“Cato Salvatore,” I shouted at my son, who was tearing apart the backyard like a lunatic. “Get over here.” I patted my thigh, giving him my best angry face. “Let’s go. Now!”
Cato was such a devious little bastard. And here I thought Damian’s kid would be the devil spawn of the family. Nope, my little terror was the worst of the Salvatore clan.
I wasn’t mad, just not in the mood to deal with his games today. He was like a golden retriever puppy, always getting into everything and ripping the house apart. Whenever Luca was around, Cato stood ramrod straight, eyes wide. Luca was mean, tougher than all of us, but he was a good dad.
Maybe I was too soft with Cato.
He was mine, and I loved that fucking kid more than life itself. I let him get away with murder because he was so damn cute. And so smart, which was why he was always in trouble. He thought he knew better than everyone else.
He sauntered over to me with the mallet dragging behind him, tearing up the perfectly manicured grass. An annoyed frown tugged at his face. He had Alex’s looks and my brown hair. It was always messy and falling onto his forehead, styled like Daddy Marcello.
He’d taken to Marcello as if he were his father and always wanted to dress like him. Even do his hair like him. It kind of annoyed me, because I wanted him to be exactly like me, but all five of the kids were ours. The paternity didn’t matter.
When I tried teaching Cato how to play the piano, he slammed his hands down on the keys and then tried to walk across them. A million-dollar Steinway & Sons grand piano.
This fucking kid was the devil.
“What did I tell you about beating the grass with the mallet?” I pushed the hair out of his gray eyes and held back an irritated scowl. “You put dozens of holes in the grass. Daddy Luca is going to beat your butt if you don’t knock that off.”
Luca still had zero tolerance for bullshit, even with the kids. He was usually the disciplinarian, and just his voice alone was enough to get them to follow the rules. He never hit them, only threatened to do it. And that alone was enough to keep them all in line.
The girls were easy.
They went with the flow and never gave us shit. Eve and Sofia were three years apart and were best friends. They did everything together, except for paint. While Eve followed in her mother’s footsteps and loved to paint, Sofia was more like Damian.
He taught her how to fish and hunt. At thirteen, she was the oldest and had just started archery lessons. She was like a little Arya Stark. Eve was creative and a free spirit like her mother and always had paint on her clothes and in her hair.
“Sorry, Dad,” Cato groaned. “But how do you expect me to play croquet without making divots?”
Our kids were bougie like that. Instead of playing with Nerf balls and water guns, they wanted to learn croquet and golf and take archery lessons and weird-ass shit normal kids didn’t do.
That was all Luca.
He was an elitist snob.
“The same way you would play golf without hacking at the grass.” I extended my hand. “Give me the mallet. I’ll show you.”
He threw it at my feet and crossed his arms over his chest.
“You better pick that up, Cato.” I pointed at it. “Now!”
He was eight and still acting like he was going through the terrible twos.
“Cato,” Alex said in a singsong voice. “Come here, baby. Look what Momma got you.”
All the kids called Alex something different. She was Momma to Cato. Ma to Leo, Angelo, and Eve. Mommy to Sofia.
Cato rushed past me and actually snickered like he’d fucking won a match with me.
Then he launched himself into Alex’s arms, so the queen could protect him from the mean knight who just wanted him to behave. Alex lifted him off the ground, even though she struggled to pick him up. She was pregnant again after trying for the past three years. We weren’t getting any younger, and the doctor said it would be harder now that we were all closer to forty.
Her belly was too round for her to be carrying an eight-year-old baby on her hip. But Cato climbed her like a tree. He loved the shit out of his mom. Whenever she walked into a room, his face lit up. Just the sound of her voice had him running toward her.
“You’re going to hurt Momma.” I gripped his shoulder, about to lift him off Alex. “Get down.”
“It’s okay, Bash.” Alex shifted him on her hip. “He’s still my baby.” She kissed his sweaty forehead, and he smiled as she gave him the popsicle in her hand. “Here, eat before Daddy Luca sees.”
Luca only let the kids have sugar on rare occasions. He was such a possessive control freak, even with the kids and their schedules. As he did with Alex, he picked out their clothes, planned all their lives down to the second, and even tried to do that shit with us.
After Cato ate half of the cherry popsicle, Alex set him on the ground. He ran toward the swing set in the backyard, dripping red juice all over the lawn.
“Why does that kid hate me so much?” I shoved a hand through my hair and sighed. “It’s like the more I try to connect with him, the more he pushes me away.”
Forcing a smile, she stood on her tippy toes and hooked her arms around my neck. She wore a red sundress that made her blonde hair look even more golden.
“He’s going through a phase,” she said with sadness in her eyes. “Cato will bond with you. Give it time.”
I shook my head. “No, he won’t. He already did that with Marcello.”
She took my hand and placed it on her stomach, moving our joined hands in a circular motion. “This child is yours, Bash. You’ll get another chance with him. And Cato doesn’t hate you. He doesn’t fear you like he does your brothers.”
