Brianna sat in the seat next to Nova’s bed, because they had talked Carmen into lying down after Dr. Acciai adjusted Nova’s medicine. This time, Dr. Acciai didn’t bother going back upstairs. He ended up taking a nap on a couch in the basement.
They turned off all televisions and were trying to keep the basement extra quiet with so many of them sleeping. Brianna kept staring at her phone, waiting for it to make a sound and give her some sort of indication Tino was safe. A text. A call. Anything.
“Does glaring at it make it work better?” Carina asked from her seat next to Brianna. “Little woman, sitting by the phone, waiting for Prince Charming to show up and save the day.”
“Please shut up,” Brianna whispered, because it seemed the Moretti way of dealing with stress was to bicker.
As though Brianna fell perfectly into her trap, Carina tilted her head, and asked in a dangerous voice, “What did you just say to me?”
“I said, shut up. I’m sick of listening to you bitch about Tino, like you’re so much better than me because you can’t commit.” Brianna loved Carina, but she was officially sick of her. “Fuck you.”
“Okay, brave.” Carina let out a harsh laugh, and had the gall to say, “Starting shit with me. . . on purpose.”
Brianna just raised her hand, giving Carina the middle finger as she went back to looking at her phone.
“I do commit, by the way,” Carina growled. “Just because it’s not to the All Mighty-D doesn’t mean I’m not loyal. I give you shit because I care about you, Bri.”
Brianna rounded on her. “What is wrong with loving him? What is wrong with that?”
Carina looked back to Nova and held up her hands. “This is what’s wrong with it.” She pointed to Brianna’s phone with exaggeration. “That’s what’s wrong with it. He will always be running from something and every time you’ll be staring at a phone that won’t--”
A shrill ring cut off Carina as it echoed around the basement. Brianna jumped up, recognizing the ring as Nova’s burner phone. Only she didn’t remember where the hell she left it. The sound echoed around the basement, making her breathing shallow in fear, since burner phones always seemed to bring bad news.
By the time she got to the bedroom, Carmen was sitting up in bed and holding out the phone from where it was left on the nightstand. Brianna grabbed it from her. Again, she didn’t recognize the number, but it was Brooklyn’s area code. She was certain it was Tino.
She answered quickly, “Hello?”
“Hey, baby,” Tino said in a controlled, but angry voice. “Can I talk to Nova? Is he up? I just saw your texts. Has he been watching the news?”
“We haven’t told him about the news. He’s really confrontational when he’s awake,” Brianna said breathlessly. “We just gave him something to help him rest.”
“Cazzo.” Tino groaned. “Is the don there?”
“No, he left to the Dyker Heights house now that he’s sure Nova will be okay.”
“God, fuck, that means I have to call him there. Shit’s closing in. I’ve got teams on my ass. I’ll get there as fast as I can, but I don’t want to drag the heat with me. Assume you’re getting raided soon. I’m using my friend’s burner, but I don’t want to stay on long. Wake Nova up, turn on the news for him. He’ll know what to do.”
“How soon do you think an actual raid could happen?”
“It could be any minute.” Tino sounded frantic enough to terrify her. “The feds are staking out our hangouts, that means raids are next.”
“I can’t just wake him up! It’s not that easy!” Brianna shouted back at him. “We’ll have to hide him instead.”
“You said he was okay!”
“He is okay, but he’s still recovering! What if he’s groggy in front of the investigators?”
“Make him some fucking coffee. Ask the doctor for something,” Tino said in grim warning. “He’s Nova, he can do it. I promise. Get him up right now.”
“But—” Brianna looked past the open door to Nova’s bed where he was still passed out.
“I love you. I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Tino said quickly, and then added. “I’m sorry. And baby—”
“Yeah?” Brianna asked, feeling beyond overwhelmed.
“Stay away from Gino until I get there. I’ll handle it, okay?”
Brianna nodded, and whispered, “Okay.”
“See you soon.”
The line went dead, and she just stared at the flip phone in her hand for one long second. Then, she turned to look at Carina, who was standing in the doorway
“Tino thinks we’re about to get raided. He says he’s being followed,” she whispered into the silence. “We need to get Nova up to help handle it.”
“I don’t think you clarified to Tino exactly how fucked up Nova is right now?” Carina held up her hands to her sleeping brother. “He can’t talk to anyone like this.”
“This would be why I didn’t want to push the button.” Carmen stood, and pulled her hair out of its bun, letting her curls fall around her face. She started crunching them between her fingers. “I’ll wake him. You go find him a suit. Three piece, something sharp and expensive that’ll intimidate the investigators.” Carmen must’ve sensed something in Brianna’s look, because she asked, “You do know how to dress a man properly?”
