Get Timers Now!
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The Changing of Seasons Started by: AuroraMastrosimone on Oct 09, '19 05:59

What was one dance with one fucking guy?  One stupid conversation she didn’t really care for, it wasn’t hard.  Girls did it all the time. If she could lead a city, surely she could stomach pretending to be into guys for five minutes to encourage Ori to salvage some of her night.  She’d just… not watch. She didn’t want to watch Ori dancing with anyone else, man, woman, or dog. The image of that in her head, that at least made her smile. Tara sighed.  One dance. She could do this!


Tara came out of the bathroom about five minutes after entering it and instead of making for the table she made for the bar and the two aforementioned guys.  Of course, as Ori had said, they noticed. She watched them like a pair of male peacocks throwing out their feathers to be seen, bold and full of themselves. She told herself silently that maybe they were nice.  Maybe they would just dance with her and that would be that. She shouldn’t make assumptions that one man was like every other man. Her brother, after all, was a gentleman… wasn’t he?  


Tara introduced herself by her first name only, offering her hand to one boy and then the other.  Man, she corrected herself mentally. They were men. She was a woman. This was simple. Easy. She smiled.  She laughed at their bad jokes. She accepted the wine they offered, and only then as she took a drink did she glance over to Ori, who’d materialized at her side.


“Oh you’re here!”  She said startled. “Um, this is Giovanni and Stefano.  Guys this is my friend-” She hesitated allowing Ori to offer whatever name she wanted.




Tara took another drink, this time a ridiculous amount.  The guys shared a look and a light laugh. “I was just asking Stefano if I could trouble him for a spin across the floor.  I’ve been dying to cut a rug tonight.”


“That sounds like it’d be fun.” Giovanni was eyeing Oriana, and she gave him a smile before she placed a hand on Tara’s hip and spoke in her ear. “Slow down.”


Stefano offered his hand to Tara and she gave him a smile, almost in response to Oriana’s warning and took the offered hand.  “You should dance too!” she called back over her shoulder as she walked away with the young goomba towards the, now full, dance floor.


It didn’t take much to persuade Giovanni. The dance floor was filling up, and the band had slowly been raising the tempo for the last twenty minutes.


“I am glad you came over to me,” said Stefano with a smile. He was tall, tanned, and in good shape, though not overly muscular.

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“Well, you looked like you might know your way around the dance floor,”  Tara said, her eyes searching for Ori in the crowd despite her previous decision to NOT look at her dancing with someone else.

“I do. It’s nice when I have the chance to dance with a beautiful girl like you.” He squinted as if he was in pain. “There are so many ugly parts in my life. I appreciate beauty wherever I find it.”

Tara looked back to the young man as he spoke about the ugliness of life.  “I’m sorry to hear things aren’t what they should be for you -” Was he using his sorrows as a way to brag?  Men were so weird!

“It’s just my life.” He grinned, seemingly only half-taking himself seriously. Across the floor, as the band picked up a new song, Oriana literally spun into view for a moment before Giovanni pulled her back into his arms.

Tara’s eyes followed Ori until she couldn’t see her anymore, she hoped that the man wasn’t doing anything stupid, for his sake… Ori, she assured herself, would be fine.  Though, she had been drinking.  

“You’re a wonderful dancer, Tara.” Stefano smiled.

Tara looked up and met Stefano’s eyes, “Thank you.”  She said sincerely. She realized that no one but someone in her family had ever known that about her or had said it before.  

Stefano’s hand was steady on Tara’s back and, while he wouldn’t be stepping in for Fred Astaire anytime soon, he was coordinated enough to keep up with Tara. Unlike most men, who would have forced leading, he seemed to step back and react to her, rather than the other way around.

“You’re not like most of the other girls here. Usually I tell them about all my inner pain and they start looking like a puppy dog. By the time I tell them I have connections…” Stefano shrugged. 

“They run away?”  Tara asked genuinely in her ignorance of how other girls react to the news he’s in the mob.

“A few. Most run towards me. Exciting, you know? Can I ask you a question, Tara?”

Tara glanced around looking for Ori but quickly and politely said, “Of course.”

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“Were you hoping to dance with Giovanni? You can be honest with me. You are very beautiful, but so is your friend, Annabella. If you wanted to spend time with Giovanni, I wouldn’t be offended. After all, I did just meet you four minutes ago.” He grinned.


Tara sighed.  Even when she wasn’t trying to make friends she managed to fuck up making friends.  She stopped looking for Ori and looked back to the poor guy who was clearly trying to get her to just be a reasonable human being and not a stand-in prop.  “It’s not that. I’m not looking for Giovanni because I’m interested in him more than you Stefano, it’s as you said, I only met you four minutes ago and I don’t know Giovanni or whether he’ll respect my friend Annabella.  That’s all. I feel like since I came with her, it’s up to me to watch out for her and protect her honor. That’s all. I’m sorry if my distraction came off as offensive. I’m actually enjoying hearing about your life.”


“You are fine, Tara. In more ways than one.” He grinned again. “You have nothing to apologize for. If you’ll just let me…” With a steady hand on her hip, Stefano began maneuvering her through the crowd toward the darker corner. “You don’t need to worry about Giovanni. He is a man of honor…” Stefano’s eyes went wide as he realized what he said. “UH, not officially. I mean he is an honorable man. A good man. The sort of man I would introduce my sister to, if I had one. Look, you see, he is dancing very nicely with your friend over there.”


Tara cut him off to stop him from digging a hole with his words, “I understand.”  she said putting her hand on the middle of his chest, just above his heart. “You don’t have to worry.  You’ve said nothing wrong.” she smiled.


Stefano, glancing down at his chest, looked like he was about to lean closer and say something when he noticed the engagement ring on Tara’s hand and seemed thrown by it.


“Do you like it?”  She said noticing him stare at the ring.  “It’s meant to keep away unwanted attention.  A little trick I learned to use when at college and not with my father or brothers.  It makes things less difficult for me when I want to excuse myself from questionable company.”


“Ah, then you are smart as well as beautiful, and I am no longer crushed.”


“Well, like you said, we have only just met but you seem like a very nice guy.  Much nicer than many I’ve met since coming to New York. A few of them my father would have words with, if he knew about them.  Some men, they don’t care about what a woman has to say or what she thinks… only what she looks like.”


“Some men are fools.”

Tara couldn’t disagree with his assessment.  

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Stefano, having finished his maneuvering, had placed himself and Tara right next to Oriana and Giovanni. Ori, seeing Tara dancing and not seeming to actively hate it, winked at her friend. 

