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Bound by Honor(9)

By:Cora Reilly

“Are you married?”

Umberto nodded. “For twenty-one years.”

“That’s a long time,” Matteo said. “Aria must look awfully delicious in comparison to your old wife.” I stifled a gasp.

Umberto’s hand twitched an inch toward the holster around his waist. Everyone saw it. Father watched like a hawk but didn’t interfere. Umberto cleared his throat. “I’ve known Aria since her birth. She is a child.”

“She won’t be a child for much longer,” Luca said.

“She will always be a child in my eyes. And I’m faithful to my wife.” Umberto glared at Matteo. “If you insult my wife again, I’ll ask your father for permission to challenge you in a knife fight to defend her honor and I’ll kill you.”

This would end badly.

Matteo inclined his head. “You could try.” He bared his white teeth. “But you would not succeed.”

Luca crossed his arms, then gave a nod. “I think you are a good choice, Umberto.” Umberto stepped back, but kept his gaze fixed on Matteo who ignored him.

Luca’s eyes settled on Raffaele and he dropped whatever civility had cloaked the monster within until that point. He moved so close to Raffaele that my cousin had to tilt his head back to return the stare. Raffaele tried to keep his expression arrogant and self-confident, but he looked like a Chihuahua pup trying to impress a Bengal tiger. Luca and he might as well have been two different species.

“He’s family. Are you honestly going to accuse him of having an interest in my daughter?”

“I saw how you looked at Aria,” Luca said, never taking his eyes off of Raffaele.

“Like a juicy peach you wanted to pluck,” Matteo threw in, enjoying this entirely too much.

Raffaele’s eyes darted toward my father, looking for help.

“Don’t deny it. I know want when I see it. And you want Aria,” Luca growled. Raffaele didn’t deny it. “If I find out you are looking at her like that again. If I find out you are in a room alone with her. If I find out you touch as much as her hand, I will kill you.”

Raffaele flushed red. “You aren’t a member of the Outfit. Nobody would tell you anything even if I raped her. I could break her in for you.” God, Raffaele shut your mouth. Couldn’t he see murder in Luca’s eyes? “Maybe I’ll even film it for you.”

Before I could even blink, Luca had thrown Raffaele to the ground and dug a knee into his spine, one of my cousin’s arms twisted back. Raffaele struggled and cursed, but Luca held him fast. One of his hands gripped Raffaele’s wrist while he reached under his vest with the other, pulling out a knife.

My legs turned weak. “Leave now,” I told Gianna in a whisper. She didn’t listen.

Look away, Aria.

But I couldn’t. Father would surely stop Luca. But Father’s expression was disgusted as he stared down at Raffaele. Luca’s eyes sought Father’s gaze – Raffaele wasn’t his soldier. This wasn’t even his territory. Honor demanded he got permission from the Consigliere – and when my father gave a nod, he brought the knife down and cut Raffaele’s pinky off. The screams rang in my ears when my vision turned black. I bit down on my fist to stifle a sound. Gianna didn’t. She let out a screech that could have woken the dead before she threw up. At least, she’d turned and aimed away from me. Her vomit spilled down the steps.

Behind the doors, silence reigned. They had heard us. I gripped Gianna’s upper arms when the secret door was ripped open, revealing Father’s furious face. Behind him stood Cesare and Romero, both with their weapons drawn. When they saw Gianna and me, they returned them to the holsters under their jackets.

Gianna didn’t cry. She seldom did, but her face was pale and she leaned heavily against me. If I didn’t have to hold her up, my own legs would have crumpled. But I had to be strong for her.

“Of course,” Father hissed, scowling at Gianna. “I should have known it was you causing trouble again.” He wrenched her away from me and into the lounge, raised his hand and slapped her hard across the face.

I took a step in his direction to protect her and Father lifted his arm again. I braced myself for the slap, but Luca caught my father’s wrist with his left hand. His right hand was still grasping the knife he’d used to cut off Raffaele’s finger. The knife and Luca’s hand were coated with blood. My eyes widened. Father was the master of the house, the master over us. Luca’s intervention was an insult against my father’s honor.

Umberto drew his knife and Father had his hand on his gun. Matteo, Romero and Cesare had drawn their own guns. Raffaele was huddled on the floor, bent over his hand, his whimpers the only sound in the room. Had there ever been a red engagement?