Free to a Good Home, Book 2 of the Heartbeat Series

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25. Hector's

When they arrived at Hector’s, Jimmy felt like all eyes were on him as every cell phone seemed to have been pointed in Paul’s direction. From the moment they entered the rustic restaurant, with its deep-set lighting, the brass and wood features with the ambiance sound of laughter and voices lowered as cell phones rose from the tables while the maitre ’d chatted with Paul.

“Alphonse, come stai?” asked Paul, getting hugged by the rotund man in an Italian suit who greeted them at the door.

“I am well, how is my little cousin?”

“Maia is well, thank you. Getting stronger every day. I can’t wait to bring her by to you meet you all.”

“Where are Uncle Saverio, Aunt Rosa, and Joey?”

“I flew Mama and Dad home to Florida last night. They have had enough of the snow and needed the sunshine. You know how those snowbirds get. Joey is back at the hotel with a headache. I’ll take him his dinner to go.”

“Chicken Picatta and cheesecake and he will be well in no time. I will have Chef Juliette make his Picatta special for him with extra capers.”

“You know him too well. This is Maia’s guardian, Jimmy Wilkins.”

“Nice to meet you, Senor Wilkins. Your table is ready, Paulie. Right this way.”

Alphonse showed them to their table, and Mack stood behind Paul’s chair in the corner. “Gio will be your server. He’s finishing up at NYU now, so he’s here in the evenings only a couple days a week.”

“I look forward to seeing him. Is Uncle Phillipe on tonight?”

“But of course. He will be glad to see you. He got in a couple fresh magnums of Bordeaux. I know he ordered one for you?”

“Yes, he and Joey worked it out. Please add it to my bill. Mack will take it out to the car. Please send him by when he has a chance.”

“I will. Best to Joey.”

“I will tell him you said so.”

“Do you like red or white wine?” asked Paul.

“Both.”

“Good, how do you feel about a merlot tonight?”

“Perfect, my favorite.”

Paul’s Uncle Phillipe, his father’s youngest brother, and the Sommelier came around and chatted with Paul in Italian about his magnum of wine as well. He was thin and had a full head of white hair and seemed like a younger and more handsome Saverio. Phillipe learned from his older brother how to sweet talk women and had been a bachelor for most of his life because he didn’t want a woman like Rosa to tie him down and keep him from enjoying all the women he could figuratively wine and dine.

“The Bordeaux Merlot,” said Paul. “What vintage do you have?”

“I have magnums of the 2003 and 2006.”

“The three, please,” said Paul, “I wasn’t a fan of the six and I still have a couple of the 2006 bottles in the wine cellar.”

The sommelier laughed, “I know that’s why Joey ordered 2003 for you. I will bring you a bottle and have Marco pack up your magnum to go.” Phillipe toddled away and left them to uncork the wine.

Jimmy sipped the water as Paul’s younger cousin, Gio, approached them. Paul stood to hug the younger cousin and ask about his school year since Paul paid for his younger cousin to live on campus and have a life away from the restaurant. What Alphonse did not know was that Paul also paid the difference of what financial aid did not cover for the boy. If Paul could give Gio one gift, it was to not be chained to the department of education for his whole life with student loans. He had an agreement with the registrar and financial aid departments and in turn, he not only paid the bill but also contributed to the general fund for other students in Hospitality and Restaurant Management and the Music department.

“Have you given any more thought to that MBA, Gio?” asked Paul.

“I have, but Papa wants me to be done with my education in May when I graduate. I hope you will come to graduation."

"I wouldn't miss it for the world. Let me talk to your father. I think you having an MBA could only make you more marketable in the long run. Have you thought to apply to NYU?”

“I was already accepted.”

“Then you should do it. I will help. When we have dessert, send your dad over. I will chat with him.”

“You’re the best, Paulie, thanks.”

“Anything for you, Gio. I appreciate all your hard work, both at school and here with your parents. You are a good son and I’m glad to help you any way I can.”

Jimmy smiled, watching them.

“Now, what’s for supper, Gio? Jimmy is a pescatarian and likes fish with his pasta.”

Gio rattled them off with great description and Italian finesse, and Jimmy was quite taken with the young man.

“We have the Juliette Linguine, which is linguine with pesto and pine nuts with grilled portabello mushrooms that is served with grilled salmon.”

“Named for my little cousin, the chef. I sent her to Le Cordon Bleu. Is she in the kitchen tonight?”

