Home > Bound By Honor (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #1)(15)

Bound By Honor (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #1)(15)
Author: Cora Reilly

Gianna shrugged. “I’d do it for you.”

I pulled back. “You’re still my little sister. I should protect you.”

“We will protect each other,” she whispered. “Our bond is stronger than their stupid oaths and the Omerta and their blood vows.”

“I don’t want to leave you. I hate that I have to move to New York.”

Gianna swallowed. “I’ll visit often. Father will be glad to be rid of me.”

There was a knock and Mother walked in. “It’s time.” She scanned our faces but didn’t comment. Gianna took a step back, eyes burning into me. Then she turned and walked out. Mother’s eyes zoomed in on the white lace garter on my vanity. “Do you need help putting it on?”

I shook my head and slid it up until it came to rest on my upper thigh. Later tonight Luca would remove it with his mouth and throw it into the group of gathered bachelors. I smoothed down my wedding dress.

“Come,” Mother said. “Everyone’s waiting.” She handed me my flower bouquet, a beautiful arrangement of white roses, mother of pearl roses, and pink ranunculas.

We walked in silence through the empty house, my heels clacking on the marble floors. My heart was pounding in my chest as we stepped through the glass sliding door onto the veranda overlooking the backyard and the beach. The front of the garden was occupied by the huge white pavilion where the wedding ceremony would be held. But behind the pavilion dozens of tables had been set up for the following feast. Voices carried over to me from inside the pavilion where the guests were waiting for my arrival. A path of red rose petals led from the veranda toward the entrance of the pavilion. I followed mother into the small room between the outside and the main part of the pavilion. Father was waiting and straightened when we entered. Mother gave him the briefest nod before slipping into the makeshift chapel. His smile was earnest when he offered me his arm. “You look beautiful,” he said quietly. “Luca won’t know what hit him.”

I ducked my head. “Thanks, Father.”

“Be a good wife, Aria. Luca is powerful and once he takes his father’s place, his word will be law. Make me proud, make the Outfit proud.”

I nodded, my throat too tight for words. The music started to play: a string quartet and a piano. Father lowered my veil. I was glad for the extra layer of protection, no matter how thin. Maybe it would hide my expression from afar.

Father led me toward the entrance and gave a low command. The fabric was pulled apart, revealing the long aisle and the many hundred guests to either side of it. My eyes were drawn to the end of the aisle where Luca stood. Tall and imposing in his charcoal suit and vest with the silver tie and the white shirt. His groomsmen were dressed in a vest and dress pants of a lighter grey, and wore no jacket and a bowtie instead of a tie. Fabiano was one of them, with only eight much shorter than the men.

My father tugged me along and my legs seemed to carry me on their own accord as my body shook with nerves. I tried not to look at Luca and instead watched Gianna and Liliana from the corner of my eye. They were the first two bridesmaids and seeing them gave me the strength to hold my head high and not bolt for the outside.

White rose petals covered my path and were squashed under my shoes. Kind of symbolic in itself, though I was sure it wasn’t meant to be.

The walk took forever and yet it was over too soon. Luca extended his hand, palm upwards. My father gripped the corners of my veil and lifted it, then he handed my hand over to Luca, whose gray eyes seemed to burn up with an emotion I couldn’t place. Could he feel me shaking? I didn’t meet his gaze.

The priest in his white frock greeted us, then the guests, before he began his opening prayer. I tried not to pass out. Luca’s grip was the one thing keeping me focused. I had to be strong. When the priest finally came to the closing lines of the Gospel, my legs could barely hold me up. He announced the rite of marriage and the guests all rose from their chairs.

“Luca and Aria,” the priest addressed us. “Have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage? Will you love and honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?”

Lying was a sin, but so was killing. This room breathed sin. “Yes,” Luca said in his deep voice, and a moment later my own ‘yes’ followed. It came out firm.

“Since it is your intention to enter into marriage, join your right hands, and declare your consent before God and his Church.” Luca clasped my hands. His were hot against my cold skin. We faced each other and I had no choice but to look up into his eyes. Luca spoke first, “I, Luca Vitiello, take you, Aria Scuderi, to be my wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” How sweet the lies sounded from his mouth.

I recited the words expected of me and the priest blessed our rings.

Luca picked up my ring off the red cushion. My fingers shook like leaves in the breeze as I raised them, my heartbeat hummingbird quick. Luca’s strong hand was firm and steady as he took mine. “Aria, take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

He slipped the ring onto my finger. White gold with twenty small diamonds. What was meant as a sign of love and devotion for other couples was nothing but a testament of his ownership of me. A daily reminder of the golden cage I’d be trapped in for the rest of my life. Until death do us part wasn’t an empty promise as with so many other couples that entered the holy bond of marriage. There was no way out of this union for me. I was Luca’s until the bitter end. The last few words of the oath men swore when they were inducted into the mafia, could just as well have been the closing of my wedding vow:

‘I enter alive and I will leave dead.’

It was my turn to say the words and slip the ring onto Luca’s finger. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I could manage. The tremor rocking my body was so strong that Luca had to steady my hand and help me. I hoped nobody had noticed, but as usual Matteo’s keen eyes rested on my fingers. He and Luca were close; they’d probably laugh about my fear for a long time.

I should have run when I still had the chance. Now as hundreds of faces from the Chicago and New York Familias stared back at us, flight was no longer an option. Nor was divorce. Death was the only acceptable end to a marriage in our world. Even if I still managed to escape Luca’s watchful eyes and that of his henchmen, my breach of our agreement would mean war. Nothing my father could say would prevent Luca’s Familia from exercising vengeance for making them lose face.

   
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