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Crash and Burn / Re: The Obligatory OOC Thread
« Last post by Matt Foster on July 04, 2020, 11:32:59 AM »
I didn't want to cross-post, but the following post in Gall and Grangers is also kind of connected to this folder due to Lucas' relationship with Fliss ...

https://www.dragonsmark.com/red-dragon-inn/forum/index.php/topic,14195.0.html
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Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:43:21 PM »
"That it is." She wasn't talking about the lake, her eyes lingering on him for a long moment before she moved to claim her bag and open it up, rummaging for pajamas and a toothbrush.

He didn't realize she was talking about him, gaze lingering on the lake before he finally pulled the curtains closed, doubting the thin material would do much to block the sunrise. Maybe you were supposed to get up early in a place like this, but he'd never been much of an early riser.

"Are you sure about this, Addie?" he asked, frowning over at her as she rummaged in her bag.

"Which part?" she asked, looking up with a handful of fabric in one fist. "Are you having second thoughts? Because I can go and sleep in with Nora if you're not comfortable." Odd, how her first thought was everyone else's comfort over her own. It wasn't a common habit in this world of theirs.

Though he might not realize it, he was doing the same thing in putting her comfort over his. Or at least, that was his intention. "I'm fine if you're fine," he said, just a little defensively.

She paused, her expression gentling. "I'm not expecting anything, Matt," she told him softly. "Not that I would object, but even I know it's too soon for anything like that. I'm tired, and I feel safe with you. So get your ass changed and get into bed, okay?"

He couldn't help smiling at that, even chuckling a little. He was usually the one giving orders, though he was pretty good at taking them, too. He just wasn't used to getting orders from a woman, especially one who he was technically now married to. "Yes, ma'am," he replied with a mock salute before turning away to get himself ready for bed.

She chuckled herself, taking her belongings into the bathroom to quickly change and brush her teeth, emerging just a few minutes later in shorts and a tank, and her hair brushing her back as she ran her fingers through the dark fall. "Bathroom's all yours."

He'd already shrugged off his jacket and loosened the front of his shirt. No, he didn't always wear a suit, but somehow he never felt like he was working unless he was dressed for the part. He'd left his shoes on the floor beside the dresser, the contents of his pockets scattered across the top, the gun still in a holster against his shoulder. He glanced back as she rejoined him, gaze briefly looking her over before forcing his gaze away.

"Thanks," he murmured, as he headed for the bathroom.

Her gun was in her hand, set down for a moment on one of the bedside cabinets as she turned back to fold her clothes neatly on the chair with her bag. By the time he came out of the bathroom, she was already in the bed, the gun out of sight but no doubt where she could get to it with ease as she rested her head down on the pillow.

He was almost relieved to find her already in bed, where he didn't have to look at the soft curves of her body that her tank top and shorts did little to hide. He went over to the other side of the bed to finish getting undressed, the gun and holster the first things to go. He laid the gun aside on the night stand, before unbuttoning his shirt and peeling it off. He leaned over and flicked off the lamp before stepping out of his pants, leaving himself dressed in a t-shirt and shorts. It seemed he wasn't big on pajamas either.

Tempting though it was, Adriana forced herself not to watch him finishing getting undressed, letting out a slow sigh of breath to calm herself as she relaxed into the pillow. Strange house, strange place, husband ... she had a feeling this was going to take some getting used to.

There was no point in making a big deal about it. After all, they were both grown adults, and married adults at that. It was awkward, sure, but it wasn't the end of the world. "You okay?" he asked, as he climbed under the covers beside her, careful to make a note of the invisible line that ran down the middle of the bed.

Her head turned toward him as she felt the bed shift under his weight. "Tired," she admitted. "Little bit restless, too, but I'll stay still. I'll try not to disturb you too much as you sleep."

"You're not going to disturb me, Adriana," he assured her. Once he was asleep, not much bothered him really. He was lucky like that anyway. "You should get some sleep," he said, as he adjusted the blankets over them both and tucked an arm under the pillow as he turned to face her. He didn't seem to mind sharing a bed.

"So should you," she said, her smile just visible in the darkness. This didn't feel as awkward as she had expected it to. She wasn't worried about sharing a bed with him at all. Settling her hands on her stomach, she let herself relax fully into the bed. "Some day, huh?"

"Yeah," he said, feeling suddenly awkward where conversation was concerned. "Addie, I know we're supposed to be married, and I know you said you that marriage isn't a business proposition to you, but I don't expect anything from you that you don't want to do," he told her, needing her to know that he wasn't going to make any demands, especially where bedroom rights were concerned.

Her smile deepened as she looked up to the ceiling. "Let's just ... see how it goes, shall we?" she suggested. "I like you, Matt, and God knows, I'd love to romp a bit with you, but I want to get to know you better before that happens. If that's okay?"

Matt smiled, a little amused at the admission that she wouldn't mind a roll in the hay, so to speak, though he was glad she wanted more than just that. "I'm not gonna lie. I wouldn't mind that either, but I'd like to get to know you, too. Friendship first, right?" he asked, repeating something she'd said a little while ago.

"Sounds like we're on the same page," she agreed, her smile audible in her voice, finally shifting over onto her side to face him, one hand tucked beneath the pillow. "I guess I'll see you in the morning, Mr. Alessi."

"See you in the morning, Miss Cavarello," he said, the smile heard in his voice. "Don't shoot me if I snore," he added, half-teasing.

"Mrs. Alessi," she corrected him softly. He felt her shifting, heard the sound of a kiss, and then her finger gently touched his lips in a rather sweet goodnight kiss. "I'll just kick you out of the bed, don't worry."

"Right," he replied, smirking in the dark at his own faux pas. Married or not, it didn't really feel like it, rushed as it was. Maybe someday, if he was lucky enough to win her heart, he'd give her a proper wedding. He was surprised by the kiss, as unexpected as it was, even if it wasn't a real kiss, but then she had him chuckling again. "I'll consider myself warned."

She laughed softly, nestling into the pillow. "Good night, Matt." Closing her eyes, she let out a gentle sigh, her breathing slowly leveling out until she was obviously, genuinely sleeping.

