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Bound by Hatred(4)

By:Cora Reilly

He bowed without taking his eyes off me. “May I have this dance?”

My stomach did a stupid flip at the sight of his grin. He was more easygoing than most Made Men, but I had a feeling that was only a cover up. Maybe he’d perfected the boy-next-door routine, but beneath that a predator was lying in wait, ready to pounce. I wasn’t going to be his prey.

Father watched me from his spot at the table, so I had no choice but to nod in response to Matteo’s question, or risk a huge scene. Not that I would have cared but I didn’t want to add more stress for Aria. She was already on edge.

Matteo took my hand and rested his palm on my lower back, the warmth of his skin seeping through the thin fabric of my dress. My stomach lurched but I forced my face into a mask of boredom. I hated how my body seemed to react to Matteo. If I’d be allowed to interact with other guys, I’d probably be unimpressed by Matteo. Right?

I peered up at him. This close up I could see that his eyes were dark brown with an almost black outer ring. He had thick black lashes and the shadow of stubble ghosted his cheeks and chin. His smile widened and I turned my head away, focusing on the dancing guests around us. Everyone was laughing and smiling, enjoying themselves. From the outside it looked like a marvelous feast. It was easy to be taken in by the mansion’s garden that was decorated to perfection. It was so damn easy to let the breeze drifting over to us from the ocean carry away reality. The unique atmosphere only a place in the Hamptons could offer could convince anyone that life was a dream.

I knew better.

Matteo pulled me even closer, pressing our bodies together so I could feel every inch of muscle as well as the weapons hidden beneath his vest. I squirmed, though part of me wanted to lean in, get closer, and claim his mouth for a kiss. That would have been the scandal of the wedding, no doubt.

Father would blow a gasket. That was almost enough to make me want to do it. Why should girls be forced to wait with their first kiss until they were married? It was ridiculous. I pitied Aria for having to experience her first kiss in front of the entire wedding party. That wouldn’t happen to me. I didn’t care whom I had to bribe to kiss me.

Matteo leaned down, a teasing smile curving his mouth. “You look gorgeous, Gianna. The pissed off look goes really well with your dress.”

Before I could stop myself, a laugh burst out of me. I tried to cover it up with a cough but Matteo didn’t buy it judging from the look on his face. Damn it. I narrowed my eyes – in vain. I decided to ignore Matteo for the rest of our dance, hoping that my body would do the same, but then the bastard started moving his thumb back and forth on my back, and every nerve ending in me seemed to jerk to life.

I wanted to kiss him, and not just to spite my father and every other male in our world who thought it was okay to keep women on a leash. I wanted to kiss him because he smelled delicious, and that was exactly the reason why I needed to get away from him quickly.

Sadly, Matteo seemed intent to drive me crazy, because after our first dance he managed to steal two more dances from me, and to my utter annoyance my body didn’t stop reacting to his closeness. I had a feeling he knew, and that was why he kept stroking my back ever so lightly, but I couldn’t ask him to stop without admitting that it was bothering me, and somehow part of me didn’t want him to stop.

It was almost midnight when people started to shout for Luca to bed Aria. She didn’t manage to hide her panic. When she stood and took Luca’s offered hand, her eyes met mine but then Luca was already leading her away, followed by a crowd of shouting men. Anger surged through me. I pushed to my feet, determined to follow and help her. Mother gripped my wrist, jerking me to a stop. “This isn’t your business, Gianna. Sit down.”

I glowered at her. Wasn’t she supposed to protect us? Instead she watched without a flicker of compassion. I wrenched away from her, disgusted by her and everyone around us.

Father stood beside Salvatore Vitiello who shouted something that sounded like “We want to see blood on the sheets, Luca!”

I almost tackled him. What a bastard. New York and its sick traditions. Despite Father’s warning glare, I turned and followed after the men. Luca and Aria were almost at the house, and I had trouble fighting my way through the male guests to get to them. I wasn’t even sure what I was going to do if I reached them. I could hardly pull Aria into our shared bedroom and lock the door. That wouldn’t stop anyone, least of all Luca. That guy was a beast.

A few of the men made lewd comments in my direction but I ignored them, my eyes firmly focused on Aria’s blond head. I’d almost reached the front of the crowd when Aria disappeared into the master bedroom and Luca closed the door. My breath caught, worry and anger taking center-stage in my body.