Bound By Love

By: Cora Reilly

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.