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Authors: Nikki Winter

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The Beauty and the Brawler (6 page)

BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
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“Son of a...”

“What about this?” He poked Marco’s swollen cheek.

“Ah!
Luc stop doing that
!”

          “If I don’t?” Luciano pushed him just a bit...but it was enough. “Whatcha gonna do, little man?”

          Marco launched himself at Luciano with that same loud, angry yell and once again, Luciano plucked him out of the air.

          There was a sigh behind him and then, “Mr. Antonelli, have we not discussed tormenting the children?”

          Luciano calmly looked over his shoulder. “I’m not tormenting
the children.
I’m tormenting
a child.
See the difference?”

          “Yes, because
that’s
what a charity founder should do.” His personal assistant, Brian, replied dryly. He wasn’t too far off with the charity part. Luciano had just donated a sizeable check to the rebuilding of the original boys’ home. In about six months or so, Marco and the rest of the kids here would have a completely new, three-story place to call their own.

New staff would be brought in since the old couldn’t seem to give a shit about their charges, and the boys would be moved from Trenton to Levittown. Those who couldn’t seem to follow the rules would be put in another recently built program Luciano had established months ago; someplace where they’d learn how to deal with whatever made them rebellious. Later he’d find out who the little bastards were who thought it’d be funny to kick Marco around.

          “Hey, hey, hey, the kid started with me. I’m simply defending my weak form,” Luciano argued.

          From his height of five feet seven inches, Brian stared up at Luciano’s six-foot-six-inch physique and simply blinked. “Sir, I don’t think the word
weak
means what you
think it means.”

          “Am I paying you for candid wit? I don’t think I’m paying you for candid wit.”

          “No, you’re paying me to ensure you don’t marry a hooker who believes death by asphyxiation is a good way for you to meet Saint Peter at the Lord’s gates before taking everything from your lifeless corpse that hasn’t been nailed down,” Brian answered.

          Luciano winked, grinning. “What a way to go, eh?”

          His assistant rolled his eyes. “How about you just explain
this
to me?” He waved a hand to a still-swinging Marco.

          Looking down, Luciano said, “
This
is me teaching a kid a lesson.” He set Marco down and stopped him from charging by cupping a hand over his face. “Yo, kid! Cut it out!”

          His tiny assailant stilled for a second time. “What’s your problem, Luc?”

          “What’s yours?” Luciano asked right back. “What did I tell you about letting people goad you?” He poked Marco in the shoulder. “Anger is stupid. It makes you reckless, senseless. It makes you take the risk of getting almost
killed
by someone who doesn’t give a shit who’ll cry over your body when it’s found.”

          Marco looked away so Luciano gripped his chin, turning his head back. “It fucking
sucks
to be small. It fucking
sucks
to feel like you’re weak. And it fucking
sucks
to know there’s nobody there to come charging in for you. I
get
that.”

          “So why won’t you help me?”

          “Because I won’t always be around, and you can’t become dependent on me.”

          Mexican standoff. There was a lot of glaring and lip curling. Looking down at Marco did something strange to Luciano. Mainly because every time the angry, thick-haired, mini boxer took a swing at him, he realized he
was
this kid. He had the same chip, same attitude and same temper.

          “I can’t fight
for
you, Marco,” Luciano said softly. “That’ll make it worse. The first time I’m not around, they’ll come for you.”

          “So why are we even having this conversation?” The kid waved his arms around. “Why don’t you just walk away like everyone else always does?”

          “Because I actually give a shit.”

          “You got a funny way of showing it.”

          Christ. Two years he’d been visiting this loud-mouthed street urchin, and it was like talking to a brick wall. “You’re right. I do have a funny way of showing it. Like now.” Luciano reached down and gripped Marco by the ankles, hanging him upside down. “I’m gonna do something for you that no one ever did for me.”

          “And what’s that?”

          He smirked. Even hanging upside down, the mini scrapper still had attitude for days. “I’m gonna show you how to defend yourself.”

          Marco’s brows winged. “You’re gonna show me how to whoop ass?”

          “No. I’m gonna show you how to keep from getting
your
ass whooped. That kid didn’t take you because you’re small, he took you because you didn’t know how to stop him.”

          Folding his arms across his chest, Marco stared at him. “What’s the catch?”

          Luciano let go of one of those ankles. “The catch is that I don’t hear or see you in any more fights. The moment your grades drop, I’m on your ass like wolves on a deer carcass.“
Capisce?”

         
Marco chewed his lip, nodded. “
Capisce.”

         
Luciano turned him upright and set him on his feet. “Do me a favor, Brian, and take him inside, make sure Miss Mona patches him up.”

          Brian, who’d silently watched the scene, smiled at Luciano. “You got it.”

