PROLOGUE“Don’t turn your back on me. Look at me. I think I deserve at least that small decency, Dante.”
Tension radiated off of him when he turned around to me. He didn’t move closer but he was looking at me. For once, he didn’t pretend I was invisible. His blue eyes wandered over my exposed body.
My nipples hardened in the cool air of his office but I didn’t close my silk bathrobe, despite the overwhelming urge to cover myself against Dante’s cold scrutiny. His gaze lingered on the apex of my thighs slightly longer than on the rest of my body and a small burst of hope filled me. “Am I your wife?”
His blond brows drew together. “Of course, you are.” There was the hint of something I couldn’t place in his voice.
“Then claim your rights, Dante. Make me yours.”
He didn’t move, but his eyes slid down to my erect nipples. His gaze was almost something physical, like a ghost touch on my naked skin.
I wasn’t above begging. I knew I almost had him. I wanted to have sex tonight. “I have needs too. Would you prefer if I found a lover who relieved you of the burden to touch me?” I wasn’t sure I could go through with it. No, I knew I couldn’t go through with it, but this act of provocation was my last option. If Dante didn’t react to that, then I didn’t know what else to do.
“No,” he said sharply, something angry and possessive breaking through his perfect mask. He pressed his lips together, jaw locked, and walked toward me. I shivered with need and excitement when he stopped in front of me. He didn’t reach for me but I thought I detected the hint of desire in his eyes. It wasn’t much, but enough to embolden me. I bridged the remaining distance between us and curled my fingers over his strong shoulders, pressing my naked body against his front. The rough material of his business suit rubbed deliciously against my sensitive nipples and I let out a small moan. The pressure between my legs was almost unbearable. Dante’s eyes flashed as he looked down at me. Slowly he wrapped an arm around me and rested his palm flat against my lower back.
Triumph flooded me. He wasn’t ignoring me now.CHAPTER ONEOf course I’d known it would happen. My father had made his standpoint clear the moment my first husband Antonio had been buried. I was too young to stay unmarried. But I hadn’t expected my father to find a new husband for me so quickly, and I definitely hadn’t expected my new husband to be Dante – The Boss – Cavallaro.
Antonio’s funeral had taken place only nine months ago, which made my new engagement teeter on the brink of inappropriateness. Mother was usually among the first to pounce on anyone who committed a social faux-pas and yet she couldn’t see anything wrong with the fact that today, less than a year after saying good-bye to Antonio, I was going to meet my next husband. I’d never loved Antonio as a woman loved a man, even if I’d believed it at one time, and our marriage had never been real, but I’d hoped to get more time before I was forced into another union, especially as I didn’t even get to choose for myself this time.
“You are so lucky Dante Cavallaro agreed to marry you. It came as a surprise for many that he decided to take a woman who has already been married. He could have chosen from a line of eager young women after all,” my mother said as she brushed my dark-brown hair. She didn’t mean to hurt my feelings; she was only stating the obvious. I knew it was true. Everyone did.
A man in Dante’s position didn’t have to content himself with the leftovers of another, a lesser man. That’s what most people probably thought, and yet I was supposed to marry him. I, who didn’t even want to marry someone as powerful and cunning as Dante Cavallaro. I, who wished to stay alone, if only to protect Antonio’s secret. How was I supposed to keep up the lie? Dante was known as a man who always knew when someone was lying.
“He’ll be the Boss of the Outfit in two months, and when you’ll marry him you’ll be the most influential woman in Chicago and the Midwest. And if you keep up your good friendship with Aria, you’ll have connections to New York as well.”
As usual my mother was way ahead, already planning world domination, while I was still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I was supposed to marry The Boss. This was too dangerous. I wasn’t a bad liar. In the years of my marriage to Antonio I’d improved my skills continuously, but there was a big difference between lying to the outside world and lying to your husband. Anger toward Antonio resurfaced as it had so often in the past months. He’d forced me into this situation.
Mamma stepped back, admiring her work. My dark hair fell in soft glossy curls over my shoulders and back. I pushed to my feet. For the occasion, I’d chosen a cream-colored pencil skirt and a plum blouse that was tugged into my waistband, as well as black modest heals. I was one of the tallest women in the Outfit with five foot eight and naturally my mother worried Dante would be put off if I wore high-heels. I didn’t bother to point out that Dante was still at least five inches taller than me; I wouldn’t have been taller than him even with high heels. And this wasn’t the first time he saw me anyway. We’d met a couple of times on mafia functions and had even shared a brief dance at Aria’s wedding in August three months ago. But we’d never exchanged more than the expected pleasantries and I’d certainly never gotten the impression that Dante was even remotely interested in me, but he was known for being closed-off, so who knew what was really going on in that head of his?