Angel at the Auction


It’d been years since I last stepped foot in Sala delle Rose, the grotesquely enormous mansion situated on the Jersey coast. I avoided this place if I could help it. Grecian columns lined a long foyer as I walked toward the ballroom. Yes, a fucking ballroom. Riccardo Marino’s grandfather had built this place back in the early nineteen thirties and had apparently thought of everything when it came to what his descendants might get up to when he was six feet under and nothing but a mural on the wall.

The Marinos were once the family—the ones calling the shots and ruling over practically the entire east coast. But Riccardo’s rise to power some thirty years ago saw the end of their reign. Now, the man threw his fancy parties and sat on his throne, which was exactly that: a big golden chair with red velvet cushions that overlooked the entire ballroom.

I smirked as I entered and looked around.

“Your mask?”

I turned, looking Riccardo’s son Niccolò in the eyes. His pupils widened before he gave me a quick up and down. Perhaps he was looking for a weapon. Perhaps he was confirming who he was looking at. Once confirmed, he took a step back.

“No,” I said coldly, giving him a twitch of a smile. “Don’t need it, do I?”

Every man in this room would know who I was even with a mask covering my face. There was no point in trying to shield my identity in a room full of enemies. Even on a night like this, where alliances were made between families who normally loathed each other, competed against each other, and solved their issues with death while others formed new grudges and made promises of revenge.

No, I wouldn’t be wearing a mask to the Marinos’ annual Rose Ball. And those who did? Cowards. All of them.

“On your left,” Tommaso, my right-hand and friend for many years, chirped somewhere behind me, but his warning came too late.

“Killian! My boy,” Carmine Alphonsi drawled in a thick, smoky voice as he clapped a large, sweaty hand on my shoulder. I rolled my eyes to his, then to his companion, a man I assumed was part of the Alphonsi family dynasty, but I couldn’t be so sure with the stupid fucking mask he was wearing. “It’s been a few years.”

“Uncle,” I said in greeting, mustering a tight-lipped smile.

Carmine puffed from a cigar, his mask barely fitting over his wide, overweight face. He was my mother’s cousin in one way or another.

“He gets his looks from my side of the family, obviously,” Carmine said to his masked companion, shrugging his massive shoulders. “Henry CavillSuperman looking motherfucker, this one. Can’t you see the resemblance?” It was obvious Carmine had no plans to introduce me to whoever he was talking to. It was also obvious my looks had nothing in common with the Alphonsi family, given that I towered over the man by at least a foot, and his body could only be described as that of a man who ate too many cold cuts over the course of his life with no plans to ever stop.

Tommaso snorted a laugh behind me, but I ignored him.

“I didn’t think the Alphonsi family was invited this year.” I tilted my head as I looked down at my uncle. “Given the whole… Boston incident.”

“Bygones,” Carmine said with a wave of his hand. “At least for tonight.”

“Sure.” I smiled darkly, glancing at Tommaso as he rocked on his heels and looked over the crowd. Bygones… there was no such thing in this world. Even with the Rose Ball being a night where rivalries and grudges were set aside, the entire ballroom hummed with nervous energy as I stepped past my cousin and walked deeper into the crowd. How many of these men had killed the loved ones of others? I walked amongst murderers of the worst kind here, but I fit right in. Hell, I could have been their fucking mascot.

Tommaso moved up beside me and spoke in a low voice. “Why aren’t you wearing a mask, Killian?”

“There’s no point when I tower over everyone here. Anyway, let them see me.” Let them all see me. Let them all watch as Tommaso places my bid and starts a war.

That’s what this night was really for, placing bids on the women brought in from all over the east. It was meant to be a night of pure, unadulterated debauchery without the risk of bloodshed or the cops showing up. That’s what the Marinos were good for these days. They had a strongly rooted relationship with the authorities here in Jersey that helped keep their interest in the skin trade under wraps. Mafia families from all over—Philly, Jersey, Boston, New York—descended upon Sala Delle Rose once a year just for this.

Women were already being brought on stage as I came to a stop in the center of the crowd. Red paddles with black numbers were held up and shouts could be heard over the lively chatter.

This is what the masks were really for—hiding the identities of the buyers so that no one would know where these women would end up. Most, if not all of the women, were connected to the mafia in some way. Say someone snitched on his Don—the wife and daughters would be taken and sold, just like that. Or someone who paid for the protection of a family could have his daughter kidnapped and sold for failing to pay his tithe. The reasoning for it could be as grave as revenge for a death, or as simple as teaching someone a lesson about loyalty and obedience.

“Do you know what she looks like?” Tommaso asked as he handed me a paddle. I looked down at the number.

“I have a general sense of who I’m looking for.” I scanned the crowd as a young red-headed beauty was dragged onstage in little more than a black chemise. She wasn’t the one, so I ignored her, turning my attention to Tommaso instead. “It shouldn’t be too difficult. I was told she takes after her father.”

I’d heard rumors something had been brewing in the lead-up to the auction. There were several prominent families feuding right now. I glanced at Riccardo briefly as he sat on his gilded throne before turning back to the stage just in time to see a gorgeous, albeit absolutely terrified woman, walk into the spotlight, dragged forward by Niccolò Marino of all people.

That itself told me that this one was important.

Dark brown hair fell over her face as he shoved her forward. She fell onto her knees, her hands cuffed behind her back.

My fingers curled around the paddle as she looked up through her hair. Pale brown eyes that felt so incredibly familiar scanned the crowd before she locked her gaze with mine. Even from a distance, I saw tears clinging to her dark lashes. Her lips parted and she inhaled sharply, but her eyes remained fixed on mine—unblinking, wide, and petrified.

Comments (3)
goodnovel comment avatar
Mhizz L Hewitt
A very beautiful story
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Marilyn Udag
amazing story
goodnovel comment avatar
Aida Sahab
beautifaul story

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