Vito had fallen asleep very soon after sex. Now, he lay on his stomach, an arm thrown across Elias’s chest. He snored louder than Dude, who had come in to join their slumber party an hour or so ago. Elias, on the other hand, lay wide awake, eyes on the ceiling. He kept a hand on his chest, thumb occasionally moving over the spot his necklace usually rested. After he had gotten home from his ‘date’ with Olivia, his dad’s necklace had been missing. He had checked everywhere in the bathroom. He had even taken apart the pipe beneath the sink, just in case his mother had somehow knocked it off the counter and down the drain.
But it hadn’t been there either.
He felt like he was missing a piece of himself. He’d been wearing that necklace since the day his dad died. The hospital had given it to him in a baggie after his dad was pronounced dead, and he’d been wearing it ever since. It made him whole. It was the one damn thing he had that made him feel loved and accepted.
And she had stolen it.
Vito shifted, clearing his throat. He rolled onto his side, freeing Elias from the four hundred pounds that was his arm. Elias slid out of bed and pulled the covers back into place. He got dressed and carefully walked out the glass sliding doors in the bedroom. On the balcony, he closed the doors as quietly as he could. He walked out to the edge of it and leaned against the railing, crossing his arms over the light dusting of snow that resided there. He looked down at the ground, at the pool covered in a thin layer of snow, at the massive pawprints that peppered the lawn from the last time Vito had let Dude out.
Elias grabbed the unopened cigarette pack from his back pocket and tapped it against the railing, occasionally picking at the plastic wrapping with his free hand. A part of him couldn’t believe he had slept with Vito Minetti again. Suspected homicidal maniac of over a hundred mobsters, gangsters, cartel members, and God only knew who else. The other part of him could more than believe it. Vito made him feel… something. Rebellious, mostly, but even rebellious was better than the nasty, dark feeling that had been eating a hole in his chest for the last week.
Elias looked back over his shoulder. Vito stood shirtless in the doorway, his jeans slung low on his hips. Elias cleared his throat. “Hey.”
“Not used to being ditched soon as I fall asleep. Usually I’m the one leaving.”
“Don’t worry, I was trapped under your arm for quite a while. I just needed a breather.”
Vito chuckled. He walked over to Elias and crossed his arms over the railing. “You’re a smoker?”
“Trying to quit.”
“Trying to quit for you, or trying to quit for your parents?”
“Yeah? Did you start for both too?” Elias cleared his throat, turning to look back at the pool. “Jesus, man.”
“Thought you didn’t like talking.”
Vito shrugged. “Sorta like it with you.”
Elias snorted. “And you said I wasn’t special.”
“That whole speech was kinda fucked up.”
“Most of what you say and do is.”
Vito chuckled softly. “Yeah, that’s fair.” He pushed away from the railing. “It’s cold out here. Why don’t you weigh the pros and cons of smoking from inside?”
“You gonna kick me out once I go back inside?” Elias asked.
“Nah.” Vito laid a hand on his lower back, pressing a kiss to his shoulder. “Come back to bed.”
“I’m not a, uh… I don’t think I can do sex twice in one day, Vito. Especially right now.”
“Not asking for that. Just asking for you to come back to bed.”
“Thought you weren’t a cuddler.”
“I’m not. We don’t have to cuddle. I’d prefer we didn’t, actually.”
Elias nodded. Shoving the cigarette pack into his pocket, he pushed himself away from the railing. He followed Vito back inside and closed the sliding doors. Vito kicked off his jeans and slid into bed again. Letting out a breath, Elias did the same, though he left his shirt on. He slid under the covers, back to back with Vito.
“I know that necklace is too important to you for you to leave the house without it,” Vito mumbled.
“Yeah? How do you know that?”
“I’m an observant guy.”
“You play with it every time I line up my shot at the pool table. Whenever I miss, you squeeze it and smile. It’s your good luck charm.”
Elias’s brow furrowed. There was no way Vito had figured that out on his own… right? Vito didn’t pay that close attention to anyone. He wouldn’t. He was only going to sleep with them once, so what the hell was the point. Right?
“Yeah. It’s, umm, it’s important to me.”
“So why’d you leave home without it?”
Elias forced a chuckle. “I think my mom stole it.”
“Your mom’s a bitch.”
Elias didn’t even have the energy left to deny it. “Go to sleep, Vito.”
Vito rolled over and wrapped an arm around Elias. “Want me to get it back for you?”
“Go to sleep, Vito.”
“You say the word, and I’ll find it.”
