Dante’s eyes flashed. “I left you no choice? You can’t go around killing my men!”
“He deserved it. You should have seen what he did to Bibi. You should have wanted to kill him for how he treated an innocent woman, wife or not.”
“If I killed every man in the Outfit who treated women badly, I’d be left with half of my soldiers. This is a life of brutality and cruelty, and many soldiers don’t understand that as Made Men we should protect our family from it, and not unleash our anger on them. They know I don’t approve of their actions. That’s all I can do.”
“But I was handed the chance to do something and I did.”
“You helped a wife murder her husband. Some men in my position would find it unsettling to be with a woman who doesn’t hesitate to use poison.”
My eyes grew wide. “I gave Bibi a chance, a choice. That doesn’t mean I would kill you. I would fight you if you ever treated me like Tommaso did with Bibi. Tommaso preyed on Bibi’s weakness. She was given to that old bastard when she was only eighteen and she never knew how to defend herself against him. He’s had four years to be a better man, to treat her decently. He failed. Our marriage has nothing to do with theirs. You don’t need to beat and rape me to feel like a man, and I wouldn’t let you. And anyway, I’m not vengeful, or I wouldn’t have swallowed how you treated me in the last few months, how you accused me of cheating. And Bibi never loved Tommaso, so…” I trailed off, clamping my lips shut. The last part wasn’t supposed to slip out.
Dante’s fingers on my shoulders loosened. I looked away from his penetrating gaze, unable to stand it.
“I’m not worried that you’d poison me. As I said before, I trust you,” he said after a while, dropping his hands from my shoulders. “But I’ll have to investigate Tommaso’s death.”
“You won’t punish Bibi, will you?” I asked, terrified. “Please, Dante, if you care about me at all, you’ll rule that Tommaso’s murder was related to the traitors and that Bibi is innocent. She’s gone through too much already.”
“There might be people out there who won’t believe Bibiana wasn’t involved in Tommaso’s death exactly for the reasons you stated before. She had reason to hate him. She had reason to kill him.”
“Then blame it on me. I could have done it behind Bibi’s back to help her.”
“And then what?” Dante asked quietly.
“Then you punish me and not her.”
“And what if punishment for such a crime would be death in turn? Eye for an eye, Valentina.”
I stared, tears brimming in my eyes. “Don’t hurt, Bibi. Just don’t. Without me, she would have never found a way to kill him. It was as much my fault as it was hers. I will share whatever punishment you inflict on her.”
“I fear you’re saying that because you know I won’t punish you,” Dante said, a dark smile on his lips.
Dante kissed me hard, then pulled back and lightly brushed my abdomen. Was it because of our baby? Or was I reading too much into the gesture? Or maybe he’d touched my stomach by accident. “As long as I rule the Outfit, you won’t be harmed.”
He stepped back. “I need to go talk to Bibiana now.”
“Let me go with you,” I said hastily.
“Your father and my Consigliere will be there as well, so don’t interrupt. I don’t want them to suspect you. Your father would overlook it, but I would hate to have to force Rocco into silence over this.”
It had been a while since I’d been at Bibiana’s childhood home. I never liked her parents much. That hadn’t changed when they’d forced Bibi into a marriage with an old man. My father and Rocco Scuderi were waiting in front of the door for us. When we walked up to them, Papà pulled me into a hug, kissed my temple and pressed his palm against my abdomen. “So how are you?”
I could feel Dante’s eyes on us. Scuderi, too, was watching with hawk-eyes. I wasn’t sure if he knew about my pregnancy. It wasn’t public knowledge yet, but soon it would be hard to hide. A closer look was already enough to raise suspicions. “I’m good,” I said in a whisper. Papà nodded, then stepped back. “Are you here to support Bibiana?”
I gave him a nod, but was distracted when the door opened and Bibiana’s parents welcomed us into their house. Bibiana was in the living room, wrapped into a blanket. I rushed over to her and pulled her into a tight hug. “I did it. I really did it,” she whispered into my ear.
“Shhh,” I murmured, patting her back. When I pulled away, Dante, my father and Rocco Scuderi stood beside us. Bibi stiffened, eyes fearful as they darted between us. Her parents hovered in the doorway. If Bibi had been my child, I wouldn’t have left her side in a moment like this.
“They’re here to question you because of Tommaso’s death. It’s standard procedure. Everything will be fine,” I told her.
Dante approached us. “It would be best if we could have a word alone with Bibiana,” he said to me. Bibiana’s parents left without a word of protest. I stood but didn’t move. Dante’s imploring gaze made me back away a few steps. Bibiana rose, then looked at Dante fearfully as he stood before her. She was practically cowering and it brought out my protective side, but Dante shot me a warning glare. He wanted me to trust him, to let him handle this, and I knew I had no choice. After an encouraging smile at Bibi, I left the living room, but I didn’t go far. I pressed my ear against the door, trying to listen in on their conversation. They spoke too quietly, which would have been a good sign under normal circumstances. No raised voices should be a positive thing but Dante was his most dangerous when he was quiet.