Broken Queen

Page 75

Amadeo and I stand on the beach at the ass crack of dawn. I stifle a yawn as the sun breaks the horizon. Her idea. A new beginning. And sunrise was a better symbol of that to Vittoria.
I glance at my brother glad to see he looks as tired as I feel. Neither he nor I are morning people. But then the patio doors open, and Vittoria appears on the threshold holding Emma’s hand in one of hers and a bouquet of dandelions in the other. If I know her, they went out to pick them this morning.
I clear my throat and straighten and my brother does the same as we take in our bride wearing a simple white lace dress under which I see she’s barefoot, her hair loose down her back and a crown of wildflowers bound together by dandelions in her hair.
She looks so beautiful wearing just some lip gloss and mascara and nothing else. She smiles as she makes her way toward us through the sand. I glance at Emma who takes careful steps along her big sister. She is wearing a smaller version of Vittoria’s dress and has a matching crown in her hair.
Bruno accompanies my mother, and they follow Vittoria toward us, taking two of the three chairs. When Vittoria reaches us, Emma takes her bouquet and hands it off to my mother. Then, in a move she obviously practiced because she’s so intent on getting it right that her tiny tongue is sticking out of her mouth, she takes Vittoria’s hands and places one in mine and the other in Amadeo’s.
Vittoria smiles down at her, and Emma takes her seat. As the sky turns orange, we make a promise to each other that we will be bound to one another. We will love and honor her and she us, and never be apart in our hearts for as long as we all shall live.
We exchange rings, simpler rings than the official wedding band she and Amadeo exchanged and designed especially for us. Platinum rings made to look like a single dandelion turned wish to wrap around each of our fingers. And as I place mine on the ring finger of Vittoria’s right hand, I look into her glistening sapphire eyes and make a wish. For her. For her to be happy. And I vow that that is what I will strive to do for the rest of my days.
Three Months Later
For the first time since our grandfather’s death, the Caballero family is united as one. Once the truth about Sonny putting the hit on his own son came out, most of those who had been loyal to him swore fealty to me. Those who didn’t were dealt with.
Dmitri Anders has begun to make appearances at the house to see Vittoria and Emma. I’m still not sure how I feel about that, but I see how good it is for them to talk to someone who knew their mother. Who loved her so completely. I’m not a fan of his ties to the Russian mob but as long as he’s in our territory, I’m not overly worried about it.
We’ve settled into our lives in Naples and we’ll stay here. Once the gossip about the massacre at the Ravello house dies down, we will sell the villa. I think it’s for the best for everyone.
I stand at the patio window and watch Bastian and Vittoria walk onto the beach after their nightly swim. I smile to see them holding hands, laughing after Bastian stops to pick something out of her hair. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen my brother as happy as I see him now. Not even before, when we were children. He barely had a chance to be that anyway.
We reburied Geno Russo as Vittoria wanted. We did it for her, not for him. And I’m glad it’s done, and she can move on. We all can. In the end, he’s no less guilty of any crime in my eyes. His cowardice cost us all so much, Vittoria especially, and I won’t forgive him those things.
I turn away from the window when Bastian and Vittoria enter the house and I hear her giggle as they approach the open study door.
“Isn’t it getting cold for you to swim?” I ask Vittoria. My brother will keep this up year-round. You can’t talk sense into him.
“A little,” she says, wrapping herself around me and kissing me.
“Christ, you’re freezing,” I say, hugging her to me.
“It feels good to swim out in the sea at night,” she says, looking up at me. “Clears my head.”
“A cold shower will do the same.” I wink and poke her nose. “Let’s go get you into a hot bath.” We have a routine. She swims with Bastian then I bathe her to warm her up. Win-win-win.
“Not yet,” she says, her expression growing serious.
I exchange a glance with my brother as she takes my hand and Bastian’s and sits up both down on the couch. She perches on my lap, sets her legs over Bastian’s and leans her head into my chest.
“I’m happy, you know,” she says. “I didn’t realize I didn’t know what to be happy meant all those years.”
I kiss the top of her head tasting the salt of the sea. “I’m glad but we need to get you warmed up before you catch a cold.”
“He’s right,” Bastian says, rubbing her feet.
“Are you happy?” she asks us, looking at us with what is almost worry in her eyes.
Again, Bastian and I exchange a glance. “What’s going on, Dandelion?” Bastian asks.
“I’m asking if you’re happy.”