Chapter Nine

The weather was perfect. The temperature was in the seventies and the sun was shining when Tino, Romeo and Nova hit the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Nova drove his brand-new Bentley GT, which was balllin’ enough to make anyone believe all the Cosa Nostra bullshit was worth it. The car was bright white, with a tan interior and all wood paneling, certainly not typical mafia style, but somehow Nova made it work in a way few gangsters could.

“I’m thinking of buying a car,” Romeo said as he sat in the front seat. “Something expensive.”

“Yeah?” Nova glanced at him. “How expensive?”

This expensive.” Romeo put his hand on the center console. “I figure if I’m getting my head beat in for a living, I might as well enjoy it. Think I can afford it?”

“Sure.” Nova nodded, his eyes on the road. “Buy something that makes you happy. Why do you think I invest your money? So you can enjoy it. Life’s too fucking short, Rome.”

Romeo was quiet for a moment, like it hit him all of a sudden what Nova did for him on a daily basis, without complaint. Romeo made good money fighting, but he was rich because of Nova—Insanely rich. 

“I don’t thank you,” Romeo said softly. “I should thank you for investing my money like you do.”

“Please don’t.” Nova sounded uncomfortable. 

Romeo huffed. “Yeah, but—” 

“You don’t have to thank family,” Nova cut him off.  “It’s a given.”

Tino leaned forward, resting his hand on Romeo’s seat. “Hey, what’re you gonna get?”

Romeo glanced at him, his green gaze haunted like he didn’t know what to do with the gratitude he felt for Nova mixed with the resentment over knowing what Nova did for a living. Tino and Nova never told Romeo why they got sucked into Cosa Nostra. As angry as their older brother was, the truth would hurt him a thousand times more. It was bad enough dealing with Nova’s guilt over everything. Tino would rather Romeo be pissed at them then feel sorry for them. So Tino distracted him rather than let Nova be uncomfortable. 

Nova’s life was hard enough. 

“The car,” Tino went on, holding up his hand expectantly. “What are you thinking about buying?”

“Since we have Nova’s car to take if we’re all going somewhere, I was considering a sports car.” Romeo shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll think about it. Just an idea.”

“You gotta do more than think about it,” Tino said enthusiastically. “You need something just flat out, balls to the wall, bad ass awesome, like a Lamborghini.”

“I don’t like the Lamborghini doors,” Romeo argued. “I was actually thinking about a Ferrari.”

“Yes.” Tino gave him a wide, excited smile and added in Italian, “Sì. You need a Ferrari. More importantly, you need to let me borrow your Ferrari.”

“If I buy a Ferrari, you’re not getting anywhere near it.” Romeo sent him a glare. “I’ve seen you drive.”

“I’m a defensive driver, that’s not a bad thing,” Tino argued. “And I’m an awesome behind the wheel, in case you’re interested.”

“I definitely wouldn’t let him drive it,” Nova added. “Tino in a Ferrari is New York’s worst nightmare.”

“Fuck both of yous,” Tino growled at them, even if he wasn’t too terribly put out. “I’ll buy my own Ferrari.”

Because he could 

So maybe he would 

Just because 

“Are you high? You shouldn’t even be on the Ducati.” Nova laughed in disbelief. “You in a Ferrari is just asking for a trip to lock-up. Pigs will be on you in a New York fucking minute and your speeding will give them probable cause to search it. God knows what they’d find.”

Or not

“I could resist speeding if I bought one,” Tino argued, even if Nova was probably right because Nova was always right. “I’m a fucking adult, you know?”

Nova and Romeo both turned around and gave him dubious looks. Tino had to admit they probably had a point, driving a Ferrari at the speed limit sounded like a sin against fine Italian sport cars everywhere. 

Nova bitched about Tino’s motorcycle all the time, but it was just so easy to avoid New York traffic on it as long as Tino didn’t mind bending a few laws—which, conveniently, he didn’t. 

Who was he kidding? It was a minor miracle Tino hadn’t ended up in lock up considering how many tickets he’d gotten. The bike, at least, made him seem more transparent. Young and dumb, just looking for a good time. He kept his blow in a secret compartment in his boots and he was good at concealing his weapons. 

A Ferrari probably was a bad idea. 

Surviving in Cosa Nostra meant having a deep understanding of his strengths and weaknesses. Giving a Ferrari to an ADHD enforcer with a part time blow habit was begging for trouble. 

“At least I’ll get to ride in yours,” Tino decided. “Right?”

“Maybe.” Romeo smiled. “As long as you don’t touch anything.”

“Like this.” Tino flipped his hand under his chin and gave him the middle finger to make his point. “Just like this, Rome.”

He fell back against the seat, feeling only mildly annoyed while he worked on talking himself out of buying a Ferrari. 


