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A tall, sexy, and mysterious man just walked into my shop.
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An image of Scarlett’s beautiful soft face flashes through my mind and I close my eyes as I squeeze the trigger. The shot roars like a peal of thunder, echoing across the desert. The kick of the gun as it goes off is strong. I can feel the shock of the recoil as it travels up my arm and into my shoulder. I don’t need to open my eyes to see what it is.
The things I do for love.
A moment later, I hear a thud on the dirt at my feet. Part of me wants to keep my eyes closed and go back to the fucking car. Act like I didn’t see shit. If I don’t see it, it ain’t real, right?
But I know that’s not the way to go about it. I know that’s not how this works. Not in this family. In this family, you’re expected to stand up and take pride in what you do. You don’t shy away from it and pretend it didn’t happen.
Slowly, I open my eyes and look down at the body before me. Rhodes is laying on his side, his eyes open wide, staring at the earth beneath him, but seeing nothing. His eyes have that glassy, faraway look that only comes with death.
I know that showing weakness in front of Gianni and the guys would be bad for me. Very poor form. And it would make me look incredibly weak.
Gianni hands me a handkerchief, a look of intense pride on his face. He pulls me into a tight embrace, thumping me hard on the back.
“I knew you could do it, kid,” he tells me. “I knew you had it in you.”
He lets me go and claps me on the shoulder, looking like a man who’s congratulating his kid on scoring a game-winning touchdown instead of blowing some asshole’s head off.
Benny steps up and grabs me by the back of the neck, pressing his forehead to mine.
“You did good, kid,” he admits. “I didn’t think you had the stones, but you proved me wrong. Good fuckin’ work, kid.”
He lets me go and claps me on the shoulder as Gianni had done. Vinnie the Monk doesn’t move. He just gives me a short nod. Which is pretty damn demonstrative for him. I wipe my face with the handkerchief, grimacing as it comes away red.
“Time to celebrate,” Gianni announces. “Let’s go get some fuckin’ food and wine, huh?”
“What about him?” Benny asks.
“Leave him,” Gianni decides. “We’re puttin’ this fuckin’ city on notice. You don’t fuck with the Romano family.”
I stare at the dead man, blinking down at him. This is my life now. I’ve earned my stripes. Gained respect. Moved one step closer to the big chair. Soon enough, Vegas will be my city.
Mine and Scarlett’s.
“This is for you, Scarlett,” I whisper.
I’d do anything for that woman. Apparently even kill for her.
Scarlett Romano. That’s it. Just my name. Nothing cute, no puns, nothing – just my name. Like all of the top designers. Eventually, maybe I can drop it down to just Scarlett. Or Romano – the name synonymous with quality design. A small tingle shoots through my body and I can’t suppress my smile.
I pause outside the shop and admire the view for a moment. I resist the urge to pinch myself. Again. I can’t help it. Sometimes it all still feels like a dream. I smile, seeing my name lit up in a soft, white light on the sign. When I had it designed, I made sure the sign would be elegant and subtle. Nothing too garish or gaudy. My name is my brand, after all, and I need to project the right image.
My little boutique in Beverly Hills is everything I’d dreamt it would be. My designs – dreams that have been brought to life – grace the front window for everyone to see when they walk by. Front and center today is a virginal white gown with crystals adorning the neckline, plunging all the way down to the mermaid skirt. It’s a gorgeous gown, if I do say so myself.
Wedding dresses aren’t the only gowns I design – they just happen to be a favorite of mine. It’s something I’m damn good at, too, given a number of people – even a few A-list celebrities – who’ve ordered custom dresses for their wedding day.
I’ve been able to carve out a market for myself here in Beverly Hills. It’s growing by the day and really is my pride and joy. Business is going so well, it’s hard for me to keep up with the demand. Custom-made wedding dresses, gowns for galas and balls – I’ve even designed and made a few for girls going to prom.
But it all takes time. I have interns that help me, but nothing – and I mean nothing – they do is critical, because when people buy a Scarlett Romano gown, they expect that it’s crafted by me. Not an intern.