Bound By Love

By: Cora Reilly


I had my own, but it would have taken considerable effort to free it from my calf or back holster with the struggling asshole beneath me. Matteo handed me his favorite skinning knife with a short, sharp carbon blade, built to go through flesh like butter. Giovanni’s eyes widened, from terror and lack of oxygen.

Shortly before he lost consciousness, I released his throat and his mouth opened wide to gulp down air. I wedged my hand between his upper and lower jaw to keep it open, then brought the knife down on his tongue. He bit down, shrieking hoarsely, but the blade cut through his flesh. Pain shot through my fingers from his locked-down jaw but I’d had worse. I dropped the knife and reached for the half cut-off tongue, then ripped it out with a vicious tug. His eyes rolled back as blood filled his mouth. He fell to his side, twitching. He would die of blood loss or choke on his own blood soon.

The slimy tongue still in my hand, I turned in a circle to show my men that I saw them all, then I dropped the useless piece of flesh on the ground before I returned to the front, my hand and forearm coated in blood. I jumped up on the platform and faced the crowd, not bothering to clean myself. I’d let them see the blood, but the majority of eyes were fixed on my face, and sick respect twisted their features. “My wife is an honorable woman, my woman, and I will kill anyone who dares to disrespect her.” I hoped this would settle the matter once and for all.

Matteo smirked at me as he held the bloody knife I’d dropped. I gave him a nod and he spoke up. “Now that we’ve settled Giovanni’s wayward tongue, it’s time you pledge loyalty to your Capo. Those of you who still think Luca isn’t fit to be Capo can step forward and not speak the oath. It’s up to you.” He showed them his teeth and wiped the blade on his trouser leg.

Nobody stepped forward, and when Matteo rested his palm over his heart and began the words of our oath, “Born in blood, sworn in blood,” the crowd fell in as one. I breathed deeply, watching my men as they looked up at me. I’d silenced my critics for now, scared them into silence, but they wouldn’t always remain that way. Yet for now, I was Capo, a stronger Capo than my father had been because I had given my soldiers the sense that they had chosen me. When I stepped down later, I took the towel Matteo handed me to clean my hand before I accepted the congratulations from my soldiers and shook hands.

My men sought my closeness, especially those who had never met me before. They had only ever talked about me, and now they could talk to me. I gave them what they were looking for. Talked, listened, clapped shoulders.

Mansueto, Underboss in Philadelphia, who supported his weight on a cane, approached me later, his son Cassio towering over him. I shook Mansueto’s hand then Cassio’s. “Your wife brings splendor and light to New York. In my almost seventy years I’ve never seen beauty like hers. Truce or not, you are blessed to have her in your bed.”

I tensed.

“Father,” Cassio said in warning, sending me an apologetic look.

Mansueto gave me a smile and nodded. “Protective as you should be. I’m an old man. Don’t mind me.”

I knew Aria was beautiful. Had she been born in the past she would have been queen, given to a king for her gorgeousness, and even now she was meant for the stage, meant to be admired by millions. She would be the wet dream of millions of teenage boys, would haunt the fantasies of millions of married men who couldn’t get off with the images of their own wives—if she weren’t my wife. But I was a possessive asshole, and that’s why she’d always only be mine. Every inch of her.

“I know today isn’t a good time but I need to discuss my succession with you,” Mansueto said.

Cassio’s mouth tightened. “You won’t die today, Father.”

“But maybe tomorrow,” Mansueto said.

I leveled my gaze on Cassio. “You will take over from your father.”

Cassio inclined his head. “If you give your assent. I am young.”

I smirked. “Not as young as I. The Famiglia needs young blood.” I turned to Mansueto. “No offense.”

“No offense taken. There are certain forces in the Famiglia that are holding us back. But I have faith that you will burn the problem by the roots.”

Mansueto’s gaze moved to the center of the hall where Giovanni had bled out. Nobody had come to his aid. “I will.”





ARIA





Romero and I had been driving around New York for close to two hours. I was starting to grow restless and Romero’s grip on the steering wheel tightened with every passing moment. This wasn’t a simple meeting of the Famiglia, or Luca wouldn’t have put these kinds of precautions in place. My eyes were drawn up to the Flatiron Building as we crept past it in traffic, trying to distract myself from my growing panic—in vain.

“Luca is strong, Aria,” Romero assured me again, but his words didn’t quiet my fears. He’d managed to dishevel his brown hair completely from running his hands through it so often, and his blatant sign of nerves made me all the more nervous in turn.

Two hours.

What if he didn’t return to me?