The next couple days went by with Ty enjoying her new skate gifts as well as finally preparing to get her driver's license so she could also make use of Roberto and Lorenzo's gift. Grandpa Tyler had joined Ty and the boys at the skate park for a few days, Roberto insisting on sending Mario and Luigi as bodyguards, before returning to his house in Brooklyn where he had been living for the past five years. He promised Ty it wouldn't be the last she would see of him.
Now it was Friday and Ty was returning from Jimmy's house after spending the day with the boys and Victoria, as it was her last day before she returned to LA for college. Victoria had insisted on giving everyone a makeover and demanding they model for her so she had pictures she could look back on. She refused to let any of them look in mirrors or see the pictures but Ty had the suspicion that something drastic had been done to her hair. The boys kept sneaking shocked glances at it and Mrs. Jenkins had nearly had a heart attack when Ty went downstairs to grab a snack.
Ty had been stuffed into a pair of white skinny jeans and an off the shoulder red and white striped shirt over a red tank top that all belonged to Victoria. The jeans were form hugging the boys couldn't help but tease Ty excessively while she was dressed in the completely out of character clothes. Ty returned the favor when Fred had to wear a crisp polo, Drew a vest, Grant a silk shirt, Henry a tie, and Jimmy a bowtie and full sleeved button down. None of them would give her a hint about her hair though. Even the day's bodyguards, Brody and Rodney, were convinced by the boys to not say a word about her hair.
"You are not allowed to touch your hair, understood?" Victoria had demanded. "Today's pictures will be all over your school if I find that you didn't wait until those Italian boys saw you."
Ty could only grudgingly nod and agree to Victoria's terms. She had no idea what her hair was like since it was held back in some kind of updo out of her face. She couldn't see a strand.
"I'm back!" Ty called out once she entered the mansion. She had already said bye to Brody and Rodney when they parked their bikes in the garage.
She heard footsteps coming from the right and pulled her new helmet off her head, Victoria's hairstyle somehow not coming completely apart.
"Hey," Ty greeted when she saw that it was Roberto and his sons. They looked to her and gaped, their previous conversation concerning their search for Bellini forgotten as they stared in shock at Ty.
"Everything alright?" she asked, her grin turning into a worried frown. She looked behind her and when her grey eyes only saw the empty hallway, turned back around. "What?"
"Elise?" Roberto breathed. He snapped out of whatever trance he was in and shook his head before forcing a smile, "Ciao, bambina. How was your day?"
Ty frowned, wondering who 'Elise' was, "It was fun. Icky decided me and the boys needed makeovers. Ugh. Are you guys acting weird because of my hair? What did that woman do?"
Ty reached a hand into her hair and pulled at the hairband, shaking it out and catching a lock and bringing it to the front.
"I'm blond?" she exclaimed in disbelief. "She fucking dyed my hair blond! What am I, her Barbie doll?" Ty chose not to think about how she was indeed a dress up Barbie doll for the older girl just a few minutes ago at Jimmy's house.
"It appears so," Roberto said. He was unusually out of sorts and quickly dismissed himself, retreating with haste to his office.
Ty frowned, "Seriously, other than my fucked up hair, what is going on? You all look like you just saw a ghost or something."
"Un fantasma… That's not too far from the truth," Carlos muttered under his breath but Ty hadn't heard him. Aloud, he forced a plastic smile he was well accustomed to, saying, "It's nothing, Ty. We were just really surprised to see your new hairstyle."
"Yeah," Luca nodded in agreement. Dante simply left without a word but that wasn't so unusual.
Ty wasn't buying it but decided to let them off the hook for the moment. "I'm gonna see what exactly Icky did to my hair. Blond, of all the fucking colors why blond?" she muttered, heading upstairs. She was also going to call Victoria to find out exactly what kind of dye she used on Ty's hair, hopefully it was the type that washed out with shampoo.
