Manhattan, New York
Over the next several months, Nova and Carina ironed out their differences, aided largely by Tino’s reminder to Carina that Nova did give her a waterfront mansion.
Tino knew his brother. That was Nova’s olive branch after years of shoving her away. Money was the one thing in their crazy lives his brother could control, and he used it to give Carina the love she desperately wanted, but he was too scarred to go past that with their sister. Not that it was a mild gesture. It wasn’t just any ol’ property he signed over to her. The Mills Basin place was the most valuable in the Moretti Borgata.
That said a lot to Tino.
It screamed, in blaring black and white, that Nova cared.
It may be the closest Nova ever got to telling Carina he loved her, but it was something. A part of Nova wanted Carina protected and happy. He showed it all the time, in weird little Nova ways, but only Tino could see through the lines enough to interpret. Tino didn’t feel too bad telling Nova’s secrets to Carina by explaining it to her.
He did owe her after the Sister Justina thing.
Carina might not have believed him, if Nova hadn’t left a card with the address for his GED study group on the kitchen table of the Mills Basin mansion. And Nova might have stayed pissed off at her, but Carina took the initiative and started showing up on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
And Nova loved fixing things.
Life was fucking golden…
“Come with us,” Tino begged Romeo. “It’s perfect out and we’re taking the yacht. Usually, we take the girls out to use the skeet trap for target practice, but today it’s all fun. No work. And there’s room for everyone. Get some fucking sunshine for once. All you do is train.”
“Yeah, come get tan with the rest of the guineas,” Nova added as his way of being helpful. “It’s your birthright. Might as well utilize it.”
“Half his birth right.” Tino laughed, before he had to add, “The better half.”
“Why do you say that shit all the time?” Romeo barked in Italian at Nova, who was sitting at the table in Romeo’s apartment, working on his laptop while he ate the breakfast Romeo put in front of him. “Ma would roll over in her grave if she heard you call yourself a fucking guinea.”
“I am a guinea,” Nova said without an ounce of apology. “I’m Sicliliano. That’s what I am, and it doesn’t matter what label you put on it, I’ll claim it because I’m not ashamed of it. I fucking earned the right to say it, and maybe one day I’ll tell you how.”
“Okay.” Tino threw up his hands, because Nova wasn’t making this battle any easier. He decided to ignore the guinea issue as he leaned against the kitchen counter while Romeo cleaned up from breakfast. “Please come,” he pleaded in Italian. “You never spend time with our family.” He gestured back and forth between him and Nova when he said it. “This isn’t the don. It’s not mob muscle. These are the people we love. If you gave Carina a chance—”
“Valentino.” Romeo stopped washing dishes and rubbed a hand over his face. “I don’t have a problem with your sister. It’s just—”
“We won’t drink,” Tino promised, even though Nova turned around and gave him a dubious look. “We won’t smoke either.”
“You smoke?” Romeo barked at him. “You better not be smoking, Valentino!”
“No,” Tino said quickly, wincing internally over the slip up because drugs were so far removed from Romeo’s world he assumed Tino was talking about cigarettes. “I meant Nova and Carina. I’ll make them leave their packs on the dock.”
“Fuck you,” Nova said with a snort of laughter. “The boat is the only place where I don’t get reception. That means it’s the closest thing to a real vacation I ever get. I’m not leaving my pack on the dock and I guarantee you Carina’s not either.”
“But you’re a social smoker,” Romeo clarified. “You’re not doing it all the time now, Casanova. I don’t like that you’re doing it at all, but once in a while is very different than every day.”
“The boat is social,” Nova said as though it was obvious.
When Romeo looked away and went back to the dishes, Nova rolled his eyes and lifted his hand so only Tino could see him giving the middle finger.
It got too hard for Nova to hide his smoking. He couldn’t be fucked with it lately. He chose to deal with the bitching instead, and since he laced them with weed, he was a social smoker. He didn’t smoke all the time, usually just when he needed to calm down or he had reasons to be less of a stronzo.
Like the boat.
“I’ll make them leave their packs on the dock,” Tino promised in a whisper as he looked at Romeo in desperation, and completely ignored Nova. “Come out with us. No phones. No laptops. No training. No fucking stress. We’re going stay the night and sleep under the starts,” he said quickly, and then added in English, “It’ll be friggin’ beautiful, Rome.”
Romeo went back to washing the dishes, but he was quiet, like he was considering it. Nova turned around in his seat, making it obvious he saw the crack in Romeo’s veneer too. Only Nova was watching it unfold like he wasn’t sure what outcome would be the safest bet.
“Carina’s bringing her guitar. She can rock out any party,” Tino added cautiously. “Have you ever heard her sing?”
“No.” Romeo looked embarrassed to admit it. “I know I should go to mass with you and Nova.”
“Yeah, you probably should,” Nova agreed. “Speaking of Ma.”
Not that their mother had been the most stand up Catholic in the world, but she had tried with the three of them. Nova went faithfully in her memory. Tino made it most Sundays though maybe not for the same reasons. He liked to hear Carina sing and unless Brianna had a performance on Sundays, she was there too. Mass was something nice they could all do together.
“Forgive me if I have an issue going to mass with the motherfucker who put me in prison,” Romeo snapped, clearly getting defensive.