“Offer appreciated, but I don’t need you rooting around in my business.”
“Mm.” Vito nuzzled his neck with the tip of his nose. “God, you’re so warm.”
“Yeah, I… I run warm. What are you? High?”
Vito chuckled. “Little bit.”
“When did you do that? You’ve been sleeping.”
“Oh, babe, I’ve been high all night. Mostly. I had a couple edibles before I headed to the bar. Didn’t kick in until sometime after sex. Or… a little before? Hell if I remember.”
Elias rolled over to look at Vito in the darkness. The giant’s hand slid down to rest on the little dip in Elias’s side. “You’re like a completely different person when you’re high.”
Vito smiled. “My brother would say that’s a bad thing.”
“Does your brother normally see you high like this?”
“Nah. I normally mix it with beer. You came in a little too soon for me to get any alcohol in my system.”
“What does that do to you?”
“Tito would say it’d make me a rude son of a bitch.”
“Is Tito right?”
“Oh, definitely. I’m a mean bastard when I’m wasted and even more so when I’m wasted and high.”
“But not when you’re just high?”
Vito lifted one shoulder. “Not when I’m just a little high. Mellows me out or somethin’.”
“Hmm.” Elias laid a tentative hand on Vito’s arm. “Did you call me after we slept together? Not to talk. Just to… to scare me a little?
“No. I don’t have your number.” Vito’s brow furrowed. “Someone fuckin’ with you?”
“I don’t know. Probably not, though. It was probably a wrong number or something.” Elias chuckled softly, shaking his head. “I’m just paranoid. My anxiety’s been, like… through the roof lately.”
“ ‘Course. I freaked you the fuck out.”
“That wasn’t your fault. It was an accident.”
“I’ve known that knob was broken for over a year. Probably closer to three, honestly. It’s needed to be fixed forever.”
“If we all kept track of the things we could have done to prevent something, we’d never get anything worthwhile done.”
Vito smiled. “Yeah, you’re probably right.” He rubbed his hand up and down Elias’s side. “I don’t know why, but you feel so damn easy to talk to, Elias. I kinda hate it.”
Elias snorted. “Yeah, I get that a lot. My friend says it’s because I’m sensitive to other people. To their feelings, to their opinions… People can, like, sense that.”
“Must get tiring. Listenin’ to people talk about themselves and their feelings all the time.”
Elias couldn’t believe it. No one had ever pointed out the absolute exhaustion that came from being everyone’s problem-solver, everyone’s listener–not even JJ. But Vito Minetti, just because he was a little high, apparently had all the damn insight in the world. “It can get to be a bit much sometimes, yeah,” Elias said quietly. “But some people are pretty good about it.”
“Letting me talk about my problems and feelings afterward.”
“But not everyone, uh…” Vito glanced up for a moment. He chuckled. “Totally lost the word I was lookin’ for.”
Elias couldn’t help it–he smiled. He hated that something as simple as Vito forgetting a word mid-sentence humanized the monster, but there was no fighting back against his instinctual need to empathize with him. “That’s okay. Happens to the best of us.”
“Mm.” Vito slid his hand up Elias’s side and around to his collarbone. “I really can find that necklace for you.”
Elias shook his head. If his mother had stolen it, so be it. He’d probably miss it every damn day for the rest of his life, but he knew his parents. She was doing what she thought was best for him and the charity. Elias didn’t need Vito to break into her house and kill her for a necklace. “It’s not important enough for me to send a stranger in after it, Vito. It’s just a necklace.”
“I’ve got several ‘just necklaces’. I’d still be pissed if someone stole them from me.”
“What would you do? Kill them for it?” Elias regretted the words the moment they left his mouth.
But Vito only laughed. “Maybe. If I caught them breaking into my house to steal my shit, I think I’d be allowed to.”
“Depends on what state you’re in.”
Vito snorted. “Guess I better brush up on my legal understanding, then.”
Elias looked down at his hand as he moved his thumb against Vito’s arm. “You weren’t kidding when you said comments like that normally don’t get to you.”
“Mm-mm. I just let that reporter bitch get under my skin a hell of a lot more than I thought I did.” Vito shook his head. “Can’t even figure out why it bothered me so much.”
Elias lifted his eyes back to Vito’s face, regretting it almost immediately. The man’s expression was relaxed, his features soft. It was a stark contrast to how he usually looked, those hardened features masked only slightly by a charming smile. The relaxed expression made him look more… human.
Elias didn’t need that.
