I was wavering between storming into the bedroom to kick Luca’s ass and run as far away as possible so I didn’t have to hear what was going on behind that door. Most of the male guests were on their way back outside to resume drinking, only Matteo, who was shouting disgusting suggestions through the door, and a few younger Made Men from New York were still around. I backed away, knowing there was nothing I could do for Aria, and hating it more than anything else. So often in the past Aria had protected me from Father, and now when she needed protection, I was unable to help her.
I decided to go to my bedroom instead of returning to the party. I wasn’t in the mood to face my parents again. I’d only get into a huge fight with Father, and I really didn’t need that on my plate today. Before I could head down the corridor toward my room, two guys stepped in my way. I didn’t know their names. They weren’t much older than me, maybe eighteen. One of them still sported some baby fat and acne. The other was taller and looked like more of a threat.
I tried to sidestep them but the taller guy blocked my way. “Piss of,” I said, glaring at the two idiots.
“Don’t be a killjoy, Red. I wonder if you are red down there too?” He pointed between my legs.
My lips curled in disgust. As if I hadn’t heard those words before.
The acne guy snorted with laughter. “We could try to find out.”
Suddenly Matteo was there. He gripped the tall guy in a headlock and held a sharp long knife to the guy’s crotch. “Or,” he said in an eerily calm voice. “We could try to find out how long it takes you to bleed out like a pig after I cut your dick off. How does that sound?”
I used the moment to ram my knee into acne guy’s balls. He cried out and dropped to his knees. I probably shouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did.
Matteo raised his dark eyebrows at me. “Wanna have a go at this one too?”
I didn’t need to be told twice. Instead I landed a good kick and sent the second guy to his knees as well. Both guys looked up at Matteo with fear-widened eyes, ignoring me completely.
“Fuck off before I decide to cut your throats,” Matteo said.
They scrambled off like dogs with their tales between their legs.
“Do you know them?” I asked.
Matteo sheathed his knife. He didn’t look as drunk as he’d seemed at the party. Maybe it had all been for show. A quick glance around made me realize that we were alone in this part of the house, and from the way my heartbeat quickened and my stomach fluttered, I knew this really wasn’t a good idea.
“They are the kids of two of our soldiers. They aren’t even Made Men yet.”
Inducting them into the mafia probably wouldn’t turn them into nicer human beings. “I could have handled them myself,” I said.
Matteo scanned my body again. “I know.”
That wasn’t the answer I had expected, and I wasn’t entirely sure if he was pulling my leg or not. “It’s funny how you can act like a knight in shining armor one second and the next you’re encouraging your brother to sexually assault my sister.”
“Luca doesn’t need encouragement, believe me.”
“You make me sick. All of this does.” I turned and stalked away but Matteo caught up with me and barred my way with an arm against the wall.
“Your sister will be fine. Luca isn’t cruel to women.”
“Is that supposed to reassure me?”
Matteo shrugged. “I know my brother. Aria won’t get hurt.”
I searched his face. He seemed serious. I wanted to believe him but from what I’d witnessed, Luca was anything but a kind man. He was brutal and cruel and cold.
“I really want to fucking kiss you,” Matteo said in a rough voice, startling me.
My eyes widened. He didn’t move. Just stood in front of me with his arm propped up against the wall and his dark eyes boring into mine. We weren’t engaged, thank God, so speaking to me like that was more than inappropriate. Father would have gone nuts if he’d heard. I should have been anxious, embarrassed at the very least, by his words, but instead I found myself wondering how it would be to kiss someone. The girls in my class had all kissed and done far more already. Only Aria, I and the other girls from mob families were sheltered by bodyguards. How would it be to kiss someone forbidden? To do something a good girl didn’t do?
“Then why don’t you?” I heard myself say. Alarm bells went off in my mind but I ignored them.
This was my choice. If we weren’t who we were, if we hadn’t been born into this screwed up world, if Matteo wasn’t a Made Men and a killer, maybe then I could have fallen for him. If we’d met as two normal people, then maybe we could have become something.