Tara forced a smile.  Ori was having a good time.  It was what she wanted. The least she could do was pretend she was having fun too.  Stefano didn’t seem like a bad man, after all, and so she continued talking with him.  It wasn’t dancing with Ori, but Ori was happy and that was what she wanted - right?

As the song ended, the crowd stopped to clap, and Ori sidestepped Giovanni to move behind Tara. “Nice to see you get mad, Tiger. Want to cut out early and take a walk? Or stay here?”

Tara turned her head so hard to look at Ori that it could almost be heard.  How the hell had she known! Tara was sure she hid it well.  “You’re not having fun?”

“I’m fine. No offense to Gio. Fine to leave to- if you’d rather. I did say I’d take you out somewhere to have fun.”

“I screwed things up here.  Maybe a walk is less dangerous.”

“You didn’t screw up anything. I enjoyed dinner. And I found out the owner of the club likes blondes, so I’ll come back as a blonde in a few days and cut off his thumb to- Gio! You rascal, I said to wait over there. We’re actually going to make it an early night. But maybe we’ll do it again sometime.”

Stefano frantically started going through his pockets, eventually coming out with a business card that he handed to Tara. “It was nice to meet you, Tara, even if it was brief. If you ever want to reach me…” he indicated the card.

Tara took the card.  “Oh thank you. I will keep this and give you a call sometime soon.  Maybe we can get lunch or something. I do appreciate you making the night a little more interesting.  It was nice to get one good dance in at least.”

Gio started to reach for his own card, but Ori just shook her head. “You’re fun, but don’t waste your-” Oriana seemed to be listening to Tara speaking- “paper. I’ll be leaving the country soon, so it’s not worth me taking it. See you around, maybe?”

Stefano seemed as pleased as Giovanni was resigned. Ori slipped a hand onto Tara’s lower back and led her through the crowd toward the exit.

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“You’re one good dancer - verbally and otherwise.”  Tara smirked. “I’m sorry I got so annoyed. I really don’t know what came over me back there.”


“You’re fine.”


“Not really.  It wasn’t … it shouldn’t have been a thing.  And you’re right. I do have a tendency to get pretty damn bleak about shit and you deserve a break from all that.  Stefano, ironically, made me realize that. I think I just didn’t understand what tonight might have meant to you.”


“My whole life is bleak, Tara. I didn’t want to change the subject to preserve my evening; I just wanted you to have a good time.” She paused. “What did tonight mean to me?”


“The best part of my night was seeing you happy and giving you what you wanted.”  Tara admitted. “I think sometimes you view me as a pain in the ass,” Oriana nodded, “but I’m at least a nice change of pace from the usual pains in your ass.” Oriana rolled her eyes. “And I’m somewhat less, well, life-threatening.”  


“For now. And you’re a good friend, Tara. I really don’t know why you’re so-” She paused. “I’m lucky to-” Oriana paused again.


Tara was hanging on Ori’s words, waiting for the completion of her sentence - hopeful for even a kind word from the woman who so often bristled like a porcupine being chased by a badger.


“... there’s really only been three people who’ve ever been nice to me, that I was actually sad when they died. And I was the reason both of them died. But I’m not going to let that happen to you.”


Tara smiled warmly.  “Ori. I’m going to die.  That’s a truth of the life.  If I’m going to be a part of this, it’s what I have to look forward to.  People don’t get off lucky like my parents and grandparents often. And I can’t even really call them lucky cause you know what?  They lived to be old enough to see everyone they loved dying all around them. What kind of existence is that?”  


“I know you’re going to die. I’m just saying that it’s going to be after me.”


Tara nodded, “I thought you said I was the protector?”


The corner of Oriana’s lip twitched, but Tara couldn’t be sure whether the girl had repressed a smile or a frown. “I haven’t needed protecting since I was 13.”


They hit the exit, and it was like stepping into a new world. The air was chilled, the music faded to the background, and the stars were out overhead.


Tara shook her head and stepped closer to Oriana.  “I beg to differ. You do need protecting, maybe more than anyone else I’ve ever known.  You’re tough. You could kill me. I have no doubt you could kill most everyone I know - but that doesn’t mean you don’t need protecting.  Just, not the way you’re thinking.” Tara’s heart thundered in her ears, she felt like her knees were jello. She wanted to vomit and tell her everything and make an idiot of herself, but what if… 


“Let’s get the car. Maybe your father will finally be ready to talk to me in the morning. But we’ll take the long way home. A nice drive. But slow enough where you don’t puke in your grandmother’s car.”

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Tara exhaled.  She didn’t realize she was holding her breath.  Ori was not ready to hear this tonight. She wasn’t ready to say it.  Maybe she never would be. “Thanks for taking me out tonight. You don’t have to take the long route if you want to get home; I’ve had a good enough time.”

“I’d rather take the long way.” 

“Alright.”  Tara said quietly, getting into the car playing over her own words.  What could she had said differently? Was there any good way to say it?  No. Probably not. Silent she sat down in the passenger seat again and folded her hands into her lap.  Then she thought, fuck it.  

Kicking off the horrible heels that Brigitte had insisted she wear, Tara put her feet up on to the dash.  She’d at least be comfortable for the ride home. Careful not to let her dress fall up too much she tried to just let her frustrations drift away with the hum of the engine.

Pulling onto the expressway, Oriana pushed the engine and soon they were hurtling through the night on the almost empty road. As she drove, she couldn’t help but look at Tara.

“Can I ask you something?”


“It’s personal.”  Tara drew a deep breath.

“Okay.” Oriana seemed to tense slightly, losing her relaxed posture.

“Very personal,”  she said sadly.

“Oh Jesus. Fine. Now you have to. I just don’t have to answer if I don’t want to.”

“That would be an answer too.”  She allowed. “Sometimes saying nothing says more than trying to explain a thing.”

“Know-it-all,” muttered Ori under her breath.

“You didn’t look twice at that guy tonight.”  Tara began. “I didn’t think… I mean…” she stumbled.  “There’s someone in Italy. Isn’t there?”

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Oriana sighed and was quiet for a long time. Finally, she answered. “Not the way you think. It’s com-” She was quiet again. “Fine. I basically…” Ori slowed down, shifting lanes. “Giovanni was a nice enough guy. I just have a lot of shit that I have to deal with before I…” She sighed again. “God damn it.” 


“You don’t have to explain.  I know what you said about your team and all your friends… loss like that it gets in the way.  I don’t need a play by play I just thought maybe that was why things went the way they did tonight.  I was just trying to understand.”


“I told you I was fucked up. When I killed someone, I’d get rewarded with drugs. Sex. We all started in the program when we were 12-13 years old.”


