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Poisonous Greed

Alessio Romano is the heir of an infamous crime family. Cherry, daughter of another crime family, has always been betrothed to him, but she doesn’t know as much about her fiance as she thought. Will she become a casualty of the crime lord war, or will she find love where she least expects it?

Age Rating: 18+

 

Poisonous Greed by Jesse James is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

The app has received recognition from BBC, Forbes and The Guardian for being the hottest app for explosive new Romance, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense novels.
Ali Albazaz, Founder and CEO of Inkitt, on BBC The Five-Month-Old Storytelling App Galatea Is Already A Multimillion-Dollar Business Paulo Coelho tells readers: buy my book after you've read it – if you liked it

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

1

Cherry

The heavens pour as if the angels themselves are shedding tears for the forsaken.

Lightning strikes with a thunderous roar, a sound that threatens to shatter the night sky with its screams of fury.

However, despite the uproar that Mother Nature is unleashing upon her domain, I stand against the violence, unaffected by it all.

The detonating explosions sounding off against my eardrums mean nothing, the water droplets that stream down my cold skin can’t be felt.

I’m numb,

I’m numb because I’m scared,

but I can’t let him know that, I can’t let him see the weakness, the fear that coils my insides and makes my stomach slightly heave.

I can taste the acidic vomit on the tip of my tongue, it burns my throat but I force the contents back down.

My vulnerability is my worst enemy.

A hostage of my faults, the flaws that anyone could

use for their advantage, for their manipulation.

Anyone but Alessio Romano, the man who determines fate.

The rough hand that is spread over the base of my spine presses me further into him — into Alessio.

My breasts push flat against the side of his torso and I can’t help but tighten my arms around his waist, enticing him to tuck me further into the crook of his arm.

It’s all instinctual, a protective manner.

The shipyard’s containers conceal the severity of the situation. The salt of the ocean and the smell of iron fills my nostrils.

My eyes water.

The scent of the combination makes me so nauseous that I ask god for strength.

I don’t know if I can do this.

It’s all too much.

A middle aged man lays semi-unconscious a few feet away from where I stand. Batter with bruises down the length of his face. His lips bleed and the skin of cheekbones are torn.

He’s trying to move, the raggedness of his breath is low and harsh as he attempts to lift his head.

The fight for life is strong.

Footsteps near, they echo loudly over the sound of the destructionist storm.

Polished black shoes move towards the victim, walking around the man who’s being scrutinized underneath powerful eyes.

I wait.

Will his death be swift? Or will the suffering continue?

In a flash, one of those shoes lifted high in the air and stomped on the fingers of the man whose face was unrecognizable and swollen.

Painful screams emit. Agony from the torturous weight of the foot that is crushing his bones forces him to plead even louder.

He’s begging.

Just like I was when I told him to stop.

“Resisti,” Alessio shouts to the soldier who immediately cooperates when told. The command from the underboss has the other capos stiffening, awaiting for their next move.

Alessio doesn’t let me go as he speaks, I can feel the vibrations of his heavy voice against my body as he yells out, “bring him.”

Rossi and Vince are the ones to grab the man by his arms and haul him to his feet, dragging his limp body and throwing him before us.

The man stumbles before his knees hit the ground, the sound of another crack makes me cringe and I can’t help but scrunch my face.

Fingertips dig into the jean material on my hips, not deep enough to hurt me but deep enough to stay in place.

Alessio is composed, but I know he’s fuming on the inside.

It’s a dangerous thing when Alessio holds a certain look in his eyes, and I don’t even have to look at his face to know that he’s holding it right now.

I already know.

With alert eyes, I see Alessio reach into his coat pocket, ruffling the fabric before pulling out something sleek that catches the reflection of the storm.

My heart begins to beat wildly.

A pristine black handgun is held securely between the fingers of my betrothed. Gasping in shock I try to pull away but he locks me in place.

Will he make me watch this?

Lips seal shut, I have to remind myself that this is my reality. A merciless life. Silently I continue to watch just like the others, waiting.