Brianna opened her mouth but couldn’t find the right words. Truth was, she had no earthly idea how to pick out a men’s suit specifically to intimidate investigators. She never had to dress Tino before. He was always perfectly capable of dressing himself.
“Monte is still upstairs. He’s the acting consigliere while Nova’s out. I’ll tell him Tino thinks a raid is coming and grab some of Nova’s clothes,” Carina said quickly, like she sensed Brianna needed the rescue.
Carina dashed out of the room. A few seconds later, the sound of her shoes pounding against the stairs echoed across the basement.
“Don’t look so sad.” Carmen pulled on a strand of Brianna’s hair as she moved to walk past. “You were trying to help. Don’t let the mean Brambino girls hurt you for it.”
“But, you weren’t wrong,” Brianna admitted to Carmen. “I’m not good at this.”
Brianna wrapped her arms around herself, standing there for one more moment, wishing she had a mother who actually knew how to comfort and protect. Or a father who cared, one who hadn’t started over with a new and improved family he preferred over Brianna.
Brianna promised herself that things would be better once Tino got there. Then, Carmen surprised Brianna by grabbing her and hugging her tightly.
Brianna returned the hug, because she needed it.
“You matter, pretty girl.” Carmen pulled back and tucked strands of Brianna’s hair behind her ears, more friendly than romantic, sort of like what a sister would do. “This is hard, but you’re doing well. Tino’s very lucky.”
Tears welled up in Brianna’s eyes and spilled down her cheeks without warning. Still, she shook her head. “You don’t have to try and make me feel better. I know this is so much harder for you.”
“It’s not a competition. One doesn’t cancel out the other.” Carmen leaned in and whispered in her ear, “You want to learn a trick?”
Brianna nodded and wiped at her cheeks, desperate to pull herself together before she really fell apart.
“If you can’t stop something from hurting you, then let it make you stronger. Go in to it. The struggle can hone you or it can hurt you. It’s your choice.” Carmen lifted Brianna’s hand, and kissed it in the same kind, affectionate fashion. “Don’t forget, under the right circumstances, pressure makes diamonds.”
Carmen walked out of the room before Brianna could argue.
Still not feeling very diamond like, Brianna followed Carmen out of the basement bedroom, deciding to wake up Dr. Acciai from where he was resting on the couch in the corner by the medical supplies.
The doctor was a short, fifty-something Italian man with a full head of grey hair, a slim stature and a very friendly, amiable face.
He looked different without his glasses, more vulnerable somehow, and he was sleeping so peacefully. His hands rested on his chest, and his were feet crossed on the arm of the couch.
She hated to wake him—again.
“Dr. Acciai.” She touched his shoulder gently. “I’m so sorry.”
He jerked instantly, like he was used to waking up at the first sign of trouble. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, just, um--” Brianna shrugged while the doctor sat up, grabbed his glasses off the counter and put them on. “Tino called, and he thinks maybe there could be a raid coming.”
“Fuck.” The doctor groaned and looked over to Nova. “Someone has to take him to a safer location.”
“Actually, Tino was sort of hoping we could get Nova—working—again.” Brianna knew that wasn’t the best way to put it, but the exhaustion and nerves made it hard to elaborate. “He wants him to wake up.”
“Well, I don’t give a shit what Tino wants.” Dr. Acciai laughed bitterly, like the idea was ridiculous. “You have the don tell me that and I might consider it.”
Brianna just stared at him, hoping to God this man didn’t expect her to call the don for permission. “Carina’s upstairs looking for Nova’s clothes. Maybe when she gets back—"
Dr. Acciai’s phone started ringing. He reached in his pocket, looked at the screen and quickly answered it. “Hey, Boss.”
Brianna knew it was the don. The doctor was smart enough not to call him that on the phone, and she could hear the don’s barking voice from where she stood. She just couldn’t make out what he was saying. For his part, Dr. Acciai simply listened, his scowl deepening with concern.
The he shook his head, and said, “Do you understand what this boy has been through over the past forty-eight hours?”
The don started barking again, and Dr. Acciai went back to listening. Finally, he sighed, looking thoroughly disgusted with all of them. “I’ll give it my best shot. I can’t promise anything.”
After he hung up, Dr. Acciai just stared ahead for a long moment before he looked back to Brianna. “Let’s try coffee first and go from there. I don’t want to overload his system with anything more stimulating. Hopefully Tino’s just being paranoid.”
“Okay.” Brianna nodded, happy to have something to do.
Carmen was talking to Nova, who was blinking heavy lidded eyes at her. He didn’t seem too motivated to jump up and save the borgata when Carmen was sitting there, brushing his hair back from his forehead like that.
