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Bound by Duty(10)

By:Cora Reilly



When it was time for our kiss, Dante bent down without hesitation and pressed his warm lips against mine. He definitely didn’t feel like an iceman. Mamma’s words popped into my mind and a thrill of excitement rushed through me. Maybe I couldn’t make Dante forget his first wife, and I didn’t want to, but I could help him move on.

***

After church, we all drove to the hotel for the following celebrations. It was the first moment of privacy Dante and I got as a married couple. He didn’t hold my hand as he drove but he probably wasn’t the touchy-feely kind of guy. What worried me more were the tension in his jaw and the steel in his eyes.

“I think it went well, don’t you think?” I said when the silence got too oppressive.

Dante’s eyes snapped to me. “Yes, the priest did a good job.”

“I wished my mother hadn’t been crying so much. Usually she’s better at composing herself.”

Dante smiled tensely. “She’s happy for you.’”

“I know.” I paused. “Are you happy?” I knew it was a risky question.

His face closed off visibly. “Of course I’m happy with this union  .”

I waited for something more but the rest of the drive passed in silence. I didn’t want to start our marriage with a fight, so I let it drop.

When we got out of the car and headed toward the entrance, Dante touched my back. “You look very beautiful, Valentina.” I peered up at him, but his gaze was directed straight ahead. Maybe he’d realized how cold he’d been acting in the car and had felt guilty.

The ballroom of the hotel was beautifully decorated with pink and white roses. Dante kept his hand on my lower back as we made our way to our table under the cheers of our guests. Most of them had arrived before us and had already settled at their tables. We shared a table with my parents and brother, and Dante’s parents as well as his sister and her husband. I hadn’t talked to Dante’s parents, except for a few occasions of smalltalk. They’d been nice enough though. My brother Orazio pretended he was busy with something on his iPhone, but I knew he was only trying to avoid our father’s questions.

Aria and Luca, and Matteo and Gianna, as well as the Scuderi family occupied the table to our right. Aria gave me a smile before she returned her watchful gaze to her sister and Matteo who seemed on the verge of an argument. Those two would have one hell of a marriage. Matteo didn’t seem to mind the glowers Gianna was sending his way.

“You look beautiful together,” Ines said, drawing my attention back to our table.

Dante regarded me with an unreadable expression.

The servers chose that moment to enter the ballroom with plates.

After the four-course dinner, it was finally time for our dance. Dante led me toward the dance floor and pulled me against his chest. I smiled up at him. He felt warm and strong, and was a good dancer. He smelled perfect like a warm summer breeze and something very masculine. I couldn’t wait to share a bed with him, to see what he hid beneath the fabric of his expensive suit. If we had been alone, I would have rested my cheek against his shoulder, but everyone was watching us, and I didn’t think Dante liked to show intimacy in public.

Of course our guests didn’t care. Soon they started calling. “Bacio, bacio!”

Dante peered down at me with one cocked eyebrow. “Do we honor their wishes, or ignore them?”

“I think we should honor their wishes.” I really really wanted to honor their wishes.

Dante tightened his hold on my back and firmly pressed his lips against mine. His blue eyes were fixed on me and for a moment I was sure I saw something like warmth in them. But then the guests flooded the dancefloor to join in the dancing and our kiss was over. Shortly after, Fiore Cavallaro asked me to dance and Dante had to dance with his mother. I smiled at my father-in-law, unsure how to act around him. He had the same cold aloofness going as Dante. “My wife and I had hoped Dante would choose someone who wasn’t married before.”

The smile on my face became difficult to maintain, but I didn’t want people to realize that Fiore had said something that hurt me. “I understand,” I said quietly.

“But his reasoning convinced us. Dante needs a heir soon and someone not quite as young might prove a better mother to our grandchildren.”

I nodded. Their cold logic was something I hated with every ounce of my being. Not that I could tell him that.

“I don’t intend to sound cruel, but this is a marriage of convenience, and I’m sure you know what’s expected of you.”

“I do. And I’m looking forward to having children with Dante.” It was true. I’d always wanted children. I’d even considered in-vitro fertilization when I’d still been married to Antonio, but I wanted the chance to get to know Dante better before I tried to get pregnant. Naturally, I couldn’t tell his father that either. My brother took over from Fiore as was expected. “I’m glad you could come,” I told him as I looked up at him. He had my dark green eyes and almost black hair but those were the only similarities between us. We’d never been close, not for lack of trying on my part however. I wasn’t sure if that would ever change. He resented our father for coddling me, and sometimes I thought he resented me for having had it easier than him.

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