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Bound By Love

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Nobody expected them to fall in love.
When Aria was given to Luca in marriage, people were sure he’d break her.
Aria feared the worst from a man like him.
A man without mercy.
But somehow she gained his love.
Love - a weakness a Capo like Luca shouldn’t risk.

Aria betrays Luca by going behind his back for her family, she realizes

too late that she might have lost what she’s fought so hard to get in

the first place: Luca’s trust.
The trust of a man who never allowed himself to trust someone unconditionally before.
Can their love survive in a world of betrayal and death? 

Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles
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Fuck ARIAAA...................she pissed me off.I LOVE how they keep on potraying Luca as the evil guy and yet ARIA is the bitch who hurts him throught the entire book.ITS annoying,,,,,,,,,,,,and whats worse is how Luca fgives her immediately because of ''LOVE'' fuck this shiti am so pissedddddd
04 July 2021 (13:21) 
Fuck ARIAAA...................she pissed me off.I LOVE how they keep on potraying Luca as the evil guy and yet ARIA is the bitch who hurts him throught the entire book.ITS annoying,,,,,,,,,,,,and whats worse is how Luca fgives her immediately because of ''LOVE'' fuck this shiti am so pissedddddd
04 July 2021 (13:22) 
Hi!! okay so i actually kind of liked this because it shows it shows more of a "realistic" in a way marriage, and how sometimes we can take a decision not thinking of the future consequences. So loved Aria in this book even though sometimes i think she can be a little stupid lol but she's still so sweet, and Luca in here with the betray etc..ya she messed up but she didn't cheat he should have thought about the fact that that's how she actually felt when he cheated with Grace. Overall good :)
23 September 2021 (01:05) 
Lucas a piece of shit
18 January 2022 (22:43) 
I loved it cause I luv Aria and Luca together. Aria is little stupid in this book. But I think it was good that Aria betrayed him couple of times in this book cause come on Luca had it coming for what he did with Grace. Yeah it’s very sexist and there are times when Luca is acting like typical toxic alpha male. But then again he’s always proving his luv to Aria. Also, i think Aria has much more power over Luca than Luca has over Aria in a sense that she can literally make him do anything for her even break some mafia rules.
27 January 2022 (10:24) 
Suzannah cannon

I so much love my husband and I was ready to do whatever it take to make sure we get back together after 3 years of painful breakup, i want us to live happily forever, I’m so happy sharing my testimony how my husband came back to me, lots of people are going through breakup, If anyone out there having relationship break down I will advice you to contact ((Robinsonbuckler))@yahoo. com, and your story will never remain the same, Thank you sir for also getting me cured from herpes simplex. I will forever be grateful_______________________________
11 March 2022 (23:01) 

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Copyright ©2018 Cora Reilly

All Rights Reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, businesses, events and places are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously.

Book design by Inkstain Design Studio

Subscribe to Cora’s newsletter to find out about her next books, bonus content and giveaways!

Cover design by Romantic Book Affairs Design



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

About the Author



I can’t do this, Aria. I want out. Out of this world. Out of my arranged marriage. Just out.

Those words spoken by my sister Gianna started it all. They led to my first betrayal of Luca. I didn’t see it as a betrayal back then. I only wanted to help her, not betray my husband.

Yet, when I made the decision to help her escape, I knew I’d have to go against him.


Made Men were always so quick to call any word of objection betrayal. Women were supposed to take their husband’s word as law, especially I, who was married to the Capo.

But protecting my family, my sisters and my brother, protecting those I loved against the harsh realities of mob life sometimes made it hard to obey.

I thought Luca would understand, thought our love could brave anything.

Luca wasn’t a man who had ever allowed himself to trust or love anyone—until me. Maybe he’d always been wary of his emotions.

Maybe he’d always waited for something that would prove his wariness right.

And I had given it t; o him.


Matteo and I had been taught many lessons by our sadist of a father, all of them meant to make us strong and ruthless for the tasks expected of us. I hated the man, had hated him all my life, and hated that he was proven right with the one lesson I wanted to be wrong.

Love is a weakness, Luca. It has brought the strongest men to their knees. Women are weak, and making us believe we could love them is their way to manipulate us because it’s the only way for them to have power. Don’t let a woman hold that power over you. You will be Capo. A Capo can’t allow himself a weakness.

Aria made me believe those words to be a lie.

With her kind smiles, her innocent eyes and unparalleled beauty she lured me in, and I fell into her trap. I still remembered that fucking day.

“You are good, Aria. You are innocent. I forced you into this.” Aria had taken a bullet for me, had risked her life to save mine. My life, which was worth so much less than hers.

Her blue eyes held mine. Those eyes, always full of so many emotions I could hardly understand. “You didn’t, Luca. I was born into this world. I chose to stay in this world. Being born into our world means being born with blood on our hands. With every breath we take sin is engraved deeper into our skin.”

I shook my head. “You don’t have a choice. There’s no way to escape our world. You didn’t have a choice in marrying me either. If you’d let that bullet kill me, you would have at least escaped our marriage.”

“There are few good things in our world, Luca, and if you find one, you cling to it with all your might. You are one of those good things in my life.”

How could she say something like that? I killed so many, and enjoyed it. If there were a Heaven and a Hell, there was no doubt where I’d end up. “I’m not good.”

“You’re not a good man, no. But you are good for me. I feel safe in your arms. I don’t know why, don’t even know why I love you, but I do, and that won’t change.”

I closed my eyes against the love in her gaze. Aria loved me. She’d told me before. I wasn’t sure how she could after everything she’d seen me do, and it wasn’t even the worst. I was still keeping that from her. “Love is a risk in our world, and a weakness a Capo can’t afford,” I murmured. A truth I believed all my life. A truth I lived by. A truth I thought to take into the grave with me.

“I know,” she whispered, resigned.

Didn’t she know what I felt? Couldn’t she see? Even Matteo knew, though I’d tried to hide it from him, from everyone.

I stared at her, my chest tight with emotions that scared the shit out of me. Scared me, even though nothing really scared me anymore. I’d survived torture and excruciating pain, had tortured and inflicted pain myself, had seen so many die, had killed many of them, and here I was scared of my own emotions. “But I don’t care, because loving you is the only pure thing in my life.”

Aria froze, eyes filling with tears. Crying and begging had never softened my heart, but with Aria they spoke to a part of me I hadn’t known existed. “You love me?” she asked, eyes full of hope and disbelief.

“Yes, even if I shouldn’t. If my enemies knew how much you meant to me, they’d do anything to get their hands on you, to hurt me through you, to control me by threatening you. The Bratva will try again, and others will too. When I became a Made Man, I swore to put the Famiglia first, and I reinforced that same oath when I became a Capo dei Capi even though I knew I was lying. My first choice should always be the Famiglia. But you are my first choice, Aria. I’ll burn down the world if I have to. I’ll kill and maim and blackmail. I’ll do anything for you. Maybe love is a risk, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take and as you said, it’s not a choice. I never thought I would, never thought I could love someone like that, but I fell in love with you. I fought it. It’s the first battle I didn’t mind losing.”

And fuck, those words had been the truth. I’d thought them to be true. I put Aria first, protected her, allowed her things my family had frowned upon. I’d have done anything for her, and she fucking betrayed me. Betrayed my love and trust.


A weakness.

A weakness I would no longer allow myself.

chapter 1

Before, ARIA

My shoulder still occasionally hurt when I moved my arm too fast, but the Doc had pulled the stitches out yesterday and told me the pain would soon fade altogether. I touched the red scar below my collarbone. It was still tender. My first scar.

Luca came up behind me, towering more than a head above me, and rested his hands lightly on my shoulders, gray eyes dark with anger as they settled on the scar. He was completely naked like me after our shower, but his body was covered with countless scars. I searched his face, wondering if perhaps it bothered him that I was no longer perfect. Made Men carried their scars as testament to their bravery—and there was no braver man than Luca. But I was a woman; a woman handed over for her beauty. “The Doc said it’ll fade,” I whispered.

Luca raised his eyes to meet mine in the mirror, dark brows drawing together. He turned me around and tipped my chin up. “Aria, I don’t give a fuck if it fades or not. The only reason your scar bothers me is because it reminds me that you risked your life for an asshole like me, and that’s really the last thing you should ever consider doing.”

“I’d do it again,” I said without hesitation.

Luca grabbed my waist and hoisted me up on the washbasin. “No,” he growled, bringing his face close. His eyes burnt with anger, and others would have cowered under the force of it. “No, do you hear me? That’s a fucking order.”

“You can’t give me an order like that,” I said softly.

He released a harsh breath. “I can and I am. As your Capo and as your husband. You won’t risk your life for me ever again, Aria. Swear it.”

I stared up at him. Perhaps he thought it was as easy as that. Luca was used to controlling everyone around him, used to having his men obey his every command, but even he had to realize that some things were out of his control, that even his power had limits.

“Aria, swear it.” He spoke in his Capo voice, the voice that made his men follow him and had his enemies cowering in fear.

I curled my hand around his neck, playing with his black hair, and brushed my lips across his. “No.”

His eyes tightened. “No?”

“No. Have you never heard the word before?” I teased him as I repeated the words I’d said to him on our wedding night.

“Oh, I hear it often,” he said, playing his part.

My face broke into a smile, but his remained dark. “Aria, I’m serious.”

“So am I, Luca. I protect the people I love. You’ll have to accept that.”

He shook his head. “I can’t because you act without thinking whenever you act out of love.”

I shrugged. “That’s how I am.”

He rested his forehead against mine. “I won’t lose you because of it.”

“You won’t lose me,” I whispered, my palm pressed against his Famiglia tattoo over his chest.

Born in Blood. Sworn in Blood.

Maybe I hadn’t made a blood oath, but what bound me to him was stronger than any oath. I was bound by love. “I’ll always be at your side.”

His eyes softened. “Let’s go on our honeymoon next week.”

Surprise washed over me. “Really?” I asked, excitement bubbling up. We’d been married for two months and there had never been talk about a honeymoon, in the beginning because our marriage hadn’t been one of love but of convenience, and later because I thought Luca was too busy.

“What about the Bratva? Won’t they attack again?” Their attack on the Vitiello mansion in the Hamptons two weeks ago cost several of Luca’s men their lives, and almost cost me mine. I’d lost my childhood bodyguard Umberto, had seen him get shot in the head, and writing the letter to his widow and children had broken my heart.

“They will attack again, but not soon. They’ll have to recuperate after losing Vitali. I can’t be gone for long, but my men can handle things without me for a week. Matteo holds almost as much respect as I do. He can take over for a while.”

I couldn’t stop smiling. “Where will we go?”

Luca kissed me before he straightened with a smile of his own. It was an expression he reserved for me, and it made my heart swell with love. “My father had a yacht in the harbor of Palermo and now it’s mine. We could spend a week yachting along the Mediterranean Sea.”

I searched his face to see if his father’s death bothered him, but even though the man had died only a few weeks ago, Luca didn’t show a hint of sadness. Salvatore Vitiello had been a man who’d instilled fear but not admiration or fondness in others. I didn’t know him well enough to be sad about his death, and if I had known him I definitely wouldn’t have been either.

“That would be amazing,” I said eventually. I’d never been to Sicily, and I would love to see where Luca’s family came from.