He stayed awake a little longer, studying her as much as he could in the dark, trying to figure her out. "Good night, Addie," he whispered back. Her breathing had already slowed and he wasn't sure if she heard him, but it hardly mattered. He closed his eyes, knowing he should get some sleep, too.

It wasn't the wedding night most couples dreamed of. But for this couple, brought together in unusual circumstances, it was definitely the best they could have hoped for. Now all they had to do was sort out the family business. Piece of cake, right?

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Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:43:05 PM »
Her smile didn't fade, and she didn't move away from his touch, letting his fingers graze her cheek as she held his gaze. "I think we have time," she agreed softly. "So long as you can handle being teased by a thirteen-year-old."

"There are worse things in the world," he admitted with a chuckle, before his hand dropped away from her cheek and he turned his gaze back to the view. "It's been a long day. We should both get some sleep."

She sighed, but it was more a sound of agreeing contentment than unhappiness. "Yeah," she agreed, reluctantly turning away from the lake. "Sleep is sounding pretty good right now."

"You have your pick of rooms," he told her, except for the ones that Nora and Danny had already claimed. He'd hadn't picked one for himself yet, and didn't want to assume they'd be sharing a room.

"Oh, I ..." She hesitated, but then thought, what the hell? The worst he can do is say no. "I, uh, I kind of assumed we'd be sharing a room," she admitted. "Unless you don't want to. I totally get it if that's not the plan, it's probably just me buying a little too much into the whole ... marriage thing."

He had to admit his boys would probably question their marriage if they found out they weren't at least sharing a room, not to mention her boys. "The master bedroom then?" he asked, making no argument.

"Is it as stylishly decorated as the rest of the place?" she asked, her smile definitely on the wicked side of teasing as they headed back into the house together.

He chuckled at her question. "As long as you like pink," he replied, obviously amused by her question. "You're welcome to redecorate," he told her, almost hoping she would. The house itself wasn't bad, but the decorating was definitely outdated.

"Oh, thank god," she responded, the relief genuine in her voice. "I figured this wasn't your decor, but maybe you had someone else do it before you moved in."

"No, it was already decorated this way when I bought it," he explained, knowing that wasn't normally the case, but he hadn't realized it would be quite so tacky.

"We can fix this," she promised him, bending to pick up her bag. "Any rooms you absolutely don't want me messing with?" She figured there would be one or two rooms that were his domain; that was generally how it worked.

"Ask me again tomorrow," he said, needing to take another tour of the place by light of day and when he wasn't so tired. "Here, let me take that," he told her, reaching for her bag.

"Sounds like a plan." She blinked in surprise as he reached for her bag, smiling but allowing him to take it. "Thanks."

"No problem," he told her, as he slung the backpack over a shoulder, the empty beer bottle dangling from his other hand. For someone who was supposed to be a member of the so-called mob, he certainly seemed well-mannered.

"Where's your bag?" she asked, glancing around. "Or are you already moved in?" Her brow rose; he had said he'd never been here before, but that didn't mean he hadn't had his boys bring his things with them.

"It's inside," he replied, probably dumped unceremoniously somewhere on the floor. His boys had had a little time to get the place ready, but he knew they'd probably hired help to do most of the work.

"Okay. Well, lead the way." She gestured for him to go ahead of her. "I don't know my way around here yet. We'll be lucky if I can find the kitchen in the morning."

"It's not that big," he told her, amusement apparent in his voice, as he led the way back inside. "It's a nice house. It just needs some updating," he said, though that much had already been decided.

"It'll give us something to do while we're waiting on orders from above," she pointed out, closing the door behind them and automatically flicking the lock. "Hope you're up for wallpaper hanging and painting."

"Who, me?" he asked, brows arching upwards as he glanced back at her. "Don't you usually hire people to do that for you?" Clearly, that was the way he'd always done it anyway.

Adriana stared at him for a moment before breaking into laughter. "Oh, man, you are definitely painting walls," she informed him through her giggles. "This, I have to see."

He rolled his eyes as he started toward the stairs. "Going to try and domesticate me, I see," he said, and though she couldn't see his face, she could probably hear the teasing in his tone of voice.

"Somehow, I have a feeling you can't be tamed," she countered with an audible grin of her own, falling into step to follow him, automatically turning out lights as they went. She hadn't seen any of his boys since they'd landed at the dock, but she knew that just meant they were good at their jobs.

"Maybe I'll surprise you," he remarked, unsure why he'd said it, except for the fact that he found he enjoyed teasing her. He had to admit he enjoyed her company - a fact he found both worrying and strangely reassuring. Instead of heading up the stairs, he went past them, to a hallway where a door had been left slightly ajar. "After you," he said, pushing open the door to let her inside.

"I do like surprises," she mused. "Nice surprises, that is." With a flicker of another grin, she eased past him into the bedroom, fighting down a laugh at the decor that greeted them. "Very pink."

"I think it's supposed to be quaint," he said, surprised to find his bag already there, as if the boys had known which room he'd choose for his own. He supposed it wasn't that hard to guess considering it was the master bedroom.

"It'll do for tonight," she admitted. "Tomorrow, there will be an excursion for new bed clothes, at the very least." Probably a very heavily guarded excursion, but an excursion, nonetheless.

He arched another brow at her remark, but let it go. Anything would be an improvement over the pink coverlet and mauve carpet that just screamed 1990. "As long as it's clean and comfortable, that's all I care about," he said, dropping her backpack onto a chair and turning to close the curtains, pausing a moment at the view of the lake outside the window. "Nice view, anyway."
4
Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:42:46 PM »
"Huh." Danny looked around once again. "Well, it's something to do, right?" he offered, lifting his bag onto his shoulder. "I'll take the room next to Nora's. Adriana's under your watch now."

"Okay, see you in the morning," Matteo told the other man, pausing a moment as if considering saying something more. "And ... thanks," he added, leaving it at that.

For a moment, Danny paused, the barest glimmer of a smile on his weathered face. Then he nodded to the other man, turning to make his way up the stairs and find a room for himself close to Nora. It was a few minutes more before Adriana came downstairs, pulling her sweater off over her head and managing to put her neat ponytail into disarray in the process.

