At least two hundred people gathered at the Franco-Salvatore Gallery. An old converted warehouse in SoHo. Alex opened the gallery with Luca’s help five years ago. A surprise anniversary gift, which would have been from all of us if the bastard had told us about it.
Luca still liked to play games.
Anything to make us look bad.
Alex was his wife on paper, and he made sure we remembered that. But she was ours and had been for the past sixteen years. So, it surprised me when he actually asked for our help with this event. The thirtieth-anniversary show to celebrate my mother. To commemorate her legacy and introduce the next generation.
Years ago, Alex had turned the art world upside down with her modern Art Deco underworld-inspired paintings. She was still the director of the Franco Foundation, the curator of the gallery, and a solo artist. And the mother of six beautiful children, with the seventh on the way.
Lucky number seven.
This time around, Alex didn’t want to know the sex or the paternity. It would be a surprise for us to discover in the birthing room.
Luca and Bastian both had two boys. Damian and I had girls. I never thought I’d see a child change Damian the way Sofia did. Over the years, he’d become an entirely different person from the boy I grew up with.
With his back facing me, Damian stood in front of one of Alex’s paintings with his arm across the back of Sofia’s neck. They stared at the canvas, leaning into each other. She was fifteen now and in her sophomore year of high school. Sofia looked exactly like Damian, with long black hair and her mother’s big blue eyes. She was beautiful, drawing way too much attention from the boys at Astor Prep.
Thankfully, Leo and Angelo were in their freshman year at the school and were just as intimidating as Luca. According to Sofia, they terrorized everyone at school and kept the boys away from her. I could only imagine the mini versions of Luca running around that school the way my brother did during his reign of terror.
Eve was now twelve and had been painting since she was seven. Back then, it was just for fun. A splash of color on a canvas, a few lines, and swirls. But my little girl was becoming a real artist.
I held her trembling hand and steered her over to the paintings displayed on the wall. Canvases both of us painted for the show. “It’s okay to be nervous,” I told her. “But you don’t have to be. You’re so talented, Eve.”
She peeked up at me and smiled. “What if people think I suck? I’m not as good as Ma or Nonna.”
Even though she’d never met my mom, she still called her Nonna. We talked about her as if she were still here. And after Eve started painting, she wanted to study my mother’s work. She said her art spoke to her, just like Alex had said to Luca all those years ago.
They were so much alike.
The perfect mother-daughter team.
“You’re just as talented, Eve.” I rubbed her back with my palm and traced soothing circles to calm her nerves. “Age and experience mean nothing in the art world.”
“But Ma is a natural. She started sketching when she was two.”
“When your friends were painting with their fingers, you were creating art.” I kissed the top of her head and hugged her. “I love you. We all do. I’m so proud of you. And I can guarantee everyone will love your paintings.”
On the other side of the room, Luca walked with Leo and Angelo clinging to each of his sides. We used to follow our father around the same way. The boys worshiped Luca and thought he was the king of the world.
Alex stood beside Bastian with a two-year-old Marcus on her hip and a ten-year-old Cato between them. He bent down and kissed her cheek, then planted a kiss on Marcus’s head. It took Bash and Cato a long time to bond.
Initially, Cato was my shadow and followed me around the house. But after Alex had Marcus, Bash finally found some common ground with him.
Cato was a prodigy like Bash, gifted in math and science. The doctors had suspected Cato had ADHD, but really, he just got bored easily doing normal kid things and acted out. With the help of his dad, Cato developed an app and got it approved in the app store. They had been working on it for the past year tirelessly.
Now, as I watched them from a distance, I couldn’t help but smile. We all felt bad for Bash for the longest time. He was the only one who couldn’t bond with his kid.
When Alex raised her hand and waved us over, I tapped Eve on her shoulder. “It’s time to go, bambina. Ma’s announcing us.”
As the director of the Franco Foundation, Alex wanted to introduce all the artists in the family. She even convinced me to add a few of my paintings to the exhibit. Of course, Eve couldn’t wait to paint something to honor her Nonna. But now that people surrounded her, she was biting her nails and fidgeting. Even with me at her side, trying to comfort her, I could see the worry lines pulling at her forehead.
