Hi :) This is the last chapter for Julia. After this, I'll be taking a break for a few weeks because I have a book deadline. Then I'll be back with Francis's futuretake, followed by Junior. In Junior's chapter, we might get a little Matt POV, too. I'll see if he wants to talk! But no matter what, all questions about his past will be answered :)

Special thanks to Lisa, Lexi, and Francesca!


Grand Future Takes

"Personal Vendetta, Part 3/3."


May 2002

(3 year after Grand Finale, some 2 years and 4 months after the Grand Finale epilogue, and 2 years after Alec's future take.)

Julia's POV.

"You don't gotta babysit me, you know." I look down to my lap, wanting to get rid of my leather vest and skirt. I want comfy PJs, but Matt's dress shirt works, too.

Most of all, I wanna be strong. Especially in front of Matt.

I'm fucked.

"I know." Once again, he kisses me—my hair—and I've kinda had it. It's just mean. I want him, so his comfort isn't helping me worth'a damn. "I keep telling myself to go out and help Frankie."

Another kiss, this time lower, at my temple, and it changes everything.

With every second that his lips linger, the air grows heavier and more charged.

I feel his breaths coming out in small puffs against my skin. "Tell me to stop, Julia."

My own breathing hitches, and all I can muster is quick shake of my head.

Please, for the love of God, give me everything.

"Christ…" He nuzzles my jaw as I tilt up, and then after a second of hesitation where he stares deep into my eyes, he takes my mouth with his in a bruising kiss.

Blinding pleasure mixed with shock course through me.

I had no fucking clue that he wanted me. No clue. I thought—

"You drive me crazy," he groans. "Fuckin' bonkers."

Yeah, I thought that.

Fueled by this intense need I've never felt before, I climb on top of him and push him back against the bed. "Ditto."

He cups my ass roughly, all while stroking our tongues together. "You scared the shit outta me tonight. Fuck—I should stop. You're in shock."

"Shut the fuck up," I argue, unbuckling his belt. "Right now there's only one thing I wanna do, and you won't deny me, will you?"

Matt lets out a low laugh that morphs into a moan when I grind against his dick.

"Well, hi." My mouth waters, 'cause someone's obviously planning on breaking me in half with that cock. "Lift up." I tug at his pants and boxers, and we both lift and squirm around to push them off. At the same time, Matt yanks his beater over his head, then gets to work on the zipper at the front of my tight vest.

The minute my vest and skirt end up on the floor, I kiss Matt frantically as he unclasps my bra and shoves down my panties.

"Wait, wait—" He grunts and rolls me over, only to go still and stare down at me. "Slow down." His jaw clenches and he breathes in through his nose.

"But I want you." I arch into him and slide a hand between us to grasp his thick cock. Fuck, all smooth and warm and hard as steel. "Mannaggia, I want you, Matt."

He shudders and grits his teeth. "I said slow down." Lowering his face, he steals a hard kiss and rests our foreheads together. "You've been fucking with my head for a long time. Lemme look at you."

"A l-long time?" I stutter like a fool and flush all over.

His mouth quirks up in a small smile, and he traces a finger down my chest, between my breasts.

"You're fucking incredible," he whispers. "I thought I was a sick fuck—checking you out that night you was brought into the station." Oh, damn. Even back then? More than two years ago. "Moving away to distance myself from you clearly didn't work." He releases a breath and kisses me deeply, stealing my own breath.

I whimper and tremble. I cling to him, and now it's no act. I gotta get closer, feel all of him, have all of him. My hands roam down his muscular back, and I slide my feet up his calves as if I'm making sure he can't escape.

"I hated you," I gasp as he pushes his cock along my wet slit. "Hated the fucking crush I've had on you for years."

"Oh, yeah?" He breathes out a curse and cups one of my tits before sucking a nipple into his mouth. I cry out, once again twisting my body to get closer. God, a magic fucking mouth. "Goddamn sexy…" He moves farther down and circles my belly button with his tongue. "Cazzo. So sweet—I can fucking smell you, baby. You're wet, aren't you?" Before I can answer—with something other than a moan—he drags a single digit all the way from my opening to my clit. "I gotta taste you."