“So I’m supposed to be an asshole to make him like me?”
“You’re different with Cato,” she said in a soft tone as her eyes wandered over to the playground where Cato stood on the swing instead of sitting on it. “The way you talk to him. It seems like you’re disappointed that he’s not like you.”
“I’m not.” I wrapped my arm around her and kissed her lips. “I love that kid to death. I would do anything for him.” I threw out my hand at our son. “But look at him. It’s like he’s missing a few screws. None of our other kids stand on swings or grand pianos. They don’t intentionally put holes in the lawn and spill paint on marble floors to put their footprints in them.”
“He’s special.” She grinned. “Cato needs more love than the other kids. Spend more time with him. Try to teach him something he likes.”
“He doesn’t like the piano, Bash.” She threaded her fingers between mine and laid her head back on my chest. “You can’t force your passions on him. I showed him how to paint and look at what he did. Paint all over every surface of the house.”
“I thought Luca was going to kill him.”
“Me, too.” She giggled. “That’s what he does when he’s bored.”
“Because he has screws loose,” I quipped. “Are you sure he’s not Damian’s?”
She laughed so hard it shook through me. “Nope. He’s definitely yours. You heard what the doctor said. She thinks he might be a genius. Cato just gets bored and acts out.”
“That kid is smart, but I don’t know about a genius.”
“His dad is a prodigy pianist. I’d say it runs in his genes.” As she circled our hands over her belly, our son kicked. “Did you feel that?”
I nodded, a big ass smile tugging at my mouth. “I love feeling him move around in your belly.”
“You try getting kicked in the stomach. It’s not fun.”
“Cato punched me in the dick last week,” I shot back. “So yeah, I kinda feel your pain.”
“Who taught him that?” She tilted her head to the side and looked up at me. “He’s been doing that to you a lot lately.”
“One of my asshole brothers. And if I find out which one, I’m going to kill him.”
“I can’t let you kill my husbands.”
I tightened my grip around her and rested my chin on her shoulder. “I bet it was Marcello. He showed that move to Sofia after that little shit at her school tried to kiss her.”
“I can’t believe she’s thirteen already.” Alex breathed through her nose, her eyes across the yard on Cato, who jumped from the top of the jungle gym. “Our babies are growing too fast.”
“You’ll have a new one to baby all over again.” I rubbed her stomach and kissed her cheek. “I think you just like being pregnant.”
She chuckled. “Sofia is almost in high school. Angelo and Leo are like grown men. Pretty soon, Eve will have her first art show. And Cato…”
“My sweet cherry,” I said against the shell of her ear. “They’re still kids. Eve has another eight years before she can even apply to art school.”
“What do you want to name him?” Our son kicked again, and she winced. “We need to decide soon. He’ll be here any day now.”
“How about another Roman name?”
“Hmmm…” She put her index finger in front of her lips, deep in thought. “How about Marcus? Like Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.”
“I like it.” I kissed the top of her head. “It’s perfect.”
Alex let me choose Cato’s name, which came from Marcus Porcius Cato, the Roman senator. So Marcus fit for our second child together.
“You’re a good dad,” she told me. “Cato will come around. I think he sees you differently than your brothers. He knows they’re not his dad biologically and doesn’t treat them the same. In his mind, you’re the parent. They’re more like his cool uncles.”
I laughed at her comment. “Technically, they are his uncles.”
“Yeah, sure. But that’s not how we’re raising them. You are just as much the father of Eve as Marcello. These kids are so lucky to have four dads. Most people don’t get one decent dad, let alone four.”
I kissed the cherry tattoo she’d gotten behind her right ear, sucking the lobe into my mouth. She moaned with each flick of my tongue.
After the kids were born, she got a tattoo to represent each of us. Two cherries for me. She had Pet written in script over her heart in the exact place Damian had her name. Above her right shoulder blade, she had a princess tiara for Marcello. And for Luca, she had Drea written in black script on the back of her neck, which was now covered by her long hair.
We each took turns kissing her in the places we marked. Showing her how much we loved and worshiped her. Even after close to fifteen years together, we still fucked her together every week. None of us were ever too busy with our companies or the kids to find time to be together.
Alex moved between each of our beds every night. All of us preferred it that way and had no plans to change that routine. But on Saturdays, the kids spent time with our relatives, so we could claim every inch of our wife’s body. Over and over for twenty-four hours straight.
“I love you, Cherry.” I dragged my tongue across the back of her ear, and she whimpered in my arms. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to us.”
“Duh,” she said with laughter in her tone. “But no, seriously. You guys were a godsend. And to think I wanted to run from all of you when you made me come back to Devil’s Creek.”
“I’m glad you didn’t run.” I turned her head to the side so I could kiss her pretty pink lips. “And even if you did, we would have chased you to the ends of the earth.”
Thank you for reading!
I hope you enjoyed the second installment of this four-part series. I'll see you tomorrow in your inbox with Marcello's part of the story.