The don freaked out about Carlo getting away.
Worse than Brianna had ever seen him lose it. She was scared shitless that he would blame her, but at the end of the day, he came to the same conclusion they did.
Nothing could’ve stopped Carlo once he decided to break free.
Enforcers find a way.
At least that’s what he said to Brianna’s face.
The don sent a few soldiers after Carlo with orders to keep it quiet that he was missing.
So far, they had zero leads.
Carlo didn’t even take a car—he just disappeared into the night.
In the morning, the don decided they were going to move all the families seeking shelter to Frankie and Mary’s house. Mary was out of the country getting some sort of state-of-the-art plastic surgery in Brussels, and Frankie was still in prison. The Dyker Heights mansion was a good, safe, well-guarded place. They kept it quiet that Carlo was gone, and they made double sure no one knew the borgata’s much loved zu had taken a bullet to the chest.
Tino never told Brianna why he couldn’t take Nova to the hospital, so the don felt it was best no oneknew he was injured while they waited. It wasn’t odd to have doctors there when a war was brewing, so that was the story they stuck to.
Moving everyone took all day.
Brianna and Carina helped, even though they were both close to dropping dead from exhaustion. The urgency created a wild surge of adrenaline, and mixed with large amounts of caffeine, they were somehow going on day three with almost no sleep. They barely ate, and every time the phone rang they jumped in fear.
Brianna carried around Nova’s burner phone like a lifeline.
Tino checked in four times with quick updates, but he didn’t have time to waste so their information was minimal. They knew Nova was still alive and conscious, but that was about it.
The house was empty by sunset save the dozen soldiers who stayed behind to protect them and the doctors who were waiting on Nova’s arrival. The don turned on the evening news in his den and invited them to join him.
Brianna got the impression he didn’t want to leave them alone much, like maybe he didn’t trust them not to say something about Carlo or Nova. More than likely, it was just Brianna he didn’t trust, but she couldn’t think about that right now.
The don sat in the large, leather chair behind his desk.
Brianna fell onto the couch. Carina stretched out with her, eventually ending up with her head resting on Brianna’s thigh as the three of them stared up at the news playing on the expensive flat screen mounted on the wall.
“What would happen if we warned the Brambinos,” Brianna mused as she let her head fall back against the back of the couch. “Would it help?”
She knew it wasn’t her place to give the don suggestions, especially when she was already on thin ice, but she was too exhausted to censor herself.
“Fuck the Brambinos.” Carina’s eyes drifted close. “Too bad the puttana who gave birth to me isn’t there to bury with the rest of ‘em.”
“Sick cunts,” the don agreed.
Brianna almost explained herself, because she didn’t care if Carlo burned the entire Brambino Borgata to the ground and she didn’t want them to think she did. Unlike Carina and the Don, Brianna knew some of the details from what happened to Tino during the dark years when the Brambinos sold him. She wanted the Brambino Borgata to go down more than anyone, but not at the cost of losing Carlo.
If the Brambinos knew Carlo was on the prowl, maybe that would stop him from doing something that could send him to prison for a very long time.
Then the don said, “Hope he makes it worth it.”
And Brianna realized they understood what she was saying all along.
So, the three of them sat there waiting for Nova and Tino to get there, watching the news, and silently anticipating the moment when the rest of the world found out the Moretti Borgata was sinking.
Brianna jerked awake.
Carina sat up next to her.
The don lifted his head from where he’d been sleeping against his desk and barked, “What?” at the soldier standing by his office door.
The news on the television was just wrapping up, so it couldn’t have been that long, but Brianna was extremely disoriented and it was obvious she wasn’t the only one. The don blinked heavy lidded eyes at the soldier standing there apprehensively.
“Tino’s here in Zu’s car. He’s at the back entrance. You told me not to let anyone in, but—”
They hadn’t told the soldiers about Nova getting shot.
The don had been very serious about no one knowing, but he made sure the guards knew to notify him the moment someone tried to get in. They were in a war situation, so his paranoia was more than normal.
With all that effort to keep the secret, the urgency was probably more than obvious to the guard when Brianna, Carina and the don all ran past him even though they’d been dead to the world asleep thirty seconds before.
“Radio them to let him in,” the don shouted at the guard, then he told Carina, “I’m grabbing backup. Have Tino park over by the garages.”
“You get them,” Carina said quickly to Brianna. “And I’ll open the garage.”
It made sense for Brianna to make the long run across the property. Not that Carina couldn’t run fast, but Brianna was a professional athlete. She flew across the vast grounds and got there just in time to see Nova’s Bentley roll past the guard gate.
Tino stopped when she got to the car and unlocked the doors as Brianna ran up to the passenger side.
She jumped in and said, “The don said take him to the garages. We’ll sneak him into the basement from there. No one knows about Nova being shot.”
