Home > Bound By Honor (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #1)(16)

Bound By Honor (Born in Blood Mafia Chronicles #1)(16)
Author: Cora Reilly

My feelings didn’t matter, never had. I’d been growing up in a world where no choices were given, especially to women.

This wedding wasn’t about love or trust or choice. It was about duty and honor, about doing what was expected. A bond to ensure peace.

I wasn’t an idiot. I knew what else this was about: money and power. Both were dwindling since the Bratva, the Triad and other smaller crime organizations had been trying to expand their influence into our territories. The Italian Familias across the US needed to lay their feuds to rest and work together to beat down their enemies. I should be honored to marry the oldest son of the New York Familia. That’s what my father and every other male relative had tried to tell me since my betrothal to Luca. I knew that, and it wasn’t as if I hadn’t had time to prepare for this exact moment, and yet fear corseted my body in a relentless grip.

“You may kiss the bride,” the priest said.

I raised my head. Every pair of eyes in the pavilion scrutinized me, waiting for a flicker of weakness. Father would be furious if I let my terror show, and Luca’s Familia would use it against us. But I had grown up in a world where a perfect mask was the only protection afforded to women and had no trouble forcing my face into a placid expression. Nobody would know how much I wanted to escape. Nobody but Luca. I couldn’t hide from him, no matter how much I tried. My body wouldn’t stop shaking and his grip on my hands tightened. As my gaze met Luca’s cold gray eyes, I could tell that he knew. How often had he instilled fear in others? Recognizing it was probably second nature to him.

He bent down to bridge the ten inches he towered over me. There was no sign of hesitation, fear or doubt on his face. My lips trembled against his mouth. My first kiss, if it could even be called that. His eyes bored into me, even as he pulled back. Their message was clear: You are mine.

Not quite. But I would be tonight. A shudder passed through me, and Luca’s eyes narrowed briefly before his face broke into a tight smile as we faced the applauding guests. He could change his expression in a heartbeat. I had to learn it too if I wanted to stand any chance in this marriage.

Luca and I walked down the aisle past the standing and clapping guests, and left the pavilion. Outside, dozens of waiters were waiting with glasses of Champagne and small plates with Canapées. It was now our turn to accept the blessings and congratulations of every guest before we could move on to the tables and sit down for dinner. Luca took two glasses of Champagne and handed one to me. Then he grabbed my hand again and it didn’t appear as if he had any attention to let go any time soon. He bent down, lips brushing my ear and whispered. “Smile. You are the happy bride, remember?”

I stiffened, but I forced my brightest smile onto my face as the first guests piled out of the pavilion and lined up to talk to us.

My legs began to hurt as we’d made it through half of our guests. The words directed at us were always the same. Praise for me on my beauty and congrats to Luca for having such a beautiful wife – as if that was an achievement – always followed by not so hidden hints about the wedding night. I wasn’t sure if my face remained as bright through all of them. Luca kept glancing at me as if to make sure I kept up the charade.

Bibiana and her husband were next. He was small, fat and bald. When he kissed my hand I had to stop myself from shuddering. After a few mandatory words of congrats, Bibiana gripped my arms and pulled me toward her body to whisper into my ear. “Make him be good to you. Make him love you if you can. It’s the only way to get through this.”

She let go of me and her husband wrapped his arm around her waist, meaty hand on her hip, then they were gone.

“What did she say?” Luca asked.

“Nothing,” I said quickly, glad for the next well-wishers that prevented Luca from asking more questions. I nodded and smiled, but my mind whirred around what Bibiana had said. I wasn’t sure if anyone could make Luca do anything he didn’t want to do. Could I make him want to be good to me? Could I make him want to love me? Was he even capable of such an emotion?

I risked a glance up at him as he talked to a soldier of the New York mob. He was smiling. Feeling my eyes on him, he turned and for a moment our gazes locked. There was darkness and a burning possessiveness in his eyes that sent a shiver of fear down my back. I doubted there was a flicker of gentleness or love in his black heart.

“Congrats, Luca,” a high female voice said. Luca and I turned toward it and something in his demeanor shifted ever so slightly.

“Grace,” Luca said with a nod.

My eyes froze on the woman, even though her father Senator Parker had started talking to me. She was beautiful in an artificial way with a too narrow nose, full lips and a cleavage that made my moderate chest look like child’s play. I didn’t think any of it was natural. Or maybe my jealousy was talking. I dismissed the thought as quickly as it had come.

With a look in my direction, she leaned up and said something to Luca. His face remained a passive mask. Finally, she turned to me and actually pulled me into a hug. I had to force myself not to stiffen. “I should warn you. Luca’s a beast in the bedroom and hung like one too. It’ll hurt when he takes you and he won’t care. He doesn’t care about you or your silly emotions. He will fuck you like an animal. He will fuck you bloody,” she murmured, then she stepped back and followed after her parents.

I could feel the color drain from my face. Luca reached for my hand and I flinched, but he clasped it anyway. I steeled myself and ignored him. I couldn’t face him now, not after what that woman had just said. I didn’t care that it was required to invite her and her parents. Luca should have kept them away.

I could tell Luca got frustrated with my continued refusal to meet his gaze as we spoke to the last few guests. When we walked toward the tables that had been set up under a roof of garlands attached to wooden beams, he said, “You can’t ignore me forever, Aria. We are married now.”

I ignored that as well. I was hanging onto my composure with desperate abandon and still I could feel it slipping through my fingers like sand. I could not, I would not break into tears at my own wedding, especially since nobody would mistake them for tears of happiness.

Before we could take our seats, a chorus of ‘Bacio, Bacio’ broke out among our guests. I’d forgotten about that tradition. Whenever the guests shouted the words we’d have to kiss until they were satisfied. Luca pulled me against his rock-hard chest and pressed another kiss against my lips. I tried in vain not to be as stiff as a porcelain doll, to no avail. Luca released me and finally we were allowed to sit down.

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