I can’t do this, Aria. I want out. Out of this world. Out of my arranged marriage. Just out.
Those words spoken by my sister Gianna started it all. They led to my first betrayal of Luca. I didn’t see it as a betrayal back then. I only wanted to help her, not betray my husband.
Yet, when I made the decision to help her escape, I knew I’d have to go against him.
Made Men were always so quick to call any word of objection betrayal. Women were supposed to take their husband’s word as law, especially I, who was married to the Capo.
But protecting my family, my sisters and my brother, protecting those I loved against the harsh realities of mob life sometimes made it hard to obey.
I thought Luca would understand, thought our love could brave anything.
Luca wasn’t a man who had ever allowed himself to trust or love anyone—until me. Maybe he’d always been wary of his emotions.
Maybe he’d always waited for something that would prove his wariness right.
And I had given it to him.
Matteo and I had been taught many lessons by our sadist of a father, all of them meant to make us strong and ruthless for the tasks expected of us. I hated the man, had hated him all my life, and hated that he was proven right with the one lesson I wanted to be wrong.
Love is a weakness, Luca. It has brought the strongest men to their knees. Women are weak, and making us believe we could love them is their way to manipulate us because it’s the only way for them to have power. Don’t let a woman hold that power over you. You will be Capo. A Capo can’t allow himself a weakness.
Aria made me believe those words to be a lie.
With her kind smiles, her innocent eyes and unparalleled beauty she lured me in, and I fell into her trap. I still remembered that fucking day.
“You are good, Aria. You are innocent. I forced you into this.” Aria had taken a bullet for me, had risked her life to save mine. My life, which was worth so much less than hers.
Her blue eyes held mine. Those eyes, always full of so many emotions I could hardly understand. “You didn’t, Luca. I was born into this world. I chose to stay in this world. Being born into our world means being born with blood on our hands. With every breath we take sin is engraved deeper into our skin.”
I shook my head. “You don’t have a choice. There’s no way to escape our world. You didn’t have a choice in marrying me either. If you’d let that bullet kill me, you would have at least escaped our marriage.”
“There are few good things in our world, Luca, and if you find one, you cling to it with all your might. You are one of those good things in my life.”
How could she say something like that? I killed so many, and enjoyed it. If there were a Heaven and a Hell, there was no doubt where I’d end up. “I’m not good.”
“You’re not a good man, no. But you are good for me. I feel safe in your arms. I don’t know why, don’t even know why I love you, but I do, and that won’t change.”
I closed my eyes against the love in her gaze. Aria loved me. She’d told me before. I wasn’t sure how she could after everything she’d seen me do, and it wasn’t even the worst. I was still keeping that from her. “Love is a risk in our world, and a weakness a Capo can’t afford,” I murmured. A truth I believed all my life. A truth I lived by. A truth I thought to take into the grave with me.
“I know,” she whispered, resigned.
Didn’t she know what I felt? Couldn’t she see? Even Matteo knew, though I’d tried to hide it from him, from everyone.
I stared at her, my chest tight with emotions that scared the shit out of me. Scared me, even though nothing really scared me anymore. I’d survived torture and excruciating pain, had tortured and inflicted pain myself, had seen so many die, had killed many of them, and here I was scared of my own emotions. “But I don’t care, because loving you is the only pure thing in my life.”
Aria froze, eyes filling with tears. Crying and begging had never softened my heart, but with Aria they spoke to a part of me I hadn’t known existed. “You love me?” she asked, eyes full of hope and disbelief.
“Yes, even if I shouldn’t. If my enemies knew how much you meant to me, they’d do anything to get their hands on you, to hurt me through you, to control me by threatening you. The Bratva will try again, and others will too. When I became a Made Man, I swore to put the Famiglia first, and I reinforced that same oath when I became a Capo dei Capi even though I knew I was lying. My first choice should always be the Famiglia. But you are my first choice, Aria. I’ll burn down the world if I have to. I’ll kill and maim and blackmail. I’ll do anything for you. Maybe love is a risk, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take and as you said, it’s not a choice. I never thought I would, never thought I could love someone like that, but I fell in love with you. I fought it. It’s the first battle I didn’t mind losing.”
And fuck, those words had been the truth. I’d thought them to be true. I put Aria first, protected her, allowed her things my family had frowned upon. I’d have done anything for her, and she fucking betrayed me. Betrayed my love and trust.
A weakness I would no longer allow myself.