Tara sat silent, her face a wall of concern, her feet slid off the dash as she turned her body to face Ori giving her all her attention.  


“For the first couple years, it wasn’t that bad. Physical training. Academic training. The guy who ran the program, it was basically a cult. He was our mother, father, only authority figure. He invited the worship. We all just got sort of… fucked up. Like trees that grow too close to something and wind up wrapping themselves around it. We were shaped to love him, in many ways.  It’s hard to shake off a decade of daily emotional conditioning. I just left a few months ago. I… well, I want to kill him right now. I figured some things out, put some pieces together. I’m almost positive he killed my best friend, and… well, when I think about him, my initial response is that ingrained love, and that makes me want to kill him even more. If that makes sense. I told you, I’m fucked up, and well you asked about it. So there.” Ori’s eyes flashed over to Tara’s, but then she continued driving.


Tara was clearly moved, maybe bothered or saddened by Ori’s story?  In truth she was feeling so many emotions right now she couldn’t name just one.  As soon as she saw the other woman’s eyes she asked quietly, “Can I touch you now?”

“I’m fine, Tara. I’m dealing with shit. Processing, you know?”


“Is that a no then?”  She asked gently.


“I- what are you going to do?” 


“I’d like to take your hand a moment, I want to make you a promise, but I wanted to touch you when I did.  I just - it seemed like a bad idea to just, at this moment, do anything you didn’t say was okay. I don’t want …”


“Oh. That’s fine. And I wouldn’t have stabbed you.”


“No.  I’m not scared of you.  Damn it, Ori. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“Then don’t tell this shit to anyone.”


Tara nodded and took Ori’s hand.  “I won’t do anything stupid, me and my protector nature, when it comes to this guy.  I want to… god I want to right now… but I know that’s what you’re afraid of.  I know you’re … I won’t put myself in that position. When I say I want to protect you I meant like this.  Here, what you just told me, you’re not alone now…”


“Stop. Please.” Oriana was staring straight ahead, focusing on driving. She blinked. 


Tara gave Ori’s hand a gentle squeeze and let it go.  Folding her hands into her lap she stared ahead at the road, silent.


Oriana was quiet for a while. Finally, she spoke. “I appreciate it. But I’m fine. Really.”


Tara looked down at the diamond ring on her hand and fidgeted with it, but remained silent.

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As the car came to an abrupt halt, Tara made a move to leave without saying anything, but Ori reached out and grabbed Tara’s hand.


Tara looked at her hand being held by Ori’s and then looked up to meet her friend’s eyes, the pain clearly painted on her face, and the younger woman struggling with hiding it.


“Can we talk? Very briefly.” As Ori had driven, she’d seemed to compose herself; now, she almost seemed normal. The mask was back on.


Tara locked her jaw and just nodded once.


“I’m not good at emotional stuff. I just wanted you to have fun tonight. I shouldn’t have said all that shit about myself. It’s raw for me, you know? Makes things… complicated.”


Tara looked down, clearly searching for what to say, if she could say anything at all without fucking it up.  Her brow furrowed with deep lines, her eyes glassy, her right hand still fidgeting with her ring.


“You saying that I’m not alone. I appreciate that. I…” Oriana seemed to force herself to be blunt. “I think most people would be comforted by that. But to me that’s fucking terrifying. I’m used to being alone. One nun took me in and liked me. There was a girl who was everything to me, until she died for me. Cat took me in, gave me a new life. But it’s just… a lot… for me.”


Tara looked up at the mention of one girl liking her and dying for her.  Something behind her eyes was working again, not holding in sadness but thinking.  Processing. She wet her lips.


Voice breathy, shaking as if afraid, she whispered, “Tell me about her.”


Ori opened and closed her mouth. “I…”


Tara awaited.  Silent, her face as neutral as she could make it.  In a thousand years, of all the things she’d read in the journals, she never would have thought she’d be emulating Grandpa Gavin instead of one of her female relatives… but here it was.  God, but she would have given anything for his wisdom in this moment.


Oriana sat quiet for a long time. It seemed like she was fighting an internal battle, with two paths ahead of her. Still holding onto Tara’s hand, she spent so long in thought that Tara almost made a move to leave. Then, seeming to make a decision, Oriana nodded to herself and began to speak. As she did, Tara could see her eyes glisten, but the fierce, determined expression on Ori’s face seemed to suggest that commenting on “emotional bullshit” would be unwise. Ori spoke naturally, like she was discussing the weather.


“Lucia.” The name hung in the air for a moment like a tangible thing; then, as if the name itself was prodding her to continue, Oriana spoke. “Her name was Lucia. She was in the program. I don’t know why. She had the wrong personality. Everyone else got fucked up by what happened to them, but Lucia was one of the only ones who seemed normal. She was kind. That’s the biggest thing, I guess. She was always thinking of everyone else. Always taking care of people. The opposite of me.”


Tara smiled slightly at Ori’s comment that Lucia was normal and kind.  That she was wrong for the program somehow. The irony was that upon hearing Ori’s words she wondered if the other woman realized that Lucia had to have been the strongest of all of them to have kept her humanity when it would have been easier to have shed it.


“The first time I met Lucia, I broke her wrist. I broke everyone, to show them that I was the best. The strongest. The fastest. I was suspicious of her at first. She seemed too nice. She was my roommate for years before I started to realize that she was just being herself- that it wasn’t an act to fool people. I’d had a… really bad night… when I was fifteen, I think. I was in a lot of pain, and I was crying on my bed like an idiot. Lucia just came and lay with me. Sang something.”


Oriana scratched at her cheek, trying to give the impression that she wasn’t emotionally affected by what she was saying. 


“I… fell in love with her. There were only a dozen people in my entire life. Flings were… normal. Francesco was possessive. But he wasn’t threatened by us… fuck, the only word I can think of is “fraternizing”. It’s what he called it. Lucia was my roommate. We were friends. Then best friends. Then something more. And I just-”


She waved her hand, not remotely able to express what she was feeling.


Tara kept her face as emotionless as she could, but her eyes, they told the story.  She looked at Ori with compassion and the pain she felt was falling away into nothing, replaced by something else.  Something more gentle and caring, the rage and self-hatred forgotten about.


“Things fell apart for the team. Two wolves and a rabbit came for Lucia. I was there, too. I’d known those girls since I was twelve. Almost every day, for a decade. I killed them, but I got shot. Lucia got me out, somehow. Then they killed her.” Her eyes narrowed and a fearsome look came into Oriana’s eyes. “That’s all there is to tell about her. That I want to, at least.”



