“I swear never to betray the secrets of this thing we have, and to obey with love and Omertà the Sicilian Code of Silence.”
~Cosa Nostra Oath
Code of Silence
As soon as she could break away from Rafe and her father, Bela headed over to the bar for something stronger than Champagne. It was just good luck Vincent happened to be stationed there, with an open spot beside him. She gave a quick glance around and, after confirming nobody important was around, she slid onto the empty stool and ordered a martini.
She kept herself facing the bar and didn’t look at him, but the mirror in the back allowed her to see his face in the reflection. He looked miserable, and it broke her heart even more. “Tell me this terrible night is almost over,” she said.
“With the way Italians celebrate.” He gave a bitter chuckle and lifted his glass to his lips. “I wouldn’t bank on it.”
In the mirror across from them, she watched him as he took a drink and also kept an eye out for their fathers or Rafe. “You’re hitting the Scotch pretty hard tonight.”
“It’s the only way I’m going to keep my mouth shut.”
“Tell me about it.” She stopped talking while the bartender brought her martini. She took a sip before she began again. “Look…about that kiss—”
He dipped his head, his dark eyes focusing on the single ice-cube floating around in the amber liquid. “I’m sorry he did that to you,” he said. “Rafe likes to put on a show.”
“I’m sorry you had to see it.”
His expression altered to unreadable again. Looking over his shoulder, he gave a glance behind them. “You should go. We don’t want him to see us together.”
“Right,” she said as she pushed off the bar stool. Taking her glass with her, she went to mingle. She was thankful when she found Mandi and Trey before she encountered anybody else.
“This is so strange,” Mandi said as Bela approached. “I don’t know whether to congratulate you or apologize.”
Bela chuckled. “Either would work, I guess.”
Trey nodded toward Vincent. “How’s he doing?”
“About how you’d expect.” She looked over just as the bartender served him another drink. “Do me a favor, would you?”
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” Trey said with a nod.
Just then, Rafe approached and took her by the elbow. She couldn’t help but notice the way he addressed Trey and not her when he said, “Mind if I steal a minute with my bride-to-be?”
Trey glanced at Bela for approval.
“Of course,” she answered with a forced smile. With a glance at Mandi and Trey, she said, “Excuse us.”
She could feel Trey’s gaze—even and threatening—on Rafe as he walked her to the door and out into the lobby of the dining hall. Once they were alone, Rafe released her elbow.
“I know it can’t be easy for you and Vincent to go cold turkey,” he said, “but try to keep it out of the public eye, all right? We have an image to uphold.”
“I was just getting a drink,” she said, lifting the glass to show him.
“Sure you were.” He looked around to make sure no one was nearby and then returned his gaze to her. “Look, I don’t want this any more than you do, but it is what it is. And if you had any other boyfriend besides my brother I’d look the other way. But sharing you with him is a little twisted, even for my tastes.”
A rush of insult pumped through her blood. Anger snaked through her veins, hot and quick. “Let’s get one thing straight. They might be forcing me to marry you, but I will never be your wife.” Unable to control the rage—at him, at her father, at this entire messed up situation—she swung her arm and splashed her drink in his face.
His jaw tightened as the cool alcohol dripped down onto his suit. She turned to walk away, but his hand clamped down on her arm, just above the elbow and pulled her back. His chest pressed into her arm as he leaned close to bring his lips to her ear. His low, threatening whisper sent a chill down her spine. “You’re stuck with me princess, so get used to it.”
He released her arm with a jerk, then took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his face. He shrugged out of his blazer, draped it over one arm and viola…he looked good as new. He gave her a chilling smile as he returned to the ballroom.
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