The handgun raises and the barrel presses dead center against the kneeling man’s forehead.

His shoulders tremble as he begins to cry and rock back and forth, whimpering out his apologies that seem too little too late.

“I’m sorry, please. Please d-don’t do this. I won't ever”, his words are cut short when Alessio uses the grip of the gun and runs it repeatedly against the temple of the man’s head.

It doesn’t kill him, but it robs him of his speech.

“sta ’zitto,” pressing the gun back to his face, “today you live, that is promised… but tomorrow holds no certainty. Everyday you will fear for your life just like you made my fidanzata fear for hers.”

“Please-“, but Alessio doesn’t care to hear him out anymore because he starts to ram the gun against his head again.

It’s hard enough to knock him out this time.

Red floods out onto the concrete.

Mortification fills me, but I remain stoic.

“Gio! Get this shit out of my sight before I do much worse than ruin his face.” Alessio’s arms squeeze me closer to his chest and I accept it by placing my cheek against his wet coat.

I seek comfort in the man that can inflict suffering on anyone but me, I’m his prize, his light as he likes to call.

The soaking hair that sticks to my face brushes aside as Alessio places his thumb underneath my chin and raises my face to meet his.

His warm breath that smells of mint fans over my skin when he rubs his index finger over my bottom lip.

His green eyes stare into my brown ones.

I say nothing but I’m caught off guard as the hand on the base of my lower back leaves and trails upwards until it’s tangled in my hair, lightly gripping and pulling my head back so he could see my face in its entirety.

Our foreheads pressed together.

“No one can touch you but me.” The tone of his voice makes my thighs clench in response. I’m embarrassed. I know this isn’t the time or place for that, so I look away, unable to meet those hungry lustful eyes with onlookers still nearby.

He doesn’t take that, he places his hand against my cheek to give him my sole attention but before he can say anything I hear an engine roar.

It brings me out of my thoughts. Turning to see the commotion, I watch as the black SUV pulls out of the lot and away from the shipping containers.

They’ve taken the unconscious man to dump him where they found him. Who knows how long he’ll survive under the stalking of the Romano’s. It’s only a matter of time.

All this because he was trying to touch what wasn’t his; he wasn’t able to anyways. Alessio was there to intervene when he heard my screams.

Alessio was upset to say the least when he found out.

Chapter One
Cherry

I’m told that there is beauty in simplicity, however, my life is anything but that.

There is nothing simple about what I see, the reflection of complexity stares back at me with elements I don't quite fully understand.

Ignorance is bliss.

My innocence is untouchable from this poisonous world — it can never have me.

My aura radiates purity, I remain sheltered from the corruptions of life.

And I'm fine with it.

Knowledge can be a beautiful yet deadly thing.

In my world it can either further your position or have you cease to exist.

Fingertips run over the ends of my dress, smoothing out the texture over and over again.

Perfection is a demand; nothing less when in the presence of others.

It's how our parents raise us, not just the women but the men as well. No exclusions.

The boss always says if you want to dress like filth, then he will treat you as such. There's too much money flowing through for anyone to be representing the families so lowly.

Image is upheld on a pedestal and those who refuse to follow will have to face the repercussions.

However, this doesn't mean to flash your diamonds or wave stacks of cash in front of others, there has to be a balance. The last thing anyone needs is feds knocking on our door.

“Cherry?” A soft voice calls, lightly knocking on my bedroom door. “Can I come in?”

Eyes roam over my figure once more, hoping for approval before answering back in an equally gentle tone, “of course.”

The word “no” is a rare use for me, foreign to the tongue reaching my adolescent years.

It's easier to just follow the plans and not go probing in places I don't need to be.

Upon hearing the click of the handle turning, I muster up a wide smile and turn around to meet my mother's gaze.

Her form is small like mine, both reaching the height of five foot two. Even our figures are the same, small at the waist but wide in the hips that compliment the thickness of our thighs.

We aren't exactly skinny but nor are we too overweight.

