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Surviving Mateo (Morelli Family #2)
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The mere mention of his name is enough to strike fear into the hearts of grown men. The most ruthless crime lord in Chicago isn’t a man you dare cross. But when the second most feared crime lord shows up on my doorstep the night of my husband’s wake, he doesn’t give me much of a choice.
My late husband owed Antonio Castellanos a lot of money, but the magnanimous boss is gonna do me a solid—I get to pay my debt, and keep my daughter alive. All I have to do is one little favor.
Seduce and kill Mateo Morelli.
**BOOK TWO OF FOUR IN THE MORELLI FAMILY SAGA. These aren’t standalones. If you don’t read Accidental Witness first, this won’t make a whole lot of sense. ***
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There’s too much food.
Moving foil pan after foil pan, I try to find my countertop. Somewhere buried under all this food, I have the phone number for my computer repair person that Evelyn needs, but I just… there’s so much food.
“Oh, honey, you don’t have to get that now,” the older woman says, staring at me like I’ve lost my mind.
“No, it’s here, somewhere, there’s just so much goddamn food!”
Her eyes widen, clearly horrified, and she honest-to-god clutches her pearls.
Bracing myself against the counter, I force myself to mellow. Turning back to her, I say, “I’m so sorry.”
She doesn’t know how to respond, torn between her sympathy for me, and her obvious disapproval of my being a godless monster who swears at her dead husband’s wake.
Which I guess I can understand.
I go back to looking for the phone number, but with much less enthusiasm. Evelyn backs out of the room, probably to call child protective services on me.
I finally give up, opening one of the containers and finding pepperoni bread. “Oh, score,” I say to no one, ripping off a chunk and taking a bite.
A few minutes and two pepperoni rolls later, I make my way back out to my living room. On the way, I overhear Dorothy telling some other busybody, “I still think she should’ve had a funeral. This isn’t a funeral. It’s not right.”
Sliding behind her, I state, “He didn’t want a funeral, Dorothy.”
She flushes, being caught talking about me. I give her a little wink and keep walking.
I finally get to the only person in this house I want to see—and she’s less than three feet tall, with cute little white dress shoes and a pink velvet dress on. I’m sure they’ve been wagging their tongues about how inappropriately I dressed our three-year-old, but I just don’t have it in me to give a damn.
Rodney liked her in this dress.
I scoop up my little girl, placing her on my hip. “Hey, sugar.”
Giggling, she says, “I’m not sugar.”
Laughing again, she shakes her head.
“Cookie?” I ask, in earnest.
“I’m not cookie! I’m Lily!”
“Oooh, that’s who you are,” I say, tickling her until she begs me to stop, then pulling her in for a hug.
I earn several more looks of rebuke from the strangers gathered in my living room, mostly friends of Rodney’s mother—people who didn’t even know my late husband, and if they would’ve, they wouldn’t have liked him.
I don’t care what they think. Lily doesn’t understand what this is. She doesn’t even understand Rodney’s gone yet, and I’m damn sure not going to condemn her to an evening of solemnity to make everyone else feel better.
So I’m not coping the way they think I should. Fuck them.
Unfortunately, Rodney’s mother approaches me next. She stands less than five feet tall, and she walks a bit hunched, making her appear even shorter. She has a cloud of somehow-brown hair, frizzy and dead-looking, but she gets it styled every six weeks, so I guess it must still be alive.
“Meg, honey, why don’t you let me take Lily tonight?” she suggests.
I shake my head, forcing a smile. “We’re fine, thank you.”
“I really don’t think it’s hit you yet,” she says, gazing at me with sad eyes.
I do feel bad about this. She’s a fairly nice woman. She’s always been pretty good to me and Lily; she just raised a shitty son, and will go to her grave denying it.
I wish I could give her the broken, grieving daughter-in-law she obviously craves, but I just can’t.
While I’m sick that my little girl has lost her father, and even a bit sad for myself, the overwhelming relief I feel knowing he can no longer ruin us… well, I don’t blame his mom for not being able to understand that.
I’m a godless monster, after all.
She’s only a lifetime enabler.
Patting her hand awkwardly, I hoist Lily and head off to mingle with some more strangers, waiting for the blessed moment when I can remove them all from my house. Once they’re gone and Lily’s in bed, I’m going to plop my ass down at my kitchen table with a glass of wine, the checkbook, and a calculator, and come up with a plan to get out of this financial pit Rodney’s left us in. It won’t be easy, it won’t be quick, but eventually I’ll get out, and with him gone—God rest his soul—we will never fall back into it.
I’m also going to finish those pepperoni rolls. Those things are really good.
The guests gone, Lily in bed, wrapped in a satin bathrobe and fuzzy socks, I finally take a seat at my kitchen table. I decide to turn on some Frank Sinatra while I drink my wine, and I feel better than probably any wife has ever felt on the night of her husband’s wake.