I moved a bit closer and smiled up at him. “I needed some fresh air.”
Romero’s eyes were alert as he watched me. “We should return.”
“There’s something I want for my birthday,” I said quietly. “Something only you can give me.” I’d repeated the words in my head countless time but aloud they didn’t sound half as flirty as they had in my imagination.
“Lily,” Romero began, his body brimming with tension.
I didn’t want to hear what he was going to say. I quickly stood on my tiptoes and tried to kiss him. He gripped my shoulders before my lips reached his and held me away from him like I had an infectious sickness.
“What are you doing?” He let me go and took a few steps back. “You are a child, and I’m a soldier of the Famiglia. I’m not a toy you can play with when you’re bored.”
I hadn’t expected that kind of reaction from him. Surprise and shock, yes, but anger? No. “I only wanted to kiss you. I don’t want to play games. I like you.”
Romero shook his head, then gestured toward the glass door. “Go back inside. Your sisters will start to wonder where you are.”
He sounded like a big brother, and that was the last thing I wanted him to be. I whirled around before I walked back in a rush. My heart shriveled in my chest. For some reason I’d never considered a rejection from Romero. I’d fantasized about our first kiss so often that the option of it never happening had never crossed my mind. The rest of the evening, I struggled to keep a happy face, especially whenever I saw Romero. I was actually glad to return to Chicago. I wouldn’t get to see Romero for a long time, enough time to get over him and find someone else to crush on.
I’d known Liliana had a crush on me. Aria had mentioned it before, but I’d never expected the girl to act on her feelings. She was a pretty kid. A kid.
I didn’t have the slightest interest in her and the soon she understood the better. She’d looked fucking hurt when I’d lashed out at her, but I had no choice. Even if she weren’t still a child, I couldn’t have let her kiss me.
When I returned to the living area, Luca walked up to me. “What was that? Why was Liliana outside with you?”
Of course he’d noticed. Luca never missed anything.
“She tried to kiss me.”
Luca’s eyebrows rose. “I assume you pushed her away.”
“Do you really have to ask? She’s my sister’s age.”
“Her age isn’t even the main problem. At least in her father’s eyes.”
“I know.” I was a soldier, and girls like Liliana were supposed to stay in their own social circles.”
Luca sighed. “That girl will be as much trouble as Gianna, if not worse.”
I had a feeling he might be right.
“The nerve of that girl! From the day she’s been born she’s been nothing but trouble!” Father’s words echoed through the house. Fabiano peered up at me as if I knew the answers to his questions. My own mind was a huge question mark. I wasn’t exactly sure what had happened but I got the gist of it. Gianna had disappeared while she’d been in New York with Aria. Now everyone was looking for her. No wonder Aria hadn’t asked me to visit as well. Not that I would have been too keen on returning to New York after my last embarrassing encounter with Romero four weeks ago. But it still stung that Aria and Gianna had made plans behind my back, behind everyone’s back.
I walked down the stairs, motioning for Fabi to stay where he was, and then I inched toward Father’s office. Mother was there, crying. Father was on the phone, from his still angry but more restrained tone I assumed with his Boss Cavallaro. Cavallaro was the only person that Father truly respected. Mother spotted me in the doorway and quickly shook her head, but I took another step forward and into the office.
I knew it was better to stay away from Father when he was in a mood like this, even though he’d usually lashed out at Gianna and not me, but my sister was gone now.
Father hung up, then narrowed his eyes at me. “Did I allow you to come in?”
His voice hit me like a whip but I stood my ground. “What happened to Gianna?”
Mother sent me a warning look.
“Your sister ran off. She’ll probably get herself knocked up by some idiot, and ruin her and our family’s reputation.”
“Maybe she’ll come back,” I suggested. But somehow I knew she wouldn’t. This wasn’t a spur of the moment thing. She’d planned this, for months probably. That explained all the secrecy with Aria during our last visit in New York. Why hadn’t they told me? Didn’t they trust me? Did they think I’d run to Father the first chance I got? And then another thought buried itself in my brain. If Gianna was gone, if she didn’t marry Matteo, who else would? Fear washed over me. What if Father made me marry Matteo? I’d hoped I could marry for love now that my sisters had already been married off for tactical reasons. Maybe it was a selfish thing to think in a situation like this but I couldn’t help it. An image of Romero popped into my head. I knew it was silly to think of him when it came to marriage. Even if Gianna returned and still married Matteo, it would be almost impossible to convince Father to give me to a mere soldier, especially one from New York. And then there was the problem that he didn’t even want me and that I’d promised myself to get over him.