“Things are going well between Dante and me, don’t worry,” I said as I pulled back. “I think he’s still not over his first wife though.”
Papà exchanged a look with Mamma. “It took Fiore a long time to convince Dante to marry at all. I’m glad he chose you. Don’t push him.”
“Listen to your father, Valentina. Men don’t like pushy women.”
“What is it that I hear you convinced Dante to give you a job?” Papà asked.
“Don’t pretend you don’t already know everything about it. I bet half of the Outfit is already ranting about it.”
“What do you expect? A woman of your status isn’t supposed to work,” Mamma said.
“Some people think women aren’t supposed to interrupt their husbands either and you do that all the time.”
Mamma huffed. “I don’t interrupt your father.”
“You don’t?” Papà said in mock surprise. Their marriage hadn’t always been for love. Like Dante and I, they’d married for convenience, but over time they’d grown fond of each other. When I saw them, it gave me new hope for my own marriage.
I couldn’t hold back a smile. “Dante doesn’t mind me working. I think he likes that I want to do something useful.”
“What could be more useful than raising beautiful children? When are we going to become grandparents?”
I sent Papà a pleading look but he shrugged. “Fiore really wants a heir to his name. Dante has responsibilities. What if he got killed without having a son to inherit his title?”
“Don’t say that. Nobody’s going to get killed. I lost one husband already, I won’t lose a second,” I said desperately.
Papà patted my cheek. “Dante knows how to take care of himself, but what’s wrong with having children?”
“Nothing’s wrong with it. I want children, but not because it’s my duty to produce an heir. I want children because I want something to love and that loves me back unconditionally.” God, when had this conversation turned so horribly emotional?
“Val,” Papà said carefully. “Did Dante do something?”
I gave him a shaky smile, grateful for his concern but knowing it was useless. Even if Dante had done something and I told my father about, there was hardly anything he could do. He wouldn’t go against his Capo, not even for me. “No, he’s a gentleman.” Outside of the bedroom, I added silently. Not that I minded. “He’s only really closed off. I feel lonely, but working will keep me busy, so that should make it better.”
“Give him time,” Papà said. I could tell he was getting increasingly uncomfortable with my emotionality. Why were Made Men cowards when it came to expressing feelings but didn’t bat an eye when confronted with death? He glanced at his Rolex, then grimaced. “I really need to go.” He pressed a kiss against my temple before he bent down to give my mother a proper kiss. Then he was gone. Mamma patted the spot on the sofa beside her. I plopped down with a sigh. “I really need cake right now.”
Mamma rang a bell and our maid entered the living room with a tray full of pastries and Italian macarons. I bet she’d been waiting in front of the door since I’d arrived. For as long as I could remember she’d always been a bit too nosy. She gave me a quick smile, set the tray down and then disappeared again. I grabbed a delicacy made of marzipan, chocolate and puff pastry, and took a big bite. Mamma poured me coffee, never taking her eyes off me. “Careful with these. They are full of fat and calories. You have to make sure you take care of your body. Men don’t like plump women.”
I made a show out of finishing the rest of my pastry, then washed it down with coffee. “Maybe you should write a book about what men want since you seem to know all about it.” I opened my eyes wide to lessen the impact of my snippy words.
Mamma shook her head before taking a pastry for herself. “Your father is right. We should have been stricter with you.”
“You were strict with Orazio and it didn’t help.”
“He’s a boy. They are all boisterous. And he’s really shaping up nicely. He said he’s even thinking about settling down.” I doubted that. He’d probably only said it to get my mother off his back. And given that he didn’t live in Chicago but helped keeping our business in line in Detroit and Cleveland, our parents didn’t often get the chance to bother him. And he was a man of course. Nobody cared if he slept with a new girl every night, as long as he didn’t tell them who he really was.
“I’ve never gone against your wishes, so I don’t know why you complain. After all, I married Dante because you wanted it.”
Mamma looked offended. “He’s the best catch we could hope for. Who wouldn’t marry a man like him?”
I drank my coffee, not bothering to reply. It was a rhetorical question anyway.
“Does Dante seek you out at night?”
I almost spit out what was in my mouth. “I’m not going to talk to you about that, Mamma.” My cheeks burned up from embarrassment and Mamma gave me a knowing smile.
I loved her, but she was the most infuriating woman on this planet.
Enzo picked me up in the SUV. Except for a bit of smalltalk, we didn’t speak during the short ride. When we drove past Bibiana’s street, I said, “Wait. Turn the corner. I want to pay Bibiana Bonello a visit.” I’d promised her I’d tell her how things between Dante and me had progressed. She’d hopefully be happy to see me.
Enzo didn’t argue. He steered the car toward Bibi’s house and parked at the curb. “Do you want me to wait?”
I hesitated. “If you don’t mind?”
Enzo shook his head. “That’s my job. He reached behind his seat and pulled out a magazine about Oldtimers.
“It won’t take long,” I said even though Bibiana and I could spend hours chatting.
I climbed out of the car and strode toward the front door. I rang the bell, then waited. Nothing happened for a while and I was about to return to the car when the door opened.