By the time Adriana wandered back downstairs, Matt was in the kitchen, rummaging for anything alcoholic that might settle his frayed nerves. He managed to find some beer in the fridge that his boys must have picked up when they were stocking the kitchen.

"She's out like a light," Adriana said as she stepped into the kitchen, tying her sweater about her waist. "You okay? You seem kinda tense for someone who just had a successful operation completed."

"Want a beer?" he asked, since he was in the process of getting one for himself.

She drew in a deep breath. "Yeah, I think that would be a good idea." Offering him a smile, she moved closer to take the offered drink. "Not quite ready to sleep yet."

He reached into the fridge to get another beer, twisting the top off one before handing it to her. "Me either," he agreed. Though he was tired, he was just too wound up to sleep yet. "There's a patio out back, if you like," he suggested.

"View of the lake in the dark?" she asked, a hint of hopeful excitement in her expression as she took the beer from him. Anyone would think that she liked water.

"Not sure how much we'll see, but yeah," he said. "I'm too wired to sleep yet," he told her. "Come on," he said, leading the way through the living room to a pair of double doors that led onto a patio with a view of the lake and the trees surrounding the house. It was a cozy spot, if a bit on the chilly side.

Making the quick decision to leave her sweater on the counter, Adriana fell into step with him, letting out a soft sigh of relief as they came out onto the patio. Just the sound of the water lapping in the darkness was enough to take the edge off her nerves. "It's beautiful here."

"It is, isn't it?" he asked, lowering himself into a chair and taking a swig of his beer. "Peaceful." At least, for now. He only hoped it stayed that way. He almost wished it was just the two of them - on their honeymoon, maybe - but it was just a wish.

She didn't move to sit down, instead walking to the edge of the patio to stare into the darkness over the lake. There were lights just visible on the far shore, but apart from that, no sight or sound of any other living being around them. "Hear that?" she murmured. "I've never been anywhere so still."

"Wait until morning," he murmured. When his boys would be up playing cards or something, along with the sound of motor boats on the lake and seagulls cawing as they searched for food. He couldn't deny that it was quiet tonight though, as quiet as the dead.

"Seems pretty isolated," she mused, glancing along the shore to left and right, though she couldn't see past the trees. "I guess that was intentional, huh?"

"Not much point in getting away unless you can really get away, is there?" he said, the smile heard in his voice even if she couldn't see his face in the dark. He took another swig of his beer before getting up to join her, suddenly right beside her. "What do you see?"

She smiled, glancing at him as he rose to join her where she stood. Her face tilted upward, away from the water to the starry sky above them. "I don't know how to describe it," she admitted quietly. "It's just ... beautiful."

"I'm glad you think so," he said, finding he meant it. He hadn't bought the house for her, but somehow, he was glad she liked it.

It was quiet for a long time with them both looking out across the water. And finally, Adriana spoke. "I know you didn't have to go through with all this," she said softly. "I just, I just want you to know that ... Well, marriage isn't just a business proposition for me. I'm not going to pretend that we're not married. But I'm not going to put you under any pressure to be my husband, if that makes sense. I'm just ... going to be the wife you let me be."

Matteo arched a brow as he looked her way. He hadn't just been talking about the view of the lake, but he didn't feel comfortable enough with her yet to tell her he found her as lovely as the view. He was surprised by what she'd told him. She hadn't argued for or against the necessity of the marriage, and he'd assumed she had gone along with the plan in order to keep her sister safe, but now he wasn't so sure.

He turned toward her, his eyes bright in the moonlight, a curious expression on his face. "What kind of wife do you want to be, Adriana?"

She smiled faintly, though her eyes stayed trained on the lapping water. "A friend, before everything," she murmured. "Your husband or wife should be the one you feel safest to confide in, to be yourself with. I'd like to be that person, but I know it'll take time. And, well, maybe in time ... something more than just a friendly ear."

He thought about pointing out how this didn't have to be a permanent arrangement, if she didn't want it to be, but something inside him stopped him from saying it. All she was asking him for at this point was friendship, but a small voice inside him was secretly hoping for a little bit more. "I can do that. I can be your friend," he told her, searching her face, even as her gaze remained fixed on the water.

Even in the moonlight, he could see her smile soften at his words, hope and gratitude coming together with warmth on a pale face. "And will you let me be yours?" she asked, finally raising her eyes to his.

"It's been a long time since ..." He trailed off, pausing a moment before continuing as if to find the right words. "... since I've let anyone get close," he told her, lifting a hand to brush her hair away from her face, his fingers lightly grazing her cheek. "It might take a while for me to get used to it."
5
Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:42:23 PM »
Arms hugged about herself, Adriana watched the water turning white in their wake for a long moment before she spoke again. "You know, I've never been here?" she said. "Papa always used to take us to New York, or to Mexico. Never anywhere close to home for a vacation."

"To be honest, I've never been here either," Matt confessed, though that wasn't entirely true. "I saw this place for sale and bought it sight unseen. Thought it would make for a nice getaway." And at 3.5 million dollars, it had better.

She tilted her head toward him curiously. "Why here?" she asked in a soft tone. "Why choose to have a vacation home here, over anywhere else?"

He shrugged in reply. "Like you said, it's close by. And - this is gonna sound lame - but I thought it was pretty. The lake, the mountains, the trees. What more could you want? And it's close to Vegas, but not too close, you know? We'll explore it together," he added with a smile.

"So you're staying with us?" she asked, her own smile flickering into view with genuine pleasure at the thought of that. She had thought that perhaps he was just going to deliver them and then leave them in the care of Danny and a security team.

"Yeah," he replied, blinking in undisguised surprise at her question. "Did you think I was going to leave you here alone?" he asked, though, of course, she wouldn't have been alone. Danny would have been there and a handful of Vince's boys to keep her and Nora safe.

"I didn't know," she told him honestly. "The way you've talked about it, it sounded as though you'd be going back to Vegas to take care of business there."

