KON (Trassato Crime Family Book 2)(9)

By: Lisa Cardiff

Pain coiled around my chest like a vise, the never-ending misery suffocating me. I didn’t want to talk about this right now. I’d lost two of the most important men in my life in less than three years. While I still had Gian, our relationship had changed since Evie came into his life. I didn’t begrudge his happiness. How could I? I loved him more than anyone. Yet, as luck would have it, his happiness had the perverse side effect of shining a spotlight on my hollowness.

“No, it hasn’t been easy.” I shifted my weight from one foot to the other. “But I’m working through it. You don’t need to worry about me.”

She smiled, although it didn’t reach her eyes. It never made it as far as her eyes anymore. “How are things with Nico? You looked cozy at the wedding. Your dad would be so happy to see the two of you together. He respected Nico. He’s a hard worker and loyal to a fault.”

“I know. Dad said as much before he died, but I don’t want to rush into anything. I signed up for some interior design classes this fall, and I want to focus on finishing my degree.”

“Have you talked to Nico about this? I’m pretty sure he won’t like the idea of you working outside the home. Rocco didn’t either.”

I couldn’t listen to this. I was so sick of being controlled by the men in my life. Rocco and my father made it very clear they didn’t want me to work. After everything that happened, I thought I had earned the right to make decisions for myself. I wasn’t a dumb twenty-year-old anymore. I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t sitting home while my husband went out and did God knew what. If I couldn’t have love, I needed a career so at least some portion of my life had meaning.

“Mom, Nico and I aren’t serious. We’re taking things slowly, and if the last couple of years have taught me anything, it’s that I can’t rely on him or any other man to support me. I need to do my own thing. Be my own person. I want to have a life outside of the man I marry.”

“Carmela, that sounds nice and all, but you’re old enough to understand the way things work in this family. Nico plans to marry you. He and your father worked out the details months before he died. Nico agreed to give you time to get to know him and get accustomed to the idea. It’s going to happen, though, and you need to be prepared.”

My mouth hinged open, and my breath whooshed out of my lungs. “Are you serious?”

“Of course.” She sighed like she had a hundred pound weight on her shoulders. “Your dad wanted to see you settled and make sure you were taken care of. I want that too. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

My fingers twitched with anger. I needed to get out of here before I said something I’d regret. “Listen, Mom, I understand you want what’s best for me, but I won’t marry Nico because that’s what you guys think is best for me. I need to feel something for him.”

I cringed inwardly at my choice of words. I didn’t expect my feelings for Nico or any other man to rival my connection with Rocco. Having those feelings for another man would be a betrayal to Rocco, his memory, and the life we planned together since childhood. All the same, I needed to feel some level of affection and respect for the man I eventually married.

My mother grabbed my hand and squeezed it, a slight tremor in her hand. “You’re too young to give up on love, and Nico cares about you. If you open your heart to him, you might find something like you had with Rocco, or at the very least something that fills the emptiness.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I’m your mother. I can see these things. Don’t be stubborn. Give Nico a chance.”

“I have been, Mom. In case you missed it, I’ve gone out with him more than a few times. I took him with me to Gian’s wedding. So stop pushing me. I won’t let you or anyone else force me into a relationship with someone I don’t care about.”

“You don’t feel anything for Nico?”

“I don’t know.” I pushed my hair away from my face, regretting I didn’t put it into a ponytail. It had grown too long over the past six months, and it hung in my face more often than not. “I haven’t decided either way.”

“Have you dated anyone else since Rocco died?”

Kon’s blue eyes flashed through my mind. I should have told my mother about my agreement with the Trinchers months ago, except the right moment never came. Initially, I didn’t want to add to her pain. She had enough on her plate without worrying about some dumb deal I made to help Gian and Evie. As more and more time passed, I had hoped it would all disappear and I’d never have to confess what I’d done out of desperation to help my brother, completely disregarding my own safety in the process.

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