Home > Bound By Honor (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #1)(12)

Bound By Honor (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #1)(12)
Author: Cora Reilly

I opened the door. Valentina stood in front of me, Umberto behind her. She was my cousin but five years older than me. Her mother and my mother were sisters. She smiled apologetically. “I know I’m early.”

“It’s okay,” I said, stepping back so she could walk in. Umberto sat back on the chair outside my door. I really liked Valentina, so I didn’t mind spending some time alone with her. She was tall and graceful, with dark-brown, almost black hair and eyes that were the darkest green imaginable. She wore a black dress with a pencil skirt that reached her knees. Her husband Antonio had died six months ago, and my wedding would be the first time that she’d wear something other than black. Sometimes widows, especially older women, were expected to wear mourning for a year after their husband’s death, but Valentina was only twenty-three. Luca’s age. I caught myself wishing her husband had died sooner so she could have married Luca and then I felt horrible. I shouldn’t be thinking like that. Romero hovered beside the window.

“Could you please wait outside? A bridal shower is no place for a man.”

He tilted his head, then walked out without another word.

“Your husband sent you his own bodyguard?” Valentina asked.

“He isn’t my husband yet.”

“No, you’re right. You look sad,” she said with a knowing expression as she sank down on the sofa. Champagne, soft drinks and an array of fingerfood were set up on a table behind it.

I swallowed. “So do you.” And I felt immediately stupid for saying something like that.

“My father wants me to remarry,” she said, twisting her wedding band.

My eyes widened. “So soon?”

“Not right away. Apparently he’s already talking to someone.”

I couldn’t believe it. “Can’t you say no? You were already married.”

“But it was a childless marriage, and I’m too young to stay alone. I had to move back in with my family. My father insisted on it to protect me.”

We both knew that code. Women always needed protection from the outside world, especially if they were in a marriageable age. “I’m sorry,” I said.

“It is what it is. You know that as well as I do.”

I laughed bitterly. “Yeah.”

“I saw your husband when I visited the Vitiello mansion with my parents yesterday. He’s…imposing.”

“Terrifying,” I added quietly. Valentina’s expression softened, but our conversation was cut short when Mother and Gianna came out of the bedroom. And soon after that more guests arrived.

The gifts were everything from lingerie over jewelry to certificates for a day in a luxury spa in New York. The lingerie was the worst though, and when I opened the gift from Luca’s stepmother Nina I had trouble keeping a straight face. I lifted the barely-there white nightgown and smiled tightly. The entire middle was see-through and it was so short it wouldn’t even cover much of my legs. Beneath it in the gift box was an even smaller piece of clothing; white lace panties that revealed most of my butt and were held together by a bow in the back. A chorus of appreciative murmurs came from the women around me.

I gaped at the lingerie. Gianna tipped her finger inconspicuously against her temple.

“This is for your wedding night,” Nina said with a calculating glint in her eyes. “I bet Luca will love unwrapping you. We need to please our husbands. Luca will certainly expect something this daring.”

I nodded. “Thank you.”

Had Luca maybe set his stepmother up to give this to me? I wouldn’t put it past him. Not after he’d gotten birth control for me. My stomach twisted with worry, and it got only worse when the woman started talking about their wedding nights.

“I was so embarrassed when it was time for the presentation of the sheets!” Luca’s cousin Cosima stage-whispered.

“The presentation of the sheets?” I asked.

Nina’s smile was patronizing when she said, “Didn’t your mother explain it to you?”

I glanced at my mother who pressed her lips together, two red blotches appearing on her cheeks.

“It’s a Sicilian tradition that the Familia has proudly upheld for generations,” Nina explained, eyes fixed on my face. “After the wedding night, the women of the groom’s family come to the bridal pair to collect the sheets they spent the night on. Then those sheets are presented to the fathers of the bride and the groom and whoever else wants to see proof that the marriage has been consummated and that the bride was pure.”

Cosima giggled. “It’s also called tradition of the bloody sheets for that reason.”

My face was frozen.

“That’s a barbaric tradition!” Gianna hissed. “Mother, you can’t allow it.”

“It’s not up to me,” Mother said.

“That’s right. We won’t abandon our traditions.” Nina turned to me. “And from what I know you’ve been well protected from male attention so there’s nothing for you to fear. The sheets will prove your honor.”

Gianna’s lips curled, but all I could think about was that this tradition meant I definitely had to sleep with Luca.

CHAPTER FIVE

The afternoon before the wedding day, my family moved out of the Mandarin Oriental and headed for the Vitiello mansion in the Hamptons. It was a huge building inspired by Italian palazzos surrounded by almost three acres of park-like grounds. The driveway was long and winding, and led past four double garages and two guesthouses until it ended in front of the mansion with its white front and red shingled roof. White marble statues stood at the base of the double staircase leading up to the front door.

Inside, coffered ceilings, white marble columns and floors, and a view of the bay and the long pool through the panorama windows took my breath away. Luca’s father and stepmother led us toward the second floor of the left wing where our bedrooms were situated.

Gianna and I insisted on sharing a room. I didn’t care if it made us look immature. I needed her at my side. From the window we could watch how the workers began setting up the huge pavilion that would serve as church tomorrow. Beyond it the ocean churned. Luca wouldn’t arrive until the next day so we couldn’t cross paths by accident before the wedding, which would mean bad luck. I honestly didn’t know how I could have any more bad luck than I already had.

***

   
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