I heard my phone ring and stood, deftly navigating through piles of clothes until I got to the bedside table and picked up my phone, Brad’s number showing up on the screen.
“Hey baby.” I smiled as I spoke.
“Hey, my beautiful bride. You all ready to become Mrs. De Luca?”
“How’s the packing going?”
“Pretty good. I’m almost done, then headed to bed.”
“Make sure the alarm is armed.”
I smiled. “It is.” His fear was unfounded. If anything, the last year had proved that no one was interested in harming me, not as Brad De Luca’s fiancée. Might that change when I became a wife? An official member of the crime family? I swallowed the bead of nervousness and returned to my place on the floor.
“And you’re not trying to move boxes yourself, right? I’m gonna send someone over tomorrow afternoon to pick up that and your furniture.”
I rolled my eyes. “I know. You’ve told me several times. Don’t worry, I have no desire to heft my own boxes just for the hell of it.”
“Any chance we can get breakfast? I may need a pep talk, reminder of why I’m leaving my life of bachelordom.”
I huffed into the phone. “No pep talk, no breakfast. You can wait ‘til noon tomorrow like everyone else.”
“But we’ll talk in the morning, right?”
“Noon. You made it thirty-odd years without talking to me. You’ll survive just fine.”
He growled, a sound that drove me crazy with desire. “I love you.” His voice was husky, and I smiled.
“I love you, too. See you tomorrow.”
“Noon.” I hung up the phone with a happy sigh.
Frustrated with my lack of cooperation in the form of personal security, Brad had focused his resources on Fort Knox-ifying my crappy student dwelling. It was a waste of money considering that the threat to my safety would begin after I moved out, my life only endangered upon my induction into the Magiano family. But maybe it was the thought of danger, or the idea that his family would renege on their promise—whatever the reason, I was surrounded by safety measures. Every window in my house had been replaced with security glass. If the windows were opened, cracked, or broken, an alarm would blare and the police and security firm would be alerted. The same went with exterior doors. A triggered alarm could only be ended with a personal code and a call to the security firm. A panic button was now installed next to my bed, allowing the police to be one short pressure point away. I was, with the best security system money could buy, safe.
Security was only effective when protecting an intelligent individual. My safety was comprised in the simplest way possible.
At 10:46 p.m. my car alarm blared. Three high-pitched sirens and then silence. I looked up from my packing and listened, unsure if the noise I heard had belonged to my SUV. Standing, I crawled onto my bed until I was at the bedroom window, pulling open the blinds and looking out onto our front yard. There, illuminated by our lone street light, sat my X5, parked on the curb, no one in sight. I started to back away from the window when something caught my eye. Leaning in closer, I tried, through dirty glass and a dark yard, to examine my car.
“What the ...” I whispered, trying to tell what was on the BMW’s windows. Some white marking of some type. Letters. I let go of the blinds and hopped off the bed, shoving my feet into shoes and heading for the front door. Disarming the alarm, I stepped outside, taking a few steps into the front yard and looking closer, my eyes widening as I got close enough to see the letters in the dark.
S L U T. In letters big enough to scream, the writing angry in its strokes. I glanced around, seeing only the empty street and walked forward, scared to see what was written on the other side. I reached in my back pocket and pulled out my cell.
I heard a sound from behind, out of place enough to make me turn. Then, a wet cloth came across my face, so tight I couldn’t breathe, much less scream. I tried to take a breath, my fingers tried to move across the screen of my phone, tried to...
Brad hung up the cell. “She’s at home.”
“And you don’t want to go out.”
“We did. We went to Bern’s after the rehearsal.”
“Bern’s?” Stevie shot him a look that communicated everything in one simple glare. “The king of pu**y goes to a steakhouse before tying the knot.” He shook his head.
“I’ve had pu**y. I don’t feel the need to jeopardize my relationship for subpar ass.”
“Then take us out so we can get some. I’ll take subpar over none. And your definition of subpar is another man’s dream.”
Brad took a long drag of his beer. “You have nothing to bitch about. There were plenty of girls at the party we had last month.”
The man snorted. “And guys. A joint bachelor party? I don’t understand how you guys can let loose and have fun when the other person is there.”
Brad laughed. “Yeah. A couple doing things together. Doomed.” He leaned back in the couch. “I hate to break it to you, Stevie, but my life as a slut is over.”
“And you seem remarkably calm about it,” Ben remarked, walking into the room with fresh beers and passing one to each of them before settling into one of the large leather armchairs.
Brad shrugged. “You know Julia. I don’t deserve her as it is. This is the happiest I’ve ever been.”
“I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense. I’m just surprised that you recognize it.” Ben leaned forward, clinked his beer against Brad’s. “You hit a home run with her.”
Stevie groaned. “This all is great, but let’s at least order a stripper. Get a PG-rated lap dance, and then let me take her upstairs.”
“The man owns a strip club. He’s not going to get excited about some tits bouncing up and down,” Ben said dryly.
“Owned a strip club,” Brad said, finishing the bottle and setting it on the counter.
Stevie glanced over. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Didn’t seem like something a husband should have. I signed it over to Julia.”
Stevie coughed hard, sitting up and setting his beer on the floor. “Holy shit. You really are whipped.”
“Don’t give me that. You handed Nikki your balls in a velvet sack on your second date.”