****

 

“Stop it.” Brianna slapped Carina’s hand when she tried to help herself to some of the food on the counter.  “It’s for the boat.”

“I can’t find the cannoli. You hid them somewhere.” Carina pulled the lid off the antipasti container. “I just need one. That’s it. My blood sugar’s dropping.”

“You’ve said that five times. There’s going to be nothing left.” Brianna worked on packing the large coolers they kept at the Mills Basin mansion for boat trips. “Who put this wine in here?”

“Don’t look at me.” Carina took a bite of her prosciutto and provolone she had wrapped up together. “I’m on good behavior.”

“I can’t have antipasti without wine.” Carlo hopped up on the counter next to the trays of food Brianna had stacked there. He pulled the lid off the same appetizer tray Carina had been digging into. “It goes against my religion.”

“It’s not against your religion,” Brianna said with a huff. “I go to mass with you almost every Sunday and I’ve never heard Father Nicolao say you need wine with your antipasti.”

“I think you missed that week,” Carlo said without apology. 

Lola stopped helping Brianna pack up the food. She leaned down and pulled the wine out of the cooler and set it on the counter with a look.

Carlo held up his hands. “Babe—”

“You’re on good behavior too.” Lola’s dark, curly hair was pulled away from her face in a neat bun, making her light eyes even more startling as she narrowed them at Carlo. “You promised Tino.”

“Romeo hates me anyway,” Carlo growled, and turned to Carina, who was still happily eating the food reserved for the boat. “Their brother will never like me, not in a million fucking years. Blame the wine on me and everyone’s happy.”

“I don’t think I want the wine.” Carina shrugged. “All I need is sunshine, my family and the cannoli this puttana has hidden from me.”

“See, even Carina agrees.” Brianna put the lid back on the antipasti and grabbed it to put it in the cooler before they ate it all. Then something occurred to her. “Wait—” She lifted her head and looked at Carina was who was still grinning. “You are making this way too easy.”

“You don’t think I can enjoy good, clean fun in the sun?” Carina asked innocently. 

Maronna.” Carlo laughed as he took a bite of his prosciutto. “She wants to fuck Romeo.”

Carina just smiled wider rather than argue.

“Carina!” Brianna snapped at her. “No way.”

“I don’t think it would be the weirdest thing that happened in this family.” Carina shrugged and held up a hand to Carlo and Lola as evidence. “She is my cousin and he’s my zio. That’s slightly fucked up. Mind you, not the most fucked up hook up in our family, but it’s still on the list.”

Carlo lost some of his good humor. “That’s different. I didn’t know she was your cousin when I started seeing her and she didn’t know who I was either.”

“But you didn’t stop after you found out she was,” Carina countered as she jumped up on the counter to sit next to her uncle. 

“I was already in love with her,” Carlo shouted passionately, sounding very Sicilian. “That’s like asking me to cut off my own friggin’ arm cause she’s your cousin.”

“Aw, corazon.” Lola reached up and grabbed Carlo’s face, forcing him down until she could kiss him. “Ti amo anch'io.”

Carina just held up her hand to Brianna as evidence while Carlo and Lola had a moment. “If he can hook up with my cousin in secret, a Brambino cousin, when we’re one step away from a war, I think their brother’s fair game.”

“No.” Brianna gave Carina a stern look. “That’ll make everyone uncomfortable.”

“It won’t make me uncomfortable,” Carlo said with a smile, content once more. “Maybe it’ll loosen him up.

“No. Just no.” Brianna held up her hands. “This is about Tino. It’s important to him, and if you do that—”

“Oh, come on,” Carina whined, since playing the Tino card obviously struck a chord. “His biceps are like friggin’ tree trunks. If I don’t get to take my cigarettes, I feel like I deserve the chance to climb their brother.”

“If you love Tino, you won’t hit on his brother,” Brianna said firmly. “Promise.”

Carina was silent for a moment, then she folded her arms and looked away. “Then I vote for his idea with the wine. We all know he hates Carlo. Nothing to lose there.”

“Right?” Carlo hit Carina’s shoulder. “Just let me take the fall.”

“What Italiano doesn’t like wine?” Carina asked, sounding mystified. 

“He’s only half,” Carlo reminded them.

Lola pulled back and looked at him because her mother was Dominican. “I’m only half.”

“Yeah, but you’re fucking perfect.” Carlo leaned down and kissed her again. 

Carina rolled her eyes at Brianna, not nearly so optimistic as she added, “I’m taking my cigarettes too.”

Ehilà!” Tino’s voice echoed through the mansion from the direction of the front door. “Who’s ready to party?”

“Without wine,” Carlo said dubiously under his breath. 

“Or weed,” Carina added. 

“We are!” Brianna called out, hoping to cover up their grumbling. “Took you long enough!”

