Chapter Twenty-Two

Brianna helped Tino with his shower while Carina took care of Carmen. Tino was obviously so shaken up about not being allowed to follow Nova, he didn’t think it was odd when Brianna lead him to the large bathroom in Carina’s suite instead of going to Carlo’s room where he’d been staying before. 

In fact, Tino wasn’t saying much of anything. He just stood there, wavering on his feet while Brianna scrubbed at his skin, trying to erase the nightmare of the last eighteen hours. 

“Can you tell me what happened?” Brianna finally asked, knowing Tino’s protective walls were about as low as they were going to get. 

He shook his head. “No.”

“Okay.” Brianna went back to work on washing him, knowing that Tino probably had a very good reason for keeping quiet. “Do you think Carmen can keep the secret?”

“I’m not worried about Carmen,” Tino whispered distantly. “She won’t talk—no way—not after all that.”

“I think that poor girl’s going to have a nervous breakdown,” Brianna whispered. “This was too much after losing Lola.”

“Maybe.” Tino stepped back and leaned against the shower stall. “I feel like I’m gonna have one and I was just the fucking driver. You have no idea how badly she hurt him packing that bullet wound, and he had to just lie there and take it. Thank God it was Nova. Anyone else and we would’ve had to take him to the hospital. I couldn’t have pulled that shit off, not with all the whiskey in the fucking world—not even close.”

“Which part?” Brianna asked, because she wasn’t sure which was worse, enduring the pain or causing it. 

Tino thought about it for a second and then closed his eyes. “Either one. Jesus, Carmen’s got stugots. No wonder her father doesn’t trust her.”

Brianna leaned into Tino and hugged him. He wrapped his arms around her, squeezing her tightly and together the two of them stood naked in the shower for a long time.

Tino looked around the shower, like he was just now noticing where they were and asked, “Why’d Carina take Carmen to Carlo’s room? We should’ve been the ones using his shower. She should not be around my zio right now. You know they don’t get along.”

Brianna just looked at him rather than answer and the truth must’ve shown on her face. 

“Carina wouldn’t have taken her there if Carlo was still lying in bed. She knows Carmen has enough of her own shit to deal with,” Tino whispered in horror. “Where is he?”

Brianna bit her lip, knowing she was lucky they got this far without Tino noticing his zio was gone. 

“Madonn’, Carlo didn’t come down to see Nova after he took a bullet to the chest. He’s not that fucking sad. Nova’s his best friend.” Tino tensed in her arms and pushed her back, looking at Brianna with a dark, horrified gaze. “He got out!”

Brianna thought of lying, but the truth was, if Carlo knew Nova was shot, he would’ve been the first one in that garage. 

Carlo’s absence was extremely noticeable. 

“It was my fault,” Brianna said quickly. “You said ‘Auito’ and I took off looking for Nova’s burner phone. By the time I got back, Carlo was gone. He crawled out the window.”

“He’s been gone that long?” Tino’s voice echoed off the shower tiles. “Why didn’t you tell me when I checked in?”

Brianna threw up her hands. “What could you have done?” 

He stared at her for one long moment, like he was making another life altering decision. Then he pushed past Brianna and opened the shower door. “I have to go.”

“You can’t go!” Brianna followed him out of the shower. Both of them were dripping wet as she ran after him into Carina’s bedroom. “Baby, you haven’t slept in days! Stay and wait to see what happens with Nova. You can’t leave him.”

Tino stood there, completely naked and looked around Carina’s bedroom that had exactly zero of his clothes. They were across the mansion in Nova’s room, and the ones he took off certainly weren’t wearable. 

Brianna stopped in front of door, blocking it, and folded her arms. “You’ll have to hurt me to move me.”

“Get out of the way.” His voice shook with fear and exhaustion. “I’m the only one who knows Carlo’s network. There is literally no one else.”

“I think you need to rest first.”

“I can’t lose my zio! I don’t have that many people who love me!” Tino sounded completely frantic, one small step away from the breakdown he warned her about. “He’s not going to survive this. I know it, Bri. I know it because—” He took a long, shuddering breath and looked at her with dark eyes swimming with tears and terror. “I would do the exact same thing he’s doing right now. I’d get out and I’d end it. If I found you on a doorstep, you think I’d let you leave me behind in this shithole of a life. You honestly believe that? You think I’d let myself get arrested after I took them out.”

Brianna opened her mouth, knowing he was telling the truth. 

She didn’t know Carlo that intimately, but she knew Tino down to his core and if he was telling Brianna his zio was the same—she believed him. 

“Fine.” Brianna relented and threw up her hands, hating Cosa Nostra more than ever. “You win.”

If anyone could survive with no sleep, it was Tino. They couldn’t risk losing Carlo. She loved him too, and it had already been so long, but she still hated gambling with Tino’s health and sanity like this. 

“I can’t go in Carlo’s room if Carmen’s cleaning up in there.” Tino looked to the window, and then turned back to Brianna with a sigh of defeat. “I need you to check and see if my zio took his boots with him. I know he keeps a spare pair here.”

“You have boots in Nova’s room.” Brianna folded her arms again. “I know you do.” 

“But, I need Carlo’s.” Tino flinched as he glanced away from her. “Please don’t make me say why, baby. I need you to cut me a small break tonight.”

Brianna stared at him, knowing Tino was hoping the boots Carlo had here at the don’s mansion were the same as the ones he got busted for at the Mills Basin place. 

