Don't STAHP Believing - Susi Hawke
Visiting my brother was always one of the highlights of my year, watching his little ones tumble and play was a painful reminder I needed to do it more often. As if reading my mind, Antonio gestured toward the adorable trio.
"They've grown so much since you last saw them, Santiago. Video chats are nice, but they need to know their uncle's scent. And our Jodie is turning fifteen next month. Naturally we are having a quinceañera to celebrate. Seems to me her uncle would wish to attend, sí?"
I sat forward, reaching for my drink, accidentally scraping the legs of my lounger against the patio tile. We both flinched at the screeching sound, but otherwise ignored it. I took a moment to gather my thoughts while sucking down a few long drinks of my passion fruit margarita. When I sat back, I kept the drink in hand. Good manners aside, I needed a prop in my hand and possibly some liquid encouragement for the conversation I wanted to have.
It wasn't that I had a problem with vulnerability. Not at all. I was known as the sensitive one in our family, always had been. But even for me, my brother could be imposing. We were both alphas, but while for me it was a simple matter of nature, being an alpha was part of what made my brother tick. Strong, proud, and definitely scary when necessary… Antonio was best described as an uber-alpha.
When I realized he was patiently waiting for my response, rather than continuing to push as he normally would, it occurred to me that perhaps my brother wasn't the same man I'd always known. Mating Finn, having a family… had it changed him more than I'd realized?
Another reason to visit more often, weirdo.
When I glanced up to see him watching me with an affectionate gaze, I knew I was on the right track. "Santiago? I know I'm in trouble if you're using my full name, Tonio…" I teased, his own childhood nickname spilling from my lips. "Funny you should mention it though. Coincidentally, I have something I want to talk about that would fix our distance problem, but I don't want you to be angry."
"Why would I be angry about my brother wanting to be closer to my family?" Chuckling softly, Antonio shook his head as he looked toward the lawn. He shared a knowing smile with Finn before turning back to me. "My mate said he thought we both had a lot to discuss. I swear that man knows everything. You first, though. Tell me what you could possibly want that would make me angry."
Holding a hand up, I wavered it from side to side. "Maybe not angry, but… yeah. I doubt you’ll be a fan of my proposal.” I took a deep breath, forcing myself to go on. “Okay, so here's the thing. I want to move to the States, but I don't want to leave our family villa to sit unused.
“I'm lonely, Tonio. I miss being part of a family and… dammit, I miss you. But I don't want our family home to just be a vacation destination that gets used a weekend or two a year. It deserves to be filled with love and laughter, like the old days. I want you to agree to allow it to be sold."
I cringed, waiting for the coming roar. When I heard nothing but silence, I took a long drink then glanced over to see him lost in thoughst. "Did I break you, Tonio? Say something, I'm more scared of your silence than I was of seeing your claws come out."
He frowned pensively, steepling his fingers under his chin as he stared into thin air. Several long seconds went by before his hands flung out in a wide gesture. "I don't know what to say, Saint. On the one hand, you're right. I don't see me or any of my children ever living there, or visiting more than sporadically at best. But that was our home. I swear I can still smell Mami's perfume when I go into their old room. It's the same for me in Papi's office, except with a faint trace of his cigar smoke. It's not like either of us need the money, but I don’t know. Part of me likes the idea of having a place to visit where my children can learn their history, know where they came from."
"We can keep anything you want from inside, and I’ll buy you a bottle of Mami’s