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Rule (Corruption #3)
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Book Three in The Corruption Series. You must read SPIN and RUIN before reading RULE!
Theresa and Antonio.
A Love Tested To The Limit
In this stunning conclusion to the USA Today Bestselling series, Antonio and Theresa will have their passion, their devotion and their very will to live tested.
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There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
— 1 John 4:18
Would that life had the symmetry and passion of Italian opera, without the absurdity.
here was soot all over everything. Black ash and dust. Big stones made newly small. The size and shape of the Carriage House of the Gate Club had changed from the foundation upward with an explosion, much like my career. The building remained but had withstood the equivalent of a San Andres earthquake.
“She’s not here,” Kylie said, out of breath. She’d barely broken her run from the ballroom, in heels and a tight skirt, to deliver the news. “But she’s on the tape and—” She stopped short and turned green.
The spot where a barely breathing gunshot victim had been found—male, early thirties, possibly Paulie Patalano, possibly not—was splattered with blood, bone, and flesh. A dozen crime scene technicians took pictures and laid markers.
“Don’t look,” I said, using my fingers to direct her eyes from the corporeal mess to my face. “Did you check the exit tapes?”
She swallowed hard and looked at me. “So many people are crowding out at once, it could take days to sort through.”
My stomach had started churning as if poked with a sharp stick. And I had to stand up straight, because she’d taught me to do that. She’d made me a man, and in the wreckage of what I’d done, and with every bit of information that came to me, it became more clear she was gone. The tunnel had been sealed shut on the outside. She’d been lured down there, or that piece of shit had, and she’d followed him. Then…
I couldn’t dismiss Kylie to do her actual job of assisting Gerry in spin management, because if I sent her away, it meant I had no more leads and Theresa had been in that tunnel when the explosion hit. A ruckus broke behind me. Four men in smoking, wet rubber jackets came out of the closet. Aaron, the chief of police, approached them with questions, and I heard collapsed. Nothing left.
“Not much but junk down there,” one of the firemen said as he handed a digital camera to a forensics specialist, and I saw a picture of the scene. “We’re yellow taping it. It’s not safe.”
The forensics guy flipped through the pictures. A button. A diamond ring half-buried in the detritus underground.
I knew that ring. I’d chosen it. I’d gotten a bigger stone than I could afford. A stone that matched not my budget but my aspirations.
All the noise in the room fell away. Because that ring meant Theresa had been there, but it meant more than that. It meant nothing was cut and dried.
Why had she been wearing that ring? If Spinelli had wanted her to marry him, he would have gotten his own damn ring. I put the puzzle together. Was it that easy? It had been only hours since the Bortolusi wedding ended in fire, and the solution was already in my hands.
The question was, did I share my guess or keep it to myself? I wouldn’t tolerate anyone shooting it down, because if I was wrong, she was dead, and that wasn’t bearable.
“Kylie,” I said, bringing the young intern away from the noise and clutter of the investigation. “For the past and next twelve hours, get me flight manifests into and out of Rome and Milan.”
She cocked her head. “What are we look—?”
“Just get them. And Palermo and Naples.”
I’d cheated on her, ruined her ability to trust in men. I hadn’t spent one minute being faithful to her or doing what I’d promised, then I’d manipulated her, used her, done everything to push her into the arms of a man who destroyed her.
I didn’t even know how to be pissed at Spinelli. I kept redirecting the energy back at myself.
It was my fault she was in the position she was in, whatever that was, living or dead. I’d pushed her, with my distaste, toward a criminal. I’d used her to plant bad earpieces and tried to manipulate her back into my bed. But even before that, I’d set her up. I’d left her crying and broken and wondering what was wrong with her. I’d betrayed her for years behind her back. Whatever happened was my responsibility, and if she was dead or a mob wife, I had to save her to save myself.
If that meant the mayor’s office and the governor’s mansion would go to someone else, then fine. Suddenly, gaining political office and losing my soul seemed like a fool’s choice.
The seed of an idea grew in my head, watered and nourished by the reams of minutiae that came into my view over the following hours. Small things were my job. Details that fit together like a puzzle, telling a story of guilt or innocence, were how I put men in prison. And later, retelling that story to thousands of people became another part of a job I wanted and would do anything to gain.