I never thought him being a crummy dad would turn out to be a good thing, but it has made the transition a lot easier.

“Well, I love you both,” Isabella announces, diving into me and Mateo for a hug I’m not at all braced for.

“And me,” Lily objects.

Mateo wraps his arms around all of us, dropping kisses on the tops of little girl heads and then briefly brushing his lips against mine.

I’m so overcome for a moment, I think I might cry.

Which reminds me—I need to ask Mia to buy me a pregnancy test.

Normally, when I wake up in the morning, Mateo is already gone. He’s an early riser, and I would stay in bed until noon if I could.

But when I rise on Saturday, Mateo is sitting in the armchair next to the bed. He’s hunched over, staring at the ground. The solemn expression on his face startles me and I push up on my elbows, looking at him.


He looks up, and the expression on his face alarms me even more. He still looks tired, even though he’s been sleeping since I’ve been in bed with him again, but more than that he looks… defeated? I’ve never seen it on his face before, so I can’t be sure.

“What’s wrong?” I ask quietly.

“You’ve never met Salvatore Castellanos, have you?”

It’s not like every other time he brought this up—he’s not bitter or jealous. It sounds like he’s finally accepted it.

“No,” I verify. “Not before that day at the Chinese restaurant, I guess.”

He nods slowly, like his head weighs a hundred pounds. “Francesca’s gone.”

I scowl, confused. “What?”

“Francesca. She’s gone. She’s been gone. I didn’t notice because…” He trails off, but I know why he didn’t notice.

Pushing up so my legs are dangling off the bed, facing him, I ask, “Well, what does that mean? Did someone take her?”

“It means she was the leak.” He pauses, but I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. “She planted the phone.”

I swallow, going back over every interaction I’ve ever had with Francesca, trying to piece it together. I never got the impression she loved me, but she didn’t seem to dislike me, either. “But… why?”

Mateo shakes his head, sighing. “I don’t know. I haven’t been looking into her. I didn’t know anything required my attention.”

“Did she leave a note or anything? When did she leave?”

“I don’t know yet,” he says, squeezing the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes. “I’ve invested all of my energy into trying to catch you, so… I’m sure her trail’s gone cold.”

Easing off the bed, I go to him and wrap my arms around him. “I’m so sorry, Mateo.”

A little laugh bursts out of him. “You’re sorry? I’ve been punishing you for something you didn’t even do. I locked you in the basement—my father used to do that to his wives, and I did it to you.”

“Adrian locked me in the basement,” I remind him.

“To keep you safe from me,” he stresses.

“And look, I’m safe,” I point out.


Climbing in his lap, I wrap an arm around his neck and kiss him. “I’m not mad at you. I’m just relieved you finally know I was telling the truth.”

Shaking his head, he meets my eyes. “I don’t deserve you.”

“Yes, you do. And even if you didn’t, you’re not getting rid of me now.”

“Oh, I didn’t say I was going to give you up,” he says, his hand tightening around my waist. “Only that I don’t deserve you. I’m not a noble man; I don’t suffer noble man afflictions.”

Snuggling against him, I ask, “What do we do now?”

“I’m going to make this up to you. I’ve been an asshole to you. I hurt you. What can I do to make it better?”

“Well, if you’re handing out favors, I do have one. I want a girls’ night with Mia. Vince won’t let her over here because he’s too afraid of what you’ll do, and now that you’re not in a blind, vengeful rage… I want her to come hang out with me. She might say no, so I might need your influence. Not because she doesn’t want to,” I add, like he cares, “but just because of Vince.”

“Done. Tonight?”

“Sure,” I say, unable to push down my excitement.

“I’ll grab you some wine from the cellar. What else does this require?”

“I think just the girls. You get Mia here, and we’re pretty much good.”

He nods his head. “I can do that. I’m actually relieved it’s that, because I do need to play catch-up tonight. As soon as I get a handle on where Castellanos is, I’m taking you out.”

I like the sound of that. “To a speakeasy?”

“I’m not going to tell you where; you’ll see when we get there. It’ll probably be Monday, unless you want to cancel Sunday dinner tomorrow.”

I shake my head. “Let’s do Monday. I think it’ll be good for everyone to have a normal family dinner tomorrow night. Though it will be really weird not having Francesca there.”

Tags: Sam Mariano Morelli Family Erotic
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