“Yes, I will send her by to see you after the rush.”

“I would love to have the Juliette,” said Jimmy.

“Perfecto,” said Gio. “What about you, Paulie?”

“I really want the Cioppino,” said Paul. “Caesar salad, Jimmy? Juliette makes an incredible Caesar dressing.”

“That’s fine,” said Jimmy.

“Two Caesars,” said Paul.

Uncle Phillipe brought the wine and poured some for Paul to taste. He tasted it and nodded. “Perfect, thank you, Uncle Phillipe.” The sommelier poured for Paul and his guest and set the bottle on the table.

“It’s nice,” said Jimmy, setting his glass back on the table.

“Now that Maia is not here, what is Jonny’s prognosis?”

“I haven’t sugar-coated much with her, I want you to know. We have never ‘protected’ Maia because she was a child. We have always felt strongly on being truthful at all times.”

“I get that. How is he?”

Jimmy shook his head. “His blood pressure fluctuates and we’re not certain why this was never an issue while we were home. You need to understand, Jonny is an athlete. He runs with…that is, he ran with the track team during morning workouts, and was an academic adviser to some of them.”

“Oh wow,” said Paul. “They have no idea what brought the stroke on?”

“No idea, but I’m blaming it on butter.”

Paul chuckled, “A vegetarian in France? yeah, me too. You can’t eat anything without it being bathed in butter in Paris. Joey loves Paris and France. Me, I’d rather be in Italy any day. Do they think he will be able to walk again?”

“They can tell him he won’t, and he’ll still walk. He is getting stronger every day. I think some time in the rehab center there at UC would be the best for him. They have an intense physical therapy program will have him walking with a walker before he leaves.”

“Do you think he’s that close to walking again?”

“Yes. He can bear weight on his legs when I move him to the commode. It’s the actual stepping and balancing when it comes to walking that we are working on now. As soon as I’m back in Chicago, I’m taking him to a doctor to put him into a rehab center as soon as possible.”

“What do you need, Jimmy?”

“Sleep.”

Paul laughed. “What?”

“I have had 5 hours of sleep in 3 days. We left France, got home at seven-thirty last night only to find out that my friends had arranged care for Jonny and bought me a ticket to LaGuardia and I left the apartment at seven-thirty this morning.”

“Besides sleep, what do you need?”

“A new apartment and to move into it and set it up before he is discharged from the rehab center. His insurance will pay for two weeks in the rehab center.”

“Can you afford all of this?”

“We have savings.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

Jimmy sipped his wine and didn’t answer at first. Paul raised his eyebrows, waiting for an answer.

“I need to ask you something and no matter how I say this, I’m certain that you are going to take it the wrong way. Are you trying to buy Maia?”

“That’s quite a leap,” said Paul with a chuckle, not taking offense but found the absurdity of it to be outrageous. He picked up his wine and drank some.

“Joey wants her. It’s pretty clear—”

“I’m aware,” said Paul as the Gio set the salads before them and offered pepper. Paul accepted the offer of pepper and Jimmy put his napkin on his lap.

“Just because Joey wants Maia, doesn’t mean that he won’t get her. I agree with Jonny. Right now, it’s best for her not to live in Chicago. That could go on for a while when dealing with a lawsuit against a governmental agency like DSHS or CPS.”

“Right.”

“Joey will get Maia time, and then he’ll continue to badger me for a baby.”

“You don’t want to be a parent?”

Paul shrugged his shoulders. “I’m not out and don’t plan on changing that very soon.”

“Will you marry Joey?”

“We had a commitment ceremony twelve years ago. I already promised him that as soon as its legal I will, and then I’ll be out. How about you guys?”

“As soon its legal we’ll do it. If I wasn’t his domestic partner when this happened, I don’t know what I would have done. Are you guys domestic partners?"

“No, I can’t seal those documents. Trust me, I tried.”

“Oh.”

“I have papers notarized with my wishes and that Joey has power of attorney of me if I’m incapacitated and cannot answer for myself. To answer your question, I’m not trying to buy Maia from you, so let’s put that to bed right now.”

“Okay.”

“As Bert pointed out to Jonny, she has to come home with me. As Maia pointed out to all of us, she wants us to get along and share her.”

“Right.”

“So what can I do to help you and Jonny right now?”

“Why do you want to help us?”