One quick call later (where Victoria laughed at Ty's plight) and Ty glaring at her new blond do, Ty was relieved to find out that her hair would be back to normal after a good shampooing. That problem out of the way, she was fully intent on finding out who Elise was. Roberto and his sons seemed to have seen a ghost from the way they had looked at Ty and Ty was going to find out why. The incident made her realize how little she actually knew of her temporary hosts. And she was about to change that.
Ty was a woman on a mission. She left the bathroom and first checked the boys' rooms but none of them seemed to be there. She then took her quest upstairs to seek Lorenzo or the twins. Instead, she saw Randy, the guy she met the day she had her breakdown.
"Randy!" she called just before he turned a corner.
The dark skinned bald man stopped in his tracks at his name and turned around.
Ty ran to catch up to him as he took a moment to try and recognize the blond haired girl that knew his name. When Ty was in front of him it dawned on him that she was the fiancée. "Ty, you look different."
"Yeah, blame one of my best friends' sister. Anyway, I was just wondering if you know of someone called Elise. Like, what she is to Roberto?"
Randy frowned for a moment before shaking his head apologetically, "Sorry, I can't help you there."
Ty's shoulders slumped in disappointment but she wasn't deterred. "Have any idea who would know this Elise person?"
"I'm afraid not. Have you tried Lorenzo or the twins? They've been with Roberto since the very beginning. You could also just ask Roberto himself," Randy suggested.
Ty sighed, "I doubt he would answer me. He looked like he saw a ghost."
Randy patted Ty's shoulder, "I'm sorry I couldn't help, but I do suggest you just ask him directly."
"Thanks, Randy. I'll see you 'round," Ty said and headed downstairs. She was going to try and get information from Lorenzo or the twins before she moved onto the brothers, namely Carlos and then Luca. She doubted she'd have any luck with Dante.
Ty looked around and managed to find Lorenzo in the kitchen with Luigi.
"Chucky, Luigi!" Ty called to get their attention.
"Bambina?" Lorenzo tried, eyes wide at Ty's newly colored hair. For a second he thought she looked like someone else and could only ask, "Has Roberto or the boys seen you yet?"
Ty's brow furrowed in confusion, "Yeah, why?" Then it hit. Her eyes widened, "You do know!"
Lorenzo frowned, "Know what?"
"Elise!" Ty exclaimed. "Roberto said that when he saw me. Who is she?"
Lorenzo's eyes widened and he quickly shot a glance to Luigi who was wearing a similar face. Their expressions were enough for Ty to know that they definitely knew who Elise was.
Lorenzo set down the pot of water he was holding. He was about to respond when a harsh voice cut through the kitchen.
"Why the fuck do you want to know?"
The three turned around to see Dante scowling at Ty. He looked practically murderous.
Ty was stunned for a moment before she managed to get a hold of herself. "I was just curious," she answered but was not up to her usual standard of confidence.
"If you know what's good for you, quit being a nosy little bitch. Bellini will be dealt with and then you can fuck off back to your shitty parents and sheltered lifestyle while you fuck your little skater friends." With that Dante stormed off leaving shocked silence in his wake.
After a few dead silent moments, Lorenzo rubbed the back of his head as he looked to Ty. "Elise is…a touchy subject, bambina. I wouldn't bring her up in front of the boys or Roberto."
"It's old history but none of the Rizzos have seemed to have gotten over it," Luigi added.
Ty looked down at her feet and wrung her hands in front of her, "Sorry. I just…I know nothing about them and here I am living in their house under their protection. I just…I didn't think…"
Lorenzo smiled sadly and went over to the brunette, pulling her in for a hug, "It's alright, bambina. Like Luigi said, it's history that the boys haven't really gotten over. It happened years ago."
"I still feel bad," Ty murmured.
Luigi gave the girl a smile, "Why don't you tell that to Dante? He's a little rough around the edges and I think it was just the unexpectedness of having to hear about Elise that got him so riled up."
"Thanks. I'll go find him," Ty said, confidence renewed to an extent. She left the kitchen and looked into each room she passed. She was heading for the firing range on instinct but checked the rooms she passed just in case she missed him.
