I was called to my dad’s office on my eleventh birthday. There would be a party later today with all my friends and family.
The house was busy with cooks in the kitchen cooking all my favorite foods, as well as maids running around setting up tents out back where the tables would go.
I had told my parents I didn’t want a birthday party, but Dad wouldn’t take no for an answer. He wanted to go all-out for my birthdays.
I am spoiled, but I never liked it. Getting whatever I wanted never appealed to me.
When walking in, I look around the room to see Dad sitting behind his large mahogany desk, my mom standing next to him with a sad smile on her beautiful face.
Why is Mom sad?
There is a man and woman in the room seated to the left, both looking at me with approving smiles on their faces.
What’s that all about?
I walked in and took my seat when I noticed a boy standing to the left of the woman.
He has his head down, hands clasped together in front of him.
I couldn’t get a good look at his face, but he had dark brown, wavy hair that was a little long in the front, shorter on the sides.
He looks tall for his age, standing taller than the woman seated next to him.
He was breathing heavily, knuckles white from how tightly his hands were clasped together.
I look to my dad and smile.
“Olivia, we need to discuss a few things with you.” Looking down for a moment while he shifted in his chair, Dad cleared his throat.
This made me nervous. Dad had never looked so worried before.
“This is Mr. and Mrs. Romano and their son, Antonio.” He gestures to the three other people in the room.
I look toward them, smiling. “It’s nice to meet you. Are you here for my party?” I tilt my head.
Mr. Romano smiles sweetly at me, nodding his head. “It is very nice to met you too, Miss Russo, and yes, if you will have us?”
“Of course you can come, but it might be boring for you adults.” I shrug.
They all let out a small laugh except for the boy, who I now know as Antonio. He is looking at me with his deep blue eyes that show no emotion whatsoever.
The look on his face starts to make me uncomfortable, so I look away.
“Olivia, Mr. and Mrs. Romano are here today to discuss a merger between our families, as well as our businesses.
“You understand that because you have no brothers, we need a male to take over from me when the times comes?”
I nod my head in understanding. I know I am unable to take over when my dad steps down, but it never bothered me.
“I understand,” I say as I try to think of why we are having this conversation.
“We have come to an agreement that Mr. and Mrs. Romano’s son Antonio will be taking over the businesses once I stand down,” he says as he gestures to Antonio.
I look over at him. He looks away from me almost instantly. This boy is going to take over the Russo family business? Why him? Why not one of my cousins?
“I am sorry if I offend you in any way, Mr. and Mrs. Romano”—I look back to my dad—“but why not Nick or Michael? Why can’t they take over from you?” I ask.
Dad smiles and nods. ”I understand your way of thinking, Olivia. It would be logical to leave the Russo business in the family.
“But with the merging of our families, we would be the most powerful family in America. This would secure a permanent hold in our dealings back home in Italy,” he said, leaning back in his chair.
“So we would become untouchable in the eyes of the law and other families?” I asked. If that was the case, then this was everything my dad had been working toward.
“Exactly,” he says with a smile.
“You are a very smart girl, Miss Russo, and you are also very knowledgeable about the families,” Mr. Romano said.
“We have never kept her in the dark with anything. To keep someone naïve in this family would be a dangerous thing to do,” Mom speaks up.
In the beginning, both my parents wanted to keep me in the dark about what my father did, but my grandfather was against it.
He never believed in keeping his family hidden away from the truth whether they were a boy or girl.
“We agree, it helps the children be protected a lot easier,” Mrs. Romano said.
There was one thing I didn’t understand though. How was it possible for a member of another family to run both? The family would never accept it.
“I can see you are thinking of how this merger would take place.”
I look up at my dad and nod. He could see I was trying to work it out but couldn’t.
“This is where you and Antonio come in,” he said, taking a big breath.
And that’s when I knew. A merging of two families by marriage.
I stood up, looking at my dad. “Marriage,” was all I said with tears threatening to fall down my face. No! It had to be a mistake! But the look he was giving me told me it was not.
“No, Dad! Please!” I begged him. I could hear my mom sniffing beside my dad, but there was no point begging her. This was Dad’s decision, and there was nothing she could do to help me.
I felt sick. How could he do this! I am his daughter!
