Online Only. Contains bad words and sex-y scenarios. Mature (18+) audiences.
Sometimes, she broke her husband. It was what Mo called the times Giorgio went so silent, days would pass before she heard his voice again. It was happening now. After she gave him her opinion—which she was pretty sure was correct—of who she believed his mother was, he shut down. They left Italy and went home, everyone branching out and returning to their lives, and Giorgio didn’t say a word for any of it. It had been days now and he’d yet to say a word.
It only happened during major revelations. They’d lost a baby together, and he’d felt like it was his fault. He was a beast, and beasts weren’t supposed to procreate, so he didn’t believe that anything he brought into this world would have a chance at a prosperous life if half his blood coursed through its veins. She’d assumed she’d convinced him of the opposite, showing him that there was something sweet and inherently good hidden within him, until she found out she was pregnant with Aleksi.
Right after the announcement, he’d blessed the news with a week of silence.
The first words he’d said to her to break the quietude was, “You will be perfect mother.” She’d reassured him that he would be a great “papa” and this time, things would go well.
The night Aleksi was born, more silence. That had only lasted a couple days since he’d been in more of a silent awe because of “how small” Aleksi was, “how beautiful,” and, “Bez, look at how he holds finger. He will be strong.”
This silence—she glanced down at the clock on the bottom of her computer screen—had gone on about ten days now. It wasn’t necessarily a silent treatment in that he didn’t ignore her when she spoke to him. And he still spoke. He just only spoke when necessary and answered questions. There was no casual conversation, no playing around. No late-night chats.
In Italy, when she told him she believed Godmother Irina had been his mother, it was the first time since they’d met that she’d seen the boy underneath the beast. The first time his features had ever softened. It was as if every moment he’d ever spent with the woman had gone through his mind, all at the same time, searching for confirmation.
His large frame appeared in the doorway to their home office.
Well, her home office.
She’d continued to give private classes targeted toward self-defense for women from beginner to advanced. A shooting range had been set up in the back where Tayler came down to teach weapons handling and first aid. She’d asked Giorgio to teach a class but he’d told her, in his own words, that it was her space. He and Gage sometimes came to help demonstrate common holds the women could get out of, but he wanted her to know that it was her place to develop, design, and manage. He saw no need to do anything close to answering emails or questions that came in through her website.
Mo looked up over the top of the computer monitor. “Oh, hey baby. Aleksi’s still asleep?”
He stepped into the room. When he didn’t say a word, she sighed. She missed their one-sided conversations that were mostly her talking and him listening intently, but he needed more time.
“Did he eat the carrots?” she prodded. “When I noticed him looking at our food, I realized that maybe he might be ready for solids, but I should have just bought some instead of making it. I put ginger in those carrots, Gio. Should I have saved that for like dessert or—”
She stopped when she saw him smile. It made her stomach flutter, just like it did the first time she saw it. It wasn’t huge or wide or overly welcoming. Still, there was a beauty about the slight lift of his lip, the tug on the side of his mouth, and the softening of his jaw.
Mo closed the applications on the computer. “You look happy. Are you ready to talk about . . .?”
He jerked his head toward the hallway. “Come.”
She followed him, the baby monitor receiver in his back pocket, downstairs and out to the backyard. A pergola that hadn’t been there before stood in the middle of the grass. Beneath it, on a slab of concrete, a trio of patio chairs had been set up around a gas fire pit. After renovating and updating their house, he’d started doing a lot more woodwork. She’d assumed he was a natural but learned it was something he’d done during his massive quantities of alone time before they met.
“You like it.”
She nodded. “I love it. How did I not know you were doing this?”
“I am quiet.”
He took her hand. When he lowered to sit in one of the chairs, instead of sitting next to him, she waited until he was situated before straddling him. She loved how close she could get while in his lap and there would be fewer and fewer days as Aleksi got older, as well as the two of them, where she’d have the luxury.
He squeezed her waist. “You like this.”
“I do.” She nodded and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I love being close to you.” She stared at him. “Now, what’s been going on?”