I slap a hand over my mouth as he replaces his fingers with his tongue. Bolts of pleasure shoot through me, causing me to gasp and quiver.

Matt goes deep, a day's worth'a scruff rasping deliciously against my folds and inner thighs. Sucking on my clit, he pushes two fingers inside me, and I nearly arch off the damn bed.

It's never been like this before.

For several minutes, he eats me out like a starved man. He squeezes my thighs, he hums, he groans, he takes me to the edge.

"I wanna come," I plead.

Instead I stiffen up when he stops. He kneels between my parted legs and strokes his cock, all while staring down at my body with a hungry expression. Drawn to him, I sit up and glide my hands along the back of his thighs until I cup his firm ass.

"You on the pill?" he murmurs huskily.

"Yeah."

I don't break our gaze as I lean in and nuzzle the base of his cock.

"Fuck." He shifts my hair over my shoulder and caresses my cheek. "Good. I don't wanna use rubbers with you."

"Why?" I'm not sure I care. All I can think of is his cock—in my mouth, in my pussy. "You're not a safety guy, Confetti?"

He chuckles darkly and fists my hair, tugging it back. I gasp at the sting, and then I'm trapped in the possessiveness darkening his eyes.

"Do I have anything to worry about, Julia?" He raises a brow, and I shake my head no, dazed. "Bene." He brushes a thumb over my bottom lip. "For the record, a guy is never safe around you."

I lower my mouth to his cock, flicking the tip of my tongue over his glistening tip. "How do you figure that?" I taste the salty pre-come, then go back for more.

He curses, still holding on to my hair. "Because you're you—not like anybody else. Now stop teasing me and suck my cock."

I take him as far as I can. For once in my life, I wanna impress a guy, render him stupid, and…I don't know, maybe make him stick around.

"Un-fucking-real," Matt moans. Humor seeps into his voice. "I've wanted to shut you up like this more times than I can count."

A grin tugs at the corners of my mouth, and I flick his balls—hard—as I take him to the back of my throat.

He laughs again, this time through a loud groan, and winces. "You little shit. Come here." He grabs my jaw and dips down to kiss me passionately. "I had that coming."

The amusement lingers while he lowers me to the bed and hovers over me. But there's more. Desire, affection, and…conflict? Except, I don't know what he can be conflicted about.

With a loose hold on my throat, he keeps that penetrating gaze fixed on me as he slowly presses his cock inside me. Inch by inch, he stretches me to the point where there's as much bliss as there is pain.

I exhale and force myself to relax, to which Matt gnashes his teeth together and pushes all in.

My eyes close, and I revel in his weight on me. I feel him everywhere and acknowledge how easy it would be to grow addicted to him.

"Julia…" He kisses my eyelids, then rests his forehead to mine. "Are you okay? Look at me, baby."

I don't wanna. This is like losing my virginity—but with feelings involved. The pain has already subsided, but I feel fucking exposed and vulnerable. I don't do that.

"I don't wanna like you," I mumble, cracking one eye open. "I don't know what I'm doing."

He frowns at first, before, maybe, it dawns on him that I'm not used to this. This, the string thing. Strings attached—or attaching. There are a whole lotta pools I'll jump in at the deep end without a single worry, but I'm still emotionally safe.

Now? Not so much. He can ruin me.

"I don't know what I'm doing, either." He presses his lips to mine gently, lingering. "You're so different."

I crack a grin and shift my hands to his ribs. "I'm a pain, right?"

There's no humor in his expression now, though. "You're something else, that's for sure." The way he looks at me makes me tingle. "Beautiful, unbelievable, dangerous." I suck in a breath at his slow thrust, equally in reaction to his words. "Sexy as hell—and yeah, a pain in the fucking ass."

I giggle, outta breath, then whimper when he starts moving in earnest. He keeps it slow, but he hits deep and never falters in his pace. And he touches me…everywhere.

"I'm already screwed." He nuzzles my jaw and moves a hand to my tits, massaging them, pinching my nipples. "Don't force me to make you my mission."