Paul sighed. “Maia’s a great kid. Smart little shit and she loves you two and calls you her dads. I promised Maia that if there was a way that I could help, I would. I want Maia to be happy. I want to relieve her of any and all stress when it comes to her parental figures and get well soon. Her mind is going to be in Chicago and the rest of her will be in Pennsylvania. So, I’m asking you again, how can I help you, Jimmy?”

Jimmy didn’t answer at first and the sommelier came around and poured more into their glasses.

“Thank you for asking. I didn’t expect you to, and I’m not sure how to answer.”

“You think about it and let me know what you need.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, as the wait staff cleared the empty salad plates from the table.

“Will you be able to get any acting gigs when you get back to Chicago?”

“I’m sure I will. But I must find help for Jonny as the shows and rehearsals are in the evening. I’m also an adjunct professor at UC so I sent a note to the HR director letting him know that I’m available if there are any classes in the theater department that needs to be covered.”

“I hope they have something for you.”

“Me too.”

“If you want to relocate, I have friends at Winston. I’d be glad to send your CV over there.”

“Thanks, but Jonny is tenured at UC.”

“Who is on medical leave.”

“We have two months until medical leave. He is still on sabbatical.”

“Right, that’s good,” said Paul, “but you are the sole provider for a while though. If it's not working out, then send me your CV and I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks,” he said as the waiter set their dinners in front of them and grated more parmesan on Jimmy’s plate. Throughout dinner, the two chatted about their partners and Maia and realized that the other wasn’t that far off from where his own stance.

Jimmy broke off a piece of perfectly prepared salmon, gentle steam came off it as he slid it between his lips.

“Good?” asked Paul, seeing Jimmy savor it. Jimmy nodded and took another bite.

“How’s yours?” he asked as Paul pulled a mussel from a shell.

“Amazing. I could eat it every day of the week. Al has an amazing fishmonger who meets Juliette every morning for the best fish. That girl leaves here at midnight and is on the dock by six to get the best of the catch. This restaurant is her life. She’s going to be its chef and Gio will manage it as soon as he’s done with his schooling.”

“Keep it in the family,” said Jimmy, twirling some of the pesto covered pasta onto the soup spoon with his fork before lifting it to his mouth.

“I want her recipe for this pesto.”

“Nutmeg,” said Paul.

“No way.”

He nodded. “She roasts the garlic on the grill and then grinds it up with freshly grated nutmeg with the basil.”

“It’s to die for.”

“She’s brilliant, wait until you meet her.”

“I need to talk with you about Maia and Jonny.”

“What about them?”

“We have been in her life since before she was born.”

“I realize that.”

“Losing her would destroy us. Jonny, especially.”

“We already settled this, Jimmy. I’m not going to take her from you guys.”

“We don’t know you, Paul. You have to understand where we are coming from right now.”

“I don’t know you either, and I should be pissed at you both and tell you that you’ll never see her again after abandoning her that way. However, I promised my little sister that I wouldn’t keep her from you all.”

Jimmy wiped his mouth on his linen napkin and then set it on his lap again. “I could say likewise. She told me how many times she called your label and went to the studio in Chicago only to be thrown out of there without a word—”

“Look, I was on tour—”

“And my partner had a stroke.”

“I didn’t even know of her, Jimmy. If I did, I guarantee, she wouldn't have lived in a run-down one-bedroom apartment with her psycho mother.”

“Cat was not psycho.”

“What was she then?”

“Challenged. Your father running out on her destroyed her. Pregnancy created a chemical imbalance and post-partum—”

“When did you become her guardians?” Paul asked, setting down his fork and picking up his wine.

“When she was four.”

“Why did you become her guardians when she was so young if her mother didn’t have issues?”

“We did it because of Maia’s heart issues. She couldn’t get the best care on Medicaid, but Jonny has great benefits with UC and she was seen at their hospital by the best specialists thereafter.”

“I thought Cat was a scientist at UC?”

“Before Saverio. After him, and even with therapy, she couldn’t go back into a lab. She was too unstable.”

“Jesus.”

“There was stuff that came out, stuff that never surfaced before then. All we could do was support them both. Taking Maia from Cat would have destroyed them. She wasn’t affectionate, but she provided for Maia certain stability academically, she was driven and insisted on Maia’s continued advanced placement. She didn’t do well in IEP meetings on her own, so Jonny went with her. Whenever Jonny showed up, they did whatever he wanted.”