“Good call,” Tino agreed.
It took a second for Brianna’s eyes to adjust to what she was seeing.
Tino was wearing a designer white shirt, like one usually worn under a suit. The sleeves were pushed up, and she could see blood splattered on Tino’s arms. There was more on his forehead, like it ended up there when Tino ran his fingers through his hair. His eyes were blood shot. His hair was a mess, and dark stubble was starting to show because he was one of those men who had to shave every single day.
Tino looked like he’d been through hell.
And the car smelled grim.
Sort of like an emergency room, only worse, a horrible combination of stale blood, sweat and alcohol. She wasn’t sure why it hit her like it did, but she cupped her hand to her face and turned around on instinct.
She let out a choked sound of shock.
Brianna knew Nova had been shot in the chest.
She understood there was a lot of blood.
And packing the wound made sense when she heard about it.
But, the reality of it was absolutely fucking horrific.
Brianna tilted her head, looking at the floor board, seeing all the bloody medical supplies that had been tossed aside, bottles of water and rubbing alcohol, a box of gloves, scissors, several empty containers of saline solution and tons of red soaked gauze.
Nova was bare chested, wearing only a pair of pants that had once been white, but now were splattered with blood like everything else. She couldn’t see the wound in his chest, because a woman was straddled over him, holding stacks of gauze to the injury. She had on a thin, blood-stained dress that left very little to the imagination, but she was still oddly beautiful.
Even with her wild, curly blonde hair streaked pink with blood.
Even if traces of long worn mascara left dark smudges under her light eyes.
Even with blood smeared on her cheeks and forehead, and the same shell-shocked look to her that Tino had—she was stunning.
This woman was Lola gorgeous and seeing her stole all of Brianna’s breath. There were more than a few noticeable differences between the two sisters, the blonde hair being the largest, but it was still like seeing Lola come back to life and the affect almost hurt.
Nova gave Brianna a bored look while she tried to recover from her shock. His eyes were glazed, heavy lidded and blood-shot as he took a long drink out of the whiskey bottle in his hand like he needed the distraction.
“Questa è la bff per sempre,” Nova said as he turned back to Lola’s sister straddled over him. Even though Nova spoke Italian, it was obvious his words were very slurred. He held up the whiskey bottle towards Brianna and switched to English when he gestured back to the woman over him. “This is Carmen Brambino.”
“Yeah, I figured that out,” Brianna whispered when she realized he was introducing them. “Hello, Carmen, I’m so sorry—for everything.”
“Thank you.” Carmen’s voice was raspy, like she’d been screaming or crying for a long time. “I assume you have a real name besides BFF forever.”
“My name’s Brianna Darcy,” she clarified when Nova started laughing, like that was the funniest thing he’d ever heard.
Then he started coughing, which made every muscle in his arms and shoulder’s tense in pain so obvious Brianna hurt for him when he gasped, “Cazzo.”
“Look at me, bello.” Carmen grabbed his face with her free hand, forcing him to look at her, and then whispered something in Italian. She traced her thumb over his bottom lip, and something about it must’ve helped. Nova noticeably relaxed as Carmen switched back to English and said, “You’re okay now. You made it.”
“Sei tu, bella.” Nova grabbed her hand and kissed her wrist. “Solo tu.”
Brianna arched an eyebrow and looked back to Tino, who explained, “We had to let him self-medicate before Carmen packed the wound and liquor turns Nova’s game on like a motherfucker. He’s been working hard at it the entire ride.”
Brianna gaped in disbelief. “For eighteen hours?”
She didn’t know if she should feel bad for Carmen Brambino, or impressed that the Moretti constitution let Nova drink that much for that long without dying from alcohol poisoning. To say nothing of surviving a bullet wound to the chest and a car ride from Tampa to Brooklyn without bleeding to death.
Tino pulled into the side garage when Carina waved him in.
Then, he asked Brianna, “The doctors are there? They have the blood?”
“Yes.” Brianna nodded, and looked back to Carmen and Nova. “They’re ready.”
Carmen was still whispering to Nova in Italian, caressing his face with shaking hands. Her light eyes were watery, and Brianna realized Carmen was terrified to the point that her entire body started shaking when the doctors jerked open both the doors to the back-seat. Carmen looked at those doctors like a caged animal that was being exposed to light for the first time.
“We got him, sweetheart,” Doctor Acciai told Carmen soothingly. “You need to let us take care of him now.”
Carmen pressed harder against Nova’s chest and argued, “I can’t let up. I can’t let go of him. When you do, he could start bleeding again and—”
The doctor on the other side of the car reached over and placed a hand on top of Carmen’s where she was holding the gauze to the wound in Nova’s chest. “I’ve got it.”
Nova said something else in Italian to Carmen, and whatever it was must’ve reassured her.
