My phone went off at nine a.m. with a text from Essie at the office. It was another condolence. I couldn’t bear to read the whole message so I responded with a simple thank you and a heart emoji.
A gentle knock at my door as I took two aspirin caught my attention. Neil sat up and startled me. I had forgotten he stayed with me again.
“Yes?” His deep voice was dry and husky. Sexy. I offered him my glass of water and he gladly accepted it. The door barely opened and I pulled the covers over my exposed legs.
“Sir, should I prepare the car?” A sigh left his chest and a frustrated hand ran over his beard.
“Not now, Sampson. I will let you know. Do not disturb us again.” His voice was harsh and aggravated. The door quickly closed. I rolled over to look at him.
“We can leave whenever you want.” His smile returned but it was to hide frustration. I was concerned that my negative emotions had spilled a little into his.
“I’m going to need some coffee.” He didn’t respond but he slid out of the bed and put his t-shirt on. It ruffled his beard and made it messy. I loved the way he looked so disheveled in the mornings. I had only ever seen him clean, sharply dressed.
“Stay casual today. I want this to be as relaxed as possible.” He nodded and kissed my cheek. I grabbed his arm and tilted my head to give him a proper kiss. A playful smirk stretched over his facial features.
“Ms. Rossi, if you kiss me like that again, I may not have as much restraint as I had before.” I blushed and bit my lip, giving him my best apologetic smile.
Our ride to The North End was quiet. Our hands locked together as he drove us up the freeway. My heart raced. I don’t know how I’d feel to be back home. It was just this time a few weeks ago he stumbled in after an all nighter with the guys. I pushed back the memory. Sooner than I had expected we turned into the driveway.
“Alex? Angelina?” I called out as we entered the kitchen from the garage. I heard foot falls and knew it was Alex, all but running to me. I gasped as he grabbed me and hugged me with all his might. I wrapped my arms around his body as sobs bubbled up from his chest. “Oh, honey no…” I buried my face in his chest as he got lost in my mess of hair on my shoulder. This tower of a man, brought to tears in my arms. I could barely hold onto him any longer when he finally pulled away to look at me. His hands brushed my hair from my face. His blood shot eyes, the dark bags under them broke my heart. My eyes filled with tears as I brushed his away. “Please stop crying… please.” my head spun. I had never seen this man cry before.
“I’m just so glad you’re here.” I smiled at his words, his voice breaking. A quick cough cleared his passageway and he sniffled and dried his tears. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” I shook my head no. “How’s your bullet wound?” I blinked for a moment. I had forgotten about it. The pain was covered by my hurt heart.
“It’s fine Alex. Really.” He hugged me tightly again, as if my image would fade any moment. Angelina came around the corner and bounced baby Daniel in her arms. I pulled away and hugged them both tightly. I held out my hands to hold the squeaky little bundle. She nodded and passed him over.
“He gets bigger and bigger every time I see him, huh?” she laughed half heartedly in agreement. Our eyes met and I can see her tired eyes look to her husband as he approaches. We follow them into the living room where Gray and Matthew sit along with a few other men we had grown close to over the years.
“Hey darlin’.” Gray jumped up and kissed my cheek. His hand wrapped around my shoulder as he offered up his seat. I settled in and let myself get lost in Daniel’s eyes and his baby cooes.
I looked around as people spoke softly, just small talk. I made eye contact with Neil as he stood with Alex near the hallway. He must have thought I needed something, he excused himself from the conversation and came to sit on the arm of the couch where I sat.
“What is it?” I shook my head, we were missing someone. Other than Howie.
“Where is Shamus?” He smiled down at me and fiddled with Daniel’s blanket.
“He is at the cabin again, cleaning up. He will be here later on tonight though.” I nodded slowly and remembered how the bodies were scattered around the house like red sprinkles.
Angelina busied herself in the kitchen and I put Daniel in the baby bouncer on the floor. I looked around and the kitchen was empty. When people lose a family member, people come in hoards with food and drink for the family. But this was different, the mafia was its own family. Small and tight knit. We actually took care of it all ourselves.
I took a spoon and helped her stir the sauce on the stove as she prepared the meat in the oven. She slammed the door shut hard and cursed as she burned her arm. I went to tend to her and Daniel cried from the sudden noise. Alex ran in and scooped up the baby.
“I’m fine, I just burned my arm… God I’m so fucking mad. I need some air.” she stormed out with the cloth still on her arm.
“She has been holding it all in. She refuses to cry.” Alex approaches me with the baby and I nod.
“I haven’t been able to stop. My mind races, it freezes. I’m pissed, I’m sad. I’m lost.” He swallows hard, I know he feels everything I do times ten. He probably hates himself for not making it in time to help.
“You know I’m not mad. That- that you weren’t there for the fight. I couldn’t imagine having possibly lost both of you.” His features grew angry and he put the baby back down.
“I do. I’m furious. It should not have been him. It should have been me. I’m responsible for keeping you both safe. I’ve let you both down. And that failure got my goddamn brother killed. My best friend. My number one. My right hand. I am solely responsible.” His voice boomed and I took a step back. The yelling triggered my memories of Johnathan and tears stung my face. My heart started to race and my breathing grew difficult.
“We are not having this argument right now. Not today.” Neil walked in and tried to defuse Alex and I. He shook his head at me and hung his hands on his hips. His mind raced. He took a challenging step towards Neil who stood his ground and defended me. Things were getting too tense. Too many powerful men in this house were dangerous. Gray stepped in and pushed Alex back out into the garage to cool off. I could hear muffled arguing and Neil walked over to me.
“I shouldn’t have said anything. I’m sorry. I didn’t know he would have such a short fuse.” Neil shushed me and hugged me tight as Daniel’s cries rang out. I pulled away and picked him back up. No doubt he was also feeling the sadness and anger in the room.
I walked around the house bouncing the bundle of joy on my hip as Neil stepped away to make some phone calls. I found myself at Howie’s bedroom door. It was closed. I fought internally as to if I should go in or not.
“What do you think Daniel? Should we go into your uncle’s room?” He yawned and nestled his head into my shoulder. “Well you’re no help.” I muttered under my breath. I reached for the handle again but I heard Neil call my name from down the hallway.
“Hey, they want to have a toast, everyone share a memory of Howie. You coming?” I nodded as he tucked a lock of hair behind my ear and kissed my forehead.
“When did we fall into this toucy, feely stage of our relationship?” I grinned and leaned into his palm that cupped my cheek.
“Since we both could have lost a lot more than we did a few days ago.” I sighed and followed him down the hall to the living room where everyone stood and sat on furniture in a sort of circle.
We joined the others downstairs and Gray handed me a drink. I gladly took a sip to help relax my tense muscles as Angelina took Daniel back. As the memories were shared I didn’t speak up. No one asked me to either. I guess they all knew what happened.