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Lucian (Filthy Marcellos #1)

Chapter One

Crouched low, eight-year-old Luciano Grovatti hoped no one passing by the dark alleyway could see his small form resting beside the restaurant dumpster. The roadway and sidewalk seemed busy tonight, but he risked it anyway. It was the best place to find food, even if it was dangerous. On more than one occasion, he'd heard shouts coming from inside the business. He always made sure to hightail it as quick as possible when that happened.

The alley smelled awful, like garbage and death. But it was warm, and the sloped roof above provided shelter from the wetness of spring in the city. It was also relatively warmer because of the heating vents blowing out a steady stream of hot air from inside the business.

Soon, he would turn nine.

This was not how he thought he would spend any birthdays.

How many birthdays had passed since he'd been on the streets, now?

Holding up his dirty hand, Luciano ticked off the seasons he'd watched come and go. Spring, fall, winter, and summer. They repeated twice by his count and memory. Two years, he thought. It was an awfully long time for a little boy to be on the streets of New York, slumming it in alleys to find food, and struggling with older squatters for a safe shelter to sleep.

Luciano knew no other way.

At least it was warm enough to keep the shivering at bay tonight.

"Are you hungry, child?"

The voice came from nowhere. It was dark and deep, that of a man. It was also vaguely familiar. He spoke in Italian, not English, though Luciano would have understood either language. Luciano's eyes popped open to darkness, fear saturating his insides. Instantly his gaze swept the opening of the alleyway to see if someone had slipped in and seen him when he let his guard drop down.

How stupid could he be?

Looking back over his shoulder, Luciano stared directly into the green eyes of a man who kneeled down to his level. Something warm smelling and sugary wafted under the spicy tones of the man's cologne. In his clean, pressed suit, the man seemed almost regal to the dirty, tiny Luciano. Even his shoes shined in the dank alley.

Holding out a package, the man said, "Take it."

Luciano hesitated. "No, thank you."

"It won't hurt you, I promise. It's just cookies. Chocolate chip. Fresh from the oven. My favorite."

Luciano still refused to take the package. Locked in a staring contest with the unknown man, the boy felt like he was being visually searched by the eyes looking him over. Carefully, a hand reached out and brushed the too long hair from Luciano's forehead with a tenderness that frightened him.

Like a skittish mouse, Luciano moved back quickly, his spine slamming into the dumpster. The man frowned at the obvious display of fear. "I won't hurt you, child. I could never hurt you." 

What did this man want from him?

"Your name?" the man asked in Italian.

Luciano whimpered. "Please don't hurt me."

"I said I wouldn't. Your name, child."


"Your surname?" he pressed gently. "Please, tell me the name given to you by your father."

Luciano shook his head wildly. It was something he knew he should never tell, not to anyone. His mother had been adamant, his last name was not a safe thing to speak out loud. There were people who would hurt him just for knowing where he came from.

Sighing, the man rubbed at his forehead. "How long have you lived like this, then?"

Holding up his hand once more, Luciano held out two fingers.

The man flinched. "And your mother?"

"She told me to hide."

"Of course she did." The man stood, brushing off his pant legs. "You thought you were being careful, child, but my men have seen you digging around here more than once. I own this restaurant, you see. The only thing that stopped them from scaring you away was the fact they heard you muttering about in Italian. When they described you  …  I had to see for myself."

See what?

Luciano couldn't hold the man's gaze any longer. It turned from seeking, to sadness and pity. "Please, sir, if I promise not to come back here, would you let me go?"


"W-what? Why?"

"I knew your father, child. He was my very best friend. He would be sorely disappointed in me if I let you continue on like this."

Luciano forced himself to swallow the bad taste in his mouth. "My father?"

"My name is Antony. I was, like your father was, a caporegime. I am the boss, now. The boss, child. Do you understand what that means?"