When she was facing the metal door of the firing range, she took a steading breath before trying the door. To her relief, it opened and she peeked inside and saw that the boy she was looking for was indeed right there, firing with precise accuracy at the targets without a moment's hesitation.
Ty stepped inside and closed the door behind her as she waited for Dante to either notice her presence or until his clip ran out.
Dante noticed Ty the moment she entered but he was still fuming and had more than half a clip to go through. He had completely forgotten about Elise until he saw Ty with her blond hair, grey eyes, and easy smile.
"Trying to leech out more information, stronza," Dante said once his clip was empty and he had placed the headset and handgun down. He had yet to turn to face her.
Ty held back her second nature urge to retaliate and responded, "I came to apologize."
Dante turned to look at her in surprise. He had not been expecting her to apologize. Really, he had no idea what to expect from her but an apology was far from his mind.
Ty rubbed the back of her neck, "I just… I'm pretty much freeloading here and you guys are protecting me from that psycho Bellini and I don't know anything about you all. I just…I don't know, I feel like I've been getting closer to you guys and I like you all a lot more than I did when we first met, which you can't really blame me for since you did drug and technically kidnapped me but," Ty stopped and took a deep breath. She was getting off track. "What I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry for prying into your personal business. I had no right and it was none of my business. I had no idea that Elise is a touchy subject for you guys and I'm sorry for opening healing wounds."
Silence reigned and Ty was growing uncomfortable when Dante continued to not respond. He was just staring at her and she could help but look at the floor, shifting her weight on her feet and playing with the bottom of her shirt.
Finally, Dante sighed and rubbed his face muttering so low under his breath that Ty couldn't hear him, "I am going to regret this."
"Do you really want to know?" he asked aloud, shocking Ty into looking back up at him.
She hesitated before shrugging, "Kind of." Truthfully, and Dante could tell, she was dying to know. Belatedly, Ty rushed to add, "Only if you're comfortable with it. You don't have to satisfy my stupid curiosity."
Silence overcame them then and Ty was about to take Dante's silence as an "I'm not spilling" and was about to turn to leave the boy to his guns, but then Dante said, "Elise is-was, my, well, our mother."
Immediately Ty felt horribly guilty. Despite her own relationship or really lack thereof with her own mother, Ty knew some people had really great relationships with their own, her friends being daily examples.
"I'm so sorry," Ty blurted out. I can't believe I was that insensitive!
"She's not dead, if that's what you're apologizing for," Dante said stiffly. It was difficult to talk about his mother.
"Her name was Elise Leray before she married Papà but now she's Elise Leray-Devereux," Dante spat at the end. He clenched his fists and tried to control his anger.
"Do you want to maybe sit down?" Ty asked quietly, moving towards him.
Dante nodded and the two sat down with their backs against the nearest wall where bulletproof glass cases were mounted above their heads.
It took Dante a few moments to calm himself before continuing in an almost detached, cold voice.
"Papà used to live in Italy, Catania, where we're from. He met Elise there, she's half French and half Italian, Venetian. She met Papà when she was visiting Italy and eventually they got married before moving here. She didn't know Papà was part of the mafia, the real reason they moved from Catania to New York. Papà was going to take over from the previous don but Mam-Elise, didn't know about Papà being in the mafia. When I was seven, Papà finally told her, he told all of us even though Carlos was eight and Luca only six. They fought and I watched her pack her things and move out in just a day before she took the next flight back to France after getting the divorce finalized."
Ty didn't know what to say or do. She wanted to give Dante support somehow but she could tell he wasn't quite done yet.
Dante breathed out through his mouth before continuing on. "Papà kept tabs on her, to make sure she was safe but I knew he was hoping she'd forgive him and come back. It was after one year that he stopped. Carlos, Luca, and I noticed he was suddenly even more down than before. Carlos, ever the tech wiz, managed to find out that she had gotten married to some French patisserie owner. Not once has she ever tried to contact us. She just left us." Dante's knuckles turned white as he dug his fingers into his palm. He was glaring straight ahead at an invisible point on the other wall.