          “And don’t go around telling anybody I’m soft!” he called after the pair.

          “Wouldn’t dream of it, sir!”

          “I would!” Marco pointed out.

          Chuckling, Luciano took a seat on the curb. He didn’t even jump when another body about his size and height took the space next to him. “Like looking in a mirror, eh?” Sansone asked quietly. He’d tagged along for the visit as he did every time. For some reason he always let himself get roped into playing kickball with some of the younger boys.

          Luciano ran a hand through his hair. “Fucks with my head every time, man. One minute I wanna strangle him...the next I wanna hug him so he knows someone actually cares.”

          Sansone snorted. “Same way Pops was with you.”

          “
Exactly.”

         
“Hey...you’re not about to cry, are you? Because I’ll make fun of you if you cry...then possibly post a video online.”

          He shoved his brother.

          “You know...Marco seems to respond to you better than anyone else,” Sansone said.

          “Some would say.”

          “A little...the kid could use someone who gets it.”

          “No, Sunny.”

          “I didn’t even say—”

          “What do I look like trying to raise
anybody?”
Luciano stood. “I’m still raising
myself.”

          “Every parent goes through that.” Sansone rose. “Ma and Pops went through it with me and then double time with you.”

          Luciano flipped him the bird.

          “Think about it, man. You adopt mini scrapper, and maybe Sammie will actually consider that you don’t put your dick in every warm crevice around and are actually responsible.”

          “Only an asshole or an idiot thinks adopting a kid is a good way to get a woman,” Luciano retorted.

          “And you’re both...so what’s the problem?”

For his comedic efforts he got put into a nice long headlock while Luciano laughed...
loudly.
When Sansone’s goddamn bellowing about his hair got to be tiring, Luciano let him go.

“Bastard,” his brother grumbled, smoothing back his locks.

“Fix your panties so you can tell Nyssa how you feel
then
talk to me about how to run my life.”

“If you want Sammie so bad, you need to stop obsessing and go. Get. Her.”

Luciano waved a hand. “I don’t obsess over her, and she’s the one who left
me
at the early stages of dawn, naked and confused...feeling like someone’s whore.” Not to mention she still wouldn’t answer when he called.

“And on that note, I believe this discussion should come to an end,” Sansone murmured. “
But,”
he continued. “I really do think you should consider taking the kid. He needs you.”

With a sigh, Luciano said, “I’ll consider it.” Then he clapped his hands. “Now bring around my car, Benjamin!”

Sansone punched him in the stomach, leaving him breathless on the ground as he walked off, humming. “You should really talk to someone about your addiction to my fists, Luc. Can’t be healthy.”

 

***

          “Brian, you download that app I asked you for?” Luciano questioned, scrolling through the screens of his android.

          “The one with access to WKZ broadcasts?” his personal assistant said, not looking up from the tablet in his hands as he went over Luciano’s schedule from the passenger’s side of Sansone’s truck. “Put it up there last night.”

          “Jesus Christ, you’re getting
B
involved in your skeevey stalkerish activities?” Sansone barked, laughing.

          “Shaddup, Sunny.”

          “No. This needs to be said.” Luciano’s brother turned to Brian. “In all the time you’ve worked for him, has he
ever
been
this
goddamn creepy?”

          “Can’t say that he has, sir.” Brian answered.

          “You’re fired, Brian,” Luciano stated from the back seat.

          “Is that a promise?”

          Luciano gasped in outrage. “Brian, I thought you loved me!”

          “No. My
husband
loves you. I do this so Antonio gets to be a stan from the sidelines of your matches.”

          “Is it wrong that I find it strange I’m being stalked by one of the most infamous linebackers in the NFL?”

          “No stranger than when we find you at our table for dinner every Wednesday night, sir,” Brian candidly replied.

          “Ah, you know I can’t stay away from the veal Parmesan, Brian.” Luciano momentarily stopped searching for his headphones. “You making veal parm this week?”

          “I thought I was fired.”

          “I’ll change my mind for the veal parm.”

          “And back to the skeevey behavior at hand,” a previously silent Sansone cut in. “You should be eating at Samara’s table and not invading B’s home every week.”

          “Impossible,” Brian retorted. “Samara can’t cook.”

          The brothers stared at him.

          “How would
you
know that?” Luciano queried slowly.

          “Paz Ojeda, her co-star, is Antonio’s cousin. They grew up together—even got drafted together when they first entered the NFL,” Brian murmured, eyes still on that tablet screen. “We’ve been up to Manhattan a few times for dinner with them, and Samara occasionally tags along. Fun girl, great taste in shoes.”

BOOK: The Beauty and the Brawler
13.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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