Thin Lives (Donati Bloodlines, 3) is LIVE! #MafiaRomance
It's finally the day I've personally been waiting for since six long months ago when I began this journey with the first Donati Bloodlines book, Thin Lies. Even though when I published the first book, I hadn't even started writing the final novel, I wanted to share it with the world and say, "See, the impossible can sometimes be possible."
Anything is possible if you want it bad enough.
Calisto and Emma are about to learn that in Thin Lives.
It is finally live.
Happy reading, all.
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Some days, it felt like Emma had just imagined it all.
Like maybe everything she had been with Calisto was just a dream.
Emma knew it was crazy—it was impossible to forget what she had shared with Calisto Donati. All their love, the stolen moments, their foulness together, and the beauty underneath it all were real.
They were real.
But he didn't know.
He didn’t know any of it.
And little by little, with every day that passed her by, Emma found she was losing those pieces that reminded her they had existed once.
Just like the rosary.
All too soon, Emma knew … there would be nothing left.
Emma hadn’t given him a choice.
Her, not him.
Yeah, that’s what Calisto was going to keep telling himself. He refused to feed into the strange curiosity he had about Emma Donati. It had been building from the moment he’d first seen her face after he’d awakened. He wouldn’t admit that for longer than he cared to admit, he thought there was more behind her false smile, polite words, and the distance she put between her and him—that there might be more to them.
Except … he was feeding into it.
Calisto just wasn’t sure what it was.
But tonight he was going to find out.
Whether she wanted to tell him or not.
The final Bloodlines novel.
Read CHAPTER ONE Now!
“Please, just wait a moment,” Father Day begged. “Talk to me a little while longer. Let me help you, Calisto.”
The priest grabbed Calisto’s arm in an attempt to stop him. It barely fazed him at all when he shrugged the man off and continued storming down the aisle.
“You’re too angry, Calisto!”
Words were meaningless.
In his current state—so enraged, confused, and hurting—he didn’t hear them.
Calisto didn’t want to.
“Don’t you remember the last time you were this angry?” the priest called after him.
He did, but it didn’t make a difference.
Calisto flew out of the church and into damp air. He cut through the rain, ignoring the splattering droplets falling from the black sky.
Maybe he shouldn’t have ignored it.
Weren’t black skies omens of sorts?
Before long, Calisto was inside his car and driving down the interstate. Toward where, he didn’t know. But driving felt good—damn good.
He pressed the pedal harder.
He gripped the wheel tighter.
Faster, until the engine roared and gears protested on the last shift.
Rain blurred the windshield, but Calisto’s focus was far beyond the squiggly lines running down the glass before the wipers swiped them away. There was so much agony in his heart, and something akin to betrayal sewing itself into the very marrow of his bones.
Somehow, he just knew …
He had done this to himself.
His car flew past vehicle after vehicle on the interstate. He couldn’t even find it in himself to give a shit about the speed limit, or that he could feel the car loosing traction under his control.
He hit the pedal harder, and kept the car straight.
Driving was his one sense of freedom.
Wasn’t that what he said?
Wasn’t that what he told—
Calisto’s gaze caught sight of a black SUV in his rear-view mirror, bringing him out of the hell that was his mind. For a moment, he didn’t begrudge the reprieve it afforded him.
But it was a mistake to look.
The second he stared into the rear-view mirror, high beams flashed on from the SUV behind him, blinding his vision instantly. He was driving far too fast for someone to be following him as closely as that vehicle currently was.
It wasn’t accidental, he realized.
It was purposeful.
Calisto’s reaction time was off just by a fraction of a breath as he regained focus on the road ahead of him. Suddenly, it seemed like the dark interstate was empty, but for his car and that SUV just inches from his bumper.
He missed his exit because of the distraction.
“Shit,” he muttered.
Another one was coming, but not for another ten miles or so.
His right hand itched to leave the wheel, wanting to reach out to the side and grab his phone, and make just one call to the only person who mattered to him.
He didn’t dare loosen his grip.
Even the stars were hiding in the sky.
He glanced into the mirror again, careful to avoid the direct glare of the high beams, and quickly noted how the SUV swerved to the left as if they were going to pass him. There was no room to pass with him being in the left lane as it was.
But the action of the SUV swerving was enough to make Calisto react out of nothing but instinct as he forced his own car to the right.
Maybe it was a little bit of hope, too.
Hope that whoever was behind him was no one he knew. Hope that whoever it was might be just another angry, stupid fool like him that was driving too fast on a rainy, dark night.
Calisto’s hope didn’t last long.
He felt the tires slip on the slick pavement as he slid into the right-side lane. There was no stopping the unmistakable twist of the rear-end when his car began to slide sideways. No matter how hard he pushed the pedal or straightened the wheel to bring his car out of the beginning of a tailspin, he couldn’t do it.
He had already lost control.
Suddenly, time slowed.
It seemed appropriate.
Calisto had just a few seconds of suspended breath and waiting to reflect over his time and choices. There was no flash of life before his eyes—just the knowledge that he had been a part of this world once, and that in itself was a mark left behind.
But he was still sorry.