Matt leaned against the railing and looked out on the lake, the view so beautiful it made his heart ache, almost as much as it did when he looked at Adriana. "Vince wants me here," he explained, not bothering to tell her that Vince was his boss, the head of the Molinaro family. He assumed she knew that much already.

Adriana didn't know quite what made her do it. He just looked so lonely in that moment, staring out over the water. She reached out, curling her arm about his waist as her chin settled on his shoulder, looking out at the view with him. "I'm glad."

In that moment, Matteo couldn't lie - not to himself and not to her. He turned his head toward hers and smiled. "So am I," he said, leaning just a fraction closer, as if to taste her lips again, only this time he'd be the one offering the kiss.

"Almost there, boss," a voice she might recognize as Benny's interrupted, and the moment passed.

Matt sighed. "Your timing sucks, Benny. You know that?"

The other man shrugged. "Thought you'd want to know."

They were so close, she could almost taste the kiss on her lips, warmed by his breath against her mouth, and she didn't pull away, wanting that kiss as much as he seemed to want to give it. Benny's interruption was, however, perfectly timed. Adriana sighed, a resigned smile on her face as she drew back to let Matt speak with his man, turning back herself to look out over the water.

Matt moved over to exchange a few words with "Benny", including scolding him for calling him "Boss". He wasn't the boss; that title was reserved for Vince. While they were talking, the shape of a house came into view, barely seen within the trees, a dock jutting out into the lake. The boat moved closer to the dock, the engine cutting out, a couple of men there to help secure the boat so it wouldn't drift off into the lake. It was well past midnight now, and there wasn't a sound, except for the lap of the waves against the shore and the quiet murmur of voices as the men did their work.

A hand touched Adriana's shoulder - Danny, with Nora draped over his back, barely awake but piggy-backing to get her to the house and into a bed. She smiled at the sight of her sleepy sister, stroking her hair out of her face for a moment before moving to collect their bags and follow them off the boat and onto the dock.

Matt wasn't far behind, grabbing hold of his own bags and whatever bags Adriana couldn't carry. His boys would grab the rest. He glanced at Nora and smiled, wondering which gaudily-decorated bedroom she'd prefer. There were lights on in the house, not glaring, but lighting the way well enough up the path to the house. It didn't look like much from the outside, all stone and glass, surrounded by trees and shrubs. Inside was more stone, a little reminiscent of a small medieval keep, but with more creature comforts.

"Bedrooms are upstairs," he told Danny. It didn't much matter which one, as they were all big enough for two.

"I'll come and get her settled," Adriana assured Danny, who had a moment of looking just a little panicked at the idea of having to put the boss' little sister to bed by himself. She set her own bag down by the couch, keeping hold of Nora's, and lead the way up to pick a bedroom at random for the night.

"Go on," Matt urged the man, who was looking strangely panicked for a moment. "Get some rest. It's been a long day." He needed a few minutes to look around the house and get his bearings.

It didn't take too long for Danny to deposit Nora in the nearest bedroom to the stairs, leaving Adriana to settle her sister down to sleep. He checked the window out of habit, taking a moment to walk the upstairs hall and familiarise himself with the layout before heading back down the stairs. "You need me to wait up on watch?" he asked Matt.

"No, my boys will do that," Matt replied, once he'd had a good look around the house. The layout was pretty simple, but he wasn't sure he was too crazy about the decorating. Still, it was a safe place, at least for now.

The older man nodded, hefting his own bag on his shoulder. "Where'd you want me?" he asked then, glancing about the lower floor. "Adriana's putting Nora to bed in the first room on the right."

"Wherever you like," Matt replied, shoving a hand through his hair, looking more than a little weary himself. None of the bedrooms were particularly masculine. "It's very ... pink, isn't it?" he asked of the decorating. There was one room, though, that was mostly paneled, with a desk and a lounge chair. He might have chosen that room for himself, if it wasn't for Adriana. Were they supposed to share a room now, he wondered?

"Take you didn't decorate?" Danny asked, though it really wasn't a question. No man with even an ounce of taste would have decorated this house the way it was.

"No, I haven't had it long. This is the first time I've been here, to be honest. I was planning on using it as a vacation home," Matt explained. At least, the place had come in handy and no one really knew about it, except those he trusted.

6
Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:42:05 PM »

"Don't thank me yet," he told her, a hint of a smile on his face. He looked tired, too, but it was only just past midnight, and it would take at least another hour before they could all collapse in bed.

"Oh, because that's not ominous," she countered with a teasing glimmer in her eyes.

"You two getting in any time soon?" Danny asked from the passenger door.

Matt's smile widened, until Danny's voice interrupted, and he glanced in the man's direction. "Keep your shirt on," he told the other man, with just a hint of sarcasm. This was his operation, after all, and Danny was just there because Adriana would have insisted on it. "We should get going," he admitted. There would be time to talk later.

Adriana nodded, turning away to slide into the backseat and let Nora slide over to rest against her shoulder. Despite the distinct lack of romance on this, their wedding day, she couldn't help feeling hopeful. After all, she and Matt seemed to be connecting, if only briefly.

Matt shoved the hatchback door closed and went around to take the passenger seat up front, riding shotgun.

"Hey," the driver said, with a nod of his head to Matteo, noticing the ring he was wearing on his left hand. "When'd you get married? I didn't even get an invitation to the wedding," he complained.

Matt frowned a moment as he buckled his seatbelt. So, Vince hadn't bothered to fill everyone in on all the details. "Long story, Benny. Just drive," he told the man.

In the back seat, Adriana stiffened for just a moment as the driver commented on the wedding band Matt wore, wondering how long it would take before the man connected it with the matching band on her own finger. Not that it mattered, she knew. This was just business. Just business. So stop hoping for more.

"Just drive, Benny," the driver echoed in a mock voice. "That's all I'm good for these days. Do this, Benny, and do that, Benny. I got feelings, you know."

Matteo sighed. "Anyone ever tell you you talk too much?" he grumbled.

"Yeah, all the time. Why, just the other day ..." Benny started, as he put the car in Drive, trailing off at the look from Matt. "Yeah, yeah, I know. Just drive."

