"Is this a joke? This has got to be a God damned joke."

"It's not a joke, Dad." Pinching the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, Alex closed her eyes. "We're in Vegas. I'm standing in the hotel parking lot. There's a ring on my finger. Morde and I  --  yeah. We're married."

"Jesus Christ, Alexandra. Do you have any idea how stupid you are?"

There was silence on the other end of the phone. Her eyes flickered over each story of the hotel building that loomed in front of her. She counted them silently. One. Two. Three. Four. His voice interrupted her.

"Does he realize what kind of mess he's just gotten himself into? You're reckless. Impulsive. A mental and financial dra--"

"I'm sure he's aware. He's a smart guy," Alex snapped, interrupting her father, tears hot and prickly at the corners of each eye.

"I'm not so confident. Have you told him? Have you told him about the hell that you put your mother and I through? And Caine?"

"That was six years ago. When are you gonna let that shit go? I'm not that person anymore."

"A zebra can't change its stripes, Alexandra. It's not just a saying. Things evidently haven't become difficult enough for you to demonstrate what a failure you can be. But when they do, mark my God damned words, that boy is going to regret this decision."

Alex fell quiet. Her fingertips skated under each eye, catching moisture, the constricting of her throat too tight for words. After a minute had passed, long enough for her to breathe through the strangled feeling, Alex choked out, "I pray to God every fucking day that doesn't happen." Her breath came in puttered gasps. She forced some strength into her voice. "But you're wrong. I'm not gonna give him any reason to regret it. He knows me. He knows me better than you do. He knows me better than anyone does."

Laughter. The sound of her father's chuckling made Alex wince. She shifted the phone to her other ear, scratching hard at the right side of her face, struggling to satiate an itch that wasn't there. "Don't come to me when this mistake of yours goes to shit. The only thing you'll get from me is an 'I told you so.' I have no sympathy for your horrible decisions anymore."

"Thanks for the well wishes, Dad. I'll be sure to pass those onto my husband." Jerking the phone away from her ear, teeth digging into her bottom lip at the feeling of her father's yells reverberating through the speaker, Alex pressed the 'end' button and threw the thing haphazardly onto the pavement, finding satisfaction in the sound of it skidding to a stop and thudding against the curb.