After dinner the men moved on to the lounge to drink and smoke and discuss whatever else needed to be discussed. I returned to my room, but couldn’t fall asleep. Eventually, I put a bathrobe over my pajamas, slipped out of my room and crept downstairs. In a fit of craziness, I took the passage that led to the secret door behind the wall in the lounge. My Grandfather thought it was necessary to have secret escapes in the office and the fireplace lounge because that’s where the men of the family usually held their meetings. I wondered what he thought would happen to the women after the men had all fled through the secret passage?
I found Gianna with her eyes pressed against the peephole of the disguised door. Of course, she was already there. She whirled around, eyes wide but relaxed when she spotted me.
“What’s going on in there?” I said in a bare whisper, worried the men in the lounge would overhear us.
Gianna moved to the side, so I could peer through the second peephole. “Almost everyone’s already gone. Father and Cavallaro have details to discuss with Salvatore Vitiello. It’s only Luca and his entourage now.”
I squinted through the hole, which gave me a perfect view of the chairs crowded around the fireplace. Luca leaned against the marble ledge of the fireplace, legs casually crossed, a glass of Scotch in his hand. His brother Matteo lounged in an armchair beside him, legs wide apart and that wolfish grin on his face. Cesare and the second bodyguard they’d called Romero during dinner sat in the other armchairs. Romero looked to be the same age of Matteo, so around eighteen. Barely men by society’s standard, but not in our world.
“It could have been worse,” Matteo said, grinning. He might not have looked quite as deadly as Luca, but something in his eyes told me he was only able to hide it better. “She could have been ugly. But, holy fuck, your little fiancée is an apparition. That dress. That body. That hair and face.” Matteo whistled. It seemed as if he was provoking his brother on purpose.
“She’s a child,” Luca said dismissively. Indignation rose in me, but I knew I should be glad that he didn’t look at me like a man looked at a woman.
“She didn’t look like a child to me,” Matteo said, then clucked his tongue. He nudged the older man, Cesare. “What do you say? Is Luca blind?”
Cesare shrugged with a careful glance at Luca. “I didn’t look at her closely.”
“What about you, Romero? You got functioning eyes in your head?”
Romero looked up, then quickly looked back down to his drink.
Matteo threw his head back and laughed. “Fuck, Luca, did you tell your men you’d cut their dicks off if they looked at that girl? You aren’t even married to her.”
“She’s mine,” Luca said quietly, sending a chill down my back with his voice, not to mention his eyes. He looked at Matteo, who shook his head. “For the next three years, you’ll be in New York and she will be here. You can’t always keep an eye on her, or do you intend to threaten every man in the Outfit. You can’t cut off all of their dicks. Maybe Scuderi knows of a few Eunuchs who can keep watch over her.”
“I’ll do what I have to,” Luca said, swirling the drink in his glass. “Cesare, find the two idiots who are supposed to guard Aria.” The way my name rolled off his tongue made me shiver. I didn’t even know I had two guards now. Umberto had always protected me and my sisters.
Cesare left immediately and returned ten minutes later with Umberto and Raffaele, both looked butt-hurt that they’d been summoned like dogs by someone from New York. Father was a step behind them.
“What’s the meaning of this?” Father asked.
“I want to have a word with the men you chose to protect what’s mine.”
Gianna huffed beside me, but I pinched her. Nobody could know we were listening in on this conversation. Father would throw a fit if we revealed the position of his secret door.
“They are good soldiers, both of them. Raffaele is Aria’s cousin, and Umberto has worked for me for almost two decades.”
“I’d like to decide for myself if I trust them,” Luca said. I held my breath. That was as close to an insult as he could get without actually insulting my father openly. Father’s lips thinned, but he gave a curt nod. He remained in the room. Luca stepped up to Umberto. “I hear you are good with the knife.”
“The best,” Father interjected. A muscle in Luca’s jaw twitched.
“Not as good as your brother, as rumor has it,” Umberto said with a nod toward Matteo who flashed him a shark grin. “But better than any other man in our territory,” Umberto admitted eventually.