It’s a mess.
Since it is such a mess, Vince arrives to pick me up and it feels like I haven’t been there more than an hour.
“Already?” I ask.
He nods, checking his phone. “You’ve got a date.”
“I’m gonna need Mia this week,” I tell him, shaking my head. “It’s a mess in here. I have no idea what’s going on. Francesca literally just abandoned the place. So many people have yelled at me today. She made zero preparations. You guys still haven’t heard about her yet?”
He shakes his head, not looking pleased about it. “Still nothing.”
I hate to believe she really sold Mateo out, but it seems the most logical conclusion. Her bedroom was checked, but she has so many clothes, no one could be certain she hadn’t taken anything. If she did, she didn’t take more than could fit in a large handbag, because she was never seen taking any kind of luggage out of her room.
I can’t shake the worry that something happened to her instead, but then I recall her last words to me when I was in the basement, when she seemed so distressed that I was being punished in that way, telling me it would all be over soon. I hadn’t thought anything of it at the time, but looking back, she probably meant when she disappeared, because Mateo would draw the obvious conclusions that he would’ve drawn, had he not been so worn down from the picture she painted for him of my affair with Salvatore Castellanos.
Riding in Mateo’s car on our way to date night, I start to recognize the path we’re taking. It’s not Adrian driving tonight, but when we turn onto the street where the piano bar was, I grin over at Mateo.
“I know where we’re going.”
“Do you, now?”
I nod, looking out the window to double check, but this is definitely the road we turned down that night. “Last time we sat in this car on the way to this place, I was so unexpectedly attracted to you and so afraid I was going to get caught.”
“Which you did,” he points out.
“Well, yeah.” Looking back at him, I ask, “How did you know, anyway?”
“The lipstick was the final straw.”
I nod. “That’s what I thought. Damn, you are an observant man.”
He raises an eyebrow, looking a little amused. “Your clumsy lies didn’t help. And, you know, I’m gonna be on guard anyway when I’m specifically requested at some insignificant bullshit like that. And then delivered a gift of a sexy woman who wants to be alone with me,” he adds, grimacing as if embarrassed for me. “Your whole plan was garbage, sweetheart.”
“Much like your sister wives plan,” I tell him, rolling my eyes.
“Now that’s a solid plan.”
“That’s a solid cube of garbage,” I state. Regardless of his garbage plan, I reach over to grab his hand, flashing him a smile. “I love your mind.”
He winks. “I love your transparent, garbage plans.”
“It wasn’t even my plan,” I tell him. “I thought the plan was… well, not garbage, but it had its faults. It got a lot more garbage-like when I realized you don’t drink anything you haven’t been looking at the whole time. My back story, now that was stinky garbage.”
“The avenging widow,” he says lightly, watching out the window as we pull up. “Here we are.”
Mateo climbs out of his seat so he can open the door for me, which I quite appreciate. I take his hand and climb out, grinning at the piano bar where we spent our first night together. I wonder if he’s going to drink this time.
Mateo stops outside though, instead of heading straight in. I don’t understand why at first, but then I look up and see the bar has been renamed. In neon blue lights, the new sign reads, “Meg’s Place.”
I gasp, covering my mouth. “You didn’t!”
Mateo watches me, smiling faintly. “Like it?”
I throw my arms around his neck, giving him a big kiss. “Hell yeah, I do.”
Nodding his approval, he tucks me into his side, locking his arm around my waist. “It’s gonna be Sinatra all night long.”
“You sure know the way to my heart.”
“Well, I think I found it before tonight,” he points out.
“Sure, but you can still get bonus points. You need them, actually; I’m sure you still have numerous ex-lovers paired off with various family members I haven’t met yet.”
He shoots me a dry, unamused look, but I just wink and smile back at him.
The place isn’t very crowded, and I’m glad. The left bar is fuller, but the right bar is pretty empty again, so we take a couple of seats over there.
“I can’t believe you really bought this place,” I tell him, shaking my head.
“I told you I would,” he says, signaling for the bartender.
I almost stop him, but it doesn’t feel like the right moment to tell him yet. He might figure it out, if he orders us drinks and I don’t touch mine.