In the back seat, Danny was actually chuckling quietly to himself, familiar with this kind of personality from his own ranks. Talkative, but loyal to the end. Adriana smiled gently, relaxing back against the seat as she stroked Nora's hair.

Thankfully, even Benny knew when to keep his mouth shut and not push his luck. Even so, the drive to the docks was a short one, and it wasn't long before they were on the boat and heading for the lake house. The stars were bright here, shining like diamonds strewn across the sky; a half moon cast a sliver of silver moonlight across the lake. It was a beautiful, clear night - a perfect night for romance, thought Matt to himself.

Adriana had left Nora with Danny down below, the teenager too sleepy to really appreciate the beautiful view of the lake at night. She tucked her sweater warm about her waist, stepping out onto the deck to lean on the railing, enjoying the cool chill of the wind whipping at her hair. For just a moment, she could forget the reason why she was here, and just enjoy the view.

Matt was already there, having gone up earlier, unable to relax or sleep until he was sure Adriana and Nora were safe. It was just a job, he tried to tell himself, though he knew in his heart that wasn't entirely true. He glanced over as she, too, came out on deck, probably feeling as restless as he was.

"Tired?" he asked, in an attempt at conversation.

"More agitated, I think," she admitted. "On edge. I'll be better once we're back on land and behind walls. Being outside at all makes me jumpy right now."

"Adriana, look around you. There's no one here but us. You're safe," Matt assured her, turning to face her. At least, for now. They were married now, but even that wouldn't protect her if the Puglianis wanted a war.

"I know." She smiled over the water, inwardly rolling her eyes at herself. "I guess a part of me is jumpy because ... it's our wedding night." She laughed at her own nerves, not knowing what she was even nervous about.

"Yeah, well ..." He shrugged his shoulders, attempting to smile back at her. "It's not what I was planning either," he confessed quietly. "To be honest, I never really thought about marriage. This kind of life isn't really conducive to marriage. I don't want my family spending their lives looking over their shoulders, worrying about rival families, cops." Like his mother and his sister had done. And him and probably Adriana, too.

She eyed him thoughtfully, debating what she could and could not tell him. Her long term goal, possibly not. At least, not yet. "At least I know what I'm doing where that's concerned," she offered, to try and reassure him. "I know how to defend myself."

"Against rival families or cops?" he asked, trying not to sound too morose. This was their wedding night, after all. Christ, this isn't how he would have ever wanted to start a marriage with someone like her.

"I'm better against cops, but I can handle myself against rival families," she said quietly, leaning on the rail once again. "They didn't get me when they tried last time."

He was still frowning, his face just barely visible in the moonlight. "The point is you shouldn't have to. You should be able to live without worrying about all that, but that's just the way this life is. And I'm being morose. Sorry."

"It's late, we're all under a lot of pressure," Adriana said gently, straightening up to gently nudge his arm with her own. "You don't have to be upbeat and confident all the time, you know. I'm glad you feel like you can be morose around me."

He harrumphed a doubtful chuckle. "You say that now, but give it a few days," he teased, but at least, he was smiling again, his eyes bright in the moonlight. He watched her quietly a moment, remembering the brief kiss they'd shared back in Vegas - the brief kiss she'd offered him following their vows. What was she really thinking and feeling, he wondered, but he didn't ask.

7
Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:41:48 PM »
It was a natural thing, to turn her hand as he took it, linking their fingers as she turned her head to look at him with a grateful smile. "You're saving our lives," she pointed out. "Believe it or not, I trust you, husband."

"Just doing my job," he replied, which probably put a bit of a damper on the romance, but it was the truth. Then again, he couldn't deny that he enjoyed her company, and she wasn't hard on the eyes either. At least, he was smiling. He could relax for a little while now, at least until they arrived at the lake house.

For all the excitement, however, it had been an exhausting rush from apartment to highway to hotel to helicopter, reflected soon enough by the sight of Nora sighing as she fell asleep with her head on Danny's shoulder. "How long 'til we land?" Adriana asked softly.

"Not long. An hour or so, but we still have to get to the house. So long as no one has blabbed, we should be okay," he told her quietly, so as not to disturb Nora. If the Puglinis knew where they were going, they'd have had no need to tail their car.

"The only one who knows is Danny," she told him. "We kept it very quiet." She hadn't yet untangled her hand from his, leaving them palm to palm, strangely comforted by that connection.

"That's not what I'm worried about," he said, though he didn't expound on that. He'd have preferred to sneak her out quietly, without involving so many people, but it couldn't have been helped. He'd handpicked the men for the operation from those he trusted, but there was always the chance someone had blabbed.

"I know," she murmured. "Sorry this got so complex." She sighed, absently settling her head onto his shoulder. "You know I'll help any way I can, right?"

"You should try and get some rest. We aren't there yet," he told her, an odd feeling in his chest at the way she kept her fingers linked with his, her head against his shoulder. He resisted the urge to brush a kiss against her forehead, turning his gaze instead to the view outside the window, hoping to hell he knew what he was doing.

"Thanks." Her other hand covered their joined fingers as she let her eyes close, safe enough in his presence to at least doze off. Of course, that left Matteo under Danny's watching eyes with no one to prevent any ... misunderstandings, should they arise.

Matteo didn't seem worried about Danny in the least. If there was one thing he was sure of it was that the other man wanted the same thing that he did - to ensure the safety of the two females in their care. He didn't even look the other man's way, keeping his gaze focused on the view, lost in his own thoughts for the hour or so it would take to reach the lake.

A little under ninety minutes later, the pilot began the descent onto an airfield not far from the lakeshore itself. Adriana stirred at the change in direction, opening her eyes as she lifted her head from Matt's shoulder. She glanced at her watch, noting that it was now past midnight. "We're here?"

"We're about to land," he explained, another leg of the journey completed. "We still have to take a boat across the lake to the house."

He wondered if he should apologize. He told himself he was doing this to help her, to protect her, but was that really true? Was this all about business or was there more to it than that? He'd like to think he was one of the good guys, but he knew he'd done some pretty ugly things in the name of business in the past. Maybe she was his redemption. These were the things that had gone through his mind while she'd sleeping.

