In a lot of ways, I deserved it. You’re a violent thug, dad, and all of this stuff is bought with blood money, I had screamed at him. I had been a naïve kid and didn’t understand the way things worked back then. From his perspective, I had been ungrateful for what he had given me, and willing to turn my back on my family. Disloyalty was the ultimate insult, especially to people in the Mob.
But I had grown up a lot since then.
I finished the yogurt and heard a creak on the back staircase, announcing Colin’s entrance. I looked up as he turned the sharp corner wearing comfortable but still tailored grey sweats, the sort of thing you saw a fighter wearing, and a tight black T-shirt that accentuated every curve of his muscular frame. I had to will myself not to stare.
“Sorry about the food situation,” he said.
“Dad never was good at keeping the house stocked.”
“He’s a busy man.” Colin leaned up against the counter across from me and crossed his arms.
“How’s he doing?” I asked tentatively.
He laughed. “Really good, actually. He got a pretty big promotion recently.”
I held up my hands. “Do I want to hear about this?”
“Still hate the family business?”
“More like I’d rather not have to lie to a jury one day.”
He laughed with his whole body and I smiled. I remembered that laugh. I had tried to forget it, didn’t want to forget it, but everything came flooding back the second I had seen him.
“Yeah, well, that’s a fair point. Anyway, he’s doing good.”
“I’m glad to hear it. What about you?”
He shrugged and grinned. “You know me. Same as I’ve always been.”
“Still working for him?”
He nodded but didn’t say anything. I let out a breath and looked around.
“It’s weird how empty it is in here,” I said.
“Yeah. That probably won’t last, though, so enjoy it.”
“When’s Dad getting home?”
He shrugged again. “Who knows? Some people are stopping by later to see you, so probably around then.”
I nodded. That was good; it would give me time to get used to being in the house again before I had to face him. I’d been dreading seeing him again, but I knew there was nothing that I could do about it if I wanted to stay in his house. I wasn’t exactly in the mood for a party, but maybe it was better this way. It would provide a nice social setting to cushion the blow of being reunited.
“It’s really good to see you home, Bren,” Colin said, pulling me from my thoughts.
He grinned again then pulled open the refrigerator and grabbed a green sports drink from the door. He twisted it open and took a deep drink while I watched him. I noticed that his hair was still wet from the shower.
“So, you mentioned telling me everything?” I prompted.
He stopped drinking and nodded, expression serious. “Yeah, but you’re not going to like what I have to say.”
I sighed. My reason for coming home wasn’t exactly happy, and I expected a lecture from dad, not from one of his lackeys. Even if Colin was like a brother to me in my father’s eyes, that didn’t give him the right to talk to me about who I should date and who I shouldn’t.
“Fine, let’s get it overwith, then.”
He resumed his position of leaning against the counter, bottle resting next to him.
“Well, I guess I should tell you that I’ll be staying in the house with you for a while.”
I stared at him. “Seriously? Don’t you have, like, your own apartment?”
“Yeah, I do. But this comes from the big man himself.”
“So Daddy ordered you to watch over me?”
He frowned. “It’s not like that.”
I clenched my jaw. It was exactly like that, and we both knew it.
“What’s it like, then?”
“Bren, can you blame him? I mean, you call out of the blue, start talking about some cheating ex-boyfriend that smacked you around, and beg him to let you come home. Of course he’s freaked out.”
There it was, the reason I had come home. Vince Fabrizio, my asshole ex-boyfriend. I kept remembering the dumb slut’s head sliding up and down his dick, and the happy expression on his face as she blew him. And how angry he was later, when I said that I was leaving, and the pain of his slap stinging through more than just my skin.
“I get it, he doesn’t trust me. Still thinks I’m the spoiled brat that can’t take care of herself.”
He pushed off the counter and leaned over the island, looking at me seriously.
“It’s not like that. I’m here for protection, not as a babysitter.”