She was so much like her mother.
Smart and beautiful, so intuitive and creative. A bit of a free spirit, too. But she never enjoyed being around many people. You would have thought with eleven of us living under the same roof, with another baby on the way, she would be used to crowds. My girl was a lot like me in that way. I never liked the attention our family attracted.
None of that shit ever mattered to me.
It was Luca who liked to be seen and praised. He wanted to be feared and admired and loved for all of his accomplishments. I preferred to remain in the shadows and let him lead our family. Eve had a lot of me in her. Maybe it was from observing me, noticing how uncomfortable I was in social settings.
Alex stood on the stage at the front of the room with a microphone in her hand. Luca was beside her with the twins shadowing him. Then she raised her hand and called out each of the kids’ names to join her. In public, we had to act like our children were Luca’s, even though most of the people in town gossiped and made assumptions.
You could tell Sofia was Damian’s daughter. Even with Alex’s big blue eyes, she looked exactly like her father, down to her jawline and nose. Same with Cato. He had Bash’s brown hair and gray eyes and Alex’s high cheekbones. Marcus was a mixture of them both and still had a babyface.
Eve, Angelo, and Leo had all inherited the Salvatore genes. Except for Leo, who had Alex’s blonde curly hair. He cut his hair short, like his uncle Aiden. But in terms of looks, the twins were the spitting image of Luca. When we were kids, people thought Luca and I were twins. So they could easily pass for my sons, too.
I walked onto the stage with Eve, who held my hand. My brothers gathered beside me with their kids.
Alex clutched the microphone, a big smile on her face that touched her pretty blue eyes. A round of applause rang out, and she waited for the crowd to die down before she spoke.
“Thank you all for coming. Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of Evangeline Franco’s death. But instead of mourning her life, we are celebrating the impact she had on this world. The impact she had on my family and me.” She flicked her hair over her shoulder and continued. “As you all know, Evangeline inspired my art.” She extended her fingers to grab Luca’s hand. “And I’m so delighted to introduce two new artists to the Franco Foundation. Marcello Salvatore, Evangeline’s son, and my daughter, Eve.”
My cheeks burned with all the attention on me. After years of convincing me to showcase my art, Alex finally talked me into adding a few of my paintings. It was for a good cause, another way for us to raise more money for charity. And it helped to put Eve at ease. Knowing both of her parents were part of the showcase made her feel better about displaying her art to the public.
After months of the three of us putting our hearts and souls into our paintings, they were now hanging around the room for everyone to see. I put my hand on Eve’s shoulder and smiled. She returned my expression and leaned into my side.
“Thanks to all of your contributions,” Alex continued, “we have raised over two hundred million dollars for a good cause.” She clutched her baby bump and winced, turning her head to the side to look at Luca. “Ow.”
Luca put his arm around her and lowered his head, whispering into her ear. I wanted so badly to comfort her. But there were too many people studying our every move. It was so hard to sit back and pretend when other people were around. I wanted to do was comfort my pregnant wife. She was ready to give birth any day now.
My dad was in the front row with his girlfriend, Adriana, who had been the nanny for all of our kids. He would never remarry. As far as he was concerned, my mother was the love of his life. But at least he was happy with Adriana. She put a smile on the miserable bastard’s face.
Luca raised his hand to beckon my dad, who parted the crowd and got on stage.
“I’m so sorry,” Alex said into the microphone, breathing hard. She patted her stomach, her face twisted in pain. “This child is ready to come into this world.”
Déjà vu all over again.
Her water broke on the stage at the fifteenth-anniversary showcase, and then she delivered Sofia later that night.
Luca took the microphone from her hand and gave it to our dad, who closed out the show. Then he helped our girl down the stairs, with all of us and the kids trailing behind them. People applauded as we exited the room. Some even patted us on the backs.
“Ma stole the show,” Eve said with a smile. “At least no one booed me from the stage.”
I shook my head and laughed. “No one would boo you.”
“And if they did, I would cut them into tiny pieces,” Damian added.
“Tone it down, killer,” I shot back.
