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Authors: Nikki Winter

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The Beauty and the Brawler (4 page)

BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
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          “Because I just realized I’ve always been too pretty to learn how to cook.” Luciano waved a hand at his form. “Look at this. Feast your eyes on the utter perfection before you.”

          Sansone blinked twice before quietly saying, “Shut the fuck up and make my pancakes.”

          “Rude.”

          “Did we not understand the ‘shut the fuck up’ part of this? Do I need to explain that?”

          “Anyone ever tell you you’re almost as sexy as me when you’re angry?” Luciano questioned as he turned back to the pancake batter and fresh-cut fruit on the counter.

          The response he got was a grunt.

          “Your mug and coffee are on the counter to your right, you moody son of a bitch.”

          Another grunt.

          “Sooooo...nice weather we’re having to—”

          “What do you want, Luc?” Sansone barked. The sound of the paper snapping open followed said bark.

          Luciano hid a grin. Bastard knew him well, didn’t he? “Oh,” he said slowly, “Nothing much.”

          “One,” Sansone stated.

          “Really? The counting?”

          “Two.”

          “Can’t I just—”

          “No,” the other man interrupted. “Three.”

          “Sunny, you’re being an asshole.”

          “I know,” he answered. “Four.”

          “All right with the tyranny!” Luciano leaned against the kitchen counter. “I need you to do me a small favor.”

          Sansone simply lifted a brow in his direction. “No.”

          “Sunny—”

          “You want to know shit Nyssa knows? Ask Nyssa.”

          Lips twisting, Luciano questioned, “You two have a lovers’ spat?”

          “You have to be lovers to have a lovers’ spat.”

          “Is that why your G-string’s in a bunch?”

          “For your goddamn information,” Sansone replied, “I wear thongs. G-strings mess with the undercarriage.”

          Luciano bit the inside of his cheek. “Why can’t you just be a good brother and tell me shit when I ask?”

          “Because I’m not a good brother. I’m a moody son of a bitch.”

          The goddamn fights between Sansone and Nyssa had become more and more frequent lately. He wondered if it had anything to do with her dating again. Luciano could ask...but his nose had been broken twice already—he’d rather not leave it to chance that it’d happen again. With a sigh, he started loading pancakes onto the griddle.

Of the two of them, Sansone was hopeless in the kitchen. Pretty surprising for a tailored-suit-wearing, Harvard-graduated pretty boy from uptown, raised in a household where he had both parents and they actually treated him like they gave a shit. Luciano never had that advantage as a kid. No, his parents were
well-known alcoholic swindlers who had brought a son into the world they either didn’t give a shit about or thought would be better off dropped on the doorstep of a church. He often joked they were probably there looking for a pastor to turn water into wine; his adoptive mother—Sansone’s biological
mother—had never found that funny.

It never really mattered that he eventually got his forever home. The damage had already been done.
Gino and Cara Antonelli had been two-bit hustlers out to lie, steal, and cheat anyone they could. He didn’t know a lot about the people who’d ushered him into his shitty beginning, but he knew enough. He’d heard whispers from the time he was a lonely, angry boy. Whispers that made him fight. He was always fighting, always trying to prove himself, prove he was good enough.

There was no point. No one had ever thought he was good enough. Not his parents, not potential adopters, not foster care...no one. At least not until Sansone. He’d been the only one to ever look at him and see past all the scars and bruises and hard exterior. At sixteen, Luciano didn’t know what it was like to have friends. Sansone had shown him. It started with bringing him lunches at school when he realized Luciano didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Of course, he couldn’t grasp why one of the richest little bastards in school was being nice to him; he thought Sansone was out to embarrass him at some point. But then it graduated to inviting him over for dinner.

That went on for months, then a year, until the Sultanas had made themselves his unofficial family. Eventually they offered to adopt him, but he had to question why any family would want to take in a shit-starting kid with a chip on his shoulder and no interest in getting it removed. They pushed and pushed, and even after his eighteenth birthday still wanted him, until finally he agreed.

To this day, while he might refer to Aida and Carmine Sultana as Ma and Pop, he still called Sansone his friend before calling him his brother. Most asked why, and his answer was always the same, “Because that’s what he was first. My friend and
then
my brother. I’ll never forget that.”

The moment he became a part of their family his life changed. There were rough patches, with his still getting into fights in school up until Pop gave him something constructive to do—boxing. The second he hit the heavy bag, something inside him unleashed. The fights came few and far between before stopping altogether. School became a priority and before he knew it, Luciano was in his eighth semester in college, graduating with a bachelor’s in finance. Then he was discovered by a trainer who had an in with the boxing world. A year later, he won his first championship.

After that, Luciano was on every TV network, cereal box, and sports drink billboard from Philly to L.A. with Sansone managing his career, never letting his head get too big or his pockets too empty.