“The only way both our families will achieve this is for you and Antonio to marry when you are of age…”
“Of age! Eighteen!” I was shocked and angry. I would become a wife at eighteen!
“No,” Mr. Romano said, snapping my head toward him.
I stared at him, tears falling down my face.
“It will not be at eighteen, Miss Russo,” he said, standing up from his seat and walking toward me.
I have heard about Mr. Romano, that he is a horrifying man, but only to those who would do him, his family, or his businesses harm.
The truth was, the man petrified me.
“We have agreed that the marriage will take place when you are twenty-one.
“I understand this age isn’t any different, that it is still young, but this gives you a chance to finish your schooling and have a normal teenage life.”
A normal teenage life! Is he kidding me!
“My son is a decent young man, and I would never put a young woman in any sort of situation where she was not kept safe and loved,” he says, smiling at me.
“All of that is well and good, Mr. Romano, but I don’t want to marry someone I don’t know and love.” I looked at Antonio.
He was still not looking at me but at his father, still not showing any kind of emotion whatsoever.
My future husband!
“Love can be found over time,” Mrs. Romano said, standing up, coming to her husband’s side. They looked at each other with so much love.
“You will learn to love Antonio, just as he will learn to love you. Believe us when we say, it can work with patience and trust.” She spoke softly.
I looked at them then back to my parents. They both looked drained, with small smiles on their faces.
I have no choice in this whatsoever. I can stomp my feet and scream, but it still won’t matter.
Becoming more powerful than he is already is obviously more important than his only daughter’s happiness.
He wants me to marry a boy he doesn’t know and take the word of a man he considers a “friend.”
I will never forgive him for this!
They are selling me just to become untouchable. If I were born a boy, this would all be different.
I have never felt being born a girl into this family was a bad thing until this very moment.
I nod my head, because it is the only thing I can do. I can’t speak, or I will scream. I step back, walking toward the office door.
“Olivia,” Dad calls as I cringe. There is sadness in his voice, but I don’t care.
He is meant to be my father! How can he do this to me!
“Friends and family will be arriving soon for the party. I have to go,” I say without turning around. I close the door behind me, walking to my room as I let the tears fall from my eyes.
Lucky I know where I am going, because my vision is a blur. My head is pounding as my mind won’t stop going over what just happened.
Happy birthday to me…
When I was told I would be marrying the only daughter of the Russo family, I was beyond pissed.
What was a sixteen-year-old supposed to do? Be happy about this bullshit! Fuck no! But there was no way out.
Dad explained to me what it all meant, that I would one day be the head of the most powerful family in America and Italy.
I just had to marry Olivia Russo. I wasn’t going to fall in love with her. She was probably some spoilt brat who got what she asked for every time by screaming or stomping her feet.
I could bed other women and keep her there when the time came to have an heir.
That was fine if I got to be the head of the families. She was just another business deal to me, nothing more.
Of course, I didn’t tell my parents any of this. My dad would kick my ass for disrespecting a woman the way I just did. I had respect for women, but not when it came to this.
Don’t get me wrong, I will respect her. She is the daughter of Nikolas Russo, and that demanded nothing but respect. But when it came to my “needs,” there would be no room for it.
I got out of the shower, walking into my room where Ashley was still in my bed, wrapped in my silk sheets, her swollen pink lips and matted hair on display.
She looked so fucking good that if I didn’t have to go meet my “future wife” I would fuck her again in a heartbeat.
“Babe, you need to get dressed and leave. My parents are expecting me downstairs in twenty.”
She looked up at me with annoyance. “Can’t this meeting or whatever wait? It’s Saturday, and I won’t be seeing you till Monday at school,” she said, sitting up, crossing her arms over her chest.
I haven’t told her what this meeting is really about because I had no idea how to tell her.
How do you tell your girlfriend that you are to marry another?
Walking toward her, I let out a breath. ”I have no choice in this. I have to go.” I kiss her forehead.
I walk toward my wardrobe as she heads to the bathroom.
When the door closes, I run my fingers through my hair, letting out a frustrated sigh.
Fuck my life.
Getting dressed in my black Armani pants suit and white button-up dress shirt, I grab my jacket and wait for Ashley to finish getting ready.