“You are right,” he said. Godmother Irina, she is my mother.”
She wanted to squeal with joy but swallowed her elation, saving it for the rest of the conversation. In her mind, however, a song still played. He’d been loved all along. His mother had been there all along. Even when Otto had told her it was forbidden, she’d risked her own life to give her baby boy a chance. It was what she would have done for Aleksi, and it was what she now understood that she was a mother herself.
“How do you know this?” he asked. “I did not tell you much about her.”
“Your stories. She was kind to all the boys, but I remember you telling me that Otto killed her because he saw her sing to you. She cared and cried for you. She cleaned your wounds and came to search you out. She told you, straight up, that you weren’t what he thought you were. Gio, Irina was a direct threat to the version of you he was trying to create. Also,” she moved his hair behind his ear, “I think I figured it out because of Aleksi. The way she was with you, it made me think a lot about him. Like how I’d be with him.”
He stared up into her face, eyes dark and shining. “I see her face,” he said, a ghost of a smile on his lips. “I see it now, my face in hers. Not before, but now. My hair is hers.”
Mo wrapped a strand around her index finger. “She gave you all this luxurious hair? Damn, son. She was gorgeous. I can tell.”
“You know little thing Aleksi will do with his face?” He wrinkled the space between his brows. “Godmother Irina, she has done that.”
“The thing he does when he’s mad, happy, or pooping?” Mo tossed her head back, laughing. “I was wondering where he got that from. I just assumed that was what you did as a baby.”
His expression changed from animated to dim as his gaze moved away from hers. “I bury her, Bez.”
It was what she’d feared. Otto was a sick son of a bitch. She’d already guessed he would get some sort of twisted pleasure out of making Giorgio bury his mother’s body.
She lowered her hand to his chest to feel what his face wouldn’t show.
“Vater, he make me bury her. After he kill her.” His grip on her waist tightened. “So much pain, Bez, but is not worse than before. Is same pain. You think is possible, even if my mind did not know . . .”
“Yes. I think it’s very possible that you still felt a special bond with her, a mother’s bond, even before you knew,” she told him, brushing a kiss against his forehead. “How old was she when she . . . died?”
“Young.” His gaze returned to hers. “You did not ask how I know she is my mother.”
“Because I’m waiting for you to tell me.”
His grip relaxed, and he used his thumbs to stroke the little exposed flesh between her tank top and her leggings. “I bury her, so I know how to find her. I call police in Russia to, how you say, dig up . . . trup?”
She wouldn’t think too much about why she knew the Russian word for corpse.
“You had them exhume her corpse from where Vater had you bury her out in the woods near the school.”
“Did they question how you knew this information?”
He shrugged. “No. Is Russia.”
She assumed Julien also had something to do with it, but she didn’t push.
“I switch to Maori,” he said. “English is son of a bitch.”
She laughed. “But you’ve gotten so much better at it. Go ahead.”
“Julien said that, when a person is buried, their DNA can last for a long time,” he explained. “When they found her, I told them she might be my mother. Because of everything that happened with Vater, I told them that I was one of his boys.”
A gasp snuck out before she could reel it in. “You did? I thought you didn’t want anybody to know?”
“It was the only way, Bez.”
“I’m proud of you, Gio.” She touched another kiss to his forehead. “So freakin’ proud, and I love you so much. Go ahead.”
He continued, “She was my mother, and he was my father. It is all I know. I don’t know why he kept her with the boys and with me, and I don’t think I ever will. But now, I understand the story. The night I was born, Godmother Irina,” he paused, “my mater carried three babies back to Vater’s through the tunnels in Russia. I did not know before that she had given birth to one of the babies.”
Mo’s heart broke for the woman, possibly girl, if Giulia’s age was any indication of how young Otto abducted them. Hours, maybe even less than hours after giving birth, she’d had to escape discovery by the Russian police with not only her newborn but two others, the twins Malachi and Melnik. She’d likely only had a few moments alone with her precious boy, her Giorgio, away from Otto’s watchful evil eye.