She nodded slowly, taking this in. "Makes sense. It's harder to track a boat." Straightening up, she glanced down at their joined hands a little guiltily, realising she had been holding on in her sleep.

Matt looked briefly over at Nora and Danny, as if to make sure they sleeping or at least not paying him any mind. "Addie, I wanted to tell you ..." he started, pausing just a moment, but long enough that he never got to finish that statement before the pilot interrupted via the intercom.

"Evening, all. We've arrived at our destination. It's a little past midnight, a warm, balmy night. I'm told your boat is awaiting you at the docks. There's a driver outside who will take you there. Welcome to Lake Tahoe," the pilot said.

Her eyes met his as he began to speak, but the interruption brought a resigned smile to her face. "Timing is everything," she murmured ruefully, squeezing his hand. "Later," she promised, gently releasing him to lean over and shake Nora's knee to wake her up.

"Later, right," Matt murmured, confident now that there would be a later, but unsure when they'd have a moment of privacy again in the next few days or weeks. He unstrapped his safety belt just as the door was pulled open from outside.

"Keep your head down," Adriana told a very groggy Nora, helping her climb down from the helicopter before jumping out herself, both bags now on her shoulder and the teenager leaning against her, very nearly asleep on her feet.

Matt climbed out of the helicopter, his own bag slung over one shoulder as he reached to take another from Adriana. He recognized the man who was waiting to take them to the boat and went over to have a few words with him while the others stowed their luggage and climbed into the car - another SUV, this time blue.

Adriana offered him a grateful smile as he took one of the bags from her, settling the other more comfortably on her shoulder as she talked Nora through virtually sleepwalking toward the car, Danny hovering protectively over them both. Out in the open, the sense of tension had returned, but Adriana realized she still felt safe ... because Matt was there.

Matt glanced over, as if to make sure they were still there, still safe, a few more words with the driver and then he was stowing his bag in the trunk. "I'm sorry this is taking so long," he apologized quietly to Adriana, though he probably didn't have to.

"It's fine," she promised him, letting Danny take over getting Nora into the back of the car. "She's been up since five this morning, she doesn't really do late nights. She'll survive." She smiled at Matt, dropping her bag into the trunk along with his and Nora's.

"She can sleep in tomorrow," Matt told her, as there was no reason for any of them to be up early. The real enemy here was going to be boredom.

"She will," Adriana predicted ruefully. "The problem will be keeping her upright until we're at the safe house." She reached out to touch his hand. "Thank you, for everything."
8
Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:41:31 PM »
To his credit, he didn't let go, the ring feeling strange on his finger but also oddly comforting - like it belonged there. Was it a sign, he wondered. Whatever happened, he realized, he wasn't going to lose her the way he'd lost Emilia. "You're about to have the ride of your life, kiddo," he told Nora as he led the trio away from the room with a mumbled thanks to the officiant who was probably on Vince's payroll.

"I'm not allowed to have a boyfriend yet," was Nora's smart response, drawing an unexpected snort of laughter from Danny as he fell in behind them.

Adriana rolled her eyes. "Gods, what have you been reading?"

"Cute. Not quite what I meant," Matt remarked with a chuckle. "You didn't tell me your sister is a comedian," he murmured to Adriana as he led the way from the room down the hall to the elevator. The stairs would take too long as they were going all the way to the top.

"She should take it on tour," Adriana murmured back, but she had definitely relaxed now that the most nerve-wracking part of the evening was done. "She likes you."

Nora was snickering to herself as they headed for the elevator together. "Oh, I guess you were talking to Addie then, huh?"

"I like her, too," Matt replied.

Though he'd only just met her little sister, there wasn't much not to like. The same could be said for Adriana, too, he realized, which was part of the problem. He liked her too much to trap her in a marriage not of her own choosing. Upon reaching the elevator, he pressed a thumb against the button with the arrow pointing up, pausing a moment to take a brief but careful look around, as if to make sure they weren't still being followed. In a few more minutes, they'd be in the air, and then he could relax.

A moment later, Danny leaned over and pressed the button for the second elevator, apparently having thoughts of his own about the possibility of being followed.

"So are you guys gonna be sharing a bed now?" Nora asked boldly.

"That is for us to know and you not to find out," Matt replied, tapping a finger against his side as they awaited the elevator's arrival, a small sign of nervousness. He was just considering the stairs when the elevator finally dinged and the doors slid open to admit them.

The other elevator arrived in the same moment, and Danny took that moment to send it to the basement parking level, just in case. Then he ushered the girls into the other elevator with Matt. Catching the other man's eye, he shrugged. "Every little bit helps, right?"

"Can't be too careful," Matt replied in agreement with the older man for maybe the first time. He knew Danny was probably not too crazy about this arrangement, but he had yet to suggest a better plan. Matt followed the girls onto the elevator, holding the door long enough to Danny to join them, and then pressing a finger to the button that would take them to the roof.

"Are we staying here tonight?" Nora asked, frowning a little. She wasn't quite following what was going on, and the time was ticking on fast toward ten pm. Late nights were not her thing.

"No, we're going to the roof," he told her, not quite explaining. He hadn't really explained this part of the journey to any of them, but it was too late to back out now. "Ever ride in a helicopter, Nora?" he asked, smiling her way.

The teenager shook her head. "No," she said. "Is that what we're doing? Are we going to to fly over the lake?" The sheer excitement in her face and voice was enough to make Adriana's smile relax, glad that the tension of the evening wasn't enough to take the joy out of a new experience for her sister.

"We're going to fly over everything," Matt said. There would be an amazing view of the city up there, as well as the lake as they flew in. "The city looks amazing at night from the air," he told her. Not nearly as amazing at New York, but it would still make for a breathtaking view. Tonight, they'd just be one more 'copter in the skies over Vegas.

"Wow." Nora's excitement was palpably infectious, enough that Adriana's smile stayed on her face even as she reached an arm about her little sister's shoulders to hug her affectionately.

"Not all bad, huh?"

Matt was glad Nora was excited about this part of the trip more than frightened. He'd done his best to keep them safe so far, but piloting a helicopter was not one of his talents. He watched as the elevator passed floor after floor on its way upward. Ten ... eleven ... twelve ...