He shrugged. “What? I would. No one messes with our kids.”
“I don’t want to share a birthday with the baby,” Sofia said with an attitude.
Damian looked at his daughter and grinned. “We share everything in this family. Get used to it, princess.”
She was old enough to understand our relationship with her mother and made a gagging face. “Gross, Daddy. I don’t want to hear about that stuff.”
Damian laughed. “How do you think you came into this world?”
Sofia shuddered, turning her head away from him. “Spare me the details, thanks.”
One day, Sofia came home crying after school because a girl made fun of her for having four dads. Not like she broadcasted the fact to the world. But everyone in Devil’s Creek had an opinion about our family. So Luca went to the girl’s house with Damian. They had a “conversation” with her father, and that was the end of that. The girl’s family moved out of town a week later. No one ever talked shit to our kids again.
We took the elevator to the third floor, where Alex had a new birthing suite. There was an eight-year age gap between Cato and Marcus. Alex got on birth control after Cato, because that was part of the deal.
But after Cato turned five, she wanted another baby. We weren’t getting any younger, and now, she was forty and definitely done having kids after this baby.
After we entered Alex’s birthing room, she sat on the bed and breathed through her nose. “You would think after six kids this would get easier.”
Luca dropped to his knees on the floor and moved between her spread thighs. He put his hand on her stomach. “You can do this, Drea. Just like last time.”
She clutched his wrist, giving him a seductive look, which I immediately recognized. For a few of her pregnancies, she was having such bad cramps we had to get her off to ease the pressure. And I could tell with one look what she was thinking. So could my brothers.
Luca turned to look at the kids and said, “Ma needs to rest without everyone hovering over her.” He removed his cell phone from his pocket and spoke to Adriana, then addressed the kids again. “Nonno and Adriana are waiting for you downstairs.”
The twins and Sofia looked relieved they didn’t have to hang out for the birth. Bastian handed Marcus to Sofia, and Eve grabbed Cato’s hand. They left the room a minute later, and I locked the door behind them.
“You didn’t have to kick the kids out,” Alex said, even though she looked happy about his decision.
Luca shoved Alex’s dress up and kissed the soft skin of her inner thigh. “Yes, I did. You need to cum. We can make you feel better.” He pressed his hand to her stomach and guided her back to the bed. Then he glanced at each of us. “Let us take care of our wife.”
Damian got on the bed with her and kissed her pretty pink lips while Luca stripped off her panties and licked her clit. She hissed each time he sucked on her, fisting his black hair in her hand.
“Oh, God, Luca.”
“That’s it, baby girl.” He split her straight down the middle with his tongue. “Say my name. Cum all over my face.”
She came a minute later.
I got on the floor beside Luca and tapped his arm. After years of learning how to navigate our relationship with Alex, we no longer had to communicate using words. He moved out from between her thighs, and we each gripped one of her legs. Then I parted her slick, wet folds with my tongue, lapping up her juices.
She moaned my name.
Then Luca, Bastian, and Damian.
Bastian slid his hand beneath her chin and shoved his hand down the top of her dress. He kissed her lips as he rubbed her sore nipple, while Damian dragged his teeth across her neck and massaged her other breast. Luca continued to plant kisses up and down her thigh, then pushed two fingers inside her. We found a good rhythm, kissing and licking and sucking until she came again all over my tongue.
After the second orgasm, she put her hand on her belly and groaned. “Ow.” She sat up with Damian and Bastian’s help. “This baby is angry.” Alex laughed. “I can’t wait to get this little devil out of me.”
“The doctor is on her way,” Luca told her. “Just hang on, Drea.”
“I think we have time,” she choked out. “If this baby is anything like the others, we have at least five more hours of torture.”
Bastian stripped off his tie and put it over her eyes. “Then I guess we better find something to do with the time.”
Twelve hours later, Alex delivered a beautiful, healthy boy. He had black hair and Alex’s blue eyes.
Alex’s gaze flicked between Luca, Damian, and me. “Well, one of you is the father.”
Thank you for reading!
I hope you enjoyed the third installment of this four-part series. I'll see you tomorrow in your inbox with Luca's conclusion to the story.