Home > Sweet Temptation(5)

Sweet Temptation(5)
Author: Cora Reilly

I waited for her to sit before I took my own seat. She crossed her legs, then smoothed her bangs again, but flushed when she saw me watching. Her nose twitched. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell my mother about this—”

“Don’t call me sir,” I growled.

She winced, stunned. “What am I supposed to call you?”

“How about you call me Cassio? I’ll be your husband soon.”

She released a shaky breath. “November.”

“Yes. Once you turn eighteen.”

“Does it make a difference? How do a few more months make me a viable wife when I’m not now?”

“You’re too young either way, but I’ll feel more comfortable marrying you when you’re of age officially.”

She pursed her lips and shook her head.

“I have two small children who need taking care of. Daniele is two, almost three then, and Simona will be ten months when we marry.”

“Can you show me photos?” she asked, surprising me.

I took out my phone and showed her my background: a photo taken shortly before Gaia’s death, but she wasn’t in it. Daniele was cradling his four-month-old sister in his arms.

I watched Giulia’s face. Her expression softened, and she smiled—an unguarded, honest smile. Not like the smiles I was used to from the women in our circles. That, too, showed how young she was. Not yet jaded and guarded.

“They are adorable. And how cute he’s holding her.” She smiled at me then became serious. “I’m sorry for your loss. I—”

“I don’t want to talk about my dead wife,” I clipped.

She nodded quickly and bit her lip. Fuck, why did she have to look cute and innocent. There were so many teenage girls who plastered their faces with enough makeup to add ten years to their true age—not Giulia. She looked like seventeen, and she wouldn’t miraculously look older in four months when she turned eighteen. I’d have to ask her mother to put lots of makeup on her face for the wedding day.

She tugged her hair behind one ear, revealing a sunflower earring.

“Do you always dress like this?” I motioned at her attire.

She glanced down her body with a small frown. “I like dresses.” The blush on her cheeks darkened when she looked at me.

“I like dresses too,” I said. “Elegant dresses, fitting for a woman. I expect you to dress more elegant in the future. You have to convey a certain image to the outside. If you give me your measurements, I’ll send someone out to buy you a new wardrobe.”

She stared.

“Understood?” I asked when she remained silent.

She blinked then nodded.

“Good,” I said. “There won’t be an official engagement celebration. I don’t have time for it, and I don’t want us to be seen together in public before you are of age.”

“Will I meet your children before we marry? Or see your mansion?”

“No. We won’t see each other until November, and you will meet Daniele and Simona the day after our wedding.”

“Don’t you think it would be good if we got to know each other before we marry?”

“I don’t see how that matters,” I said sharply.

She looked away. “Is there anything else you expect from me, except for a change in wardrobe?”

I considered asking her to start the pill because I didn’t want any more children, but I couldn’t bring myself to talk to a girl her age about it, which was ridiculous considering I’d have to bed her on our wedding night.

I stood. “No. Now you should probably leave before your parents realize we were alone.”

She stood then regarded me for a moment, cupping her elbows in her palms. She turned and left without another word. After she’d left, Faro came back inside.

He raised his eyebrows. “What did you say? The girl looked like she was going to cry.”

My brows drew together. “Nothing.”

“I doubt it, but if you say so.”

 

 

I was still shaking when I entered my bedroom after my first encounter with Cassio. He had been intense and cold, not to mention dominant. Ordering me to change my wardrobe? How dare he?

“There you are! Where have you been?” Mom asked, ushering me toward my walk-in closet. “We need to get you ready. For God’s sake, Giulia, what are you wearing?”

She tugged at my clothes until I started undressing, still in a trance. Mom gave me a curious look. “What’s with you?”

“Nothing,” I said quietly.

Mom turned to the selection of dresses she must have spread out on the bench before I’d arrived. “I can’t believe you don’t own a single decent dress.”

I’d always avoided going to official events because I hated the insincere schmoozing and backstabbing attitude of those who attended them. “What’s wrong with the dresses I own?”

Mom had chosen the three least quirky dresses from my collection. All of them were in my favorite retro Audrey Hepburn style. Mom picked up a sky-blue dress with white dots. “Don’t you have anything solid-colored?”

“No,” I said. Had she never paid attention to my clothes?

I had Dad to thank for the freedom to wear what I liked. While he was conservative, he had trouble saying no to me. Mom had no choice but to bow to his command.

Mom sighed then handed the blue dress to me. “This matches your eyes. Let’s hope Cassio isn’t put off by the ridiculous style.”

I put the dress on without a word, remembering Cassio’s words about my clothes and my bangs.

“Put on makeup, Giulia. You need to look older.”

I gave her an exasperated expression, but she was already on her way out. “And wear heels!”

Taking a deep breath, I blinked to stop the tears from falling. I’d been lucky so far. I preferred to turn a blind eye to the realities of mob life, but I knew what went on behind closed doors. Our world was a cruel one. Dad had been good to me, but I’d seen how many of my cousins had been abused by their fathers, how my uncles treated their wives.

My last fiancé had been close to my age, a quiet almost shy boy that Dad had chosen to protect me. I could have held my ground against him in a marriage. That would be a difficult task with Cassio. I didn’t like to give in to negative emotions, but my fear was an acute pain in my chest.

Grabbing blue heels, I headed for my vanity. My eyes were glassy when I checked my reflection. I put on more makeup than usual, but still much less than Mom and Cassio probably expected.

When I made my way downstairs for the official introductions, I’d managed to calm myself. My eyes still felt too warm from almost crying, but my smile didn’t waver when I descended the stairs toward Dad, Cassio, and his companion Faro.

Dad took my hand, squeezing it as he led me toward my future husband. Cassio’s expression was a masterpiece of controlled politeness as he regarded me. His eyes were dark blue, like the depth of the ocean, and gave the impression that they could swallow you just as easily as the bottomless sea. Disapproval flashed across his face when he took in my dress.

“Cassio, meet my daughter, Giulia.” A hint of warning rang in Dad’s voice, which bounced right off Cassio’s stoic demeanor.

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