“What do you want?”
“What do you think I want?” I ask as I hear the screech of the first of the SUVs of the convoy arriving.
“They’re here! They’re here, you fucking bastard!”
“I would watch what you call me right about now,” I say, putting the barrel of the pistol to where his tiny cock is and pulling the trigger.
Lucien screams, and it’s fucking music to my ears.
“That was for Hannah. This next one is for my dad,” I say, hearing footsteps charging into the building. I put the barrel on his right knee and pull the trigger, then bring it to his left knee as Lucien sobs and screams. “This will be for my mom.” I blow out his other knee. By now, given the state he’s in, he should be begging for death.
“Please. Please. Fuck. Please.”
“I’m short on time, so I’m going to have to make the last one good. It’ll be for the rest of us. Vittoria. Her mother. My brother. Me. Even little Emma.” I point at his stomach, which will be the most painful and slowest way for him to go. I pull the trigger just as the door is knocked down. Men descend upon me, throwing me facedown to the ground, kicking the gun from my hand before slapping handcuffs on my wrists and hauling me to my feet.
“Well, well,” my old enemy, Chief Inspector Greco says. “Mr. Caballero.”
“Chief Greco, good to see you, as always.”
Greco signals to one of his men who delivers a punch to my gut that would have me doubling over if it wasn’t for the two holding me upright.
“It’s never good to see you. What’s this?” He looks down at Lucien, who is bleeding out and begging for help. “What a mess,” he says. “That’s two you’ve killed today, is that right?”
Lucien stills. “No! No! You said… I called it in! You… Help me! Fucking help me!”
“Busy day, or is that normal?” Greco asks me calmly.
I grin. “Slow, actually.”
“Where’s the Russian?”
He shakes his head, and I smile. It’s a good day. “I’ll see you in prison,” he says close to my ear. “I have good friends there.”
“I look forward to it. I’m sure we’ll have a lot to discuss. Starting with those cash deposits into your wife’s account,” I whisper the last part.
That wipes anything resembling satisfaction off his face, and he gestures to the cops to take me away.
“You’re a mess, Dandelion. Remind me not to fuck with you.”
Vittoria sits in the tub looking straight ahead as I scrub blood and dirt off her. I take each of her fingers and clean the gunk of Lucien’s eyes and skin out from under her broken nails. I drain the tub once, twice, three times and refill it and all the while she sits there staring straight at nothing, almost catatonic.
Someone brings a steaming mug of tea. I thank them and set it aside to cool a little while I wash her hair then put conditioner in it to comb it through, taking my time. I like doing it. She finally closes her eyes and lets her head drop back. I watch her face, soft and relaxed, and I think about all the shit she’s been through. The things that have been done to her. And I make a vow at that moment. I will not allow anyone to harm her again. I will never let anything happen to our Dandelion ever again.
I rinse the conditioner out of her hair, then crouch down beside the tub. “Vittoria, drink this.” She doesn’t stir. I bring the cup of tea to her lips. “Dandelion.”
She turns to me, finally looks at me with soft, yielding eyes. They’re so expressive, those eyes.
“You’re beautiful, you know that?” She blinks, giving me the smallest smile. I brush a strand of wet hair back from her face. “Drink this.”
I hold it to her mouth, and she takes a sip, then another, then brings handfuls of water to her face and rubs her eyes. I watch her, wondering if she’s crying again. I don’t even think it’s conscious, that crying. Just years’ worth of locked up emotion.
“Come on. You’re going to get cold,” I say, unplugging the drain and getting an oversized towel to wrap her in. She stands, water falling off her too-thin body. The stress of it all, I imagine. She lets me wrap her in the towel, and when I lift her out of the tub, she puts her arms around my neck and watches me in that way she has as I carry her into the bedroom. It’s a little unsettling, I admit, but this is her. This is Dandelion. A little weird. Damaged. But ours.