Salvatore:A Dark Mafia Romance(3)

By: Natasha Knight

Today, I wore black. And I no longer cared who was the prettiest. Today, I followed my father’s casket to the front of the church.

Black lace hid my face, so I could take in the audience without them seeing me. The pews stood empty until we reached the front rows, where ten were occupied. Fifteen mourners on the right—my family’s side. Double that on the left. Did soldiers count as mourners, though? Because that’s what the Benedetti’s had brought.

I ignored them and looked at each of the fifteen faces who had dared show up on my side. My father did not have many friends. In fact, of the fifteen, two were his brothers, my uncles, and one, his sister. The other twelve made up their families. Only the women sat in the pews, though. My male cousins carried my father’s coffin.

As the procession neared the front pew, I prepared myself for the moment I would see his face. The face of the man who had, five years ago, sat across from me in a cold, sterile room and signed a contract, declaring his ownership of me. A vow, like a marriage vow, perhaps. But the words cherish and love had been absent from the pages; take and keep having taken their place.

No, we had a different sort of contract. My life to spare my family. Me as the sacrifice, the payer of the debt. Me to show anyone in the DeMarco family who had any fight left that the Benedetti’s owned their daughter. The Benedetti’s owned the DeMarco princess.

I hate the Benedetti family. I hate every single one of them.

The procession halted. My sister, Isabella, stood close enough behind me that I felt her there. At least she wasn’t crying. At least she knew not to show weakness. In fact, no sound came from her at all.

Seeing her today, it had surprised me.

Seeing my niece, Effie, for the first time, it twisted my heart, reminding me of yet another thing that had been taken from me.

Six pallbearers laid my father’s coffin down on the table arranged to receive it. It would be a closed-casket funeral. No viewing. He’d blown half his head off when he’d shot himself in the mouth.

My cousins turned to me. Luke, who was the adopted son of my uncle, looked just beyond me, though. Beyond me and to my sister. His eyes, a soft, pale blue I remembered from childhood, had hardened to steel. I watched, wishing I could turn back and look at my sister, see what her eyes said. But then his gaze shifted to me. He looked very different from the boy I’d grown up with. But he was very different or had become so over the last five years. We all had. Through the lace shielding my face, I met his eyes. Could he see the rage simmering inside me? He gave me a quick, short nod. An acknowledgment. I wondered if anyone saw it. He could be killed for it. The Benedetti’s took no prisoners. Well, apart from me. But a woman. What could a woman do?

They would see.

A man moved into my periphery and cleared his throat. I knew who it was. Standing up straighter, steeling myself, I forced my heart to stop its frantic pounding and turned to face him.

Salvatore Benedetti.

I swallowed as my gaze traveled from the black silk tie he wore upward. I remembered him. Even though we’d only met once before, I remembered him clearly. But the suit seemed to stretch tighter over muscle now, his chest broader, his arms thicker. I forced my gaze higher, pausing at his neck, willing myself to slow my breathing.

I could not show weakness. I could not show fear. But that day, when they’d forced me onto that table—I still shuddered at how cold it had felt against my naked thighs—he hadn’t spoken. Not a single word. He had looked at me, watched my struggle, watched me bite my tongue as they shamed me.

But I also remembered something else, and that gave me the courage to raise my eyes to his. He’d turned away first. Was it that he hadn’t been able to look at me? To witness my degradation? Or could he not stand the thought of me seeing him for what he was?

Our families had decided. I’d had little choice. I wondered for a moment what choice he’d had, but I wouldn’t consider that. It didn’t matter. Salvatore Benedetti would one day rule the Benedetti family. He would be boss. He would become what I vowed to destroy five years ago.

I masked any emotion as I turned my gaze up to his. I’d learned to hide my feelings well over the last few years.