Home > Sweet Temptation(8)

Sweet Temptation(8)
Author: Cora Reilly

I pulled back, causing Giulia to open her eyes. She held my gaze, a blush creeping up her cheeks. Then she gave me a small, shy smile. So goddamn innocent.

I straightened, looking away from her pretty, young face. From the corner of my eye, I saw her puzzled expression before I led her down the aisle and out of the church for the congratulations.

Faro, of course, was the first to congratulate me. He clapped my shoulder with a challenging smile. “And how was the first taste of your young wife?” he asked in a low voice.

I scowled. He knew very well that I rarely shared information like that. It didn’t stop him from asking, of course. He stepped back and faced Giulia, giving a small bow. Her answering smile was the kind of unguarded friendliness that gave proof of her age. As my wife, she’d have to learn to be more restrained. Gaia had been the perfect hostess and trophy wife, poised and a master of social etiquette, a quick liar, someone who smiled at you one moment only to stab you in the back the next. Giulia wasn’t like that. She’d have to grow up quickly, learn the ins and outs of being an Underboss’s wife.

My eyes lingered on the small sunflowers in her updo. Those would have to go first. Too lighthearted, too quirky. Nothing I appreciated. The sunflower earrings were even worse. She should have worn the jewelry I sent her. I leaned down to her. “Why didn’t you wear the diamond earrings I bought for you?”

 

 

I jumped at the cold disapproval in his voice.

Mom and Dad headed toward us to congratulate us, which didn’t give me much time for a reply. “They didn’t match the flower arrangement.”

I’d fought Mom for weeks over having sunflowers as part of my bridal flowers. Eventually, Dad had settled the matter in my favor, as he usually did.

“You shouldn’t have chosen sunflowers. Next time I send you something to wear, I expect you to do it.”

I blinked, too stunned for a reply. He straightened. For him, this matter was settled. He’d given an order and naturally expected me to obey. There was no doubt in his mind that I would. His expression was steel when he shook Dad’s hand.

Mom pulled me into an embrace, dragging my eyes away from my husband. A frown appeared on her face. “Look happy, Giulia,” she whispered. “Don’t you realize how lucky you are? I’d have never thought we’d manage to marry you off to an Underboss, considering all of them were already married. This is such a stroke of luck.”

My smile felt stiff. What was a stroke of luck? That Gaia Moretti had died, leaving two small children behind? That I was married to the man who might be responsible for her death?

Mom’s expression pinched. “For God’s sake, try harder to look happy. Don’t ruin this for us.”

Mom didn’t even realize how cruel she was.

Luckily, Dad stepped up to me and hugged me. I sank into him. He and I had always been closer, but recently my resentment had clouded our relationship. “You look beautiful.”

“I don’t think Cassio agrees,” I muttered. Dad pulled back, searching my face. His guilt and worry added another weight to my already heavy heart.

“I’m sure he appreciates your beauty,” Dad said quietly.

I kissed Dad’s cheek, and he reluctantly moved away to make room for Cassio’s parents. I’d never talked to them and had only seen them from afar at a couple of social functions. Mr. Moretti shared Cassio’s dark blue eyes, but his were clouded and his impressive size was diminished by the fact that he supported his weight on a cane. Cassio’s mother was elegant and beautiful with dark blond hair pulled up into a perfect chignon. Behind her, Cassio’s sisters waited, no less graceful and poised. That was how I was supposed to be. Cassio didn’t want me for myself. He wanted me to become someone he required. Accessories in his life.

 


I could hardly force food down my tight throat during dinner. Cassio didn’t talk to me, only to his father and Luca. I sat beside him like arm candy.

Maybe it was for the best. Every time he’d talked to me so far, he ordered me around and intimidated me only more. Considering that I’d have to share a bed with him tonight, I preferred his silence. The chances of me passing out were high anyway.

I slanted a look at Cassio. His facial features were attractive in an edgy way. Sharp cheekbones, a strong jaw, and the dark stubble. I’d never seen him in less than a three-piece suit, but his muscles were unmistakable.

“My brother played football in high school,” Mia whispered, surprising me. I hadn’t said much to her yet. We were strangers, despite being sisters-in-law, not to mention she was ten years older than me.

Heat rose into my cheeks, realizing she must have noticed me staring at Cassio. I couldn’t even imagine Cassio going to high school.

“You finished this summer, right?” Mia asked.

I nodded with a small smile. “Yes. I thought I’d go to college, but…”

“But you had to marry my brother.”

“I would have had to marry either way, but as a wife of an Underboss, going to college is out of the question,” I said quietly. My mother would have had a heart attack if she’d heard me being this honest with Cassio’s sister, but I was tired of trying to pretend.

“That’s true. You’ll be busy raising his kids, so you won’t be bored.”

My heart sped up like it always did thinking of being responsible for two tiny humans. I had absolutely no clue about kids. I’d read countless articles about raising kids in the last four months, but reading and doing were two very different things. Most of the time I felt like a girl, not a woman, much less a mother.

Mia touched my hand. “You’ll be fine. I live close by. I can help if you don’t know what to do.”

Cassio must have heard because he frowned. “You have two small kids of your own with a third on the way. You’ll have your hands full. Giulia can handle everything.”

He seemed to know me better than I did. Or maybe he’d just order me to be a good mother?

Mia sighed, but she didn’t talk back to him. My stomach knotted even more.

I was wound so tightly when it was time for the first dance, I hardly noticed Cassio leading me to the center of the ballroom. The guests gathered around it, watching. My smile was in place. If I’d learned one thing from my mother, it was to smile in the face of adversity.

With our difference in height, dancing wasn’t easy. If we’d been a real couple, I could have rested my cheek against his sternum. Right now we were casual acquaintances at best. Cassio led me over the dance floor without a hitch, sure in his leadership like in every other aspect of our life. My mind was spinning a hundred miles an hour, imagining our future, imagining tonight.

“Why are you trembling?” Cassio asked, startling me.

I regarded his emotionless eyes. Did he really not know? “Why don’t you order me to stop? Maybe my body obeys your command.”

Cassio’s expression hardened. “I expect you to choose your words more carefully in public. I’m your husband and you’ll respect me.”

I lowered my eyes to his chest, the smile still frozen on my face.

Cassio’s mouth pressed to my ear as the dance ended. “Understood?”

“Understood, sir.”

Cassio’s grip on me tightened, but he didn’t get the chance to say more because it was Dad’s turn to dance with me. He kept asking what was wrong, but I really didn’t see any reason to tell him. There was nothing he could do, nothing he would do. Mom’s lips were moving nonstop during her dance with my husband. From her delighted expression, you’d think she was the happy bride.

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