I offer a quizzical look at that.

He grins, and it's devastatingly sexy. "You'll see." Then he ends all conversation by kissing me deeply, his tongue doing things that make me delirious.

Spurred on by his movements, I lose myself in him and let my body take over. I meet every thrust as my hands begin their quest to find out everything about Matt's body. Like when I slowly rake my fingernails down his sculpted chest and he responds by slamming into me. Or when I pull at his hair and he curses and shudders.

After a while, he rolls us over and sits up, me straddling him. He pushes me down hard on his cock, then abandons my hips to focus on my tits.

He sucks on my nipples, nips at the flesh, and pinches them until they're tingling and aching.

I take control but keep the same pace he did, swiveling my hips to bring him as deep as possible. This position also stimulates my clit every time I push forward, and it drives me wild.

"God, Matt…" I throw my arms around him and crash my mouth to his.

He kisses me back hungrily and squeezes my ass. "Fuck—you feel so damn good."

When he flips us over again, he throws my legs over his shoulders and rams so deep into me that my mouth pops open in a silent scream.

He fucks me mercilessly, takes me so thoroughly, and acts like he hasn't gotten laid in forever. But this is Matt fucking Moretti; he probably has chicks lining up to get a piece.

"Gimme that mouth." He grabs my jaw and plants one on me that doesn't stop.

I feel the kiss down to my damn toes. "Oh my God!" I throw my head back as he grinds against my clit. "Please—"

In an instant, I go from teasing the edges of an orgasm to being right there. Adrenaline surges forward along with the ecstasy of having his cock working me, and I try to warn him. So close, so close, so close. I'm not even sure any sound comes out, but I keep chanting it. Maybe it's just in my head.

"Come." His moan seems grittier and rawer than before. "Jesus fuck—come, Julia."

I'm pulled under within seconds, my entire being tensing up. I flush feverishly and gasp for air, then squeeze my eyes shut and ride out wave after wave of pure fucking euphoria.

Moments later, Matt drives into me one final time before he goes rigid, his cock throbbing and his teeth sinking down into my shoulder.

The aftershocks of my orgasm run through me in the shape of violent shivers, and I draw shaky breath after shaky breath.

Honest to God, I don't think my body's ever been this sensitive and properly fucked.

Hell, even my mind's been fucked.

While we catch our breaths and exchange sloppy kisses, I'm a hundred percent sure I'm so cooked and done that I won't be able to move for days.

But Matt proves me wrong.

He wakes me up an hour later by sliding two fingers inside me, only to gather some of his own release and spread it along my slit.

"I need you again, baby," he murmurs in my ear.

I mumble some sleepy nonsense, half-expecting him to be a dream.

To which he spanks my pussy lightly.

And takes me again.

~oOo~

I grin and pull the covers over my head, not ready to leave this bubble.

Matt chuckles drowsily, dropping featherlight kisses along my spine.

I'm waiting for him to get back to normal. It's with a sliver of dread that I soak up the attention he gives me, because I know this can't last. I'm too much of a mess for him to take seriously—and maybe want more with. But for now…? I pretend the sun isn't here with the morning. I pretend I can't hear Francis stomping around in the living room area. I pretend Matt is only this affectionate with me.

I pretend he's not responsible for this serene calm that has washed over me.

I'm in no rush to go anywhere, which I always am otherwise.

"Maybe I fucked the shock outta you." He smirks against my left butt cheek, then bites it playfully. "You have two sexy dimples here." He kisses both and breathes in deeply. "I can still smell us. Fucking addictive."

Yeah. You are.

Three rounds of amazing sex and the most peaceful sleep I've ever had.

He hums and crawls up my body, his chest to my back, and drops a soft kiss on my shoulder. "You're quiet this morning. The Julia I know is never quiet."

Madonn', I'm glad we're under the covers and he can't see me.

My eyes sting, but I smile. Because if I don't, I'll break.

"We haven't shared mornings together before," I manage to whisper as he rolls me over. I can only see his contours, but even those are hot. I'm in so much trouble. "Maybe I'm quiet in the mornings."