“Va bene,” she whispered to Nova, and switched back to English to speak to everyone else waiting, “Okay.” Carmen slipped her hand out from under the doctor’s. Then she looked over her shoulder to Doctor Acciai and whispered, “Just let me get out so you can help him.”
Doctor Acciai helped Carmen climb off Nova while the other doctor slid into the backseat to better assess him.
Brianna jumped out of the car and ran around to Carmen because the other woman was still shaking from head to toe.
Brianna wrapped an arm around Carmen, and said, “Let’s sit for a second.”
Together the two of them sat against the wall in the garage.
Carmen was a stranger, but Brianna hugged her like a friend when she remembered that on top of everything else she’d been through in the last eighteen hours, Carmen just lost her sister in the worst way possible.
“Jesus, he’s unconscious.” Dr. Acciai sounded nervous as he spoke to his colleague.
“The whiskey probably helped.” The other doctor didn’t sound so sure.
The two doctors started talking about Nova’s vitals as they quickly tried to access him. Brianna realized Nova passed out the second Carmen crawled off him as though she had been holding him together by sheer strength of will until they pulled into this garage.
“How much has he had to drink?” the don asked, looking pale with fear as he glanced from Tino to the bloody horror show in the car.
“A lot.” Tino leaned against the open door to the back seat while he watched the doctors help Nova. “He passed out a few times before.”
“But, he always wakes up,” Carmen added.
“Let’s get him downstairs. Quickly.” Dr. Acciai still sounded a little too frantic for comfort. He crawled out of the back seat and looked at the don. “Honestly, I’d really like to take him in, Don. I don’t want to do this one in the basement. It might not be worth the risk. Maybe we should just have Tino drive him to the hospital and deal with the fall out. His pulse is steady. He’ll survive a few more minutes in the car and I can meet them there.”
The don looked at Tino, and the two of them shared some sort of private exchange. The look on Tino’s face was anguished, his breathing harsh and shallow in obvious fear. Then Tino shook his head slightly, and the don groaned before he turned back to Dr. Acciai. “See what you can do downstairs, but that’s my right-hand man you got there, Doc. I need him to be alright.”
“Okay.” Dr. Acciai sighed. “Let’s move.”
“I gotta stay with him. You gotta let me go down with him, Dr. Acciai,” Tino cut in, his voice shaking. “I can do something. Help with something, or—”
“You cando something,” Dr. Acciai said without hesitating. “Help us get him on the stretcher.”
It took Tino and the don working together to help the doctors get Nova on the stretcher, because Nova Moretti was a lot of dead weight. Brianna thought she heard Nova grunt in pain a few times, and Tino was talking to him in whispered Italian, but for the most part Nova wasn’t super responsive.
Carmen was physically shivering, and Brianna got the impression it was taking a lot to sit there and just watch. When they opened the wood panel that hid the secret elevator in the garage, Dr. Acciai stopped Tino from going down with them.
“Go clean up,” Doctor Acciai said in the kind, but firm voice of a man who had cared for Tino at his lowest points since he was twelve. “Let us take care of him. I promise you’ll get to see him as soon as possible.”
The don stepped around Tino, getting on the elevator with Nova and the two doctors.
“Why does he get to go? He’s mybrother!” Tino’s voice shook. “Just let me sit in the corner so he knows I’m there. He doesn’t like being outta control, and—”
“I have to go,” Doctor Acciai said rather than argue. “Take a shower, Tino.”
“I’ve got his back, Chief.” The don hit Tino’s shoulder. “You did good.”
Tino was still shaking, and Brianna knew he was about to say something the don may not forgive, but Carina came up behind Tino and wrapped her arounds around his waist. She rested her forehead against his back and something about it must have communicated enough to keep Tino quiet.
“Okay, I’ll take a shower.” Tino seemed to be choking on every word as he put his hands on either side of the elevator door. “Then, I’m coming down there.”
The elevator closed before anyone could respond, but Tino stood there, clutching the sides, staring at the shiny metal. Carina held onto him, like she was afraid he’d do something drastic if she let go.
“He’ll be okay,” Carina promised. “Nonno will make sure of it.”
“Yeah, maybe.” Tino kept staring at the closed door. “So, he can keep making bank off him once he heals, ‘cause that’s all your nonno cares about. Right hand man,” he repeated with a snort, and then shook his head. “Coglione”
Carina poked his back. “You can’t say that. He’s don, Tino.”
“I can say whatever the fuck I want,” Tino said it like he was daring her to argue. “He’s not my don. He’s never been my don.”
“Nonno loves Nova,” Carina whispered. “He loves you too.”
“You need a shower,” Brianna reminded him before Tino could argue with Carina about it. “Dr. Acciai wasn’t wrong about that.”