Bound By LoveBy: Cora Reilly
“Don’t worry,” he said firmly, taking my hand and pulling me against his chest. “This is me being overprotective. You will spend the morning with Romero. He will keep an eye on you.”
“I’m worried for you, not me,” I said with a frown.
His expression softened, but then he gave me a smirk. “I’m difficult to kill.”
I jerked. “Someone will try to kill you today?”
He kissed my lips, his hold on me tightening almost painfully before he pulled back. His hand around mine, he led me downstairs where Romero was waiting, looking as worried as I felt. He quickly masked his emotions when he spotted me, but it was too late. “Luca,” I whispered. “What’s going on? I thought this was only a meeting of the Famiglia.”
Romero and Luca exchanged a look, and Romero nodded, then moved toward the entrance door.
Luca cupped my cheeks, his body shielding us from Romero’s gaze. I searched his eyes for reassurance but he shut me out. Fear clawed at my chest, and tears sprang into my eyes. Perhaps he tried to shield me from the realities of mob life, but I was the daughter of the Outfit’s Consigliere. The mafia was in my blood. I knew its rules, its people. A new Capo meant a shift in power.
Luca shook his head. “No,” he growled. “No tears.”
I blinked and sucked in a deep breath. “You will return to me.” It was more question than statement.
Dark determination filled Luca’s face. “Always. Even if I have to slaughter a thousand men to do it.”
Good God. I believed him. He gave me another kiss then tried to step back, but I tightened my hold around his waist.
“Aria,” he said quietly, but I didn’t release him. Luca gave Romero a sign and a moment later, Romero gripped my upper arms and gently pried me off Luca. After a last look at me, Luca walked out of the apartment. The elevator doors closed to his strong back.
“Come on, Aria,” Romero said in a gentle voice, releasing me. “We should get going as well.”
“Is he in trouble? Is it because he’s a young Capo?”
Romero shook his head. “Luca doesn’t want you to know details. Don’t ask me for answers I can’t give you.”
The Yonkers power plant with its reddish brown brick front loomed near the Hudson River, a crumbling relic of the past—like my uncles.
“The Gateway to Hell,” Matteo muttered under his breath as we parked near the entrance. The neglected surroundings of the power station were crowded with dozens of cars.
Gateway to Hell… The press had given the building that name in recent years because of gang wars, but the last real bloodbath had been orchestrated by the Famiglia, and perhaps today another one would follow. Romero was taking Aria on a trip around the city today. I didn’t want her in our penthouse or in the mansion if things escalated. If Matteo and I died, Romero would take her to Chicago. The Outfit would protect her.
The two smokestacks rose up into the sky like gun barrels. My own guns strapped to my chest would hopefully not come to action today. Matteo and I stepped through the creaking gates, past rust-consumed pipes, into the cathedral-high main hall of the building. Hundreds of men turned their heads toward me as I strode past them. The front was made up of the soldiers from New York and Boston, soldiers I’d worked with frequently over the years, but in the rows behind them I saw many less familiar faces: soldiers from Washington and Atlanta, from Cleveland and Philadelphia, and the other cities of the East Coast under my rule. Some of them had never seen me in person, only heard the stories and seen press photos. A murmur went through them as they regarded me. I hadn’t chosen a three-piece-suit for the occasion like my father and the Capos before him would have done. I was dressed in a tight dark gray dress shirt, the sleeves rolled up, displaying the muscles I’d worked hard for.
I didn’t choose one of the high platforms, which allowed for a jaw-dropping view of the hall, for my speech. The distance would have diminished the effect my size had on people. I wanted my men to see me up close, especially those who hadn’t seen me before. I jumped up on a low concrete platform with the remnants of rusted bolts before I turned to the gathered Famiglia. Matteo remained off to the side. Having him up here with me would have suggested I needed his reinforcement, but today I needed to show my men that I could handle anything on my own.
I raised my hand and at once my men quieted. Gottardo in the very front glared up at me with barely hidden contempt. “Thank you for following my call,” I boomed. “I know the Capos before me have never called for a meeting of this proportion, but times are changing and while we are bound to our traditions and rules, which I have always honored, some things need to be changed. We need to adapt so the Famiglia stays strong, so we can brave future threats and come out stronger.”
Most of the younger soldiers nodded and even many of the older, but some faces remained skeptical, among them my uncles Gottardo and Ermano. “As my sign of respect for all of you, I called this meeting so you can voice your concerns before you pledge loyalty to me.”