F I F T Y - F I V E
One month later
I leaned back my head and watched the stretch of primrose sand, the hue as gentle and nostalgic as a vintage photograph. Every fiber of my being hummed with satisfaction.
A month has passed by since the dark storm we had endured.
A month to break barriers and rebuild life as we wanted as our own.
After the accident, it took almost three weeks for Marco to find the strength of move on his own, albeit with the help of a cane, which he detested to the core. Viktor and Dominic busied himself in cleaning up the mess, while I spent most of my time with Anna and Noah. Sometimes, Mia would insist I join her for the charity events and dinners too.
And then, one day, Ralph came up with an impromptu vacation plan for Sicily—the native hometown of my father and mother. Mia and I leaped on the idea and sketched out the plan within an hour before anyone had a chance to refute.
The next thing we know, the entire Romano family, along with Ralph, Marco, Aurora, and I were flying to Italy.
I was slowly sat upright on the lounge chaise as my eyes found a breathtaking sight. Dominic emerged out of the water with his damp, sun-kissed bronze hair and honey skin—wet and so-fucking deletable.
The telling smirk on his face told me that I have already fed his huge ego with the long stare and decided to avert my eyes in another direction. A young, happy couple with their five-year-old laughed boisterously, narrating some tale in their native tongue.
Dominic finally joined me, wrapping a hand around my shoulder, tucking me closer to his damp frame, and then following my gaze. There was something very familiar and intimate between them, even though it was difficult to understand the way they conversed in fluent Italian.
“What are they talking about?” I asked Dominic, whose Italian was surprisingly flawless.
“He is telling his son the story of how they met. She…was a painter. Apparently, she was looking for a muse when they found each other.”
The five-year-old seemed to have found the sand more impressive than his parents’ love story as he vainly tried to paw at the heap.
“That is a beautiful story,” I whispered, leaning my head on his shoulder.
Dominic kissed into my beach-messed hair. “Well, one day, you can tell our son or daughter our story as well.”
A sad smile crossed my face. “It will be hard to explain why I wanted to torture and kill their father.”
“Or the fact that I woke up naked in your bed with no sense of location,” Dominic added, causing me to slap his forearm.
“C’mon. It’s an epic story,” he insisted, grinning brighter than the flaming sun above us. “We will tell our children what a badass their mother was.”
“It’s still sad,” I murmured, sighing back to watch the dry sand shore lapping up the salty waves.
Dominic tucked a flew flyways behind my ear, trailing kisses along the side of my face. “Lilliana, love, what is it?”
It was hard to describe the unconventionality and how I detested the journey of truth even though I gained much more than I lost. I knew that it would be unkind to belittle all the love I received, but twenty-five years’ psychological agony was too deep to fade out this soon.
I slowly shook my head with a mirthless chuckle. “I know I am being ridiculous, but everything in my life seemed to have come up with a price tag. It’s…sad, sometimes.”
“Yes, it is,” Dominic agreed. “But that doesn’t mean you are any less. Things just happen differently for you. My love, you are not ordinary things.”
I wanted to revel in his admiration and adoration, but his words resonated so strongly in my head that, for a long moment, every event flashbacked before my eyes.
The day I first saw Dominic, the day Ralph pulled me into his embrace, and every other significant moment.
Dominic flashed a perplexed look. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
I didn’t realize until he mentioned and quickly sat straighter to face him. “You said that things just happen differently for me, and it got me thinking about our wedding. It never happened, at least the way it was supposed to be.”
“No, it didn’t,” he said sourly. “What does—”
“Dominic, will you marry me here—in Italy?”
For the first time that I have known Dominic, he was genuinely speechless. “Lilliana…”
“I was confused earlier,” I explained. “Not because I said yes to you, but the whole wedding was impromptu for me. But now, I know why. Chicago and all that big celebration were not for me. I want to get married to you here, in Italy. This is where my mother’s heart and soul is. This is where she wanted to marry Ralph one day.”
Which is why Ralph never visited Sicily until I came along. This is where my parents’ love story was supposed to be.
“Lilliana…” Dominic began contemplatively.
“Yes or no?”
This time, he clamped a hand over my mouth, not letting me interrupt. “Lilliana Alessi, I will marry the hell out of you anywhere you want.”
His mouth crashed against my mouth, slowly at first and then urgent. His free hand twisted into my hair and held my face securely as we slowly broke the kiss and grinned at each other like lovesick fools.
“Tomorrow?” I asked.
Dominic frowned funnily. “Why not today?”
“Don’t be greedy now.” I laughed and slowly abandoned the lounge chair, tugging at his hand. “C’mon, we need to tell our families.”
