“I’M NOT GOING to ask you again.” Nixon’s jaw clenched as he braced his hands against the doorframe, his massive body just daring me to pick a fight. Hell, the guy was probably itching to torture me — but I knew better than to mess with a sleep deprived assassin. Dark circles rimmed his bloodshot eyes. A wail erupted in the tense silence.
“Better get that.” I said with a smug smirk.
“She has a name.”
“Most babies do.”
“God you’re a cocky shit.”
I shrugged, “We can’t all be Nixon Abandonato, now can we?”
He leapt from the door, in seconds his right hand was wrapped around my neck, slamming me backward against his dresser, his house, his room, his dresser, I had nothing.
“You’re going and that’s final!” He hissed, his fingers digging into my neck harder. My teeth clenched together with such force it felt like my head was going to split in two. But that was part of the mind games they played — all the bosses — they wanted to break me, to get me to lose my temper, to crack. Hell, I’d probably get my own house if I pulled a gun on one of them and tapped the trigger.
I was a loose cannon that they didn’t know how to train.
There were rules about the shit they did, and they hated that I knew them all, almost as much as I think they hated me. The outsider who had a dynasty at his fingertips — one he never asked for and sure as hell didn’t want.
Maybe the last part was a slight exaggeration — I wanted it — I just wanted it my way, not theirs.
Nixon finally released me.
Pissing him off more.
The crying intensified in the other room.
I arched my eyebrows and crossed my arms.
Finally, Nixon hung his head and whispered. “It’s Christmas. Our first Christmas as a family — we want you there.”
“Bastard.” I shoved against his chest and turned around in a small circle, running my hands over my freshly buzzed dark hair. “That was a low blow and you know it.”
His laugh made me want to drive a knife between his ribs. “Yeah well, I’m a parent, apparently, we have to play dirtier than mob bosses… At least it sure as hell feels that way.”
I snorted. “I’ll go, on one condition.”
I shook my head and stared down at the hard wood floor that decorated the room that would never feel like mine. “I don’t want to talk to her.”
“She lives here.”
“And that’s my problem? My fault?” I felt the rage boiling beneath the surface, the anger that we had the enemy underneath our rooftop — the person that I still held responsible for my father’s death even though she was loosely associated with the real murderer.
I blamed her.
Because I had nobody else to blame.
And I had to blame someone. I had to. The blame kept the anger fanned — and as long as I had anger — I would never be sad.
“Look, I’ll talk with Ella, but I can’t make any promises she or the kids won’t approach you.”
They spent a year in hell under Xavier’s household, one of the most rotten bastards I’d ever met in my entire life — Russian — batshit crazy and abusive, just to name a few fun attributes.
“Whatever.” I shrugged. “I’ll handle it.”
“Try not to handle anything without talking to me or one of the guys first, I’d hate to see blood on Christmas.”
“What’s a good Christmas without a little violence?” I asked honestly.
“Yeah, I’m not letting you train with Tex anymore.”
“Tex isn’t near as bad as Phoenix.” I muttered.
“Yeah well Phoenix has a lot of…” Nixon frowned. “Just a lot.”
“No shit.” I shuddered, the guy had locked me in a small box and dropped a tarantula inside just to mess with my head and see if I snapped.
I never would.
“A lot.” I repeated. “Well, good talk as always Nixon, dinner?”
He eyed me up and down, his disapproval was evident with the way his nose lifted. “Wear clothes, Dante.”
“I’m in clothes.” I pointed to my low-slung sweatpants and wife beater.
“You look like a punk. And when I see a punk it makes me trigger happy — besides, that’s one of the rules.”
“Hell you guys shouldn’t have a dress code.”
“And yet we do.” He rolled his eyes. “For obvious reasons.”
“Not so obvious to me.” I just had to argue, didn’t I?”
“We’ll have this talk after I send you out and you get shot at because you look the part. Wear a suit and tie, wear a leather jacket, name brands, expensive shit and people assume you belong. Dress like a gangster and you’ll get a nice bullet to the shoulder, but that’s your choice, after all, gunshot wounds are like trophies, collect enough and people won’t give you anymore shit.”
“So get shot enough and I can dress however the hell I want?”
“Your choice.” He snapped, then walked out of the room toward the wailing baby.
“In three, two one,” I whispered to myself, and suddenly little Serena stopped crying. Of course she did. Because she had a dad who loved her, who held her close and sang to her in Italian when he thought nobody was listening. She had love.
Which was just another reminder.
That while everyone had someone.
I no longer did.