‘It’s the pain meds,’ I said, struggling to keep my eyelids open.
Millie huffed a sigh. ‘Let’s put this on pause until you’ve slept it off. Let’s get you into your pyjamas.’
‘I’m sorry,’ I murmured, unzipping the dress. My hands were moving in slow motion. The sides of my vision were fuzzy. There was no pain in my shoulder now. ‘The dress is stained.’
Millie helped me shimmy out of it, doing most of the work while I just flopped around like a marshmallow.
‘I don’t care about the dress, Sophie.’
I wriggled into a T-shirt and sweatpants. ‘I wish you did.’
‘No, you don’t,’ she said.
‘I wish you were less observant.’
‘I wish you were less stubborn.’
‘You’re just as stubborn as me.’
‘Yup,’ she said, helping me under the blankets. ‘That’s how I know I’m going to win.’
My eyelids were drooping. I felt at peace, like I was floating above myself. The argument was far below me, in another place.
She tucked the duvet around me. Dropping her voice, she brushed the hair from my face, and her voice followed me into the darkness as I drifted off. ‘I’m going to win this argument. I’m going to drag you out of here if it’s the last thing I do.’
Then I was gone, and so was she.
‘My cereal tastes funny.’
‘That’s because you’re still high,’ Nic pointed out. ‘How many painkillers did you take this morning?’
I held up two fingers to him while I crunched. ‘Everything tastes like marshmallows.’
‘That’s because you’re eating Lucky Charms,’ he said, laughing.
I smiled at him, my mouth still full. I imagined I looked like a chipmunk.
‘How’s your shoulder this morning?’ asked Elena, who was making an elaborate fry-up across four pans.
‘It’s OK,’ I said, rotating my arm to see how much it hurt.
Yup. Still hurt.
Felice was at the head of the table, peering at me over his frothy cappuccino. ‘Welcome to the Gunshot Club, Persephone. Do you feel invincible?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘Should I?’
‘No,’ he said, his smile curling. ‘You shouldn’t.’
I stored that veiled threat along with all his others and demolished another spoonful of Lucky Charms while the smell of bacon filled up the kitchen.
‘How many eggs, Gino?’ Elena asked over her shoulder. She was still dressed in her silk dressing gown, her long dark hair spilling in waves down her back.
‘Six,’ he called out, his words warping around a mouthful of toast.
‘Dom?’ she asked.
I had come to discover that Dom didn’t speak all that much before 11 a.m. It was a delightful Falcone fact. He held up four fingers.
‘Four,’ said Gino for him.
‘Three. Double bacon, please.’
‘Three,’ CJ said, glancing at Nic. ‘And double bacon too, please.’ Dom had caught CJ trying to drive his car the other night and had nearly slapped him into the next state, so CJ had temporarily directed his hero worship to Nic.
I slurped another spoonful down, barely tasting it. I had only been up a few hours, but I was exhausted already. My shoulder was throbbing dully, my eyelids were heavy from the painkillers and I could feel Felice staring at me across the table.
‘Sophie?’ she asked after another beat.
‘No, thank you.’
‘Where’s Valentino?’ asked Gino. ‘He’s usually up early on Saturdays.’
‘With his brother,’ said Felice.
Dom rolled his eyes. ‘Valentino is probably helping Luca turn into an actual punching bag so he can beat the shit into himself in a more efficient way.’
Felice snorted, then dipped into his cup to hide his amusement.
‘Leave him alone,’ I chided Dom. ‘You weren’t there.’
‘Eh, yeah, because I’m not a stupid teenager who gets off on drinking spiked punch and playing dress-up at the local high school.’
‘You also weren’t invited,’ Nic pointed out. ‘Because girls find your hair gel repulsive.’
It was my turn to laugh. Nic exchanged an appreciative glance with me. CJ bit back his smile. He wasn’t ready to go full Judas on Dom yet.
‘That’s hilarious,’ said Dom, not smiling remotely. ‘Almost as hilarious as Sophie inviting Luca and not you, the person who’s still desperately trying to screw her.’
I spat out my next spoonful.
‘Dominico!’ Elena shrieked, whirling around. ‘You will not speak like that in this house. And certainly not in front of the younger children.’
‘I’m not a child,’ CJ snapped.
Nic fired his fork at Dom, catching him in the side of the face. Their chairs screeched back at the same time, both of them lunging across the table at each other. Gino grabbed Nic by the waist and spun him around, away from Dom. I was on my feet, too, swatting Dom’s hands back across the table. ‘Sit down, you moron.’
‘He could have cut my eye out!’
‘And you would have deserved it,’ Elena snapped. ‘Have I raised a pack of wolves?’ She threw her hands up at the ceiling. ‘Ti prego, Dio, dammi la forza!’