She put the gun back on the nightstand and yawned. “Not a total apology but a bit better than yelling.”

  “I didn’t—”

  “You did.”

  Glaring, I walked into her closet and pulled out the smaller of her suitcases. “Pack for warm weather.”

  “Are we going somewhere?”


  “Nixon!” Trace jumped out of bed and wrapped her body around mine like a koala. “I can’t believe it! We’re eloping! Oh my gosh, you’re the best—”

  I shouldn’t have winced or tensed when she said elope.

  “Not exactly.” I cleared my throat as she peeled her body away from mine. “It’s more of a business dealing.”

  Trace’s eyes narrowed until they were tiny slits.

  “Shit, are you going to get the gun again?” I scratched the back of my head and eyed the pistol.

  “Spill.” Trace sat cross-legged on the bed. “Or I’m not changing into clothes, and I’m not packing.”

  “Chase needs us.”

  Her anger disappeared. Just like that. I say his name, and all of a sudden she was ready to run head first into anything? How was that fair? Pissed, I almost said something but thought better of it since she had just pointed a gun at my face.

  “Are we all going?” Trace got up from the bed and walked into her closet. “Or is it just us?”

  “Everyone.” I peered around the closet door and watched her pull her shirt off. It came flying at my face along with a few Sicilian swear words I know she probably learned from Tex, damn him.

  “Is Chase already in trouble? By the way, you never told me where you went last night, not that I don’t trust you — well, actually…” She paused. “I’m still working on trusting you, you know, after the whole fake death episode.”

  I winced again. “I deserved that.”

  “And more.” Trace peeked around the door. “You do realize putting Tex and Mo on the same plane may start an all-out war?”

  “Too late for that,” I murmured.

  Trace’s face fell. She stepped around the door and pulled me into a hug. “What’s going on?”

  I answered her question with a question. “What’s the worst possible thing that could happen to us?”

  “Other than death?” Her arms tightened round my neck.


  “Going to prison? Being ratted out—”

  I licked my lips.

  “But we’ve done nothing wrong. Our dealings are legal, damn it!” Trace stomped her cute little foot and pulled away. “No way can anyone pin anything illegal on us.”

  Silence was probably my best bet, considering I couldn’t lie to her face.

  “Nixon.” Her voice had a pleading edge. “Tell me your family doesn’t do anything illegal.”

  “Okay.” I nodded. “Our family doesn’t do anything illegal.” It was different when she was asking me to lie, right?


  I grinned at that and smacked her backside. “Just get ready and don’t worry about things that you can’t fix… oh and don’t look too slutty. Your grandpa’s coming.”

  She laughed and threw another shirt at my face. “Grandpa, huh? Three mafia bosses in one plane? Better hope it doesn’t go down.”

  “We’d just parachute out or have Tex fly it,” I teased.

  “Stop being so calm about everything.”

  “My job,” I said seriously. “Now hurry up.”

  Trace’s nostril flared.

  “Hurry up, please.”

  She blew me a kiss and walked back into her closet. I was still smiling when I walked into Tex’s room — that is, until I saw a chick there, with him in bed, sprawled across him with lipstick smeared across her cheeks. Classy.

  I grabbed her by the hair and jerked her away from Tex. “Out.”

  “Hey!” The girl tried to lunge for me. Oh, hell no. That wouldn’t end well for her.

  “Just leave,” Tex said in a muffled voice. “I’ll call you.”

  With a huff, the girl grabbed her things and stomped off down the hall.

  “I swear I won’t hesitate to put a bullet to your head if you keep bringing skanks into my house.” I kicked Tex’s bed. He turned over and glared; two hickeys mocked me from his neck.

  I really had no other choice — I punched him in the jaw. He cut loose with a string of curses and almost fell off the other side of the bed.

  “Pack your shit. We’re going to Vegas.”

  “Really?” He perked up.

  “Tex…” I warned.

  He scowled, his reddish brown hair fell across his face. He pushed it out of the way and turned. Damn it to hell.