Faint memories bubbled up to the surface. Words from men Luciano didn't understand well enough, though he knew his father was one of them. La Cosa Nostra. The family. His mother, a goomah for his father.

Antony was speaking again, bringing the boy from his thoughts. "I knew of your mother, but I didn't know about you until after. And for that, I am so sorry."

"Momma?" Luciano managed to ask.

Antony gave a single nod in response, smiling tightly. "Would you like to sleep in a bed tonight, Luciano?"

"I  … " Could he trust this Antony?

"I have two little boys of my own," Antony continued, his tone growing softer. "Dante and Giovanni. Dante just turned eight. Gio is six, going on seven. I bet they would love to meet you, and have someone new to play with."

"She told me to hide," Luciano said quietly, needing the man to understand. "I shouldn't."

"You don't have to hide anymore, okay? I made the men who hurt your madre and your padre go away. I am boss, remember?"

"Boss," Luciano echoed.

"A bed?" Antony asked once more.


Antony's smile grew to a brilliant grin. Then, two men slipped into the mouth of the alley, shadowing the bit of light the street afforded. One held a blanket, while the other simply stood silent and stoic with his arms crossed. With a snap of Antony's fingers, the man with the blanket came further in and handled the article over. Antony used it to cover Luciano without a word.

"Want me to take him, Boss?"

"No," Antony said firmly, barely glancing at the other man. "He will be raised as my son, now. I will take him."

My son.

Before Luciano could say a word, he found himself picked up by Antony as if he didn't weigh a thing. Instinctively, he wrapped his arms around the man's neck and his legs around his waist. Antony let out a shaky breath in response, but said nothing about the smell lingering on the boy, or the dirtiness staining his pristine suit.


"From now on, we will call you Lucian. Lucian Marcello. Do you understand?"

Luciano nodded. "Sì."

"Let's go home, Lucian. My wife has waited a long time to meet you."

• • •

Lucian awoke with a jolt. Sweat slicked up his skin, leaving beads of perspiration dotting across his naked chest. For a brief moment, he struggled to adjust his eyes to the dark room, but it didn't take long for him to remember where he was, or for the familiar space to seep comfort into his suddenly aching muscles with their old memories.

It wasn't often he dreamed of that night in Brooklyn, not anymore. Sometimes it would creep into his mind and it wouldn't let go. The memory itself wasn't a nightmare. Antony taking him off the streets, giving him a home, brothers, a mother and a father, had been the very best thing for Lucian. It was everything else surrounding that night, the things that came before  …  those were the nightmares, now.

Lucian released a heavy breath, raking his fingers through his hair as he sat up in his old bed. As hard as he tried, he couldn't come up with a good reason for why he was dreaming of that night. It wasn't like his biological parents were on his mind lately.

He had parents-ones who loved him very much.

There wasn't a thing Lucian wanted for when he grew up in the Marcello home, although it took him an entire month of sleeping in a closet before he felt comfortable with the size of his new bedroom. His hesitance to trust Antony or Cecelia-Lucian's adoptive mother-had broken their hearts, but they gave him space and time until he was ready for all that love, support, and care they gave to him.

His new brothers had been the most welcoming, and probably the most frightening. As funny as it was now, the two boys full of nothing but piss, energy, and an abundance of Italian cuss words scared the living hell out of Lucian. They liked to rough house then just as much as they did as adults. Dante was the largest of the three Marcello boys, though Lucian towered over him by a couple of inches in height now. Giovanni-Gio to his family and friends-was definitely the smartest and most cunning of the three, always leading them into some kind of trouble and then managing to get himself out of it when they were later caught.

Lucian had good memories of his later childhood. Antony and Cecelia had given him all that he lost, and even the things he didn't have before his mother's death.

They never hid the truth from him, either.

The mother he so adored was for all purposes, his father's mistress. Someone he loved, yes, but not someone he was willing to marry or leave his wife for. After all, marriage was for life in their world. It didn't have to be about love, and his father's marriage certainly wasn't for that.