Salvatore:A Dark Mafia Romance(3)

By: Natasha Knight

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.

My heart stopped for a single moment. Everything seemed to still, as if waiting. Something fluttered inside my belly as cobalt-blue eyes met mine.

Not steely but soft.

I remembered how I’d thought that five years ago too. How, for just the briefest moment on that terrible day, I’d thought there was hope. That he’d stop what was happening. But I’d been wrong. Any perceived softness, it only deceived. It hid behind it a coldhearted monster, ready to take.

I would need to remember that. To not to allow myself the luxury of being fooled.

Salvatore blinked and stepped aside, gesturing for me to enter the pew. His father and brother stood watching me, his father’s expression screaming victory. He gave me a cruel grin and held out his hand to the space beside him. I moved, my legs somehow carrying me even as I trembled inside.

I would turn my fear to hate. I would make it burn hot.

Because I would need it to survive what lay in store for me. I’d been sixteen when I’d been made to sign that contract. I knew well the true terror of what it meant was only about to begin.

I took my place beside his father. Salvatore resumed his seat to my right. I had the feeling he took as much care not to touch me as I did not to touch either him or his father. I didn’t turn to look at my sister when she was ushered into a pew across the aisle. I paid no attention to the Benedetti soldiers lining the perimeter of the church just as I hadn’t paid any to the army the Benedetti’s had assembled outside. Instead, I watched Father Samson. He’d been old when I’d been confirmed. Now he looked ancient.

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