I can hear her moving around behind my bathroom door as I start to think of a way to bring this whole marriage thing up.
I can’t do it in a public place because I know she will flip out and cause a scene. Maybe we could take a walk. Or have her come over and break it to her here.
It doesn’t matter where we are—this isn’t going to end well.
My thoughts are interrupted as the bathroom door opens. Ashley walks out in her skinny blue jeans and pink tank top, her hair pulled up in a messy bun.
She gives me a smile as she sits on the edge of my bed, fiddling with the straps on her sandals.
Ashley is hot as hell. Tall, slim frame, bright red hair, and blue eyes. Any man would be over the moon to have her, but I know her feelings for me are stronger than my feelings for her.
I like her a lot, but I know I’m not in love with her.
Don’t think I even know what love is, really.
Once she is finished, we walk downstairs, where we are greeted by my parents.
To say they like Ashley would be a lie. My father really didn’t care because it would all be over soon, but my mother was a different story.
Tough as nails, that one.
“Hello, Mrs. Romano,” Ashley says as we make our way to the front door.
My mother looks at her with a passive look. “Are you ready to go, Antonio? We can’t keep Mr. and Mrs. Russo waiting any longer,” she says as she walks out the door to the car where my father is.
Ashley just rolls her eyes as she continues to walk out with me.
“She still hates me,” she mumbles while looking down.
“Don’t worry about my mother, okay? All that matters is what I think,” I say, kissing her cheek as I signal Mick over to drive Ashley home.
Once in the car, we make our way to the Russos’ property. It was my future wife’s eleventh birthday today, so there would be a lot of people in and out of the house.
Not that we will be attending the birthday party, of course.
“I’m guessing you haven’t told Ashley about Miss Russo yet?” my mom says, raising her eyebrows at me.
I shake my head. “No, I have not. Not quite sure how to tell my girlfriend I am being forced to marry a girl I don’t know,” I spit back, rewarding me with a heated look from my father.
I quickly apologize to my mother before my dad can say anything.
“You should do it sooner rather than later, son. You don’t want the young lady to think she has a future with you when she does not,” he says as Mom rolls her eyes at the “lady” part of the sentence.
Just because Ashley is sixteen and not a virgin, she disapproves of her. Ashley wasn’t a virgin when we started dating, and that was a very big no-no in our family.
Young girls should not act like men. A woman’s virginity was a special, sacred thing that all the women and men in the family took seriously when it came to their daughters or future daughters-in-law.
Ashley was my first, so I liked the idea that at least one of us knew what we were doing.
I hate to admit it, but my father was right. I could keep Ashley around, but she would never be my wife. She would be my mistress and nothing more.
“I will talk to her soon. I just need to find the right time and the right words to say,” I tell them both, looking out the window as we arrive at the Russo residence.
Driving up to the front gate, you couldn’t see the house at all. It is surrounded by large trees to keep people from getting a closer look at the place.
As the black iron gates opened, we drove up the driveway.
The house came into view after about two minutes of driving. There stood a very large Italian-style villa.
The three-story white stone house was covered in green vines, with small purple flowers falling from the walls of the house.
The front yard was very modest, with not a lot happening. Just a large house with green shrubs off to the sides where the house gates were. It didn’t scream rich and arrogant.
You would never know a billionaire lived here, nor one of the most powerful families in the Italian Mafia.
It was actually quite beautiful, felt like you were in Italy. You could smell the sweet smell of flowers in the air, along with freshly mowed grass.
If her father and mother were this modest, maybe their daughter was the same?
As the car came to a stop, we all started climbing out. I could hear music playing in the distance, as well as soft chatting coming from one side of the house.
We made our way to the door, ringing the bell. Within seconds, a young man opened up, a smile on his face.
“Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Romano. Do come in,” he said as he stepped to the side, letting us in.
We walked into a large living room where people were running all around, smiling and laughing, carrying white chairs and trays of glasses through the area.
The atmosphere was a happy one due to the birthday party that was about to take place later on that day.
“I will let Mr. and Mrs. Russo know you are here. Please, take a seat. Would you like anything to drink while you wait?” the young man said.
“Thank you so much, but we will wait,” Father said while we took a seat on the large white sofa.
The young man walked off down a small hallway that led to a set of stairs.
