Defying Her Mafioso(3)

By: Terri Anne Browning

She smirked as we moved past Cristiano. “Coming?”

“You can not go downstairs like that,” he raged behind us as we started down the stairs. “The house will be full of men in an hour. Bad men, Scarlett.”

I rolled my eyes at his description of the men my father was meeting with later. Bad men? That was the most hilarious thing I’d heard in forever. Describing the Cosa Nostra members as simply bad men was like saying the Ebola virus was a really bad cold. Those guys were not just bad men. They were cold-blooded criminals who ran the city—the damn country—under my father’s ever watchful eye.

“Relax,” Victoria told him as we reached the bottom of the stairs and he was still trying to get me to go back to my room and change. “We’ll eat and then go shopping. That way we won’t even be under the same roof as those guys.” She released my hand and turned up the wattage of her smile as she looked up at him with her big brown eyes. “Okay?”

I hid my amusement at how well my sister could turn our brother—hell, almost any man—into her minion with just that smile. I had no idea how she did it, because I didn’t have that superpower. Our hardass brother turned to putty in her hands right before my eyes.

“You’ll have to take some security with you,” Cristiano told her as he followed us into the dinning room where the table was already laid out with breakfast foods.

“Of course,” she murmured and shot me a wink while his back was turned away. “Whatever you think is best, Cristiano.”

“I’d feel better if Ciro or myself could accompany you, Victoria.” He sat across from us at the table and poured himself a cup of coffee. “But we’ll both be in meetings all day.”

Meetings. Right. I liked that they called what was going to happen today meetings. It sounded more civil. Political, even.

“We’ll be fine,” my twin assured him as she delicately buttered her croissant before stuffing half of it in her mouth.

While I watched the two of them, I reached for the pot of espresso and a coffee mug. I poured most of the contents into my mug and then took my time letting the rich coffee wake me up. It was a slow process and one I didn’t enjoy. Coffee was the giver of life. Without it I was sure I would have murdered someone by now.

“Good morning, my daughters.”

I was thankful the espresso was kicking in when my father walked into the room. I was able to give him a welcoming smile rather than my typical glare that wished whomever it was graced upon to the deepest bowels of hell. He stopped behind Victoria’s chair first and pressed a kiss to the top of her head, reminding me of how it had been when we were little girls. Our father might have been the biggest Cosa Nostra boss in the country, but when it came to his children, in my eyes he was the best papa in the world.

As I watched Papa, I couldn’t help but see the pain that flashed in his eyes as he smiled down at Victoria. For him, Victoria was our mother incarnate and it would always hurt him when he thought of her. He’d both adored and at times hated our mother, but he would always love her. All too soon, he was turning away from her and his pain faded as he gave me a grin that touched my soul. “There you are.”

While he was taking in the sight of me, I was doing the same to him. Dressed in a hand-stitched Italian suit, he didn’t look like the man I knew could order the death of his enemies with just the flick of his wrist. He just looked like my father, the man who loved me more than life itself. Dark hair, streaked generously with silver, a few wrinkles around his dark eyes that could just as easily be filled with the kind of coldness that made grown men shake in their boots as the warmth and love that was shining out of them right then. Vito was still a very handsome man in his late fifties, but he’d gained a few pounds over the years. His waist was a little thicker than it had been the last time I had seen him.

Without hesitation, I stood and wrapped my arms around his slightly rounded body. “I missed you, Papa.”

His hug didn’t last nearly as long as either of us would have liked. Hell, we could have stood there hugging for hours and it wouldn’t have been long enough for me. There were few people in the world whom I loved as much as I loved my father. To say I was a daddy’s girl was just as much an understatement as calling the guys about to arrive ‘bad men’.

Pulling back, Papa tapped the tip of my nose twice, something he’d always done that told me without words he loved me, and then turned to face my brother. “Is he here?”

I tensed, immediately knowing exactly who ‘he’ was. I glanced at Victoria, who was already watching me closer.