Franco stumbled into the dark basement with a mingled look of shock and relief on his face. He ran his dirty hands through his thick black hair as a bit of a nervous habit. For weeks, he’d been waiting for this moment and now he was too choked up to get the words out. Of course, when had he ever needed words with Sophia. He crossed the damp, dimly lit room in a couple of strides and fell to his knees in front of the woman bound and gagged there in a rickety, wooden chair.
“I do not know how I found you,” he cried, carefully pulling the tape from her mouth, “I can’t believe I found you, Sophia. I’ve been losing my mind.” Franco pulled out his pocket knife and cut the ropes loose from her wrists and ankles.
Sophia flew forward and threw her arms around his neck. She clung to Franco, sobbing as he ran his fingers through her dark, matted hair. He pulled her back and let his eyes scan over her body for injuries. Her dark, chocolate eyes were blood shot and outlined in dark shadows. Her wrists were rubbed raw from the ropes and her hair was dirty and tangled. Overall she looked unscathed.
“Amore mio, amore mio, amore mio,” Sophia whispered over and over, holding his face in her hands, tears flowing as she spoke, “What did you do, amore mio?”
“It is not important, darling. I’m here. It’s all going to be alright.” Franco ran his thumb across her tear stained cheek. He stared deep into her big, brown eyes and found himself falling in love all over again. He leaned his forehead against hers and sighed, “What would I have done without you?”
“Amore mio,” she whispered as she tilted her face, brushing her lips gently against Franco’s trembling mouth.
Franco’s breath hitched at the touch of her kiss. He’d almost forgotten how soft and full her lips were. He felt his mouth start to move with hers. Cautious, at first, then as the heat began to flow through his body, the kiss grew more intense. He ran his hands down the curve of Sophia’s back, pulling her body into his. She fit perfectly against him. She always had; he knew she always would. His hands found the hem of her shirt and he slid them under the red fabric; his fingertips dancing along her skin.
“Well, well, prince charming has finally shown up,” A husky voice caused the lovers to release their grip on each other. “It took you long enough, Franco.”
Panic filled Franco’s eyes as he put himself in front of Sophia, blocking her from view.
His gazed went up the basement stairs and centered on the man there. He had dark hair, a neatly trimmed goatee, and wore an expensive suit. His smile was friendly but his eyes were deadly. Franco had never known whether he should trust or fear him. Bruno Giovanni; the most powerful man in Little Italy.
“You should have just done as I asked,” Bruno smiled then nodded toward something behind Franco and Sophia.
Franco turned to find out what Bruno had gestured to just as a heavy force collided with the back of his head. The pain shot through him like lightning as he fell chest down on the concrete floor. The last thing he saw before darkness took over was Sophia’s face as a silent scream escaped her lips. A scream that was obviously a call for him; “Amore mio”.
Franco opened his eyes and squinted at the light in the room. Everything was spinning and his head was exploding with pain. He squeezed his eyes tight as an attempt to cease the swaying of the room. Slowly, he opened them again, regaining some focus. He glanced around, attempting to analyze his surroundings, but the room was completely bare aside from the chair he sat tied to. The walls were white and window less. Empty and cold. He knew this is where he was going to die.
“Did you have a nice nap?” Franco heard Bruno’s voice come from then now open door. Bruno was smiling. That same welcoming smile he always had plastered to his face. That deceiving smile that made people trust every word he said.
“Where’s Sophia?” Franco groaned.
“Ah, my friend, she’s right outside. I’ll bring her in shortly but first, I have a question that I’m going to need an answer to.” Bruno strolled across the bare floor until he stood directly in front of the chair Franco sat bound to. “Where’d you hide it?”
“I didn’t,” Franco stuttered, dropping his brown eyes to the floor. “I don’t know where it is, Mr. Giovanni.”
“So, it just up and disappeared then?” Bruno’s eyes blazed, but that sweet smile held firm. He turned toward the door and called out, “Bring her in.”
A large man drug Sophia through the door. She looked different than she had in the basement. She was cleaned up and her jeans and t-shirt had been replaced by a sleek, red dress that showed off her voluptuous figure. Franco could see the tattoo on the cleavage showing of her left breast; “amore mio”. She always kept him close to her heart.
Bruno’s goon stood Sophia directly in front of Franco and placed the barrel of a gun against her temple. Her bottom lip quivered as she attempted to fight back the tears lining her eyes. She stared into Franco’s eyes with a look of confusion and acceptance. Confused as to why she was in this situation but accepting that she was about to perish. Franco dropped his eyes from hers; ashamed in himself for placing in the middle of this mess he called life.
“Look at her!” Bruno snapped, moving behind Franco and grabbing a fist full of his hair; forcing his head forward. “Look at her! If you love her at all, you’ll tell me where it is.”
“I don’t…I have no idea” Franco stammered. Disappointment washed over his lover’s face as the tears broke free from their wall. He watched as she cried and gulped for breath and control. His heart shattered at the sight of her pain. His world crumbled at the thought of a lifetime without her. “My house,” he whispered, “beneath the floor boards in the spare bedroom’s closet. It’s all there. Please, just let her go. I’m begging you.”
“I knew you’d come to your senses” Bruno’s kindly voice echoed in the empty room and nodded toward his brute of an employee.
The man holding Sophia pulled the trigger and the bullet danced clean through her skull. Blood poured down her front, blending with her elegant dress. Her small body fell into a heap on the floor as the hands that had been restraining her released. Lifeless; Sophia laid in a crimson lake.
Bruno smiled kindly at Franco’s grief stricken expression. “Love is a dangerous game my friend especially when the game is meant to be war.” He untied Franco from the chair and walked toward the door.
Franco fell to his knees and crawled through the pool of blood surrounding Sophia. His body heaved with uncontrollable gasps. He ran his red stained fingers across the little black tattoo on her chest and he whispered continuously, “amore mio, amore mio, amore mio”.
“By the way, Franco” Bruno spoke cheerfully, “Happy Valentine’s Day.”