Home > Sweet Temptation(6)

Sweet Temptation(6)
Author: Cora Reilly

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Giulia.” His mouth pulled into an almost non-existent smile as he took my hand and kissed it. I trembled.

Dark blue eyes flashed up to mine, and I straightened my spine. “The pleasure is all mine, s—Cassio.”

Dad glanced between Cassio and me, worried. Maybe he finally realized that he’d thrown me to a wolf. Dad tried to intimidate my future husband with a dark look, but a sheep didn’t become a predator by wearing a wolf fur, and Dad had never been more than prey among the blood-thirsty monsters in our circles.

Cassio straightened, ignoring Dad, and motioned toward his companion. “That’s my right hand and Consigliere, Faro.”

I held out my hand, but Faro didn’t take it and only politely inclined his head. Dropping my arm, I shifted closer to Dad, who scanned my face. He looked torn, and I felt sick satisfaction over his obvious conflict.

“I’ll send a new wardrobe over for Giulia. Please tell your wife to take your daughter’s measurements,” Cassio said. “I need a woman at my side, not a girl.”

That was too much for Dad. “Maybe this was a mistake, and I should cancel our agreement.”

Cassio moved in front of Dad, staring down at him with a look that turned my stomach. “We shook hands on the engagement, Felix. We settled matters with Luca. Everything is agreed upon. Given that we decided against a separate engagement, that makes Giulia my fiancée, and I’m telling you now that nobody, least of all you, will prevent this marriage.”

Maybe Cassio hadn’t wanted me, but he certainly wouldn’t allow anyone to take me away from him.

I held my breath. This was Dad’s home, and he ruled over this city. He only bowed down to Luca, certainly not to another Underboss.

At least, that was how it should have been.

Yet Dad cleared his throat and lowered his eyes. “I have no intention of canceling our arrangement. I was only making a point.”

What point?

Cassio’s expression asked the same question. Mom barged in that moment, completely oblivious to what was going on. “Dinner is ready!”

Her smile fell when she saw us.

Cassio held out his arm for me to take. I glanced at Dad, but he avoided my eyes. The message was clear: from this day on, Cassio would lead the way.

I put my palm on my fiancé’s strong forearm. If Dad couldn’t protect me anymore, that meant I’d have to protect myself. Cassio led me into the dining room, following Mom, who was babbling about possible color schemes for our wedding. Cassio probably didn’t care the slightest bit. As a man, he wouldn’t even have to pretend otherwise—unlike me, the happy future bride.

When we arrived at the dining table, he pulled out the chair for me.

“Thank you.” I sank down, smoothing out my dress.

Cassio took the seat across from me. His eyes lingered on my bangs before they moved on to my flower earrings, probably deciding what new haircut he’d order me to get and what jewelry to buy for me.

He wanted to turn me into the wife he wanted, mold me like clay. Maybe he thought my age made me a spineless marionette that would bow down to her master at the slightest tug at her strings.

I met his gaze. I’d learned the subtle art of getting my way with a smile and kindness, the only way a woman could get what she wanted in our world. Would it work with Cassio? Dad always melted when I batted my lashes, but I had a feeling Cassio wouldn’t be easily swayed.

 


A week later, two packages filled with dresses, skirts, and blouses arrived on our doorstep. Mom could hardly contain her excitement as she unpacked clothes by Max Mara, Chanel, Ted Baker, and many other of her favorite designers. The dresses were pretty and elegant. They weren’t me at all.

I understood Cassio’s need to portray a certain image to the public, and at official events I definitely wouldn’t have worn my sunflower dress, I just wished he’d asked me to buy a few elegant clothes and not bought them for me as if he didn’t value my opinion—which was, of course, the case.

 

 

The four months until November flew by—an endless row of sleepless nights, teary tantrums, and hard workdays.

On the morning of my bachelor night, I squatted in front of Daniele. He was staring down at the iPad, watching a series he liked. His hair was tousled in the front and knotted in the back, but he refused to let Sybil comb it. I hadn’t had the patience to hold him while she did it. We’d have to buzz it short once the wedding was over. “Daniele, I need to talk to you.”

He didn’t look up. I reached for the iPad, but he twisted around. “Give it to me.”

His small shoulders rounded in. It was his only reaction. I grabbed the device and pulled it away. “Soon someone will move in with us. She’ll be your new mom. She’ll take care of you and Simona.”

Daniele’s face scrunched up, and he threw himself at me, pummeling my legs with his little fists. “That’s enough,” I thundered, grabbing his arms.

My anger disappeared seeing tears running down his face. “Daniele.”

I tried to hug him to my chest, but he squirmed away. Eventually, I released him. In the days after Gaia’s death, Daniele had sought my closeness; now he was back to ignoring me. I wasn’t sure what Gaia had told him before her death, but it was clear that it made Daniele resent me.

I put the iPad down in front of him then straightened. Without another word, I left and went upstairs to Simona’s room. The nanny hurried out. In a few days, I’d finally be able to get rid of the nannies, and Giulia would take care of Simona. I bent over the crib. Simona stared up at me and smiled a toothless grin. I gently slipped my palms under her tiny body and lifted her into my arms. Cradling her against my chest, I stroked her dark blond head. Both Daniele and she had inherited their mother’s hair color and eyes. Pressing a kiss to Simona’s forehead, I remembered the first time I did it two days after she was born. Gaia had refused to have me present while she gave birth to our daughter and only allowed me near her on the second day. Anger resurfaced as it always did when I remembered the past. Simona babbled, and I kissed her forehead again. She cried when someone other than my sisters, mother, or I held her. I could only hope she’d quickly grow used to Giulia’s presence.

I put her back down even though her cries tore at my heart. I needed to get ready for a meeting with Luca and then my bachelor night after.

 


An hour before the official start of my bachelor night, which Faro had organized for me, I met with Luca in my office. He and his wife Aria had arrived a day early so he could see how business was going in Philadelphia. He wouldn’t find reason to worry. I’d forgone sleep to make sure everything worked smoothly in my city. Luca and I settled on the armchairs in my office. I was surprised he’d agreed to come along to my stag party. Since his marriage to Aria, he’d pulled back a bit.

“My aunt went all out with the wedding planning,” Luca said as he lounged in the armchair. “She thought of everything from doves and ice sculptures to silk bed linen.”

White silk bed linen. Linen I was supposed to stain with my young wife’s blood on our wedding night.

I took a sip from my scotch then lowered it. “There won’t be a presentation of the sheets because I won’t be sleeping with Giulia.”

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