“Well, you know Nova drives the Bentley like an old woman on Quaaludes.” Tino’s voice still carried as he made his way to the kitchen.

 “Oh!” Carina jumped off the counter. 

“Forgive me if I don’t want to give the pigs a reason to search me.” Nova walked into the kitchen with a bag over his shoulder. He must’ve read Carina’s hopeful look because he quickly said, “No.”

“But I think we need ice,” Carina argued. 

“Sucks for you. I saw your Benz in the garages.” Nova smiled at her. “You’re not driving my car, princess.”

Romeo walked in behind Nova and though Brianna had met him a few times, it was always shocking to see just how massive he was in person. Not only was he six-six, but he really was as fit as Carina said. Thick and muscular, he was one of those men who walked into a room and it was easy to believe he was a famous fighter, but his smile was Tino’s as he said, “She is your sister. You should let her drive your car, stronzo.”

“That’s true,” Carina added as she grinned at Romeo. “Thank you, Romeo.”

“Imagine Tino behind the wheel, only more impulsive and fearless,” Nova said dryly. “With a moderate depth perception problem.”

“Fuck you with the depth perception problems,” Carina snapped, and didn’t bother to deny the rest. “You’ve ridden in a car with me. You said yourself it doesn’t affect my driving.”

“Maybe not, but I’m still not risking my car getting impounded. How many tickets have you gotten?” 

“Zero,” Carina said smugly. 

“Is that true?” Tino barked in disbelief as he came in behind them carrying two bags, one over each shoulder. “That can’t possibly be true. Forget Nova, I’ve ridden in a car with you and that’s gotta be bullshit.”

“Pull my record if you don’t believe me.” Carina shrugged. “It’s shiny and clean.”

“How does that happen?” Tino held up his hands, looking mystified. “I know how you drive.”

“Really? You of all people need it explained it to you,” Lola said with a mischievous smile as she winked at Carina. Then she turned to Romeo and held out her hand. “I’m Lola. It’s nice to meet you, Romeo.”

Romeo shook it. “Same. Tino has nice things to say about you. How long have you two known each other?”

“A long time.” To Lola’s credit her smile was genuine instead of strained considering how she and Tino became friends. “He’s always said nice things about you too.”

Lola had this gorgeous poise about her. If she wanted to, she could light up a room and as a dancer Brianna had always admired that. It was more than Lola’s beauty that was startling. Graceful and feminine, Lola was easy to be around when she was turning on the charm. 

Brianna knew Lola was likely falling on old habits to try and bridge the divide between Romeo and Carlo, but it might not have worked like she planned. 

Carlo used his seat on the counter to kick Romeo’s leg. “Hands off, big man. I know she’s fine, but she’s also very taken by a territorial Siciliano who doesn’t like other men touching her.”

Figlio di puttana!” Lola threw up her hands and glared at Carlo. “What is wrong with you?” 

“I’m just establishing where he and I stand.” Carlo didn’t seem to have an ounce of remorse. “When motherfuckers know where I stand, nothing bad happens.”

Romeo rolled his eyes, clearly not impressed with Carlo’s big, bad enforcer routine. “Relax, bro, I like women my own age.”

“Noble,” Lola said rather than be insulted, and then grabbed Carlo’s hand. “I need to talk to you.”

Carlo jumped off the counter to follow Lola. Then he stopped and turned around, as though he only then realized Romeo just insulted him because Carlo was a few years older than Romeo. 

Before Carlo could say anything, Lola jerked his hand. “Now.”

Brianna winced as Lola dragged Carlo off. 

The two of them went into the other room, but Lola’s voice still bounced off the marble tile. Brianna didn’t know what she was saying, since she was speaking Italian, really fast and angry Italian, in a way that made Romeo laugh and say to Tino, “Not so bad ass now, is he?”

“Well, you know, he is Siciliano.” Tino shrugged. “He likes it when they bite.”

“You want to help me load up the boat?” Brianna asked, because she could tell Tino was tense. “I’ve got most of it packed, I just need help carrying it.”

“Sure, I’ll be your muscle any day.” Tino grinned, while the rest of them listened to Lola bitch Carlo out. “You lead, baby, and I’ll follow.”

Together Tino and Brianna started work on loading the boat. The others let them, like they knew the two of them wanted a moment. Once they got out to the docks Tino set the cooler down and shook his head. “I’m a cretino. They’ll never get along.”

“Give it a chance.” Brianna set her stack of food trays on top of the cooler and leaned in to kiss Tino. “Are we staying out overnight?”

“Yeah, I hope you packed for it,” Tino said with a smile. “And you know we’re getting the master bedroom after Carlo pulled this shit.”

“As long as I have you next to me tonight, it’ll be perfect.” Brianna stood on her toes and kissed him again.


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