Chapter Twenty-Four

Brianna turned the deadbolt when she got to the top of the stairs, because the don had used his key to lock them in from the other side. 

“Decided to crawl out of your hiding place and join the rest of the minions?” Gino Moretti asked as he leaned against the wall in the hallway, holsters and 9mm showing since he was on bodyguard duty. “How come all of yous are so special hidden down there?”

Brianna flipped him off rather than answer. 

“That’s not nice, Bri.” He reached out and grabbed her ass. 

“Don’t grab me!” Brianna hit him in the arm, making him laugh. So, she hit him again, and again, making him attempt to dodge her as she punched at his biceps and chest. “You don’t get to grab it!”

“What? Just because I’m not part of your little club, I don’t get to touch.” Gino was unfazed, still laughing as he asked, “I know you’re a kinky bitch. I spotted that in seventh grade. Do they share you? I bet even Carina joins in, huh? Since they’re all so close.”

Gino was one of those button men always trying to get close to Nova, always asking to be assigned to his crew, constantly working guard duty hoping to enjoy the benefits of Nova’s inner circle. Obviously, Gino thought that included her, which was extremely insulting, but he wasn’t the only guy from school who thought he could grab without asking. 

Now that Nova was safe and hidden in the basement, there was security everywhere, all of them standing around—bored and anxious—which was bad for everyone. Especially since they didn’t know why Nova was being hidden. It did make them all seem spoiled, but Brianna was far past caring what Gino thought. 

“Hey, I don’t mind sharing,” Gino went on as he waggled his eyebrows at her. “Who’s the new girl? She looks very sharable. You like girls, Bri? ‘Cause I heard things.”

She threw up her hands. “I can’t with this right now.”

“Where’s Tino? Does he know you’re snuggling with his brother in your little hideout?”

“Why don’t you tell him?” Brianna suggested as she walked off. 

“I will.”

“Yeah, you do that,” Brianna called back, still heading down the hallway. “Tell him you like to grab it too.”

Brianna felt guilty knocking on the bedroom door upstairs, and then explaining to a very tired Dr. Accaci how concerned she was about Carmen. She was starting to think Nova might need a bigger dose of pain medicine on account of him being Moretti. He’d been angry and restless since the doctors left. He never slept for more than twenty minutes. 

Dr. Acciaiagreed to come down and check on them again, sounding only slightly annoyed, considering he and the other doctor had been taking turns between staying at the house and seeing their other patients. This was likely his first chance to sleep. Now he would have to make the long trek to the garages to sneak in, rather than going back the way Brianna came. It was a huge pain in the ass for minor issues, but that old Cosa Nostra mentality was too ingrained now. 

Protect the crew first—always—by any means necessary. 

Speaking of…

Brianna kept her phone out, pretending to be looking at the screen as she walked back to the basement with the large feather blanket from Carina’s bedroom draped over her arms. Gino was leaning against the door with an obnoxious smirk on his face. 

“Gag extra loud down there.” Gino imitated the act of sucking a dick, using obnoxious flare. Then he bent over, pretending to start gagging and throwing up before he lifted his head and said, “I’ll be listening.”

 “Are you going to move and let me get back downstairs?” Brianna kept looking at her phone rather than make eye contact. 

“Show me your tits first.”

“Just out of curiosity, how long are you on guard duty?” Brianna kept her voice casual. 

“The next twelve hours. Now let me see those ant bites you call titties.”

Brianna sighed tiredly. “You’re honestly going to make me get the don?”

Gino stepped aside, glaring at her as he flipped his hand under his chin before giving her the middle finger. “Hope Nova makes you choke on it.”

Brianna ignored him as she opened the door and made sure to turn the lock once she stepped into the basement. Then she stood there on the steps, and texted Tino. 

Brianna: Gino’s bored.

She sent Tino the video she just took of his cousin being despicable, which was playing dirty, but she wanted Tino to come back. 

If that didn’t work, nothing would. 

 

****

 

Tino’s first stop once he got back to New York was a coffee shop in Brooklyn. It was Carlo’s favorite. A hole in the wall with black and white pictures hanging on the wall, great Italian coffee, and no one playing the guitar and crying about their problems into the microphone. Just coffee, cannoli, and other simple Italian desserts. 

Carlo liked the old guy that ran it. Sometimes he sat outside and played cards with him on slow days. Other times, Tino and Nova joined him. The simplest things made their zio happy, and a coffee shop run by an old Siciliano, with cards and family thrown in was the height of happiness in Carlo’s world. 

Tino figured Pietro might know something. 

Tino’s head still felt like it was cracked open. He was buzzing too hard off the blow. It was top shelf, because Carlo never half-assed his blow, and Tino’d been clean for a few days before he ended passed out on the kitchen floor in Carlo’s Jersey Palisades place. He should’ve done half of what he did. Now he was tired, but wired, his least favorite type of high, especially with a headache. 

