Hold You Against Me(2)

By: Skye Warren

He swears in Italian. “That’s no life for you, Clara.”

“And it’s a life for you?”

“I would leave if I could,” he says. “You know that.”

“You turn eighteen in a year. Will you leave then?” My stomach clenches at the thought of him gone. I’m two years younger than him. And even when I turn eighteen, I won’t be leaving. By then I’ll be engaged to whoever my father picks for me.

Just like my sister. I shudder at the thought of her fiancé.

He shrugs. “We’ll see.”

I roll my eyes. I suspect he’s making plans, but he isn’t sharing them with me. That’s how the men around here operate, keeping girls in the dark. Honor only found out she was engaged when Byron was invited over for dinner. He has the money and the power. She doesn’t get a choice. Neither will I.

“If you go, you should take me with you,” I say.

“I don’t think Honor would appreciate me taking you away.”

No, she wouldn’t. And the thought of being without my sister makes my heart ache. Sometimes I give her a hard time, but I love her. I’d never leave her behind. “She can come with us. It will be like an adventure.”

“Don’t talk stupid, Clara.” His eyes flash with anger and something else I can’t define.

I jerk back, hurt. “It was just an idea.”

“Well, it’s a bad idea. Your father is never gonna let you leave.”

Deep inside, I turn cold. I know that’s true. Of course it is. Giovanni doesn’t have the money or the resources to take us away from here. And even if he did, why would he want to?

I hate myself for even suggesting it. How desperate can I look?

Shaking inside, I stand up and grab the bottle of Jack Daniels. It’s heavier than I would have expected, but I carry it over to a wet bar still stocked with decanters and wine glasses. No liquor though. There used to be huge parties here. When my mother died, they stopped.

We’re supposed to have a party in a few days, though, to celebrate my sister’s engagement. I’m not even allowed to go. I’ll just be able to see the fireworks from the window.

Without a word Giovanni joins me, his heat both comforting and stark. He takes the glass from my shaking hand. He opens the bottle and pours the deep amber liquid inside. Then takes another cup for himself, twice as full.

“Why do you get more?” I protest, mostly because I like teasing him.

His expression is amused. “I’m bigger than you.”

He is bigger. Taller and broader, though still skinny. His hands are bigger than mine too. They hold the glass with confidence, whereas I almost drop mine.

I take a sip before I can second-guess myself. “Oh my God.”

It burns my throat, battery acid scalding me all the way down.

His lips firm, like he’s trying not to laugh. “Good stuff?”

“Oh, shut up.” Then it doesn’t matter because I’m laughing too. That stuff is awful.

He grins and takes a drink—more like a gulp. And he doesn’t cough or wince after. “You get used to it.”

“How much do I have to drink to get used to it?”

“More than you should.”

I take another sip. It burns again, but I have to say, not as bad. It still doesn’t taste good, but I’m determined to drink it anyway. This pool house is the only place where I can break the rules, where I can experience things. The pool house is the only place I even feel alive.

“Let’s try mine,” I say. My voice already sounds rougher from the alcohol.

He holds up the cigar. “Did you bring a lighter?”

“Oh, crap.”

His eyes crinkle in that way I love. It makes my chest feel full, like there’s no room for air. “It doesn’t matter,” he says.

“But I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain.”

He takes another drink. It looks so natural when he does it. “What bargain?”

“To do bad things,” I say seriously. When your life is as controlled as mine, you need to plan these things. Tonight is supposed to be the night.

He looks down, a strange smile on his face. “Let’s start with the whiskey. If that’s not enough, we can knock over a bank or something.”

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