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Authors: Nikki Winter

Tags: #Romance

The Beauty and the Brawler (16 page)

BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
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          “Whatever you want,

“I’ve been looking at themes for the nursery, and I want something bright but not overactive. The baby books all say you want to make sure the walls aren’t too busy so there isn’t confusion between day and night.” She’d been reading them constantly. They only had a short three months to prepare. Maybe even less if the kid kept developing the way he or she was.


          “I’m thinking we could find someone to paint a mural. Maybe we can do Mickey Mouse or… Are you even listening to me?”

          Luciano finally looked up from whatever he’d been rolling around in his hand as he sat across from her at his kitchen table. “Of course I am.”

          Samara closed her notebook. She’d been scrolling through homes that Brian had sent over via email. They had finally decided they would be buying in New York after Luciano told her he was going to retire from boxing but look into opening training centers on the East Coast for aspiring fighters. He already had Sansone looking into spaces and professional trainers. But it seemed like his head was a million miles away at the moment.

          “What was the last thing you heard me say?”

          “That you were thinking on nursery themes,” he answered simply.

          Her eyes narrowed. “Well played, unnaturally large man…well played…”

          His lips curved but he said nothing.

          “How about you tell me what’s bothering you?”

          Luciano sighed. “I have a major decision on my mind.”

          “Really? What?”

          He sat back. “Something that could affect us both.”

          Her heart skipped a beat. She swallowed. “Your retirement?”

          “No.” Shaking his head, he stood and walked to the island, turning away from her.

          “Marco’s adoption?”

          “Not that either.”

          She paused, stared at the slow, even way he was breathing, then chose to take a plunge that might very well hurt like hell. “You having second thoughts about us?”

          His silence was answer enough. It felt like someone had hit her in the chest. “You don’t…you don’t want to move in together, do you?”

          Turning to her, he shook his head. “No. Not like this.”

          Samara chewed her lip. “You wanna tell me why?” Fuck. She’d seen this coming, hadn’t she? It shouldn’t have felt like such a blow, but it did. She’d been preparing for this moment from the first second she knew about her pregnancy—had understood that at some point the pretty parts of their relationship might stop being so pretty to him.

          “It just doesn’t feel right,” Luciano said softly. “Seems like something’s missing.”

          “And that would be…?”

          His eyes bored through her. “Love.”

          She looked away from him then. What was she supposed to say to that? Samara loved him but apparently he didn’t feel the same. He was laying it all out. Maybe she should’ve told him? Would that have changed anything? Probably not. “I understand.”

          “I don’t think you do.” He was standing in front of her suddenly, then kneeling.


          Taking her left hand he slipped something on her ring finger and she would’ve looked down, but her gaze was locked with his. “See, I can’t enter a home with you, live under a roof with you, have you bring one of the most important people in the world to me into
for me
and not tell you how much I love you. Not ask you to do something for my last name that it hasn’t had in a long time—give it something real,
All my life I’ve been trying to give my name some kind of light. Something that would erase all the damage my biological parents did, erase all the hurt behind the shit I went through as a kid, erase how I felt abandoned and alone and like nothing.”

          Something wet hit Samara’s right cheek. Might’ve been a tear, she couldn’t process anything past the weight on her finger and what he was saying.

          “The past few years I spent watching you, listening to you, needing you I was always too afraid that you’d look at me and see the same thing everyone else always saw—either where I came from or where I was going. It took me a long time to get it through my head that all you saw was
and that you were okay with it.” He lifted a hand to swipe his thumb against her cheek. “Then it occurred to me that the name calling and the snapping and the being mean was because you were just as insecure about making a step toward me as I was toward you.” Linking their fingers, Luciano continued with, “I’m not afraid anymore. I love you enough to take that chance, and I haven’t said it because I’ve been trying to show it so if you’re doubtful I understand but—”

          She kissed him, taking his lips until they were both breathless. “Luc?” Samara panted.


          “Shut up.”

          He looked at her with wide eyes. “But I still—”

          She kissed him again and then pulled back, running her mouth over his cheeks, nose, and forehead. “If you
shut up”—her lips touched his—“I can’t keep doing this.” Samara pecked him again. “And I’m pretty sure you want me to keep doing this.” Another kiss.

Qualunque cosa tu dica, bella.”

God help her…



Two years later…


You’re looking a little tired there, Sammie. Wanna tell us what that’s all about?”

Luciano’s radio was on loud and clear as he sat on the nursery floor with his son—Samara
wouldn’t let him live his wrong prediction down—rolling trucks around. “Look, Vinny. Mommy’s about to come on.”

          “Mommy!” Vincent waddled toward the stereo system, placing one ear to the speaker. “Where’s Mommy?”

          Luciano chuckled. “Mommy’s coming.”

“Might have something to do with the knowledge that I have to look at you almost every day.”
Samara’s voice came through loud and clear in response to Trip’s question.

“Oh, Sammie, you’re hurting me here.”

          “No more than the sight of you hurts me.”

          “I feel so much love in this room right now,”
Paz interjected.

“Really? From where? All I’m feeling is morning sickness…and oh, my God, I just said that on air didn’t I?”

          Luciano froze as silence came across the line.

          Vincent tapped the speaker. “Mommy?”

          “Uh, Pops?” Marco said from the doorway.

          “Yeah?” Luciano croaked.

          “You think
the reason Ma kept bugging us about clearing out the upstairs office?”

          He swallowed, his head bobbing quickly as he nodded.

“Luc…sweetheart…baby…my wonderful husband…I know you’re listening…”
Samara was saying in a tone that was so saccharine it made his back teeth ache.
“That upstairs office? Yeah…you’ve got about seven months to get it together if what Dr. Balcomb says is accurate.”

His eyes slid to the radio as Vincent began to bounce around on his small legs, clapping.

“I’m thinking the theme this time around should be dinosaurs…”

Vincent roared, imitating what he’d heard his mother say, and Luciano couldn’t find any words.

“Oh, and humungosaur? The next time I tell you to stop trying to distract me…you should







BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
12.17Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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