Bastian comes to sit beside me as I study the bandage on my thigh, tracing the map of bruises and cuts. “We’re going to need to bubble wrap you,” he says.
I smile, setting my head on his shoulder.
Amadeo sits on the coffee table, his knees touching mine. He tucks a strand of hair behind my ear, and I look up at him. At my beautiful husband. His eyes can look so cold yet hide emotions that burn so hot. I look at his mouth and touch his lips. And I feel my heart slip a little as I sit there with them both.
“You okay, Dandelion?” Amadeo asks.
I wipe away a smear of red on the corner of his mouth. My lipstick. Not blood at least. I nod. “I’m fine.” It’s a lie. But it doesn’t matter if I’m okay or not. Not now. The time for that will come later. After I’ve taken care of all that I need to take care of. “What do I need to do to file for guardianship?”
After flying through the night, we have a few hours to rest and change at our hotel before arriving at the Russo Properties & Holdings building in Manhattan, where the will reading will be held. Bastian and I have been watching Vittoria since the previous evening, but she seems more like the woman she was a few days ago before the attack. Although there is still a glint in her eye, that look that tells me she may be on the side of the abyss now, but she’s teetering.
She’s dressed in an elegant black Versace midi dress in a lightweight material. It hugs her figure, the bust gathered and collected at the center of her chest by a gold ring. It comes to just below her knees, and she’s paired it with patent leather high heels and a gold anklet. Her hair is bound in a neat chignon at the nape of her neck. On her ears are gold studs and on her finger is our wedding band. She left the engagement ring locked in a safe at the house. She’s wearing that lipstick again but along with eyeliner and mascara. It looks very different than it did the other night.Shelooks very different. That could also be the sleep she got after another round of fucking on the flight over.
“You look good, Dandelion,” I tell her as we ride up to the penthouse.
She meets my gaze, and I get that same sense I’ve had with her before. Like she’s so deep in thought, but when she hears you and looks at you, she’s seeing inside you. Nothing is casual with her. No empty words. And I admit she has me hanging on for every last one.
“It’s all the fucking,” she says, not quietly. “I guess you were right. Everyone wants to come.”
One of the two soldiers accompanying us shifts uncomfortably. Bastian chuckles. Bruno pretends to be busy with a text.
Anyone else may have made that comment as a joke but not our Dandelion. She glances from me to Bastian, then straight ahead at her reflection in the mirror, her expression never changing, oblivious to everyone but us.
My brother and I exchange a glance while the soldiers look on as if unseeing, and I wonder if this reprieve, this glimpse of the other, stronger side of her, will last. I have a feeling I know the answer and find myself wanting to be wrong for her sake. Because seeing her as she was, hearing what she said last night, how she didn’t know why she was like she is, I don’t want that for her. I don’t want to see her looking so broken, so damaged anymore. It’s enough. I want to fix her.
But I also know this isn’t over. She hasn’t hit rock bottom yet. And I’m afraid this reading of the will and our meeting with Lucien Russo may pale in comparison to what we learn when we meet with Tilbury.
I wonder if Bastian is thinking the same things because what he warned would happen has happened. My priorities have shifted. My endgame may no longer be the same as his. I wonder what hers is. No, I don’t have to wonder. She wants out. She wants to take Emma and walk away. And I promised her I’d let her go, but as the elevator dings and the doors slide open, I’m not sure I can do that anymore. I don’t want to.
My first face-to-face meeting with Lucien Russo is not what I expect it to be. I’d imagined I’d be calm. Gleeful, even. Because today brings us another step closer to his end. To justice being served, the scales leveled.
But when Lucien faces his sister as we walk toward him, Bastian and I both move closer to her, standing just a little ahead of her. Enough to protect her from an attack. Not that he would attack here and now, not so openly.
My uncle’s words come to mind. That it was Lucien who arranged what happened to her in Naples. Could he have? Or was Sonny fucking with us?
I don’t take my eyes off Lucien as he takes her in. He looks like his father but sloppy. Where Geno Russo took care to always look impeccable, Lucien doesn’t quite have that same crispness, that natural sense of elegance. He has money, that’s easy to see, but there’s something ugly and base about him. It’s in his eyes—in the flatness, the emptiness of them.
As we approach the room with the glass walls and doors, we’re met with one of Geno Russo’s lawyers, John Brady. Bruno shakes hands with him, and I guess he’s one of the lawyers he’s been in contact with to arrange things. We’re introduced to the other two. Vittoria shakes their hands. My brother and I merely nod in acknowledgment as Lucien shifts his gaze from his sister to us.
Bastian’s disdainful gaze sweeps over him. “Been a few years, Russo.”
Lucien’s eyes narrow. He’s shorter than us by several inches. Older. Softer. “You never did know when to keep your mouth shut,” Lucien says. I guess he’s still the biggest asshole in the room.
Vittoria wraps a hand around the fist Bastian makes. “Lucien,” she says calmly.
Lucien’s eyes move to her hands, first the one curled around Bastian’s, then the one with the wedding band, then to me.
“I’m confused. Who the fuck is who?”
Brady clears his throat. He’s the oldest of the attorneys present, and I guess he’s not used to that type of language.
“This is my husband, Amadeo, and his brother, Bastian.”
Lucien rolls his eyes. “It was rhetorical, sis.”