“You wouldn’t because you won’t take me to that bed now.”
“I won’t?” He raised one blond eyebrow.
“No, because you wouldn’t take me against my will. You disapprove of rape.” The words Bibiana had used still sounded strange from my lips, and it wouldn’t even be against my will. I’d thrown myself at Dante for days now; he must have known that I wanted him. Still wanted him despite everything. My body was practically humming with longing for his touch.
He chuckled. I’d never heard him laugh. It sounded empty. “That’s what you hear?”
“Yes,” I said more firmly. “You gave the Underbosses direct orders to tell their men you’d castrate anyone who used rape as a way of revenge or torture.”
“I did. I think a woman should never have to submit to anyone but her husband. But you are my wife.”
“But still.” My words were a bare whisper, filled with uncertainty.
He nodded once. “Yes, still.” He let go of my wrist. Relief flooded me. “Now I want you to tell me the truth. I’ll always treat you with respect, but I expect the same from you. I don’t tolerate lies. And eventually, we will share a bed and then, Valentina, I’ll know the truth.”
“When will we ever share a bed like husband and wife, and not just sleep beside each other? Will that ever happen?” I snapped. My stupid mouth, always running free.
His expression flickered with something I couldn’t place. “The truth,” he said simply, but with authority. “And remember I will know eventually.”
I lowered my face. Would the truth make things worse between Dante and me? It would definitely be much worse if he found out I’d openly lied to him if we ever consummated our marriage.
“Valentina,” Dante said tersely.
“What I said in the living room was the truth.” I was relieved and terrified when the words were out of my mouth. How much longer could I have kept up the lie anyway?
Dante nodded, a strange look on his face. “That’s what I thought, but now I ask why?”
“Why is it such a surprising thought that Antonio didn’t want me? Maybe he didn’t find me attractive. You obviously don’t, or you wouldn’t spend most evenings in your office and your nights with your back to me. We both know that if you wanted me, if you found me at all desirable, I’d have lost my virginity in our wedding night.”
“I thought we agreed on the fact that I wouldn’t force you,” he said. I searched his eyes because there had been a trace of anger in his voice.
“But you wouldn’t have to force me. You are my husband and I want to be with you.” Heat flooded my cheeks. “I’ve practically thrown myself at you for days now and you didn’t even notice my body. If you found me attractive, you would have showed some kind of reaction. I guess I’m just lucky to always end up with husbands who find me repulsive.”
“You aren’t repulsive to me,” he said firmly. “Trust me, I find you attractive.”
I must have looked doubtful, because he closed the distance between us. “I do. Do not doubt my words. Whenever I catch a glimpse of the creamy white skin of your thighs.” He traced my thigh through the high slit of my nightgown. I had to stifle a surprised gasp at his sudden proximity. Goosebumps erupted all over my body. “Or when I see the outline of your breasts through the little nothings you wear to bed.” He ran his finger gently over the lacy edge of my nightgown right above my breasts. “I want to throw you onto our bed and bury myself in you.” He dropped his hand, back to not touching me again.
My eyes widened. “You do? Then why—”
He cut me off with a finger against my lips. “It’s my turn to ask questions and you promise not to lie.” I stared at him, nodding. Had he said the truth? Did he want me?
“Why did Antonio not sleep with you?” Danted asked, still standing so close that his warmth flooded my body. I could hardly focus.
“I promised him not to tell anyone ever.”
“Antonio is dead,” Dante said. He didn’t sound sorry. “I’m your husband now and your promise to me is more important.”
I averted my eyes. He was right, but I’d carried the truth with me for so long, it had almost become a part of me. Dante would probably figure it out eventually.
“Antonio was gay,” I blurted. Finally the burden of Antonio’s lie didn’t rest on my shoulders anymore. It felt freeing.
Dante seemed stunned for a moment. “I never suspected anything. Are you sure?”
I rolled my eyes. “He brought his lover home sometimes.”
“Why didn’t he sleep with you to create offspring? That would have fended off possible suspicions.”
I hesitated. “I don’t think that would have worked. You know…” I gestured in the general direction of Dante’s groin.
“He was infertile?”
I flushed. “No, he mentioned once that he couldn’t get one up with women.” The words rushed out of me.
“Who was his lover?” he asked casually, but I knew better than to trust his outward disinterest. His eyes revealed a hint of his fervor to get an answer from me. I had a feeling that he was trying to use my emotional state against me but I wasn’t that easily thrown off my guard.
I shook my head. Frank was still alive and still very much not a member of the Familia. If Dante found out that Antonio had dated an outsider… I didn’t even want to consider the consequences. He wouldn’t stop until he found the person and I knew exactly what would happen to Frank then.
“I can’t tell you. Please don’t make me.”
Dante touched my upper arms without any pressure. “If it’s someone from the Familia I need to know, and if he isn’t…the Familia comes first. I need to protect all those setting their trust in me.”
He would kill Frank, and maybe even have him tortured first to make sure Frank gave away the names of all the people who knew about Antonio.