Another hum from him, and he rests his forehead between my boobs. In response, I weave my fingers through his hair and scratch his scalp.

"I—" love your weight on me, I almost said. Shit. I sigh. "I should probably get going, huh? I mean, I'm sure you got more important things to do."

"Running already, Maisano?" He lifts his head and pushes away the covers, much to my dismay, and he peers down at me with an unreadable expression.

I bite my lip, drinking in this moment. Everything—I wanna remember it all. His bed hair, the sleep lines on his chest, the ache between my legs, the weight of his cock along my thigh, his kisses, the rumpled sheets.

His gaze softens, and he brushes the pad of his thumb under my eye. I spot the smoky dust of mascara and eye shadow, and I groan and throw an arm over my face.

"Classy," I mutter to myself.

He leans down close to my ear. "Natural and beautiful." Oh, motherfucking shiver. "Now come on." He taps my thigh. "Take a shower with me. I'm not done feeling you up."

But after the shower you will be?

~oOo~

Wanting to make a lasting impression, I stop Matt from whatever he had planned for the shower.

I carry out my own agenda.

Under the hot spray, he drops his chin to his chest as I take my time to rub his shoulders and back with bodywash. The water washes away the suds, and he reaches behind us to pull me close. I kiss his warm skin, taste him, and circle him until we're facing each other.

He's hard by the time I wrap my fingers around his cock, and without breaking eye contact, I sink to my knees and take him in my mouth.

Aside from clenching his jaw and caressing my cheek, he doesn't do anything, doesn't say anything, while I suck him as good as I can. Every now and then, he tenses and lets out a labored breath, but his main focus seems to be holding me trapped with his gaze.

I don't know what he's looking for.

Stiffening up a bit more, he conveys that he's close and slaps a hand to the tile. He lets out a low groan and shuts his eyes, his head tilting back. And I swallow everything he gives me.

Releasing him, I lick my lips and catch the drop that's trickling down the corner of my mouth. Matt sees it and groans again, then pulls me to a stand and palms my cheeks. He leans close too, our noses almost touching.

He stares at me for another beat before his mouth slants into a small smile. "I've been trying to figure you out." Well, that can't be good. "You think this is the end of it, right?"

I do my damndest to give nothing away, and I kinda wish the floor would swallow me whole. Anything, so I don't gotta deal with rejection.

"You always do what you want." His brows knit together. Maybe he's thinking out loud…? "But now you're… You're holding something back. You're too quiet."

I force a grin and pretend to zip my mouth and throw away the key.

He shakes his head. "You're not always as ballsy as you think you are."

"Fuck you." There's no heat in my words; they only bring me closer to fucking tears.

Instead of smirking or cracking a joke, he dips down and kisses me languidly. Slowly, deeply, passionately. I grab onto his arms to steady myself.

Then he inches away and glances at my thoroughly-kissed lips. "Non vado da nessuna parte, Julia." He says he's not going anywhere, then steals a quick kiss while his words zing through me. "Remember last night you said you like to gamble? I'll go all in if you do."

I suck in a breath and search his eyes. Does he really mean…?

His little smirk appears again, wry but affectionate. "I'm ready to face your pops—if that's any indication of how deep into it I am."

It's more than an indication, and my chin quivers as my vision blurs. So much more than an indication. Because Matt isn't Joseph, who also had to face my dad in a similar way. Matt is not family. He's Italian, thank God, but he's a police officer and an outsider. He's also got shitty luck, having to run into me in places my dad can easily misplace blame. Actually, replace "luck" with "taste." 'Cause Matt's got questionable taste in women if he's gonna take a chance with me.

That said, if he's really willing to gimme a shot, one of the first things I wanna experience again is that calm—the calm from earlier. It felt so fucking amazing—indescribable—to just lie in bed like that and have no need to rush.

It's unlike anything I've ever felt.