“You were in Italy before?” he asked.

“Only once,” I said with regret. “Father took us to Bologna for his uncle’s funeral, but we only spent a day there before we visited Turin and Milano. It was beautiful. I always wanted to return, but Father was too busy being Consigliere and he didn’t allow us to go without him.”

“Then that’s settled,” he said. “A week to ourselves.”

“I can’t wait,” I whispered, my mouth finding Luca’s. I tightened my hold on his neck as his tongue slipped in. His hand trailed down my shoulder, then my side and over my thigh. I shivered at the gentle gesture.

Because of my injury, Luca had been careful when we’d made love, and again his touch was excruciatingly gentle as he parted my legs and stroked me with expert movements. I held his gaze as he entered me with two fingers before he replaced them with his length, his tip nudging my opening. I wrapped my legs around him and took him in, still marveling at the fullness. Our mouths moving over each other, Luca thrust into me at a slow pace. I could feel his entire length as he slid in and out, and tension began coiling in my center.

Luca drew his mouth away and rasped in my ear, “Come for me, love.”

I moaned as he angled his thrust upwards. Then his mouth was back on mine and his tongue caressed me in a delicious dance. His gray eyes bored into mine. He didn’t touch me like he usually did, and I moved my hand to reach between us to touch my clit and send myself over the edge, but Luca gently pushed it away. “Let’s try to make you come with my cock only.”

I’d never managed to come without additional friction, but I was willing to give this a try. He linked our fingers and pressed them to the marble surface. He thrust into me again at the same angle as before, and I gasped at the pleasure that vibrated down from the sweet spot he hit. My eyes were wide as I held his possessive gaze. Every time we made love, he seemed to brand me as his anew. Luca was one of the most possessive men I knew, and I had grown up among Made Men.

He hit the same spot and I gasped. It felt wondrous but I wasn’t sure how long it would take me to come like that, yet Luca was in no hurry as he targeted the same spot over and over again with slow, hard thrusts.

“How does it feel?” he rumbled thickly, sweat glistening on his chest as he slammed into me again, shoving my ass back on the marble counter, but his hand dragged me back to the edge and held me in place for his next thrust.

I licked my dry lips. “Good,” I gasped out as the pleasure spiked again. My toes curled and my walls began to spasm.

“Yes, love,” Luca growled. “Come for me.”

His tongue dipped between my lips as he hit my sweet spot again and I arched up, eyes shutting tightly. I ripped away from Luca’s mouth, my head falling back as I cried out my release. Luca tensed, slamming into me harder before he let out a guttural groan and came inside me. I shook against him, my orgasm intensifying as his length twitched within me.

When I could talk again, I whispered, “Wow. That was incredible.”

Luca smirked, his eyes dominant and pleased. “It was. I love that you can come with only my cock.”

I frowned. “Is that not normal?” A hint of insecurity slipped into my voice. Luca and I had been sleeping with each other for over a month, but I was still far from being experienced.

Luca cupped my cheek and pulled me closer for a sweet kiss. “You are anything but normal, Aria. In every regard.” I didn’t stop frowning. He chuckled. “It’s a good thing, trust me. I love that you can come like that. Many women need to have their clits touched, and even then some don’t find release during sex.”

“Oh,” I said, surprised. I couldn’t imagine that any woman wouldn’t come during sex with Luca, but I didn’t want to think about other women with Luca. He was mine alone.

Luca kissed me again before he slowly pulled out of me. “I’d better prepare everything for our honeymoon.”

I grinned. If someone had told me before my wedding that I’d be this ridiculously happy with Luca, I would have declared them insane.


I had a hard time focusing on Matteo’s voice. All I could think about was Aria and all the ways I wanted to make her come on our honeymoon.

“Luca, why don’t you leave and we stop pretending like you give a fuck what I’m saying,” Matteo said with a grin as he lounged in the armchair in my office in the Sphere, one leg thrown over the armrest.

I narrowed my eyes at him. “I’m listening. You don’t have to ask me about every little detail. You can make your own decisions and you’ll have Romero’s support. Don’t call me every fucking day with annoying questions.”

He shook his head. “You are Capo.”

“And you are Consigliere. I’ll be gone only one week. You can control our fucking family that long. Our uncles and cousins won’t risk an attack yet. They all want to become Capo themselves. They won’t work together.”

“I’m not worried about them attacking. I can control your soldiers and our family, but I can’t promise I won’t end up killing one or two of them.”

I rolled my eyes. Matteo was too hotheaded. “Then at least kill the troublemakers.”

“Aria must have a miracle pussy to keep you under her spell like that, or does she give head like a goddess?”

I didn’t think. I lunged and grabbed him by the throat, slamming him against the backrest. His body was tight with tension, and his right hand rested on his knife, which he hadn’t pulled. With anyone but me, that knife would have been buried deep inside my chest. I unfastened my fingers and stepped back, sucking in a deep, calming breath as I glared down at my brother who rubbed his throat, brown eyes keen and cautious.

“Wow,” he rasped. Red finger-shaped marks were blooming on his skin. “Always wondered how our dear cousin felt when you crushed his throat. Never thought you’d give me a taste.”

I didn’t apologize. Running a hand through my hair, I went to the liquor cabinet beside the desk and poured us both drinks, then carried the glasses over to Matteo and handed him one before I sank down in my armchair. He took it from me and downed the whiskey with a hiss. He had straightened but was still watching me.

“I guess I got my answer,” he said.

“To what question?”

“What it would take for you to try and kill me.”

I frowned at him. “I will never kill you, Matteo. You are my flesh and blood. You know I trust you with my life.”

Matteo gave me his shark-grin. “Luca, we both know that’s not true. We are killers. We both would kill the other if given the right incentive. And yours is Aria.”

I didn’t say anything because he was right.

“If a few dirty comments already make you go off like that, I know what would happen if I ever hurt her.”

My fingers on the glass tightened, but this time I managed to stay in my seat. “You won’t hurt her so the discussion is moot. And you are my brother, Matteo. You and Aria are the only people I care about.”

He nodded, then the tension slipped away and he leaned forward to punch my shoulder.

I let him and smirked. “You know how to push my fucking buttons.”

“That’s what I do best,” Matteo said, then in a rare moment of seriousness, “I would probably have done the same if you’d insulted Gianna.”

I sighed. I’d tried to forget that he’d asked for her hand and that their engagement party was supposed to happen in three weeks. That was going to be a mess. Everyone knew it, except for Matteo. He still believed marrying the bitchy redhead would be a fucking adventure. A joyride through hellfire, no doubt.

My cell rang and I groaned when I saw it was my stepmother Nina. I’d tried calling her to tell her we’d need the yacht but she hadn’t picked up, and now that she was finally returning my call, I felt my usual contempt rear its head.

Matteo glanced down at the screen and got up. “Don’t say hi from me. I’ll go ahead and greet the Underbosses and Captains.” He stared at himself at the mirror next to the door and arranged his dark hair until he was satisfied before he sauntered off. I rolled my eyes. Vain bastard. As if my soldiers gave a fuck if he looked pretty.

The ringing of my phone continued. Talking to Nina and having to listen to my uncles all evening, what a fucking waste of my time, when I had a gorgeous woman waiting in my bed. I took the call. “Nina.”

“Luca, dear, you called me?”

Dear? We both knew that there was no love wasted between us. I’d hated her from the moment she’d married my father when I was only ten. Sometimes I’d almost felt pity for her when my sadist father beat her up, but that stopped when I’d seen her take out her frustration on the maids. She was a backstabbing creature—many women in our circles were, either because they had no other way to defend themselves, or because they were bored. Before I got to know Aria, I’d worried she’d hide an ugly persona behind the immaculate appearance, but she was fucking perfect inside and outside. And I was fucking glad, because with a woman like Nina at my side, things would have ended badly.

“I need Father’s yacht in four days. You’ll have to spend the next two weeks in our holiday house if you don’t want to return to New York,” I told her.

“I’m touring around the coast of Sardinia. You can’t expect me to return because you decide you need a vacation,” she snapped.

I’d been too lenient with her since Father’s death three weeks ago. “You will do as I say, Nina. I am Capo now and you’d better remember that I am my father’s son, or have you forgotten what I’m capable of?”

Silence. I didn’t like hurting women, but shortly after she’d married my father I caught her hitting Matteo. I was only ten but already as tall as her and stronger. I grabbed her by the throat, and perhaps I wouldn’t have let go if Father hadn’t come in that moment. Nina saw it in my eyes then that I was a killer. Father had beaten her to within an inch of her life for touching his sons, even when he tortured Matteo and me all the time to make us stronger. One year later I killed my first man, and six years after that I crushed my cousin’s throat like I’d wanted to crush Nina’s when she’d hurt my brother, and she knew.

“How can you ask me to return when you know I’m still grieving?” She added that annoying vibrato to her voice as if she was on the verge of tears, which we both knew she wasn’t.

“Don’t lie to me,” I hissed. “You hated my father as much as I did. You wanted to kill him yourself so don’t pretend you’re sad he’s gone. And don’t pretend you don’t let some jailbait skipper fuck your brains out on Father’s fucking yacht.”

Nina cleared her throat. Did she think I didn’t have contacts in Sicily? My great uncle was Capo of the Famiglia there, and of course one of his men kept watch over her for me. I’d seen photos of her with the twenty-year-old skipper, and what they’d been doing on deck didn’t look anything like grieving. She was only in her mid-thirties since she was forced to marry my father when she was only nineteen, and I didn’t give a fuck if she screwed around as long as it didn’t cause me problems. “And Nina, I’m Capo, I could decide you have to marry again. There are enough men in my ranks who have the same disposition as my father.”

She sucked in a breath. I had no intention of marrying her off to someone else. No matter how much I despised her, she’d suffered enough under my father’s rule.

“You can have the yacht but I won’t come back to New York,” she said quietly.

“For all I care you can move to Italy, Nina. I don’t miss you, trust me.” Before I hung up, I added. “And have someone clean every inch of the yacht. I don’t want to find any traces of your fucking anywhere, understood?”

She gasped, but I didn’t wait for her reply.

After the call with Nina, I was in need of that fucking vacation but first I’d have to survive a meeting with the Underbosses of the Famiglia, two of whom were my uncles, and two the husbands of my aunts. I headed out of my office and to the very last door in the back of the Sphere.

I stepped inside. Everyone was already gathered around the oval wooden table. Matteo’s expression didn’t bode well. It was good I joined them or he’d soon have killed someone.

The men got up, even Matteo, because he knew how to keep up appearances even if he never treated me like a Capo when we were alone—but Uncle Gottardo took his sweet-ass time rising from his chair, probably his way of showing me that he didn’t respect me.

I indicated for them to sit back down as I let my gaze wander over them. There was Uncle Ermano, my father’s youngest brother, who was Underboss of Atlanta, and my uncle Gottardo who ruled over Washington DC in my name. Across from them sat Uncle Durant, who ruled over Pittsburgh and was the husband of my aunt Crimella, and next to him sat Uncle Felix, husband of Aunt Egidia and Underboss of Baltimore. The Underbosses who ruled over Charleston, Norfolk, Boston and Philadelphia weren’t related to me, at least not close enough to be considered family. All the men were in their late forties to late sixties, except for Matteo and me. My uncles thought I was too young to be Capo. They didn’t say it outright but I knew it from the looks they shared, from the occasional challenging comment.