“The doctor said to start with coffee,” Brianna said to Carmen without waiting for acknowledgement as she walked to the staircase.
When she got to the top, Brianna opened the door and was immediately accosted by Gino. “I need to talk to Nova!”
Brianna held up her hand, remembering Tino’s warning. “Don’t talk to me,”
“Did Tino really say there’s a raid coming?” Gino’s whole demeanor had changed, now he looked anxious and edgy. “You know I got priors. Nova said I’m fucked if I get arrested again.” He gestured to the gun on his side. “Weapons possession will put me away for years.”
“I’ll tell him you want to leave.” Brianna moved to push past him, but Gino grabbed her arm. She yanked it back and reminded him for a second time, “You don’t get to touch!”
Gino held up his hands in surrender. “Bri, listen, don’t be giving him the wrong idea. I don’t wanna leave. I just wanna lose the weapons, but I’m still on duty. Ask Nova, okay? Tell him to gimme a different job until we’re clear.”
“Whatever.” She stepped around him and shoved his shoulder when he made a move to block her way once more. “I’m not doing shit unless you stop getting in my face!”
Brianna didn’t wait for his answer, she just stormed past him.
There was a fresh pot of coffee warming in the kitchen, and Brianna poured Nova some, vaguely remembering that he drank it black. Either way, she supposed it was more medicine than recreation, and she didn’t look for milk.
Just outside the kitchen, Brianna ran into Carina, who was running down the hallway on the way back. Her arms were full of men’s clothes, some in plastic dry cleaner’s coverings, and others in expensive garment bags. She also two travel bags, one looped around each arm, and a backpack.
“Help me!” Çarina shouted as Brianna ran up to her.
“How’d you carry all this from upstairs. Shit.” Brianna put the coffee on a plant shelf in the hallway and started helping Carina. “You keep the backpack. It’s too hard to pull it off. Give me the bags.”
There were a lot of colorful words as the two of them worked at dividing up Nova’s things. Brianna picked the coffee back up, and together they made their way back towards the basement.
Gino didn’t have much to say in front of Carina, but he did plead with Brianna, “Promise me.”
With everything in her hands, Carina still managed to give him the middle finger. Then she licked it, doing it with extra flare as she snapped, “Suck it, Gino. She showed me the video. She owes you jackshit.”
Gino paled. “What video?”
“You see me struggling here.” Carina was still fighting to hold onto her half of Nova’s clothes. “Open the fucking door.”
Gino opened the door for them, and tried to grab Brianna’s arm again, but she just snapped, “Don’t.”
The two of them hurried down the stairs, and found Nova sitting up, running both his hands over his face. Brianna held out the coffee, letting Carmen take it, before she dumped the bags in her arms on the bed.
Dr. Acciai was on his other side, injecting something into the tube in his arm.
“Wait, wait, no.” Nova tried to pull his arm back, as though only just noticing him. “What’re you putting in there?”
“Okay. That’s okay.” Nova was still blinking as though trying to keep everything in focus. “I think that’s okay.” He pushed away the coffee Carmen tried to hand him. “Madonn’, no, I can’t drink that.”
“Oh my God, we’re in trouble. He’s legit sick,” Carina said in fearful warning as she dumped her bags on the chairs by the bed. “I’m serious, if he’s shoving away coffee right now, he’s dying.”
“He’s not dying,” the doctor assured her.
“No, I am. She’s not lying.” Nova swallowed hard and closed his eyes like the light was hurting him. “Get this shit off me. You got one minutes before I yank it out.”
Brianna saw the sweat had broken out on Nova’s forehead. He sat there, taking long, cooling breathes, while Carmen rubbed his bare back and Dr. Acciai worked really fast to take the I.V. out of Nova’s arm.
Nova didn’t even wait for a bandage. He bled all the way from the bed to the bathroom. He couldn’t be bothered to close the door, and Brianna flinched when she heard him throwing up.
“Maybe the morphine’s making him sick?” Carmen said with concern.
“It’s more likely the gallon of whiskey he drank before he got here,” the doctor suggested. “The morphine just helped seal the deal.”
“Is he hung over? With a bullet wound?” Carina flinched, like she was feeling it herself. “Jesus, that sucks.”
“I need weed.” Nova grunted from the bathroom, and then started throwing up again.
“Oh, and fast food,” Carina agreed with him. “Like a really greasy cheeseburger.”
“That’s not true,” the doctor argued. “It’s a myth.”
“Look, I dunno what you do on your weekends, Doc,” Carina started with a look of disbelief. “But I’ve tested this for you. . . more than once.”
“You don’t heal hangovers with weed and cheeseburgers,” Dr. Acciai promised her with grim certainty. “I promise it won’t work.”