Tara nodded and lifted Ori’s hand to her lips and she held it there for a long moment, her eyes never unlocking from Ori’s. It was hardly a kiss so much as it was contact, not sexual but present - the way her mother always put her foot beside her father’s under the table.  


“Let’s go up to the room.  I’ll grab some wine out of the kitchen.  We’ll have a nightcap and then you can sleep and that’s the end of it.  Okay?” She squeezed Ori’s hand gently.


“I want to. But I don’t feel like… myself. I think I need to take a walk, burn off some steam, settle some things. I want to; I just can’t right now. Please understand.” 


“Do you remember earlier when I told you that the best part of my night was giving you whatever you needed?”  She smiled slightly, “Still is. I … I’ll go get a drink and get ready for bed. You take whatever time you need, unless you’d rather have company?”


Oriana swallowed. “I… I’d rather spend time with you…. When I feel normal. I haven’t thought about these things in a long time, Tara. I’m not really in a good place right now… but I do want to get there.”


Tara nodded, her smile a little sad but accepting without the feelings of rejection she felt earlier.  “Losing someone you love is messy in the best of situations. Nothing is normal after, not for a long time I think.  For the record, that’s not your fucked up childhood, what you’re going through isn’t at all odd. I’m glad you talked about her, someone like that deserves to be remembered - the good stuff.  If you ever want to talk about the good stuff… well, you know.” She shut her mouth not wanting to say too much.


Oriana just nodded, still holding onto Tara’s hand.


“I’ll let you have some space to work through shit - without me watching.”  She squeezed Ori’s hand in return. “When you’re ready, you know how to find me.”


Oriana nodded.  “We’ll talk… later.”


“Remind me, sometime when things aren’t so hard, to tell you about the night you and I went to Montreal.”  She smirked. “Thanks for everything tonight Ori. Really, it wasn’t all bad.” Tara looked her friend up and down one last time - trying to remember every detail of how she looked at this moment in the same damn car that had brought her Grandparents to the start of everything they went through.  It had been messy too. It wasn’t easy, and while she didn’t have Gavin’s words to tell her how to walk Ori through loss - she did have Bella’s to know how fucked up that journey really was and Bella wasn’t as troubled as Ori. Tara knew this was less about her mess ups than it was about Ori’s long road.  It hurt less ending the night this way than the way it nearly ended.


“Good night, Ori.”


Ori looked at Tara intently as she released her hand.


“Goodnight, Tara.”

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Tara opened the car door and reluctantly slid out.  She shut the door behind her solidly but not with too much enthusiasm.  The chill of the night air made her skin prickle beneath the thin fabric of her dress.  Tara crossed her arms over her chest and quickly made her way up the front steps on the wooden ramp that had been laid over the stairs for her father.

“Miss.” Carlin greeted her upon her return.

“Ori will be coming in soon.  When she does, um… tell her that my room is open for her, would you?”  She pats Carlin on the arm gently, the other woman had become a real friend in all the mess they’d been through in the last week.

“I convey the message.  Sleep well, Miss Tara.”

Stepping inside, Tara slid around the door and fell back upon it.  Her head fell back until it made a thud against the solid surface. Tara’s eyes pointed up to the ceiling as she replayed the words exchanged between them again and again.  She wasn’t sure how long she stood at the door before her sister’s voice broke her out of her thoughts.

“Interest you in a nightcap?”  Brigitte breezed down the last four steps and extended her hand toward Tara.

The younger Mastrosimone nodded and reached out to take her sister’s hand.  The two of them, together, walked into the kitchen. Bates was there, looking out the sliding glass door, keeping watch.  Upon seeing the girls enter the room he quietly made his exit, giving them privacy and going to keep his watch somewhere else.

Brigitte took out the bottle of wine that had been opened for dinner and began to work the cork back out again.  Tara slid onto a barstool at the island counter and took a long steadying breath.


“She dances sublime.”  Tara said softly.

“You danced together?”

“Danced at the same time, not really together… can you imagine how that would have gone over?  They would have dragged us into the street to tar and feather us.” Tara shook her head, sometimes her sister was so thick.

“Things are more liberal here in the city…”  Brigitte began.

“Not that liberal, but… for the most part, dinner was alright.  I only said a few stupid things.”

“Did you tell her?”  Brigitte poured two glasses of wine.

“No,”  Tara said softly.  “Too much was said tonight.”

Brigitte arched an eyebrow.  “Too much?”

“She does like girls though.  You were right about that, though if you repeat that I’ll knife you.”

Brigitte smirked.  “I told you. You had nothing to do with my knowing that woman - I suspect in some ways I get her more than you think.”

“I could use a road map if you got one.  I’ll pay you generously for it.” Tara smirked into her glass and sipped the wine.

“Well, talking less might not be so bad with her.  I mean, it probably means you’ll fuck things up less - of course …”  Brigitte sipped her wine. “It also means you won’t get anywhere.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s a brooder.  Dark mysterious past.  You know the type. There’s only a million romance novels written about the dangerous loner.  Jesus Tara, you read constantly and you don’t see it?”

Tara looked to the kitchen door, half expecting Ori to wander in.  “I don’t think you can simplify Ori quite like that. She’s not a character in a romance novel.”  Tara looked into her wine glass. “Or a mafia princess with a broken heart - she’s a real person, with real problems and there’s not a playbook for how to navigate them no matter how much I wish there was for both our sakes.”

Brigitte narrowed her, “Mafia princess with a - what are you on about?”

Tara shook her head, “How did the hunt for Eli go?”

“I’m still here aren’t I?”  Brigitte scoffed. “I may have to break out the big guns on this one… ask Dad to invite him to Sunday dinner.”

Tara arched an eyebrow, “This guy must have made an impression for you to let dad know you’re on the prowl.”

Brigitte smirked, “You’ll understand when you meet him.”

Tara nodded and finished off the last of her wine.  

“So, no kiss goodnight then?”  Brigitte asked as Tara put her glass down.

“You’re funny.”

“It’ll happen,”  Brigitte promised, this time not teasing but trying to reassure Tara.  “She wouldn’t be sticking around if she didn’t like you.”

“She needs to talk with Dad.”

“That’s horseshit and you know it, Tara.  Plenty of men need to talk to Dad tomorrow and they’re not sleeping in your bed to do it.”

Tara looked at the countertop and her smile returned.  “She is sleeping in my bed, isn’t she?”

Brigitte nodded, picking up her glass and Tara’s, carrying both to the sink.

“Yep.  The question is… are you?”  Brigitte looked back to Tara after depositing the dirty stemware.

