Sempre redemption, p.76
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.76

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
Page 76


  “Can’t find anything?” she asked.

  “Nope. ” He shut the door, his eyes scanning a takeout menu stuck to the front of it with magnets.

  “I can make something,” she offered. “You have to be tired of eating out. ”

  He chuckled in amusement, cocking an eyebrow suggestively. “Depends on what I’m eating out. ”

  “Pervert. ” She could feel the heat rising into her cheeks, knowing it was useless to try to hide it.

  “Yeah, but you love it,” he said playfully.

  “I do. ” There was no use denying it—he knew Haven well.

  Carmine laughed as he turned away, his attention going back to the menu. “I’ll just order Chinese. It’s late and you shouldn’t have to cook, especially considering you already cleaned the kitchen once tonight. Don’t think I didn’t notice that shit. I could’ve done it, you know. I would’ve. ”

  “I know you would’ve,” she said truthfully. Carmine never did certain things, like laundry or mopping, but he was good at picking up after himself. He didn’t enjoy it, but he did it for her. “I didn’t mind it. ”

  “Well, thank you. ”

  He grabbed the cordless telephone from the wall and dialed a number quickly. “Yeah, I need a delivery. The name’s Carmine DeMarco,” he said when they answered, pausing briefly as they looked up his name. “Yes, that’s me. I need an order of the pork mu shu wraps, some Mongolian beef, the kung pao chicken, and two orders of your won ton soup. I don’t know, large? Oh, and some egg rolls. How many come in an order? Two? Is that it? That’s a fucking rip off. ”

  He glanced at Haven, raising his eyebrows. “Did I miss anything?”

  “Uh, no. ”

  “Yeah, that’s it. And don’t forget the fortune cookies,” he said into the phone, his brow furrowing. “What do you mean you don’t have any fortune cookies? You’re a Chinese restaurant. You have to have fortune cookies. What? No, I don’t care if they’re complimentary. Don’t give me that bullshit. I don’t feel fucking complimented right now. Find some. ”

  He ended the call, slamming the phone down on the counter, making Haven flinch. He pulled open the freezer door and looked inside. Haven knew immediately what he was doing, having acted on impulse out of frustration. He stared at the empty spot where the vodka bottle had once been stored before slamming the door again and opening the refrigerator.

  Haven grabbed the can of Coke from his hand and gently rubbed his back. “Fortune cookies aren’t that serious,” she said, nudging him aside to grab a glass from the cabinet. Carmine leaned against the counter and watched as she made a cherry Coke. “You don’t even eat them. You think they taste like cardboard. ”

  “Yeah, but you do,” he replied. He fidgeted and appeared agitated, rubbing the palms of his hands on his pants anxiously. “You like them. ”

  She smiled softly as she handed him his soda. “Well, thanks for thinking of me, but it was unnecessary. Just like sending that limo for me was unnecessary. ”

  “Maybe the cookies weren’t, but the limo was definitely necessary,” he said, taking a sip of his drink. “You couldn’t walk home. ”

  “No, but I could’ve taken the bus,” she replied. “I kind of like it, anyway. I never got to go to school and ride the bus or anything. Makes it feel authentic. ”

  He stared at Haven doubtfully. “You weren’t taking the bus home. ”

  “Why? It’s not that big of a deal. ”

  “It is a big deal,” he retorted, raising his voice. “The bus stop isn’t close to the house so you’d still have to walk in the dark. ”

  “It’s just a few blocks over,” she replied, hoping to reassure him so he would calm down. “It would’ve only taken a few minutes if I cut down the alley by—”

  Haven stopped speaking abruptly when it struck her what she was saying. Carmine stood frozen, his body rigid. The bus stop was near the old theater a few blocks away, down from where Carmine’s piano recital had been held that October night in 1996. The alley was the one Carmine had taken with his mother, the one he hadn’t gone near since.

  “Okay,” she conceded. The odds of something actually happening to her were slim, but once again it was more about his peace of mind. “No bus at night, but I still want to take it during the day. ”

  “You’re the only person I know that prefers public transportation,” he grumbled, not happy with her compromise but he didn’t disagree.

  “I just don’t see the point in driving if I don’t have to,” she explained. “And limos are too flashy. I like fitting in but you sending a car to pick me up from class doesn’t help that. If it gets late and I can’t take the bus, I’ll call a taxi. ”

  Carmine laughed dryly. “And you say I’m stubborn. ”

  “You are stubborn,” she said. “Maybe you’re just rubbing off on me. ”

  It was quiet for a moment before his lips curved into a smile. “Yeah, I’ll rub something off on you, all right. ”

  “Oh God,” she groaned, shaking her head as she looked away from him.

  He chuckled at her reaction before sighing, resigned. “No taxi, but I can make it more low profile. They have cars that aren’t as conspicuous. If I feel like I need to send a car, I’ll send one of them. Otherwise, whatever, I guess the bus is fine. ”

  “Thank you,” she said, smiling. “You’re good to me, you know. ”

  He rolled his eyes and started to respond but was cut off by his cell phone ringing. Without a moment’s hesitation he bolted from the room.

