“You can take her to Gianna, but make sure they don’t walk around the house again,” he said to Romero.
“What about Aria?” I blurted.
Luca tensed. “She’s asleep. You can see her later.” With that he left.
I wrapped my arms around my waist. “Do my parents know what happened?”
“Yes. Your father will pick you up once he’s done with business and then take you back to Chicago. Probably in the morning.” Romero waited but I didn’t move. For some reason my body bristled at the idea of going closer to him, which was ridiculous considering that not too long ago I’d fantasized about kissing him.
He opened the door wide and stepped back. “I’m sure your sister Gianna is eager to see you.”
Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to walk in his direction. His body was relaxed and his face kind, and despite the terror and fear still simmering deep in my body, my stomach fluttered lightly as I brushed past him. Maybe it was shock. I couldn’t possibly have a crush on him after today.
Whenever I thought I’d gotten over what had happened last September, something would remind me of that day and my stomach would tie itself into a hard knot again. Like today, when Gianna and I headed toward Matteo, Aria and Luca. Father had finally given in and allowed my sister and me to visit New York to celebrate my fifteenth birthday.
“Are you okay?” Gianna asked quietly, startling me out of my rising nervousness. Only being back in New York and seeing Matteo and Luca again was enough to fill my nose with the sweet stench of fresh blood.
“Yeah,” I said quickly. I wasn’t a little girl anymore who needed her big sisters for protection. “I’m fine.”
Aria ran toward us when we’d almost reached them and threw her arms around both of us. “I missed you so much.”
Being reunited with my sisters, I couldn’t help but smile. I would even have walked straight down into that basement if that meant I could see them again.
Aria gave me a once over. “You’re as tall as me now. I still remember when you didn’t want to go anywhere without holding my hand.”
I quickly looked around, but thankfully nobody was around to overhear her. “Don’t say anything like that when Romero is around. Where is he anyway?” I realized a moment too late how idiotic I sounded, and flushed.
Aria laughed. “He’s probably at his apartment.”
I shrugged, but it was too late. It wasn’t that I’d forgotten the blood on Romero’s hands but for some reason I wasn’t as scared of him as I was of Matteo, or even Luca. And I realized just how much when we walked toward them. My heart sped up and I could feel a panic attack rising up. I hadn’t had one in weeks, so I fought it desperately.
“The birthday girl,” Matteo said with a smile. How could that charming guy be the same person whom I’d seen covered in blood in the basement?
“Not yet,” I said. I could feel my panic already abate. In real life Matteo wasn’t as frightening as in my memories. “Unless you have an early present for me.”
“I like the way you think,” Matteo said with a wink. He took my suitcase, then held out his arm. I glanced at Gianna. “Won’t you carry Gianna’s luggage?” I didn’t want Gianna to think I was flirting with her fiancé even though she didn’t seem to like him very much most of the time.
“Luca can take care of it,” Matteo said.
Gianna glared at him before she sent me a smile. “Go on.”
I accepted Matteo’s hand. I wasn’t sure why Gianna despised him so much. And it had started before the basement, so it wasn’t that. But it wasn’t any of my business and Gianna didn’t talk about her emotions with me anyway. That was what Aria was for. In their minds I was always too young to get it. But I knew more than they thought.
Fifty minutes later, we arrived at Luca’s and Aria’s apartment building. I checked my reflection in the mirrors of the elevator, making sure my make-up was in place and I didn’t have anything between my teeth. It had been months since I’d last seen Romero and I wanted to make a good impression. But when we walked into Aria’s and Luca’s apartment Romero wasn’t there yet. My eyes darted around and eventually Aria leaned toward me, whispering. “Romero’s not around because Matteo and Luca are here to protect us.”
“I wasn’t looking for him,” I said quickly, but she didn’t buy it. I looked away before she could see my blush.
“Of course,” Aria said with a knowing smile. “He’ll come over later when Matteo and Luca have to leave for business.”