  “And cover that shit up.” I pointed at the two hickeys glaring from his neck.

  “Like Mo cares,” he grumbled.

  “I care. Me. Your boss. Your best friend.” I walked over to the bed and slapped his cheek twice in jest. “Now stop feeling so damn sorry for yourself and get your shit together or I will send you to Sicily.”

  “You’d ship me to my enemies?” Tex had the audacity to look offended.

  “To keep myself from shooting you? Or worse, from Mo poisoning your Captain Crunch? Yeah, I would. Now don’t make me tell you twice. Better yet, don’t make me any more pissed than I already am. My shit’s about to blow if you keep this up.”

  “Fine, fine.” He rubbed his jaw and crawled out of bed. I slammed the door behind me and went on to the next room. Why have kids when I already had Tex?

  “Mo.” I knocked softly on her door then opened it.

  “You’ve got to be shitting me,” I muttered. She was sleeping with noise-canceling headphones on. Her makeup was streaked black down her face.

  “Mo.” I said it louder, this time sitting on her bed and giving her shake. Her eyes snapped open, and then a gun was pointed in my face. I pushed it away and swore. “What the hell is it with you women?”

  “Sorry.” She pulled off her headphones. “Thought you were Tex.”

  “Glad you took the time to make sure before you shot.”

  She grinned, though her eyes looked swollen from crying.

  “Mo… you want me to talk to him? Order a hit? Force him to spend some time with the Alferos? Just tell me how I can make it better.”

  “You can’t.” She shrugged. “I’ll be fine. Let me handle it in my own way.”

  “Right.” I pointed at the gun. “Your way involves way more blood than mine.”

  “Hmph. That’s a first,” she said sourly.

  Ignoring her, I walked over to the closet and pulled out her favorite Louis Vuitton travel bag. “Pack up. We’re going to Vegas.”

  “No way!” Mo pushed away from the bed and threw her arms around me. “You’re going to marry Trace! Finally. Oh no! Does she even have a dress?” She squealed and clapped her hands. “And she has to bring her grandma’s shoes, and, oh no, does Frank know? You know how he hates surprises and—” Her face fell as she focused on my lack of smile. “You’re not getting married?”

  “Are you sure you and Trace weren’t separated at birth?”

  “I find it uncomfortable that you’d say that about the girl you’re in love with.” She crossed her arms. “Why Vegas?”

  “That isn’t information you need to know.” I flashed a grin. “Now pack up. And for the love of God, leave your gun at home.”

  “How can I protect myself if my gun’s at home?” she called after me as I reached the door.

  “That’s what I’m for.” I turned back. “Hurry up, Mo.”

  Satisfied that everyone was on track, I made my way to the kitchen to grab some food. A couple of the guys were sitting around drinking coffee. I’d need all but two to stay at the house. “Vino.” I poured myself a cup of coffee. “You and Marco are going with me — the plane leaves in five hours. Pack for the desert and bring cash.”

  He took a long swig of coffee and nodded. “Yes sir.”

  The rest of the men waited expectantly. “Noth
ing to worry about,” I lied. “Just keep the house safe and answer your phones.”

  Chapter Seventeen


  To say that the ride to the airport was awkward would be a gross understatement. To start things off, Tex was wearing a scarf — to Vegas of all places. The fact that his jaw was starting to bruise yellow wasn’t helping matters or that he had on sunglasses to hide his terrible hangover.

  Every few minutes, Mo would glare in his direction and play with a knife, tossing it into the air and catching it, only to glare at him again.

  At least Trace was acting semi-normal.

  Until she asked about Chase. Again.

  “Was last night — I mean, did he and Mil…” She stopped talking and frowned. “Are they okay?”

  Tex snickered.

  I sent him a warning glare and wrapped my arm around Trace’s shoulders. “He’s fantastic. He just got married. Happiest day of a person’s life.” My smile was forced.

  “I wouldn’t know,” Trace answered evenly then looked out the window.

  I needed a drink.

