"I know you tried your very best, you didn't give me nothing less
I admit I made a mess and when it seems I learned my lesson
I just did things that keep you guessing, well there's no more guessing
You just gotta see my side, please try (please try)"
— One Sided, Bryson Tiller

If there was one thing that Vienna was good at, it was avoidance.

After fixing herself up in the comfort of her childhood bedroom, Vienna went back downstairs after her and Dante's little––ahem––incident and pretended like nothing even happened.

She was cool, calm, and collected.

And, to his credit, Dante followed Vienna's lead flawlessly.

Adhering to his role of Dutiful Fiancé, Dante returned to the birthday celebrations with just as much enthusiasm and amiability as he did before.

In a strange way, it infuriated Vienna. How could he just interact and kiss up to her parents as if nothing had even happened upstairs? How could he just go through the motions like his hands were not up her dress half an hour ago? How could he be so unbothered?

Before Vienna could brace herself, the night was quickly coming to an end and both sides of the family were bidding Dante and Vienna a goodnight.

Gritting through her teeth, Vienna hugged Dante's father goodbye—trying her best not to scowl at him when he made a side comment about how the two of them looked good together—and then moved towards her own father.

"Vienna, are you okay?" Vito DeLaurentis asked gruffly, inspecting his daughter from an arm's length away.

Vienna quickly schooled her expression into one of neutrality and nodded her head emphatically.

"Yes. Of course, dad," Vienna claimed, her interest piquing at her father's strange demeanor. "Why? What's the matter?"

Her father tilted his head as if in deep thought before he replied.

"No it's…it's nothing," Vito answered, his words trailing off as he glanced behind Vienna to see Dante hugging Vienna's mother goodbye. "You seem happier...I hope—I hope you are happier."

Vienna's smile faltered and something aching dropped down her throat as she watched her father. He appeared so far removed from his title as the once-all-powerful Don that controlled the third largest city in America. Now—well, now he just seemed like a mortal man who was trying to do his best.

Vienna tipped the corners of her mouth up, trying to push aside the residual hurt and anger and betrayal that she still felt towards the man that turned her life upside down forever.

"I am happier, dad," Vienna answered truthfully.

Vito seemed pleased by her response and pulled Vienna into a brief hug.

"I love you," he said, his voice so quiet and fleeting that Vienna almost missed the endearment. Vienna's heart clenched when she realized that it had been so long since she had said the phrase to her father.

"I love you too."

She felt him squeeze her tightly before he released her and Vienna tried to swallow the sudden emotion that was lodged in her throat. With another quick goodbye to her mother, Vienna retreated to the Escalade with Dante—trying not to dwell on the vulnerable fact that she had never seen her father look frailer in her life.

But once she was alone with Dante in the backseat of the Escalade, all thoughts of her family escaped her mind. All Vienna could think about was her and Dante and their stolen moment upstairs. (All she could think about was her and Dante and how she would have gone further if her mother had not interrupted their moment.)

A distinctly uncomfortable silence fell over the vehicle, and Vienna could not help but fidget with unease. The car felt thick with tension and the quietness was unnerving. For a moment, Vienna could not help but wonder how they would move past things this time around.

A kiss was one thing, but this...this was an entirely different matter.

However, it seemed from Dante's stiff posture and rigidity that he was still irritated about Vienna's conversation that he (thought he) overheard.
Vienna bit her lip––part of her wanted to break the ice simply because the quietness was unbearable. But why was it her responsibility to set the record straight after he forced himself into her private conversation?

Privacy aside, the bigger question was why Dante appeared to have a hand in all of Gino's business dealings. Even if Hiro was the one to snatch the El Diablo deal, it was evident that Hiro had to be working off of some insider knowledge that Dante must have provided to him.

No, it was all too fishy. And until Dante explained what was going on, Vienna would happily return the silent treatment.

And yet, it was suffocating being in the car (so close) with him. All Vienna could think about was his eyes on her, his hands on her, his lips on her—

Vienna bit her lip and studiously focused her gaze on the car window away from Dante. She would not go down that path of thinking. Not when she was still angry and concerned and—not to mention—sexually frustrated!