It was the sight of black to his left that made Calisto turn his head. His car was almost halfway turned as the SUV came to pass at his side.
Hope left as the passenger window rolled down. Through the squiggly lines of water running down his window, Calisto could only see black staring back at him.
Black and a flash of brushed silver.
The plume of light was instant, and shocking. In the background, he caught a glimpse of the profile of the person shooting at him, but he was already reacting.
Calisto jerked the wheel of his car at the same time, forcing his car into a harder, faster spin that would probably turn his car over. He heard the bullet shatter glass a second before the roof of his car met pavement.
He wasn’t buckled in.
His shoulder hit the door, his leg crunched under a snapping wheel, and his head hit metal.
Calisto’s night turned even blacker.
Like someone had set a firecracker off beside his bed, Calisto jerked out of the nightmare with a shout dying in his throat. He blinked at the bedroom staring back at him, it was lit just enough by the bedside lamp for him to recognize the familiar space as his own.
The nightmare was always the same.
It never changed.
That was how he knew it was real.
It was a genuine memory that he had, one his brain continued to force him to relive every fucking time he closed his eyes. Sometimes, he fought against sleep just for the sake of not wanting to see those last few moments again.
Calisto had regular appointments with a specialist for his amnesia. Over and over, they asked the same thing.
Did he remember anything new?
His answer was the same.
He didn’t remember anything within a seemingly two and a half year time span.
It was just … gone.
Like he had closed his eyes one night, and the next time he had woken up, his entire world had changed around him. The last memory he had, besides the dream of the shooting and accident, was of his mother and her home. He had been rifling through her papers, helping her organize some things so that it would be all done should something happen because of her heart disease diagnosis.
That was it.
Calisto didn’t know why, but it didn’t feel right to him. From the moment he understood that he had forgotten a giant chunk of time in his life, he knew he was missing something.
More than memories.
More than passing days and months.
More than conversations, family, burials, and business.
Something important was missing.
No one could tell him what it was.
They all looked at him like he was fucking crazy. The time that he was without in his memories had been filled in and tied with a neat little bow by those around him. He was smiled at and patted on the back as if to say, “There’s nothing else.”
There was something else.
There had to be.
Calisto fell back into the bed, chest heaving hard. He ran his fingers through his hair, and stared up at the ceiling. He wanted to know what was missing.
His uncle—Affonso—kept telling him not to focus on what he couldn’t remember, but to be grateful he was still alive. And he was—God he was.
But if he pressed Affonso for more, if he asked about specific times leading up to the accident that took away his memories, his uncle became irritated and despondent at the same time.
Calisto held great affection for the man who had stepped in to raise him after his father had died before he was even born. He respected Affonso. And so, he chose not to press his uncle on things that obviously bothered him.
Yet, he still wanted to know what and why.
Pushing up from the bed, Calisto swung his legs out and his feet hit the hardwood floor with a hard smack. He flinched—automatic reaction after months of agony with every little jostle—bracing for the pain in his leg to come hard and swift.
That broken femur had been hell.
Calisto took in the time flashing on the digital clock sitting on the nightstand. 2:00 AM blinked back at Calisto.
He didn’t even have to look at it to know what time it was.
It was always the same damn time every night.
The dream came like a warning, and a reminder. He pinched the bridge of his nose, ignoring the twinge in his shoulder. While his broken femur had healed with no lasting repercussions, he couldn’t quite say the same thing about his shattered shoulder. The doctors had already warned him that another surgery was probable in the future, if the pain and lack of mobility continued.
Nerve damage was suggested.
Calisto brushed it all off.
He could still drive a car and shoot a gun.
That was enough.
Next to being able to command and control men, driving and shooting were the only things Calisto felt were needed for his job as consigliere to Affonso, of the Donati crime family.
Knowing that sleep wasn’t going to find him again anytime soon, Calisto pulled on a pair of sleep pants and a T-shirt. He grabbed the pack of cigarettes on the nightstand, and headed out of the bedroom. He traveled down the long length of the hallway that led to the main floor of his condo. It wasn’t three days after the doctors took the cast off his leg, and Affonso told him to head back to his own place.
Calisto didn’t mind going.
Affonso’s wife—Calisto winced, correcting himself—his new wife, Emma, was pregnant and his uncle was strange about the woman and the upcoming baby. There were little to no details shared, except for the fact that the pregnancy was high-risk, and the less stress the woman was put under, the better.
Calisto tried a few times to get a conversation in with Emma. If his uncle didn’t interrupt and divert him to something else, then Emma herself did so with a forced smile and a vague excuse of needing to do things.
It made him think that perhaps he had done or said something to offend Emma before the accident, and that was why she kept a distance from him.
Calisto tried not to mind—she wasn’t his wife, after all—but he couldn’t help it. He didn’t know her at all. He couldn’t remember the deal Affonso talked about between their family and the Sorrento family in Vegas that brought the two together in an arranged marriage. She was his uncle’s wife, and that meant she was family to Calisto. At the very least, he thought they should be friends.
Before long, Calisto found himself standing on his private balcony with a burning cigarette dangling between his fingers. The cold September air barely registered to his senses, except to wake him up a little more. He took a heavy drag, and stared at the inky sky, dotted with stars above.
