Home > Sweet Temptation(7)

Sweet Temptation(7)
Author: Cora Reilly

Luca lowered his glass slowly, his gray eyes narrowing. He knew it wasn’t because of Gaia, even if I hadn’t been with another woman since her death. “It’s tradition. It has been for centuries.”

“I know and I honor our traditions, but there won’t be a presentation of sheets this time.” Those words could very well mean my downfall. It wasn’t my choice to ignore our traditions. Only Luca could make that decision, and it was clear he wouldn’t. I’d considered sleeping with Giulia. She was pretty, but I couldn’t get the image of her innocent, wide eyes out of my head or how young she’d looked in her ridiculous clothes without a touch of makeup. The women of my past had been my age—grown women that could take what I gave.

“With your first marriage, you had no trouble following our tradition. It’s not something you can follow as you see fit,” Luca said sharply.

“The last time I married, the woman was close to me in age. I’m almost fourteen years older than my future wife. She called me ‘sir’ the first time she saw me. She’s a girl.”

“She is of age, Cassio. Today is her birthday.”

I nodded. “You know I do what you ask me to do. You know I rule over Philadelphia without mercy as you expect me to do, but even I have certain lines I’m not willing to cross, and I won’t force myself on a girl.”

“She’s of age and nobody says you have to use force,” Luca repeated and I lost my shit.

I crashed the glass down on the table. “That she is, but I’d still feel like I was manhandling her. You can’t honestly believe she will come willingly into my bed. Perhaps she will submit because she knows it’s her only option, but that’s not willing. I have a daughter, Luca, and I wouldn’t want her to be with a man thirteen years her senior.”

Luca regarded me for a long time, maybe considering putting a bullet in my head. He didn’t tolerate defiance. “You will present sheets after your wedding night, Cassio.” I opened my mouth to refuse him again. “No discussion. How you create bloody sheets is up to you.”

I sat back, wary. “What is it you are suggesting?”

“I’m not suggesting anything,” Luca said. “I’m only telling you that I want to see bloody sheets, and I and everyone else will take them as proof of your wife’s honor and your ruthlessness as is expected.”

Maybe I was wrong, but I was fairly certain Luca was suggesting I fake the bloody sheets. I took another sip of my scotch, wondering if Luca had experience faking blood stains. I had been at the presentation of the sheets after his wedding night with Aria, but even as I tried, I couldn’t imagine Luca sparing anyone. I had seen him ripping out a man’s tongue for disrespecting Aria and had been there when he’d crushed his uncle’s throat. Maybe he was testing me. Maybe he was suggesting something like that so he could see if I was too weak to bed my wife. Growing up in our world, I’d learned to see the warning signs. If I failed a test given by my Capo, the end result was inevitable. I’d be removed from my position in the only acceptable way—by death. While I didn’t fear dying, I loathed the idea of what that would mean for Daniele and Simona. They’d cruelly lost their mother. If I, too, abandoned them, it would cause horrible trauma to my kids.

Showing any kind of weakness in this situation would be fatal. I would not risk my children’s health nor my position as Underboss.

I took a sip. “I’ll do what you ask of me, Luca, like my father and I have always done.”

Luca inclined his head, but the tension lingered between us. I’d have to watch my back until I’d proven myself again.

 

 

Faro handed me a flask. “For you.”

I tugged my tie into place before taking the gift. “I won’t drink hard liquor today.”

“I thought you could use it to hit yourself over the head if you consider something as stupid as refusing the bloody sheet tradition again.”

I shoved the flask into the pocket on the inside of my jacket. “Don’t get started again.”

Faro glared. “Just promise you won’t try this faking blood stains bullshit. Luca was baiting you. Trust me, he fucked that wife of his on their wedding night, even if she cried bitter tears. That’s who he is and who he expects you to be. And come on, Cassio, you are that man, so stop trying to be a better man only because you feel guilty over Gaia.”

I gripped his throat. “We are friends, Faro, but I’m also your boss, so show some respect.”

Faro spluttered, his brown eyes watering. “I’m trying to keep you alive. Giulia is a grown woman by age. That’s all that should matter.”

“I’m going to fuck her, so get off my back,” I gritted out, releasing him. I hadn’t seen her since our first and only encounter four months ago, but I knew she still looked young—younger than I preferred. A few months wouldn’t change that. I could only hope that her mother had followed my instructions and put enough makeup on her face to make her look older.

Faro grinned. “Do me a favor and enjoy it, will you? Tonight, you’ll have a tight young pussy around your cock.”

He left the room before I could grab him again.

 


I waited at the front of the church for Giulia. Faro stood to my right and across from him waited one of Giulia’s friends, who looked awfully young. A reminder of my own future wife’s age.

When the music started, I turned my attention to the entrance of the church where Felix entered with Giulia at his side. She was dressed in an elegant long white dress with a long-sleeved lace top. Her hair was pulled up, except for her bangs.

She was smiling slightly as her father led her toward me, but her tension was unmistakable. When she arrived in front of me, I noticed the small sunflowers woven into her hair and bridal bouquet. Her eyes met mine, and for a moment I caught the hint of defiance in them, surprising me. Then her father handed her to me, and Giulia became tenser, her smile wavering.

She looked marginally older thanks to the makeup and her elegant dress. Still, her fine-boned, clammy hand in mine and the innocence in her eyes reminded me of her age.

Despite her youth, she kept her head high, appearing at ease with the situation. Only I could feel her trembling. Her “I do” was firm, as if this bond was really her choice.

While we exchanged the rings, Giulia kept throwing uncertain glances up at me. I wasn’t sure what she was looking for. Maybe wistfulness or even sadness. I remembered my first wedding. Sadness wasn’t part of my feelings when I thought of Gaia.

“You may kiss the bride,” the priest said.

Giulia’s eyes widened a fraction, as if that part of the ceremony came as a surprise. Hundreds of eyes watched us, one set belonging to my Capo. I cupped the back of her head and bent low. She remained frozen, except for her eyes which fluttered shut a moment before I firmly pressed my mouth against hers. Until this moment, physical closeness with Giulia had seemed like something that I’d have to force myself to allow, a struggle forgetting her age and the baggage I carried with me. Now, as her soft lips touched mine and her sweet scent hit me, a deeply buried desire kindled inside me. Claiming her tonight wouldn’t be a problem. Being a better man definitely wasn’t in my future.

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