Home > Sweet Temptation(9)

Sweet Temptation(9)
Author: Cora Reilly

“It’s my turn,” Christian said.

My smile became less stiff as my brother took over. He gave me a quick smile as we began to dance. I rarely saw him anymore since he’d moved out five years ago at eighteen. Unlike many sons from Underbosses, he’d chosen not to work under Dad in Baltimore until he inherited the title himself. Christian had wanted to make a name for himself and had gone to work under the Morettis.

“It’s so good to see you,” I said, hugging him tighter.

He gave a terse nod. “It is.”

“You don’t look happy that I’ll live in the same city as you soon.”

Christian shook his head. “Not at this price.”

“You mean me being married to Cassio?”

Christian looked around, but Cassio was dancing with one of his sisters a good distance away. “He’s not the right man for you.”

“Because he’s too old.”

Christian let out a derisive laugh. “That’s only a small part of why.”

“Do you know what happened to Gaia?” I hadn’t seen my brother since I’d found out I’d marry Cassio. Asking that kind of question over the phone was too dangerous. You never knew if the FBI was listening.

“Only Luca, Mansueto, and Cassio know.” He hesitated.

“And?”

“The clean-up crew. Both of them died shortly after in a tragic car accident.”

For a moment I was sure I hadn’t heard him right. My vision was starting to tunnel. “Dad said Cassio didn’t have a hand in his wife’s death.”

Anger flashed across Christian’s face. “Dad needs Cassio’s support to stay in power. Dad’s a weak boss. It’s only a matter of time before others will try to have him removed. With Cassio in the family, people will hesitate. If I already were in power, I wouldn’t have given you to him. I would have controlled our men myself.”

Power plays. It wasn’t something I wanted to be part of, but without my own doing, I’d become the pawn in this deadly game.

“You’ve worked under Cassio the last few years. Is he really that bad?”

Christian’s expression flickered with regret. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

I dug my fingers into his arm. “Tell me, please. I need to prepare myself.” Though, how could you prepare for that?

“He’s effective and brutal. He doesn’t tolerate disobedience. He’s got his men under control. Few men in our circles are as well respected as him. He’s the best Underboss that the Famiglia has at the moment.” Christian shook his head. “I should talk to him.”

“No,” I whispered, terrified. If what Christian had said was true, Cassio wouldn’t allow my brother to get involved. Christian was a brave man, and he’d be a good Underboss one day, but risking his life for me? I wouldn’t allow it. “Promise, you won’t say anything. Swear it.”

“I want to help you.”

“Then tell me what to do to make this marriage with him work.”

He laughed mirthlessly. “How would I know?” Our dance ended, and he fell silent, his mouth twisting in disgust. “Obey him.”

Despair weighed down on me. Four months ago, my main concern was what kind of Pilates course I’d do and if I’d find time to finish a painting. Today, I had to worry about how to please a husband, who might have killed his wife and probably the men who’d cleaned up the scene afterward.

 

 

After the dance with my brother, I wanted nothing more than to find a quiet corner to get a grip, but Cassio’s father limped toward me.

I gave him a smile as my brother slinked away after a curt nod. Mr. Moretti held out his hand. “Will you give this old man the honor of dancing with the bride?”

“Of course, Mr. Moretti,” I said with a small curtsy.

“Mansueto, please. We’re family now.”

I nodded and took his hand, wondering how this was going to work with his cane. He smiled wistfully. “We’ll have to dance in one spot if you’re all right with that, young lady.”

Again, I nodded and stepped a bit closer. He handed his cane to a man I didn’t know and lightly touched my back. Then we began to sway to the music.

“You’re very quiet. From what I hear, you’re not a quiet girl.”

My cheeks heated, wondering who had given him that piece of information. Christian? Definitely not my mother.

Mansueto’s eyes were kind, but like his son, his reputation was chilling. “My son’s reputation makes me proud,” he began as if he could read my mind, which freaked me out. “I know he’ll rule over Philadelphia without trouble, even once I’m gone. But it’s a reputation that might unsettle a young woman, especially as young as yourself.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I felt like I should contradict him because tradition dictated that I pretend I wasn’t unsettled by my husband, but that would have been a lie, and unfortunately, I was a bad liar, much to Mom’s chagrin.

“My wife and I raised my son to respect women, and from what I know, he does.”

From what I knew, the bets on him killing his wife in a rampant rage were winning. He didn’t appear like someone who would lose control like that, but he had earned his reputation as one of the cruelest leaders in our circles for a reason, and Christian’s words had only confirmed my fears.

“Thank you for telling me,” I said, because I had to say something. I didn’t feel consoled. The song ended and we stopped our swaying. Faro stood with his last dance partner to my left. I caught his eye, thinking as best man and Consigliere, he’d want a dance.

He shook his head with an apologetic smile. “If I ever tire of life, I’ll ask for that dance.” He turned and asked another woman.

Flabbergasted, I stared at Mansueto.

He laughed. “Come on, let’s head back to the table.”

“What was that?” I asked as I followed his slow progress toward the table where Cassio was still conversing with Luca as if this was a business meeting and not our wedding.

“My son is a bit territorial, I’m afraid. You can dance with family, but please refrain from approaching other men. I’d hate to witness a conflict at your wedding.”

I waited for his laugh, something that indicated he was joking. He didn’t. I stopped and so did he. “I think I’ll freshen up.”

He nodded, but his expression showed he knew I wanted to run. With a small smile, I turned on my heel and hurried out of the ballroom.

I rushed past the restrooms and turned a corner into a deserted corridor where I leaned against the wall and slowly sank down. My dress bunched around me like a pure white bubble.

It wasn’t dignified, and if someone found me, that would be a scandal for which Mom would never forgive me. I couldn’t bring myself to care. This was my life.

I wasn’t sure how long I sat like that, considering my few options, when steps echoed down the hall. With my dress, I didn’t have the chance to stand up quickly, so I didn’t bother.

Mia turned the corner and upon spotting me, she headed my way with a look of concern. She surprised me when she sank down beside me in her elegant long dress and bulging belly.

“Cassio is a difficult man, Giulia. I won’t lie.”

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