Bound By Love

By: Cora Reilly

Surprised whispers.

I gestured at Gottardo, who immediately straightened. “To show you that I’m serious about this, I will allow one of my critics the floor now, my uncle Gottardo Vitiello, Underboss of the Atlanta Famiglia. Some of you might have heard of him.”

It was a jab I couldn’t resist. Gottardo had always been more about words than actions. I doubted many of them had ever seen him outside of his office.

Gottardo came forward and clambered up on the platform with some trouble. It had been a while since his last fight, as the pouch showing against his suit attested. He gave me a barely-there nod of acknowledgement and once more I wondered if I should have followed Matteo’s advice and cut the man’s throat, but he was family and I, at least, had to pretend I gave a shit about that.

Gottardo cleared his throat and opened his arms wide. “I don’t mean any disrespect. Whoever knows me, knows I am all about respect,” he began, and I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes. He was all about bad-mouthing behind people’s back. That had nothing to do with respect.

“But some things need to be said for the sake of the Famiglia. We need a strong hand, an experienced hand to guide us. Luca is strong but he is too young, too inexperienced.”

A few astonished whispers arose. My face gave nothing away. If my men thought Gottardo’s words had an impact on me, they might consider them to be true.

“We have many capable Underbosses with decades of experience. One of them could become Capo until Luca is older.”

Fucking bullshit. Once I stepped down, Gottardo, and my other uncles and their sons, would make sure it stayed that way, probably with a knife in my back.

I raised my hand again, my expression steel. “Whose name instills respect in the Outfit? Whose revenge does the Bratva fear when they consider attacking us? I’ve been a member of the Famiglia for twelve years. I’ve killed close to two hundred enemies. It’s my name they whisper in fear. The Vice. They fear me because my actions speak louder than my age, because I’m capable of doing what has to be done, no matter how bloody, no matter how dangerous, no matter how merciless. You are older, Uncle Gottardo, that’s true, but how many fights have you taken part in, how many men have you tortured, how many enemies have you killed? You are old. And that’s what’s saving you today. I won’t kill you for speaking up against your Capo because I respect my elders. I respect them as long as they respect me, so next time you consider revolting, neither your age nor your status as my uncle will stop me from ramming my knife into your heart.” I focused on the many hundred men below me. “Those who have fought beside me know why I am the Capo the Famiglia needs at this time. I know how to fight, unlike so many past Capos who spent their time hidden behind desks and behind their bodyguards. But I can act diplomatically, as my union     with the daughter of Rocco Scuderi should have proven.”

“We don’t want the Outfit whore in the Famiglia!” shouted a deep male voice.

My eyes swiveled toward the direction the shout had come from. Matteo flashed me his twisted-as-fuck grin. Gateway to Hell. Tonight there would be blood.

“Who said it?” I asked.

A few people shifted to my right. I focused on them. There was a tall asshole whom I didn’t know, probably one of Gottardo’s men, who met my gaze.

“Who?” I roared.

“I did,” he admitted, voice firm.

I leaped off the platform and stalked toward him through the parting crowd. Matteo was close behind me. My men looked up at me with respect and fascination. Most of them were much shorter than me, and as I stopped right in front of the asshole who’d badmouthed Aria, he too had to tip his head up slightly, even though he was six three. I knew what I looked like to most people—like the Devil arisen from Hell.

“I prefer to know the name of the men I kill, so what’s your name?”

“Giovanni,” he said, trying to sound unfazed but failing. Sweat coated his upper lip and his hand rested on the gun at his waist.

“Giovanni,” I said in my deadliest voice, bringing us even closer, my eyes telling him what lay ahead of him.

He backed away one step, only one, but everyone saw.

My smile pulled wide. “What did you call my wife?”

His eyes flitted around. “She was payment for the truce. She’s a whore,” he got out then added quickly. “I’m not the only one who thinks that way.”

“Is that so?” I asked, letting my furious gaze glide over the surrounding men, most of them Gottardo’s soldiers. None of them confirmed what Giovanni had said, but I could imagine what Gottardo had told them. “Perhaps they will help you, Giovanni. I hope some of them do, so I can carve them up as well.”

Giovanni jerked, fingers wrapping around the handle of his gun. My hand darted forward, closing around his throat, and I thrust him to the ground, rammed my knee into his chest to hold him down. He was choking as my fingers halted his oxygen supply. I held his gaze, relished in the panic in his eyes as he battled death. His struggle became jerky as he arched up and twisted, but I didn’t ease up. I held my hand out to Matteo. “Knife.”