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The Sweetest Oblivion: Chapter 50

Nico

“If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.”

—Oscar Wilde


I BLINKED AGAINST THE SUNLIGHT streaming through the windows like Heaven was descending upon us and realized why I’d always hated staying at the penthouse. No fucking curtains.

Reaching toward the other side of the bed and feeling nothing but sheets, something jack-knifed in my chest. The clanking of pots and pans from the kitchen sent an instant rush of relief through me. I ran a hand down my face. Jesus. I’d wanted a wife and I got a damn heart-attack waiting to happen.

After leaving her here yesterday, I’d gone to my club with every intention of shooting Sebastian Perez in the head, regardless if he touched Elena or not. He was in possession of my wife and he hadn’t contacted me. I’d been out of my mind while he sat his ass on a park bench beside her and chatted the hour away. I didn’t know what stopped me from sending his body back to Colombia in a box—well, I guess I did. Sebastian was a smooth-talker and I admired how well he could dig his way out of shit.

He’d kept her safe while she went on some mission in fucking East Tremont. If I would’ve stopped her before she could go through with her plan, that ring would still be on her finger, I’d still believe she was in love with another man, and she’d still be harboring secrets until she felt her conscience was clean.

I got up, took a piss, and slipped on a pair of boxer briefs before going to see what my thieving wife was doing.

The news played quietly in the living room while she stood in front of the stove, wearing one of my t-shirts that stopped at the bottom of her ass. Her messy black hair trailed down her back, and, for fuck’s sake, my chest grew all warm at the sight. I walked up behind her and slid a palm beneath the hem of her shirt.

She yelped, throwing a hand on her chest. “Oh my god, Nico! You scared me.”

Good. Maybe she felt an ounce of what I did yesterday.

I rubbed her bare ass cheek before pulling her against me and looking over her shoulder. “What are you doing?”

“Trying to make you breakfast.”

I eyed the burnt eggs in the pan. “Not going so well, huh?”

“No,” she sighed.

I chuckled. “You’re a bad cook, baby.” She got distracted too easily, by anything and everything: the TV, reading, eating cereal, painting her nails. She had the attention span of a kid. “If you want it done right you have to stand by the stove until it’s finished.”

“I did this time, I swear,” she insisted. “But then Mamma called your cell phone, so I answered, and she was going on and on about being ‘worried sick’ because my phone wasn’t working. I told her it must have died or something.”

Yeah, didn’t really care to share that it was currently lying in pieces on my living room floor. In fact, we were staying here until Luca had someone go clean the mess up so Elena wouldn’t know I’d lost my goddamn mind and destroyed the house. And because she reminded me she’d made me act like a lunatic again, I slapped her ass hard.

“Ow!” she exclaimed. “What was that for?”

“Stealing from me. Lying to me. Pick one.”

She went still, her guilt-ridden thoughts swirling in the air around us. I sighed, turned her around, and pressed her face into my chest. She wrapped her arms around me, and satisfaction hummed in my throat.

Maybe I shouldn’t have trusted a thing she’d told me last night, but I did. I’d thought she was difficult to read before, but that might be because I found it hard to focus on her face. Now, I could see her thoughts leak into her soft brown eyes and hear them in her voice. She had a long way to go to be a Russo, but hell, I’d walk with her the whole way.


Elena

A sharp sting on my butt cheek caused me to spin around, narrow my eyes, and rub the sore spot.

Nico glared at me with a towel in hand that he’d just used as a whip. He only wore a pair of black boxer briefs, and his hair was still wet from our shower.

“Explain what’s happening tonight again.”

I rolled my eyes like I was put out, but in reality, I had to bite my cheek to hold in a smile as I turned to walk into the bedroom. “Male strippers. You know, men who dance while taking their clothes off.”

Nico and I had spent another night at the penthouse, though I would rather go home. I stayed entertained by smothering myself with him day and night, so I guessed it didn’t matter where we were, as long as he was near.

I’d gotten a call from my mamma at eight a.m. and Nico had handed me his phone and fell back asleep while I chatted about my bachelorette party tonight—hence him snapping my ass with a towel.

I headed to my bag that sat on the dresser and dug through it for some clothes before he could welt my bare skin again.

He walked up behind me. “There’s not a chance some man’s putting his hands all over you, Elena.”

I turned, my lips pulling into a frown. “Do strippers touch?”

“It’s called a fucking lap dance, baby,” he growled.

“Oh,” I said nonchalantly and turned back around. “Good to know.”

“Good to know, why?”

“I’ll have to shave.”

That comment got me tossed on the bed, and I was laughing before I hit the mattress.

“Who the hell thought it was okay for you to have strippers at your party?” he said, exasperated.

“God, you’re crazy. I was just messing with you! We’re going to a burlesque show.” I sighed, leaning back on my arms. “You’re no fun to play with.”

He stood at the end of the bed with narrowed eyes. “Am I supposed to find other men touching you funny?”

Something vulnerable climbed up my throat. “You’re full of double standards, Nico. I know you’re going to a strip club tonight, and I know how happy everyone will be to chip in for all your lap dances.” I knew there was no way to keep this man out of a strip club—I was sure he owned one or several—but the idea of some woman with her hands on him made me feel sick.

“How do you know where I’m going? I haven’t even heard about it.”

“Benito told my mamma.”

“Benito.” He grimaced. “How would that asshole know?”

How could he not like my cousin? Everyone liked Benito.

“What else would you do, Nico?” A strip club was the tamest thing possible for a Made Man’s bachelor party. One of my older cousins had gotten married last year and there were hookers rented out for the night. I only knew that because Benito texted me to ask how to know a woman wanted him if she’d already been paid to sleep with him.