Tara froze.  “I…” She hadn’t given it a thought, mostly because she knew Ori was scared of hurting her and she didn’t have the desire to spend twenty minutes trussing up her friend in ropes again.  “I don’t think it’s wise, not tonight. Like I said… there was a lot of talking tonight. Ori needs some room to breathe - I’ve pushed her enough for one night.”

Brigitte laughed, “You’ve pushed her?  I’d almost pay to see it.”

“Well, I’m not sure you’d find it all that interesting.  For the most part it looks a lot like me putting my foot in my mouth… fortunately she said something and I could see the difference.”

Brigitte tilted her head to the side.  “Did you argue?”

Tara shook her head, “Not exactly.  It’ll be okay though. I’m okay.”

Brigitte came around the bar and put an arm around Tara and pulled her into a hug.  “Everything will be better after a good night’s rest. You can sleep in my room again.  I’ll help you out of this dress, brush your hair… it’ll be like when we were kids only with you covered in less mud.”

Tara smirked as Brigitte’s hug became more of an arm around her ushering her out of the kitchen and up the stairs.  “What did you have for dinner?”


“And her?”


Brigitte shook her head, “You two really couldn’t be more different.  You sure you don’t want to pick some nice quiet girl who knits or something … I mean, I’m all for aiming high but maybe…”  she joked.

Tara swatted her sister and laughed quietly.  “I like Ori. Just Ori.” She said as they reached the top of the stairs.  

“Well, there’s nothing for it then.  I guess I’m stuck helping you.” Brigitte opened the door to her room.  “And if things do go to hell - I’ll be here for that too.”

“I know.”  Tara said softly, walking into her sister’s room, the door closing soundly behind them.

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Tara stretched in the first beams of morning light.  Waking up early was so much a part of her life now, even tired she couldn’t help but do it.  Brigitte would be sleeping for hours still. She was the laziest bones in the whole house, a true night owl.  

Going over to the other woman’s vanity she picked up Brigitte’s hairbrush and pulled it through her hair a couple of dozen times.  The shower she’d taken before bed last night had caused her wet hair to curl slightly and knot on the pillows. She’d dreamed, though Tara couldn’t recall what about, she suspected it was more of what she was thinking about before she dozed off - everything that was said and unsaid still.

Tara looked over to the white dress laid on the chair.  Instantly Tara regretted not bringing something fresh to wear into the room.  She’d slept in Brigitte’s nightshirt, but now she had to consider if she wanted to redress in her old outfit just to go downstairs for food or if she wanted to wander around the house in too-big sleepwear… or …

Tara stared at her reflection a long moment. The silence in the room could almost be felt.  Her thoughts weren’t loud and fast as they’d been hours ago, all Tara had at this moment was the nothing.  It was peaceful, but it felt like that moment before loosing an arrow. She expected something to happen, any moment… and the silence just stretched on.  

The dress laying on the chair wasn’t something she wanted to put back on, maybe not ever again.  Standing up she crossed the room in bare feet, and tugged down the shirt to make sure it was covering her backside completely - it’s hem falling to her mid-thigh.  Peeking into the hallway she saw and heard no one.  

All her young life her mother had compared her to Uncle Will with how silently she could move.  She’d once walked right up to a whitetail doe. She was good at sneaking, and so she confidently crept down the hallway hoping to slip in and get something to wear without Ori being the wiser.  Putting her ear to the door she listened, waiting to be sure she wasn’t able to hear anything happening inside. Turning the knob slowly, pushing the door gently, she peeked inside hoping to find Ori asleep on the bed.

Instead, she found an empty bed- and a letter. Several letters, actually, addressed to Tara, Cat, Rora, Billy, and Brigitte.

Tara didn’t even need to read them before the sob was out of her mouth.  “Damn it.” She cursed softly. “Damn it, Ori…” She crossed the room to the bed and settled down upon it.  Picking up the letter meant for herself she cursed herself for not coming back to the room. Why had she been so scared?  If she’d just come and talk to Ori… if she’d just said what she wanted to say!

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Tara opened the letter, her mind racing once more.


Dear Tara,

I'm sorry for leaving this way. I think I had to. Your family has too many connections, and they might have been able to stop me. Even if they didn't force me, I might have had you or Aurora talk at me until I just gave in. It was hard to leave, but our talk last night showed me that I have unfinished business I need to settle before I can really start this new life of mine. Based on a few phone calls, Francesco has completely disappeared. I can find him better than anyone- I know all his old contacts.

It should take a week. Two at most. You'll get a letter from me when I can manage them, but at least once a week unless things get too busy. But it won't take long; I might even beat my first letter home.

I know. 




Tara crumpled the note in her hand and fell over herself crying.  Nothing could hurt this bad. She’d killed a man and it didn’t cut like this.  She wanted to believe Ori, that she’d come back, but it was hard to think of such a thing being possible.  There was the obvious risks, a dangerous mission and a woman who was emotionally compromised - but if Ori feared her mother and she being able to convince her to stay… what could the man who had such sway over her do?  Ori wasn’t ready for this, and Tara had driven her to do it.

She shot up from her bed and walked confidently towards her closet, picking out functional and comfortable clothing.  Fuck fancy. She had shit to do. Layers. Dress for whatever weather. That was how this went. You could take off layers.  Hair, braid - out of the way and practical. Comfortable shoes, she might have to run.  

Kneeling beside her bed she pulled out the go bag her mother had packed for her.  ‘Everything you might need if we have to run without warning…’

Grabbing the same pad and pen that Ori had likely wrote on, Tara walked over to the window and held it slightly to the light - too much had been written on it to see any notes that might have been left behind.  Tara cursed and walked over to the phone, she’d use the trick her father had shown her.

“Operator, what’s the last number called from my phone?”  She asked the woman on the other end and quickly penned the numbers given to her.  She didn’t recognize them, but it might give her a direction. Phone numbers told you where a person was… at least a general area.  Whoever Ori called, they were likely in the place she was heading. Knowing her father might use the same trick, she dialed Brigitte’s apartment, knowing no one was home to be bothered.  She let it ring a few times before hanging up.  

“Sorry, Dad.”  She whispered. There was no way she was giving her mother a trail to follow.  She needed to protect herself and the baby and take care of dad and the kids. She had enough on her plate. 

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Tara looked at the other letters.  She felt bad about reading them, but it wasn’t the first time she ever read words meant for other people.  These letters were some of the only clues she had and time was running out before someone else would wake up.  She could read them here but… no, she didn’t want to risk anyone else having an early morning. Tara pushed the notes into her bag.  She’d read them on the go. She’d figure out Ori’s direction and follow. That was that.