“Ugh.” He scowled, planting his feet into the sand floor, and slowly stood. “Can we get married and just text the picture? Saves me so much trouble from your father.”
“Not happening.” I giggled.
The luncheon was nothing grand, but the families—his and mine—were seated around the long table. As expected in any Italian household, it was overflowing with dishes, and the air around us was saturated with delicious food and laughter.
Ralph was smiling from ear to ear, engaged in a rapt conversation with Alessandro. On the far side of the table, was Marco and Aurora. They held their own brand of conversation that looked pretty formal on the outside, but the look in Marco’s eyes spoke volumes of his affection for her.
And then there was Viktor and Mia. The two people who were literally from two different worlds and yet created a universe of their own.
And finally, Dominic. What could I possibly say about the man I lost my heart and soul to? Every moment of every day, he made me smile and lash out in ways only he could possibly do.
For the longest moment, I simply looked at these people with nothing but dreamlike gaze. I wondered that if happiness could be trapped in a magical bottle, I would have captured this moment forever.
I was, for the first time in my life, exactly where I belonged.
“Lilliana! Join us,” Mia beckoned, only after her conversation with her husband ended.
Nodding with a smile, I made my way over the table in unhurried pace and took a seat beside Dominic. From the corner of my eyes, I could see Ralph watching me with his censored gaze and pursed lips, and to add fuel to the fire, Dominic smiled and leaned down to kiss my lips.
“Seriously?” I hissed with a glare.
“What?” He feigned an innocent look, but I knew that the gleam in his eyes all too well. And because I was so hopelessly in love with him, I smirked under my breath and slowly shook my head.
The family went on gabbing about Ralph and Alessandro’s old tales around the streets of Italy and then the shenanigans of Chicago, and even though I wanted to laugh and participate in the same measure, but above all, I was bubbling to share my own news as well.
Clearing my throat, I swept a look around the table before commencing. “Since all of you are here, Dominic and I want to say something.”
There was pregnant silence as everyone stopped mid-act.
And Viktor was the first one to recover. “If this is another one of those stupid game nights, count me out,” he remarked, earning a scathing glare from Mia.
How was he socially clueless and yet make Chicago eat out of his hands?
“No, it’s not game night.” I smiled and turned to Dominic. “Umm…Dom?”
“What?” he asked as I nudged him with the elbow until the realization dawned.
“Oh, right!” He smoothly turned his head at the table, announcing not-so-grandly, “Lilliana and I are getting married tomorrow. You all are invited.”
Oh, for the love of God…
“What?” Sammy blurted out.
Followed by Marco. “Why?”
“Cool,” Viktor shrugged, turning to his wife. “Can you pass me the salad, Mia?”
Once again, Mia glared at him, deliberately taking the salad bowl away from his reach and turned to me. “What do you mean by ’getting married tomorrow’?”
I opened my mouth, but Ralph beat me to it. “No, no. Wait. Are you marrying him?” He pointed at Dominic as if it was an inconceivable idea to fathom. Well, maybe for him, it was.
I sighed internally. This was not at all what I had expected!
Dominic leaned closer, whispering, “Texting the picture seemed to be the better idea now, isn’t it?”
I kicked his feet under the table and slowly addressed all. “What Dominic wanted to say, and what we decided together, is that there isn’t a better place to get married than here—in Italy.” I turned to look at Ralph. “This place is close to both you and mama. And we have all the people right here who matters. I am sorry it’s so sudden, but…I couldn’t help.”
I don’t think Ralph was convinced yet, but I knew my father loved me enough to grant me any happiness I held dear—much against his better judgments at times.
“Okay, tesoro. If that’s what you want,” he said, confirming my beliefs.
“Well, in that case,” Mia inhaled deeply, speaking for almost everyone at the table, for the Regina that she was, “we got to wrap up this lunch soon.” Her smile got bigger and brighter. “I have no idea what we will manage in less than twelve hours, but I will try and make sure you have a wedding to remember for a lifetime.”
“Thank you, Mia.”
Marco raised a glass. “To another Romano, biting the dust.”
Chortles and laughter erupted around the table as I imprinted the perfection that my life had become. A united family who would have your back against all the things that the world would throw at you.
Hey lovelies! I hope you have enjoyed reading the chapter. ❤️
Dom and Lil’s story is so unconventional for me, I wanted a different wedding for them--away from the norms.
Having said that, I am just left with a couple of chapters more for TMN, and then I will start with TM Protégé. I have been terrible with the updates, and for those who stuck with me through thick and thin, THANK YOU! I always try and bring out the best for you all - for you to enjoy the best of TMN.