Home > Bound By Vengeance (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #5)(4)

Bound By Vengeance (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #5)(4)
Author: Cora Reilly

Father had mentioned him once or twice in hushed tones but I’d never seen him, and he definitely wasn’t the type to appear in the gossip section of the newspaper. I doubted any journalist was crazy enough to risk the wrath of a man like him.

“The Bastard, that’s what most people call him,” Anastasia added. She looked like a cat that had spotted a bird. I knew why she was so excited. So far nothing interesting had happened, but Anastasia probably hoped this had the potential for some decent gossip.

“What’s his real name?” I asked. I’d tried to get it out of Mother once, but the look she’d given me had stopped me from asking again.

“I don’t know his real name. Nobody does. People call him ‘Growl’ to his face, and the Bastard behind his back.”

I gave them a look. Really? Both were names he couldn’t possible have chosen for himself. Someone had to know his name. At least, Falcone. He knew everything about his subjects. “Why would people call him that?”

Anastasia shrugged but didn’t glance my way. “There’s something wrong with his vocal cords since a horrible accident. That’s why he’s got that big scar.”

I couldn’t make out a scar from our vantage point. We were too far away. I assumed Anastasia had gotten that piece of information from the gossip mill as well. “What kind of accident?”

“I don’t know. Some people say the Russian mob did it, others say he tried to kill himself because he isn’t right in the head, but nobody knows,” Anastasia replied under her breath.

Who would try to kill themselves like that? And Growl didn’t seem the guy for suicide. He didn’t look it, that was for sure, but who knew what went on in his twisted brain? The first story with the Bratva sounded far more likely. “So they call him Growl because that’s what it sounds like when he talks?” I asked.

Anastasia barely seemed to register my words, but Trish nodded in confirmation.

I didn’t ask why they called him the Bastard. That much I could figure out. People in our world didn’t look kindly upon children who were born out of wedlock. It was old-fashioned and ridiculous, but some things never changed. I didn’t know who his parents were. They couldn’t be high-ranking members of society.

I directed my eyes back to the man. He seemed completely indifferent to what was happening around him, as if this party was just another of his duties. But something told me that despite his displayed boredom, he was alert. I doubted that much escaped his attention. He was holding a glass of champagne in his hands, but it was still full. The elegant crystal looked tiny compared to him, and I marveled that he hadn’t crushed it between his palms yet. As if he could read my mind, he turned his head and stared straight at us. Trish let out a gasp and jerked beside me, spilling a few drops of her drink on the expensive-looking wooden floor. She really couldn’t have acted more suspicious if she’d tried. After a moment, both Trish and Anastasia jerked their heads down, breaking eye contact. Maybe to make him believe they hadn’t been watching him, or maybe they simply couldn’t bear the power of his gaze.

Now, I understood why my parents and even my friends had sounded so terrified when they’d talked about him. Even from a distance his eyes almost made my knees buckle.

It wasn’t only fear that made my heart speed up, though; there was something close to excitement too. It was like watching a tiger through the glass of its enclosure and marveling at its power. Only here the only thing keeping him from attack was the social rules even someone like him was bound to. The leash Falcone had him on wasn’t a physical or visible one, but it was there.

I wondered what was going on in his head. How did he feel surrounded by people he had hardly anything in common with? He was one of them, and yet not really; a man of the shadows, because nobody wanted him in the light. When I realized how long I’d been staring, I averted my eyes, but my pulse kept up its erratic pace afterward. I wasn’t sure when I’d last felt this…alive. My life always meandered in its predetermined pathways, but tonight felt like an adventure.

“Oh my God, that was creepy,” Anastasia whispered. “He should have stayed in the hole that he crawled out of.”

I couldn’t say anything. My tongue seemed to be stuck to the roof of my mouth.

“Is he still watching?” I asked eventually, my eyes firmly plastered on the bubbles still rising in my glass.

“No, he’s gone,” Anastasia said with no small relief. “I can’t believe he came here. People like him should stay among themselves and not pretend they belong with us.”

I peered toward the corner he’d previously occupied but like Anastasia had said, he was gone. For some reason, it made me nervous that I didn’t know where he’d gone. He was one of those people you’d like to keep track of because you feared they could sneak up on you. And I could have sworn that I could still sense his eyes on my skin. I shivered. Paranoia usually wasn’t my style.

I searched my surroundings but he was nowhere to be seen. I tried to shake off the ridiculous feeling of being watched. It wouldn’t do me any favors if I acted paranoid. If I embarrassed myself here, it would be a while before I’d be invited to anything again. Or worse, Cosimo would decide I wasn’t fit to become his wife. Mother and Father would never forgive me if that happened.

“Look who’s coming,” Trish said under her breath, and for a ridiculous, heart-stopping moment, I actually thought it was Growl.

I turned to see who she was talking about and felt heat rush into my cheeks. Cosimo was heading our way. He was dressed in a gray double-breasted suit, dark-blond hair slicked back and thin-rimmed glasses on his nose.

“He looks like a broker,” commented Trish in a low voice.

He managed Falcone’s money, so that wasn’t very far off. The suit was his second skin. I’d never seen him in anything else. It was a stark contrast to the man I’d been spying on mere seconds ago.

Trish and Anastasia took a step to the side, huddling together and pretending to give Cosimo and me some privacy, which was only pretense since I knew they’d be hanging on our lips, memorizing our words.

I doubted they’d be using them against me. They were my friends after all, but I didn’t want to risk it.

Cosimo came to a stop a little too close, took my hand and brought it to his lips. I almost rolled my eyes at the gesture, though a small part of me relished in the appreciative glances Trish and Anastasia exchanged.

“Care for a dance?” he asked, voice smooth and even. That, like the suit, was always the same. Trish had compared him to a well-oiled machine once. The term fit too well. His eyes darted to my friends but he didn’t say anything. I didn’t follow his gaze, worried Anastasia would look pissed off. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on with her.

I let him guide me toward the dance floor, aware of my friends’ curious gazes following us, and they weren’t the only ones watching. My parents, too, had turned their eyes toward us. I almost cringed at the force of their attention.

Don’t trip, I told myself over and over again as we started moving to the music.

As we danced close together, I waited for a flutter, for something, the smallest hitch in my pulse, but nothing happened. Not that Cosimo looked as if he was madly in love with me. Not that love was required for a marriage, but it would have been nice.

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