Raffaele: Taming His Tempestuous Virgin(6)

By: Sandra Marton


Perfect, Rafe thought as he got behind the wheel. A gangster’s son on a gangster’s errand, driving a gangster’s car. All he needed was a fat cigar between his teeth.

So much for being in a better mood.

Things didn’t improve after that. He’d been far too generous, calling the ribbon of potholed dirt with the steep slope of the mountain on one side and a dizzying plummet to the valley on the other a goat track.

It was more like a disaster waiting to happen.

Ten miles. Twenty. Thirty, and he’d yet to see another car. Not that he was complaining. There wasn’t really enough room for two cars. There wasn’t really enough room for—

Something black bolted from the trees and into the road.

Rafe cursed and stood on the brakes. The tires fought for purchase; the big car shimmied from side to side. It took all his skill to bring it to a stop. When he did, the hood was inches from the yawning space that overhung the valley.

He sat absolutely still. His hands, clutching the steering wheel, were trembling. He could hear the faint tick-tick of the cooling engine, the thud of his own heart.

Gradually the ticking of the engine faded. His heartbeat slowed. He dragged air into his lungs.

Okay. The thing to do was back up, very carefully…

Something banged against his door. Rafe turned toward the half-open window. There was a guy outside the car and he was obviously dressed for an early Halloween. Black shirt. Black trousers.

Black boots.

And an ancient, long-barreled black pistol, pointed straight at Rafe’s head.

He’d heard stories of road bandits in Sicily and laughed them off, but only a jackass would laugh at this.

The guy made some kind of jerking motion with the pistol. What did it mean? Get out of the car?

Hell, no. Rafe wasn’t about to do that. The pistol waved again. Or was it shaking? Was the guy shaking? Yeah. He was, and that was not good. A nervous thief with a gun…

A nervous thief with white, wispy hair and rheumy eyes. And liver spots on the hand that held the pistol.

Wonderful. He was going to be robbed and killed by somebody’s grandfather.

Rafe cleared his throat. “Easy, Grandpa,” he said, even though the odds were good the old boy couldn’t understand a word of English. He held up his hands, showed that they were empty, then slowly opened the door. The bandit stepped to the side and Rafe got out, carefully skirting the edge of the road and the void beyond it. “Do you speak English?” Nothing. He searched his memory. “Voi, ah, voi parlate inglese?” Still nothing. “Okay, look, I’m going to take my wallet from my pocket and give it to you. Then I’m gonna get back in the car and—”

The pistol arced through the air. He tried not to wince as it wobbled past his face.

“Watch yourself, Gramps, or that thing’s liable to go off. Okay. Here comes my wallet—”

“No!”

The old man’s voice shook. Shaking voice. Shaking hand. This was getting better and better. It would make an even better story than the one he’d already figured on telling his brothers, assuming he lived to tell it.

“Hugoahway!”

Hugoahway? What did that mean? The old guy’s name, maybe, but it didn’t sound Italian or Sicilian.

The old man poked the end of the pistol into Rafe’s flat belly. Rafe narrowed his eyes.

Another poke. Another gruff “Hugoahway” and, damn it, enough was enough. Rafe grabbed the barrel of the pistol, yanked it from the bandit’s shaking fingers and tossed it over the cliff.

“Okay,” he said, reaching for the old man, “okay, that’s—Oof!”

Something hit him, hard, from the rear. It was a second thief, wrapping his arms around Rafe’s neck as he climbed on his back. Rafe grabbed his assailant’s arms and wrenched the guy off him.

The thief grunted, struggled, but he was a lightweight, and Rafe swung him around, worked his hands down to the guy’s wrists…

Hell, this one was only a kid. Not just lightweight but flyweight. The kid, too, was dressed all in black, this time including a deep-brimmed, old-fashioned fedora that obscured his face.

A flyweight, but a fighter.

The kid was all over him, kicking, trying to claw him, damn it, trying to bite him! Rafe hoisted the boy to his toes.

“Stop it,” he shouted.

The kid snarled something unintelligible in return, lifted a knee and took aim. Rafe twisted away.

“Are you deaf, boy? I said, stop!”

Evidently, stop didn’t translate well because the kid didn’t. He came at Rafe and the old guy joined the fracas, pummeling him with what looked like a small tree branch.

“Hey,” Rafe said indignantly. This was not how things were supposed to go. He was the tough guy here; tough guys didn’t get beaten up by boys and old men. He knew damned well he could stop the attack, just a couple of good punches would do it, but the thought of hitting Methuselah and a teenage delinquent was unappealing.

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