We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

The Sweetest Oblivion: Chapter 32

Elena

“True love stories never have endings.”

—Richard Bach


THE DOOR SHUT BEHIND HIM, and I was convinced I was the worst person in the world at that moment. I had no idea about his mother. I’d assumed she’d died of cancer or some other illness, but now I wondered if it was an illness at all. I had imagined that in his family, the woman would be the only reliable and steady person to lean on. He didn’t even have that.

This painting had been his mamma’s, and he’d kept it even though she was probably far from the best parent.

He was good to his mamma.

I needed a drink.

As I took my time making a gin and tonic, a kid of fifteen or sixteen stepped in. Once he shut the door, he stood beside it with a stoic expression. I had a James in the hall and this must be Lucky. The nickname had conjured an image of a beefy man with a shamrock tattoo, not a boy. My fiancé must be initiating this kid, poor thing.

I smiled. “Hello. I’m sorry, I don’t know your name.”

“Matteo, but everyone calls me Lucky,” he said, slipping his hands into his suit pants pockets.

“Why do they call you Lucky?”

“I suppose because I’m lucky, ma’am.”

A bit of amusement rose in me. “Nice to meet you, Lucky. I’m Elena, but you probably already know who I am, considering you’re my babysitter and all.”

He laughed a slightly uncomfortable laugh.

I flicked the TV on and got settled on the couch. For twenty minutes, I watched the news and sipped my drink, with the intermittent commotion from outside and the electro beat pulsing through the ceiling. Nico better be confident his gaming hall wouldn’t be busted while I sat in his office. Though, it wasn’t exactly a real worry of mine. An FBI agent showed up to his parties; I was sure he had the rest of the force in his pocket.

I sighed. Lucky had only been quietly standing by the door like the good Made Man in training he was. I grabbed a pack of cards off the coffee table and turned the box in my hands.

“Lucky, would you like to play cards with me?”

“Oh, well,”—he ran a hand across the back of his neck—“I’m no Ace.”

My brows knitted, unsure of what he meant. “I just thought cards would be a good alternative to us both dying of boredom.”

He chuckled. “Um . . .”

“Or are you not allowed to?” How strict was my fiancé with his men?

A corner of his lips lifted. “I’m only supposed to look in your direction when you speak to me.”

I guess that answers that . . .

With a sigh, he said, “One game.”

He didn’t sound so sure, and I hesitated because I didn’t want to get him in trouble. But he was already walking to the couch, and the truth was, I didn’t want to sit in silence any longer.

“Are you related to Nico?” I asked.

“Cousin,” he said. “My papà was his papà’s brother.”

Lucky was taller than me, but he was lean and wiry. Still a boy. I wondered what Nico was like at Lucky’s age. Probably still bossy and used to getting his way.

Poker was the game of choice, and when I told Lucky we didn’t have to play for money, he looked at me like I was crazy. I laughed. What a little Russo in the making.

So I played poker with this teen boy and bet money I didn’t have.

I lost.

I used to play often. Nonna had a taste for the game, and sometimes when my mamma got a hankering for “family night” we all got together and played.

“Lucky,” I said, rearranging my cards, “how did your aunt die?”

“Caterina?” He frowned. “Drug overdose, I think. I was a baby at the time.”

I sighed. Yep, horrible person.

“Where is Nico tonight?” I was 99 percent sure he wouldn’t tell me, but that still left a 1 percent possibility. When his shoulders tensed slightly, alarm ran through me.

“I don’t know,” he said eventually.

“Yes, you do,” I accused.

He glanced at me with wide eyes. “Well, I do, but I’m not going to tell you.”

“Why not?” I pretended to be taken aback.

“Because Ace would have my ass if I talked business with you.”

“How would he know?”

He only shook his head.

“Fine.” I set my cards on the coffee table and then stood.

“Where are you going?” His tone wavered.

“I think I’ll go dancing upstairs.”

He shot to his feet. “No—wait.”

I halted in front of the door with my back to him.

“James is in the hall and you won’t get past him,” he said.

“But it would look bad that I got past you, wouldn’t it?”

Three seconds passed.

“Fine.” It was a little boy growl.

A smile pulled on my lips.

“He’s dealing with the man that knocked up your sister.”

I went still, took a deep breath, and then headed straight for the minibar.


“You lost again.”

One game had turned into three, and Lucky was either lucky or I was just bad.

I sighed and tossed my cards on the coffee table, watching some scatter to the floor. I was on my third drink and my head felt the effects.

Nico had been gone for almost two hours and the worry gnawed at me. He told me I shouldn’t trust him, so how could I trust the promise he’d made me about Ryan?

“That’s two grand now,” Lucky said, smug.

I groaned in my mind. Russo boys were just as bad as Russo men.

“Two grand, huh?” The voice carried a dark edge.

Lucky shot to his feet for the third time that night. “Boss—”

“Enough.”

The kid shut his mouth.

Nico’s focus was on me as he walked into the room. Self-assurance seemed to brew under his skin, like he’d gone for a run and instead of perspiring, he sweat cool confidence. His mood was electric and affecting me like a contagion in the air.

“Get the fuck out, Lucky.” Nico’s voice held a sharp note as he unbuttoned his suit jacket. His cousin headed toward the door. “Leave your post again and I swear you’ll be unable to leave your bed for a week.”

Lucky said, “Yes, boss,” before shutting the door behind him.