Eight years later, and he had six championships under his belt, a sporting goods line, and a protein shake to call his own. Sansone, the asshole, had a knack for running things on a tight ship. He was also analytical as shit, so Luciano wasn’t surprised when said asshole suddenly asked, “Exactly what do you want with Sammie, anyway?”

He stopped flipping pancakes. "You asking because you care, or because you want me to punch you in the face today?"

Sansone snorted. "Both."

"I can skip to the punching in the face..."

“Someone’s a little touchy...” Sansone sang.

Goddamn caffeine.

          “You know,” the other man started quietly, “I’m highly entertained by the fact Sammie has made you her bitch.”

         
And boom goes the dynamite.
It didn’t matter that it was true, or that he was worried as hell that she hadn’t been answering his calls in the last week or so.

          Luciano stacked a plate high and turned smoothly to set it down in front of Sansone. “You know what entertains me even more?”

          His sibling lifted his head from the paper. “No, and I can’t say I give a shit.”

          Luciano leaned across the kitchen island and grinned. “It’s the look of pure joy on Nyssa’s face after she’s gotten laid. She just glows, doesn’t she?”

          He totally saw that right cross coming. In hindsight, he should’ve left it alone but he regretted nothing.
Nothing.

Chapter Three

 

         
Calm. She’d remain
calm.
She’d remain calm, and she’d breathe, and she wouldn’t twitch. She wouldn’t let on that a goddamn thing was wrong. Yup, that was Samara’s plan. It was a good plan; a good,
solid
plan. It was a plan that—

          “You’re pregnant.”

          Those words stopped her dead in her tracks as she gave up any pretense of ninja-stealthing her way through the halls of WKZ at the ass-crack of dawn; something she hadn’t seen in weeks. Of course, common sense told her she’d get caught but...

          Samara very slowly turned towards where Ava’s voice had come from—in between the goddamn vending machines. Fucking cashew addiction.

          She blinked innocently at her pseudo boss. “’Course not. Why would you even—” The look on Ava’s face seemed to reach out, snatch the lie, and then Harlem Shake all over it.
Shit.
Samara’s eyes closed. “How could you tell?”

          Ava snorted. “Sammie, you’ve hiked here from three blocks over in a blizzard with a year’s supply of cocoa, a cooler full of pre-cooked dinners, and a hot plate just so you could continue to entertain the hordes of rude sons of bitches that listen to ‘Choice Words.’ After seven years of watching you run your slot on WKZ like a Stalin, Fidel, honey badger hybrid on bath salts and malt liquor steroids, I know the only thing capable of knocking you off your game, if only for a few days, is the spawn growing inside you.” The station manager popped a couple cashews, casually chewing. Then she asked, “When are you due, and when should I start buying fluffy shit from FAO Schwarz?”

         
Damn. Bitches be intuitive...

         
Samara sucked in a deep breath. “My doctor says October fourth at the latest, and you can start buying fluffy shit as soon as I’m sure my kid will make it here without introducing me to the gates of hell.”

          Ava’s brows arched. “Oh, pumpkin...just from looking at you I’m surmising that not only are the gates of hell open, but your child is orchestrating how to stop the second coming of Christ.”

          Eyes narrowing, Samara placed a hand on her belly and grabbed a balled-up piece of paper before chucking it at Ava. “Shut it.” She looked around. “Trip or Paz in yet?”

          Trip Latimore and Paz Ojeda, were two of her best friends and worse co-stars——mainly because they were assholes. They owned it and accepted it, but that didn’t make them any easier to deal with. Most days, Samara barely refrained from pushing Trip through the eighth-floor window and watching him plummet to his death with glee. Paz, however, was a little easier to tolerate. It might’ve had something to do with the fact he’d learned his lesson about fucking with her a long time ago.

          “Both,” Ava answered.

          Samara glanced down at her watch. They had about twenty minutes before show time. She’d be cutting her part short today, knowing she wouldn’t last long. Dr. Balcomb had given her a strict schedule to follow becuase she didn’t like the fact Samara was so sick so early on. Apparently because she was only a few weeks along, courtesy of her romp session with Luciano, she had another two months to look forward to feeling like shit on a platter. She was overjoyed at the news.

          Samara started towards the studio. “Good. I can go announce—”

          “Oh, they already guessed,” Ava supplied.

          Freezing again, Samara stared over her shoulder at the other woman. “Whaaa...”

          “They had a pool going.”

          Sighing, Samara turned back towards Ava, rubbing her temples. “Trip is going around telling people he’s the father, isn’t he?”

          Ava smirked. “There were Cubans handed out.”

          “Son of a bitch.”

          “Seven years, Sammie. Seven
long
years...”

          She was well aware of how long she’d been forced to see Trip five days out of the week. Which was why she didn’t feel an ounce of remorse when she found him in the studio and tried to claw his eyes out. What’d the fast-talking bastard do? He laughed.
Laughed!

          “Hey, hey, hey! I thought we agreed to finally come out in the open with our forbidden love!”

BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
5.43Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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