“You think Frankie goes to mass?” Nova laughed in disbelief. “Plus, in case you forgot after the little party you threw for his arraignment, he’s still down for another year.”
“I bet Aldo’s there,” Romeo countered.
“Aldo didn’t put you in prison,” Nova reminded him. “He was pissed at Frankie for that. I saw first-hand how pissed off he was about it. He didn’t even know what Frankie did until a week after we got there . Why would he give you the lawyers he did if he wanted you in prison?”
Romeo rolled his eyes when Nova turned back to his computer, and Tino secretly agreed with him. Nova’s loyalty to the don annoyed him more than anything, he just couldn’t express it like Romeo did.
“Tell Aldo not to do me any favors,” Romeo growled. “And I bet that punk Carlo goes to mass too, doesn’t he? I’m sure he sits right there every Sunday next to his father who won’t even acknowledge him in the eyes of the church they’re praying in ‘cause that’s not fucked up.”
Nova glared as though Romeo struck a nerve. “No, usually Carlo’s sitting next to me.”
“What? In the back? Is that where all the bastardi get to sit in that gangster church you go to?” Romeo asked with an arch of his eyebrow, which was made all the more painful because Carlo and Nova did sit in the back. Tino did too, and he flinched when Romeo went on, “I will never understand why you are so loyal to that motherfucker Aldo and your zio doesn’t have an excuse either. He’s in the same fucking boat.”
Nova was silent for a moment, before he closed his laptop and said tensely, “Look, I’m not explaining the politics to you, but we choose to sit in the back.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Romeo countered.
Nova couldn’t tell him the enforcers always sat in the back. In a lot of ways, they were exiled, always on duty, even at mass, but the real reason why they did it was because they could see more that way. Carlo had been on good behavior for Lola and started going every Sunday. Nova liked the company, since Tino wasn’t as dedicated about it, and he happily sat in the back with Carlo even though as consigliere, he could sit in the front with the don.
Tino put a hand to his face, and took a deep breath, because this seemed to be an ongoing theme in his life. One way or another there was tension between his siblings. He loved them all, but there was always a wedge being driven between them because of their life differences.
“I just wanted one day.” Tino threw up his hands and gave up. “Forget it. Carlo’s coming. If you won’t go to mass with him, you’re sure as shit not partying with him.”
He looked back to Romeo, pissed at him for all his integrity and hatred of the borgata. Not that the Morettis were perfect, but there were people in the family Tino loved and the hurt must’ve showed on his face.
“There’s a lotta good reasons why I don’t want to be around your family,” Romeo said sternly. “I am a convicted felon. I don’t need to be on the wall at the FBI. I’m barely holding onto my fighting contract as it is.”
Nova started laughing at that, and Tino gave him a warning look. He ran his hand through his hair for good measure. If Nova told him what the two of them had to do to get that contact, Romeo would lose his mind.
“You’re not losing your contract,” Nova assured him. “It’s very legally secure. They can’t just drop you for going out on a boat with your brothers who came outta the same fucking womb as you.”
“I have a girl and you barely know her because she’s part of the borgata you hate.” Tino growled at him before they could start fighting about the fucking FBI wall. “Maybe I want to marry her one day, and I want you to know her before I fucking do that. I want you to know my sister too. And you know what, I want you to know our zio. Even if he wasn’t our zio, Carlo’s still Nova’s best friend. Do you ever remember Nova having a friend who wasn’t us? Carlo is the only one. That should matter to you.”
“Oh, thanks,” Nova said dryly.
“Come hang with us,” Tino pleaded.
Romeo stayed quiet after Tino got done begging.
“I’ll leave my cigarettes on the dock,” Nova added. Tino suspected Nova was trying help him since Tino had been talking a lot about marrying Brianna. He didn’t want his wedding to be a family train wreck, and Nova knew that so he added, “Carlo is my friend. Carina does matter to Tino, and Brianna is the girl he’ll probably marry. You should come hang out with them.”
Romeo turned off the water and sighed, his broad shoulders slumping in defeat. “Who else is going?”
“Just Carlo’s girl Lola, who is very cool,” Tino assured him. “She’s been my friend for a long time too.”
“Is it a couples thing?” Romeo asked hesitantly.
“I’m not bringing anyone,” Nova assured him. “And I highly doubt Carina’s bringing someone either.”
“I thought she was with Paco.”
Tino snorted. “Paco was like three boyfriends ago. They’re still friends, but they don’t hook up anymore.”
“Fine.” Romeo threw up his hands. “I guess I’ll go get a tan today.”
“No shit?” Tino couldn’t believe his luck. This was bigger than Nova signing over the Mills Basin mansion to Carina. “You’ll come?”
Romeo shrugged like he didn’t have a choice. “I guess.”
“Grazie, Rome. I love you.” He jumped on Romeo, hugging him, unable to contain his excitement. “This’ll be sick,” he said in English, before he switched back to Italian. “You’ll see. I’m going to call Bri and tell her you’re coming. The girls are picking up food on the way to Brooklyn.”
“I hate Brooklyn,” Romeo reminded them as Tino pulled his phone out of his pocket and walked to his room to call Brianna.
“It’s not so bad.” Nova sounded amused. “Besides, Brooklyn’s just the pit stop.”