It's somewhere in between that can make it difficult to find clothes and present ourselves properly with the heaviness of our bust.

The only disparity that can be seen with the eyes is our age difference, she's starting to show signs of her true age whereas I'm blossoming with youth.

But for my mother, beauty holds no age, she thrives as if an everlasting rose.

“You look beautiful.” A genuine smile tugs at the corners of her lips as she steps into my radius, smoothing down the fabric of my dress as if finding a flaw. “Turn around for me honey.”

I say nothing back but follow the order, I'm nervous she'll find more imperfections.

Instead, she steps behind me and places her chin on my left shoulder, looking into the mirror that holds our reflection. Anticipation fills her eyes as they take in my image. “Look at you.”

I do just that.

Deeply scrutinizing, inspecting my appearance.

The white A-line dress that consists of lace and chiffon touches the floor, there's a split on the front that reveals my honey-beige skin.

I look modest yet bold.

A small hint of vanity brews in the back of my mind because of how beautiful the dress makes me feel. I relish the visual aspect for just a brief second, being discreet by not lingering for too long.

“Alessio will be so pleased,” she says in my ear.

My eyes drop low and a stir of butterflies begin to flutter inside my tummy, the blush that rises to the apples of my cheeks can't be hidden.

“No tengas miedo. This is a big day for both you and Alessio,” speaking into my ear as if sharing a secret, “try not to think about it much mija, it'll only do more damage than good.”

“Si mamá.” Patting my shoulder she pulls away but freezes upon hearing my father's voice that yells out to us. “Dawn, Cherry!”

My mother's eyes grow wide upon hearing the strength of his sound and is quick to scramble out of my room.

I'm left alone with my thoughts.

Looking once more at myself, I exhale a heavy sigh before following after, composing my features, masking my emotions.

Pausing before walking down the staircase, I grab a hold of the railing to refrain myself from tumbling down because of how clumsy these heels make me walk.

Vision casts itself downward but not too low, unable to meet the eyes of the few who stand in the foyer speaking amongst each other.

They are a part of my father's crew, soldiers who have pledged their loyalty long ago.

“Cherry,” my father lifts his arm, silently asking me to come stand by him.

Swiftly I move, my eyes still low as he wraps me in his embrace. “Now that everyone is here, we can leave for Castillos.”

Feet shuffle slightly.

“Boss,” a scratchy throat is cleared from someone who comes walking into the room. “Giovanni's son just called, said he wanted to take your little girl to the restaurant instead.” The nervousness in the soldier's voice is clearly evident for many reasons.

No one wants to be the bearer of news when it comes to me.

I'm off limits to speak about, a command from my overbearing father who does a phenomenal job at keeping me hidden from the exploitation of his work.

“Hmph, is that so?” The tightness of his words are hard like his stiffening frame, so much so that mom has to place a hand on his shoulder to remind him that now is not the time.

Crucial things are taking place today that can't be reversed.

“And where exactly —” screeching tires has me peeking up to look ahead out the window where I see two black Cadillacs that roar their engines loudly when descending down our driveway. ”— is he at,” dad irritatingly finishes.

The stillness takes over, no one says a word as we hear the sound of car doors slamming and footsteps nearing.

He's here.

A rough pound on the door has one of the maids rushing to answer. When she does let him in, my eyes move back down.

I can't look, the intimidation he brings is unsettling at times.

The sound of shoes hitting against the marble floor zeros in on us.

“Mr. and Mrs. Valentino.” Alessio acknowledges only my parents as if I'm not standing here as well. His voice is deep, alluring like soft velvet, even when not speaking directly to me my tummy still feels as if it's doing somersaults.

“I've come for your daughter.” The reasoning of his presence leaves no room for further discussion which causes my father's grip on me to harden on my shoulder.

It isn't painful, but it is protective.

Unable to concentrate because of that smooth voice, I lean into my father's side, looking for support because of how I'm flustering.

“Unexpectedly dropping in then asking for my daughter to leave with you seems a little out of character, doesn't it?” The boss sounds deathly calm and I'm afraid to witness my father unleash hell because of that.