  The SUV stopped in front of the airport. I was ready to beat my way out of the car, using my teeth to rip the seatbelts if necessary, when the door finally opened.

  “Thank God,” Mo whispered under her breath.

  We grabbed our bags and made our way toward the Virgin Airways Kiosk, my favorite airline — best seats, always comfortable, and always able to find us a flight, even if it didn’t technically exist.

  “So, uh.” Trace tugged on my arm. “How do we do this?”

  “Do what?” I looked around in confusion.

  “How do we fly?” She whispered fly as if she’d said kill or assassinate.

  I tried to keep myself from laughing. “Well, we get our tickets over there. Then we go through security and hop on an airplane.”

  She smacked me on the chest.

  “No, I mean, people like us, how do we fly?”

  I stared blankly at her face. She muttered a curse then whispered in my ear, “The mafia.”

  I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I threw my head back and laughed. I laughed so loud that people were starting to stare. “Wow, Trace, thanks for that.”

  “I’m serious!” Her fists clenched.

  “I know, baby. That’s why it’s so damn adorable.”

  “Hey, what’s the holdup?” Mo called from the ticket counter. “Our flight leaves in ninety minutes!”

  With one last chuckle, I kissed Trace on the forehead and grabbed her arm. “Everyone flies the same way, sweetheart.”


  “Trust me.” I winked and pulled out my ID.

  My cell phone lit up with a text from Chase.

  Chase: Already through security, see you on the other side, man.

  Me: Going through now.

  Chase: Okay.

  Me: Trace asked how we fly. As in our Family.

  Chase: Uh, was she serious?

  Me: Extremely.

  Chase: That made my day.

  Me: Mine too.

  “Where do I put my hands? What if they suspect me of something? Do I lie?” Trace whisper-yelled next to me. I sighed and put my phone away.

  She was alternating between pacing and picking at her fingernails. Remind me never to tell her sensitive information. The woman would crack on a dime.

  “Trace.” I braced her shoulders. “You’re fine. Just act normal.”

  Tex chuckled behind us. “Trace and normal? In the same sentence?”

  Trace glared. “I won’t hesitate to pull a—”

  I covered her mouth with my hand and smiled tightly. “A middle finger, we know, sweetheart, but that’s not very ladylike.”

  She stomped on my foot. Hard.

  Mo laughed and took off her sunglasses. “It’s a great day.”

  “Shit.” Tex went pale.

  “What?” All of us had successfully made it past with our IDs and were now standing in line to put all our earthly possessions into the bins.

  “My scarf, man.” Tex tugged at it. “If I pull it off…”

  “She knows.” I grabbed a bin and threw in my ring, my wallet, ticket, and shoes. “Trust me, you made sure of that last night.”

  Tex’s face fell. “What if I told you we didn’t actually—”

  I held up my hands to stop him. “None of my business. Now hurry up. You’re holding up the line.”

  Tex unwrapped his scarf, swearing the whole time, and stomped through the security. No beeps went off.

  I was the last to go through. I always was.

  The minute I stepped in, the red light went off.

  I stepped back out, showed them I had empty pockets, and stepped back through again.

  “Sir.” Security held up his hand. “We’re going to need to pat you down.”

  “Fine,” I said through clenched teeth.

  A man about half my size walked up to me, put on some plastic gloves and began patting all the way down my pant leg. I glanced at Trace, her face was ashen white. Did she really think I was stupid enough to bring a weapon through security?

  “Any fake limbs? Metal plates from surgical procedures—”

  “Whoops.” I shook my head in annoyance. “Yeah, I actually have a metal plate in my head, right here.” I pointed to my temple. “Sorry, I haven’t flown in a while, and I always forget.”

  Sure enough, he lifted the wand to the side of my head, and it went off. With a sigh, he peeled off his gloves. “Next time step through the full body scanner, alright, son?”

  Son? Huh, I wondered if he’d still call me that if he knew I possessed at least three hundred different ways to render him without his next breath?

  “Sorry.” I shrugged.