“There’s a lot for us to discuss. I know this is only our second meeting and you have to get used to my way of dealing with things, but I’m sure we can control the Russian threat if we work together as one.”

“In your father’s time, the Bratva would have never dared to attack the Vitiello mansion. They showed respect,” Gottardo said. His eyes held contempt. He still hated me for having crushed his son’s throat six years ago, but my cousin got what he deserved for trying to kill Matteo and me to improve his position. If it had been up to me, Gottardo would have shared his fate. I still doubted Gottardo hadn’t been involved in any of this. Father had believed his claims of innocence for whatever inexplicable reasons, but I distrusted the man. If I had to make a bloody statement to establish myself as Capo, I’d start with him.

“My father got hit in the head by a Bratva bullet. How’s that showing respect?” I asked in a deadly voice as I stepped to the front of the table. I didn’t sit down, wanting them to crane back their fucking necks to look up at me. Let them see who ruled over the city now, who ruled over them. I didn’t give a fuck if they were happy that I was Capo at only twenty-three. I’d kill every fucker in the room if it meant I stayed in power.

Matteo shot me a grin. He’d taken out his knife when Gottardo had spoken and was now twirling it around in his hands, his feet propped up on the table. He definitely would appreciate a bloody statement.

Gottardo and my other uncles slanted him nervous glances. They would have never become Underbosses if it weren’t for my father. The other men who’d earned that position, they were the ones I needed to convince of my capability, because they held their soldiers’ respect.

“You need to send them another message,” Gottardo said sharply.

I walked around and stopped beside his chair. He made a move to stand up but I shoved him back down. “I sent them Vitali in bite-sized pieces, a letter of warning attached to his cut-off dick. I think they got the message. Question is if you got the message that I’m your Capo, Gottardo.” He had to crane his neck all the way back to meet my gaze. Then it flitted over to Ermano beside him for help, then over to my other uncles. Neither of them made a move to come to his aid.

“You’d do good to respect your elders. Perhaps the others are too cowardly to say it out loud, but you shouldn’t have become Capo. You may be strong and cruel, but you are too young,” he muttered, trying to salvage his pride.

Matteo lowered his feet from the table, the grin slipping off.

“And who, pray tell, should have become Capo in my stead? You, Uncle?” I said in a low voice. “After all, your family tried to stop me from becoming Capo once before, and your son paid with a crushed throat for the betrayal.”

Gottardo jumped up and this time I let him. He only reached my nose, so if he thought he could impress me like that, he was a fucking fool. “He would have been a better Capo than you. I would be a better Capo. You, like your father, aren’t fit for the honor.”

“Now, Gottardo, you are talking bullshit and you know it,” Durant muttered, eyes flitting nervously between Matteo and me.

I gave Gottardo my coldest smile. “That sounds a lot like breach of oath to me. I am your Capo.”

“I never made an oath to follow you.”

Ermano grabbed his brother and tried to pull him back down, but Gottardo resisted. “Shut up, Gottardo, for God’s sake. What’s gotten into you?”

“No,” he spat out. “First Salvatore, now him. I won’t follow the orders of someone who could be my son. If it wasn’t for his father, he wouldn’t be Capo. He inherited the title but he’s not worthy.”

“If we weren’t family, I’d have cut your tongue out by now,” Matteo said as he came up behind me.

I wanted to kill Gottardo on the spot, wanted to crush his throat like I’d done with his fucking son. I was one hundred percent sure that he’d sent his son to kill me all those years ago.

I looked at each of my Underbosses. “How fast can you summon your Captains and their soldiers for a meeting?”

Mansueto, Underboss of Philadelphia, stood, supporting his weight with his cane. Since his second heart attack three months ago, he’d become a shadow of the man I’d known. His family was loyal to the bone. If he died, it would lead to more trouble. Philadelphia was important, and his son Cassio was only four years older than me. “Tonight. Tomorrow morning at the latest.”

The other men nodded their agreement, everyone except for Gottardo, who was watching me with suspicion, and Ermano who said: “It takes at least fifteen hours to drive up here from Atlanta. And I don’t know if we can fly everyone over that quickly. Tomorrow morning would be better if you intend to involve the soldiers as well.”

Matteo shot me a questioning look but I faced off with Gottardo. “Then tomorrow morning. Call everyone. Tomorrow I’ll have every Made Man of the Famiglia make their oath to me.”

Gottardo sneered. “What makes you think they will do it? Perhaps they want someone else to be Capo.”

I nodded. “I will allow whoever deems himself more worthy to challenge me. You can contest against me. If you get the support of the majority of the soldiers, I will step down.”

Matteo looked at me like I’d lost my fucking mind, but I knew this was the only way to force all the voices who doubted me because of my age to die down.

“Tomorrow at eleven in the abandoned Yonkers power plant,” I ordered. My men exchanged looks. That was where the last bloodbath in the history of the Famiglia had gone down, and the press called the place Gateway to Hell. I sent Gottardo a smirk. “Good luck, Uncle.”

I turned on my heel and left them to their shock. I was done with this fucking meeting. Until I had the full support of the Famiglia, it made no sense to discuss the Bratva.

Matteo jogged after me. “Luca, you are Capo. Why are you risking everything?”

“I’m not,” I said. “My men will pledge loyalty to me.”

Matteo stopped me with a hand on my shoulder. “You should have cut Uncle Gottardo’s throat. That would have quieted down the doubters as well. We’re not the fucking Senate or anything. We don’t vote our Capo, Luca.”

“I’m the youngest Capo in history and I need to silence all my enemies. This once I will give them the chance to speak up.”

“And you are sure you will still be Capo tomorrow?” Matteo asked quietly.

“The Famiglia needs strength. They need a brutal hand. My men know that.” And everyone knew there was no one who could deal out revenge with more brutality than I.

Matteo nodded, then squeezed my shoulder. “I hope you are right, because if not things will get bloody.”

I met his gaze. “I won’t ever bow down to anyone’s orders again. I will either rule over the East, or I will go down fighting.”

“I know. So if things don’t go as planned we’ll have to knife and shoot our way out. And we might both die, and I hate to say it, but I’d really loathe to die before I get the chance to fuck Gianna at least once.”

I shook my head. “Perhaps I’m saving you a lot of trouble if I get us killed.”

He smirked. “I like trouble,” he said, as if didn’t I know it. “Will you tell Aria about this?”

I paused. I had to figure out a way to keep her safe if things went downhill. There were many men in my ranks who would love to get their hands on her, and that was never going to happen. “No,” I said. “I don’t want her to worry about me.”

chapter 2


Something was off. I’d known it the moment Luca had come home last night, and my suspicions were confirmed the next morning as I watched him put on his gun and knife holsters. Two knives strapped to his front, two to his back with two knives below. Two more knives at his calves. Luca had asked me to get ready as well, but didn’t say why. He hadn’t been forthcoming with any kind of information, but something must have happened with his Underbosses yesterday for him to call a meeting of the entire Famiglia.

“Luca, I’m starting to get worried,” I said quietly as I brushed my hair then lowered the brush to my vanity in the bedroom.

“Don’t worry,” he said firmly, taking my hand and pulling me against his chest. “This is me being overprotective. You will spend the morning with Romero. He will keep an eye on you.”

“I’m worried for you, not me,” I said with a frown.

His expression softened, but then he gave me a smirk. “I’m difficult to kill.”

I jerked. “Someone will try to kill you today?”

He kissed my lips, his hold on me tightening almost painfully before he pulled back. His hand around mine, he led me downstairs where Romero was waiting, looking as worried as I felt. He quickly masked his emotions when he spotted me, but it was too late. “Luca,” I whispered. “What’s going on? I thought this was only a meeting of the Famiglia.”

Romero and Luca exchanged a look, and Romero nodded, then moved toward the entrance door.

Luca cupped my cheeks, his body shielding us from Romero’s gaze. I searched his eyes for reassurance but he shut me out. Fear clawed at my chest, and tears sprang into my eyes. Perhaps he tried to shield me from the realities of mob life, but I was the daughter of the Outfit’s Consigliere. The mafia was in my blood. I knew its rules, its people. A new Capo meant a shift in power.

Luca shook his head. “No,” he growled. “No tears.”

I blinked and sucked in a deep breath. “You will return to me.” It was more question than statement.

Dark determination filled Luca’s face. “Always. Even if I have to slaughter a thousand men to do it.”

Good God. I believed him. He gave me another kiss then tried to step back, but I tightened my hold around his waist.

“Aria,” he said quietly, but I didn’t release him. Luca gave Romero a sign and a moment later, Romero gripped my upper arms and gently pried me off Luca. After a last look at me, Luca walked out of the apartment. The elevator doors closed to his strong back.

“Come on, Aria,” Romero said in a gentle voice, releasing me. “We should get going as well.”

“Is he in trouble? Is it because he’s a young Capo?”

Romero shook his head. “Luca doesn’t want you to know details. Don’t ask me for answers I can’t give you.”


The Yonkers power plant with its reddish brown brick front loomed near the Hudson River, a crumbling relic of the past—like my uncles.

“The Gateway to Hell,” Matteo muttered under his breath as we parked near the entrance. The neglected surroundings of the power station were crowded with dozens of cars.

Gateway to Hell… The press had given the building that name in recent years because of gang wars, but the last real bloodbath had been orchestrated by the Famiglia, and perhaps today another one would follow. Romero was taking Aria on a trip around the city today. I didn’t want her in our penthouse or in the mansion if things escalated. If Matteo and I died, Romero would take her to Chicago. The Outfit would protect her.

The two smokestacks rose up into the sky like gun barrels. My own guns strapped to my chest would hopefully not come to action today. Matteo and I stepped through the creaking gates, past rust-consumed pipes, into the cathedral-high main hall of the building. Hundreds of men turned their heads toward me as I strode past them. The front was made up of the soldiers from New York and Boston, soldiers I’d worked with frequently over the years, but in the rows behind them I saw many less familiar faces: soldiers from Washington and Atlanta, from Cleveland and Philadelphia, and the other cities of the East Coast under my rule. Some of them had never seen me in person, only heard the stories and seen press photos. A murmur went through them as they regarded me. I hadn’t chosen a three-piece-suit for the occasion like my father and the Capos before him would have done. I was dressed in a tight dark gray dress shirt, the sleeves rolled up, displaying the muscles I’d worked hard for.

I didn’t choose one of the high platforms, which allowed for a jaw-dropping view of the hall, for my speech. The distance would have diminished the effect my size had on people. I wanted my men to see me up close, especially those who hadn’t seen me before. I jumped up on a low concrete platform with the remnants of rusted bolts before I turned to the gathered Famiglia. Matteo remained off to the side. Having him up here with me would have suggested I needed his reinforcement, but today I needed to show my men that I could handle anything on my own.

I raised my hand and at once my men quieted. Gottardo in the very front glared up at me with barely hidden contempt. “Thank you for following my call,” I boomed. “I know the Capos before me have never called for a meeting of this proportion, but times are changing and while we are bound to our traditions and rules, which I have always honored, some things need to be changed. We need to adapt so the Famiglia stays strong, so we can brave future threats and come out stronger.”

