Bound By Love

By: Cora Reilly

“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.”