Dare scoffed. “Things are close to lookin’ legit for the businesses. Life as a regular schmuck. Imagine?”
Dare did some traveling without Pop as we were growing up. He spent time with his mother’s family in Iceland every year and often traveled with Annette and the girls. Me? I traveled with Pop and bodyguards mostly. The business trips I took alone still had muscle with me. I didn’t travel just for pleasure; it was always business-motivated, sometimes with some pleasure on the side. But being 100% pleasure? Aruba was an eye opener. I didn’t think I was a man made for leisure. But, the million-dollar question was, if not a life at the head of the family empire, then what?
What was next? I had money. I had options. I had my girl. The world was my oyster, and Tia my pearl. Fuckin’ gushy shit, but that’s what she was doing to me. Makin’ just a little bit of gush seep into my brain once in a while.
We hired some security, vetted by Zack, for the girls to go shopping with and for keeping an eye on the perimeter of the property since the family arrived, to be extra careful (even though we took precautions that should’ve meant no one knew we were all in one location).
I felt this burn in my chest, this sharp fuckin’ hot knife with the emotion around her being mine in the eyes of the law, before God. It hurt really fucking good. It was all I had right now to be sure of. That, and that I’d do anything to keep her safe, keep her mine.
Dare knew what he wanted. Work with the consultants, go through everything with a fine-toothed comb, and then we’d sit and make decisions about whether or not we’d keep anything going from Ferrano Enterprises. He wanted to get his pilot’s license.
“Thinkin’ about finding a girl and settling down,” he said, casually, taking another swig and passing me the bottle.
“Yeah?” I was a little surprised. He’d been a sworn bachelor since he broke up with his bitch of a fiancée a few years back. She was a gold digger and led him around by his dick. I loved and respected my brother, but when it came to that cunt, he was blind. He’d wised up after that. He rarely kept women around more than a few dates nowadays.
“I want a family of my own. Wanna do it different than Pop,” he said.
I surveyed the dark water with interest. “Yeah. You’ll be different.”
Me? I wasn’t so sure I could be different. But Dare? Definitely. He was tough, smart, but he was also nurturing. Our sisters went to him for comfort all the time, even growing up. He had it in him to be a great father.
My brother turns twenty-five soon and he’s far more ready to settle down than I was at his age. It wasn’t until Tia that I’d even entertained the notion of one woman for the rest of my life. Now, I knew. No one else. Ever. Didn’t give a fuck about empty pussy out there. She was it for me. My endgame.
I’d burn the world down to protect her. I’d burn it down if anyone ever succeeded in taking her from me again (I’d tasted it and nothing tasted more bitter, not even having to shoot my own father), and if there came a day when someone took her in a way I couldn’t get her back, I’d make sure I was doused in gasoline before that world got lit on fire, because no way would I go on without her.
I told him I wasn’t sure I was different enough. He argued with me. I told him how gone I was for Tia; how ruthless I’d been with her in the early days. And then I told him how I knew that she was my perfect other half when I offered her an exit and she made me prove I didn’t mean it by letting me get to the count of ten and then running, hoping I’d chase her.
My brother looked thrown. I didn’t typically open up like this. It was a rare moment. But there were two people on the planet I felt I was safe enough to bare my soul to on the rare occasion the mood struck. Dare was one. Tia was the other.
Ed was strolling in our direction. “Rossis are here.”
The three of us headed around to the driveway at the front of the house.
I glanced back and saw her in the window, waving at me, a wine glass in her hand. She was smiling with an openness that hit me in the chest. This fucking girl. My fucking girl. So gorgeous, filled with so much light, lighting up my dark world.
I bit down on my lip, fighting a smile, eyes traveling the length of her. Eye-fucking her.
She was pink in the face, either from shyness or because she anticipated the next day.
The next day. Mine. She was mine now, but something about it… something about marrying her. Fuck, yeah. Mine. Some people said it was just a piece of paper, but I wanted that piece of paper more than anything I’d ever wanted.
I was about to move away from the window, knowing the limo was here to take Tommy, Dare, and Eddy to the bar where they were going to shoot some pool, but then I caught movement coming out of the car.
Nino? Bianca? They even had their son Joey with them.
We’d expected them to come, but I’d been told just before we left for Aruba that they couldn’t make it. An emergency with a friend of Bianca’s. Something evidently changed.
I squealed and ran out, colliding with her. We jumped up and down hugging and laughing. I had tears in my eyes.
Tommy was smiling, as were Dare, Eddy, and Nino.
“Surprise, baby girl,” Tommy said.
“I thought they couldn’t come!” I accused.
“Tommy made it happen,” Bianca told me.