FIFTY

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Mark's headlights swept across Virginia's front window as he pulled into her driveway. What a long fucking night. It still amazed him when people tried to steal from the Chilvatis. Short deliveries were suspicious once, but every time? Stupid, just plain stupid.

It was a good thing Louis had had the common sense to come get him. Gus was already at the docks when they arrived, already worked up to a trigger-happy manic state. If it'd all been left up to Gus, they would have had a massacre to clean up after.

In the end it had only taken a broken nose to get the one in charge confessing. Lots of pain. Showy blood. Point made. Lesson learned.

Done.

Then Gus had shot the guy.

Luckily for the moron—the one without the gun—it was only in the leg. Oh, the moron with the gun had been aiming for the head, but his arm had been knocked down at the last second. An argument had ensued, ending with Junior peeling away in his car and seven stunned faces turning to gape at Mark.

Which is pretty much what Louis had done all the way home—presumably wondering if his boss had lost his edge.

Had he? Months ago, he wouldn't have given a shit if the two-bit hustler had lived or died. All he knew now was that he wouldn't be able to face her with the knowledge that he was involved in a murder.

She was rubbing off on him.

He didn't know if that was a good thing . . . or a very dangerous thing.

Louis had already weighed in with his opinion.

"Don't underestimate Gus," Louis said as Mark navigated the shadowy streets near the docks. "Embarrassing him in front of the men that way . . ."

Mark kept his eyes on the road ahead, bracing himself for a lecture. Yes, Gus would be on a rampage, but truth be told, he didn't give a shit. He was tired of Gus. Tired of the lies. Tired of the whole fucking business.

"He may be a jerk but he's not stupid. And Augustus will always pick blood over all others."

"Not always," Mark answered, hearing the bitterness in his own voice.

Louis frowned but didn't ask, too sidetracked by the other point he'd obviously been waiting to make. "Just be careful. Love makes you do some crazy shit."

Mark grunted. "I'm not in love. Men like us don't fall in love."

"Hey! I love my Rosie!"

Mark threw him a quick glance. "You're the exception to the rule."

Louis's hearty laugh and subsequent "surrrrre" were still repeating in his head as he stepped out of the car. He usually rode his motorcycle to her place and hid it in the back—the Ferrari sitting in her driveway was a dangerous red flag—but tonight he had been in too much of a rush. He was willing to risk it, leave before the sun came up.

This sneaking around shit was starting to wear thin too.

The front door opened and he felt some of the stench of the evening wash away. Just looking at her had that effect. She held his gaze as he walked along the path and up the steps of her porch. Smoke from the fire she had burning drifted down from the chimney, and he regretted not being with her to help start it, sipping wine as the flames slowly built.

"Bruce told me you left shortly after me. You okay?" he said, taking the final step up into the house. "Tell me it wasn't Louis and his big mouth. He feels really bad already."

"It's not his fault." She drew in a deep breath, the exhale sounding a little shaky. It was obvious she had something more to say, so he waited, letting her take whatever time she needed.

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