By Any Other Name (Forbidden #1) - J.M. Darhower
"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 2
Two families, both alike in reputation,
In the streets of New York, where we lay our scene,
A power struggle gives way to a deadly rivalry,
Where spilled innocent blood makes everyone's hands unclean.
The restaurant stood in the southern most section of Little Italy, an upscale brick pizzeria on the corner of a block. Windows spanned the entire front of the building, once giving a clear picture of the fancy red and gold trimmed booths and hanging chandeliers inside, but the glass had since been tinted, blacked out to obscure the view.
The people who frequented the place didn't like to be watched.
Primo Galante stepped out the front door one Friday night in the summer of 1993, followed by his wife, Cara. Once a bona fide beauty queen, Cara had long ago exchanged her crown and sash for diapers and pacifiers, giving up pageants for motherhood and marriage.
She was still the most beautiful woman to ever walk the earth, according to Primo. His love for her had only grown stronger over the years, and standing there, watching her as she held tightly to their youngest, little Genevieve, he felt his heart swell in his chest. His baby girl looked just like her mother, with the same black hair and bright blue eyes. She would be a heartbreaker someday, ripping hearts straight from men's chests with just a simple look, much like Cara had done to him the first time he laid eyes on her years ago.
The boys ran around them, weaving between their legs as they laughed and played, hands held in the shape of guns as they pretend-shot at each other. Cara rolled her eyes at their game, but Primo grinned with satisfaction. His boys. They were his pride and joy, especially his Joey, with so much wit and intelligence at only seven years old. Dante, just barely five, was much more sensitive of the two. Joey was the leader, diving headfirst into everything, so fearless and outgoing, whereas Dante merely followed his brother's every move with a quiet reflection. Deep, that boy was. Maybe even too deep.
"Happy birthday, Primo," Cara said, setting Genevieve down in the gravel lot on her feet. The girl swayed, sleepy and just getting used to her new white dress shoes, the front of her pink fluffy dress covered in pizza sauce. She got her bearings quickly and toddled off after her big brothers.
Primo pulled his wife to him and gently kissed her blood-red lips. His thirtieth birthday. This was the year… the year everything changed, the year he made his long-anticipated big moves. He had already set it all in motion. It didn't matter who he had to knock down to succeed. It was only a matter of time before he came out on top.
"I can't wait to get you home," he whispered against her mouth, his hands gripping her hips, fingers brushing against the bare skin beneath the hemline of her shirt. "I want to unwrap my present."
"Hmm," she said, a playful twinkle in her eyes. "What present would that be?"
"You," he said, nipping at her bottom lip. "I want to unwrap it, and play with it all night long."
She laughed, pushing away from him, her eyes scanning the lot for their children. He didn't come first anymore, and he accepted that. These days, he was more like fourth in line for her attention. She stepped over to where Genevieve was bent over, digging rocks out of the ground, her sticky hands covered in filth.
Primo turned to the door of the pizzeria when it opened and some of his business associates stepped out. He struck up conversation with them, finalizing the deal they'd been hashing out over dinner to break into a new territory just south in Chinatown as they finally hedged their way into Little Italy.
But he wouldn’t stop there, no. Before it was all over, every block in Manhattan would belong to him.
One of the men glanced over Primo's shoulder as they chatted, eyes narrowing suspiciously as he gazed out toward the street. "Hey, Primo, you know that car?"
Primo turned immediately, spotting the black car creeping up, coming to a stop right across the street. "No."
"That's the second time it came by since we've been standing here," the man said. "Stopped both times."
Coldness swept through Primo as he stared at it. The generic black car could belong to anyone, but it wasn't anyone