“We're all full of surprises, aren't we Mr. Valentino?” I still won't look at him, but the taunt is impossible to miss. The subtle shade worries me, how will my father react?. “It would be appropriate, don't you think? Considering the occasion of what's happening today.”

Masculine dominance radiates in the air around us.

A moment of silence passes as the grip on my shoulder loosens.

“Lo permetterò,” my gentle father says. He's been working on his accent lately which impresses many because of how smooth the words come out. However I know that cool charisma he's responding with has a deeper meaning to it.

You're never on your own time, you're on the boss's time and to disregard that will only bring trouble.

But how will my father handle this? I don't know what he'll do or what he can do to someone like Alessio, but I know something will be done.

Disrespect is disrespect and my father is no fool. Today is a day of celebration, meaning that we will just have to wait and see what will be done as a result of this action.

“Grazie,” Alessio responds in his native tongue. His hand purposefully reaches out into the line of my vision, waiting for me to take it.

Obliging, I accept.

His hands feel rough, heavy in small scars that litter his skin, it isn't visible to the eye but with the touch.

Mine feels strange, I've never had my hand held by someone who wasn't immediate family.

“We'll be on our way.” With my head still hanging slightly low, I notice a few pairs of shoes moving behind him.

He's brought some of his own with him.

“Till then.” My father leaves the room, I can hear the sound of his footsteps walking away from us.

With that, Alessio places his hand on the small of my back, turning us around to walk out of the front door that's being held open by James, the chief manservant of the house.

The sun high in the sky beams down with heat and blinding light. I squint, leaning into the man who guides me to the car that is a few steps away from the porch of my home.

Not a word is said when he opens the door for me to step in first.

Sliding into the backseat, I put as much distance as I can between me and my betrothed who follows in right after.

It's just him and I along with the driver who pays no attention to us.

And though discreetly trying to move away as much as possible, I find him getting closer to the point where he's almost pressing into my side.

Our knees touch, the contact making me feel giddy.

I pray to keep my composure intact.

“Trying to sneak away like a little fawn?” Alessio says quietly. He's a man of few words, especially towards me, but when he does speak, he's all I can focus on.

“Non lo lascerò accadere.” His hand goes underneath my chin, lifting and turning my head to look at him.

Our eyes lock; a rarity.

The emotionless look on his face brings a blush upon mine. I feel flustered not being able to control my feelings the way he can.

He seems impenetrable whereas I am translucent.

“Don't keep your head down.” Sounding as if a command, I do just that. My head stays up but my head faces forward. I don't think I'll be able to keep myself sane if I keep looking his way. “When we get there, we'll walk in together, but we will sit apart until the announcement is ready to be made.”

His words end when I nod in response.

Fingers begin to itch, wanting to fidget because of how anxious I am. The silence does nothing to help calm the agitation, it only adds on as the minutes pass by.

Today's the day, the announcement of our engagement, the arranged marriage that has been set in motion since my infancy.

Now that I'm eighteen and he's twenty-seven, the families can no longer wait anymore.

At times it feels awkward thinking about it. I've known him all my life, growing up with him when his father came to visit mines for business, but only as an acquaintance not as friends.

I suppose I shouldn't think too much about it. Considering that my parents had an arranged marriage, it shouldn't be that big of a deal. It's just how things work around here.

My mother, of Mexican descent, was given to my father, of Irish descent, as part of a business transaction to unite their family businesses and split the South Boston Docks for partial control over the imports and exports goods.

Now years later, it's my turn. As part of a deal with the Romano's, an Italian family who migrated to New York thirty years ago, I'm expected to go through the same.

The announcement of our engagement and Alessio's ascension will happen in less than an hour.

Yet despite my anxiety, he seems to be doing just fine. I guess it's not phasing him the way it is with me.

He's a lot different since I last saw him, that was years ago. His frame is broader and has grown at least a few inches in height.

The black hair that was once short now carries length and is neatly combed back.