  There was a knock on the door eventually. Carmine reappeared and stepped outside. Haven’s curiosity got the best of her, so she made her way to the kitchen to peek out the window. Her brow furrowed when she saw Carmine standing on the front step with two men, neither of whom she recognized. They all seemed tense, the conversation between them serious—business, she assumed. Her heart rate quickened as it usually did when she witnessed him at work, a bit of fear naturally brewing inside her.

  Carmine suddenly glanced in the direction of the window, his expression hardening when they made eye contact. She stepped out of his sight, not wanting to anger him, and looked toward the street when a car pulled up to the curb. The two men briskly walked past the window and Carmine opened the front door, heading straight for the office again as the deliveryman approached the house with their food.

  Before he could knock, Carmine came back out with his wallet and opened the front door. “Your total is $47. 75. ”

  “Christ, that’s fucking expensive,” Carmine muttered. Haven strolled toward the doorway of the kitchen and paused, watching as he thumbed through his cash. He pulled out a fifty and handed it to the guy, hesitating before grabbing another five dollar bill. She smiled as he handed it to him for a tip before grabbing the bag of food and shutting the door.

  “You shouldn’t be so nosy,” he said when he spotted Haven standing there.

  “I wasn’t being nosy. I was just curious. ”

  “Same damn thing,” he muttered under his breath before adding, “Just be careful, okay? You know that shit makes me nervous. ”

  Haven grabbed a soda from the fridge for herself and picked up Carmine’s cherry Coke, following him into the living room. They settled onto the couch and ate dinner, chatting casually as they watched television. After they were full Carmine put the rest aside, pulling out a white paper bag and opening it. He laughed as he poured the contents out on the coffee table. Haven looked in shock at the dozen fortune cookies, reading the writing on the clear plastic covering them. They had ordered from Satay, but the cookies came from a place called Ming Choy.

  “You scared them into buying fortune cookies from another restaurant. ”

  “I probably should’ve tipped more for that shit, huh?” he said, unable to hide his amusement. He grabbed one of the cookies and tossed it on her lap before picking up another for himself. He took the cookie out, breaking it apart quickly to pull out his fortune.

/>   “The important thing is to never stop questioning,” he read before tossing it down and grabbing another. “That’s just fucking stupid. ”

  She laughed and pulled her fortune out. “Your dream will come true when you least expect it,” she said, reading the strip of paper as she took a bite of the cookie, earning a grimace from Carmine. “My dreams already came true: family, friends, school, marriage. Couldn’t ask for much more. ”

  “You aren’t married yet, tesoro. ”

  “I know. ” She smiled as she gazed at the scrap of paper. “Tomorrow. ”

  “Tomorrow,” he agreed.

  * * *

  The next afternoon, Haven stood in front of an antique full-length mirror, taken aback by her reflection.

  Her hair was curled, the top half pulled back, as a small gold tiara kept her veil in place. Her white dress was simple, one shouldered and long with a train in the back, and she had on a pair of high heels. It wasn’t flashy but it was undoubtedly beautiful, the way she had always envisioned it.

  Tears stung her eyes as her thoughts kept shifting to her mother. Haven missed her terribly and wished she could be there, imagining how proud she would be to see her at that moment. It was everything she wanted for her, everything she told Haven she would find in the world. Once upon a time she had doubted her, thinking it was impossible, but now it was becoming real.

  The door behind Haven opened and she glanced behind her as Corrado walked in. She quickly turned away from him, nervous, as Corrado nonchalantly paused behind her in the mirror. He was quiet for a moment, his silence doing nothing to ease her anxiety.

  “Principessa della Mafia,” he said finally, his voice calm. “When Vincent first confessed to me who you were, I told him I couldn’t see it. I said you didn’t look like one of us. ”

  Haven fidgeted, her heart pounding so hard in her chest that it hurt.

  “I see it now,” he said, staring at her reflection in contemplation as the corner of his lips turned up into a smile. “I don’t know why I couldn’t see it before. ”

  His declaration caught Haven off guard. She gaped at him and he cleared his throat, still uncomfortable with anything even remotely close to affection. “I’ll give you a moment. ”

  He walked out without another word. Tears pooled in Haven’s eyes when she heard piano music start up, thoughts of her mother returning. She recalled when she saw her that final time in Blackburn, remembering the last words she ever spoke. She said she would always be with her, in her heart, and the world was a better place with Haven out there in it. She wanted her to live her life, to be happy and follow her dreams, and that day she knew exactly what her destiny was: Carmine.

  “Thank you, Mama,” Haven whispered into the empty room, giving one last look at her reflection before grabbing her bouquet of white roses. She joined Corrado in the hallway, taking his arm as he held it out to her.

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