Home > Sweet Temptation(3)

Sweet Temptation(3)
Author: Cora Reilly

“He’s much older than me,” I said eventually.

“Thirteen years, Giulia. He’s a man in his prime,” Mom admonished.

“Why does he want me?” I hadn’t even met him. He didn’t know me. And what was worse: I had no clue how to raise kids.

“You are a Rizzo. The joining of two important families is always desirable,” Mom said.

I looked at Dad, but he was staring at his wine glass. The last thing he’d said to me about Cassio Moretti was that Luca made him Underboss because the two of them were alike—both irrevocably cruel, pitiless, and built like bulls.

And now he was giving me to a man like that.

“When?” I asked. Given Mom’s excitement, all the details must have already been decided.

“One day after your birthday,” Mom said.

“I’m surprised you waited for me to become of age. It’s not like we’re a law-abiding society in general.”

Mom pursed her lips. “I hope you get rid of that snappiness before you meet Cassio. A man like him won’t tolerate your insolence.”

My hands curled into fists under the table. Mom was likely the driving force behind the marriage. She was always trying to better our position in the Famiglia.

She smiled then stood. “I better start looking for a location. This will be the event of the year.”

She patted my cheek like I was a cute little poodle who’d won her a trophy in a dog show. Noticing my sour expression, she frowned. “I’m not sure Cassio will approve of your sullenness… or your bangs.”

“She looks fine, Egidia,” Dad said firmly.

“She looks pretty and young, not sophisticated and ladylike.”

“If Cassio wants a lady, he should stop robbing cradles,” I muttered.

Mom gasped, clapping a hand over her heart like I would single-handedly put her into an early grave. Dad tried to mask a laugh by coughing.

Mom wasn’t fooled. She pointed a warning finger at him. “Talk some sense into your daughter. You know Cassio. I always told you to be stricter with her.” She turned and left with a swoosh of her long skirt.

Dad sighed. He gave me a tired smile. “Your mother only wants what’s best for you.”

“She wants what’s best for our standing. How’s marrying a cruel old man good for me, Dad?”

“Come on,” Dad said, standing. “Let’s take a walk in the garden.”

I followed him. He held out his arm, and I took it. The air was warm and humid and hit me like a wrecking ball. “Cassio isn’t that old, Giulia. Only thirty-one.”

I tried to think of men his age, but I never really paid attention to men. Wasn’t Luca around his age? Thinking of my cousin wasn’t a consolation; he scared me senseless. If Cassio was like that…

What if he was a disgusting fat brute? I looked up at Dad. His brown eyes softened. “Don’t look at me like I betrayed you. Becoming Cassio’s wife isn’t as bad as you might think.”

“Irrevocably cruel. That’s what you called him. Do you remember?”

Dad nodded guiltily. “To his men and the enemy, not you.”

“How can you be sure? Why did his wife die? How? What if he killed her? Or abused her so horribly that she took her own life?” I sucked in a deep breath, trying to calm myself.

Dad pushed my bangs out of my face. “I’ve never seen you so scared.” He sighed. “Luca assured me that Cassio didn’t have a hand in his wife’s death.”

“Do you trust Luca? Didn’t you tell me he’s trying to establish his power?”

“I shouldn’t have told you so much.”

“And how can Luca be sure of what happened to Mrs. Moretti? You know how it is. Even a Capo doesn’t get involved in family matters.”

Dad gripped my shoulders. “Cassio won’t lay a hand on you if he knows what’s good for him.”

We both knew Dad couldn’t do anything once I was married to Cassio. And if we were being honest, he wasn’t someone who would risk getting into a conflict he would lose. Luca preferred Cassio to my father. If he had to choose between the two, Dad would find a quick end.

“He’ll come to meet you tomorrow.”

I took a step back, shocked. “Tomorrow?”

 

 

Mom had been very clear that I wouldn’t meet Cassio until our official introduction during dinner. I was supposed to stay in my room all afternoon while my parents and my future husband discussed my future as if I was a two-year-old without an opinion.

Dressed in my favorite denim overall dress, and beneath it a white tank top with sunflowers, I crept out of my room when I heard the bell. Barefoot, I made no noise as I tiptoed toward the upper landing, avoiding every creaking board.

I knelt down to make myself smaller and peered through the banister. From the sound of the voices, my parents were exchanging pleasantries with two men. Dad came into view, smiling his official smile, followed by Mother who radiated delight. Then two men came into my field of vision.

It wasn’t difficult to guess which one was Cassio. He towered over Dad and the second man. Now I got why they compared him to Luca. He was broad and tall, and the dark-blue three-piece suit made him appear even more imposing. His expression was steel. Even my mother batting her eyelashes didn’t tease a smile out of him. At least his companion looked like he wanted to be here. Cassio didn’t look old—and definitely not fat. His muscles showed even through the layers of fabric he wore. His face was all sharp angles and dark stubble. It was an intentional stubble, not the one screaming lack of time or care.

Cassio was a grown man, a very imposing, powerful man, and I had only just finished high school. What were he and I supposed to talk about?

I loved modern art, drawing, and Pilates. I doubted any of those things mattered to a man like him. Torture and laundering money were most likely his favorite pastimes—and maybe the occasional whore. Anxiety tightened my insides. In less than four months, I’d have to sleep with this man, with this stranger. With a man who might have driven his wife into death.

A flicker of guilt filled me. I was making assumptions. Cassio had lost his wife and was left to tend to his children by himself. What if he was a man in mourning? He didn’t look it, though.

Still, considering that men in our world learned to hide their true feelings from a young age, his lack of emotion didn’t mean anything.

“Why don’t we go into my office for a glass of my best cognac and chat about the marriage?” Dad motioned down the corridor.

Cassio inclined his head.

“I’ll make sure everything goes smoothly in the kitchen. Our chef’s preparing a feast for tonight,” Mom said enthusiastically.

Both Cassio and his companion gave my mother a tight-lipped smile.

Did that man ever truly smile with his eyes and his heart?

I waited until they had all disappeared from view before I hurried downstairs and slipped inside the library, which was right beside the office. I pressed my ear against the connecting door to listen in on the conversation.

“This union will be good for you and me both,” Dad said.

“Have you told Giulia about the bond yet?”

Hearing my name in Cassio’s deep voice for the very first time made my heart speed up. I’d hear him say it for the rest of my life.

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