Most of the younger soldiers nodded and even many of the older, but some faces remained skeptical, among them my uncles Gottardo and Ermano. “As my sign of respect for all of you, I called this meeting so you can voice your concerns before you pledge loyalty to me.”

Surprised whispers.

I gestured at Gottardo, who immediately straightened. “To show you that I’m serious about this, I will allow one of my critics the floor now, my uncle Gottardo Vitiello, Underboss of the Atlanta Famiglia. Some of you might have heard of him.”

It was a jab I couldn’t resist. Gottardo had always been more about words than actions. I doubted many of them had ever seen him outside of his office.

Gottardo came forward and clambered up on the platform with some trouble. It had been a while since his last fight, as the pouch showing against his suit attested. He gave me a barely-there nod of acknowledgement and once more I wondered if I should have followed Matteo’s advice and cut the man’s throat, but he was family and I, at least, had to pretend I gave a shit about that.

Gottardo cleared his throat and opened his arms wide. “I don’t mean any disrespect. Whoever knows me, knows I am all about respect,” he began, and I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. He was all about bad-mouthing behind people’s back. That had nothing to do with respect.

“But some things need to be said for the sake of the Famiglia. We need a strong hand, an experienced hand to guide us. Luca is strong but he is too young, too inexperienced.”

A few astonished whispers arose. My face gave nothing away. If my men thought Gottardo’s words had an impact on me, they might consider them to be true.

“We have many capable Underbosses with decades of experience. One of them could become Capo until Luca is older.”

Fucking bullshit. Once I stepped down, Gottardo, and my other uncles and their sons, would make sure it stayed that way, probably with a knife in my back.

I raised my hand again, my expression steel. “Whose name instills respect in the Outfit? Whose revenge does the Bratva fear when they consider attacking us? I’ve been a member of the Famiglia for twelve years. I’ve killed close to two hundred enemies. It’s my name they whisper in fear. The Vice. They fear me because my actions speak louder than my age, because I’m capable of doing what has to be done, no matter how bloody, no matter how dangerous, no matter how merciless. You are older, Uncle Gottardo, that’s true, but how many fights have you taken part in, how many men have you tortured, how many enemies have you killed? You are old. And that’s what’s saving you today. I won’t kill you for speaking up against your Capo because I respect my elders. I respect them as long as they respect me, so next time you consider revolting, neither your age nor your status as my uncle will stop me from ramming my knife into your heart.” I focused on the many hundred men below me. “Those who have fought beside me know why I am the Capo the Famiglia needs at this time. I know how to fight, unlike so many past Capos who spent their time hidden behind desks and behind their bodyguards. But I can act diplomatically, as my union with the daughter of Rocco Scuderi should have proven.”

“We don’t want the Outfit whore in the Famiglia!” shouted a deep male voice.

My eyes swiveled toward the direction the shout had come from. Matteo flashed me his twisted-as-fuck grin. Gateway to Hell. Tonight there would be blood.

“Who said it?” I asked.

A few people shifted to my right. I focused on them. There was a tall asshole whom I didn’t know, probably one of Gottardo’s men, who met my gaze.

“Who?” I roared.

“I did,” he admitted, voice firm.

I leaped off the platform and stalked toward him through the parting crowd. Matteo was close behind me. My men looked up at me with respect and fascination. Most of them were much shorter than me, and as I stopped right in front of the asshole who’d badmouthed Aria, he too had to tip his head up slightly, even though he was six three. I knew what I looked like to most people—like the Devil arisen from Hell.

“I prefer to know the name of the men I kill, so what’s your name?”

“Giovanni,” he said, trying to sound unfazed but failing. Sweat coated his upper lip and his hand rested on the gun at his waist.

“Giovanni,” I said in my deadliest voice, bringing us even closer, my eyes telling him what lay ahead of him.

He backed away one step, only one, but everyone saw.

My smile pulled wide. “What did you call my wife?”

His eyes flitted around. “She was payment for the truce. She’s a whore,” he got out then added quickly. “I’m not the only one who thinks that way.”

“Is that so?” I asked, letting my furious gaze glide over the surrounding men, most of them Gottardo’s soldiers. None of them confirmed what Giovanni had said, but I could imagine what Gottardo had told them. “Perhaps they will help you, Giovanni. I hope some of them do, so I can carve them up as well.”

Giovanni jerked, fingers wrapping around the handle of his gun. My hand darted forward, closing around his throat, and I thrust him to the ground, rammed my knee into his chest to hold him down. He was choking as my fingers halted his oxygen supply. I held his gaze, relished in the panic in his eyes as he battled death. His struggle became jerky as he arched up and twisted, but I didn’t ease up. I held my hand out to Matteo. “Knife.”

I had my own, but it would have taken considerable effort to free it from my calf or back holster with the struggling asshole beneath me. Matteo handed me his favorite skinning knife with a short, sharp carbon blade, built to go through flesh like butter. Giovanni’s eyes widened, from terror and lack of oxygen.

Shortly before he lost consciousness, I released his throat and his mouth opened wide to gulp down air. I wedged my hand between his upper and lower jaw to keep it open, then brought the knife down on his tongue. He bit down, shrieking hoarsely, but the blade cut through his flesh. Pain shot through my fingers from his locked-down jaw but I’d had worse. I dropped the knife and reached for the half cut-off tongue, then ripped it out with a vicious tug. His eyes rolled back as blood filled his mouth. He fell to his side, twitching. He would die of blood loss or choke on his own blood soon.

The slimy tongue still in my hand, I turned in a circle to show my men that I saw them all, then I dropped the useless piece of flesh on the ground before I returned to the front, my hand and forearm coated in blood. I jumped up on the platform and faced the crowd, not bothering to clean myself. I’d let them see the blood, but the majority of eyes were fixed on my face, and sick respect twisted their features. “My wife is an honorable woman, my woman, and I will kill anyone who dares to disrespect her.” I hoped this would settle the matter once and for all.

Matteo smirked at me as he held the bloody knife I’d dropped. I gave him a nod and he spoke up. “Now that we’ve settled Giovanni’s wayward tongue, it’s time you pledge loyalty to your Capo. Those of you who still think Luca isn’t fit to be Capo can step forward and not speak the oath. It’s up to you.” He showed them his teeth and wiped the blade on his trouser leg.

Nobody stepped forward, and when Matteo rested his palm over his heart and began the words of our oath, “Born in blood, sworn in blood,” the crowd fell in as one. I breathed deeply, watching my men as they looked up at me. I’d silenced my critics for now, scared them into silence, but they wouldn’t always remain that way. Yet for now, I was Capo, a stronger Capo than my father had been because I had given my soldiers the sense that they had chosen me. When I stepped down later, I took the towel Matteo handed me to clean my hand before I accepted the congratulations from my soldiers and shook hands.

My men sought my closeness, especially those who had never met me before. They had only ever talked about me, and now they could talk to me. I gave them what they were looking for. Talked, listened, clapped shoulders.

Mansueto, Underboss in Philadelphia, who supported his weight on a cane, approached me later, his son Cassio towering over him. I shook Mansueto’s hand then Cassio’s. “Your wife brings splendor and light to New York. In my almost seventy years I’ve never seen beauty like hers. Truce or not, you are blessed to have her in your bed.”

I tensed.

“Father,” Cassio said in warning, sending me an apologetic look.

Mansueto gave me a smile and nodded. “Protective as you should be. I’m an old man. Don’t mind me.”

I knew Aria was beautiful. Had she been born in the past she would have been queen, given to a king for her gorgeousness, and even now she was meant for the stage, meant to be admired by millions. She would be the wet dream of millions of teenage boys, would haunt the fantasies of millions of married men who couldn’t get off with the images of their own wives—if she weren’t my wife. But I was a possessive asshole, and that’s why she’d always only be mine. Every inch of her.

“I know today isn’t a good time but I need to discuss my succession with you,” Mansueto said.

Cassio’s mouth tightened. “You won’t die today, Father.”

“But maybe tomorrow,” Mansueto said.

I leveled my gaze on Cassio. “You will take over from your father.”

Cassio inclined his head. “If you give your assent. I am young.”

I smirked. “Not as young as I. The Famiglia needs young blood.” I turned to Mansueto. “No offense.”

“No offense taken. There are certain forces in the Famiglia that are holding us back. But I have faith that you will burn the problem by the roots.”

Mansueto’s gaze moved to the center of the hall where Giovanni had bled out. Nobody had come to his aid. “I will.”


Romero and I had been driving around New York for close to two hours. I was starting to grow restless and Romero’s grip on the steering wheel tightened with every passing moment. This wasn’t a simple meeting of the Famiglia, or Luca wouldn’t have put these kinds of precautions in place. My eyes were drawn up to the Flatiron Building as we crept past it in traffic, trying to distract myself from my growing panic—in vain.

“Luca is strong, Aria,” Romero assured me again, but his words didn’t quiet my fears. He’d managed to dishevel his brown hair completely from running his hands through it so often, and his blatant sign of nerves made me all the more nervous in turn.

Two hours.

What if he didn’t return to me?

Romero’s mobile beeped and he pulled it out, eyes darting down to the screen before they returned to the windshield and the tension slipped off him. He smiled. “Everything’s fine. We can go home.”

I slumped in the seat, pressing a hand against my lips as I closed my eyes to fight tears of relief. When I opened them again, Romero was watching me with a hint of surprise, but then he turned back to the front.

“Why?” I asked quietly. “Why are you surprised?”

“Few thought you’d deal well being married to Luca. Many think you’ll celebrate his death,” he said carefully.

“And you what do you think?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Romero, I think I deserve the truth.”

“When I first saw you when you were only fifteen I felt pity for you. Don’t get me wrong. I respect Luca more than anyone else. He is my Capo, but I’ve fought at his side for years. I know what this life does to people, have seen what Salvatore Vitiello did to Luca and Matteo both. Luca was born and bred to be Capo.”

“I know what he is,” I said firmly. “And I love him.”

Romero gave me a small smile, brown eyes gentle. “I know. When you caught that bullet for him that became pretty clear, but it still surprises me sometimes.”

“Me too,” I admitted with a small laugh, because a few months ago I was still one of the people who thought becoming a young widow would be the best thing that could happen to me.

“He will do anything for you, you know that?”

I frowned. “Not if it hurts the Famiglia.”

Romero’s lips twisted in an ironic smile, but he didn’t say anything.

Darkness lurked in Luca’s eyes when he returned from the meeting with the Famiglia late in the afternoon. I was reading a travel magazine that featured the south of Italy on the couch in the living room but rushed toward him the second Romero disappeared in the elevator, threw my arms around his middle, and buried my face in his chest. I smelled blood, but beneath it lay Luca’s comforting musky scent. Luca held me for a few moments until I drew back to look at his face.

“Are you all right?” I asked him, my voice breathless.

He didn’t say anything, only stroked my hair. Smiling, I grabbed his hand and brought it to my lips, kissing his knuckles. When I pulled back I noticed the dried blood that had gathered in the fine lines between his fingers. I stiffened before I could control the reaction. I had seen blood before. On Luca’s shirts and body, and on every inch of the floor in the mansion after the Bratva attack, but this came unexpected.

Luca grimaced and pulled his hand away.

