Wild Cat(6)

By: Christine Feehan

“Paolo.” His bruising grip really hurt and she was fairly certain he knew it. She decided on another tactic. “Why do you dislike me so much? I thought we were friends. What did I do to make you so angry with me all the time?” She forced herself to ask the questions, mainly because she knew he would relax his hold on her, but partly because she really wanted to know.

It was the right way to approach him. Instantly his grip loosened and his face changed. Grew softer. “I don’t dislike you, Siena. Don’t be silly. You’re grown up now, and you know your grandfather has all but promised you to me. I don’t like you running around looking like you do where other men might take advantage of you.”

Siena wasn’t certain how to respond. She knew her grandfather was always matchmaking, and she couldn’t deny he always said when he was gone, Paolo would look after her. He sometimes went so far as to tell her he would plan the wedding of the century for them.

“Paolo.” She took a deep breath and let it out. “Nonno is always pairing me with someone. Just a few minutes ago he told me it was time for Elijah Lospostos to settle down.” Something dangerous moved in his eyes and she was suddenly afraid. “I’m not old enough to settle down. I still have to learn the business end of the winery right here at home. I’m not looking at anyone right now. Yes, I go to clubs to dance, but I’m careful about drinking and I don’t take men home. You know I don’t. One of Nonno’s men is always looking after me. I know they report back to you.”

“You go to his house and give him the message from your grandfather and give him the wine. You do not go inside with him. He’s a dangerous man. Your grandfather thinks everyone is his friend. Lospostos is not. Deliver the wine, talk a few minutes and get out of there. Do you understand me?”

“I hardly think I’ll be…”

“Do you understand me?” He roared it. His fingers sank deep again, and he gave her a little shake.

Siena nodded submissively when all she wanted to do was kick him very hard in the shins and claw his eyes out. She kept her head down so he wouldn’t see the rebellion in her eyes. “Yes, Paolo.”

He stared down at her another minute and then let her go. Siena forced herself not to rub at the finger marks on her arm. She knew she would have bruises and she was tempted to march in to her grandfather and show him what Paolo had done to her. The only thing was – she was beginning to think he wouldn’t do anything other than ask her why she would upset such a good man. In his eyes, Paolo could do no wrong. As she’d gotten older, her beloved grandfather had gone from doting to watchful as well. She didn’t know what they were all waiting for, but the longer they waited, the more upset everyone got.

“The wine’s in your car,” Paolo said. He caught her chin in a firm grip. “You be careful, Siena.”

She blinked rapidly, trying not to show fear. Or anger. Or any other emotion. She felt as if her life was turning upside down and she didn’t even know why. His eyes searched hers.

“Did I hurt you?” His voice was gentle. “I’m worried for you, and sometimes my temper gets the better of me. Your nonno and I disagree about some of the things he asks you to do. I don’t ever like the idea that you could be in danger.”

“Paolo, I’m just delivering his wine. He’s asked me to do it each time I’ve come home on a break, and I have. It’s the least I can do after all the things he does for me. It’s no big deal, honestly. I don’t mind. And I’ll be careful. It’s possible Lospostos isn’t home and I’ll leave the wine and a note.”