"Are you sure?" Those are the only words I can get out without choking up completely. I release a breath and hope the shower masks the tear rolling down my cheek. "I'm not like my sister. I mean, Elisa hasn't always been mature and she can still cause trouble, but I'm worse. I'm a mess—most of the time, really—and I'm not housewife material—"

He cuts off my rambling by kissing me once more, which works. Oh, it works so well. "I'm not looking for a housewife, Julia," he murmurs into the kiss. "I want you—someone who can keep me on my toes."

"You'll be a freaking ballerina, man," I mutter.

He laughs, sounding as happy as I am, and goes back to kissing me.

~oOo~

When we leave the ensuite bathroom, I stop short at the sight of my bag on the bed.

The bag I left at my hotel before the club…

Tightening the towel around me, I cautiously walk over to the double set of doors leading to the living room area and press my ear to one of them.

"Who's here?" Matt frowns and walks over to his stuff to get dressed.

I sigh in defeat. "Dominic." At least it's the lesser of two evils; Anthony's like Dad, but fuck, this still blows.

A glance at the alarm clock says it's only nine, so Dee must've driven most of the night.

"I can talk to him." Matt pulls on a pair of jeans—no fucking underwear—then grabs a gray t-shirt. "Don't worry about it."

I shake my head to clear the fog and put on panties and a bra. "No, I'll deal with them first. You'll get your chance—trust. But they tend to speak with their fists unless there's a daughter or a little sister in the way."

Matt chuckles, unaffected, but I don't care. His face is too pretty to mess with.

"Give me five minutes," I request. He doesn't look happy. "Please."

After pulling on a top with spaghetti straps and a gypsy skirt, I locate my Chucks and Ray-Bans, then leave the bedroom to face the first sexist in the family.

Dominic's on the couch smoking a cigarette, and he lifts a brow as he spots me.

I glance between him and Francis, who's standing in the adjacent kitchen making coffee, and try to gauge their mood. Casual. Both of them. So casual.

"Good morning." I fake cheerfulness and plop down next to Dominic. "How are you?"

He laughs through his nose, then blows out a couple smoke rings. "Oh, I'm fucking great, Julia. I had to leave my wife and kids in the middle of the night to drive to LA and pick up this one sister I have, who either has a goddamn death wish, or maybe she just wans'ta send her brothers into early graves."

Ouch. "You didn't have to do that." I look down to my lap and fidget with my hands. "I'm sorry—"

"Dee." Francis gives Dominic a pointed look.

To which my brother groans and irritably puts out his smoke before slumping back against the cushions. He drags me with him, placing an arm around my shoulders.

"You nearly gave me and Anthony heart attacks, a'ight?" He speaks against my temple, refusing to let me back up. "Frankie's told me everything, and I'm—Madonn'." He jumps up, jostling me, and begins pacing. "I wanna say I'm thankful and proud—for what you did, but…" He stops to glare at me. "It's not your fuckin' place, Julia."

I point to Francis. "Then he'd be dead."

And you're not my parent.

Dominic grits his teeth and squeezes his eyes shut. "Mamma mia, someone give me strength."

Is he like Dad now? Talking to himself?

"She's right, bro. You know that." Francis sits down in the armchair and sips his coffee. "Trust, I was pissed like nothing else when she showed up. You know she's like my sister, too. But she did save my life."

Dominic chuckles darkly and rubs his temples. "And I'm fucking glad, but did it ever occur to youse that if Julia hadn't been there, Matt woulda been ready to save your ass when you was checking the car?" He stares at Francis; meanwhile, I swallow a pile of guilt. 'Cause he's right. If I hadn't been there, forcing Matt to prioritize me…

I avert my eyes; so does Francis.

And of-fucking-course that's the moment Matt decides he's waited long enough.

Dominic looks over at him, only to snort and roll his eyes. "Finally got to stick your dick in my sister, huh?"

"Oh!" I shout.

Before I even know it's happening, both Matt and Dominic fly at each other, and Francis jumps up to intervene.

"You don't know what the fuck you're talking about," Matt growls. He takes a fist to the jaw, then grabs onto Dee's shoulders and knees him in the gut.

"Quit it!" I yell, getting to my feet.

