The sun's soft hues brightened up the city's early morning sky just as we drove along the pebbled path up to an enormous mansion. I raised a questionable brow at Tommy and watched as the corner of his mouth slightly lifted in amusement.
"Mrs. Heart decided to stay home today. Angel, her daughter, isn't feeling all that good." I had almost forgotten about the Heart's having a daughter.
I now remember the big announcement that played on the news while I ate breakfast before work one morning. The happy announcement had come right after the horrific massacre that transpired at Russo's Restaurant a few nights before. If I'm not mistaken I believe it was four casualties and ten others hospitalized, one of those being Dante Russo himself.
"Is the baby ok?" Sophia asked with genuine concern before we reached the front door. Tommy smiled down at her. "Yes, she's fine. Just a small cold is all."
Tommy pressed the doorbell and we were soon greeted by a guy with a similar style suit as Tommy's. "You fucking owe me, asshole." the guy immediately growled under his breath towards Tommy.
Tommy bit back a laugh and tried to play it cool. "I have no idea what you're referring to, Nick," The guy gave him a knowing glare. "Yeah, and my ass is filled with skittles. Would you like to taste the rainbow, bitch?"
A soft but loud giggle erupted and we all turned our attention to Sophia. "Well, and who might you be, sweetheart?" He asked her as he roamed his eyes up and down her body with obvious interest. I placed my body between the two, grabbing his attention.
She's mine, I wanted to say. "Her name is Sophia and we have an appointment with Mrs. Heart." If he knows what's good for him, he will read between the Goddamn lines...
He pursed his lips as he quietly studied my face. Tommy cleared his throat breaking the staredown between us. "Nick, this is my cousin, Brad." Nick looked at Tommy, understanding settling over him but I never took my eyes off of him.
"You lost the coin toss, shithead," Nick grumbled as he pointed an accusatory finger at Tommy. "I was supposed to be the one to retrieve them while you stayed here with Ray and Angel."
Tommy chuckled while passing Nick as he held the door open for us. "I figured it would be more comfortable for Brad and Sophia if someone they knew came to pick them up."
"Your so full of shit," Nick laughed. "Just for that load of bullshit, I'm amping up training this afternoon," his smile turned more sinister. "And remember, Daddy Damien won't be there to save you this time." he mocked evilly. Daddy Damien? What the...
"Nick?!" A voice called out from behind us. Nick's eyes protruded, immediate dread covered his expression. "Nick, where have you been? Angel has been whining for her Ni-Ni," his face instantly grimaced. "Goddamn it," he mumbled under his breath.
Ray then appeared beside him holding a dark brown-haired baby girl with the most intense green eyes I've ever seen. Rays angry expression fell once she spotted us. "Oh my, do forgive me. I didn't know you guys had arrived already." she quickly elbowed Nick in the ribs causing him to hunch over in pain.
The little girl in her arms began laughing at Nick being in pain. I inwardly smiled because I too enjoyed that. Rubbing his side where Ray elbowed him, he squinted his eyes at the little girl. "Oh, you think me being hurt is funny do you?" Smiling, her little hands reached out for him, curling her fingers impatiently.
He took her from Ray's arms and placed a kiss on top of her head. "You are your father's daughter." he lightly laughed. "The asshole gets a kick out of seeing me in pain as well."
"Why don't you and Tommy take Angel to the playroom for while I speak with Mr. Robertson and Sophie," Ray said to Nick as she gave her daughter a loving smile.
"You have the next diaper change, shooter," Nick grumbled to Tommy while they both headed down the long hall. "We can flip for it, skittles," I could hear Tommy's laughter echoing as they both disparaged from sight.
I felt an ache of envy in my chest, watching their small banter. It was the same way we used to joke around. Come to think of it, Tommy and I haven't gotten to hang out all that much, not like we used to. Yes, I have been a bit preoccupied the last few years but it's only because I've been busy trying my fucking hardest to do as my father wished. Since his passing, it's been on me to take over and strive to ensure our name and business continue to succeed.
