Sempre redemption, p.78
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       Sempre: Redemption, p.78

         Part #2 of Forever series by J. M. Darhower
 
Page 78

 

  Yeah, he had no desire to go there again.

  Haven reached under the table and grabbed his thigh, forcefully stilling his leg. He glanced at her cautiously and she smiled, no signs of anger in her expression. She could usually tell when he was struggling. “Are you okay?” she asked.

  “Yeah, I’ll be fine,” he replied. The tension started receding from his body as he gazed at her. She glowed, and his chest swelled with emotion at the twinkle of happiness in her eyes, hoping she saw the same thing shining back at her. She meant everything to Carmine. His love for her was stronger than anything else, more potent than the drugs or alcohol had ever been. She was his world, his fucking life, and now she was his wife.

  His wife . . . who would have ever thought Carmine DeMarco would have a wife?

  “You should eat your food,” she said quietly, her smile turning mischievous as she turned her attention back to her plate. “You’ll need the energy later. ”

  He groaned at the insinuation and stabbed the meat on his plate. It seemed to be some kind of pork, but he wasn’t entirely sure. Celia had handled the caterers because neither Haven nor he really cared much about the formality of receptions. He was all about ordering some pizza and letting the motherfuckers help themselves, but evidently that wouldn’t fly with the company they kept. “Don’t worry, Haven. I’ll have plenty of energy for you. ”

  “Oh, I’m not worried,” she said as she took a bite. “You should be, though. ”

  He laughed as he started eating, already feeling better. The shakiness was usually fleeting, although the thoughts were always in the back of his mind.

  He was taking a drink when Dominic stood, tapping the side of his glass with his fork, calling for everyone’s attention. “I think everyone here knows who I am but in case you don’t, my name’s Dominic. I’m Carmine’s older and wiser brother, although he’d never admit that. He has, however, admitted that I’m the best man, and as the best man it’s my duty to stand up here and try to embarrass his ass,” he started. “There’s so much I could say about Carmine, so many words out there to describe him that it’s almost impossible to know where to start. He’s stubborn, foolish, finicky, moody, erratic, quick to judge, and even quicker to react. I tend to think he’s pretty ugly, too, but that’s just my personal opinion. ”

  “Fuck you,” Carmine muttered, running his hand through his hair.

  “I forgot to add he has a foul mouth, which you all got to witness today. The priest is probably blessing the church again right now,” he said humorously. “Some lesser-known qualities about Carmine are that he’s protective over the people he loves, and he fights for what he believes in. He comes off as being selfish, but he’s probably the most selfless person I know.

  “And then there’s Haven, who has to be the most patient person alive to put up with him. At first she and Carmine seemed to be complete opposites, the timid, naïve girl that was experiencing everything for the first time and the jaded, reckless boy who was pretty much sick of it all. I don’t think any of us could’ve predicted that these two people from different ends of the spectrum would meet in the middle, but they did. They balanced each other, found peace in each other, and together they managed to find love. I know that sounds cheesy, like I’m quoting a damn Julia Roberts movie or something, but it’s the truth. What they have is rare. ”

  Carmine glanced at Haven and she smiled, reaching under the table to take his hand as Dominic continued.

  “I don’t know if you all know this, but in high school my brother was kind of a hotshot football player,” he said. “I’m not trying to be cliché or anything, but one thing my own marriage taught me is that relationships are like football in a lot of ways. It’s a team sport and you have to work together to be successful. There are highs and lows, good plays and bad calls, and if you’re going to step out on the field, you need to be ready to play the game. Big mistakes get you benched, and, depending on how bad you screwed up, they can cost you a fortune before you’re allowed back on the playing field. There will always be rivals, people trying to knock you out of the game, but if you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a nice ring to show for your hard work. But it’s not over there, you know. That’s when it really starts, because for the rest of your life you’ll be trying to prove to everyone that you, out of everyone, deserved to be given that ring. ”

  He paused, snickering to himself. “That’s not the biggest way relationships are like football, though. No matter what you do, no matter what happens, the point of both is to score as much as you can. Without scoring, the entire thing is really just a waste of time. ”

  Carmine chuckled as Tess flung her napkin at Dominic. He laughed and playfully blew her a kiss before diving right back into his speech. “I think I should wrap this up. My old lady’s throwing penalty flags,” he joked, holding his glass up. “So on behalf of my wife, Tess, and I, I want to toast the couple. To Carmine, who couldn’t do better, and to Haven, who quite frankly, couldn’t do worse. ”

  They raised their glasses in toast as Carmine kissed Haven. The DJ spoke up, announcing it was time for the first dance. Panic flashed in Haven’s eyes as he took his jacket off. She hesitated before letting him lead her out onto the empty dance floor. He could tell she was uncomfortable with everyone watching, but she tried her best not to let her nerves show.