“I’d rather call the whole thing off. I don’t like dropping you off at your parents’.”

“Why?”

“I don’t trust your papà.”

“He’s your father-in-law now, Nico. You’ll have to learn how to get along.”

He let out a breath of amusement, running his hand through his hair. “I seem to be getting a whole lot of baggage with you, woman.”

I frowned.

His heavy gaze burned mine. “Nobody touches you, Elena, no matter what you do tonight. Do you understand me?”

“Nobody touches you,” I shot back.

We stared at each other for a moment, the realization of how deep we were both in sweeping into the room. Amusing, as we were married, but also thrilling in its possessiveness and need. He was mine, and nobody else could have him.

“Sounds like we’ve got a deal,” he drawled, before yanking me closer by the ankle and climbing on top of me. Happiness filled my chest like a balloon, and I wondered if you could love someone so much you’d burst.


Nico’s car had been idling in front of my parents’ place for a solid two minutes now, while he sat in the driver’s seat, tense and silent. I reached for my door handle, but he pressed the lock button before I could open it.

“Nico, we can’t sit in here forever,” I sighed.

His gaze met mine. “Screw the parties. Let’s go home. I’ll fuck you nice and slow all night long.”

Amusement bubbled up my throat. “You have a romantic way with words.”

He ran a hand across his mouth. “Who did you say was taking you?”

“Dominic, and the two men you’re secretly putting outside the club.”

A small smile pulled on his lips. “You’re nosy.”

“You talk loudly on the phone.”

“You got money?”

“Yes.”

“Your cell phone?”

“Yes,” I said, “though I don’t know why I needed a new one.”

He lifted a shoulder. Maybe it had been easier to buy a new one than to go home and get mine. We hadn’t been back to the house today, having stayed at the penthouse until now. I still had to find something to wear tonight, though most of my clothes were here at my parents’, anyway.

Benito came out to stand on the porch and Nico’s eyes narrowed on him. “You gonna break the news that we’re married?”

“Yes, I’ll make sure everyone knows I’m legally bound to Nicolas Russo.”

His amused gaze came my way. “Never thought my wife would have such a smart mouth.”

“Is it disappointing?”

His hand slid around the back of my neck and pulled my face to his. “There could be worse things.” He kissed me deep and slow. “You gonna have a fun time tonight?”

“Maybe,” I whispered against his lips. “But I’ll be missing you more.”

“Damn,” he drawled. “You’re sweet when you aren’t stealing from me.”

I flushed. “Are you going to let me get a job and pay you back?”

He laughed. “Do you know how much you stole? It would take you twenty years at best.”

“Well . . . I’m not going anywhere, am I?”

His gaze burned. “No. I think I’ll keep you.”

“Nico . . .” I swallowed. “I really am sorry about the money—”

“Don’t be. I’m impressed,” he said, amusement coating his voice. “There might be a little Russo in you yet.”


I knocked softly on the doorframe and cleared my throat. “Hi, Papà.”

He glanced up from the paperwork on his desk with an unreadable expression. “I hear you’ve gotten married.”

Everyone on the block must have heard it with how loud Mamma had screeched when she saw my ring. It wasn’t an ecstatic screech either—more like a horrified acquiescence.

I shifted in the doorway. “Yes.”

“He didn’t ask me if he could push the wedding up,” Papà grunted.

“You didn’t ask me before selling me to Oscar Perez.” My heart raced once the heated words passed my lips. I didn’t believe I’d ever have the courage to talk back to my father, no matter what he said or did.

His jaw ticked, but he only shuffled through some papers. “I didn’t sell you. You know how this life works, Elena. If you lived on the Outside and got to make all your own decisions, you’d never last. They’d chew a girl like you up and spit you out. I was trying to protect you.”

My father’s vision for my happiness and well-being were so skewed I knew we’d never agree on a thing, so as asinine as I believed his beliefs were, I dropped it.

“I don’t want there to be issues between you and my husband.”

He scoffed.

“Why do you dislike him?” I sighed.

“He’s a hothead and a cheat.”

I opened my mouth to disagree but then closed it. It was a little hard to dispute.

“He sees something he wants, and he takes it—just like his papà. I fucking knew I shouldn’t have let him see you until he married your sister.”

“Why did you tell him I was unfit for marriage?”

“Because he doesn’t deserve you!” Papà slammed a hand on his desk. “Oscar understood how you are. He would’ve made you a good husband.”

I laughed with bitterness. “How I am? Do you think I’m made of glass, Papà? You don’t even know who I am because you haven’t spent one day getting to know me since I turned ten.”

He gave his head a shake.

My throat felt tight. “Firstly, you’ve been misinformed about the kind of person Oscar was. Look into him a little deeper and think for a moment that you almost sold me to him. And secondly, regardless of your reservations about Nico—I’ve known him for a short amount of time and yet he knows me better than anyone else. He’s my husband, Papà . . . and he’s come to mean something to me, whether you like it or not.” I swallowed. “If you care about me at all, you’ll be civil with him.” After a moment of silence, I turned to leave but then paused at his voice.

“Even though you can’t see it sometimes, I love you, Elena, and I want the best for you. You’ll come to me if he’s ever bad to you.”

I nodded, though I knew it would never come to that.

For the first time in my life, I felt free to be me. To curse if I wanted, to keep my smiles for who deserved them, to be bad at something, to fall in love.

Nico didn’t treat me like glass. He shattered the reflection of an empty life staring back at me.

He taught me how to soar.


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