"We've arrived," the driver announced to the too-quiet car, bringing Vienna out of her reverie.

Without even a glance in her direction, Dante got out of the Escalade and slammed the door shut causing Vienna to roll her eyes.

Real mature, asshole.

With a slightly less dramaticexit, Vienna got out of the car and followed after Dante a few paces behind him. She avoided his gaze as they stepped onto the elevator, not wanting to remember their frenzied moment together the last time they were in the apartment's elevators again.

(Dante seemed to be remembering the same moment if the slight pinkness on his cheeks was anything to go by.)

But once the elevator pinged at their floor's arrival, Dante was stomping out and entering the apartment abruptly while Vienna lagged several feet behind. It was bad enough that they had to be in each other's presence, let alone go back to the same apartment.

Vienna let out a deep, disgruntled sigh at the thought, and Dante stopped halfway in his rampage to his room and turned slowly at the sound of Vienna's exhale.

"What?" Dante scowled, his eyes dark and flinty as he stared Vienna down.

Vienna opened her mouth several times like a fish out of water—she was not expecting the full attention and wrath of the future Don.

"I—nothing?" Vienna answered belatedly, caught off guard by the force of Dante's narrowed stare. She felt so thrown off by everything, from her conversation with Gino to her interaction in the bathroom to her parting with her father. She was speechless from the evening.

Dante shook his head with disdain, before rolling his eyes in exasperation. "Figures."

Suddenly, she knew where Angeline got her sour teenage angst from.

Vienna narrowed her eyebrows at Dante. She was incredibly tired from the night, but if he still had words for her, then she would not bother holding back either.

"What the fuck is your problem?"

Dante's eyes sparked with vehemence. "You're asking me what my problem is—?"

Vienna tried not to shrink away in the face of his anger. Instead, she straightened her spine and folded her arms across her chest. "If you would just listen to me—"

"Why?" Dante pressed, his eyebrows contorting as the line of his shoulders pulled back. "So you can spin another excuse together?"

"You don't know what you heard—"

"I know that you had everybody fooled at the party—"

Vienna almost felt like laughing if it was not for the desperation clawing at her throat.

"I wasn't talking to Royce," Vienna ground out quietly—her fury rising to the surface. "I was talking to Gino about his stolen deals. What do you know about that, hm?"

Dante barely batted an eye at her revelation. Instead, his frown deepened as he pointed an accusing finger at her. "That doesn't explain why you were out in the middle of the fucking night. On the balcony. At three in the morning."

Vienna slapped her palms flat against the kitchen island as she glowered back. "Don't change the subject, Dante. You want to talk trust? Then tell me what's going on with Hiro and Gino—"

"So that's it then?" Dante interrupted, spreading his arms wide in aggravation. "Every time Gino says 'jump' you ask 'how high'? What? Were you talking to one of his clients again?"

Vienna tried to brush off his words, but he had hit a sensitive point about Gino's controlling ways. But still, she stood her ground as she studied the future mob boss in front of her.

"God, it must kill you, huh?" Vienna taunted mock-thoughtfully. "The future Chicago Don, not knowing what his fiancé does in the middle of the night."

Vienna could see Dante's rage boiling to the forefront as he listened to her words, but she plowed on. She didn't care anymore. She just wanted to get to the bottom of everything.

"Fine, you want to know so bad?" Vienna asked, tilting her head in a challenge. "You want to see my call log? Let's trade phones. I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

This time, Dante let out a snort of disbelief. "Micina, I hate to break it to you, but no one touches my phone but me. Nice try though."

The condescending manner in which he spoke to her, had Vienna's indignation skyrocketing.

"You tapped my phone!" Vienna fired back, throwing him a vexed look. "You owe me this as an apology!"

Dante held her stare before shrugging carelessly and saying, "Who said I was apologetic about that?"

Vienna gaping at him with an open mouth of incredulity. After everything that happened, how could he not feel an inch of regret?

By the time she found her voice again, Vienna could only muster one sentiment.

