Story Excerpt
Hot Mess 5

flame div


It made sense that it would be drizzling on a day like today. How could the powers that be allow sunshine and bright blue skies when my heart was breaking? Staring down at the polished wooden casket at my feet, I wondered if I would ever enjoy blue skies again.

I knew life was finite, but the last week had proven to me that it could end at any second. One moment you are there, and the next you are simply gone, the victim of a needless car accident.

I glanced across the casket to where my Uncle Jerry stood, his hands folded together in front of him, his eyes pinned on the casket as it was slowly lowered into the ground. How the man wasn't screaming was beyond me. I'd be a blubbering mess on the floor if anything happened to my Sal.

I leaned into the SWAT commander, needing his touch to comfort me. Salvador Delvecchio was my reason for breathing. Without him, nothing worked. Not my job as personal assistant to the police chief—my uncle. Not raising our adopted twin girls, Rosy and Bella. Not even the flame that burned in the center of my soul only for my husband.

I needed Sal to function.

After everything we had been through, the kidnappings, the attacks, the mobsters...this might be the hardest. It sucked that our anniversary was this week. I didn't feel like celebrating. I just wanted to gather my family close to me and hold onto them with every ounce of strength I had.

I sniffled as tears streamed down my cheeks.

A moment later, I felt Sal's hand grab mine.

When I lifted my eyes, Uncle Jerry was staring at me. I sent him a weak, wobbly smile, but it was the best I could muster under the circumstances. Uncle Jerry nodded back, just the barest of movements of his head to acknowledge me.

It wasn't something I felt he had to do, but I was glad he did. I was worried about my uncle. He had just lost his wife of nearly twenty years. If he wasn't broken, then he was close to it.

I was still stunned by the fact that my Aunt Sally was gone. The woman had just always been there. Her and my mother were as thick as thieves, as close as two sister-in-laws could be. The two women were the cornerstones of the Harris family.

What would we do without her?

I pulled my handkerchief out of my pocket and swiped at my nose. It had been running practically as long as my tears had. I had been crying for days. Just when I thought I was done, I would remember something Aunt Sally said or did and I would start up all over again.

I was a mess.

"Come on, caro."

Sal's arm felt heavy around my shoulders, but I was glad it was there. The man was practically the only thing keeping my vertical. He led me away from the gravesite and back through the freshly manicured lawn to the long line of limousines waiting to take us to the wake.

When I saw my parents, I pushed away from Sal and rushed over to them. I tried not to run. My mother wouldn't approve. Emotional outbursts in public were not allowed. Behind closed doors, you could scream your head off. Never in public.

Knowing that, I was surprised when my mother reached for me just as I reached her.


"Mom." I breathed deep when I felt my father's hand go to my shoulder, giving me a good squeeze. After hugging my mother longer than probably was appropriate, I leaned back. I sent my father a wobbly smile. "Hey, Dad."

Lancaster Harris II nodded at me. I would have thought him totally detached from the situation if I hadn't seen the red rimming his eyes. "Junior."

"Where are the girls, Junior?" Mother asked.

"Eddie and Lyn are watching them." I wouldn't leave my twin girls with just anyone. "They said they'd stay as long as we needed them. I thought it was better to leave the twins at home."

I adored my adopted twin girls and had since the moment they were laid in my arms almost a year ago. I could still remember how precious each of the three-week old twins had looked. They stole my heart with that one look. They did the same with almost everyone they met.

"Yes, quite right." Cynthia Harris drew in a strong breath. She was a formable woman and it rattled me a little bit to see her shaken. "A funeral is no place for those beautiful little angels."

Despite the somberness of our situation, I found myself smiling. Rosy and Bella had stolen my mother's heart the second she saw them. She had all but given up ever being a grandmother, instead, devoting herself to my father and me and all her little causes. Learning that she had not one but two granddaughters had put me and Sal in her good graces for months.

My father tried to pretend he was merely amused by his wife's total devotion to Rosy and Bella, but I had caught him sneaking into their room to watch them sleep on more than one occasion. More times than not, a new stuffed animal for the girls was clutched in his hand.

It was a secret kept between just us.

"We'll see you at your uncle's house?" my mother asked.

"We'll be there Cynthia," Sal said.

Cynthia's lips spread into a smile that didn't reach her eyes, but I didn't think it was Sal. Her eyes were too filled with sadness. She clasped Sal's hand between two of hers. "Thank you, Salvador. You've been a godsend through all of this."

I noticed a slight flush to Sal's cheeks before he glanced away. "This is my family."

I wanted to hug the man again, but took his hand instead. As much as I wanted to shout to the world that Sal belonged to me, waving my rainbow flag at a funeral was wrong, even I knew that. I needed to be thinking about my aunt today, a woman who accepted me and all my quirks and threw Sal and I the biggest engagement party of the season.

God, I was going to miss her.