"You know that stupid vase he has in his office? The one you broke and then he replaced with the same stupid flower?" he asked, his voice harsh, almost rasping. "Fucking Easter lilies. They were her favourite flower."
Ty couldn't hold back anymore. She turned her body to face Dante and wrapped her arms around his torso, placing her cheek on the left side of his chest just under his shoulder.
"What are you doing?" Dante asked stiffly, his body tensing the moment Ty had her arms on him.
"I don't actually know, to steal your words from that time. You know, when I had my annual mental breakdown in this very room," she responded. She had ducked her head so that Dante wouldn't see how red her face had become but he still saw her ears. Her bright red little ears.
Dante shook off the sudden bombardment of thoughts that all led to him leaning down and nibbling on those very ears and instead put one hand on Ty's waist and the other in his lap. He didn't really know where else to put them comfortably even though he was feeling quite awkward with Ty hugging him from the side. His brain still hadn't caught up to the act. Now he knew how Ty had felt when their positions had been reversed.
Ty began to pull away but Dante's arms moved on their own and were quickly wrapped around the girl, holding her in place. Ty was surprised but didn't say anything and instead just continued to hold Dante around his torso.
Dante put his chin on Ty's head and murmured, "Stealing your words from that time, grazie… Sierra."
It took Ty a moment but her brain managed to compute the fact that he hadn't called her stronza or idiota or any other Italian insult, but rather Sierra, her unofficial middle name. She found that she liked the way it sounded on the dark haired boy's tongue, the way he rolled the R's.
"By the way, you look nothing like her. It was just the shock of seeing blond hair and grey eyes in such close quarters again."
"Don't worry, the blond washes out with a couple rounds of shampoo."
They sat there on the floor, bodies turned towards each other in a companionable silence. Ty couldn't help but relish in Dante's hold. She felt warm, safe, protected in his arms. He smelled good too – ignoring the scent of sweat – masculine and slightly citrusy. She was brought back to when he was the one comforting her and remembered how she had enjoyed the contact as much as she did now.
Dante ignored all his thoughts saying that he had to move away. Carlos' words came unbidden to him once again, much like they had throughout the week since Ty's birthday, but this time it was stronger and he couldn't ignore or shove it to the far recesses of his mind.
"Quando si sta per ammettere che ti piace lei?"
I don't love her...I think. Cazzo, I don't know anymore.
Dante was so confused. He did find Ty annoying and a pain in his ass, at the beginning. But he had to admit to himself that she was interesting and feisty and pretty special. That he didhave some kind of affection for her. It was impossible to deny it any longer, futile even, especially after his older brother had so kindly forced him to analyze his actions regarding the grey eyed brunette.
Dante tilted his head so his nose was in Ty's hair and smelling his shampoo is what he blamed for his next course of action.
He squeezed Ty once more and pressed his lips to her head before releasing her, even though his body was protesting at the latter action.
Ty was frozen. She didn't know if she had imagined the affectionate kiss to her head and she found herself hoping it wasn't just a figment of her imagination. The thought alone and the sudden rush of emotions ranging from heady giddiness to complete befuddlement was enough to have her release her hold on Dante and stumble to her feet.
"I-uh-I'm gonna go find Roberto," she stuttered. "See you later, Dante."
Dante watched with mixed emotions as Ty tripped over herself getting out of the room. On one hand he was pleased to see that she was clearly affected by his actions and presence and on the other hand he felt a pang in his chest at her hurry to escape from the room. In all though, he could still hear Carlos in the back of his head and knew that he was quickly reaching the point where he couldn't deny his turbulent feelings any longer. He had to come to a conclusion.
Ty burst out of the door leading to the shooting range and leaned with her back against the closed door as she tried to calm down. Her eyes were closed and she didn't hear anyone approaching.
