Chapter 2

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The following day was awful.

She'd stood by the priest as he said his prayers over the five bodies being entombed. Elijah was the only other person present, given no one would miss the biggest crime family in New Orleans.

"Antonio Correa," said the priest, beginning his blessing over the first body.

"You're getting too big for me to do this," Antonio had complained when a five-year-old Graciela was still insisting that he ought to carry her on his shoulders. She had crawled her way up, and was now putting her elbows on his skull. "Gracie, stop putting pressure on my head."

"You're not moving!" she whined. "I want you to take me to the park!"

"Don't be mean," said Benito teasingly from behind them. "Take her. I'm sure you'll get plenty of girls if you pose as the young single dad, Toño."

"You're not funny," Antonio said with a cheeky smile. "Why don't you take her?"

Benito held his hands up in surrender. "I took her to the pool yesterday and taught her to swim, my shift is done for the week."

"You're mean," complained Graciela, when Antonio still refused to carry her anywhere. "I want to go to the park."

"Carlos!" yelled Antonio. "Take her to the park."

"Fuck no," said Carlos from across the hall. "Dad's taking me driving today, I'm not going anywhere with her."

"Fuck," repeated Antonio, knowing Domonique and Francesca were too young to take Graciela by themselves. "Fine. But I'm not carrying you, Gracie."

She ended up being fine walking alongside him, holding his hand tightly. Though he sometimes lost his temper with her, he did love her very much. He would sit at the park for hours, watching her run around, and waiting for her to bring him a new bug that she'd swear she'd just discovered.

"Toño," she said in a sing-song voice once he was carrying her back to their home. He'd relented when he saw that she was limping from how exhausted she was. "Love youuu."

He chuckled, pinching her leg. "You're manipulative, you know, Gracie? Always getting people to do things your way."

She leaned onto his head, placing her arms down and humming as she looked out to the city. "I had fun," she said softly, a wide smile on her face that he couldn't see. "Thank you."

His expression softened.

She'd never gotten to tell him that he was her favorite brother. Not because he was inherently better than the others in any way, but because he'd been more than a brother to her— he'd been her third parent. While the others were old enough to be considered the same way, Antonio had been the one to care for her the most. Given how involved their father had been in business, Graciela had learned more from Antonio than from their dad.

"Benito Correa," said the priest, moving on.

"You don't think this is enough?" Benito said weakly as she giggled and continued plastering his face with paint. "I said make me look like a tiger, not like a rainbow. Tigers are orange and white, not... green and purple and whatever new colors you're making."

"But you look pretty," she said, giggling mischievously as she finished painting 'Benny' on his forehead. She got the red paint, putting it around his mouth. "You look like Mama."

"That's definitely not a backhanded compliment," said Benito, despite knowing she wouldn't understand what he meant. "Grace, seriously, you're going to make my face stiff."

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