Note from Susan
I don’t know about you, but I wanted to attend Rocco and Eva’s wedding. So here it is!
Rocco hated being kept waiting. It made him itch and want to bark commands at minions. Unfortunately, everyone around him tonight was family or a friend. They tended to ignore his barked commands. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other and back.
“It’ll be fine,” Big Mike said from beside him out of the side of his mouth. Starlight and the gentle light from the glowing paper lanterns that crisscrossed the rooftop garden caught the odd texture of his formal suit, turning it into a black pelt. Minnie had stuffed Big Mike, protesting, into yet another avant-garde suit. The man was whipped.
“Three feet,” Rocco whispered. “I told you to maintain a three-foot perimeter.”
“I’m the best man,” Big Mike protested, but he edged away. Even three feet away, he still loomed over Rocco.
“I don’t want to look short at my wedding.” Rocco straightened his cuffs and tried not to check his watch. His guests, seated in rows of white chairs facing the altar, stared up at him and Big Mike. They were a blur to Rocco. His attention was focused on the makeshift aisle that stretched between the rows of chairs. Where was Eva?
“You are short,” Big Mike said out of the corner of his mouth. The altar — a huge arch woven with pink and white roses — framed them. The minister lurked discreetly behind it.
“I’m a giant to my Eva,” Rocco said, barely moving his lips. “That’s all that counts.” Where was she? Had she changed her mind? No, both children were with her and would make sure she didn’t bolt. Ellie was determined to show her special flower-girl dress to the world, and Jason was determined to lock Eva in as his mom, legally. And… “She loves me.”
“She’s not late.” Big Mike sighed.
Rocco wished he could fire him. “Maybe I should check—”
“Something might have happened to her.” To my family.
“If you move an inch away from this altar, I’ll put you in a headlock. Then you’ll look short and weak.”
“You’re fired,” Rocco whispered. He smiled at the front row, trying to exude calm authority.
“Once again, I’m your business partner. You can’t fire me.” From the front row, Minnie blew a kiss at the giant, who angled his enormous head an inch to acknowledge the public affection. Minnie beamed. She had told anyone within earshot that she had worn yellow, “a hideous color on me,” so she wouldn’t outshine the bride. Minnie might be a supermodel, but she couldn’t hold a candle to his Eva.
“To hell with this. Something’s wrong. I’m going to check—” Organ music filled the air. The Wedding March. She’s here. Thank you, he said silently to the starlit sky above the moonlike lanterns. Big Mike squeezed his shoulder with a giant paw.
“Three feet,” Rocco hissed. Big Mike drifted away. Rocco took a calming breath. It didn’t help. The aisle between the chairs remained empty. He would have rented the Taj Mahal for Eva, but she wanted this. He, Rocco Neri, a titan of industry, was getting married on the roof of a bar. And he couldn’t be happier.
Ellie appeared at the end of the aisle in a wispy pink dress, holding a white wicker basket. Tiny white flowers were woven through her dark hair. She looked like a sprite. His sprite. She spotted him and waved. Her basket swung dangerously, disgorging flower petals. He grinned and waved back. If Ellie was there, then Eva wasn’t far behind.
Mary, Eva’s maid of honor and best friend, appeared beside Ellie. She wore a floor-length wispy gown in a darker shade of pink. She steadied Ellie’s tilting basket and bent to whisper instructions. Ellie frowned. His little girl didn’t like instructions, but she waited her turn while Mary walked slowly down the aisle. Mary held a bouquet of white and pink roses. White flowers were woven through her dark curls. From the front row, Crash twisted in his seat to watch her. The light rimmed his yellow hair. The psycho smiled fondly as Mary approached. When she reached the altar, she took Big Mike’s arm and pushed him closer to Rocco. “The best man stands beside the groom,” she whispered.
“Sorry,” Big Mike whispered with a shrug of mountainous shoulders.
Rocco resigned himself to looking short at his wedding. Mary went to stand behind Big Mike. Her eyes shone wet. She didn’t approve of him, but she knew he loved Eva, so she accepted him.
