‘Obviously not,’ said Valentino.
Luca muttered something to Valentino and then pulled his car keys from his pocket. ‘I’ll take you, Sophie,’ he said. ‘Come on.’
‘Don’t you want to pick your gun, Luca?’ said Nic. ‘Before all the good ones go.’
Luca was halfway to the door. He didn’t bother turning around to answer. ‘A gun is a gun, Nicoli, not a trophy. Just get them out of the way before the others come downstairs. I don’t want Sal and Aldo seeing them.’
Dom started laughing. ‘Geez, I can’t wait for Christmas so you can suck the joy out of that too.’
Luca raised two fingers over his head, and then disappeared into the driveway. I put my gun down and shrugged my bag on to follow him outside.
‘Good luck going to school under that black cloud,’ said Dom sarcastically. ‘At least we’ll all get a break from him.’
‘Grow up.’ Valentino slapped the back of Dom’s head. ‘Just because he doesn’t want to play with guns like they’re toys.’
‘Blatant favouritism,’ Dom muttered.
Nic caught me by my hand, tugging my attention back to him. ‘I’ll save this one for you. Jack won’t know what hit him, Soph.’ He smiled up at me.
I smiled back. ‘Thanks.’
His fingers were pressing into my palm, jolting warmth up my arm. ‘How high is that friend-zone fence now?’
Frustration careened over my gratitude. ‘One hundred feet high, and covered in barbed wire, Nic.’
Dom, who had clearly been listening in, snorted. ‘Keep climbing, bro, and die trying to get over it.’
Nic slammed the butt of his gun into Dom’s arm, and I left them behind me, bickering.
In the driveway, I slid into the front seat of the car and dropped my bag in front of me so I could put my seatbelt on. ‘Thanks for babysitting me,’ I said. ‘I think Dom is finally getting fed up of being my driver.’
Luca started the engine and reversed around the driveway in a wide arc, his hand slid across the back of my chair, his gaze over his shoulder. ‘I’m just sorry I interrupted such a precious bonding moment.’
‘With me and Nic, or me and my new gun?’ I asked the side of his face.
His laugh was short and mirthless. ‘Aren’t they one and the same now?’
I rolled my eyes. ‘Let’s not do this, Luca. We’re never going to agree about this, so why keep going round in circles?’
He wasn’t looking at me, and I wasn’t looking at him. ‘Sometimes I wonder if you make decisions just to piss me off.’
I glared at the road. ‘Sometimes I wonder if you give yourself too much credit in my decision-making.’
‘Do you have a death wish?’
‘I have a revenge wish.’
‘I have a problem with that.’
‘Then evict me.’
‘Then deal with it.’
He ground his fingers around the steering wheel. ‘And you wouldn’t consider taking a step back from the guns,’ he said, ‘and letting me handle it for you?’
‘What do you mean, handle it?’
‘Let me take care of your uncle and Donata.’
‘And what, I just stay at home, looking wistfully out the window as you go forth and massacre my family?’
‘I’d prefer it to the alternative.’
‘Well, that’s not your decision to make,’ I said, carefully. ‘We’re all in this together now, and I don’t plan on failing again when my time comes.’
He set his jaw, a muscle feathering below his cheekbone. He chewed on the silence, and I fell into it, preferring it over the constant need to convince him, to avoid being convinced by him.
We were pulling up outside Cedar Hill High before he spoke to me again. He shut the engine off and turned to face me. My heartbeat immediately kicked into high gear, but I knew he wasn’t going to kiss me. That side of us was long gone. We were more like adversaries now, with a vague sprinkling of friendship every now and then, when we weren’t arguing.
I raised my eyebrows. ‘Yes?’
‘Sophie.’ His eyes were the purest blue in the morning sunlight, his lips lightly parted so that his breath warmed his words. ‘Can’t this just be enough for you?’
‘W-what?’ I stammered.
‘School,’ he said. ‘Your friends. Normality. Isn’t it enough?’
My face fell. ‘Oh,’ I said, trying to harness myself again. ‘School. Normality.’ I grabbed my school bag, and popped the door open before my embarrassment could swallow me whole. I hopped out and ducked my head inside, towards him, trying very hard not to look at his lips.
‘Look,’ I said. ‘If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t totally disengaged from my old life. I’m doing the most normal high school thing ever tomorrow night. I’m going to the masquerade dance.’
‘The dance,’ I repeated. ‘You know, Millie’s dance?’ And then I realized I had never once mentioned Millie’s dance to him, because, why would I? We didn’t talk about the light-hearted stuff, the falsities of my second life. ‘Tomorrow,’ I clarified. ‘I’m going. More or less against my will, but Millie was very adamant from the start and I kind of owe her, y’know?’
He was staring at me. It was not in a sexy way.