“He sounds like quite a guy.”

“Oh, he is. Wait until he’s better, he will shock you, because you don’t expect it from him. That’s why I will be in trouble with him if I do not come home with what I have been sent to do.”

“Which is?”

“We need formal custody arrangements.”

“Look, I told Maia, and I’m telling you, we will work with you guys.”

“We are her permanent guardians, and we do not want that to change.”

“Jimmy, listen, I’m not going to argue semantics here. I’m her brother and her father is still living.”

“And he signed his rights away to you. He’s not even a part of this.”

“How do you know about that?”

“My attorney has a copy of your guardianship paperwork.”

“Your point?”

“We want time with Maia. Some holidays, Summer break, birthdays, Spring break.”

“Okay,” said Paul. Jimmy reached for his wallet and took out an insurance card.

“Insurance,” said Jimmy handing it to Paul.

Paul smirked and looked at it. “Why are you giving this to me? I can afford to pay her medical bills.”

“And out of pocket is more than with insurance.”

“If I apply this to her bill, then I want to pay the remainder. I don’t want you to pay for it. You have enough on your plate with Jonny’s bills.”

“I will forward Maia’s bills to you.”

“Good,” Paul motioned to Gio. “I need to place some orders to go,” he said. The waiter handed him a menu that he handed to Mack, who handed it back to the waiter.

“I want the Lasagna, with Italian sausage on the side, a Ceasar salad, and cheesecake. We also need a Chicken Piccata for Joey with the extra capers. He will want a Caesar with the dressing on the side and cheesecake, and a piece of chocolate cake for Maia. All to go.”

Jimmy chuckled at Mack. “She’s already got you wrapped around her finger.”

“She’s a good girl,” said Mack.

“Thank you, Mack,” said Paul.

“Thank you, Mr. Lenci.”

“Chocolate nothing in it,” said Mack. Jimmy laughed. “She’s the only child I have ever met to scrape out oreo frosting and eat only the cookies.

“No, she doesn’t,” said Paul. Jimmy nodded.

“Tell me about school and Maia.”

“I got everything you need in my briefcase. IEP, transcripts, IQ score and testing, you name it. You need to talk with Jonny about school. That was his deal.”

“What was your deal?”

“I’m the stage dad and the hospital dad. All those antibiotics, you got to watch her. Don’t think they are watching her. They got many children in a ward and don’t notice right away when she’s not responding to the medication. She also gets more despondent when she’s away from the piano.”

“I know the feeling. I haven’t touched one since my last concert which was four days before I met her. I’m jonesing for my piano and my skis.”

“Oh wow.”

“I spent 10 hours in my house. Not even a nap in my bed.”

“You haven’t been home?”

“As little as you.”

“You guys should go home for a couple days while I’m here. No sense in us doing double duty.”

“I will convince Joey of that. I’d love to sleep in my own bed for a change. That and I need to check on her bedroom’s renovations and see how that’s coming along.”

“I wish I could have brought her keyboard on the plane with me. I have a four-octave one that kept her somewhat happy in the hospital.”

“I’ll bring her one of mine when I return. Gives me a reason to drag Joey away from Maia for a couple days. So as stage dad, what was the biggest challenge when dealing with Maia?”

“She will only wear a dress under duress, and if it's for a performance it has to be lined in cotton muslin because she can’t stand itchy crinolines.”

“Wait, she wants to be a concert pianist and won’t wear a dress?”

“She wants to wear a tux.”

Paul chuckled. “Is she a tomboy or future trans?”

“Tomboy. I hope she grows out of it.”

“Let Joey work on her. He’s a hairstylist.”

“He should do her hair.”

“He will. I’ll see if he will bring his scissors back with him.”

Paul watched Jimmy pick at his food.

“You okay?”

Jimmy nodded and sighed.

“You’re exhausted.”

Jimmy nodded again.

“What’s going to keep you awake tonight?”

“Your mother.”

“Yeah, I know, same here. My sister is pissed at me for putting her in the hospital.”

“Maia’s pissed she’s not in jail. I happen to agree with her.”

“I get it.”

“Are you prepared to choose Maia over your mother?”

“I’m not choosing either over the other. The holidays you got Maia, I’ll go see my Mama.”

“Look, Paul, we’re all for your reunion with your baby sister and to give Joey the taste of parenting that he so desires, but we will not tolerate your mother being anywhere near Maia. Holidays dinners, funerals, weddings, included. She had better NEVER be in the same room or house as our girl, do you understand me?”

