“There won’t be a red wedding,” Aria said. She turned to Dante. “You could give Matteo another bride from the Outfit.”

I almost choked.

“Aria,” Luca said in warning. “Matteo won’t accept another bride. It’s either Gianna or no one.” He turned his hard gaze on Dante, who looked unimpressed. “I’m sure the Boss has enough control over his Familia to make sure Gianna complies.”

I waved Gaby toward the table. Maybe wine would distract the men from ripping into each other.

“I’m not concerned about the extent of my control. There are no members of the Outfit trying to overthrow me.” He bared his teeth in a smile that sent a shiver down my back. The two men looked like they were seconds away from pulling guns. I wasn’t sure who’d go out as the winner in such a fight. They’d probably both die, and plunge the Outfit and the New York Familia back into open war with each other.

Luca rose, pushing back his chair in the process. Gaby, who had been about to fill his glass, yelped and dropped the wine bottle, her hands raised protectively in front of her face. For a moment, nobody moved. Dante stood as well. Only Aria and I were still sitting, almost frozen on our chairs.

“Don’t worry about New York. Just make sure you hold up your part of the bargain,” Luca snarled. He held out a hand and Aria took it, rising from her chair. “We need to catch a flight.” She gave me an apologetic smile.

I straightened, then glanced at Gabi. She still stood paralyzed beside the table, red wine pooling around her shoes. “I’ll show you out,” I said to Luca and Aria. As I led them into the lobby, Dante followed close behind as if he was worried Luca would do something to me, which was highly unlikely.

Dante and Luca didn’t shake hands, but I hugged Aria tightly. I wouldn’t let our husband’s fighting get in the way of our friendship. Or at least I’d try. If things really went downhill between Chicago and New York, I wouldn’t even be allowed to talk to Aria anymore. I watched them drive off, then I turned around to Dante who was still standing behind me. “What was that all about?”

Dante shook his head. “My father should never have agreed to marry the second Scuderi daughter off to New York. This won’t end well.”

“But things between Aria and Luca seem to be going well, and the Outfit has worked together peacefully with New York for years now.”

“Theirs was a marriage of convenience, but Matteo Vitiello wants Gianna Scuderi because he’s gotten it in his head that he needs to have her. That’s not a good base for a decision. Emotions are a liability in our world.”

I blinked. Again his cool reasoning. “Have you never wanted something so badly you would have done anything to have it?” I knew it was the wrong question the moment the words left my mouth but I couldn’t take it back.

His cool eyes met mine. “Yes. But we don’t always get what we want.” He was talking about his wife. He wanted her back.

I swallowed hard and nodded. “I should call Bibiana. I want to meet her tomorrow.”

I turned around and headed up the stairs, feeling Dante’s gaze on me the entire time. I was glad he couldn’t see my face.CHAPTER SIXAfter my short call with Bibiana, I’d retired into the library. It was stocked mainly with non-fiction and old classics, nothing I was usually drawn to, but I didn’t want to go in search for Dante, nor did I want to ask my mother if she wanted to come over. She would have thought something was wrong, and even though that was probably the case, I didn’t want her to find out. She’d been so happy since she found out I was going to be Dante’s wife. I didn’t want to ruin it for her by admitting that Dante couldn’t care less about my presence.

I grabbed a book that taught basic Russian. The only languages I spoke were Italian and English. I might as well get familiar with the language our enemies spoke, and it would keep me occupied in the hours Dante was busy ignoring me.

Eventually, the growling of my stomach lured me in the direction of the kitchen. It was already almost seven but nobody had called me for dinner. As I entered the kitchen, I found Zita, Gaby and two men gathered around the wooden table, eating dinner together.

I hesitated in the doorway, unsure if I should enter, but then Zita glanced my way and I couldn’t back out anymore. I slipped inside, feeling acutely overdressed in my sleek brown dress. Everyone turned my way, and the two men rose immediately. They wore gun and knife holsters over their black shirts. Both were in their late thirties, and probably the guards.

“The Master has already had dinner in his office,” Zita informed me.

“I was busy reading anyway,” I said, hoping I sounded indifferent. I focused on the two men still standing and watching me. “We haven’t met yet.”

I strode toward them and I extended my hand to the taller man with a buzz cut and a scar in his eyebrow. “I’m Valentina.”

“Enzo,” he said.

“Taft,” said the other man. He was a couple of inches smaller but much bulkier.

“Can I join you for a quick dinner?” I might just as well try to get familiar with the people I would see every day in the next few years, maybe longer.

Both men agreed at once. Gaby, too, seemed excited about the prospect of my presence; only Zita had trouble hiding her disapproval. “Are you sure this is what you want?” She gestured at the spread of cheeses, the Parma ham and the lovely Italian bread.

“I wouldn’t have asked if I wasn’t,” I said as I took the seat beside Taft. He held up a bottle of wine. I nodded and took one of the rustic wine glasses from a tray at the end of the table. The wine was delicious and so was the food. I kept my eyes on Gaby, who thankfully wasn’t drinking wine. Taft and Enzo didn’t look at her in any way that would suggest they were interested in her, which calmed me further, but I couldn’t forget the look of fear on her face when Luca had jumped to his feet. Of course he was a scary guy on the best of days, but there had been more. I had a feeling that Gaby had learned to fear men. I only needed to find out why. Taft and Enzo stopped after their second glass of wine; they still had guard duty until the morning and could hardly do their job drunk, but Zita and I emptied the bottle. With alcohol in her bloodstream, Zita seemed much nicer. Or maybe my own tipsiness made me blind to her rudeness. Either way, I enjoyed myself thoroughly. The men knew how to tell dirty jokes, and soon forgot that I was practically their boss.

Tags: Cora Reilly Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles Erotic
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