Stella's eyes were closed when the shot rang out. However, the pain never arrived. She saw Aunt Pene standing before her with a bleeding shoulder. Stella's eyes went wide as she took in the bright red blood colouring her olive skin. Her eyes met Reagan's who registered a similar note of fear. The sound of the fired gun was enough to start a stampede outside. There were gunshots outside the door.
"Aunt Pene, that was foolish of you," Stella scolded.
"Hush girl, a shoulder wound is better than a bullet to the heart. Ask Andrew about it when he stitches me up," she sassed.
"Shut up," Reagan shouted. "I still hold the gun, remember?"
"Amanda, do you know a thing about possessive husbands?" Penelope piped despite the pain evident in her scrunched up face. "They don't like the thought of their wives defending themselves. The one bullet you fired was the only one bullet which I had. Now I assume you had to give up your weapons at the door like the rest of the guests. So you are almost unarmed. Why do you think we should fear you?"
"I have armed guards dressed as security, guarding this door at the moment," she provided as way of argument.
"Can't you hear that the gunfight is over and between the both of us we know who won because they had the larger number of guns anyways," Penelope argued.
Just then there was a crashing noise against the door and a group of armed guards rushed in through the open door of the washroom.
"Your game is up Reagan," Frederick said walking in.
"No you fools. It has just begun," she said while taking a gun from a nearby guard and shooting herself in the stomach.
Reagan collapsed on the floor as Staviano rushed at his wife's side. Aunt Pene was bleeding fast. Andrew stepped forward and urged her into an adjoining bedroom where he would be able to dislodge the bullet and dress the wound. Stella stepped forward and touched Reagan's neck for a pulse. She found a weak one.
"What do we do with her?" she asked her husband.
"Did you find a pulse?" he asked.
She nodded subtly.
"Then we ferry her off to a hospital and keep her under vigilance. We also need to report the incident to the police so that we are in the right. Self-defence is never a crime and no one can accuse us of it. " he said.
Frederick's eyes shifted to Stella who did not look shaken enough. He was prepared to battle her hysteria after such an incident. However, she held her head high and seemed contemplative as she glanced at the small pool of blood that lay where earlier aunt Penelope did. Frederick walked slowly so as to not startle his wife and proceeded to rub circles down her back.
"Aunt Pene took a bullet for me. I am indebted to her for life," she whispered to her husband's touch.
"It is a part of the family code. Anything comes we protect our own, no matter the differences that separate us," Frederick explained.
"So when you brought your family to justice, did you break the code?" Stella asked with trepidation.
"I bought immunity for my family with the evidence I presented in court. That was the price. My family was never charged with anything but their business associates were. Their illegal practices had to stop. The Bartoli gang ceased to exist. I disappointed my father who envisioned me as the next Don." Frederick revealed.
"You can never disappoint anyone. You did well. But how did your family die? I assumed that they were convicted." Stella admitted.
"My father died of old age. I was a late child born to one of his mistresses. His wife was barren. She killed my mother because she didn't want her to have a say in my life. I was brought up as their son until my father's death. On the reading of his will, my father left everything to me. She was angry as she left to live with her brothers." Frederick reminisced.
"That is the property you and Tom used to found your lifestyle business," Stella commented.
Fred nodded as his hand progressed to rub Stella's shoulders.
"Your father's wife, is she alive?" Stella asked.
"Yes, she is," Frederick answered on a sigh.
"Where is she?" Stella asked out of curiosity.
"Only Reagan may have answered that. She is after all a Regnante."
I started this chapter back in October but the story rang with such a note of finality that I was loath to execute it. It is not even a novella in its length. However, I know now what I need to do.
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