When Tommy finally came home for good, he wasn't the same. Hell, each time he had come home from a tour, you could see the little changes in him.
"GET THE FUCK DOWN!" I heard Tommy's distant scream.
Jumping from my bed, I ran out of my bedroom, entering the main room, and spotted Tommy knelt on his knees in only his boxers by the large window.
"Tommy," I calmly called his name. He peered out of the window and ignored me. "They're out there. I need you to get down," he growled, cocking his gun that I hadn't seen in his hand.
"Tommy, I need you to put the gun down," I swallowed as an all-consuming fear came over me. "It's me... Brad," I cautiously took small steps towards him. He said nothing.
Eventually reaching him, I put a hand on his shoulder. "Hey," I whispered, and finally he looked up at me. He blinked his eyes several times, a dazed look taking over his hardened expression. "Brad?" He barely asked. He then looked down at the gun in his hand. "What the..." he broke off, dropping it to the ground.
Beads of sweat covered his entire body as he slowly stood to his full height. He turned to face me and that's when I saw the fear in his eyes. Tears welled in his eyes as he took deep breaths. "What the hell is wrong with me," he whispered. I wrapped my arms around him and held onto him as he broke down for the first time since coming home. He didn't say a word and neither did I. We just sat in silence until the sun came up.
Doctors said it's PTSD. From what they say, he's been through a lot while in Afghanistan though he's never talked about it. That night was the first of many to come.
"We can talk in the study," Ray's soft voice pulled me back to the present.
once Entering the large study, Ray walked over to the small minibar and. began pouring herself a glass of wine. "Drink?" she asked. I shook my head but Sophie accepted the offer.
Handing her a glass of wine, she gestures towards the leather couch in front of the fireplace. Above it hung a large stunning portrait of her and Damien.
"I apologize about the sudden change of locations," Ray said as she became seated in the marching plush chair. "Angel woke up with a small fever and I couldn't bring myself to leave her."
"There's no need for apologies, Ray. Your daughter comes first," Sophie spoke up.
"Our nanny Samantha is wonderful but the mother in me just couldn't leave Angel for her to take care of. Since the opening of Wonderland I've not been the most present mother." she frowned momentarily.
"Speaking of Wonderland," she smirked before taking a sip of her wine. "What's the story there?"
Sophia's cheeks brightened, causing me to chuckle. "I and Sophia go way back. We, uh... We went to the same college." I said as I grabbed her hand.
Ray smiled knowingly and raised to place her glass onto the glass table. "after watching the security footage, It seemed like more than just two college friends reuniting." she mused.
"So, Sophia," Ray turned her attention solely on Sophia. "I was told you won't be coming back to Wonderland. I hope it's not something we have said or done."
Sophia looked at her with confusion. "Not coming back?" she shook her head. "I never said that," and Ray's eyes moved, locking with mine.
"So, you're staying?" she was now confused. I shook my head. "No, she's not," I was blunt.
Sophia jerked her head at me. "Excuse me?" her voice now angry. "You can't make my decisions for me. I love it at Wonderland."
Grinding my teeth, I glared at her. "I will not have you parading around naked in a place with men who are known for overstepping boundaries."
"You are not the boss of me," she quickly stood. "You don't get to just come into my life and suddenly make changes just because you don't like something." she turned her attention to Ray. "I am so sorry about this misunderstanding Ray, I will be at the club tonight at my scheduled time." she turned back to me. "I need to leave," and quickly walked out of the study.
Anger quickly washed over me as I stood, ready to go after her but Ray grabbed my arm, "Brad, she needs space right now." she expressed. "If you go after her now and demand anything from her, you will only push her further away."
Deep down I knew she was right. Sophia has been on her own for so long. If I give her demands and make decisions for her so quickly she would only resist it. She needs to be able to trust me. The nightmare she had this morning only tells me she's living with past demons. I need to earn her trust so I'm able to help her defeat them.