“That makes sense,” I said. Bibiana gave me a look. She too must have picked up on the strain in Aria’s words.
Aria’s blue eyes widened. “You didn’t even show me your engagement ring yet!”
I held my hand out.
“It’s beautiful,” Aria said.
“It is. Dante chose it for me.” My second engagement ring, and the second time that it wasn’t a sign of love. “How long will you be staying in Chicago? Do you have time to come over for a coffee?”
“We’ll be leaving tomorrow morning. Luca wants to return to New York. But we’re coming over to your wedding a few days early so maybe we could meet for coffee then, unless you’ll be too busy?”
“No, it won’t be a big celebration, so I’ll have time to meet you for coffee. Give me a call when you know more.”
“I’ll do that.”
“What about you Bibiana, do you have time to come over tomorrow? We haven’t had the chance to talk in a while as well.”
Bibiana bit her lip. “I think I can. Now that you’re as good as the wife of the Boss, Tommaso can hardly say no.”
“Exactly,” I said before turning to Aria again. “Where’s Luca?”
Aria looked around. “He wanted to talk to my parents about Matteo’s wedding to Gianna. It’s taking longer than expected.”
Would they cancel the engagement? That would be the gossip of the year. I couldn’t imagine they’d risk it, no matter how unwilling Gianna was.
Dante appeared in the doorway to the living room, eyes settling on me.
“I think I need to leave,” I said. I hugged Aria and Bibiana before I moved toward Dante. I stopped in front of him. “Are we leaving?”
Dante looked incredibly tense. “Yes. But if you want to stay, you can drive with your parents.”
That would lead to more gossip. You couldn’t appear at a party with your fiancé and leave without him. “I don’t think that would be wise.”
Understanding settled on Dante’s face. “Of course.”
Back in the car, I asked. “Is everything okay?” Now that we were engaged, I thought it was okay for me to ask him.
His fingers around the steering wheel tensed. “The Russians are giving us more trouble than usual, and it certainly doesn’t help that Salvatore Vitiello died at this critical time and New York has to deal with a new Capo.”
I stared at him, surprised. When I’d asked him, I hadn’t expected a detailed reply. Most men didn’t like to talk about business with their wife, and I wasn’t even married to Dante yet.
Dante’s eyes snapped toward me. “You look surprised.”
“I am,” I admitted. “Thank you for giving me an honest answer.”
“I think honesty is the key to a functioning marriage.”
“Not in the marriages I know,” I said wryly.
Dante tilted his head. “True.”
“So you don’t think Luca is a good Capo?”
“He is a good Capo, or he will be once he’s weeded out his adversaries.”
He’d said it clinically. As if weeding out didn’t mean killing other people because they were uncomfortable or a risk to one’s power.
“Is that what you are going to do once you become the Boss of the Outfit?”
“Yes, if necessary, but I’ve proven my claim to leadership in the last few years. I’m considerably older than Luca.”
But still the youngest Boss in the history of the Outfit. People would test him too.
Dante pulled up in front of my parents’ house. He killed the engine, got out and walked around the hood of the car before opening my door. I took his hand and stood, bringing our bodies so close for a moment that it would have been easy to kiss him. Then he took a step back, reestablishing the proper distance between us before he led me toward the door. I turned to face him. “I never see you with a bodyguard. Isn’t it risky to be outside on your own?”
Dante smiled darkly. “I’m armed, and if someone wants to take me by surprise, let them try.”
“You are the best shot in the Outfit.”
“Among the best, yes.”
“Good, I suppose then I can feel safe.” It was meant as a joke, but Dante looked deathly serious. “You are safe.”
I hesitated. Wouldn’t he try to kiss me? We would marry in four weeks. It wasn’t as if we needed to stay away from each other for decorum’s sake. When it became clear that Dante wouldn’t make the first move, I stepped up to him and kissed his cheek. I didn’t dare look at his face, instead I unlocked the door, slipped in and let it fall shut behind me. I waited a few moments before I peered through the window beside the door. Dante’s car pulled away. I wondered why he hadn’t tried to kiss me. Was it because we weren’t married yet? Maybe he thought it wasn’t appropriate for us to get close physically before our wedding. Or maybe he was still in love with his wife? I hadn’t even looked at his hand to see if he had taken off his old wedding ring. Was that why people had talked about me today?