“Yeah, I do.”

“Maia deserves justice.”

“This is beyond justice. I get it. This is just more leverage for you two.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“My closet and my mother. Keeps Maia in your life and from me cutting you completely out for abandoning her.”

“Why are you still in?” asked Jimmy, sipping his wine.

“It’s perfectly acceptable for you to be out in your industry.”

Jimmy chuckled. “It is perfectly acceptable to be out in yours as well.”

“I just can’t do it yet. I have a very feminine fan base, and I promised my family that I wouldn’t out myself as long as my parents were still alive.”

“You are barely in as it is.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“We’ve all seen the pictures of you with Joey in the background. It was no shock to us when Maia identified him as your partner.”

“Yeah, about that—”

“We aren’t telling a soul, Me, Jonny, Bert, Xavier, and Raul.”

“I can and will sue if it gets out.”

“I’m sure you will. How is Maia supposed to answer, when kids at school ask her if you are gay or if Joey is your partner?”

“The same thing Joey says—”

“Which is?”

“Ask me.”

Jimmy smirked at Paul’s egotism. “And do they?”

“Not yet.”

“Do reporters ask?”

Paul scoffed. “No, they know better. I’m really open with my fans and they can approach me like 95% of the time. When they can’t. it's with a great apology. Same with the press. When they overstep, I blacklist them. ZNN just got it from me for posting the pics of Maia in the crate and paying off that intern.”

“Will you sue her?”

“Oh no, Alex got her expelled from her music management program at NYU and fired from ACR. That will hurt her more in the long run.”

“Damn—”

“So, no, they don’t ask.”

Gio checked in and Jimmy requested a box for what was left of his dinner. “How about dessert?”
“Oh yes, bring over the tray,” said Paul.

“I’m stuffed,” said Jimmy. “I couldn’t even eat another bite.”

“Pick something and take it to go, their desserts are some of the best in New York,” he said as the sommelier came over.

“Would you like me to cork the wine?”

“Please, thank you, Uncle Philippe.”

“What do you suggest?” asked Jimmy when he saw the desserts.

“The cheesecake is tremendous. Truly a New York style cheesecake with the sour cream top.”

“Dairy and I do not agree, and I pushed it to the limit with the parmesan.”

“I want the cheesecake to go,” said Paul to the dessert girl.

“I think I’ll have the chocolate cake to go,” said Jimmy.

“That’s what Mack ordered Maia. The ganache is to die for.”

“Looks that way.” The sommelier brought the wine in its own brown gift bag to the table and Paul thanked him.

Mack sorted the bags and put Maia’s chocolate cake in with Jimmy’s bag. “You’ll see her before I do,” he said to him as Paul looked over the bill. He put his card in it and handed it to the server. When he returned, Paul did the math for the tip and put an additional 100 in the billfold.

“There’s a Benjamin in there for Uncle Phillipe,” said Paul. “Is your dad busy?”

“Grazie, Paulie. I will get him. I hope our little cousin is feeling better."

“She’s improving all the time,” said Jimmy. “Thank you for asking about her. She will be thrilled to meet her cousins.”

When Gio left the table, Jimmy shook his head. “Maia is a little celebrity,” said Jimmy.

“I promised Alphonse I would bring her in when she is well. They all want to meet her.”

“Is this one of your favorite places to eat?”

“About twice this week alone. Their gravy is my mama’s recipe. Alphonse is my cousin on my father’s side, but no one makes gravy like my mama. Alphonse had to have Juliette sweet talk her into the recipe, which meant being in the kitchen with my mama since she doesn’t write down recipes.”

“Oh wow, all taste and smell? Old school.”

“My Aunt Adele and my mother dislike each other, but they never let that get in the way of a relationship between us cousins. Her girls were in Penny’s wedding party, and a pair of the nephews were the altar boys.”

“Are they all older than Maia?”

“By at least five years. There are a younger set of children, but they are much younger than her and most of them live in Philadelphia. Alphonse moved them out to New York to escape the crime syndicate in Philadelphia. My Mama’s brothers were in the mafioso and died in prison. One of my cousins was killed when he was twenty-two in a shoot out. Alphonse didn’t want his boys becoming gangsters, so they moved out here near his sister, my aunt Maria, who is a nun. Her name is Sister Russell Maria, if you ever hear Maia talk about Sister Russell, and trust me, someday she will meet her and fall in love with her like the rest of us do. She’s great, and she doesn’t wear a habit anymore. You wouldn’t know she’s a nun until she tells you otherwise. She’s more like a hippie than a nun, unless you talk about God, then she’ll surprise you.”

