Bound By Vengeance(9)

By: Cora Reilly


The hint of a scowl crossed his face before it disappeared and I realized how long I’d been staring at him again, judging him. I probably hadn’t managed to hide my thoughts about him very well. A mistake that could ruin everything in our world. My parents had taught me better.

The door behind him, however, looked faintly familiar. It led to the main lobby. I didn’t move. Making my way back to the party meant going closer to him.

It was ridiculous. I wasn’t just anyone. And we weren’t just anywhere. He wouldn’t do anything. Even he had rules he was bind to and one of them was that I was off limits, just like all the girls from families like mine. No matter how much nonsense Anastasia talked, that statement of hers held true.

I squared my shoulders and took a few determined steps toward Growl. Closer to the party I reminded myself as my pulse quickened. For some reason this felt like a prowl to me. Growl was the hunter and I was the prey, which didn’t even make sense since he had hardly moved since my arrival in the corridor. Come to think of it, he had never spoken while I was near.

“I’m Cara,” I said in a rushed voice. Maybe if I could get him to talk, he wouldn’t seem so dangerous anymore, but he didn’t react, only watched me with an unreadable expression, and then the door behind him swung open, and my mother appeared.

Her eyes settled on me, then moved on to Growl, and her expression grew rigid.

“Cara, your father and I are looking for you. Come back to the party,” she said, completely ignoring the man in the corridor with us.

I nodded and rushed past Growl. His eyes, amber not dark as they’d seemed from afar, followed me but he remained silent. When I had my back to him, a thrill shot through my body and I had to stop myself from looking over my shoulder.

The moment Mother and I were out of the corridor and in the deserted hall, she grabbed my arm in a crushing grip. “What were you thinking being alone with that…that man,” she practically spat the last word. Her eyes were wide and almost frantic. “I can’t believe they let him in. He belongs in a cage in shackles, far away from anyone decent.”

Her nails dug into my arm.

“Mom, you’re hurting me.”

She released me and I finally recognized the emotion on her face. Not anger, but worry.

“I’m fine,” I said firmly. “I lost my way and came across…” I searched my mind for a name to call him other than Growl, which seemed like too much of a nickname to use around my mother but came up empty-handed.

“Cara, you can’t go running around like that, without thinking about the consequences of your actions.”

“I was on her way to the ladies room. I wasn’t running around,” I said.

“Cosimo is a good match. Don’t go ruin it now.”

I blinked, unable to believe my ears. “That’s what you’re worried about.”

Mother took a deep breath and pressed her hand against my cheek. “I’m worried about you. But that includes your reputation. In this world, a woman is nothing without a good reputation. A man, that’s a different matter. They can do as they please and it’ll even help their reputation, but we are bound to different standards. We need to be everything they’re not. We need to make up for their failures. That’s what we’re meant for. We, you need to be gentle and docile and virtuous. Men want everything they see. We should keep our desires firmly locked away, even if men can’t.”

It wasn’t the first time she’d said something like that to me but the way she accentuated the word ‘desire’ in her speech made me worry that she knew of my body’s reaction to Growl’s closeness.

She needn’t have worried though. My fear of that man, of everything he stood for and of what he was capable of, trumped whatever small thrill of excitement my body might have felt around him.





Growl

Growl watched them leave the corridor. The door fell shut and he was alone again. Her vanilla scent still lingered in the air. Sweet. Girls like that always chose sweet scents. He didn’t understand why they’d try to appear even more harmless by smelling like a delicate flower.

He pulled at his collar. Too tight. The fabric against his scar, he hated it. This suit, this shirt, that wasn’t him.

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