Father finally moved toward me, put a hand on my back and led me toward the gathered men like a lamb toward slaughter. The only man who looked positively bored out of his mind was Dante Cavallaro; he had only eyes for his Scotch. Our family had attended the funeral of his wife two months ago. A widower in his thirties. I would have felt pity for him if he didn’t scare me senseless, almost as much as Luca scared me.
Of course Father steered me straight toward my future husband with a challenging expression as if he expected Luca to fall on his knees from awe. Going from his expression, Luca might as well have been staring at a rock. His gray eyes were hard and cold as they focused on my father.
“This is my daughter, Aria.”
Apparently, Luca hadn’t mentioned our embarrassing encounter. Fiore Cavallaro spoke up. “I didn’t promise too much, did I?”
I wished the ground would open and swallow me whole. I had never been submitted to so much…attention. The way Raffaele looked at me made my skin crawl. He’d been initiated only recently and had turned eighteen two weeks ago. Since then he’d been even more obnoxious than before.
“You didn’t,” Luca said simply.
Father looked obviously put off. Without anyone noticing Fabiano had snuck up behind me and slipped his hand into mine. Well, Luca had noticed and was staring at my brother, which brought his gaze entirely too close to my naked thighs. I shifted nervously and Luca looked away.
“Maybe the future bride and husband want to be alone for a few minutes?” Salvatore Vitiello suggested. My eyes jerked in his direction and I didn’t manage to hide my shock fast enough. Luca had noticed but he didn’t seem to care.
My father smiled and turned to leave. I couldn’t believe it.
“Should I stay?” Umberto asked. I gave him a quick smile, which disappeared when my father shook his head. “Give them a few minutes alone,” he said. Salvatore Vitiello actually winked at Luca. They all filed out until only Luca, Fabiano and I were left.
“Fabiano,” came my father’s sharp voice. “Get out of there now.”
Fabiano reluctantly let go of my hand and left, but not before sending Luca the deadliest look a five-year old could manage. Luca’s lips quirked. Then the door closed and we were alone. What had Luca’s father’s wink meant?
I peeked up at Luca. I had been right: with my high heels, the top of my head graced his chin. He looked out of the window. He didn’t spare me a single glance. Dressing me up like a hooker didn’t make Luca any more interested in me. Why would he be? I’d seen the women he dated in New York. They would have filled out the bustier better.
“Did you choose the dress?”
I jumped, startled that he’d spoken. His voice was deep and calm. Was he ever anything but? “No,” I admitted. “My father did.”
Luca’s jaw twitched. I couldn’t read him and it was making me increasingly nervous. He reached into the inside of his jacket and for a ridiculous second I actually thought he was pulling a gun on me. Instead he held a black box in his hand. He turned toward me and I stared intently at his black shirt. Black shirt, black tie, black jacket. Black like his soul.
This was a moment millions of women dreamed off, but I felt cold when Luca opened the box. Inside sat a white gold ring with a big diamond in the center sandwiched between two marginally smaller diamonds. I didn’t move.
Luca held out his hand when the awkwardness between us reached its peak. I flushed and extended my hand. I flinched when his skin brushed mine. He slipped the engagement ring on my finger, then released me.
“Thank you,” I felt obligated to say the words and even look up into his face, which was impassive, though the same couldn’t be said for his eyes. They looked angry. Had I done something wrong? He held out his arm and I linked mine through it, letting him lead me out of the lounge and toward the dining room. We didn’t speak. Maybe Luca was disappointed enough with me that he’d cancel the arrangement? But he wouldn’t have put the ring on my finger if that were the case.
When we stepped into the dining room, the women of my family had joined the men. The Vitiellos hadn’t brought female company. Maybe because they didn’t trust my Father and the Cavallaros enough to risk bringing women into our house.
I couldn’t blame them. I wouldn’t trust my father or the Boss either. Luca dropped his arm and I quickly joined my mother and sisters, who pretended to admire my ring. Gianna gave me a look. I didn’t know what my mother had threatened her with to keep her silent. I could tell that Gianna had a scathing comment on the tip of her tongue. I shook my head at her and she rolled her eyes. Dinner was a blur. The men discussed business while we women remained quiet. My eyes kept drifting toward the ring on my finger. It felt too heavy, too tight, entirely too much. Luca had marked me as his possession.