“You already told me why it bothered you, whether you’re aware of it or not. You were at the vet’s office because you saved a couple handfuls of dogs from a terrible, disgusting fate. Despite that, she turned the focus on the rumors about you and your brother. Of course you were bothered.”
Vito smiled faintly. “Guess you are pretty good at listening, huh?”
“It’s sort of my brand.”
“Mm.” Vito lifted his hand to Elias’s cheek. “Anyone ever tell you what a good-lookin’ man you are, Payne?”
Vito shook his head. “That’s fuckin’ insane. You deserve to be hearing that from, like… everybody.”
Elias chuckled. “Unfortunately, not everyone is as interested in sleeping with me as you are.”
“That’s because everyone else is an idiot.”
Elias snorted. “You’re a dumbass, Minetti.”
“Nah. I mean… I am. But in this case, I’m just honest.”
Gently, Elias shoved his shoulder. “Go to sleep.”
“Okie dokie. But no cuddlin’ with me once I roll over.”
“Deal.” Vito rolled onto his stomach and shoved his arms under his pillow. A smile tugged at one corner of Elias’s mouth as he rolled to his other side, his back to Vito. “Why are you so scared of cuddling?”
“I’m not gonna cuddle with you.”
“I don’t want to cuddle with you. But I am curious.”
“I don’t know,” Vito said after a moment. “I just don’t like the way it feels. Don’t like having my arm around someone.”
“What about the other way around?”
“What do you mean?”
“Like… you being the little spoon.”
Vito chuckled. “Do you really think I’ve ever been with anyone that would even consider letting me be the little spoon? I already live with this nasty ass fear of what people will think if I come out as bi. I don’t need to have a fear of what people would think if I asked to be the little spoon.”
Elias stayed quiet for a moment, trying to fight down the urge to comfort Vito with everything he had. Vito didn’t need comforting. Birthday cake or not, nice conversation or not, Vito Minetti was an enforcer for the mob. He tortured people, beheaded people, murdered people.
“But you… wouldn’t think anything of it, would you?” Vito asked.
Elias cleared his throat. “Probably not. Tattooed giants deserve to be little spoons too.”
Vito snorted. “Yeah, maybe we do.” A pause. A very long pause. “Do you…? Would you, like, uh, be my big spoon or whatever? For, like, four seconds. I just wanna see. I don’t wanna cuddle with you.”
Elias couldn’t help but roll his eyes. At least that was on brand for the Vito Minetti he’d heard so much about. Still, he rolled over and wrapped an arm around Vito’s chest. He counted to four in his head and pulled his arm back.
Vito grabbed his wrist before he got very far.
“You don’t have to stop if you don’t wanna.”
Elias raised a brow, though Vito couldn’t see him. “Do you want me to?”
Another pause. “Yes.” Elias pulled his arm back a little, but Vito tugged it back down. “Don’t make me say it. Please.”
“There’s no shame in being the little spoon.”
“That’s up for debate,” Vito muttered. He kept his hand wrapped around Elias’s wrist, his thumb caressing the underside of it. Elias was thankful Vito had his right wrist. It was much better than the man being able to feel the little welt his rubber band had left earlier in the evening. “If you tell anyone I let you cuddle with me—”
“My parents would literally explode if anyone found out I slept with you. Believe me, I’m the last person you have to worry about for gossip.”
“Maybe you should tell people then.”
Elias chose not to dignify him with a response. No one would ever be able to understand his relationship with his parents. Neither of them were blood-related to him. They had no legal obligation to him. When his biological dad had died, his mother could have abandoned him or left him to foster care, but she hadn’t. Even though his dad had left everything to her–except his motorcycle and a small trust fund for Elias–she had taken care of him.
No one would be able to understand that his parents weren’t evil. They weren’t… bad. They had simply raised a kid that wasn’t theirs, a kid with issues they hadn’t signed up for, and he was lucky enough that they still felt responsible for him. They hadn’t kicked him out when he turned eighteen. They hadn’t cut him off when he turned eighteen. The good far outweighed the bad, just like it did with most parents. They had their bad days, their mistakes, their misjudgments.
But they were good people, and anyone that wasn’t them or him would never be able to understand that, Vito included.
Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the tattooed giant fell asleep again. As his snoring slowly picked up, his grip on Elias’s wrist loosened. Elias pulled his arm back to himself and rolled back to his other side. He’d stick around for another hour or so, just to make sure Vito was sound asleep, and then he’d call an Uber and get back to his car at the bar.
The last thing he needed was to still be in Vito’s bed when the man was sober.
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