Looking around the living room, I couldn’t help but notice there was no fancy decor to it.
It was grand but not overdone. There was a large stone fireplace in the center, with black candle holders on either side and a giant gold mirror hanging above.
The area was quite open, with a few plants around the place, a black wooden coffee table in the center, with three white sofas gathered around it.
The whole side of the living room was a giant glass door. You could see outside that people were setting up for the party.
There were three large white tents side by side where people were running in and out.
Before I could take any more in, my father was called. “Vincent! Stella! It’s great that you have come!”
I turned to see a large-built man coming toward us.
Holy fuck, its the Hulk!
He was a huge man that towered over my father.
Any other man would be scared or intimidated by the sight of him, but what my father lacked in size, he made up for in his power to be a very ruthless man.
“Nikolas, it is good to see you again!” my father said, embracing him. “Stella, hope you have been well?” he said, giving my mother a small nod and smile.
“We are well, my friend. This is our son, Antonio Romano,” my father said proudly, gesturing me to come forward.
“It is nice to met you, Mr. Russo,” I said, shaking his hand. His hand enveloped mine, and I almost had to send a search party to look for it.
“It is nice to meet you too, young man. Come, we will do this in my office. My wife is sending for Olivia as we speak.”
Oh, that’s right.
I almost forgot this was all about me marrying his daughter.
I followed behind my parents as we came to a large wooden door. Walking in, I took my place next to my mother, waiting for Olivia to arrive.
Mr. Russo sat behind his desk as his wife walked into his office and stood next to her husband.
“Olivia will be here shortly,” she said, smiling at us.
Mrs. Russo was a stunning woman with long black hair that was curled at the ends, with bright green eyes and porcelain skin. She stood tall and elegant beside her husband.
There was a knock at the door, and my hands instantly became clammy. I put them in front of me and looked up when my breath caught in my throat.
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the impossible creature that just walked through the door. She looked like a goddess!
She was a younger version of her mother, but Mrs. Russo didn’t hold a candle to the way her daughter held herself as she walked farther into the room.
She had thick black hair that had a natural wave to it that fell to the middle of her back.
She had the same green eyes as her mother, but they were an emerald green that shined brighter with a perfectly staright nose and plump pink lips.
I had to put my head down so I was looking at the floor rather than her.
She was to be my wife one day, but as of right now, she was an eleven-year-old girl, and the way I was reacting to her was not right.
She then spoke, and her voice sent a shiver down my spine. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
She spoke with intelligence and grace and was very much aware of what was happening within the families. I wasn’t expecting that at all.
Not dumb, but verdict is still out on the spoilt brat part.
What I was expecting was for her not to be okay with this whole arrangement. She made her feelings on the matter clear, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit rejected.
She wanted nothing to do with this marriage, and neither did I. So why was I feeling this way?
I was caught up in my own turmoil when I heard her leave the room. I looked to the office door and then back to Mr. and Mrs. Russo.
Did she just leave?
“She is quite an extraordinary young lady. You must both be quite proud of her,” my mother said with admiration in her eyes.
I had to agree. She took my breath away.
“We are very proud of her and the young woman she is becoming. Thank you, Stella.” Mrs. Russo said.
“Are you okay, Nikolas?” my father spoke as I turned to see sadness fall on Mr. Russo’s face.
“She is disappointed in me. I’m not used to seeing her looking at me like that. But she knows I would have never considered this unless it wasn’t a must.
“My wife and I love our daughter more than anything, and I hope you will look after her and keep her safe, young man. I don’t want this to end up hurting her in the long run.
“If you are anything like your father, then we will have no problems.”
He looked at me, and I can tell you now, I almost pissed my pants.
Don’t. Piss. Him. Off!
“I understand your concerns, Mr. and Mrs. Russo. I will not do anything to cause harm or pain to your daughter. My parents taught and raised me better than that.
“I might only be sixteen, but I will grow to become a better man and prove to you that I will be the man my father raised me to be.”
Both my parents smiled at me, and both Mr. and Mrs. Russo gave their approval. Now all I had to do was wait till she was twenty-one.
This would be the first and only time I would see her till our wedding day. She must remain “untouched,” and even though we were to be married, I was not allowed anywhere near her till then.
See you soon, wife.