She didn’t believe Irina had been captured by Otto. She believed Irina had gone to work for him under the impression that the position was to help out in an orphanage. Otto had then seen the girl, young and beautiful, naïve and isolated, and took advantage. Irina had then somehow managed to keep on going for the sake of the boys she was tasked to raise as well as the one she’d created in her womb.
Giorgio was strong because of his mother. That kind of strength made a home in people’s genes, their DNA.
Aleksi was going to grow up to be a formidable creature, walking around with both her and Giorgio’s badassery.
“I would like to give her a proper burial, if that is okay with you,” he informed her. “Maybe you are tired of traveling.”
Mo shook her head. “Not for this. I’d love for Aleksi to meet his other grandmother and the country where you were born.”
He swiped a tear she hadn’t felt from her cheek.
“Gio, you were loved.” Finally, she let out the joyous squeal. “Oh my gosh! This is the best news. I know it’s not the happiest of endings but she loved you, baby. She loved you, just like I do, and I thank God for her.”
He switched back to English. “I love her, Bez. She is special woman. I forget none of the stories, none of the songs. I see her face like she is still alive and sitting next to me. She is reason I love you. You are strong and kind and when rest of world turn away from my voice and my knife, you did not.”
He pressed his lips to her neck in a quick, delicate kiss—a kiss much too delicate for a man delicate didn’t suit. At least, it didn’t used to.
“She is reason I am able to love you. Is like practice. She is reason I am not, truly, das Biest. I am lucky to know her and hear her stories and her singing. I regret you did not know her, but she is in you.” He searched her face. “I see her in you and our little fish.”
These tears she felt, a wet tickle rolling down over her cheekbone to the corners of her mouth. Her nose warmed as emotion took over her whole body. She was so happy for him, her husband. Her love. The father of her child and maybe even future children.
“Thank you, Bez,” he said.
She barely got the words, “For what?” out between her quivering lips.
“Because with you, always, I will be happy.”
He tugged gently on the back of her head until their mouths came together. She thrust her tongue into his mouth, the moisture from her face wetting his skin. She would do it all over again. If she’d had the choice, she would have taken all the heartache and disappointment and the pain that came over her body just to end up here again. With him. Forever with him.
The monitor sounded. Now, when Aleksi woke up, he didn’t cry. He simply screamed at the top of his lungs like he was calling out to them, pissed they’d had the nerve to leave him alone.
Mo broke away from Giorgio’s kiss, eased off his lap, and helped him up. “Fine,” she said as she walked with him, hand in hand, to where Aleksi was tucked safe inside. “I’ll let you tell him the story of Baba Yaga.”
When they stepped inside, she found Gage in the entryway with his back turned. Tayler was walking down the stairs holding both Grey and Aleksi. When Gage turned around, something wriggled in his arms, small and brown.
“A puppy?” Mo squealed.
“Da.” Giorgio took Aleksi from Tayler’s arms. “I have promised you one.”
Mo picked up the puppy’s warm body and cradled it to her chest.
“Still a no to the piranhas, Gio.”
Gage flashed him a look.
“Okay,” Giorgio said. “I will cancel order.”
She stood watching them, the Auserwahlte and his baby boy, and knew that her life could only get better from here on out.
And it would.
Precious, Stacey, and JAB1971, y’all hit the nail on the head. Email me where you’d like me to send your gift card. (Your preferred email address)
I’ve been playing with this idea for a while now because I’d previously written Irina as Gio’s mother, but I decided not to include it in the book. However, it’s a sweet outcome for one of my favorite characters ever.
I would also like to say a special thank you for everyone who’s been here every week, reading up on Giorgio and Mo. I hope you are all doing well and will stay that way until this “storm” has passed.
I love you all!
Keep following for The Shadow, which is coming soon (I’m thinking May but it depends on the publisher) and Book 2 of The Myths, Legends, and Monsters Series.
Mo and Giorgio are from the book, “Angels and Assassins: The Dark Knight.”