Iwatch Dandelion sleep. She is spent and it’s not just the lovemaking. It’s the hours before, the days, the months, the years. And now she’s here. In our house. In our beds. Ours.
Bastian steps out of the bathroom freshly showered. He, too, looks at her, with her wild blond hair fanned out over the pillow, her face so soft in sleep. Lips still swollen from our kisses.
“I’m going to get dressed,” Bastian says. “Meet out back?”
I nod and see the moment he takes before walking out of that room. We’re thinking the same thing, my brother and me. Because the reason for this, it’s over. Finished. Lucien Russo is dead. Geno Russo was already dead. Russo Properties & Holdings itself hardly seems to matter. The erasure of the Russo name from the face of the earth is a fading memory. Because what matters is the woman sleeping on the bed. Because she has changed everything.
Ten minutes later Bastian walks out onto the back patio where I’m seated looking out over the sea at the clear, beautiful morning. No clouds in the distance. No storms on the horizon.
“What happened?” Bastian asks as he takes a seat.
I pour him a mug of coffee from the carafe on the table.
“Greco got a minute to flex his muscle.” Greco ordered my beating, then denied having done so. Fucking coward. “I’ll repay him in kind in my own time.”
“Bruno came through?”
“Yeah. Uncle Sonny was very good at one thing. He kept very precise records and had an excellent surveillance system in place.”
Bastian grins. “Always covered his ass, the prick.”
“Thanks to Sonny we won’t have any trouble with the authorities going forward.”
“Good. Mom and Emma are good. Just talked to Stefan.”
“Thanks for doing that. Bruno said the cleaners will be done with the Ravello house in a few days. What do you think? Keep it? Go back?”
“I think it’ll be hard for Mom and Emma,” he says.
He looks out to the sea, jaw tight, because here it is. The thing we are here to discuss. Dandelion.
After a long minute he turns to me.
“I know the right thing to do. But what I want to do is very different,” he says.
I drink a sip of steaming coffee and study my brother. He wants to keep Vittoria. I understand. I feel the same way.
“It has to be up to her, brother,” I say, turning to watch the soft waves of a calm sea.
“Like I said, I know the right thing.”
“Bruno is getting paperwork ready for me to remove my hold on her finances.”
Bastian nods. “Good.”
We fall silent, each of us lost in our thoughts.
In a way, I wish Tilbury’s treatment had been more thorough. That she wouldn’t ever remember that year of her life. But she has, and she’ll need to process. I have no doubt she can and will. If not for herself, then for Emma.
The patio door opens, and I turn, expecting one of the staff, but am surprised to find Vittoria walking toward us. She’s barefoot, wearing one of my T-shirts, her hair loose and wild down her back.
She’s fucking beautiful to watch. Like something not quite of this earth. Not quite human. Or maybe too human. She is self-assured. She knows she is damaged, but she doesn’t hide it or try to be something else. She is our Dandelion, a little strange, a little lonely maybe, a lot sad, but ours.
“Coffee?” I ask as she comes to settle on the grass at our feet.
She shakes her head and looks over her shoulder at the view. “It’s beautiful here.”