Tara quickly penned a note for her family hoping to buy herself some time - they wouldn’t look for the go-bag until after they suspected the worst and with any luck she and Ori would be back by then: 


Headed back to school.  Will see you Sunday for dinner.
Sorry I didn’t say goodbye.  I love all of you. Please stay safe.   




Tara left the note on her bed and quickly moved down the stairs only to find Carlin sitting by the front door, stifling a yawn on the back of one hand, snapping with the other.  Tara looked in the direction she snapped and noticed two of her father’s detail getting up in the den coming to Carlin’s summons.

“Hey guys…”  Tara said softly.

Carlin stood up.  “Up early, Miss Tara.  You gonna have some breakfast?”

“Nah, I’m… I’m headed back to campus.”

“I can drive you.”  Orville offered. “I’ll have someone else waiting for your father to wake up.”

“You don’t have to do that.”  Tara began to panic.

Carlin shook her head, “Tara.  Oriana told us you would try to follow her.”

Tara’s mouth fell open and she snapped it shut before demanding, “Get the hell out of my way Carlin…”

“You’re not leaving, Miss Tara.”  Orville stated flatly. “Please don’t make this difficult.”

Tara moved her hand, too slow, for the gun under her coat.  Her father’s men were far too well trained and far too ready for such a gambit.  Orville had her in a heartbeat. Carlin went past her up the stairs at a run - right to her father’s room she assumed.

Tara struggled.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Miss Tara!”  Orville pleaded, wrestling with the young woman, trying to keep her from getting to her gun or getting away.

“LET ME GO!”  Tara’s temper finally snapping, her desperation growing, her voice getting too loud to be kept secret.

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Rora stirred to the sound of heavy footfalls coming down the hallway and then sat up at the pounding on the door.  “Mrs. Mastrosimone! Billy!” Carlin’s voice, urgent. Rora’s gun was in her hand in a flash.

“Billy wake up!”

Billy groaned and opened his eyes. “What?” He looked toward the door and saw Carlin. “Oh fuck, what’s going on?”

“It’s Tara sir, she’s tried to leave to follow Oriana. Had her go-bag with her sir.”

Billy squinted his eyes in the darkness and turned to look at Aurora. He shrugged and then looked back to the bodyguard.

“And where the fuck did Oriana go?”

Carlin shuffled his feet.

“Alright, go back, Aurora will be right there and I’ll be there in a minute.” He raised himself then and pulled his chair over to the bed so he could climb in and get dressed.

Aurora threw on clothing as fast as she could, listening to the scuffle down the hall and Tara screaming like a bansidhe.  “I wondered if she’d go… I hoped she wouldn’t but I worried she might.” Weapons on and ready, she turned to help Billy finish.  “Sounds like she’s not going anywhere, let me help you. We’ll go out together… a united front.”

Tara wailed on Orville and twice was nearly free of the large man’s grip, once she almost got her gun too.  She’d had years of wrestling experience with her father and her brother - but Orville was fighting for his life.  He knew damn well what would happen to him if Tara were to run off and get herself hurt. The whole damn house knew what might happen if one of the kids were hurt.

Aurora emerged from the bedroom first, “TARA MARIE MASTROSIMONE!”  Her voice was a whip cracking in the air. “STOP THIS NONSENSE!”

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Orville hesitated at the sound of his boss’ wife, letting his guard down just in time for Tara to nail him in the jewels.  Hitting the ground, the man finally let loose of Tara who knew if she ran, it wouldn’t be a guard who chased her down but the lioness herself - and if she was upset now, she’d be fucking pissed by the time she caught her.  Orville remained doubled over as Billy emerged from the bedroom and rolled down the hallway.

“Where the HELL do you think you’re going, young lady!?!”  Aurora came out into the foyer. Upstairs she could hear some of the kids waking because of all the shouting and commotion.  

“It’s Ori, Mom.  Please! I have to go now!”

“Go where exactly?”  Aurora put a hand on her hip.

“The airport, I’d think.  Maybe I can stop her before she gets on a plane, talk some sense into her.”

“Sweetheart,” Aurora began, trying to keep her annoyance in check and her heart rate down to a reasonable level.  “Oriana is very capable and I’m sure-”


Aurora shook her head.  Brigitte was the emotional one.  Sometimes Isabella. Tara had a good heart but she also was typically pretty reasonable.  Ever since Oriana walked into this household though - Aurora had seen her quiet sensible middle child becoming something else and it bothered her.

“You don’t need to yell at me, I’m just trying to help!  Oriana is a grown woman.  Well trained. She doesn’t need you to help her.  You’re not going after her and that’s final.”

Tara’s eyes flickered with absolute indignance and rage.  “I’M GOING AND YOU CAN’T STOP ME!”

Billy wheeled himself between his wife and his daughter then. “Tara. You can go if you want, but you have to talk to me first. Deal?”

Both women looked to Billy with shock on their faces.  Clearly Tara didn’t expect her father to agree and neither did Aurora! 

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“Billy!”  Aurora was gaping at her husband.

“Yes.  Deal.” Tara quickly agreed.

Billy nodded and wheeled himself into the living room. “Come on then, sit down, let’s talk. Cause your grandmother couldn’t keep your mother and I apart, there’s no way your mother and I are going to keep you from the woman you love. I know it, you know it, let’s be adults about it and figure out what’s going on though huh?” He reached out and took Tara’s hand as he passed and gently pulled her in the direction of the couch.

Tara walked with Billy, Rora followed, hearing Brigitte at the top of the stairs, obviously listening in but not yet joining the group.  

“She’s going to Italy, I think.  After Francesco, the man who … the monster who put together her team.  The problem is, and you see this is why I need to go, I’m not worried about her ability to protect herself - it’s whether or not she knows to protect herself.  He has this power over her, dad, it’s like a magic spell.  He’s got her all crazy in the head. All of the girls. They’re like sisters but they’ve murdered each other cause he asks it of them.  He … he’s done terrible things to Ori, things I … I don’t want to think about and promised not to repeat.  If he had the chance he’ll try to convince her to stay and work for him again.  And… and … I don’t know that she won’t.”  

Tara had tears in her eyes as she continues, pulling out the letters from her bag.  “She knows he’s bad but he has her all confused, messed up, ya know? If I’m there though - maybe I can remind her there’s life outside of that place and that man.  That she can be happy… with me.”

At this point, Tara gives the letters to her father.  “She left these, I was hoping they would provide clues to where she was going if I didn’t catch her at the airport.”

