only heard the saying once, but it had never resonated in him the way it did just then. Some spiders were innocent, but others ... others were deadly. The Russian’s chiming phone had him stepping off to the side.

Alberto quickly made his way off the path and strolled toward his still-animated, happy daughter. She was kicking her legs to and fro, her head tipped back, and her smile was so wide it could outshine the sun. The boy at her side was smiling, too.

“It does not,” he heard the boy say.

“Does too,” Violet said in her sing-song way. “Brown, red, orange, and yellow. Everywhere.”

Alberto stopped walking, confused. What was his child doing?

“What about the sky?” Kazimir asked.

“Gray—like your daddy’s eyes.”

Kazimir’s brow puckered. “But the grass is still green?”

“Very green. Like your jacket.”

Violet closed her eyes, still kicking her legs and smiling.

“Where is the sun, then?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

Violet laughed. “I closed my eyes, so now I can’t see it, either.”

“But you were supposed to be helping me see, Violet.”

Alberto watched his daughter’s eyes pop back open instantly.

“It’s hiding behind the clouds,” she said. “But we’ll find it again.”

Alberto didn’t quite know what to think. Children weren’t like adults. They didn’t understand the boundaries between cultures, and surely not ones as difficult as Cosa Nostra and Bratva.

But there his girl was, helping a Russian boy to see, in her own little way.

It was still time to go.

“Violet,” Alberto called. “It’s time to go have some gelato.”

Kazimir frowned.

Violet jumped off the bench without argument. “Next time, Kaz.”

“Okay,” the boy agreed, his frown fading.

Alberto didn't correct the children.

Life would teach them.

It always did. 
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