Really, this fucking headache was a bitch. 

He was starting to think Sammy the bouncer got the better deal. 

His grand plan was to down enough sugar and caffeine to reset the tired and wired to just wired, then he’d bug Pietro for details after the place cleared out. 

It was busy at five o’clock in the afternoon. 

Tino skipped the line and leaned against the counter closest to the small kitchen. 

Pietro spotted him and pointed to Tino. “Macchiato con zucchero?”

Tino nodded in agreement, which killed his head, before he changed his mind and ordered in Italian, “No, make it a marocchino, with the extra sugar. I’m tired, brother, real tired.”

“You’re too young to be so tired, Tino.” Pietro leaned over and patted Tino’s cheek. “Where’s Carlo? Still out of town?”

Tino just looked at him, feeling like he was missing something, because Carlo hadn’t been out of town. Too exhausted to look any deeper than being disappointed Pietro was a dead lead, Tino finally admitted, “I haven’t seen him either. I just got back from Jersey.”

“You go all the way to Jersey to party? Why not party in Brooklyn?” 

“I party in Brooklyn too, but I needed to get out by myself for a while. Clear my head.”

“Clear your head, huh? Was she pretty?”

“Yeah, she was cute.” Tino fell back on old habits. He played dumb. He wasn’t ready to talk about Lola, especially since the way she died was so fucking terrible. Let someone else tell Pietro that story. 

“And how was the beach with your cute Jersey girl?”

“It was alright.” Tino didn’t sound like he meant it, and Pietro noticed by patting his shoulder before he walked away to deal with his other customers. 

One of the girls behind the counter gave Tino a cannoli, and he sat at a table facing the door, waiting for his coffee, which made him sort of a motherfucker. Pietro didn’t have waitresses. Everyone was supposed to serve themselves, but Tino decided to be privileged on account of the headache. 

He wasn’t too inclined to pay attention to his surroundings, but he was still on the lookout for Carlo, which was why he glanced up when the bell chimed with more customers. 

Three girls his age walked in giggling, but that wasn’t what got his attention. It was the television to the left of the door. The sound was muted, but he could read the news feed on the bottom. 

Suspicious fire in Bensonhurst. Carmine Brambino, dead at 55. 

Tino jumped up, unable to hide the rush of fear. 

“I thought you knew.” Pietro set the coffee down on the table. 

“No.” Tino stared in horror. The ticker was still going and the information kept getting worse. “Jesus, five dead. Cazzo, Pietro.”

“And Lola,” Pietro whispered softly, making it obvious he had known all along and didn’t want to talk about it anymore than Tino did. “I’m sorry.”

“Me too.” Tino nodded, feeling dazed. “I can’t drink that. I have to go.”

“Finish your cannoli.” Pietro pulled out the chair, and put a hand on Tino’s shoulder, forcing him to sit. “I’ll put it in a cup for you.” 

Tino couldn’t use the cup on his bike, but he sat there anyway, watching the images on the television. His brain was trying to catch up, because he hadn’t realized until that moment how right he’d been when he stood there dripping and naked, begging Brianna to understand. 

Carlo actually was going to blow the whole fucking thing up. 

A part of Tino didn’t want to believe it. A vain, childish part that was really fucking hurt that his zio would throw away his whole life—just like that—knowing what Tino and Nova went through after Romeo went away. 

Selfish as it was, Tino made it about him. He wasn’t ready to lose his zio, and either way, this was going to change everything. 

It was too big. 

Too all over the news.  

Maybe, if they got very lucky, Tino could find Carlo before he did everything else and—

“Go home, Tino.” Pietro physically grabbed Tino’s hands and placed the to-go cup inside them. Then he wrapped both his smooth, old palms around Tino’s and said, “You look like merda. Stop partying so much. Your family wants you to go home.”

Tino looked at the cup, seeing the arrow drawn on the lid, pointing to the other side of the room in warning. His heart dropped in fear, knowing feds had to be sitting right there all along while he was rambling on, saying whatever the fuck popped into his mind under the headache. He didn’t turn to look, but he did try to mentally recall who had been sitting at those tables under the television. 

Only he couldn’t. 

‘Cause of the fucking headache. 

He just whispered, “Grazie,” and kissed Pietro’s check.

When he walked out, he made a point to be casual and not glance over to the table, even though he really wanted to. He spotted more feds once he got outside, sitting in a car across the street. A man and woman, pretending to be arguing, but they kept looking over at him. At least two agents sitting inside, two watching the outside, and that was just at the coffee shop Carlo played cards at. 

They knew something. 

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