Billy nodded and opened the one meant for him, handing the one for Aurora to her. “I’m guessing she left you one too?” He asked as he browsed his letter. “Mine is just confirmation that she’s going to Italy to find someone and take care of unfinished business.” He shrugged. “Nothing we didn’t already know. So, Tara, what’s the next move? You’re sure as shit not going by yourself. What have we learned in the past week?” He leaned back in his chair waiting for his answer.

Tara paused, not sure what her father might be getting at, but the more she contemplated it, the more she came to the conclusion he could really only be getting at one thing - “We have a lot of friends and resources and… Dad I know that but you gotta understand I wasn’t running away so much as I was making sure you wouldn’t stop me.  I was scared that Ori was going to be alone and I couldn’t let her be. We’re all she’s really got.”

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Billy nodded. “Well I’m not stopping you, but you need to be smart about this. It’s simple. We pull on our resources. Find out what we can, and you assemble a team to go with you.” He looked to his daughter. “Or do you have a better idea?”

Tara glanced to Aurora who was reading her note, clearly not voicing support but not yet speaking out against it any further.  “No. I assumed she must have just left but… no. She probably left late last night.” Tara sighed. “She’s probably half-way across the Atlantic by now.”

“She doesn’t want you to follow her.”  Aurora said quietly, her voice was grim and gravelly with her grogginess. 

“She doesn’t know what she wants right now.”  Tara said sadly. “Mom you can’t understand how bad this man is…”

“I have an idea and it makes me all the more certain that you’re likely to be a distraction to Ori - the minute you’re there and in harm's way everything about her mission changes.  Tara, you need to think about this. Is this really what you want? I know you care about this girl, but you’ve only just begun your training with Ori and you’ve only just begun in this life… and you were the one who wanted nothing to do with it and now you’re ready to jump in with both feet?  For someone, you barely know.”

“Nona Bella didn’t know Grandpa Gavin.  You barely knew dad.” She shook her head.  “It doesn’t matter if she loves me or not, I love her and that’s enough of a reason for me to go.”  It had come out of her mouth without Tara even meaning to say it.  

“Well,”  Brigitte’s voice came from the top of the stairs.  “If you love her, then I’m coming too. We’ve already proven I can handle myself and I’m useful.  And since I have lost my part in the production I’ve got nothing better to do - I might as well help you save the woman you love so you can actually tell her that.”

Tara looked to the doorway as Brigitte appeared, and in his pajama pants with no shirt (sleep still crusted in his eyes) Gavin just behind her.  “You love Oriana?”  Gavin looked utterly lost.  “You mean scary assassin lady who tried to kill mom, Oriana?”

Brigitte smacked her brother’s arm, “Good lord you really are the slow one are you?  Of course, she loves Oriana and we’re going to help her bring her home. Right Papa?” Brigitte looked to Tara, “So what’s the plan?”

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“I… I didn’t exactly have one past go to the airport, hope to catch her there and if not, take the plane and go to Italy,”  Tara admitted.

“And you were going to do what exactly?”  Aurora asked passing her note to Billy to look over pointing out the passage where the girl explicitly requested that if she didn’t come home that Tara be encouraged to believe that Ori hadn’t cared for her - confirming for Aurora, that the girl actually did.  “Just walk the streets asking if anyone had seen her?”

“I don’t know… maybe if it came to that.”  Tara said defensively.

“Tara, this is so far above you, I love you, and you too Billy, but … this man is deeply entrenched in society there, you have never seen anything like it - trust me.  He’ll be a ghost and your arrival is only going to distract Oriana and give him leverage to use against her if he gets his hands on you. He could use you to hurt Oriana.  Have you thought of that?”

“If  I don’t go, what’s to stop him from making her stay?  Mom, you have to know the power he has over her… you saw him, right?”

Aurora looked down, “Yes but…”

“Would you, if you weren’t pregnant, really leave her to face this alone?”

Aurora fell silent.  She wouldn’t lie, but she wouldn’t encourage her child to put herself into harm’s way either.

Billy looked over the note and nodded. “Well, I’m sure as shit not gonna lie to my kid for any woman, especially not one who tried to kill my wife and made my baby girl cry.” He smiled at Tara then before turning to Brigitte. 

“And you only get to go if Tara says so, this is her mission, it’s her team, it’s her call. If she’s smart enough to take you though, then it will be your job to make the calls when she’s emotionally compromised. That would be your job.” He turned to Tara again. 

“I can make some phone calls. I still have a lead or two that you all didn’t wind up killing. That Senator Govoni was working with Mattaranzi, or at least his late wife was, so he’s got SOME connection at least. I can help you from here, at least to get started right?” He nodded and looked to Gavin. “What about you Gav? You gonna go off jet setting too?”

“Actually, no.”

“One of my kids is sane, thank you Jesus!”  Aurora looked up to the ceiling.

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Gavin continued, “I know I was talking to you about going to Vegas and taking over Calico for you, but um, …”

“Wait… you were thinking of moving to Vegas?”  Aurora stared at Gavin. “That’s so far away, when were you going to tell me this?”

“I would have told you, when you got back, but I’m not going now.”

“Good.”  Aurora said nodding firmly, clearly not wanting her son to leave.

“At least not for a few years.  See… Brigitte and I got to talking the other day and I was thinking maybe I have something a little more important to handle?  I was thinking about Malcolm. Kid is hurting really bad. Now, I can’t bring his parents back or Uncle Volkov, but his home and school and friends… they’re all still out there in Philly.  So, I’ve decided I’m going to move into Hollowpoint and run Grandpa Gavin’s bar at least until Malcolm is out of school. Shouldn’t take much to keep up with the books and I can spend my time focused on helping Malcolm work through stuff.  He’ll be in a place he knows, in a school with all his friends and I’m sorry but… I know he’ll come to accept and love everyone here but he considering what his dad was doing before he died… he got thrown into the deep end here. It’s gotta be confusing to him.  Not to say he doesn't love you or won’t eventually understand everything but he’s eight. Ya know? I’m not in. I can… be a bridge for him to the rest of the family, so he doesn’t feel alone.”

“You could do that here, why do you have to go?  Gavin… I love your heart but what do you know about being a parent or helping a little boy who has lost his whole world?”

Billy sighed. “Exactly as much as we knew when we took in a little girl who only spoke French.”

Brigitte smiled and put a hand on her mom’s shoulder, “Gavin’s been taking in wounded animals his whole life mom.  He learned it from you two. If he gets in over his head, you’re a day trip away. If it fails, they can come home.  Gavin’s just trying to help.”