Their bags were already settled in the 'copter, ready and waiting for them to get inside, the pilot keeping the blades running so they would have a quick take off. Thankfully, the heli-pad was one of the most secure places in the complex; even if the Pugliani boys tried to get up there, they would have to jump through a lot of hoops for access.

"Careful!" Matt shouted a warning as the elevator doors opened and they shuffled onto the helipad. There wasn't a lot of room on board, but enough for the four of them and their luggage. A pilot and security guard sat up front, leaving four seats empty for the four of them. Matt turned to help Adriana and Nora climb aboard, allowing Danny to take the rear.

Buffeted by the downdraft from the blades, Nora was the first up and into the helicopter, followed swiftly by Adriana, both of them sitting quickly and pausing to work out how to buckle themselves in. Within minutes, the men were aboard, and the 'copter was rising above the high-rises of the city, making a smooth, swift exit from Vegas and its dangerous delights.

"Look at that view, Nora!" Matt called from his seat next to Adriana. Once they were in the air, there was certainly a view - the lights of Vegas twinkling brightly below them.

Settled in next to Danny, Nora had her face practically plastered to the window, staring down at the sparkling glitz of her home city in wonder. Adriana chuckled, feeling a little more of her tension easing as she forced herself to relax into her own seat, acutely aware of Matt right beside her. The ring on her finger felt alien, but not unwelcome, drawing her gaze as she absently spun it next to her knuckle.

"It's gonna be okay, Addie," Matt assured her quietly, while Danny pointed out the various landmarks below them to an excited Nora. He instinctively reached for her hand to give it a reassuring squeeze, hoping he was right.

9
Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:41:14 PM »
Matt understood the necessity of it, knowing it would merge their two families, but it didn't eliminate the threat from the Paglianis, and it wasn't a true marriage - not in the traditional sense, anyway. At least, his mother wasn't alive to see it, though he had a feeling she would have adored Adriana. He led the way up the stairs to the second room on the right, rapping his knuckles on the door as they arrived.

The door was opened reasonably quickly by an older man in a grey morning suit, a bright pink carnation in his buttonhole. "Matteo and Adriana?" he asked, stepping back to allow them in.

Matt scowled at the pink carnation. Could things get any cheesier? At least, it wasn't Elvis. "That's us," he replied. "This is Nora and Danny. He's our witness," Matt said, jerking a thumb at Adriana's bodyguard.

"I've been filled in," the man assured him with a nod. "You have the documents?"

Adriana tilted her head curiously, not entirely sure how this was all going to work, but genuinely wanting to know just how a Vegas wedding was supposed to go.

"Yeah," Matt said, reaching into the envelope for the license and certificate to hand over to the officiant. "Can you make this quick? We don't have much time," he urged, hating himself for it, but he didn't want to linger too long here. He pulled something else out of the envelope and shoved it in a pocket without a word before handing the envelope to Danny.

"That was the agreement, yes," the officiant said, waving them toward a desk that was set up in the room. He quickly scanned the license and certificate before looking up at them. "Have you come here freely and of your own will to engage in matrimony?"

Adriana glanced at Matteo, swallowed, and nodded. "Yes, I have."

That was debatable, but Matt nodded anyway. "Yeah," he said, moving to stand beside Adriana and trying to look like an eager groom, even if the look on his face said otherwise. He felt more nervous about this than he had about the car chase, and he wasn't sure why. Adriana was a beautiful woman, but this wasn't quite the way he'd choose to go about marrying her.

Nodding again, the man straightened up, facing the pair of them. "Do you, Matteo, take Adriana, to be your wife? Do you promise to honor, cherish, and protect her, forsaking all others, and holding only unto her?"

Matt didn't mind agreeing to that much, at least, but until when, he wondered. All the days of our lives or until divorce do you part? "I do," he replied, as was expected, wondering if he should take her hand or something.

"And do you, Adriana, take Matteo to be your husband? Do you promise to honor, cherish, and protect him, forsaking all others, and holding only unto him?"

It wasn't the wedding she had ever thought she might have, but if this was it, then Adriana was going to do it properly. She slid her hand into Matt's grasp. "I do."

The officiant nodded. "Matteo, place the ring on her hand and repeat after me," he instructed. "I take you to be my partner in life, and with this ring, I thee wed."

Matt turned to meet Adriana's gaze, surprised to find her hand had slid into his. Though he had to let go in order to pull the ring from his pocket and set it upon her finger, he found he liked the way her hand felt there and was reluctant to let go. His gaze still fixed on hers, he slid the ring onto her finger and repeated the words. As meaningless as those words might be, he'd meant it when he'd promised to protect her, at least. "Adriana, I take you to be my partner in life, and with this ring, I thee wed," he said, hoping that maybe someday he'd feel more than just a need to protect her.

At the officiant's prompting, Adriana found Danny sliding a simple gold band into her palm, raising her eyes to Matt's as she slipped the ring onto his finger in turn. Though it wasn't the romance she had once dreamed about, there was something calm and kind about Matt that made her feel safe, and of course, he was very handsome with it. "Matteo, I take you to be my partner in life, and with this ring, I thee wed," she repeated softly, covering his hand in hers with the other, making a silent promise to try not to make his life hell just by existing.

The officiant nodded once again. "By the power vested in me by the state of Nevada, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Sign here, and your ride's on the roof."

Matt scowled further, when he should have been smiling, finding himself disappointed that there had been no permission given for him to kiss his new bride. He secretly promised himself that if he was lucky enough to somehow win her heart, he'd give her the wedding she deserved later.

"Right," he said, reluctantly letting for of her hand to take the pen and scribble his name on the marriage certificate.

"What, no kiss?" Nora objected from behind them, apparently incensed by this omission from the expected ceremony.

The officiant looked worriedly at Matteo and Adriana as they signed the certificate. "I ... wasn't aware anyone wanted a kiss?"

Matteo wasn't sure if he was relieved, amused, or annoyed by Nora's remark, but he did find himself chuckling, which did wonders to alleviate the tension he was feeling. "Do we want a kiss or not?" he asked, letting Adriana make that decision.

