Defying Her Mafioso(6)

By: Terri Anne Browning

“Victoria was correct when she said it would be wise that they be out of the house while we take meetings. The less exposure they have to Volkov, the better,” Papa assured him.

“I’ll send two of my own men with them,” Ciro offered. “Or would you like for me to accompany them?”

“Have you even slept?” Cristiano demanded, sounding concerned for his friend. “You look gray around the mouth.”

“It was a long night. I grabbed a few hours at the warehouse.”

“We shouldn’t be listening to this,” Victoria whispered at my ear. “If they realized we were, Papa would be angry.”

I grimaced, knowing she was right. Even though Papa wasn’t nearly as closed-mouthed about business in front of me, the less we knew about what our father did the safer we were, but I was dying to know what Ciro had been up to. And they shouldn’t have been having their conversation where anyone could so easily overhear, anyway. They had obviously gotten a little sloppy with where they spoke about business while Victoria and I had been away.

“I think I’ll get new shoes,” Victoria said, speaking louder than normal, making sure the three men in the next room knew we were approaching. “I’m thinking red.”

“Good choice,” I murmured.

Cristiano appeared within the next second with Vito and then Ciro right behind him. I kept my focus on my father and brother, refusing to allow myself even a glance at Ciro. If I looked at him right then, I knew I wouldn’t be able to hide how much I’d missed him.

The last time I’d seen Ciro played through my head and I swallowed the hurt that tried to choke me. Why was it that this man and only this man had ever been able to touch my dark heart? I would have given him everything if he’d wanted it.

 I’d fallen for Ciro when I was eleven. I’d had a crush on him before then. Every girl I knew did, so I couldn’t be faulted for having one as well. Ciro had always been a part of my life. I saw him almost every day until I was eighteen. His father was one of Vito’s closest friends, and advisor. Papa had been named his godfather at birth, just as his own was Cristiano’s. Ciro and Cristiano were best friends practically from birth and Ciro was always at our house.

The day I fell for him, he’d been sitting in the front row of my first—and last—dance recital. His parents were sitting with my father, while he and Cristiano had been off to the side with Dante De Stefano, trying to play it cool while all the girls in my class couldn’t stop gaping at them. I’d stepped out onto the stage for my solo and I’d tripped over my own feet in my excitement to show Ciro what I could do.

Tears had instantly filled my eyes in embarrassment and I’d wanted to disappear. From the side of the stage I’d heard the other girls giggling and whispering about me, but they all shut up the moment Ciro jumped up onto the stage beside me and lifted me into his arms like I was a baby.

“Don’t cry,” he murmured as he’d pressed his lips to my forehead. “You’re the best little dancer I’ve ever seen.”

Innocently, I’d fallen hard then and there and I’d kept falling ever since. It was stupid to think he could have felt the same way and I was tired of waiting for him to open his eyes and realize I was all grown up now. When I was eighteen, I’d broken my heart on him for the last time and I’d been all too willing to move to Sicily to live with my grandmother when Papa had suggested we get to know Nona better.

“Finally,” Cristiano grumbled. “I was starting to think you two didn’t want to leave after all.”

“She was in the shower forever,” Victoria complained, but she was grinning. “Whose money will I be spending today? Yours, Papa?”

He snorted, but there was an indulgent smile on his face for her. “You would break the bank if you had your way. I should have put you on an allowance from the moment you were born instead of letting you have free rein over my money.”

“I have to buy for two most times, Papa. Scarlett would only wear yoga pants and hideous graphic T-shirts if I didn’t.” She held out her hand, wiggling her fingers at him. “Your cards, please, Papa.”

“Don’t you have your own?” Cristiano teased, handing over his own credit card before Vito could reach for his wallet.

“Of course,” Victoria assured him. “But there is a limit and I have so many outfits to buy. We have nothing to wear for the summer here.”

I tried not to roll my eyes at her. Nothing to wear. That was total BS and we all knew it. Our closets were overflowing with dresses that still had the price tags on them. Victoria would donate every one of them though, before filling the racks with new items. She loved working with her charities and donating the contents of her closet—and mine—was just one of the many ways she liked to help out those less fortunate.