“Really? Does she work in a church?”

“Sister Russell? She does, loosely, only to live in the rectory at St. Benedict’s. She works with the homeless and does AIDS hospice work in the Bronx. Whenever she needs something, Aunt Maria hits me up via text message. It’s a trip. Joey taught her how to text when it was still just the numbers. We would get these crazy texts from her to be decoded. Finally, I would just call her and ask her what she needs. I bailed her out of jail once.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“I did! She was in a protest for the rights of AIDS patients and got into a scuffle with a riot cop. Come to find out he was Catholic and wow, did he feel bad when he realized he got into it with a nun. I was in Philly at my parents’ house, and my dad offered to go to New York to bail her out and my publicist sent me to do it. It’s how I got involved in AIDS and homeless causes. I’m shocked Maia didn’t ask me about Sister Russell being that I feel she knows all about me.”

“Maybe she didn’t know about her?”

Paul nodded. “Anything’s possible with Maia. She cracks me up.”

“She sure keeps things interesting. It was harder when she got older and more independent and would take off in the neighborhood. Being away from her is pretty nerve-wracking for me.”

“Maia will be just fine in mine, Jimmy. She’s in a guarded community and I have a fence around the property. No one is going to break in and get her there. Elly, Mick, and Mack won’t let her out of their sights if I’m not home. I trust them exclusively and all of them are trained in CPR and first aid.”

Jimmy nodded and yawned.

“Now let’s get you back to your place to get a good night’s rest, and I’m going to go deal with Joey. I tell you right now, you two could be the best of friends if you give each other a chance. The problem is that you two are too much alike.”

Jimmy nodded. “I hope you’re right.”

Alphonse came over and Paulie offered him a seat.

“I want to talk with you about Gio.”

“I know what you’re going to say, MBA.”

“Yes.”

“It’s time for him to take over, Paulie. Gio has the aptitude more than anyone else.”

“Okay, hear me out, Al,” said Paulie. “He’s already been accepted into the program. It’s what, eighteen months? He’s a bright boy, does great in school, he’s made dean’s list every semester at NYU. Will you say yes if I pay for all of it?”

“Paulie, no, you do so much.”

“Al, listen, I like your son. He’s a great boy. If only Penny’s boys would straighten up. He deserves every opportunity to be a success and to keep Hector’s a success. Think about this. If Gio gets his Masters in like Marketing, you’d be busy every night. He could amp up the social media game even more than he is already doing for you. He could expand the business, get that other storefront next door. Trust me, if there is anyone who can do that, Al, it’s Gio. The boy has already brought so much to Hector’s. I want him to have every opportunity to be a success.”

“You will help him through grad school?”

“I will pay for it all. Full ride for what he doesn’t get in scholarship, and if I know Gio, he’s already applied for those too.” Alphonse nodded and Paul put out his hand to shake on it. “Do we got ourselves a deal?”

“MBA?” asked Alphonse.

Paul nodded and motioned for Gio who came over and stood by the table. Alphonse took Paul’s hand. “You got yourself a deal, Paulie.”

“Gio, you are going to grad school,” said Paul. “When you register, put my address on the bill. It goes right to me, no one else. Understand?”

“Yes Sir, thank you, Paulie.” Paul stood and hugged him.

“You keep doing good work for yourself and Hector’s." He took him by the shoulders and looked into his eyes. “I’m proud of you and the good man you are.”

“Thank you, Paulie.”

“Does Marco have my wine?”

“Sure,” said Gio. “I will get him to bring it out to Mack.”

“Mack, you want to get it and the car?”

Mack left them unattended and Gio got him the bill while Alphonse helped Mack out with the bags of food as well.

“You are very generous,” said Jimmy to Paul.

“It would just sit in a bank, and I can’t take it with me. You need me, you call me, text me or email me,” said Paul, writing his number down on a piece of the receipt with his email address and giving it to Jimmy. “Maia needs four of us, not three, and definitely not two. It’s apparent that losing Jonny would destroy both of you. Whatever I can do, please, let me do it.”

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