“And we’ll come to have dinner every Sunday, Mom.  I promise. I’m not going away for good.”

Tara sighed and crossed her arms, “Gavin’s a grown man.”  Tara threw out. “He’s gonna be fine, can we please get back to the cult leader who is going to try to kill my girlfriend?”

Brigitte smiled brightly, “Girlfriend?  Well now, that’s presumptuous.”

“No, it’s not.”  Tara got into her bag and pulled out the crumpled up note and trust it at Brigitte who read it.

“Oh my god!”  She squealed, laughing with Tara who looked fit to both cry and laugh at the same time.  “YOURS!”

Tara nodded eagerly.  “And the ‘I know’ … do you think?”

“Could be… maybe.  I think so.” Brigitte giggled. 

Aurora sighed but a small hint of a smile was tugging at the corner of her lips.  “Alright, alright, so Gavin is going to Philly with Malcolm and you two want to run off to Italy with no plan after … what did you call him, a cult leader who is trying to kill Tara’s girlfriend?”

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“Pretty much Brigitte said neatly folding the paper in half.  We can go to Milan. The two Dons there, they will give help if only by letting us stay with them while we search.  They want Dad to like them, well, this is what friends do for each other. And we’ll be near to Venice. I bet that’s where she’s going.”

Billy nodded. “Sounds like a plan. You need to reach out to Govoni while you’re there, you might be able to draw this guy out if he used to, or still does, work for the government.”

Brigitte nodded as if making a mental list.

Malcolm froze on the other side of the doorway as he listened. Lots of stuff he didn't understand. Italy. Girlfriends. He was about to leave and go find the twins or read a book when he heard his name... "Hurting really bad"... "move". 


Malcolm's eyes went wide.

As soon as he'd processed it, he ran into the room and headed straight to Billy like an arrow, grabbing onto one of his legs and looking up at him with an air of desperation. His voice wasn't a shout, but it was loud enough to break. 

"Please don't make me go! I want to stay!"

Aurora covered her mouth looking shocked at the little boy’s outburst, her heart nearly breaking at the sight and sound of him.

Billy looked down and smiled at his nephew. “Hey buddy, what are you doing awake?” He leaned over and picked up Malcolm, setting him on his lap. “I thought you would still be asleep.” He looked to Gavin then and nodded for him to sit. “You heard your cousin Gavin talkin’ bout you then huh? Cause he really just thought it was going to be a good idea, but I’m not going to make you do anything you don’t want to do. If you want, you can come to breakfast with us soon and we can all talk about it. You get just as much of a say, more I think, about your life than anyone else.” He tussled the boy’s hair then, the way he used to with Jack, and Gavin before him.

Malcolm seemed to calm down and nod. He slid off Billy’s lap and looked down. “Sorry for running in. I know I’m not supposed to.”

Gavin leaned forward, smiling.  “I didn’t mean to upset you, Malcolm, it’s just Tara and Brigitte told me how much you wanted to go back to Philly and, I thought maybe we might go together - so you could go back to your school and stuff.  If you don’t want that though…”

Malcolm looked up at Gavin and gave him a hint of a smile.

“My dad said that if he was ever in a meeting and I should talk to him that I should meow like a cat and he would come out and talk to me but I wasn’t sure if you knew that rule. You don’t have a cat.”

“Maybe we should get a cat?”  Rora said with a hint of a smile.

“I never had a cat either it was just the rule.”

“Your dad always was the smartest guy I knew.  He had all the best tricks for making sure we didn’t get into trouble with the grownups.  I’m not at all surprised to learn that he didn’t have a cat and had you doing that.” she chuckled. 

Malcolm suddenly realized that he was probably interrupting something. Without another word, he sprinted out of the room to go back to his new room.

Rora smiled at Gavin, “Well… maybe you won’t be going to Philly after all?”

Gavin shrugged, “Might still do it.  The kid might want to visit. Would be nice if he had someone to stay with when he did.”

Rora looked a little surprised but didn’t say anything further on the subject.

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“Well then, are we getting breakfast, or are you two leaving right away?” Billy asked toward Tara and Brigitte.

Tara sighed.  “I guess we do need to eat…”

Brigitte beamed.  “Of course we do. I’m just going to get dressed.  Come on, Gav, you too. Can’t have you going to breakfast looking like Tarzan of the Jungle.”

Billy nods. “Good, and when we’re done we can have a conversation about this before everyone does their own thing.” He tapped on his chair.

“I got a phone call to make before we go,”  Tara said standing up. “Two maybe.” Tara touched her father’s shoulder as she left the room, a silent thanks for his support.  

Aurora watched the kids leaving and then turned her attention to her husband.  “I took Brigitte with me to Italy because you insisted… and you were right. I worried, and she was in danger - numerous times, but I had faith in you and your calls ... but Billy…”  She shook her head.  “They’re not ready for this, this is too much.  Please tell me you know something I don’t? This man is a monster of the worst sort and we’re sending our daughters, alone to face him.  I’m not at all good with this, hon. I have serious concerns here. Tell me what the hell I’m missing. Please tell me why we’re supporting this and not telling her what my letter says - that Oriana doesn’t want her there and that if she really cared about this girl that she’d do what she’s asking of her, and letting her settle her past affairs so she can have a real future with Tara?”

Billy nodded. “First off, we’re not sending them alone. We’re going to put all of our resources on this. Second, you think telling her no is going to stop her? Really? Because it wouldn’t have stopped you. It didn’t stop me. It couldn’t stop us. So, either we fight her and we become the bad guys and we maybe, just maybe are the reason Oriana doesn’t make it home. Then what?”

“And what if Brigitte or Tara doesn’t make it home?  Then what? What if we could have put our feet down and told her no and kept her safe and we didn’t?  This girl is good at what she does, having Tara there is only going to distract her from doing her damn job, Billy, the same way you are the only thing I can think about when we’re in a room together.  Tara’s not going to be any better either. The moment she finds that girl, IF she finds her, then Tara’s mind isn’t going to be thinking clearly either. This isn’t us dating between two cities in peacetime… this is her going into enemy territory after I just killed a Godfather there.”

“Oh, it’s her job now is it? Oriana was told to do this? By who? Because from the looks of things, I have a Rogue fucking element in my midst.” He shook his head then. “No, it’s not her job, it’s not Tara’s, or Brigitte’s. It should be my fucking job, but I get to sit here and do nothing except advice. So, I’m going to advise. And I repeat, if you tell our daughter no, she will go and do it anyway. If you tell her yes, but you have to do it our way, then we can at least send people to protect her. You would rather her go alone like she was about to do tonight?”

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