"Oh, bambina," Roberto said, breaking into her concentration and making her eyes fly open in surprise.
"Hey, Roberto. I was just-I was just about to go looking for you actually," Ty said. Her heart was racing and she was still pretty flustered from what happened in the shooting range but she managed to calm herself and push away thoughts of whether the chaste kiss had been an imagination or not away.
"What's the matter?" he asked, lips pulling down into a concerned frown.
Ty worried her bottom lip before looking up carefully and saying, "I kind of learned about Elise."
Roberto didn't know what to say or think for a moment. He finally sighed, "It was quite the surprise to see you. I apologize about the way I reacted when you returned."
"No, no, no," Ty rushed to stop him. "It was not your fault and I just wanted to say that even though I'm a couple years too late and really have no right to be in your business, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. It must have been hard, but you raised your boys pretty damn well and well yeah."
Ty blushed at her lack of eloquence but Roberto just smiled and pulled the girl in for a hug. He kissed her forehead and said, "Grazie, bambina."
When they released each other Roberto smiled down at the grey eyed girl, "Can you do just one thing for me?"
Ty cocked her head to the side, "Depends on what it is."
"When this business with Maurice Bellini is over, can we still see you around?"
"Of course," Ty said. "At first, I was first in line to get away from you guys but now that I've gotten to know you lot to an extent and with all you've done for me, I can't picture my life without you stubborn jerks." She finished with a grin that had Roberto laughing.
"I'm pleased to hear that," he said, amber eyes twinkling.
Ty pointed her thumb down the hallway towards the main staircase and smiled apologetically, "I'm gonna go and wash the dye out. A blond Ty is not a happy Ty."
Roberto chuckled, "I'll see you at dinner then, bambina. I will admit that brown suits you a lot more."
After that Ty quickly made her way upstairs and to her room, closing the door behind her. She wasn't going to shower just yet. With a strengthened resolve, she went to the side table next to the bed and pulled out the little black box Dante had given her for her birthday. She didn't know why, but she couldn't bring herself to open the palm sized present. Now, she was going to stop being a chicken.
Sitting on the bed, she took a deep breath before finally, finally, opening the little black box.
Ty didn't know what to expect the gift was but earrings were far from her thoughts. Inside the box in cream colored cushioning were two earrings. One was a black stud that Ty had grown used to seeing on the right ear of anyone in the Rizzo household and the meaning behind being given one was not lost on her. It rendered her speechless. Not even a gasp. The second earring was a silver hexagonal screw head that matched the one on Dante's ear except etched in the center was a skull that matched the skull drawn on her old skateboard.
Ty closed the box and set it on the side table but she wasn't really noticing her own movements. She stared at the little black box for a couple moments, seconds, minutes, or hours, she didn't know, before she finally grabbed her phone and dialed up Grant.
On the fourth ring, the line picked up and Grant's voice came through, "Hey, Ty, what's up?"
"Are you still at Jay's? With everyone else?" Ty asked, ignoring his question.
Grant could hear the tension and uneasiness in Ty's voice. "Yeah, we're all here. I'll put you on speaker phone. Just a sec."
After a few seconds Ty heard Fred's voice, "What's the matter, Ty?"
Ty took a deep breath before saying, "I think…fuck. I think I don't actually hate Dante."
The boys were stumped and didn't know how to respond so Ty reiterated, closing her eyes. In those few seconds before she spoke again, her mind's eye saw flashbacks of various instances where Dante's behaviour and actions stirred something within her that she couldn't readily identify. Their arguments, the rainy night he came over, her mental breakdown, the night she had her nightmare, in the garage on her birthday, and the moment just minutes ago.
Taking a deep breath she said, "I'm not sure, but I think I might be falling for him."
Ciao - hello/bye
Bambina - little girl/child
Un fantasma - a ghost
Stronza - bitch
Grazie - thank you
Idiota - idiot
Quando si sta per ammettere che ti piace lei? - when will you admit that you love her?
Cazzo - fuck/balls