"Dominic—cazzo!" Francis gets in between them and plants his hands on each man's chest. "Fuckin' cool it!"

Dominic wheezes a chuckle, clutching his stomach. "I know plenty, Moretti. I know you've had a hard-on for Julia the past two years."

"Stai zitto!" I snap at my brother, telling him to shut up. Then I nudge Matt back farther and turn to face Dee. "This isn't some one-night stand, you know. But even if it was…?" I scoff and point to myself. "I make my own damn choices."

I'm so goddamn tired of having to answer to everyone in my family. Everywhere I turn, someone is there—Dad, my brothers, my uncle…whoever-the-fuck. Always telling me what to do, what I'm doing wrong.

My brother smirks and shows his palms. "You don't gotta soapbox. But your new man's gotta lotta balls to take shit this far." He steps back and brushes Francis away from him. "He's already risking a bullet for yesterday."

"I'll deal with Dad," I snarl.

"Julia," Matt warns.

For what, fuck if I know.

Dominic nods. "Good luck with that. He'll be home in a week."

I roll my eyes. "I already know. He's on a cruise with Mom."

"Yeah, sure." Dee grins and sparks up a new smoke, then addresses Matt behind me. "That's how much she knows. I'll have your balls removed if you let her know more. There's family and there's family. She's only part of one."

Confused and annoyed as fuck, I peer over my shoulder and frown up at Matt.

He smiles at Dominic, though his eyes are cold. "You forget I know how to play the game, kid."

Can someone give me the rules?

Dee nods. "Keep that up, thinking it's a game, and you'll lose faster than you can have your shit greased. You got no future in this organization if you—"

Matt cuts him off, a brow cocked. "Who says I'm looking to be a member?"

That seems to confuse both Dominic and Francis, and it's not like I'm getting any of my questions answered, either. In fact, I get madder and madder with each passing second, and not for the first time in my life, I wanna get outta here—get someplace where I can breathe. And not be near my family.

I want space.

I want it so fucking bad.

"What the fuck is Pops up to?" Dee furrows his brows at Francis. "I thought—" He glances at me real quick, then sighs and obviously decides not to speculate.

'Cause there's a girl in the room.

I'm so done.

"We're exchanging favors, Junior and me—that's all I can say." Matt drapes an arm around my shoulders.

My brother sucks his teeth. "How convenient my sister runs into the mess."

"I'll stand up to Junior, don't you worry," Matt chuckles.

"Oh, I'm not worried." Dominic seems to think something is funny, too. "I'm gonna enjoy the show, though." He spares me a brief look. "You're staying with Anthony and Gabby until Mom and Dad get back."

And that's it. "No." I shake my head and stand up straight. "I've had it up to here." I flatten my hand near my throat. "I'm not going back."

I get a blank stare from Dee, because he doesn't get it. He doesn't know what I mean.

"I need a break." My heart starts racing as I realize what I want. What I need. "I'm sorry, but no. Just the thought of going back makes me wanna hurl—"

"That's home you're talking about," Dee says flatly. There's confusion in his tone, too. "What the fuck? Am I missin' somethin'?"

I fold my arms across my chest. "I don't wanna go home," I whisper, choking up. Why didn't I realize this before? Like a normal person, I coulda gone off to college. I should've. "I need space—maybe try another city or something."

His eyes widen, and in my peripheral vision, Matt's do the same.

"Where the hell is this coming from?" Dominic asks.

"I don't know." That's honesty. I guess it sorta snuck up on me, and now the truth is staring me down. "I've always tried to break free, you know that." I shrug with one shoulder. "But I won't be able to grow up as long as youse're sheltering me."

Dominic stares at me, and he gets it now. I can tell. He doesn't understand why, but he gets where I'm going with this.

"Dad won't let you," he replies quietly.

I bristle. "It's not fucking up to him."

It hits me just how much I need this, but for once, I'm not gonna rush into it. I'm gonna take responsibility and talk things through with my parents, but the end result will be the same. I'm leaving Vegas for a while. I gotta see places, learn on my own, get away from overprotective family members. Make my own mistakes, grow, mature.