"Fuck you, Dante."

She was shaking with fury, but Dante merely seemed amused at their conversation.

Putting both hands in the pockets of his chinos, Dante raised a nonchalant eyebrow at Vienna. "Funny...you were singing a different tune just a couple of hours ago when I had my fingers inside you."

Vienna's jaw dropped open in shock. She was not at all prepared for him to bring that up.

Dante's gaze suddenly turned inquisitive. "Or do you regret that too?"

Vienna was officially speechless. She felt like she was going through an out-of-body experience as she stared at Dante standing in the middle of their living room.

Embarrassment and something like guilt churned deep within her belly.

Finally, she managed to utter a pathetic, "You're impossible. And I'm going to bed."

Dante looked as if he had expected nothing more from her.

"Fine. Goodnight."

And that was the end of the conversation.

Nearly a week passed by before Vienna saw Dante again. Instead, she holed herself up in her room and threw her energy into applying to jobs.

At this point, she was not picky. She was submitting her resume to any position that she qualified for whether it was nannying, secretarial tasks, low-level managerial work, minor cyber-security jobs, and even random, remote writing jobs. (Although she steered clear of anything resembling journalism. God forbid, she would accidentally land a job that would require her to write about the presence of the modern-day Chicago mob.)
But luckily, with enough persistence, she managed to land an interview the very next morning for a job as a sales associate at a small boutique in the city.

Sure it was just retail, but any income would be better than nothing at this point, Vienna figured. Money was power. And power was freedom.

Vienna bit her lip, trying not to get ahead of herself as she accepted the phone interview time slot. Luckily, Dante was back to his usual routine of leaving early in the morning and coming home late at night. And whether it was because he was avoiding her, or because he actually had an immense amount of work to do, Vienna was grateful for the empty apartment.

This meant that she could finish her interview uninterrupted. Plus with the way the Family's security detail was, she knew she would not be able to take the phone interview at a local coffee shop even if she tried.

The next day, Vienna was scheming carefully as she listened at her door for Dante's morning gym routine, and then his final departure of the day. After waiting five to ten minutes to make sure that he was truly gone for the day, Vienna carefully opened her bedroom door and went to do some major interview prepping on her laptop while she ate breakfast.

Her interview was at noon but she wanted to make sure that she was fully prepared before the start.

But even after two full hours of reading up on the history of the small clothing company, Vienna still had nervous butterflies in her stomach when her burner phone rang on the countertop. Vienna cleared her throat quickly before picking up the call as calmly as she could.


"Hi, is this Stacey?"

Vienna felt relief flood through her system as she heard her familiar alias name.

"Yes! Yes, it is," Vienna confirmed.

"Great! Is now still a good time to conduct this phone interview?"

"Yes, this is perfect," Vienna replied, nodding even though she was simply talking on the phone.

"Fantastic! So we just like to start off with a couple of questions about your background…"

Vienna felt herself slipping into comfortable professionalism as she listened to the manager conduct the phone interview. After going over brief expectations and guidelines, the manager then switched over to some standard questions about Vienna's qualifications and experience.

Vienna answered them to the best of her ability—trying to express her enthusiasm despite not having any previous retail experience.

Luckily, the manager was very understanding and did not seem too disappointed about Vienna's lack of experience. But just as the manager was asking some of the final questions of the interview, Vienna heard the front apartment door click open.

"Well—I, uh—" Vienna's eyebrows widened when she saw Dante enter the living area, both of them making surprised eye contact with each other. "Yes, I would be able to start as soon as I'm needed."

Realization quickly dawned on Dante's face as he stepped further into the kitchen, his eyes never leaving Vienna's face as he blatantly listened to her conversation on the phone.

Vienna knew that she could try and escape to her room or the balcony, but it was too late—the walls were thin and she knew that Dante would just follow her anyway.

Pulling her concentration back to the manager on the other end of the line, Vienna bit her lip in thought.

"And Stacey, since I'm in charge of all of the sales associate hours, I just wanted to ask what you're more interested in. A full-time position? Or a part-time position?"

"Uh," Vienna's gaze darted to Dante, still aware that she had his full attention. "F-Full-time."

"Okay, got it! I have that noted down and—" there was some scuffling on the other end before the manager continued, "—and I'll tell the general manager about this because ultimately she has the final say. But this all looks very promising, Stacey. Would you be able to come in next week for an in-person interview so that I can show you around the boutique?"

"Y-Yes, I'm available," Vienna replied, angling her body away from Dante—unable to take his stare much longer.

"Great! Let's say Tuesday at two o'clock?"

"Yes, I can do that."
"Alright! See you then!"

"Thank you," Vienna said before hanging up the phone. She felt her nervous energy immediately dissipate but she was still tense as she turned back to face Dante.

He was leaning against the countertop with his arms crossed against his chest as he surveyed her, and Vienna unconsciously straightened under his scrutiny.

His eyes were sharp when he asked, "Who was that?"

Vienna pursed her lips as she assessed the situation, unsure how Dante was going to react to the news that she was on the brink of a job offer. She knew that there was no point in lying—he had heard everything anyway.

"That was a manager at a clothing boutique I applied to," Vienna answered honestly, keeping her voice neutral as she stared back at Dante.

Dante's face remained impassive other than the slight raise of his eyebrow. "Clothing boutique?"

Vienna resisted the urge to shift in her spot. "Yeah. It's a small boutique in Gold Coast."

Dante tilted his head. "And?"

"And what?" Vienna retorted, her tone barbed and defensive.

A flash of amusement sparked in Dante's eyes. "And did you get the job?"

Vienna felt the tension in her shoulders subside. She was expecting an argument, not questions.

"No," Vienna sighed, turning away from Dante and heading towards the fridge. "Not yet."

Vienna felt Dante observing her as she pulled out a container of strawberries.

"I know it's none of my business, but why did you apply?" Dante questioned, his voice steady and careful as he watched Vienna wash the strawberries under the faucet.

Vienna's eyebrows constricted together in confusion as she threw him a look. "What do you mean why? I don't have any money, Dante."

It was Dante's turn for his eyebrows to scrunch in confusion. "Of course you have money. I've seen your account, micina."

A wry smile curled on Vienna's lips before she held up her finger. "Okay, correction: money I have access to."

Understanding crossed Dante's face before he reached over to grab a strawberry from her container.

"Okay, but that still doesn't explain things," Dante replied, as he studied Vienna thoughtfully. "Why retail? I thought you had a degree in cybersecurity."

Vienna avoided Dante's gaze, as she chewed around a strawberry. She did not like the way he seemed to zoom in and focus on all of her flaws and insecurities. She felt like a book left open on the table for him to read at his leisure—all of her insides on display.

"I do," Vienna acknowledged, carefully weighing her words. "And I did apply to some. But there aren't that many jobs out there right now—"

Dante interrupted with the most surprising comment that she could have expected.

"Sounds like an excuse."

His tone was not argumentative nor accusatory; instead, it was as if he was simply pointing out a fact.

But still, Vienna felt her defensiveness come out, as she turned fully to face Dante. "It's not an excuse. It's the truth. There aren't that many jobs that require cybersecurity to the level that I'm trained in. Everyone else wants experience. Experience that I don't have—"

"Did you look into the connections your father has?"

Vienna gaped at Dante, taken aback that he was even pushing her about her career choices.

"I—well, no—but—" Vienna was floundering the more she saw an amused smirk curl on Dante's face. But still, she pressed on, determined to stand her ground "Look, okay? It's tough—"

"You know what I think?" Dante interrupted, stepping forward so that he was a foot away from Vienna.

Vienna frowned before grumbling a curt, "What?"

"I think you're tougher," Dante insisted slowly and deliberately. His dark brown eyes were holding Vienna's gaze to such a sharp degree that she felt like was being stripped down to skin and bones from his eyes alone.

Vienna felt her throat go dry as she stared at him, still completely shocked at their turn of conversation.

Dante, meanwhile, was not bothered by her silence. He just continued, "I think you're doing yourself a disservice by not trying harder at getting a job in the industry that you've worked all four years for."

Vienna felt her stomach churn because dammit he was right. Why was she so afraid to use her degree and pursue a job that she had actually studied for? She could not let the costs of the mob take her career away from her too.

"So," Vienna bit her lip as she stared up at Dante, "do you think I shouldn't go next Tuesday?"

Dante shrugged, as he watched her. "That's up to you."

Vienna tilted her head at him. "You're not going to try and stop me?"

A ghost of a smile twitched at Dante's mouth, but he shook his head. "Contrary to popular belief, I'm not trying to sabotage your future, micina."

Vienna frowned, unsure how to respond to his genuine statement. "But—"

Dante held up a hand. "I will have my security following you, yes. But that's just for your protection. As usual."

Vienna figured that's the best she was going to get, so she let out a breath she did not know she was holding. She had become so accustomed to the men in her Family controlling everything in her life that she was not used to the sudden burst of consideration from Dante.

Dante, sensing her line of thought, shot an unreadable look at Vienna before sinking his teeth into the strawberry he had been holding.

Swift heat erupted low in her belly as she watched Dante's full lips close around the berry. There was something so effortlessly sensual about his mouth puckering against the fruit and Vienna felt the butterflies come back.

An abrupt shift in energy around them suddenly made Dante's gaze turn heavy as he watched her. And without warning, Vienna found herself being drawn to him—despite their argument, despite their bathroom encounter, despite everything, she felt so incredibly drawn to him.

She followed the movement of Dante's Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed the strawberry, and her eyes zeroed in on his neck, his jaw—the full pout of his lips.

For a moment, it seemed as if he was about to lean in and say something, but that broke Vienna out of her trance. She could not get caught up again—no, not like last time. Not until she figured out what was going on with Gino and Hiro and him.

She could not afford to fall for someone like Dante. Not after everything he did to her. It was unforgivable...right?

"I—um," Vienna looked away, breaking whatever moment that had ballooned in between them. "I'm going to run out and get some coffee. Uh—Do you want anything?"

Dante watched as Vienna sidestepped him and started to fiddle with her laptop that was still sitting on the countertop.

"Nah, I'm good," Dante replied, still watching her with his unreadable expression.

As if on cue, his cellphone rang and he excused himself to take the call, allowing Vienna to slip away with only minimal amounts of awkwardness.

The funny thing about time is that it always catches up with you—no matter what.

That's what Vienna thought about hours after everything had happened. After everything collapsed in and on itself.

How do you go from living your life like normal to suddenly having to pick up all the pieces?

When it all happened, she was asleep in her room and she had heard a voice yelling in the distance.

At first, she was not sure where the voice was coming from. Was it in her dream? Was it in real life?

But then the voice got louder and she heard a loud crack! echo through the room.

Blinking sleepily against the darkness of her room, she felt someone gently shake her shoulder.

"Baby—" There was a sigh above her and some shuffling before she heard the voice again. "We have to go. We have to go now—wake up."

Vienna batted the insistent hand away, too tired to function and to process the words that were coming out of the person's mouth.

"Micina, c'mon—" Vienna felt a hand tug at her blankets, exposing her bare limbs to the cold chill of the room. A warm, comforting hand fell on her upper hand and gently shook her once more. It was then that she realized it was Dante who was crouched by the side of her bed.

"Wha—What happened?" Vienna asked blearily as she sat up slowly in bed—rubbing her eyes as she attempted to get her bearings. In the back of her mind, it registered that Dante's tone sounded strange—almost as if he was worried.

"Micina, you need to get dressed so we can leave," Dante urged, as he watched her—his eyes sharp and narrowed.

"W-What's going on?" Vienna questioned, blinking slowly at Dante as she realized that he was already dressed in his usual gym attire.

The hand that was still on her arm squeezed comfortingly as he searched Vienna's face with his bright brown ones.

It was then that Vienna felt her heart sink deep into her stomach as she waited for Dante's response. But he was unusually reticent.

"Dante," Vienna repeated, her voice taking on an urgent tone as her senses woke up fully. "What's going on?"

His thumb rubbed softly against the exposed skin of her arm and his expression was strained as he looked at her.

"It's your father," Dante answered softly, his gaze steady as he surveyed her. "He passed away earlier this morning."

The funny thing about grief was that it hit you in waves.

Perhaps Dante was expecting some kind of dramatic reaction from Vienna. Like a slew of tears or curse words or even a fight, but all Vienna did was get out of bed mechanically and started her search for clean, comfy clothes.

She barely glanced at Dante as she started throwing random items into her purse (her lip gloss, her phone, extra cash, and an old magazine). She could not stand to see the look on his face.

And besides, maybe Dante was mistaken. Maybe he had received the wrong information. Maybe her father faked his own death. Maybe it was all an elaborate ruse set up by the Mafia. Maybe it was just another one of their plans. Maybe, maybe, maybe—

"Vienna—" Dante called, his voice soft like he was walking on eggshells. (God, she hated that.) "I can send someone to get the other stuff later—"

Vienna felt her chest rising and falling rapidly as she peered down at the bundle of clothes in her hand. It was way more than she needed. But jeez, it felt like she had woken up in the middle of some horrible dream where the oxygen levels were twenty percent lower than what they should have been.

"I-I have to change—" Vienna reasoned, holding up a pair of leggings and a t-shirt.

"Change in the bathroom," Dante directed, pointing to her en-suite bathroom. "I—the door is broken."

Vienna turned to inspect her bedroom door and, sure enough, the door had splintered at the hinges of the doorframe. It made sense given that she had a lock on the door and that this was an emergency, but her brain had trouble processing it.

All she could think was: well, we're definitely not getting our security deposit back now.

"I'll be waiting in the kitchen," Dante continued, interrupting Vienna's linear line of thought. Vienna's fingers tightened around the bundle of clothes, but she forced her head into a nod.


With a robotic gait, Vienna headed for the bathroom and quickly brushed her teeth, and changed.

Walking back to the kitchen, Vienna tried to keep her head on straight as she played back the conversations they had had about her father's final wishes and the will. As the eldest child of Vito DeLaurentis, she knew it would be part of her responsibility to carry out funeral arrangements to allow her mother some time to grieve.

But all she felt like doing was throwing up.

"Ready?" Dante asked, looking up from his phone as Vienna entered the kitchen. He was carrying a full-sized duffel bag over his shoulder filled with god knows what, while Vienna simply carried her half-empty tote bag.

Vienna, not trusting the sound of her voice, nodded firmly as they quickly exited the apartment. She caught the glow of the microwave's digital clock just as they were leaving and it spelled out in bright green: 4:38 AM.

Vienna shivered visibly once they entered the elevator and she wanted to smack her hand on her forehead. How did she forget her jacket when the weather was still below freezing outside?

As if hearing her line of thought, Dante wordlessly handed her a sweatshirt that she had not realized was tucked under his arm. Frowning at her own forgetfulness, Vienna took it gratefully and slipped the worn material over her head.

Immediately, she was swallowed by the musky, delicious scent of him, and—not that she would ever admit it out loud—the scent brought comfort to her.

Walking swiftly through the apartment's first-floor lobby, Dante guided them outside to an Escalade that was waiting for them. Vienna noticed that Dante seemed more on-edge than usual, taking notice of their surroundings with a calculating gaze as they walked to the vehicle in the early hours of the morning.

Once they settled into the protection of the Escalade, Vienna could not help but let all of the questions that were bothering her come to the surface.

"Who else knows?"

Dante turned, surprised to hear the sound of her whisper. "Your immediate family, your uncle, you and me, and...Gino."

Vienna nodded, hearing the hesitancy in Dante's voice as he said her cousin's name. But it made sense. Of course, Gino would know if her Uncle Cosimo knew.

"How did you find out?" Vienna continued, her eyes focused on the road ahead of the Escalade.

"Your mom called me," Dante answered.

She could feel his stare at the side of her face but she refused to turn and face him. Something like hurt nagged at the side of her temples like a headache.

"She called you?" Vienna repeated, not caring if she sounded like a toddler throwing a tantrum. How could her own mother call her fiancé with this grave piece of news and not her eldest daughter—

"—Micina, don't," Dante deflected, his voice gentle even as he shut down her line of thinking. "She called cause she knew I would be up. Besides, she doesn't have your—your new cell phone number."

Vienna turned to see Dante pulling out Vienna's old phone that he had tapped and saw that there were several missed calls from her mother lighting up the screen, along with a few urgent texts from her little brother.

"By the way, you left this at home."

Vienna sighed and took the phone from Dante. How could she have forgotten? Her brain felt so foggy—of course, her mother did not have the number to her burner phone. Of course, she could not get a hold of her.

Clearing her throat, Vienna pocketed the old cell phone and turned to face the front once more, her teeth worrying at her lips as she tried to distract herself.

But, no matter how hard she did not want to ask the question, she could not help herself.

"How—" Vienna broke off, and angled her body towards Dante. She needed to see his reaction to her next question. "How did he die?"

Dante's expression was somber when he replied. "Heart attack in his sleep. By the time your mother realized, the paramedics were too late."

Vienna tried not to react. She knew logically that a heart attack at his age was detrimental to his body—it was honestly a miracle he had even survived the first one when she had first arrived in Chicago.

But still, knowing the logical facts did not make her heart hurt any less.

Tears pricked at the back of Vienna's eyes, and she turned away not wanting Dante to see her emotion. But just as she was turning, he reached over and squeezed the top of her hand.

Vienna knew that the gesture was supposed to be quick and fleeting and something that was merely supposed to bring comfort, but Vienna turned her palm over and caught and held Dante's hand in her own.

Because, despite everything between them, she was thankful she was not alone at that moment.

They rode like that together for the rest of the ride.

A/N: Man, I know I haven't updated this story in a minute but just know that no matter how long I go without updating that I have no plans of ever abandoning this story. Truth be told, this summer has been crazy busy and I was in a bit of a writing rut. I think sometimes I get in my head about stuff like plot and characterization but then I remember that the whole reason I started writing this story was to just simply write again, no matter how any of it turned out. So now I feel like I have some of my mojo back so I'm hoping that there will be more consistent updates! Thank you to all of you that reached out and left amazing reviews. I see each and every one of them and I really appreciate it.
Anyway how have all of you been? What are your thoughts on the death of Vito DeLaurentis? What are your thoughts about Vienna and Dante? I'd love to hear your thoughts as always!

Response to Guest Reviews on Ch. 17

Guest (1): I love hearing that you all love Vienna and Dante's normal conversations. I've really tried my best to insert some "normal" couple scenes despite their not-so-normal livelihoods so I'm glad that that's coming across!

Guest (Cara): Ahh, I love your reviews as always! And yes I'm glad most of you remembered the dream that Vienna originally had of Royce! And I'm glad that you enjoyed the end scene with Dante and Vienna. It's always fun writing those scenes even if they're a bit of a challenge to get right, haha.

Anki: So sorry to disappoint with the long wait! But hopefully the next chapter will not be as long. Thank you as always for reading though :)

Guest (2): I've thought about this review since the last chapter and let me start off by saying that I always appreciate the feedback I get from readers! I think what's important to remember about this story is that Dante and Vienna are both very flawed characters. They're both criminals in their own right who do morally ambiguous things constantly. The bathroom scenelike many other scenes in the storyexists in the gray area that is their relationship. And trust me when I say that consent is always a topic that is at the forefront of my mind when I'm writing any type of physical scene! Should they have been fooling around in the middle of their fight? Probably not. Would Dante have stopped if Vienna asked him to? Absolutely. Is Vienna's sexual gratification and Dante's confusion consistent with their characterization? I'd like to think so! I'd also like to think I made it clear that Vienna was not opposed to Dante's advances by the way she initiated their second kiss. (But, at the end of the day, interpretation is up to the reader!) Anyway, I don't mean to drag this but I think everything you said in your review is exactly the whole point of their relationship: it's a mess, but they're working on their individual flaws.