He shrugs. “A couple weeks ago. Need a reup on coffee?”
I watch in shock as he gets up from the table and disappears into the kitchen. He returns clutching a mug with wisps of heat curling from it, looking almostbored.
“What?” he says when he takes his seat and I’m staring at him.
“How do you feel about it?” I ask carefully. “Are you okay? I know you were never close, but she was your mother…”
“She gave birth to me. That’s about it, Phi. Her ‘mothering’ ended there.”
I bite the inside of my cheek, choosing my words delicately. Salvatore’s always had a complex relationship with his family. When we first began dating as teenagers, it caused friction between us—my family dynamic was nothing like his, and it showed in how we related about them.
I tried not to judge. Even refrained from speaking at all about his father, which was an extremely sore topic for him due to the nature of their relationship.
Still, as I learn this news, I want to be there for him. Salvatore likes to pretend he’s less human than he is. I’m one of the few—maybe the only—who gets to see the other sides of him.
“How did it happen?” My voice is quiet.
“How else?” He releases a rough, bitter laugh and swallows more coffee. “She got sloppy drunk, passed out, puked in her sleep, and then choked on it. That’s the ‘official’ ruling, anyway.”
I frown. “You don’t think that’s the case?”
“I think it’s suspicious that her cell phone and photo albums have mysteriously disappeared. That’s what I was looking for last night—more of her things. Somebody’s trying to hide her shit.”
Again, I speak carefully,cautiously.
“Not going to say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind,” he answers. He sets down his coffee mug and sits back in his chair, piercing me with a stare that would probably intimidate most. “It’s no matter. He can try and sabotage my efforts all he wants. I’m still going to win in the end. Stefania being gone makes no difference.”
“You could’ve come to me. If you needed to talk about it.”
His cheek twitches, the corner of his lip quirking along with it. “You sure about that, Phi? You’d have to take me off block first.”
I drop my gaze to my plate, a tremor of guilt rocking me. I had my reasons for putting Salvatore on block, but I mean it when I say he could’ve come to me. As pissed as I was with him, I still care if he’s having a difficult time.
“Don’t feel bad about it,” he says a second later. “You have your own stuff going on. Like this blackmailer. How long has he been doing this?”
“A couple months. He seems to be getting more impatient.”
“That’s how it tends to go. Then they start ramping up demands. Send me everything. We’ll see if we can track down who it is. If he really is affiliated with your attacker, then this could be useful. We haven’t stopped searching for him.”
“You thought I would?”
“You haven’t mentioned it in months.”
“When have I ever given you my word and not kept it?” he asks, rising from his chair. “I got to go. Business calls.”
I’m rooted in place for a couple seconds, processing the last half of our exchange.
Of course Salvatore hasn’t stopped the search. I don’t even know why I’m surprised.
He won’t stop ‘til he keeps his promise and slaughters my attacker himself.
I jump up from my chair and catch him in time by the door. I ambush him with a tight goodbye hug and kiss to the lips, though I have no damn clue what it means. He seems taken aback himself, squeezing my hip in response.