I turn to Matt, resolved and determined. "Do you have work today?"

He shakes his head no, and I catch a glimpse of hurt in his gaze, though he's quick to hide it. But for me, it matters. He doesn't want me to leave, which…which gives me hope.

Facing my brother again, I tell him I have money. I'm good for longer than he can possibly know, and I add that I'll stay hidden if that makes him feel better—if there's still danger or whatever—but I'm not going home.

"Mom and Dad can see me right here when they get back from wherever they are," I finish.

I doubt it's often that Dominic is speechless, but he definitely is now.

Francis clears his throat. "She can always stay with me—just until Junior gets back."

That's not what I want, but I'll take it. If something big really is going down, I'll thank them for any protection, but after that…? I wanna be far, far away. Removed from it all.

"Uh." Dominic scratches his head, then points to the door. "I gotta call Anthony and Dad." He steps forward and pauses by me, tilting his head and frowning. "You serious, sis?"

"Yes."

He studies me for a beat, and when he leaves, I excuse myself to Francis and drag Matt back to the bedroom.

He sits down on the bed, looking kinda weary and confused. The latter is evidently the running theme.

Dragging a hand over his head, he releases a breath and glances down at the bed. "So…everything last night…that was, what, nothing?"

I shake my head quickly and join him, crawling up on his lap. "Come with me." I palm his cheeks and plead with my eyes. "I know this has to sound crazy—fucking nuts—but come with me."

His expression doesn't give anything away. "You want me to be your sidekick on your grand adventure?" Frustration seeps into his voice. "What—I don't fucking get it, Julia."

So I do my best to explain it. I tell him what a fucking amazing family I have and how much I love them, but that I can't turn around without someone watching over me. I tell him that while I can be spoiled and bratty, I don't wanna be that way. I tell him I wanna live on my own—with Matt—and grow up, see the world, and be in charge of my own life.

"I've traveled to the most exclusive places with my family, but it's not the same," I go on. "When I return to Vegas, I wanna know what it's like to live day-to-day, work for pocket change, be in places where my name doesn't give me shit, and know how uncomfortable beds can be at hostels."

Last year, a couple of my friends from high school backpacked across Europe.

I should've gone with them.

Instead I stayed at home, babysat, and then listened to my friends' stories when they came home.

Matt has to understand that. Coming from the family he comes from, I can bet my life on him having a big, fat trust fund, yet he wanted to be a police officer. They don't exactly cash in like kings.

"I know my family has the best intentions for me, but…" I trail off and look down between us, my hands falling down to rest on his toned stomach.

This is something I need, but with everything that happened between me and Matt… God, I'm already so hooked on him that I know I won't leave if he can't come with me. Which might be stupid considering how little we really know each other, but I can't help it.

"If you're worried about your job—"

"Hey." He touches my cheek, making me look him in the eye. "You're not the only one who can drop a last name." His mouth quirks up. "I can get my job back." Fuck me. He's gotta be able to see the hope in my eyes. "I see where you're coming from, baby. I understand it all too fucking well."

His words make me think—about his own family. The politics, the fancy lifestyle. Did he break free from that in some way?

"I'm not gonna bore you with my life story," he chuckles quietly. "Let's just say my pops had big plans for me."

"I wanna hear it, though," I murmur. "I wanna know everything."

He kisses me on the nose. "I'll give you every detail if that's what you want." Another kiss. "You really want me to come with you?"

"More than anything."

"All right. Count me in." He smiles and wraps his arms around me. "But you gotta let me talk to your parents first. Not to ask for permission about the traveling or anything." He's quick to clarify. "It's about respect. They deserve to hear from me—my intentions."

I breathe out in relief and throw my arms around him. "Thank you. Thank you so much—" I swallow my emotions. "I'll make sure Daddy doesn't kill you."

Matt lets out a breathy laugh and kisses my hair. "I appreciate that."

~oOo~

Matt and I are on the couch with Francis when Dominic returns.

It's like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders, and now I'm itching to prepare for our trip. Luckily, we have a whole week here in LA for that, and then I'll take a couple days to smooth things over with my family before we set off.