The maturity and sharpness of his facial features resembles a heavenly beauty that I can't explain with just words.

As the car pulls up to a restaurant with words displaying the name “Castillos” across the top, we come to a slow stop and park at the curb by the main entrance.

Alessio opens up his door and steps out first, turning to me he outstretches his hand and helps me out of the car and into the elegant building where the event is being held.

There's no need to wait for the hostess to tend to us, we pass her without a moment of pause.

Already knowing where to go, Alessio, who is still holding my hand, takes us to the back room where the venue holds not only mine but his family and crew as well.

Majority from both sides are here today in celebration, those who aren't are working around the clock to complete an important task at hand.

The room is full when walking in, loud chatter and laughter echoes off the wall. It's then he lets my hand go, not sparing me a second glance.

Cold.

Walking towards his family, he leaves me to walk on my own.

However, before I can greet any of my relatives, someone pulls my arm and turns me around so quickly that I'm left trying to regain my balance.

This familiarity of this hug has me smiling and embracing her just as tightly. “Cherry,” she mumbles. “I need to talk to you, come with me to the restroom.” When I pull back to look into the eyes of my dear friend, I find them to be slightly puffy with tears threatening to overflow and spill out.

“Why are you crying?” I'm cut off when she tugs me out of the venue and down a narrow hall where the bathrooms are at. Immediately when stepping inside, she bends down to see if anyone is in the stalls then turns to lock the door, keeping anyone from coming inside all together.

It's then she lets her tears pour free and releases a little hiccup. “What's wrong?” Extreme concern for her well being becomes a priority at this very moment.

“I-I… I think he's-”, she stops. Her shoulders begin to tremble when I grab a hold of her and press her to me. I can feel the wetness from her eyes sink into the fabric of my dress.

“Tell me.”

“I-I think he's c-cheating, Cherry. I c-can see it, the s-signs are all there!” Fingers dig into my back as she cries hard, releasing all the build up pain I can tell she's been withholding.

“What signs? What did you see him do?” Reece shakes her head, unable to answer me because her sobs are too strong, they overtake with such force that her entire gram shakes violently.

This is one of the worst fears any partner can have in a marriage like ours. Like me, she is also in an arranged marriage, however she married last fall whereas I'm marrying this spring.

The revelation of this news is damaging in the worst way possible.

Her father, who happens to be a business partner of my father, will be extremely upset considering his daughter's marriage was part of a deal that requires the utmost of loyalty.

To cheat in a relationship ruins the entirety of trust. If there's no loyalty between families, how can one expect loyalty when it comes to business, secrets, or anything else that is seen as crucial.

The disrespect of it all is a vile act, disgusting to not only the crew but to the bosses as well.

After a few minutes, her tall lean frame moves away, fingers wiping underneath her hazel-green eyes to stop the tears from smearing her makeup.

A frown forms upon my face, feeling a sense of sadness for what she has to endure.

I always thought Harry Giordano to be a man who values and understands our Code of Honor, but it seems as if I'm wrong.

Exhaling a low sigh, her bottom lip quivers as she explains, “It started a week ago-”, but abruptly stops when a knock hits repeatedly on the bathroom door.

“Cherry, Are you in there?” The familiarity of my mother's voice asks on the other side of it.

“Yes, I was-”,

“Cherry, you need to get back into the dining room, Alessio is waiting on you so he can proceed with the announcement, we've been looking for you.” Her words hold an anxious tone that worries me. Quickly Reece and I scramble to unlock the door where my mother gently grabs my wrist and pulls me down the hall in a rush.

All I can think about is the consequences I might face with the tardiness of my presence.

 

Read the full uncensored books on the Galatea iOS app!

2

Cherry

Too many thoughts are stirring.

Alessio doesn’t spare me a word when walking back into the venue. All he does is press an open palm to my lower back, guiding me to stand next to him in the center of the room.

Is he mad at me? His face gives nothing away. Emotionless as ever is what makes me contemplate on how he truly feels.