  He waved me off.

  Trace ran into my arms, causing my breath to hitch when her body came into contact with my chest. “A metal plate?” she whispered so only I could hear.

  “It was a long time ago.”


  “Drop it.” I forced a smile. “Everyone ready? Let’s go to our gate. Chase and Mil are waiting.” Not a chance in hell I wanted to have that talk with her in the middle of an airport. Sorry, Trace. You see, after my dad locked me in a box, he’d use me as his personal punching bag until I couldn’t see straight. Right. Not necessary information. Trace would just want to talk about my feelings, and talking was the last thing I needed to be doing.

  Chapter Eighteen


  We sat in the far corner at our gate, away from the crowds and against the wall. I didn’t want to have to worry about people behind me. It was easier just to keep a look out toward the front, not that anyone would be stupid enough to try anything at an airport.

  “You shouldn’t have involved them.”

  “I didn’t.” I cursed. “You did. The minute you married into the Abandonato family, you invited them into this mess, this drama—”

  “I hate Nixon.” Mil looked down at her hands. “He’s threatened me, shot me, threatened me again, and pointed a gun at my head twice. I want to rip the ring directly from his lip.”

  “Care to give it a try?” came a confident voice on my right. Great timing.

  Mil’s eyes narrowed. “You man enough to let me?”

  “Cute.” Nixon smirked, tilting his head. “Little sister wants to play.”

  “Guys!” I stood separating them from each other. I wasn’t sure what the hell Nixon was playing at, but it was exhausting. Why all his anger was directed at my wife, I had no idea, but I didn’t have to stand for it. “Just leave her alone.”

  “Then tell her,” Nixon and I were chest to chest, “to stop being a damn baby and act like the boss.”

  “You want me to act like the boss, tough guy?” Mil’s nails dug into my back as she tried to get at Nixon.

  I rolled my eyes and looked up at the ceiling.

  Trace pushed Nixon to the side. “Mil, stop. Please.”

  “Says the boss’s whore, or wait, w
eren’t you Chase’s? Memory’s a little fuzzy. I can’t seem to remember—”

  Trace lunged for Mil, but my body was blocking her from getting any action. Unfortunately, my face was in the way of Trace’s slap.

  Her hand came into contact with my face, making me stumble to the side.

  Mil stepped back and covered her mouth with her hands.

  Trace’s eyes widened and welled with tears.

  “Damn.” I rubbed my face. “Dysfunctional Sicilians!”

  Tex chuckled and tugged at the brim of his hat. “That’s some messed-up love-triangle shit going on.”

  “Tex!” everyone yelled in unison.

  Great. So much for keeping a low profile; people were openly gaping. I was surprised security hadn’t already been called.

  With a wave of his hand, Nixon said loud enough for everyone to hear. “Actors, so temperamental.”

  Trace did a little curtsy. I bowed, still holding my face, and Mil rolled her eyes while Tex gave one solitary clap.

  Groaning, I walked over to my seat and grabbed a bottle of water to hold against my cheek. At least the burning was going away.

  “Chase, I’m sorry, I—” Trace swallowed and bit down on her lower lip. She always did that when she was thinking, just like she always jumped to conclusions, choosing action before asking questions. Just like her favorite ice cream was strawberry, and her favorite books all had creepy vampires and zombies. Shit, shit, shit. I pushed the feelings down. It wasn’t the romance I missed with Trace — it was just her. I missed her. I missed what we’d had. She had been one of my best friends. Let that be a lesson to every guy out there: don’t fall for your best friend, not unless you’re willing to lose everything in order to have her. Falling in love with someone who has that much power over your entire being — it’s dangerous as hell, but if you win? Worth it, just ask Nixon

  I reached for her hand.

  A smile teased her lips.

  Mil had gone over to the counter to pout. Nixon had followed and by the looks of his gestures and all-around pissed off look was most likely telling her what was expected of her as a boss — again. Leaving Mo and Tex to sitting on opposite ends of the gate. And me and Trace.

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