I searched his eyes. “What happened?” When it became clear that he was reluctant to tell me, I grabbed his hand again to show him that a bit of blood didn’t bother me and moved closer to him. “Please tell me. You can trust me.”

“I don’t want to sully you with the horrors of my life.”

“Your horrors don’t scare me. I’m here to help you deal with them.”

He didn’t look convinced but he answered nevertheless, “I had to make a bloody statement at the meeting today.”

“Bloody statement,” I echoed. I’d heard the term before. “You killed one of your soldiers?”

He raised his other hand and trailed it down my cheek to my throat, then over my shoulder. “So innocent,” he whispered darkly.

I pursed my lips. “Not that innocent anymore, thanks to you.” It was meant in a sexual way, meant to lighten the mood, but Luca nodded, eyes flickering with remorse.

“I still remember the first time I saw you. Fuck, you were a child.”

“I wasn’t that young, Luca,” I contradicted him. “And you are only five years older than me. You make it sound like you are an old creep.”

“Even on our wedding day you still had that childlike innocence. You had been sheltered, protected. You were pure and I was anything but. Perhaps I’m not that much older but I’ve done so much, seen so much.”

I wasn’t sure if he was talking about the things he’d done as a Made Man or as a sought-after bachelor. I knew he’d been with many women. One look at the press and that much became clear. And I wasn’t quite sure where he was going with his words. “You never seemed bothered by my lack of experience…”

“I’m not. You know how possessive I am. I would have had to kill every man you’d been with in the past, so it’s a good thing I’m the only one.”

I released an exasperated breath, but I could feel that his mood was slightly lifting. “How many women have you slept with? You had your first time when you were thirteen, so you’ve had ten years before we married.” I’d been wondering about it for a while, even if I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer, but I knew it would distract Luca from whatever demons the meeting had called out.

Luca’s expression closed off. “That’s not important. It’s the past.”

“But I’d like to know.”

“It doesn’t matter if there were one hundred or one thousand before you, because now there’s only you, Aria,” Luca said firmly.

I sighed. Perhaps he was right but I couldn’t let it drop that easily. “One thousand?” I prompted, widening my eyes.

He smirked. “Nice try. Let’s just say I took what I could get.”

“And you got a lot,” I finished.

“Not important,” he murmured before he kissed me. I knew it shouldn’t be, but I couldn’t help wondering if a man who was used to being with so many women could ever settle for only one, especially one who’d learned everything she knew about sex from him.

chapter 3


The mid-October sun kissed my skin as we disembarked from our private jet parked at the airport of Palermo. While the weather in New York had been gray and rainy, sunshine and warmth greeted us in Sicily.

I tilted my face up, relishing the touch of the sunrays on my skin. In preparation for the warmer climate, I’d put on my orange maxi dress with the ombre effect and the golden belt accentuating my waist, as well as my favorite flat golden sandals.

Luca’s hand tightened around mine and I slanted him a look, finding him scowling menacingly at our pilot who had been ogling me. I tugged at his hand and he focused on me, the scowl slipping away. “You are too beautiful.”

“Right,” I said with a laugh. “Let’s go. I want to see the yacht.” That, and I wanted to get away from the pilot before Luca decided to relieve him of a few limbs.

A driver waited for us beside a white Maserati SUV when we stepped out of the airport. “It’s a soldier of the Sicilian Famiglia. My great-uncle is Capo.”

My eyes widened. “Oh, really? Have you met him before?”

“Twice. He wasn’t at my father’s funeral because he was getting a pacemaker at the time. He’s in his seventies, so at some point his grandson Alessandro will take over.”

“Not his son?”

“Dead. Killed by the Camorra. They rule over Naples and Campania.”

“Oh. What about the Camorra in the States?”

“They keep to themselves in the West. Benedetto Falcone is as crazy as they come.”

We arrived at the car. Our driver, a tall guy around Luca’s age with dark hair and a dark beard, shook Luca’s hand and introduced himself as Alessandro in Italian. Luca seemed surprised, then said in fluent Italian: “I didn’t recognize you. It’s been a while. I didn’t expect my great-uncle to send his own grandson to greet me.”

Alessandro inclined his head. “A sign of respect, Luca, as men of honor.” He turned to me and his eyes traveled the length of me, obviously surprised before he met my gaze and spoke to me in accented English. “It’s an honor to meet the woman with the golden hair who brought truce between the Outfit and the Famiglia.”

I almost snorted.

Luca’s vigilant gaze rested on the other man. “She’s also my wife.”

It annoyed me that they spoke English with me, expecting me to be incapable of speaking Italian. Perhaps I was famous for my beauty, but I had finished school best in class and could have gone to any Ivy League college I wanted if I wasn’t who I was.

I smiled despite my annoyance, and said in flawless Italian, “I didn’t bring truce, Luca did because he is the best Capo New York has ever seen.”

Both men regarded me in astonishment and I raised my eyebrows at Luca. Appreciation flickered in his gaze before he returned his attention to Alessandro. “Does my great-uncle expect a visit today?”

Relief settled in my bones when Alessandro shook his head. “He knows you’ll want to enjoy your honeymoon with your wife. But before you leave for New York, he’d appreciate a meeting.”

“Of course,” Luca said. We got into the car after Alessandro had helped Luca load our luggage into the trunk. Luca and I sat in the back, which Alessandro didn’t seem to mind. I had a feeling Luca wanted to keep an eye on the other man, so I was glad when Alessandro dropped us off at the harbor and drove off. Luca rolled our two suitcases down the long landing toward a black-and-white yacht, and not a small one as I’d expected. Luca helped me climb on the boat, then hoisted our luggage on deck.

“Can you drive that thing?” I asked.

Luca grinned. “Yes. It’s like driving a car.”

I doubted that. He led me down to the lower decks, which were the epitome of luxurious chic with parts of the ceiling being made from glass to allow a view of the sky. The furniture, walls and carpets ranged in color from white to cream with a few darker wood elements. The seating area and the dining table were built for at least eight people. Luca kept moving until we arrived at the master bedroom with its own en-suite. The king-sized bed had a cream-colored canopy, and mirrors over the headboard as well as at the top of the canopy. I walked toward it and regarded the mirrors, half-embarrassed, half-curious.

Luca watched me with his arms crossed, and a hungry expression on his face. “Can’t wait to see your gorgeous body from every angle when I’m inside you.”

My cheeks burned. I wasn’t sure if I liked the idea of being watched like that, and worse, watching myself.

Luca walked up to me and stroked my cheek. “Still innocent.”

I frowned. It wasn’t exactly that. I just wasn’t keen on having my body presented in every unfavorable angle possible. “I’m not sure I need to see so much of myself.”

Luca laughed. “Don’t tell me you are self-conscious, Aria. Fuck. I almost killed the pilot, the ground personnel and Alessandro because of their leering, and you feel self-conscious of that body.” He gestured at me.

“Just because others don’t see my imperfections doesn’t mean I don’t.”

He laughed again. “Perfection all over, Aria, trust me on that. I’ve seen so many women naked, and all of them would have given their left kidney to be half as gorgeous as you.”

“You have to say that as my husband,” I said, but I was starting to relax despite the mirrors. What did it matter if I wasn’t happy with the way I looked, as long as Luca thought of me as beautiful?

He touched my waist and leaned down to my ear. “I don’t have to do anything. It’s the truth. Now come, before I throw you on the bed and show you just how fucking sexy you are to me.”

I would have been perfectly fine with that, but I followed him to the upper deck and then up to the elevated pilot’s cockpit. “Wow,” I said.

Luca smirked. “Wait a sec. I have to release the moorings.” When he returned a few minutes later, he got behind the steering wheel and started the engine. I watched in fascination as he pressed buttons and checked all kinds of displays I had no clue about. Concentration filled Luca’s face as he steered the yacht out of the harbor and onto the open water.

“We can stop pretty much wherever we want, and have the place to ourselves.”

I liked the idea, liked it very much, especially the thought of having Luca to myself.


I could tell that Aria was as excited about the prospect of having the ocean and secluded beaches to ourselves as I was. I wanted to fuck Aria on the beach, in the ocean, on the sundeck and beneath that big mirror. All of those would be firsts for Aria, and it made my cock harden only thinking about it.

Her forehead crinkled. “What about food?”

Perhaps our minds hadn’t wandered the same dark paths. I had to stifle a smile. “I asked my family to stock our fridge and the cupboards with food.”

“So we need to cook?”

Aria’s worry sent me over the edge. I roared with laughter. Aria had as much talent for cooking as I did. She definitely wasn’t like the Italian wives of the past.

“We’ll starve, or get food poisoning,” she said with a shake of her head.

“We’ll figure something out, and I’m only hungry for one thing anyway,” I said in a low voice, pulling Aria against my body.

“For now. We’ll see how you feel about that after a few days without decent food.” She pressed up to me, her soft breasts rubbing against my ribs, and I decided to find anchorage quickly. When we came to a small bay, I anchored the yacht before Aria and I went into the kitchen. We threw together a green salad and filled our plates with ciabatta, pecorino cheese, olives and Parma ham before we moved to the sundeck, sat down on the lounge furniture and watched the sun set over the ocean.

Aria sighed. “This is incredible.”

The most incredible sight of all was the golden halo the sinking sun created on Aria’s head. She put a piece of bread into her mouth then swallowed self-consciously. “You have a strange look on your face.”

I shook my head and ate a few slices of ham. Eventually, my hunger for food was replaced by another, so I set the plate down, leaned forward and slid my hand under the hem of her dress. Aria’s lips tipped upwards as she slipped another bite of cheese into her mouth. She was still shy about seducing me, but she rarely averted her eyes anymore. I pushed my hand higher, up the soft curve of her knee. Her eyes scanned the surrounding cliffs.

“It’s only us,” I assured her. I wouldn’t risk that anyone saw what was only my privilege to see. She put down her plate and scooted closer, allowing my hand to reach up even higher. I accepted the invitation and slid my hand between her thighs, my fingers stroking her soft skin. She sighed softly, eyes filling with need as she leaned back on her arms, head tilted back, her hair falling like golden silk down her shoulders, brushing the leather of the lounge. Too fucking gorgeous for words.

I trailed higher and brushed against her wet folds. My eyebrows shot up. “No panties?” I rasped, my cock jerking.

Even in the dimming light I could see Aria’s blush. “I got rid of them before dinner.”

I groaned. Fuck, she was getting better at this. I rubbed the pad of my thumb over her clit and she pressed up against me with a twitch of her hip. With my free hand, I shoved her dress up, revealing her lean legs and her pussy. I got down on one knee and cupped her ass with my palms before I pulled her to my waiting mouth.

Aria moaned. “Yes, please,” she mewled, and fuck, I almost came in my pants. She wasn’t outspoken yet, and for her to say anything was fucking amazing. I knew she loved it when I licked her, and I fucking loved it every bit as much. I’d rarely gone down on women in the past, had preferred to fuck them hard or have them suck my dick, but with Aria having her pussy in my mouth was paradise. I’d never forget the amazement on her face when I’d licked her for the first time.

I worshipped her with my lips and tongue, and waited until she was close to her release before I pushed a finger into her. That’s how she liked it best. One finger only to tip her over the edge as I sucked on her clit, and as usual I was rewarded with her cry of pleasure and her sweet juice. Fuck. I loved her taste.