When the eyes of others begin to shift on us, I look to my feet. It’s a natural reaction for me to look away to avoid the shaking and fear that rises from the depths of me.

I hate being the focal point. Attention from so many frightens me to the point where I feel as if I could faint.

The sound of clinking glass reaches my ear, signaling for everyone to quiet down.

It’s time.

When the silence sweeps over completely I force myself to raise my head and straighten my shoulders as if I hold no dread in this moment.

Maybe reminding myself of my mother’s words will give me assurance that it’ll all be okay; don’t be afraid, you’ll be fine.

But I don’t feel fine.

Anxiety is a consuming monster.

“Now that I have your attention, on behalf of the Romano’s and the Valentino’s, I have an important announcement to make.” It’s Bianchi Romano who says this from across the room.

My gaze finds its way to an empty beige wall, looking straight ahead to avoid the stares, refusing to pay attention to the onlookers.

Alessio clears his throat as he snakes an arm around my waist.

“Today is the day we’ve all been anticipating. A union and an accession that’ll change the course of our future and children’s future. You should all feel honored to be a part of this, to witness the coming of a new era. This is just a taste of what’s to come, of how our empires will grow with the merging of families — and business of course.”

The pads of Alessio’s fingertips gently dig into my side, pressing right underneath my breast, momentarily distracting me from his father’s speech.

My eyes slightly widen, the need to shift away is great because of how red I’m slowly becoming.

Composure, I remind myself.

Maybe it was just an accident? An unintentional thoughtless act?

“-everything we’ve done, all the aspects whether great or small has led up to this very moment. With that being said… right here, right now, I would like to congratulate my son on his engagement to Cherry Valentino, Antonio Valentino’s daughter who will take part in union for the good of the cause.”

A few waiters come in, heads down and mouths shut as they carry champagne glasses, handing them out to everyone in the room.

“My son will no longer be the underboss of the Romano’s but the acting boss as soon as he and his soon to be wife pledge themselves to one another. Their ceremony will be grand and our future even more.”

When a man my age carrying a tray of champagne glasses comes up to us, Alessio pulls me into him, his grip tightening with me pressing against his torso.

Awkwardly my right arm is suffocating in this position so I move it behind me and settle my hand on his back since I have nowhere else to put it.

This feels strange, and I can tell I’m not the only one who feels this way because of how his body tenses underneath my touch.

Am I that unbearable?

When we take our drinks the boy scurries away, his pace quicker than the eye can see.

“Raise your drinks with me miei amici, today we toast to new beginnings.” Bianchi raises his drink first before everyone else follows along. From the corner of my eye I see my father who stands next to my mother; he’s looking on with a peculiar face.

I wonder why?

“È il momento dei nuovi inizi,” Alessio’s father says, nodding his head at my parents before drinking out of the glass.

“E altro ancora,” my father replies as he mirrors the action.

It’s tradition that everyone waits for the bosses to drink first.

And as everyone else raises their drinks to their mouths, I raise mine to my lips but hesitantly stop.

I’ve never been fond of the taste of champagne, as I’ve had my few share on special occasions, so I only take a few small sips.Though only eighteen, I find the idea of alcoholic beverages distasteful already.

Saying nothing, I wearily smile at my female relatives when they begin to stand and swarm me. They hold smiles and offer hugs, rushing their questions, excitingly pulling me away from my now fiancé.

They congratulate me as if I have a say in this.

The men in Alessio’s family are lining up one by one, waiting to congratulate and pay their respects, acknowledging what’s to come and who he is, the power he’ll hold.

I feel lost, like a rag doll as my family passes me around, speaking of their happiness for me.

It isn’t until Reece pulls me aside and embraces me in her own endearing hug do I feel as if the rooms are not spinning.

All of this is so overwhelming.

“Where did my parents go?” Asking as we take a seat at one of the empty tables.

“They are talking to the Romano’s.” When her eyes shift over my shoulder I turn around to see her husband, Harry Giordano, making his way to where we are sitting.