Adriana was smiling, too, actually a little grateful to her sister for that outraged declaration. "You're such a little romantic," she teased her sister fondly, turning back to Matteo to gently touch a kiss to the corner of his mouth. "Feels a little more official with a kiss."

He was a little taken aback by that kiss, but not unpleasantly so; just surprised by Adriana's lack of shyness in kissing him. He hadn't really had time to reciprocate, but he couldn't help the smile that lingered on his face because of it. "If you say so," he replied. "Come on before we miss our ride," he said. "I hope no one's afraid of heights."

"Is that going to be filed with the city?" Adriana asked, gesturing to the certificate.

The officiant nodded. "Filed, registered, and a copy sent to your secure drop off point," he assured them. Judging by the way he spoke, he wasn't just a simple wedding officiant.

"All right." Adriana turned away, only just realizing that she was still holding Matt's hand. "Let's go."

10
Motley Menagerie of Myriad Marvels / Re: The Great Escape
« Last post by Matteo Alessi on June 29, 2020, 01:40:53 PM »
"Damn it," Matt mumbled under his breath, glancing in the mirror to find the other SUV shadowing them from behind. "Hang on!" he warned the trio in the car with him, before swerving quickly to the left and weaving his way through traffic until he hit the ramp that led to the I-95 North. He wasn't planning on staying on the highway, but getting off and looping back around to their first destination.  There was a reason he'd picked a black SUV, as it looked like every other black SUV on the road and made it easier to blend.

No doubt he heard a squeak from the backseat as the swerve sent the girls sliding into one of the doors, but his abrupt change of direction seemed to take the following car by surprise. Not enough to throw him off entirely, but enough that by the time their pursuers were also on the highway, they were several cars back.

Matt hit the gas, his attention entirely focused on the road and the car that was now also blending into traffic behind them. He knew they'd be searching for them among the lanes of traffic, but they'd be expecting them to keep going forward, possibly heading out of town. Matt accelerated again, the car lurching forward before switching lanes and sliding in on the other side of a truck. He then slowed his speed and dropped back, hoping their pursuers would continue speeding past, losing them in traffic.

The pursuing car put on a burst of speed to try and avoid losing them, but in the moment of changing lanes, Matt confounded the driver. The Puglianis' SUV continued onward, past the semi-truck, clearly now tailing the decoy car that had smoothly slid into the corresponding lane just in time.

Without so much as a sigh of relief, Matt continued to watch the road, no sign of the other SUV in sight. Just in case, he took the next exit, heading west, the traffic thinning as they headed away from the busier downtown area.

For one heart-stopping moment, another dark SUV pulled off the road with them, before flashing their signals in a known code and slowing. The second decoy taking up position to throw others off the scent.

Matt's instincts told him the sooner they got out of Vegas, the better, but he hadn't let his fellow passengers know that they weren't going to be traveling by car much longer. He blinked his hazard lights to acknowledge the other car before heading west on Route 613 heading out west out of town.

"We're almost there," he told them, the sound of his voice less tense than before. The first leg of their journey was almost over.

"I thought we were going out of Vegas," Nora said, her voice just a little muffled.

"We have to make a stop first," Adriana told her. "Little bit of admin to do before we can leave." There was a pause, and then the men heard Adriana groan. "Take the grin off your face, you little monster."

"You can relax now. We're almost there," Matt told them, the tension he'd felt at the car chase changing into a different kind of tension. Each leg of the journey held its own dangers and risks, and though this first stop wasn't dangerous, it was still nerve-wracking.

He heard the two girls straighten up in the back seat, a quiet snicker from the younger Cavarello followed by a harmless thump of Adriana's hand against her sister's leg.

"There are times when I hate you, you know," the elder said in a fond tone.

"Nah," Nora responded, her grin audible. "I'm adorable."

Despite the relaxed attitude of the pair of females behind him, Matteo's tension only seemed to increase the closer they got to their destination. He knew Danny wasn't going to like it, even if he and Adriana had already discussed it. The Pink Fandango wasn't quite as trashy as the name made it sound. It was another high-rise hotel on the outskirts of town, complete with a casino and restaurant, and one that seemed able to cater to any crowd - rich or not so rich.

There were already Molinaro boys in and around the complex, guarding entrances and exits, keeping an eye on everyone coming and going. It seemed to be a busy night; certainly busy enough that no one looked twice at the odd little group as they made their way inside. A bottle-blonde woman with ridiculously high heels and low cut dress met them in the foyer, handing Matteo an envelope.

"Room 25," she told him with a smile. "Everything's prepped, should be in and out in ten minutes. Lonny's waiting on the pad."

"You must be Gemma," Matt replied, taking the envelope from her, while one of his boys wrangled their luggage with the help of a bellboy. This wasn't the way he'd envisioned his future wedding, but it was just a technicality really in the name of business, and he didn't have much choice but to follow orders.

"Vince gave me fair warning," the blonde told him with a smile. "Everything's in place." She nodded to Adriana, and flashed a friendly smile for Nora and Danny. "Up the stairs, second on the right."

"Thanks," he replied, turning to the others, but focusing mostly on Adriana. "Ready?" he asked, the question aimed at her, as he was still uneasy about forcing her into anything she wasn't ready for.

Adriana stiffened, but managed a quick nod. "I'm ready," she agreed, straightening her shoulders. Beside her, Nora's grin returned, bright and teasing, but Danny's expression did not change at all.

They all knew what was coming, but Nora looked like the only one who was happy about it. What should normally have been a happy event was a sober one, due to the circumstances, but it wasn't the end of the world, and if Adriana was agreeable, Matt supposed he should be, too.

"Let's go then," he said, leading the way toward the stairs. At least, he didn't say anything about it being over the sooner the better.

Right now, it was just business, though Vince had seemed pretty confident it would be more than that in time. Adriana didn't dare even consider hoping that it might ever be more than just business. She had a feeling Matt was annoyed that he'd been ordered into this in the first place. Still, she kept her head up and followed him, Danny and Nora falling into step at her back.

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