When her breathing slowed, I pulled back and kissed her knee before I straightened. Aria peered up at me through lust-hooded eyes. “Get out of that dress, principessa. Let me see your perfect body.”

She stood, lifted the dress over her head and dropped it on the ground. She was left completely naked. What kind of imperfections did she see? There were none.

I circled her waist and pulled her closer to get a taste of her nipples before I released her and made quick work of my clothes. She curled her hand around my dick but I shook my head. “I want to fuck you, Aria. Kneel on the couch.”

She hesitated but then she did as I asked.

I positioned Aria so she was kneeling on all fours in front of me. That was a position we hadn’t tried yet. She’d been bent over a couch, but this was new and I loved the view of her ass I got.

I lined myself up when I noticed the tension of Aria’s spine and felt her pussy clamp up against my tip. Not sure what had caused her reaction, I stroked her back, but she didn’t relax. She was too tense for me to enter her without causing her pain. “Aria?” I gritted out. My balls were about to burst.

She didn’t react, but now her shoulders rounded in and her breathing changed. Was she crying? I circled her waist, hoisted her up and turned her around. Her eyes snapped up to me. She wasn’t crying, but her expression made it clear that she was upset about something. “Sorry,” she said quietly. “Can we try another position?”

“First tell me why you tensed? What’s the problem with you being on all fours?”

She cast down her eyes, which was a fucking bad sign.

“It reminded me of the day I saw you with Grace.”

Fuck me. I felt like the biggest asshole on the planet. I leaned down as I lifted her chin. She met my eyes, looking fucking vulnerable. “Aria, I told you she’s a thing of the past. There’s no other woman for me. Only you.”

“I know. I don’t know why I can’t forget it.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with her hurt, and so I kissed her. Drawing back, I whispered, “Let’s go inside. I’ll make love to you in our bed.” When she hesitated, I cupped her cheek and brought our faces close. “You are the only woman I’ve ever made love to, Aria.” If my soldiers could hear me now, I’d have to make another even bloodier statement to gain back their respect.

Yet, when Aria’s expression softened, I didn’t regret my words. She followed me down to the lower deck and into our bedroom. She was quiet and when I made her lie down on her back on the bed and brushed my fingers over her pussy, I could tell that she wasn’t as aroused as before. Her eyes were closed, either because of the mirror or because she was trying to hide her emotions from me. I lay down beside her and stroked her cheek. She opened her eyes and the hurt was gone, so she was shy about the mirror. I could deal with that.

I nodded toward the mirror above us and she followed my gaze. Her delicate body looked breakable in comparison to mine, her pale skin too perfect against my scars and hard muscles. Her eyes focused on the small scar on her shoulder. Trust Aria to be bothered by the one tiny flaw on her body—which wasn’t even a fucking flaw because it was proof of her love. I set out to distract her and rekindle her arousal. I cupped her breast with my hand, then wedged one nipple between my fore and middle finger and slid up and down. Aria lowered her gaze.

“No, principessa. I want you to watch my hands worship your body.”

She raised her eyes and didn’t take them off the mirror again. Her breathing hitched as my hand traveled lower. “Open your legs,” I ordered, and she did. I parted her folds with my thumb and middle finger, laying her clit bare. She arched her hips and I pressed my index finger down and began rubbing small circles. Her lips parted as she rocked her pelvis. Soon she was as ready as before. I drew back and climbed between her legs before I pulled her closer, parting her legs even wider and lifting her ass. Her eyes were still focused on the mirror, and I could have come just because of the look of need and fascination on her face.

“Yes, love, watch my cock claim your pussy.” She trembled with desire as I pressed my tip against her opening and eased into her tight channel. Her body took me in, yielding to the pressure, and the sight of my cock buried deep inside of her made my balls tighten. I held on to her hips as I thrust into her in a slow rhythm. I’d been slow and gentle with her since she’d been shot, and I hadn’t minded, but today I wanted more. Still, after Aria’s reaction on the sundeck, I didn’t want to push her.


Having Luca make love to me—nothing had ever felt better, but I could see in the hunger in his eyes, the controlled twist of his mouth that he needed more, and I was so ready for it. While I loved his softer side, I enjoyed his darker, harder side during sex just as much. I dug my heels into his backside, meeting his gaze in the mirror. “More,” I breathed, and he complied immediately. He fell forward, catching his weight on his palms, eyes possessive and hungry as they bored into me, and then he slammed harder into me. My eyes found the mirror again, and he panted. “Yes, principessa. Watch us.” And I did. I couldn’t have looked away even if I’d tried. Luca was magnificent, and watching him claim me excited me like nothing ever had. The muscles in his back moved beautifully under his tanned skin, and his firm round backside tensed with every thrust. He was so strong and powerful. All man, all alpha, all mine.

He slammed harder into me, deeper, hitting the spot I hadn’t even known about before him, and I screamed out my release. Luca dropped to his forearms, thrusting harder, driving me deeper into the bed. His pants turned labored, and then he groaned. His ass tensed, his shoulder blades flexed as he came inside of me, and I almost came again seeing him like that in the mirrors. How could I have thought I would pay attention to my body when I could watch Luca? I ran my hands over his muscles, down to his strong backside, marveling that this man was mine, and not only his body but also his heart. The past didn’t matter anymore, least of all Grace. I wouldn’t give her the power to ruin another second of my honeymoon.

Luca stilled above me and buried his face in my hair but when he raised his eyes, I could read an unspoken question in them.

“I’m okay,” I said, then in a low voice, “I love the mirror.”

Luca chuckled, a dark sound from deep in his chest. “I knew you would.”

He slid off me and pulled me against him. This was a good start to our honeymoon.

The next day we set off early in the direction of a small fishing village that was overrun with tourists in the summer months, but quiet and picturesque the rest of the year. We went in search for a small café to have breakfast since our attempt at pancakes had proven a major fail. Starving, we settled at a small round table near the harbor. Luca dwarfed the wooden chair and I had to hold back laughter, but he was relaxed. More relaxed than he allowed himself to be at home. Of course, he had a gun strapped to his calf and a knife in the holster at his chest, which was why he wore a black shirt despite the warmth. It was less accepted to display weapons around here, so Luca had to adapt. I ordered a cappuccino and biscotti, even if the locals usually reserved those delicacies for the afternoon. After that Luca and I strolled along the promenade under the curious glances of locals and tourists alike. “Come on, let’s get back to the boat. I prefer our privacy.”

I had to agree. Luca and I simply attracted too much attention, which was mainly due to the fact that Luca looked like a professional football player with his size.

Luca found another beautiful secluded cove for us. My eyes wandered over the crystal water toward the untouched crescent beach. Luca held out a snorkel and a snorkeling mask. “How about a swim?”

I took both from him, surprised. “I’ve never snorkeled before.”

“Now you will,” he said. We were already in our bathing gear so we only had to put on the mask and the snorkel. I couldn’t help but grin at the sight of Luca dressed like that. “I didn’t think you were the snorkeling type. After all, you can’t take weapons with you into the water.”

He raised dark eyebrows and lifted up a calf holster with a curved knife before he strapped it to his leg. Of course, he would take a weapon with him.

He nudged me toward the platform at the end of the yacht. I sat down on the edge and slowly glided into the water. I’d never swum so far outside and I worried that it would unnerve me not to see ground beneath my feet, but when Luca joined me, a sense of safety came over me. Luca would protect me. He was probably the most dangerous predator in these waters. I stifled a grin at the thought. The moment I put my head underwater and saw what lay below, fish and, further down, fascinating rock formations, I forgot my worries. Luca and I snorkeled for almost an hour, Luca always close to me, protective as usual.

Afterwards Luca and I had dinner before Luca took us to the beach in an inflatable. He spread out a blanket on the sand, and I sank down on it as he took the champagne from the cooler bag and settled beside me. The salty ocean air lingered in my nose.

He filled two glasses and handed me one. We clinked glasses and kissed before I raised the glass to my lips and took a sip. I’d grown used to the taste over the years and had learned to appreciate the tartness and the bubbles bursting on my tongue. Luca wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me against him, as we watched the sun set over the ocean in hues of pink and orange.

“I never imagined it would be like this,” I admitted in a whisper.

Luca turned to me. “What exactly?”

“Us, our marriage,” I said. “In the three years until our wedding I pictured how you’d treat me. I listened to Umberto’s stories about your fights, about how you crushed a man’s throat, how you killed your first man at eleven, and all I could think was that I wouldn’t survive if you were the man he and everyone described.”

I fell silent, my eyes trained on the waves. My fears were still fresh in my mind; they had still filled my nights three months ago, and now I sat beside Luca with champagne, feeling safer than I had all my life. Luca was watching me with rapt attention, but didn’t interrupt me as I continued, “Our father occasionally hit us, Gianna more than Lily and me, but I worried you’d do worse.” Luca’s hand on my waist tensed but still I pressed on. “I was sheltered, true, but women talk and what I overheard many of them say about how Made Men treat their wives terrified me—and those men weren’t even called the Vice. I know we haven’t been married long, but if you keep treating me the way you do now, I will be happier than I thought possible. I know I can count myself lucky. I know it every time other women offer me words of consolation and send me looks of compassion because I’m your wife.”

I finally met his gaze. The shadows played on his sharp features, but his eyes seemed to burn brightly with emotion. “Why aren’t you the monster they all fear when you are with me?”

He didn’t say anything, only drew in a deep breath. I waited, hoping he would answer my question. “Because I don’t want to be. I want that part of my life to be good, pure. The rest of my life will always be filled with violence and death. Cruelty runs in my veins, and I’m gladly the monster they fear whenever I’m not with you because it’s in my nature and I enjoy it, but not with you, never with you, Aria, I swear.”

I tilted my head. “Can you? Swear something like that?

He thought about it for a couple of heartbeats before he murmured, “Yes, unless you do something so unforgivable I would snap.”

“And then?” I prompted.

Luca made a low sound in his throat and brushed his lips over my temple. “It won’t ever come to that.”

I nodded, and took another sip of champagne.

“Did your father ever raise your hand against you after our engagement?” Luca whispered darkly.

I hesitated.

That was all the answer Luca needed, and he went rigid. “I warned him not to lay a hand on you.”

I touched his forearm. “That’s the past, Luca. Don’t let it ruin the present.” I could tell he was reluctant to let it go, and I decided to follow my own advice. I emptied my glass, set it down, then untangled myself from Luca’s hold and stood. I pulled my dress over my head and dropped it to the sand beside Luca, who watched me with eagerness. The only light left came from the spotlights of our yacht and the small solar lamp Luca had set up on the blanket. The breeze caught my hair and whipped it around as I smiled down at Luca. He rose to his feet and stripped out of his own clothes, and a shiver of arousal passed my back at the sight of his nudity. He stepped close and bowed down for a kiss. My hands roamed over his chest and ripped stomach as his own traveled down my back and cupped my ass. Soon my need to feel Luca inside of me drowned out all else as he worked me with strong, experienced fingers. His length dug insistently into my stomach. I stepped back, breathless, catching my breath before I said: “I want to try the position again.”