“Is there a reason my men don’t do what they’re told when you’re around?”

“Maybe you need to ask nicely,” I said, biting my cheek to hide my amusement. “A please never killed anyone, you know.”

“I suppose not.” His gaze sparked with dark amusement. “It seems to be your favorite word under certain circumstances.”

I sucked in a breath as warmth rushed to my cheeks. The blush spread throughout my entire body, and to distract myself from it, I changed the subject.

“I lost two thousand.” My tone was unapologetic, like I did this all the time.

Nico tugged on his tie, a smile pulling on his lips. “You didn’t lose anything. He cheated you.”

I paused. “How do you know that?”

“Because I taught him how, that’s why.”

Lucky, my ass.

“He would’ve won without the cheating,” I admitted with a sigh. “I have a terrible poker face.”

An intense gaze met mine, the pressure of it touching my skin. “Somehow, I doubt that.” He walked toward me with his hands in his pockets, and it felt as if I was forgetting how to breathe with each step.

I had no idea how to respond to that, or why it felt like it meant something, so I only said, “I don’t know the first thing about how to recognize when someone’s cheating, either.” I had the feeling I would get eaten alive in the Russo family. Even a teen boy had shown me up.

Nico dropped to his haunches before my spot on the couch and picked up a card from the floor. My heart pattered like rain against glass. He was close enough I could reach out and run my hand through his hair.

“Well, we’ll have to fix that, won’t we?”

In between his pointer and middle finger, he held the card out to me, but before I could reach for it, it disappeared into thin air.

My eyes went wide. “How did you do that?”

“Simple sleight of hand.”

The cheating in the Russo family was so extreme that making cards disappear was “simple.”

“Show me,” I insisted.

His gaze sparked with amusement. “We’ll start with the basics first, so I can leave you alone for a couple hours without you losing all my money.”

I frowned.

He picked up the rest of the cards, and I noticed his freshly busted knuckles. I chewed my lip as he got to his feet, took off his jacket, and sat in the chair behind his desk.

“You play often?” I asked.

He leaned back, resting an elbow on the armrest. “Used to.”

“Why not anymore?”

“Got business to run.”

“Lucky made it sound like you were good. But now I can’t decide if you were good at poker or good at cheating.”

A dark smile pulled on his lips. “Sounds like you got him talking.”

Eh. I knew that tone, and it wouldn’t be good for Lucky.

“Well . . . no. I kind of threatened him and told him I would go dancing upstairs if he didn’t tell me what I wanted to know.”

“And what did you want to know?”

I swallowed. “Where you were tonight.”

“I thought my business would be the last thing on earth to interest you,” he said in an amused drawl.

“Some of your business has become personal.”

His words were tinged with sarcasm, yet so quiet I barely heard them. “Don’t I know it.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I didn’t wonder about it anymore when he said, “He’s alive, just like I told you he’d be. Your famiglia is taking him into the fold right now.”

I cringed. “He’ll live?”

“He’ll live.”

I let out a deep breath of relief and let my head fall against the back of the couch.

“Thank you,” I said softly.

“I think we both know I hardly did it to be charitable.”

My cheeks flushed as I remembered our bargain. He’d yet to cash in on that. It made me believe he didn’t want to. Or maybe he didn’t want me to know how charitable he could really be . . .


Nico had some emails to reply to, so while waiting I used my phone to look at wedding table arrangements on my mamma’s party planner’s website. Out of the options in stock, I narrowed it down to a short round vase with studded pearls around the edges, and a simple one that would sit on a piece of glass.

I sent the pictures to Mamma only to receive a text that said: They both look like something you’d find at one of those Goodwills.

The vases were simple and classic and me.

My mamma was loud, proud, and would want her wedding tables to show it. Which was exactly why I didn’t want to use what was already purchased for Adriana—my mother being the buyer. I tilted my head and regarded them once more, but still couldn’t decide.

Nico had been on the phone for a short time, and I could grow used to his deep timbre in the background, no matter if he was discussing “product,” which I was sure was what killed his mother.

Now, he was quiet as he responded to an email, or possibly wrote a report on the next man’s life he was going to ruin. I was going to marry this man. I’d never believed I was a woman who needed attention, but at that moment, I wanted his. Undivided, and as thrilling as it always was.

Nerves played beneath my skin, but I got to my feet and walked around his desk until I stood beside him. He flicked a gaze to me and then leaned back in his chair.

“I can’t decide on a centerpiece for the tables,” I told him.

“Show me.”

Instead of taking the phone from my hand, he pulled me onto his lap. My heart raced from the shock of it. His arm was firm around my waist, yet it felt like it was burning me more than balancing me. I steadied myself with a hand on his shoulder. He was so big and warm and hard. I pretended this position didn’t affect me at all, but in reality, it took me a moment to remember why I’d come over here.

I turned my head to look at him. My breath shallowed when I realized his lips were only inches from my own. His gaze was warm, seeing deeper beneath my skin with each second.

With his body pressed against mine, warming me from the inside out, the pull to lean in was a physical thing. A heavy tug, as if he were my center of gravity. I could taste his breath and feel his strong heartbeat.

I could jump the gap, just as I’d done in a rain drizzled car once before.

How easy it would be: to bury my fingers in his hair, to run my hand along his jawline, to meet my mouth with his.

I knew it would be the best kiss I’d ever had.

So I only showed him the vases instead.


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset