Romeo, Romeo

Chapter One

Rosalie Ronaldi made a successful escape from the insane asylum. Okay, so it wasn't a real insane asylum; it was her parents's Bay Ridge home. But most days, it could pass for the Sicilian version of Bellevue. She pulled on her coat as the storm door snicked closed behind her, took a deep breath of cold early January air, and ran for the solace of her car.

Sitting through a typical Italian Sunday dinner at Chez, Ronaldi was always a lesson in self-control. Today it had become a lesson in avoidance—marriage avoidance.

For the life of her, Rosalie couldn't figure out why her mother would push a daughter she supposedly loved down the aisle. It wasn't as if the institution had brought Maria Ronaldi any happiness. Just the opposite.

Whenever Rosalie made decisions, she measured the odds and studied the statistical evidence—something at which she'd always excelled. With the divorce rate at 53 percent, if you added the number of unhappy marriages that wouldn't end in divorce because of religious beliefs or sheer stubbornness, which she estimated was running at about 46 percent, only 1 percent of all marriages could be considered happy. A person would have to be crazy to take a calculated risk with a 99 percent failure rate.

Rosalie was many things, but crazy wasn't one of them. As a child, she'd made the decision never to marry, and nothing in her experience since had done anything but cement her resolve. Of course, if she said that, she'd be breaking the eleventh commandment: thou shalt marry a nice Catholic boy (preferably Italian) and have babies—or go straight to hell.

Rosalie climbed into her VW Beetle and headed toward her Park Slope apartment. Turning onto the Prospect Expressway, she heard a funny thumping noise. Never a good sign. She pulled over to find her tire was as flat as matzo, and after a marathon Italian dinner, the waistband of her pants was so tight that if she took a deep breath, she'd pop a button. God only knew what would happen when she bent down to change the tire.

Rosalie opened the trunk, expecting to see her spare tire. It was supposed to be right there, but all she saw was a big hole.

Great! Just what she needed. She stared into the trunk, turned to kick the flat tire, and called her brother the nicest name she could think of that fit him. Asshole.

“Stronzo!” She should have known better than to give him a hundred and sixty bucks to replace her spare tire. She'd told him to buy a full-sized spare, and he hadn't even gotten her one of those donuts. “He's proprio un stronzo della prima categoria.”

She had no problem calling Rich the world's biggest asshole in Italian. After all, God excused cursing if done in a second language. He gave bonus points for cursing in a third. Rosalie had a feeling she'd be brushing up on her Spanish.

* * *

Dominick Romeo stood in the state-of-the-art garage of his flagship dealership, the largest car dealership in all of New York. He'd built it from nothing but brains and hard work. He owned a chain of dealerships that covered most of the East Coast, but he'd be damned if he could figure out what was wrong with his Viper.

Nick checked the clock next to his private hydraulic lift and decided to call it a night. He was the only one unlucky enough to be there at five o'clock on a Sunday evening. Anyone with the sense God gave a flea was at home digesting a traditional Italian supper, but not him. His car had