The door flew open, making me jump, and Dante stepped in, his expression thunderous. Before I could move, he was in front of me and ripped the photo album from my hand. He flung it onto the bed, his furious eyes burning into me. “What are you doing here?”
He grabbed my arm and pulled me to my feet, bringing us so close our lips were almost touching. “This room is none of your business.”
I squirmed in his hold. “Dante, you’re hurting me.”
He released me, some of the anger replaced by cold disapproval. “You shouldn’t have come here.” His eyes darted to the album that lay open on the bed with the photo of his sick wife and him. He took a step back from me, the last of his fury gone and replaced by scary calm. “Leave.”
I didn’t need to be told twice. I quickly rushed into the corridor, scared by Dante’s outburst, but honestly terrified by the odd calm that had taken over his face at the end. Dante stepped out of the room and closed the door. He didn’t look at me again. I watched his back as he walked away and headed down the stairs. Wrapping my arms around myself, I closed my eyes. I didn’t like to give up on things. I was stubborn, too stubborn as my mother always pointed out, but I seriously considered accepting that the marriage between Dante and me wouldn’t work. There was only so much rejection I could take.
We hardly spoke during dinner, and when we did it was about current news that were the last thing on my mind. Dante didn’t mention what happened, and I definitely wouldn’t. After Zita had cleared away our plates with a too curious glance in my direction, Dante stood. “I have more work to do.”
Of course he had. I nodded mutely and headed toward the library. If things kept progressing the same way they did now, I’d speak Russian in no time, I thought bitterly as I picked up the textbook. I couldn’t focus. The letters swam before my eyes and eventually I gave up. I left the room and cast a glance in the direction of Dante’s office. There wasn’t any light spilling out from under the door. Maybe he had gone to bed?
I headed toward the staircase but stopped when I saw movement from the corner of my eye. The door to the living room was open, giving me a clear view of Dante who sat in the wide armchair in front of the dark fireplace, drinking what looked like whiskey. I considered going to him and apologizing, but his brooding expression made me decide against it. Instead I quietly ascended the staircase and slipped into the bedroom.
Under the warm stream of the shower, my fingers found their way between my legs again, but I wasn’t really into it and eventually abandoned my attempt to find release. Seeing those old photos had ripped open old wounds and created new ones. They had reminded me of the few times in the beginning of our marriage that Antonio had brought his lover Frank into our home to have sex with him. It was one of the safest places for them to meet, but despite my best attempts to be okay with it, I’d suffered because Antonio’s interaction with Frank spoke of the love and desire he could never give me. Seeing Dante with his wife today had felt the same way. I hadn’t stood a change against Frank back then, and I was increasingly sure that I didn’t stand a chance against a dead wife either.
Bibiana had advised me to leave Dante alone for now and hope for the best, and during our call that had actually seemed like a decent solution, but after a day of crushing silence I couldn’t take it anymore.
When I saw Dante sitting in front of the unlit fireplace that evening, drinking his whiskey, something snapped in me.
My first husband hadn’t wanted me because he preferred men, and my second because he couldn’t let go of a dead wife and because he preferred to brood over a glass of whiskey. I knew Dante had had sex with other women after his wife’s death. Bibiana had confirmed that he’d frequented her husband’s club for a while, so why didn’t he want to have sex with me? Maybe something about me repulsed men. That was the only logical explanation, and if that was the case I needed to know and stop wasting my time on foolish hope and ludicrous seduction plans.
I stepped into the living room, making sure my heels made an audible sound on the hardwood floor. Dante kept his gaze on the dark fireplace. Of course, he ignored me. He almost always did.
My arms started to shake from restrained anger. “Is it true that you frequented Club Palermo?”
Dante frowned. He swirled the whiskey around in his glass, not looking up. “It belongs to the Familia, but that was a long time before our marriage.”
Bibiana had said the same, but his casual tone and dismissive body language were too much. He acted as if none of this was my business.
Anger burned through my veins. I could feel my temper bursting out of its cage, but I was too shaken to reign it in. “So you didn’t mind the company of prostitutes but you can’t take your own wife’s virginity?”
That got his attention and now I wished it hadn’t. His blue eyes shot up. I wished I could shove the words back into my mouth, wished he’d return his gaze to his whiskey. Maybe there was even a flicker of confusion on his face for a millisecond before the schooled mask of calm slipped back on.
I turned around without another word, shocked by what I’d said, terrified of the consequences my outburst might bring down on me. The clink of a glass being set down on mahogany sounded behind me, followed by the creak of the armchair. My throat closed up, iciness filling my chest. My fingers clutched the banister as I made my way upstairs. His steps followed after me, calm and measured. I suppressed the desire to look back or even run. Dante couldn’t see how shaken I was. What was I going to do?