The organ music filled the air. Eva had folded paper-crane tails for the lanterns. A night breeze stirred them. Every thousand paper cranes earned you a wish. She had whispered to him last night that he was her wish come true. She and Ellie and the babies she carried inside her were a wish he didn’t know he could make. She had rescued him and his boy as surely as he had rescued her and Ellie. He wiped his eyes. Dust. The Oasis’ roof, barely two stories above the city, was dusty.
Mary summoned Ellie with a crooked finger and a smile. Ellie started a slow walk down the makeshift aisle. Her pink dress floated around her. She paused to pitch clumps of petals at his guests. When a clump caught her beaming grandmother in the face, his heart swelled with pride. You didn’t have to like all of your extended family. You put up with some of them out of love for the others, and he loved this little girl. She ran out of petals halfway down the aisle and scampered the rest of the way. When she reached the altar, she avoided Mary’s extended hand, dumped her basket and reached her arms up to him. He picked her up. A hostage. “Mommy’s coming,” she said loudly, winding her arms around his neck.
“She better be.” He kissed her cheek. “I like your dress.” Pink was her favorite color.
Mary dabbed her eyes. She cried a lot for an accountant. Big Mike smiled down at Ellie. Most of the time, his face didn’t move so anything more than a fractional quirk of his lips was rare, but he loved Rocco’s children. Ellie and Jason.
Jason, wearing a dark suit that was a miniature replica of his own, appeared at the end of the aisle. His boy held a pink ring-cushion in front of him. He darted a glance at the guests, suddenly looking young and nervous. Ellie waved. Rocco smiled encouragingly. His boy paced down the aisle, carefully keeping the ring cushion level. Two gold rings gleamed on the pink silk. Rocco ruffled his hair and pulled him to his side. “Great job, son.” Jason leaned against him. He had Ellie on his hip and his boy beside him. They were missing one ingredient. Evie. He was impatient to get this deal done.
The organ music swelled as she appeared out of the shadows at the end of the makeshift aisle. A slim figure in white, she seemed to glow under the pearly light of the lanterns. She held a trailing bouquet of white flowers. For one moment, he forgot to think. Yes. Every part of him echoed yes. She had begun to show, but only when naked. He loved the new, soft curve of her belly. She was beyond lovely. Her hair was piled on her head, making her neck look long and elegant. Tiny sparkles woven through the dark tresses caught the light. He couldn’t look away from her. From that snub nose and wide mouth. From those dark eyes. She grinned suddenly. He guessed it was the sight of him festooned with their kids. That hadn’t been in the plan, but this was their wedding, and he was Rocco Neri. He’d do what he damned well pleased. And whatever pleased her. He had to restrain the desire to fetch her.
Jason bounced beside him with barely contained excitement. Ellie waved and yelled, “Mommy, hurry.” Eva laughed. The guests joined in.
Jason looked up at him. His face was split by his smile. He thought that Eva had fallen in love with his boy before she fell in love with him. “Can we fetch her, Dad?” He was a chip off the old block. Eva started a slow walk — too slow — down the aisle toward him and their future. He couldn’t wait another moment. “C’mon kids.” He took Jason’s hand and stepped off the altar. “Let’s get Mommy.”
He saw Eva’s surprise and then delight when they joined her halfway down the aisle. The guests gaped, but there were indulgent smiles aplenty.
“I couldn’t wait. It was killing me.” It wasn’t an apology. The Wedding March played on. “You’re beautiful.” He brushed a kiss along her cheek, inhaling her sweet scent. “I love you.”
“I started a sweepstake for how long you’d last just hanging about. Big Mike just won.” Her dark eyes laughed into his.
Jason slipped his hand out of his into hers. She smiled down at his boy, love in her dark eyes. Beth would be pleased.
Eva handed Ellie her bouquet before she held out her hand to him. He took it. “Let’s go,” Rocco said, holding Ellie’s light weight easily. The flowers smelled like spring.
They walked the rest of the way to the altar together.
DEAR READER, THERE’S MORE…
First, a request — if you enjoyed Double Down and this bonus epilogue, please leave a review for Double Down. Nothing sells books more than good word of mouth, and I so appreciate it!
Second, if you haven’t read the first three books in the Lethal in Love series, you can get the box set here.
If you want to read the next book, which is about Taggart, you will find it here.