A vibrating cell phone clattered against… something. Vito Minetti cracked open an eye, waiting. How the hell was it fair that out of the three people in the bed, he had been the only one to hear the damn phone? He pulled his arm out from under the dark-haired gal and untangled his legs from the redhead behind him. He was a solid fifty-percent sure the guy’s name started with a C, and that far exceeded his certainty that the woman’s name began with a C.
Honestly, it was a toss-up.
Vito found his phone on the floor, the vibration of a phone call rattling against the belt buckle dangling from his discarded jeans. He squinted at the bright screen, barely reading his brother’s name before accepting the call and pressing the device to his ear. “Yeah?” he asked in a whisper.
“Where the hell are you?” Tito asked.
“Umm… depends. Why?”
“Because I’ve got coffee for you, and we agreed you’d meet me behind Starbucks an hour ago.”
“Yep. You can keep dicking around if you change your mind, but I’m not buying another cup of coffee for you.”
“No, no, I totally–Look, give me a sec to get dressed. Don’t throw my coffee away.”
Tito chuckled. “I won’t. Where are you?”
“Just, umm, I’ll meet you at the Starbucks, okay?”
“I can just come get you, Vi. We don’t have to play the hotel bingo game. I’m not judging you for winding up at one. Wouldn’t buy you coffee and pick you up in the mornings if I gave a shit about you screwing around.”
“I know.” Vito cleared his throat, pinning his phone between his shoulder and ear as he rose to his feet, jeans in hand. “I, uh, I’m at Royal Nature.”
“All right. Meetcha in the parking lot, Vi.”
“No problem, brother. See you soon.”
Vito ended the call and shoved his phone into his pocket. He pulled his jeans on and buckled his belt, a little too hungover and a little too uncaring to zip his fly or button his pants. Once he found his shirt and pulled it over his head, he squatted down on the redhead’s side of the bed. “Hey, uh… Carl?”
“Lars,” he mumbled.
Damn. Fifty-percent on C had been too confident of an assumption.
“Right, right. Lars. I gotta head out for work, but you and, uh… Gal can order whatever you want from room service. It’ll be put on my tab.”
“Mmhmm.” Lars snuggled deeper into the pillow, sniffling. “Thanks for last night, Matteo.”
Vito nodded. “You too.” He patted Lars’s shoulder and pushed himself to his feet. He made his way downstairs and stopped at the front desk. The receptionist, a young woman Tito had told him more than once not to sleep with, handed him his gun and knife. “Thank you.”
“Mmhmm.” She smiled. “Enjoy your day, Mister Minetti.”
“You too, Rachel.” Vito clicked his tongue at her and walked out of the hotel, tucking his gun into his waistband. He fastened his shealth to his belt, eyes scanning for Tito’s car. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for his twin to pull into the parking lot and drive up to the curb. Tito leaned across the center console and pushed open the passenger side door.
“Aww, Ti, you’re a true gentleman.”
Tito chuckled, shaking his head. “Get your ass in here before I change my mind.”
Vito slid into the passenger seat, closing the door behind him. “Which one’s mine?”
“The one without the heart on the lid.”
“Ooh la la.”
“No, not ooh la la. You keep your ooh la las in your pants.”
Vito laughed as Tito pulled away from the curb. “Was she cute?”
“I dunno. I guess.” Tito cleared his throat. “I’m not sleeping with her, and neither are you.”
“Rude. You get one not-girlfriend to say I can’t sleep with, and you already used that on Lillian.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want you sleeping with people I’ve slept with. It’s fuckin’ weird.”
“I doubt you’ve slept with Starbucks girl, prude,” Vito said. Tito shifted in his seat. “No way.”
“Ti! Tell me more. What was she like, huh?”
“Ugh.” Tito reached over and backhanded his chest. “I slept with her in high school, dumbass. I took her to prom.”
“Sadie? Your girlfriend?”
“She totally was not my girlfriend.”
“Oh, Ti, dude…” Vito laughed. “Ti, she broke up with you because she was heading off to college. She was absolutely your girlfriend.” He took a sip of his coffee. “She was cute. Bet she’s hot now, right?”
“Yes, okay? She’s hot. But keep it in your pants, and don’t sleep with my ex-prom date.”
“You’re right.” Vito tapped a finger to the little heart drawn on the lid of Tito’s cup. “You should sleep with her.”
“You know how I feel about that.”
“Yeah, I’m more than aware of your ‘I’m scared of being a monster’ bullshit.” Vito rolled his eyes. “All the other soldiers sleep around, and I promise you, they have never ‘turned monster’ and killed the chick they were screwing.”
“I don’t want a girl screwing around with a man they don’t know is a monster.”
“What they don’t know doesn’t hurt ‘em.”
“It does if we ever get found out. It does if they watch the news and hear the shit they say about us. It does if their family finds out they’re sleeping with a presumed monster. I won’t be the person who ruins a woman’s life just so I can stick my dick in something.”
Vito dropped the back of his seat, leaning back as he kicked his boots up on the dash. “You’re no fun, Ti.” Tito’s fingers tightened around the steering wheel, but he didn’t respond. Vito let the silence hang between them for two minutes before remembering why the cold shoulder never worked on Tito–he was much better at that whole ‘being quiet’ thing than Vito had ever been.
“When’re you seeing her again?”
“Tonight. I’m flying out tonight.”
“Cool. So I should count on driving myself to bars and shit for a couple days?”
Tito shook his head. “No, you’re my baby brother. I won’t risk you getting behind the wheel when you’re drunk. I already asked Bo to put one of his men on you. He’ll drive you around like Jensen used to do for Bo.”
“No problem.” Tito cleared his throat, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel. “Can I talk to you about Lil?”
“Until today, I hadn’t heard from her in over two weeks.”
“She keeps asking me why I think I’m not allowed to have a white picket fence dream.”
Vito took a sip of his coffee, giving himself a moment to think. He didn’t usually consider thinking before giving an answer, but hungover Vito was a slightly more gentle giant than his drunk and sober counterparts. “Sorry I mentioned it to her, but it was fuckin’ years ago. She’s gotta let it go at some point.”
“Well, ‘letting it go’ doesn’t seem to be her speciality.”
“Because she likes you, dumbass.” Clearly not too much of a gentle giant, though. “Stop leading her on if you’re never gonna do anything for her. Let some other guy swoop in and marry her.”
“I’m not leading her on. She knows I’m not going to sleep with her, and she knows I don’t date. We’re friends. That’s it.”
“That ain’t it, though. You love her, and she probably loves your incapable ass.”
“I am not incapable,” Tito said through his teeth, the words coming out in Italian. Somewhere, Vito had crossed a line. He had it on pretty good authority ‘incapable’ had been pushing it. In English, Tito added, “For someone who binges romance novels like they’re candy, you are terrible at advice-giving.”
“The characters in the books I read are less annoying.”
“Right.” Tito cleared his throat. “You can be a real bastard, you know that?”
“Yeah. I know.”
“I won’t talk to you about Lil anymore. Do us both a favor, I guess,” Tito mumbled.
“Sounds good to me.” Vito turned to look out the window. The sun was still a good twenty minutes beneath the horizon, the oranges and pinks slowly seeping into the sky as the sun approached the true morning of the day. “Can we get pancakes?”
Tito let out a breath. “Yeah, Vi. We can get pancakes.”
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