He wasn’t looking for boots. 

Tino wanted the cocaine hidden in them even though he’d been clean since his fight with Carina. 

“Just go get the boots. I’ll get my clothes from Nova’s room.” Tino walked back into the bathroom and grabbed a towel off the rack. He wrapped it around his waist and went to the door without looking back at her. “If you want me to do this without dropping dead, I need the boots, Bri.”

Tino walked out the door in nothing but a towel. Maybe he didn’t want to hear Brianna put voice to it any more than she wanted to hear herself agree to get him the drugs she knew were slowly destroying him. 

After he left, Brianna went for the drawer she had in Carina’s dresser and pulled out clean clothes. She didn’t even bother with a bra before she raced to the other room. She was quiet when she opened the door, and Carmen peeked out from the bathroom like she was still very on edge. 

“How is he?” she asked quickly. “Have you heard?”

“I haven’t heard anything.” Brianna noticed Carmen was alone in the room. “Where’s Carina?”

“She left to find me something to wear.” Carmen stepped out from the bathroom with a blue towel wrapped around her, and a second towel twisted up on her head. With the last traces of smudged makeup washed away, she looked more vulnerable somehow, with her light eyes red rimmed and bloodshot. She walked up to Brianna like she wanted the company and observed softly, “She’s very sweet.”

Brianna looked past the door, wondering if they were talking about the same Carina.  “Are you okay, Carmen?”

Carmen just looked at her rather than answer, and Brianna flinched, knowing how inconsiderate it was to say under the circumstances.

She was obviouslynotokay. 

“Can I get you something?” Brianna amended gently. “Is there anything I can do to make you more comfortable here?”

“No, thank you.” Carmen gave her a sad smile anyway, and reached out, touching Brianna’s wet hair. “Pretty girl.” She kissed Brianna’s cheek, and then leaned in to smell Brianna’s hair before she whispered, “I wish I could say, yes, but recent developments--” She held up her hands. “You understand.” 

Carmen kissed Brianna’s other cheek before she walked to the bed like it was all very normal behavior.  

 “I was asking you if wanted coffee or something,” Brianna clarified slowly. 

“I know.” Carmen sat down on the bed and pulled the towel off her hair. She started crunching her wet curls in her hand. 

“And I’m dating Tino,” Brianna added, feeling awkward even as she said it. “It’s really exclusive.”

“Oh, special.” Carmen smiled, still working on her curls. “Good for Tino.”

Brianna honestly couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not. It felt like Carmen was speaking a completely different language than her. 

“So, I couldn’t--” Brianna held up her hands. “Do that.”

Carmen’s smile broadened, like she was charmed rather than insulted. “Okay.”

Brianna just stood there, because she wasn’t completely sure what just happened, but she did know Carmen had found out she lost a sister tonight and saved Nova in the process. 

“I’m being rude,” Brianna decided out loud. “I need to get some things for Tino, and--”

Carmen nodded towards the closet, clearly giving Brianna permission to get whatever it was she needed. 

Brianna quickly ran to the walk-in and grabbed the boots. She thought of picking up something else to cover the sin, because she suddenly felt very exposed for a lot of reasons.  

There just wasn’t time. 

“I’m sorry, I have to go.” Brianna held up the boots to Carmen when she came out of the closet. She was too exhausted to think of excuses, but she tried. “He didn’t have his and—”

 “Is he leaving?” Carmen jumped up, looking concerned all of a sudden.  

Brianna nodded, feeling sick. “Yes.”

“Did he tell you he was knocked out earlier? He can’t afford to be making bad decisionsright now. I didn’t save one, so the other can go out and get himself killed or arrested. That’s not how it’s going down.”

Brianna felt a knot of fear tighten in her stomach. It was so powerful, she could barely breathe as she managed to whisper, “He didn’t tell me that.”

“I’m sure there’s someone else in this big Moretti compound who can solves those other problems for him tonight,” Carmen said seriously. “Keep him here, pretty girl.” She tilted her head and eyed Brianna once more. “Find a way.”

Brianna thought of telling her Carlo left, but suddenly seconds mattered. She wasn’t happy about the plan before she found out Tino likely had a head injury on top of no sleep for days now. 

“I have to go.” 

Brianna turned around and dashed out of the room, intent on keeping Tino indoors for the night. They could fight a new battle tomorrow, after she knew he was truly okay. Right now, she wanted him safe in the mansion, where they had doctors if it turned out he needed one. 

By some miracle she beat him back to Carina’s room when she had neverwon a race against Tino. Not once in the two years they’d been together, nor in the six years they’d been friends before that. 

Tino was always one step ahead of her. 

First to the finish line. 

Always

“Shit!” She ran to Nova’s room, but she wasn’t truly surprised to find it empty. The window was open, the warm night breeze blowing in past the curtains. She threw one boot at Nova’s made bed, and then the other as she screamed, “Fuck!”

Brianna walked over to the window, her heartbeat still pounding with a wild combination of fear and anger. She leaned down past the open window, feeling the outside wall blindly in the dark. 

She groaned when she found the nails, a small row of them, just long enough for someone to step on in an emergency. How stupid were they to think only Carlo’s window had this little escape route? 

Enforcers liked having all their bases covered. 

And, just like that, Tino was gone.

Now the only thing Brianna could do was wait. 

Kele Moon3 Comments