Giordano is a simple man with sharp looks. Standing around six feet, his pale skin contrasts with his strikingly vibrant green eyes, enhancing his delicate features that showcase his high cheekbones.

Chestnut-brown hair is kept clean and swept back; pristine as if he holds little to no flaws.

He walks with extreme confidence, however the look he’s holding tells a different story.

“Reece,” Harry says, stopping a few feet away. “Come back to our table.” He isn’t demanding, it’s more of an awkward request he’s making for her to come back with him.

Reece instantly stands, eyes down and lips sealed. Her father, Enzo Riccardo, is walking up from behind Harry, making his way towards us.

There's a serious look in his eye that makes me question his intentions as he closes in.

“Harold,” Enzo places a heavy hand on Harry’s shoulder, his voice coming out strong yet low. “Sit.”

It wasn’t a request, it was a subtle demand. His authority reminds me of my father, blunt yet professional. “Vieni e rimani vicino a me,” speaking to his daughter to which she complies and moves to her father’s right.

The hand on Harry’s shoulder pushes down, forcing him to sit in one of the chairs at our table in a discreet manner. “And congratulations on your engagement Cherry. Marriage can be such a beautiful thing.” Though Enzo is speaking to me, he’s not speaking at me.

His sole focus is on Harry.

Standing behind him with his palm still on his shoulder, Mr. Riccardo leans down, speaking into Harry’s ear, “marriage is a sacred bond that represents trust and respect. Isn’t that right Harold?”

There’s a tightness in his voice that makes me bite my bottom lip. I think Enzo knows what Reece suspects and that brings much worry. How will this affect their families? Their business?

Harry’s eyes look up at me, compose as ever on the outside but I know it’s not what he feels on the inside. “Of course — marriage brings… clarity. Congratulations Cherry,” he regards me in a hushed manner before he stands, dropping Enzo’s hand in the process.

“If you excuse us.” Grabbing Reece's waist, they walk away and head to their original table where some of their family sits. Enzo raises the corners of his lips before he nods and turns away.

I’m left alone — or so I thought.

“Come sit by me.” The smoothness of those words makes me shiver as they hit the shell of my ear.

Alessio’s hand comes into my vision, he’s holding it out for me to take. When I place my hand in his, he holds it with delicacy, as if I’m glass that’ll break.

Following him to a long table that’s set up at the front with beauty and sophistication, we take our seats and wait for our food to come.

It’s silent between us as we eat, so much so that I become bored after I’m done with my meal.

Looking around the room, discussion and laughter is everywhere — yet we sit quietly. And it remains so for a few hours. Occasionally I can feel his stare, ogling me with predatory eyes.

I can’t help but wonder what he’s thinking.

The afternoon slips by quickly with the sun lowering, the skylight windows of the restaurant pouring down an fiery-orange light that warms the air around us.

When I blow a low sigh and slouch, I immediately sit back up, eyes wide when realizing what I’ve just done.

Looking down then peaking up at him, I see that he’s already facing my way with an arched brow before he narrows his eyes.

Turning away from me he picks up his champagne glass and throws his head back, chugging down the drink all at once.

In a swift motion he stands, grabbing my hand in the process and dragging me out of the room with him.

“Um, where are we going?” The timid tone comes out naturally with a pout that follows after. I think he’s angry with my disinterest back at the table, will I be facing consequences because of this?

Our footsteps stop as we exit the restaurant. Shouldn’t he at least let my father know we’re leaving our own party?

Whistling loudly, the valet man scurries across the parking lot and enters the same black car we came here in.

I wonder where the driver went?

As the car pulls up, the man parks the car and hops out with the engine still on. Alessio opens the passenger door for me and motions his head to get it.

I want to ask if we should let my parents know but a part of me fears to ask any questions. Deciding against my better judgment, I step in.

When he goes around and slides into the driver’s seat, we head out of the parking lot and down a street that’s the opposite way of home.

“Alessio… where are we going?”

Can he hear the nervousness in my voice?

Briefly glancing in my direction, he turns back to the road and says in a thick accent, “I want to show you something.”

 

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