Not like that night.
Despite the difference, his thoughts still went straight back to the nightmare. He only called it that because it came when he slept, and never when he was awake. But given the details he knew about his accident, never mind how he felt when he was in the midst of the nightmare, he knew it was real.
But why did it keep coming back?
Why repeat, when there was nothing new to see?
Why wouldn’t his brain give him something else to remember?
Frustrated, Calisto balanced his arms over the railing and bent down so that his head was resting on them.
You can’t force the memories, they said.
Your situation is abnormal, the doctors explained.
It may never come back, Calisto, his uncle warned.
A deep ache settled in the middle of his chest, making Calisto straighten to a standing position once again. He rubbed at the spot, willing the pain away.
Whenever he found himself overly irritated with his lack of memories, that nagging pain returned right where his heart still beat. A reminder that he was alive and there for the moment, and nothing more.
Be grateful, he was told.
Didn’t they understand he was still missing something?
Calisto looked back up at the sky, taking in the differences of its current beauty compared to the bleak undertone it held in his nightmare.
When was it that he first noticed the sky in his recollection of that night?
Closing his eyes, Calisto could almost bring back the sensations he felt when he was in the midst of the memory.
All the anger and sadness.
Rain hitting his face.
Light and metal.
Calisto opened his eyes once more—the church. He had been at church, refusing his priest time for something the man wanted from him.
Father Day had long been a confidant of Calisto’s—even when he was young boy. He hadn’t gone to see the priest beyond the occasional Sunday service that he fit in between work and rehab.
Calisto wondered if that’s what he had been missing. Was his brain trying to tell him to go back to the start of that night, to the place where an end had just begun for him, so that he could find what was missing?
He didn’t know.
But he was going to find out.
Calisto swung the keyring around and around his finger before dropping the set into his pocket. At the front door of his condo, he grabbed three things resting in the glass bowl set atop a mahogany side-table.
A black rosary with a silver cross.
And a casino chip.
He’d woken up from his accident with all three of those things waiting for him on the bedside table. None of the nurses had any explanation as to where they’d come from, except for his wallet and the rosary. Those had been inside the pants they cut off him before his first surgery. The poker chip had apparently shown up in his room over the course of his short coma.
It didn’t escape Calisto’s notice how the rosary reminded him of two things. One was the rosary of his priest, which was very similar in design. But Father Day’s rosary sported a gold cross instead of a silver one. The second thing was the intricate, realistic tattoo Calisto had at some point, gotten inked on his arm, wrist, and hand.
No one had any explanation for that, either. The tattoo was relatively new, if a few months old, considering the ink was still a heavy black and there was only a slight bit of fading on the cross where it had been permanently tattooed on his palm.
Nonetheless, the rosary provided Calisto with memories from his younger years. It resonated a sense of fondness he held for his religion, for God, his mother’s unwavering faith, and the priest who had once let a small child play with a rosary while his uncle confessed.
So, instead of packing the item away, he stuffed it into his pocket and kept it close throughout the day. It gave him a sense of being grounded to his life, despite the fact he was missing so much of it.
The poker chip, however, was a different story.
Calisto flipped the chip with his thumb. He watched it spin in the air, and fall back into his grasp easily. The name embossed on the chip belonged to a hotel in Las Vegas. He’d checked one day when he was bored, only to find the hotel was owned by Emma’s father.
Emma—his uncle’s wife.
Affonso was always quick to pass over the details of Las Vegas—and the marriage that followed—whenever Calisto asked. He still wasn’t even sure if he had also gone to Vegas when Affonso did, but he assumed that he had, considering he had a poker chip, and people assured him that he had, in fact, gone to Vegas.
It probably came from his stay.
But why that casino?
Why this chip?
Calisto wasn’t the type of person to hold onto things for no reason. The chip had to have meant something to him in a private way, especially considering how insignificant it seemed.
Was it insignificant?
His mind drew a blank.
His chest grew tight.
Each time he thought about something like the poker chip, Calisto was left with more questions than answers. No one ever questioned him on the poker chip.
Calisto didn’t bother to ask others about the chip because from what he knew, he had been the only person left behind in Vegas to keep an eye on Affonso’s soon-to-be bride. How would they know the significance of the chip or why he had kept it?
They weren’t inside Calisto’s fucked up mind.
A mind that failed him daily.
Still, he kept the chip on him because like the rosary, it did something for him. Not quite the same thing as the rosary, but something just as important and poignant. Where the rosary almost set him back into a time that he could remember, when he held onto the poker chip, he was suspended.
Suddenly, unwaveringly, stopped in time.
The poker chip was nothing more than a simple item. A thing he must have picked up along the way, but decided to keep for one reason or another.
But it wasn’t an item that had been found on him.
It was an item that was brought to him.
Yet he knew—somehow—that he had been the one to have it first.
The tighter he held it in his palm, the better he felt. That was how he knew it was a part of that one piece he was still missing—a piece he just knew he had to look for.
His memories weren’t going to give it to him. No one else had the answers. It was something Calisto was going to have to do on his own.
Church seemed like a good place to start.