Both Matt and Francis have convinced me to get back to Vegas when my week here is over, which I'm not thrilled about, but they're right. People deserve to hear from me in person—mainly AJ and Gemma, whom I have work responsibilities with—and we gotta get our passports, anyway.

"How did it go?" I look to my brother and slide off Matt's lap, setting next to him instead.

Dominic yawns and plops down on the coffee table. "Dad's pissed, but I'm not sure he believes you're really leaving." I'm not surprised about that. "He and Mom are meeting up here in LA in a week—after her cruise—but he's adamant about seeing you at home—"

"That's okay," I say quickly. "Matt and I are sticking around here—Francis is letting us stay with him—and then we'll come home to pack."

Dee smiles tiredly. "Have we been that overbearing?"

I hesitate for a second before going with the truth. "Yeah, but I know youse just wanna protect me. I also know I haven't made shit easy for you. But…" I shrug, at a loss.

He nods and grins ruefully. "Well, Elisa's on your side. She's staying at Anthony's house—"

"Where's Joseph?" I frown, hoping nothing's wrong between him and Elisa.

"Outta town," Dominic replies and leaves it at that. Which has to mean work. Maybe Joseph's with Dad. "Anyway, Elisa was there when I called Anthony, and she nearly ripped us new ones for not being supportive of you—qualche cazzata del genere."

"Some shit like that," I translate, mocking. But it feels hella good to have Elisa's understanding. "How would you feel if you had a whole family to answer to, huh? Like everything you do, you'd hafta explain yourself—"

"I'm a man." Dominic points to himself. "That's the difference. It's our job to make sure youse're safe."

God, they're so fucking frustrating!

"I'm not gonna argue wit'chu." I smile tightly. "But count your fucking blessings Dani loves you and married your sexist ass."

Matt clears his throat. "You know, I'm not much different, baby."

Dominic and Francis laugh.

I do not, 'cause I don't buy it. Matt's different.

I narrow my eyes at him. "What year is it?"

His brows rise. "2002."

See? He's different. And to prove it, I point to my brother. "What year is it?"

Dominic rolls his eyes but grins. "I know why you're asking, and I'll fucking humor you. It's 1953. But in my defense, Anthony's worse than me. Dani would cut off my balls if I bossed her around too much."

Very true. "That's how we grew up," I tell Matt. "It's the fifties in Mom and Dad's house, and my brothers are pretty much the same. Maybe it's the seventies in Elisa and Joseph's house. Maybe."

Matt chuckles and kisses the side of my head. "I can get you to the eighties, whatever that would entail."

I'm good with the eighties. It's practically the future compared to my parents' house.

"Before you take her anywhere…" Dominic gives Matt a pointed look, irritated.

"Didn't I already fuckin' tell you that?" Matt responds impatiently. "Chill, for chrissakes."

"Yo, lemme tell you how it's gonna work," Dominic laughs humorlessly and stands up.

"Sit the fuck down." I point.

To my surprise, he actually does. "That's not how it works," he mutters.

I grin and blow him a kiss.

"Welcome to the family, Moretti," Francis says with a smirk. "They drive you crazy—"

"AY!" Dominic and I shout.

Francis nods and points between me and Dee. "See? One second, they're at each other. But they'll gang up on you just as fast."

"What the fuck're you talking about?" Dee asks, speaking with his hands. "You talk as if you're not an honorary Maisano yourself."

"Yeah, you better watch your mouth, son." I jut out my chin at Francis. "And just so you know, you're breaking Mom's heart by not visiting more often."

"Exactly." Dominic agrees.

Francis looks up at the ceiling and sighs. "Why did I open my fuckin' mouth?"

Feeling Matt's shoulders shaking, I look at him to see he's tryin'a hold back laughter.

I smile carefully, suddenly nervous. "Still wanna take a chance on this madness?"

The amusement fades slightly. "More than ever." He cups my cheek and pecks me softly. "I'm all in."

Mannaggia, I'mma fall in love with him so fast, aren't I?