Luca nodded, but I could tell he was apprehensive as we settled on the blanket. I turned my back to him then got down on my knees and hands. My stomach twisted with nerves. For some reason, I worried this position more than any other would make Luca compare me to his previous lovers. I had seen how he had fucked Grace, how hard she’d let him take her, how unbridled Luca had been. My body still sometimes clamped up when I didn’t want it to, and new positions sometimes brought me discomfort.

Luca stroked my back, the gesture so reverent that I relaxed under his touch. He pressed up to me but didn’t enter. Instead he reached around and began stroking me. I moaned and eased back a bit so Luca’s tip slid in. He released a low breath before he worked his way deeper and when he filled me completely, I realized why he favored the position. He was deeper than ever before, and I had to breathe slowly through the new sensation. I felt too stretched. Luca gripped my hips and withdrew slowly before he moved back in at the same pace. He found a slow, gentle rhythm, and step by step my body grew accustomed to this angle. Luca didn’t speed up, and despite the twinge it caused, I moved my hips faster to meet his thrusts and show him he didn’t need to hold back. Yet his fingers on my waist tightened, restraining me. “No, love,” he growled. “You are still tense around me.”

“I don’t care,” I got out. “You can move faster.”

Luca leaned forward, sliding even deeper, and I sucked in my breath as he pressed his chest against my back. “No, I can’t. Not without hurting you.”

“I want you to find pleasure.”

“I don’t take pleasure in causing you pain, believe me,” he said in a gravelly voice. “We have all our lives to try every position. Don’t pressure yourself because you think you need to live up to certain expectations, because you exceed them all where I am concerned.”

He pulled out of me. My huff of protest died when Luca turned me around and lifted me on his lap. “Ride me. I want to look at your face.”

Searching his eyes, I found he meant it and I smiled as I lowered myself on his length. Our gazes locked as I rocked my hips, and pleasure soared through my core, and even as the tension built up to impossible levels, I rode Luca at a slow pace. His pants deepened as he clung to my waist, and then my orgasm rippled over me, and Luca tensed under me, head falling back as he came inside of me. I pressed a kiss to his throat, feeling his pounding pulse against my lips. I bit down lightly and Luca’s cock jerked in me as he growled. I smiled against his skin. Mine.

Our days on the yacht passed too quickly and when we left the yacht in Palermo’s harbor on our last day, I felt a sense of wistfulness.

Luca seemed to pick up on it. “We will be back next spring, I promise.”

I gave him a grateful smile.

We still had to go through with a visit to Luca’s great-uncle before we could return to New York, and I could see Luca’s demeanor shift as we got into Alessandro’s car—he’d picked us up at the harbor. Luca was back to being Capo, back to being vigilant. There was nothing soft or gentle about his expression now. Sometimes when I saw the looks he gave others I was reminded of my own fears of the past, and felt immense relief that they were just that: memories.

“Did you enjoy your honeymoon?” Alessandro asked—this time he didn’t bother with English. He was making small talk but I could tell he wasn’t into it.

“We did, thank you,” I said. Alessandro glanced at Luca in the rearview mirror as if he was surprised Luca hadn’t answered. I’d thought the question had been directed at both of us.

“Is there any reason why my great-uncle wants to talk to me except to rekindle family bonds?” Luca cut through to the topic on hand.

“He will share his thoughts with you,” Alessandro said in a clipped voice, and the look that passed between them sent a shiver down my back. The air seemed to thicken with their dominance. It was like being locked into a cage with two alpha wolves.

Thirty minutes later, we arrived at a sprawling estate. It reminded me of the villas I’d seen in Tuscany with its cream façade and columns. Luca’s family had set up a long table in the courtyard before the front entrance. I was greeted by a wave of females with kisses and hugs, and astonished glances at my hair. They all had black hair like Luca’s. I stood out as usual. Luca immediately approached a tall, elderly man with a mustache. His great-uncle, and after a moment, I went over to them as well to greet the Capo of the Sicilian Famiglia. His dark eyes appraised me, as usual lingering on my hair, then he smiled. “You must be the pride of the Outfit.”

“I’m part of the Famiglia now, but thank you,” I said, flashing him my winning smile to soften my objection. He laughed, a raspy sound, then reached for a cigar. He held one out to Luca as well, who accepted it. I suppressed a shudder. I hated the smell of it. “Call me Adalberto, if I may call you Aria?” Adalberto looked at Luca for approval. Luca inclined his head.

Of course, my opinion wasn’t their concern.

“Why don’t you help my daughters and granddaughters prepare our meal for us?” Adalberto said.

Luca’s mouth twitched but I doubted anyone but me noticed. “Yes, Aria, why don’t you?”

The snappy comment didn’t leave my lips. I would make Luca pay later when we were alone.

I followed the women into the huge kitchen, and hoped they’d give me a task I could handle. Several pots were set up on the stove, and a whole lamb hung from a hook at the ceiling, already skinned, its dead eyes staring at me. Soon I found myself surrounded by chattering Italian women, who spoke so fast even I had trouble understanding every word they said, and set up with the task of preparing artichokes. I had never seen anyone prepare them, and had absolutely no clue what to do. When my cluelessness became obvious, Livia, Alessandro’s youngest sister who was only twelve, took the knife from me and showed me how to do it, and soon took over completely when my incompetence ruined two of the vegetables. Eventually I was given the task of stirring the soup in one of the pots. The women were kind despite my uselessness, but I could tell they were surprised that I couldn’t cook.

“I suppose men in America don’t expect their wives to cook?” one of Adalberto’s daughters, a round woman in her forties, said. I doubted most Italian men expected their wives to be perfect cooks, but these were mafia women, and the mafia was stuck in the past.

“Look at her hair, who cares if she can cook?” Livia said, her cheeks tingeing red when I smiled at her. Her comment was greeted by a wave of nods. The role of stupid blonde didn’t sit well with me, but I knew they weren’t trying to be mean. Everyone knew Luca hadn’t married me because of my wit. Neither he nor I had been given a choice in the matter.

When we served the prepared food to the men later, and Adalberto asked how I’d done, the women praised my abilities. Only Luca knew it was a blatant lie. I’d never be a decent cook, or anything close to it. I could tell by the tightness around his eyes that his conversation with Adalberto and Alessandro, who sat with them but avoided Luca’s eyes, must have worried him.

Later when we were finally alone in our airplane, I got the chance to ask him about it.

“Things are getting difficult for the Famiglia around here. My great-uncle asked if I would take Alessandro and his sisters in if things got out of hand.”

“And will you?”

“Of course. We are family. Honor dictates that I do, but Alessandro is destined to become Capo. He won’t bow down to my rule easily. I hope it doesn’t come to that.” His expression shifted from worry to something more relaxed. “So I hear you turned into a chef all of a sudden. Can I expect elaborate dinners in the future?”

“Of course,” I said sweetly. “You know how much Marianna enjoys going all out.”

Luca chuckled. Our housekeeper was a lifesaver when it came to food. She often prepared several meals in advance and put them in plastic boxes in our fridge so we wouldn’t starve. “You are a horrible housewife.”

I huffed. “I wasn’t raised to be a housewife. I was raised to be a trophy wife.” The words left a bitter taste in my mouth, but it was the truth and I needed to own up to it.

Luca shook his head, his eyes reverent as they trailed over me. “You were born to be a queen.”

chapter 4


The days passed quickly after our return to New York, and soon November rolled around and with it Matteo and Gianna’s fucking engagement party. The girl didn’t even try to hide that she didn’t want to marry Matteo.

If it had been up to me, I’d have let Scuderi marry her off to whatever old creep he’d chosen for her before Matteo played the fucking hero and asked for her hand.

She would bring trouble to New York, and I was glad that the wedding was still more than half a year away because additional trouble was the last thing I needed at the moment.

Dante entered my mansion with Scuderi and nine-year-old Fabiano, who trailed after them like a lost puppy. Gianna and Liliana had arrived earlier with their mother and immediately gone upstairs to prepare for the festivities. Neither of the women felt comfortable around me.

Dante and Scuderi wouldn’t be spending the night under my roof. They preferred a close-by hotel, and I was fucking relieved. Maybe our fathers had agreed on a truce, but Dante and I didn’t trust each other. I didn’t want him under the same roof as Aria. Not that he had any interest in her. He hadn’t officially taken over as Boss from his father Fiore Cavallaro yet, but everyone knew he was already running the show in Chicago.

“I still can’t stand their fucking faces,” Matteo muttered. “Especially Scuderi makes me want to optimize his face with my knife.”

One day maybe, but not today.

I walked toward them and held out my hand to Dante as tradition dictated. “Dante,” I said neutrally, which was the friendliest tone I could muster. “I hear you got engaged only recently. Congratulations.”

Dante inclined his head. “The wedding won’t be a big affair like yours with Aria.”

“We’re honored to attend anyway.” Of course, we had gotten an invitation and were required to go, even if I couldn’t have cared less if Dante married or not.

Dante inclined his head, his eyes cold and wary. I shook Scuderi’s hand after that, and squeezed a bit tighter than was called for, remembering what Aria had told me in Sicily—that he had hit her even after our engagement, even after I told him she was mine.

His brows drew together. “Luca.”

I released his hand. “Rocco.”

“Where is Aria?”

“She is talking to the caterer about some last-minute changes, but she will be here any moment.”

“Is Romero still her bodyguard? I never understood how you let an attractive man close to her age guard her. I wouldn’t allow my wife an opportunity like that.”

The moment this truce was over, I’d hunt him down and show him what it felt like to drown in his own blood. I smiled coldly, my voice steel. “My men know she is mine. No one would dare look at her the wrong way. Men like your nephew Raffaele would have been skinned in New York, their skin left to dry so it could make a nice carpet for my office.”

Scuderi’s face turned red.

Dante only met my gaze with the same cold appraisal as always. “We’ve come to celebrate an engagement, not skin anyone, I assume.” His eyes said he would have preferred the latter.

I inclined my head. “Of course. We want to further our bonds, right?”

“Right,” Dante clipped, and silence followed.

Beside me, Matteo looked like he was only waiting for a sign from me to pull his knives and carve a smile into their throats.

My eyes went to the small figure behind Scuderi who watched us with huge blue eyes, Aria’s eyes.

“Fabiano,” I said, trying to soften my voice but succeeding only marginally. He peered up at his father, who gave a jerky nod before Fabiano stepped forward and held out his hand. I took it and shook it, and then the kid narrowed his eyes. “Where are Gianna and Lily?”

Protectiveness rang in his young voice, and I had to stifle a smile.

“He’s buried them in the backyard,” Matteo said with a grin.

Fabiano jerked, and I sent Matteo a scowl. “They are upstairs,” I told Fabiano and tightened my grip slightly, sending him a warning look. He was still a kid, but I wouldn’t tolerate his insolence in my own territory.

He lowered his eyes and I released him.

“I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but you will have to beat Gianna into shape. She needs a hard hand,” Scuderi said, and Matteo’s answering grin sent me into high alert.

Dante straightened. Three years of truce. How much longer?

The door swung open and Romero stepped inside, checking if the air was clear before he allowed Aria to step through. His brows drew together when he noticed the tension between us, and he stretched out his arm to bar Aria’s way. Of course, she wouldn’t have it, her eyes zeroing in on her brother.

She ducked under Romero’s arm. “Fabi!” she called, her face breaking into a smile as she rushed toward us. She flung herself at her brother and hugged him tightly. The unbridled happiness on her face banished any violent thoughts I’d harbored. She pulled back, her eyes scanning her brother. “You have grown again. When will you ever stop?”