  He pulled her to him when “18th Floor Balcony” started playing, his hands on her hips guiding her as they started swaying to the music. She put her arms over his shoulders, her fingers playing with the hair at the nape of his neck as she stared into his eyes. He could see the tears she fought back, her eyes sparkling under the lights.

  “I love you,” he said quietly.

  “I know you do,” she replied, her smile growing. “I love you, too. ”

  “I’m sorry for fucking up the ceremony. ”

  “Don’t be silly. You didn’t mess it up. ”

  “I cursed at Father Alberto, Haven,” he said. “I broke the third commandment. Or maybe it’s the second . . . ”

  “It’s the third,” she said. “And it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, that’s not the only commandment you’ve broken and I’m sure it won’t be the last one, either. ”

  “Is that supposed to make me feel better?” he asked, laughing when she shrugged nonchalantly. “Yeah, well, I didn’t break any others standing in the middle of a church. ”

  “True, but it could’ve been worse,” she said. “You managed to make it through the entire thing without saying the F word. ”

  “For only the second time in my life,” he muttered.

  “Exactly, so you should be proud. It’s quite the accomplishment for you. ”

  “Funny,” he said sarcastically. “I wanted to do the shit right, though. ”

  “You did,” she insisted. “It was very you, Carmine. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. ”

  The song ended, and everyone converged onto the dance floor. Dominic immediately pulled Haven away and Dia took her place without hesitation, rattling on excitedly through two songs. He stole Haven back on the third, wanting to be with his bride, and they danced until it was time to cut the cake. The incident was a disaster, turning into a full-blown food fight as they flung frosting around and tried to smash pieces in each other’s faces. More of the cake ended up on people than in their stomachs as they laughed and wrestled.

  Afterward they got cleaned up, and Carmine took his seat as Haven prepared to throw her bouquet. Dominic sat beside Carmine, still stuffing his face.

  “Seriously, bro, a Catholic wedding?” Dominic asked, his words mumbled with his mouth full. “Did you take confession beforehand? I bet that took hours. ”

  Carmine shoved him, knocking the cake off his fork. “We talked about eloping, but it didn’t feel right. She dreamed about this her entire life and I couldn’t let her memory of the day be of some fat jackass in an Elvis suit. ”

  “Makes sense,” Dominic replied. “I f
igured you guys would get married like Mom and Dad did . . . something small and intimate. ”

  “Yeah, we thought about that, too,” he said. “It was my idea to have the big wedding, though. Nothing about us is traditional and I wanted to at least do this, have this one thing, so we could say we did shit right. And quite frankly, I wanted the whole world to see it. She spent her life in hiding, thinking people were ashamed of her and that she was worthless. I wanted her to be seen. ”

  Dominic smiled, amused by something. Carmine ran his hand through his hair anxiously. “I know that probably sounds fucking stupid . . . ”

  “No, it sounds, I don’t know . . . sweet? Almost as sweet as this cake. ”

  A throat cleared behind Carmine then. He turned, freezing when he saw Corrado. He hadn’t heard him approach, which wasn’t surprising considering he had a knack for sneaking up on people. “Sir?”

  “I need to see you in my office, Carmine,” he said, his tone matching his expression. Stiff. Emotionless. Tense.

  “Now?” he asked incredulously. “Can’t it wait?”

  “No. ”

  Corrado walked off, leaving Carmine nervously sitting there beside his brother. He rocked in his chair for a few moments, purposely delaying it, before getting up and following his uncle down the hallway. When he reached the office, he saw his uncle sitting behind his desk. Carmine stepped inside and closed the door.

  He waited for Corrado to tell him to have a seat, but he didn’t.

  “A man’s word means as much as his blood,” Corrado said. “It’s an old Sicilian expression your grandfather used to say. Your word’s your salvation. What a man says, what he swears to, carries as much weight as who he is and what he does. ”

  Carmine stared across the office, keeping a straight face despite the anarchy going on inside of him. He watched as his uncle reached into a desk drawer, pulling out a small caliber . 22 handgun and a large knife. The blade was serrated, six inches in length. Corrado placed them on the desk in front of him before closing the drawer.

  “You gave your word over two years ago,” he continued. “In exchange for help, you bartered your freedom. You promised allegiance, and that’s something I take seriously. When I gave myself to the life decades ago, I knew it was for as long as I breathed. Some men have it handed to them, like Vincent, but I fought hard to prove myself. Antonio made me. He made me prove I was dedicated, that I wanted it, and I did. I like to think that’s why I’m still alive today and your father’s no longer with us. ”

  A light laugh escaped Corrado’s lips. It sounded to Carmine a lot like amusement mixed with cynicism. “It only took a few months for your grandfather to give me his blessing to marry his only daughter, but it took years before he trusted me enough to let me inside his organization. Because to men like us, it comes first—before our families, before our friends, before everything, it’s La Cosa Nostra. ”

 
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