Home > Echo (The Alpha Elite Series)

Echo (The Alpha Elite Series)
Author: Sybil Bartel

Nine years ago




Palermo, Sicily


Sighting, I exhaled.

Then I pulled the trigger.

A second later, my round hit the stronzo, the fucker’s head exploded, and bystanders in the crowd across the piazza screamed as they dispersed.

Quickly unscrewing the stock and folding the bipod, I broke down my TAC-50 as my cell vibrated. Stowing the sniper rifle in my bag and zipping it shut before shouldering it, I answered Giancarlo’s call. “What?”

“Is it done?”


“Did you do it how I asked?”

My oldest brother was an asshole. He was also the Don of our famiglia. I was a lot of things, none of them good, but a walking death wish wasn’t one of them. If Giancarlo told me to pull the trigger, I fucking did it. Not that I respected him or his methods, but it was kill or be killed in this life. “Don’t I always?”

“You need to learn some respect,” Giancarlo warned.

“You need to earn some,” I shot back, descending the stairs.

“I am Don Mantovani. I fucking have it.”

No, he didn’t. He had a reputation. A violent one thanks to me. “Fear isn’t respect.”

“‘It is better to be feared than to be loved,’” he spewed, citing the quote our father had drilled into us.

Ignoring his bullshit, I quickly glanced around a corner, checking the hallway on the first floor of the residential building. Empty. “You never bother me when I’m on a job.” The arrogant prick demanded I call him and report in once my hits were executed. “What do you want?” Leaving the stairwell, I headed to the alley behind the building.

“Get back to the estate. You’re coming to a dinner with me tonight.”

“Not happening.” I was the trigger. “I don’t do bullshit dinners.” I didn’t show my face anywhere I didn’t need to.

“You are not a guest. You’re reinforcement. Dinner is at eight, but we need to leave at seven. You’re driving.”

Scanning the alley and the street beyond, I tossed my bag into the back of my Mercedes AMG G63 and got behind the wheel. Glancing at my watch, I turned the engine over. “Won’t make it. That’s in less than a half hour. Get Ademaro to drive you or, better yet, Caio. That asshole lives to drive.”

“That stronzo is your brother, and Caio drives like he is on the racetrack no matter the circumstance. I’m not stupid enough to get into any vehicle with him behind the wheel. Ademaro is attending the dinner with me. I need you there.”

Translation, he needed someone intimidating and willing to pull the trigger, and he didn’t want this leaking beyond immediate famiglia. “What kind of dinner is this?” I pulled onto the busy city streets of Palermo.

“The business kind.”

Business my ass. “You said extortion wrong.”

“I am Don Mantovani,” he spit out, as if I needed a reminder of who the fuck my brother was.

“Say no more,” I deadpanned.

His anger hitting as fast as his temper, he brought up the one thing he thought he could hold over my head. “If you don’t like your last name, then go swear omertà to the Arcuri or Vincenzo famiglias.”

In other words, become a pussy. “You done?”

“Get back to the estate,” he ordered.

Driving out of the city proper, already on my way, I lied. “Like I said, won’t make it. We have dozens of soldiers you can call last minute. Use someone else. I need to handle some shit.” Mainly my rifle and clothes. Never trust anyone to clean up after you. I not only needed a shower, I needed to destroy trace evidence of both gunshot residue and blood because my last bullet hadn’t been my only target today.

“Your affairs can wait. I am not asking,” Giancarlo warned.

“I’m covered in blood.” Not technically untrue.

His pause was only a fraction of a second, but it was enough to tell me he was strung tighter than usual. “What happened?”


“Then why are you bloodied?” he demanded.

“Another day in the life.” What the fuck else was new?

“You are hit?”

“Would you care?”

“I would call in the dottore.”

I snorted. “I don’t need a doctor.” Asshole. “But good to know you got my back.” He didn’t, not unless it benefitted him. I didn’t give a damn what he or anyone else in this life said, loyalty was an illusion.

“I will have Consigliere waiting with a clean shirt. Meet me in the driveway of the main house.” Giancarlo hung up.

Cursing, I turned down the dirt lane that cut through the vineyards on the back half of the sprawling estate that overlooked the Mediterranean.

Not giving a shit about kicking up dust on Giancarlo’s prized grapes that were ready for harvest, I drove too fast toward the house that had been in our famiglia for over a century.





I stared unseeing at the pages of the book in my hand.

I did not need to read it.

Same as most of the books in the library, I had read it a dozen times already.

But I needed a distraction.

Papà was not doing well.

He had woken up noticeably worse.

His cough was heavier, and his voice was hoarser, but he would not let me call the doctor. He would not even let me help him. Saying he had a dinner to get ready for, he had banished me to my room and told me to stay upstairs, and I knew what that meant.

Stay out of sight no matter what.

It was a directive had given me many times, but tonight I had not liked the tone in his voice. Something was wrong. More wrong than… I could not bring myself to finish the thought.

I did not want to.

I was only glad that we had come to the country villa yesterday. That meant I did not have to deal with Papà’s horrible house staff, especially one maid in particular who had been hired a year ago. I hated her. She was awful to me. But despite my complaints to Papà, some as fresh as yesterday before the driver had brought us out here, Papà had sternly dismissed them and said she was “needed.”

That had not sat right with me either.

Papà had never sided with house staff over me before.

It was only me and him, and Papà was rarely harsh, let alone dismissive of my concerns, which only made me that much more upset with his stern behavior earlier when he had banished me to my room.

Overly aware of every moment, wondering each day if it would be my last with him, I dropped the book and stood.

I could not allow things to remain how our last conversation had ended. Dinner or not, I needed to speak to him.

Going to my door and slipping my flats on, I opened it and rushed across the carpeted hall to his room.

Before I could knock, his door opened and Papà blinked, showing a moment of surprise. “Cara mia.”

That was how I knew he did not feel good. “Nothing surprises you, Papà.” He always heard me coming. I used to think his hearing was so good, he could detect my movements through the walls.

“Sancia.” In a rare display of frustration, he grasped my upper arm. “I told you before—stay in your room.”

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