“When I’m as tall as Luca,” Fabiano said firmly.

And Aria let out that bell-like laugh I fucking loved more than anything else. “Then we’ll have to feed you a lot.” She raised her gaze to me, so full of happiness and love I had trouble keeping my face emotionless and hard. Her expression fell slightly before realization set in as she turned to Dante and her father. Politeness and grace took over her face as she stepped up to her father and kissed his cheeks. “Father.”

Then she turned to Dante. From the tense set of her shoulders I could see that he scared her, and that sight would have been enough to make me want to lunge but Matteo’s hand on my forearm, a silent warning, stopped me. I sent him a look. Now he had to stop me from breaking truce, really?

Dante must have seen some of my thoughts, because his eyes narrowed the slightest bit before he took Aria’s hand and kissed it. He released her quickly and she stepped back. She came to my side and I touched her waist. Mine.

“Has the cake arrived yet?” she asked. “The caterer said they couldn’t reach the bakery, and nobody’s picking up when I try to call.”

I stared. I didn’t even know we’d ordered cake.

She sighed. “I think I’d better have Romero drive me over there.” She turned to face her brother. “Why don’t you join me?”

I stifled a smirk. Aria had picked up on the tense atmosphere and she wanted her brother away from it.

Fabiano looked at his father, who waved a hand at him. “You’re only in the way anyway.”

Aria wrapped an arm protectively around her brother, eyes hardening. “Come on.” She raised her eyes to mine. “If Gianna and Lily ask for me, please tell them I’ll be back soon.” She gave me a short smile but didn’t kiss me. There would be time for that when we were alone.

“I must admit Aria seems surprisingly relaxed around you. Given your reputation I’d have thought she’d cower in front of you,” Scuderi said. “But I suppose some reputations are misleading.”

“A marriage is no place for fear,” Dante said, and I felt something like respect for him.

Several hours later, my suspicions were confirmed when Gianna caused a scene, making her reluctance to marry plainly clear to anyone who had the misfortune of being around.

Matteo took it with stride. He was the master of games, and she would be his ultimate victory, or so he thought. I had a feeling the redhead would not only make his life hell, but also mine. I could only hope she wouldn’t drag Aria into trouble with her because when her siblings were concerned, Aria lost all sense of self-preservation.

“What are you going to do about Sylvester?” Matteo asked.

I grimaced. I’d postponed a decision until now. Whenever Aria had asked what we were going to do on Sylvester I’d pretended I hadn’t decided yet, but that was a fucking lie. Like every fucking year, I was invited to the social event in New York—Senator Parker’s Sylvester party. The Famiglia had been working together with him for many years, and it was expected that I make an appearance as the current Capo.

“I will attend, and so will you.”

“And Aria?”

That was going to be a major problem. She was my wife and of course everyone expected her to be there as well, and I wanted her at my side—if there wasn’t the matter of Grace being there too. I hadn’t seen her since Aria had caught me with her, and I’d forced the senator to send his daughter off to England, but she would return for the party as was expected. “She will come with us.”

“That’s got the potential for a scandal,” Matteo muttered.

As if I didn’t know that. Not that I cared about a scandal, but I cared about Aria’s feelings.

“Are you sure Grace won’t make a scene? You never dumped her in person.”

“I never dumped her because I wasn’t dating her. I fucked her, and other women.” Of course, the other reason why I hadn’t seen her again was that I wanted to kill her for paying Rick to put roofies in Aria’s drink. If she wasn’t a woman and more importantly a senator’s daughter, I would have put a bullet in her head.

“Grace might disagree.”

“I don’t give a fuck. She’d better keep her mouth shut and treat Aria with the necessary respect, or I’ll make her regret it.”

That evening as Aria and I lay in bed, I finally bridged the subject I’d been avoiding. “We’re invited to a party for Sylvester.”

Aria lifted her head from my chest, brows drawing together. “Okay. And you only found out five days before?”

I shook my head. “I’ve known for a while.”

She sat up and peered down at me with confusion. “And you didn’t tell me, why?”

“It’s Senator Parker’s party.”

Aria stiffened and moved to get out of bed, but I grabbed her by the waist.

“Please,” she whispered. “Let me go.”

I released her. That broken whisper was a fucking bullet to the heart. She slid out of bed and walked toward the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking Manhattan, leaving me to stare at her naked back. I got out of bed, moved toward her and stopped close behind. Her face was reflected in the window, but her gaze was distant as if she didn’t see what lay right in front of her. I could imagine too well what memories she was reliving.

I rested my hands on her hips and my chin on the top of her head. “Aria—”

“Grace will be there,” she said quietly, and finally raised her eyes to mine in the window.


She gave a sharp nod then tried to step out of my hold, but this time I didn’t let her evade me again. “No,” I growled, tightening my grip on her waist. “Don’t make a bigger deal out of this than it is.”

Anger flashed across her face, and she surprised me by ramming her elbow into my side. I let go of her in shock. She whirled around, her eyes furious. “A bigger deal than it is?” She brought her palms up against my chest and shoved hard. I had to bite back a grin. That would have sent the wrong message. When I spotted the hint of tears in her eyes, my amusement died.

“Aria, I don’t give a fuck about Grace, believe me. It doesn’t matter if she’s at the party or not.”

“If it doesn’t matter, then why did you keep the party a secret from me for so long?”

“Because I knew how you’d react, and I was right,” I said.

She frowned.

“Come on,” I said, then took her hand and tugged her toward the bed. She followed and climbed back under the covers. I joined her and pulled her on top of me, but her body didn’t soften as it usually did.

“She will try to rub it in that you cheated.”

I stroked her soft back. “I told you before. She is a fucking rat trying to humiliate a queen. Ignore her.”

Aria sighed. “I’m not sure I can.”

“You are a mafia princess, Aria. You were brought up to brave men like me. You can stand up to a wretched whore like Grace.”

Aria tilted her head. “If you think so little of her, why did you spend time with her?”

“It’s not like I dated her. She was a fuck buddy.”

“I can’t imagine sleeping with someone I don’t have feelings for. I’ve only ever made love.” Her voice was a soft exhale.

I ran my knuckles up her spine. “Before you I ever only fucked, Aria. I didn’t care about any of those women.”

“But if you couldn’t stand their presence, wasn’t it difficult to spend time with them after sex?”

My brows pulled together. “I didn’t stay afterwards.”

Aria’s eyes filled with incredulity. “You slept with them and left immediately after you were done?”

“I fucked them and left, yes. Why would I have stayed?”

She regarded me as if she couldn’t possibly understand my reasoning. “But…what about snuggling? Did you never long for closeness?”

I chuckled. “Oh, principessa, you have a wrong impression of me. This version of me is one only you have ever seen.”

She propped herself up on my chest and peered down at me. “But with me you like it?”

That she still had to ask. “No,” I murmured. “I love it.”

Her lips turned up in a gorgeous smile, then she gave me a soft kiss. As if anyone could ever compete with Aria.

Matteo looked like the cat that got the cream. With his sick fascination for trouble, he’d probably end up enjoying being married to Gianna after all. Thankfully, he wouldn’t marry her until the summer, so I didn’t have to bear their annoying bickering yet.

“I hope there will be a nice piece of ass for me at the party. I need a good fuck,” Matteo said.

“You can have Grace for all I care. She gives head like a pro,” I muttered.

Matteo seemed to consider that. “Not sure I want your leftovers. You wouldn’t mind?”

I snorted. “I don’t give a fuck, trust me.”

“She’ll make a move on you, Luca.”

I fucking hoped she wouldn’t, but I feared Matteo was right. I’d wounded Grace’s pride. She was a spoiled brat who was used to getting her way, and I was the first man who hadn’t fawned over her. I still wished I had killed her after what she did to Aria in the Sphere, but Father had forbidden it and our connections to Senator Parker were too important.

I was about to say something when Aria stepped out of the bedroom and onto the landing, and any sane thought escaped my mind. She wore a floor-length golden dress that fell in soft waves around her legs. It was sleeveless with a jeweled high collar. Her golden-blonde hair fell in wavy curls around her face. Now she looked like a queen.

Matteo released a low whistle. “Grace will throw a fit.”

Aria glided down the staircase and I moved toward her, extending my hand. She took it with a small smile. Nerves filled her eyes. “You are gorgeous, principessa.”

“You are,” Matteo confirmed.

Aria flushed and I squeezed her hand lightly in reassurance.

When we arrived in Senator Parker’s home, Aria’s hand was tense in mine, but her face didn’t reflect her turmoil. She looked regal and elegant as I led her inside his brownstone town house.

And then I spotted Grace, and worse, she spotted me.

Senator Parker sent me an apologetic look and Grace’s brother even tried to lead her away, but she sauntered over to us. She’d gone all out. A tight, gold sequined minidress that ended high up on her thighs and left little to the imagination. Her neckline dipped low, showing off her impressive chest.

Aria stiffened and I turned to her. Aria in her far less revealing dress was so much sexier than Grace could ever be. Aria was a queen, and Grace was not worthy to breathe the same air as her.

“Luca,” Grace said sweetly and actually leaned forward as if she considered hugging me, but the scowl I sent her made her pull back. “Aria,” she said with pursed lips.

“I need to have a word with you,” her brother said as he grabbed her arm and practically dragged her away. Maybe he had seen how much I wanted to end his sister, woman or not.

Aria relaxed beside me, but the first guests crowded around us soon so I didn’t get the chance to ask her if she was okay. Grace tried to catch my attention several times through the evening, but I didn’t spare her a glance and her brother paid better attention to her whereabouts, making sure she didn’t come close again.

Grace got visibly frustrated with my lack of interest and in a last attempt at getting a reaction out of me, she walked up to Matteo, who had been flirting with the daughter of another politician. She gave him her best bedroom eyes, leaning in close to him. Matteo smirked, but his eyes found me above Grace’s head.

I raised my eyebrows at him. Have a go at her.

He whispered something in her ear, wrapped his arm around her waist and cupped her ass. Before she led him away, she sent me a scathing look. Did she really think I gave a fuck? If she thought she could win me over by sucking my brother’s cock, then she was even stupider than I’d realized.

“Please tell me it’s not how it looks,” Aria whispered, looking sick to her stomach.

I squeezed her waist. “Matteo is going to get the blow job of his life.” A moment too late I realized how that had sounded.

Aria’s cheeks flushed and she stiffened in my hold, but I didn’t get the chance to soften my words because the owner of a restaurant chain we protected came over and involved me in a conversation. Aria’s face looked like it had been carved from stone the rest of the evening, and I could have kicked myself for my thoughtlessness. Aria stayed at my side, keeping up appearances, but she didn’t spare me a single glance.

Almost one hour later, Matteo returned to the party, his hair disheveled and a self-satisfied grin on his face. He sauntered over to us when my last conversation partner had left, and I sent him a warning look but of course Matteo, being an asshole, ignored it.

“Now I get why you kept her around for so long. Damn it, that woman doesn’t have a gag reflex.” That and she took it up her ass, but Aria didn’t need to know that.

She stiffened, paling. Matteo glanced at her, then back at me, dark eyebrows climbing his forehead. I sent him a death glare.