“I didn’t mean disrespect,” Luca said calmly, as if war between New York and Chicago wasn’t on the verge of breaking out. “But Aria is no longer your responsibility. You lost your right to punish her when you made her my fiancée. She’s mine to deal with now.”
Father glanced down at the ring on my finger, then inclined his head. Luca let go of his wrist, and the other men in the room relaxed slightly, but didn’t put their weapons back. “That’s true.” He stepped back and gestured at me. “Then would you like the honor of beating some sense into her?”
Luca’s hard gaze settled on me and I stopped breathing. “She didn’t disobey me.”
Father’s lips thinned. “You are right. But as I see it Aria will be living under my roof until the wedding and since honor forbids me to raise my hand against her, I’ll have to find another way to make her obey me.” He glowered at Gianna and hit her a second time. “For every of your wrongdoings, Aria, your sister will accept the punishment in your stead.”
I pressed my lips together, tears prickling in my eyes. I didn’t look at Luca or Father, not until I could find a way to hide my hatred from them.
“Umberto, take Gianna and Aria to their rooms and make sure they stay there.” Umberto sheathed his knife and gestured at us to follow him. I stepped past my father, dragging Gianna with me who had her head bowed. She stiffened as we stepped over the blood on the hardwood floor and the cut-off finger laying abandoned in it. My eyes darted to Raffaele who was clutching his wound to still the bleeding. His hands, his shirt and pants were covered with blood. Gianna retched as if she was going to throw up again.
“No,” I said firmly. “Look at me.”
She drew her eyes away from the blood and met my gaze. There were tears in her eyes and her lower lip had a cut that was dripping blood on her chin and her nightgown. My hand on hers tightened. I’m here for you. Our locked eyes seemed her only anchor as Umberto led us out of the room.
“Women,” my father said in a scoffing tone. “They can’t even bear the sight of a bit of blood.” I could practically feel Luca’s eyes boring into my back before the door closed. Gianna wiped her bleeding lip as we hurried after Umberto through the corridor and up the stairs. “I hate him,” she muttered. “I hate them all.”
“Shh.” I didn’t want her to talk like that in front of Umberto. He cared for us, but he was my father’s soldier through and through.
He stopped me when I wanted to follow Gianna into her room. I didn’t want her to be alone tonight. And I didn’t want to be alone either. “You heard what your father said.”
I glared at Umberto. “I need to help Gianna with her lip.”
Umberto shook his head. “It’s nothing. You two in a room together always bodes trouble. Do you think it’s wise to irk your father any more tonight?” Umberto closed Gianna’s door and gently pushed me in the direction of my room next to hers.
I stepped in, then turned to him. “A room full of grown men watches a man beat a helpless girl, that’s the famous courage of made men.”
“Your future husband stopped your father.”
“From hitting me, not Gianna.”
Umberto smiled like I was a stupid child. “Luca might rule over New York, but this is Chicago and your father is Consigliere.”
“You admire Luca,” I said incredulously. “You watched him cut off Raffaele’s finger and you admire him.”
“Your cousin is lucky The Vice didn’t cut off something else. Luca did what every man would have done.”
Maybe every man in our world.
Umberto patted my head like I was an adorable kitten. “Go to sleep.”
“Will you be guarding my door all night to make sure I don’t sneak out again?” I said challengingly.
“Better get used to it. Now that Luca’s put a ring on your finger, he’ll make sure you’re always guarded.”
I slammed the door shut. Guarded. Even from afar Luca would be controlling my life. I’d thought my life would go on as it used to until the wedding, but how could it when everyone knew what the ring on my finger meant? Raffaele’s pinky was a signal, a warning. Luca had made his claim on me and would enforce it cold-bloodedly.
I didn’t extinguish the lights that night, worried the darkness would bring back images of blood and cut-off limbs. They came anyway.
My breath clouded as it left my lips. Even my thick coat couldn’t protect me from Chicago’s winter. Snow crunched under my boots as I followed mother along the pavement toward the brick building, which harbored the most luxurious wedding store in the Midwest. Umberto trailed closely behind, my constant shadow. Another of my father’s soldiers made up the rear, behind my sisters.