Now that my evening plans had been ruined, I took Raven back to my place. My meeting with the Barzini family would have to wait. I hadn’t anticipated Salvatore’s attack – a mistake I would not make again.
The man had it out for my family for as long as I could remember. His beef had been with my father, while his father’s had been against my grandfather and uncle. It was a feud that had lasted three generations. A bloodwar that wouldn’t end until both parties were dead.
Raven shook like a leaf beside me, her body pressed into my side and her arms wrapped around my waist. She was clearly terrified because she’d never gotten this close on her own. I was usually the one pulling her against me.
With my arm resting around her shoulders, I gave her a slight squeeze. “You alright, sweetheart?”
“I’m fine.” She didn’t even meet my gaze when she answered.
We reached my penthouse and Ricky let us out. When I offered my arm, she surprised me by weaving her fingers through mine. She stepped into my side, letting me curl my arm around her waist without protest.
We entered the lobby, the doorman greeting me like he always did. “Good evening, Mr. Moretti.”
I acknowledged him with a single nod and approached the elevators. Ricky stayed behind, bringing the car to the underground garage. I’d already instructed my men to secure the building as well as the surrounding six blocks. If any of Salvatore’s men planned to make a move, I’d know about it well in advance.
My floor couldn’t be accessed without the key, so I slipped it into the keyhole and punched in the security code. The elevator lurched upward, making Raven stumble and fall into me further. She was entirely too quiet. It wasn’t like her. Even though it pissed me off most of the time, I missed her smart mouth at that moment.
The doors pinged and swung open, revealing the 8,000 square feet that belonged to me. It was more space than I would ever need, but I loved it. I guided Raven in with my hand pressed to the small of her back.
She slipped off her jacket, letting it hit the ground like it was nothing more than an old T-shirt. I watched her bare back as she stepped into the dark space, finding the living room and dropping onto the plush cushions. She kicked off her heels and folded her legs beneath her ass, grabbing a large throw pillow and resting her head on top.
I watched her with interest, trying to understand her actions. Trailing behind her, I picked up her jacket and hung it over the back of a chair as I passed the kitchen. I took a seat beside her, lifting her head off the pillow and resting it on my lap. My fingers brushed through her hair as I tried to soothe her.
“You know you’re safe with me, right?”
She didn’t answer. Her eyes were blank as she stared off into nothing. She was like a ghost – vacant.
I angled her face toward me, but she wouldn’t meet my gaze. Her eyes continued to stare forward even with her face tilted in my direction. Brushing her hair behind her petite ears, I tried to reach her again.
“Talk to me, sweetheart.”
She flicked her gaze to mine and I saw the terror in her eyes. It was like looking into her soul. So much darkness resided there – so much pain I nearly felt it touch me.
“I’ll never get away from this life, will I?” Her voice was a whisper, and somehow, I knew the question wasn’t directed at me. It was like she was asking herself – or someone I couldn’t see.
I stroked her jaw, my eyes still holding her gaze. She snuggled into my lap, her eyelids falling as she dozed off. I watched her for a long time – curious about the woman that captured all my attention. Tonight had clearly affected her – bringing her back to a past that haunted her.
I had every intention of keeping my promise to her. I really did. But I had to know who she was and why she was running. She would be furious with me, but she’d get over it in time. I, on the other hand, would never stop wondering about her.
Lifting her head gently, I placed a pillow under her and made my way to the bedroom. The call was quick. I got in contact with my guy over in missing persons, giving him as much information as I could on her. Back in the living room, I snapped a picture of her sleeping form, sending it over for facial recognition.
It was done.
Within 24 hours, I would know who she really was.
A blood-curdling scream woke me from my sleep. In an instant, I was on my feet. I yanked my nightstand open and armed myself quickly, scanning the room as I flicked the safety off.
“Let me go!” Raven screamed, and I was barreling down the hall within seconds.
She had been so peaceful sleeping on the couch, I didn’t move her. I was regretting that now. If someone had managed to slip past my security detail, broken into my place and gotten to her, I’d never forgive myself. I promised her she would be safe in my care. I looked her in the face and told her I would protect her.
I slid down the hall, my pistol at the ready. My eyes landed on her where she lay, her arms and legs thrashing about as she sobbed. There was no one here.
“Please,” she cried, struggling against an invisible foe, “don’t do this to me.”
Raking my fingers through my hair, I willed my heart to slow. The adrenaline still coursed through my veins, ready for anything. Flicking the safety back on and setting the gun on the coffee table, I made my way toward her.
This was no ordinary nightmare. The way she continued to scream and fight for her life…it was obvious she was reliving something terrible.
“Raven,” I called her name gently, wanting to bring her out of sleep but also trying not to startle her further.
“Please,” she sobbed, her arms still thrusting into the air.
“It’s okay, Raven. You’re just having a bad dream…listen to my voice. Wake up.” I kneeled in front of her, bringing my lips close to her ear. “Open your eyes.”
She sat up, her breathing erratic as she flipped her head around in search of the assailant. She jumped when her eyes landed on me, startled by my proximity. When she recognized me, her eyes fell shut and she thrust her fingers into her long hair, pulling it out of her face.
“You’re okay,” I whispered, taking a seat beside her but keeping my arms to myself. “It was a nightmare.”
Her back was to me and she bent her knees, bringing them close to her chest and wrapping her arms tightly around herself. “I didn’t mean to wake you…” her voice trailed off, replaced by her uneven breaths.
It took me a moment to realize she was crying.
In the short time I’d known her, I’d never seen her shed a single tear. Whatever terrors awaited her in her dreams must have been unspeakable. I imagined it took something paramount, something heinous and ungodly to make her cry. She had balls of steel. Whatever it was, I wanted to shield her from it.
I lifted her into my lap, adjusting her so her head rested against my bare chest. She still wore the black gown from the previous night, and even with hair that was mussed up from sleep, she was breathtaking.
“Shh,” I cooed, wrapping her in my embrace and placing a kiss to her hairline, “everything’s okay. No one can hurt you while I’m alive…and seeing how I’m invincible, that means no one will ever get close enough to try.”
She chuckled at my remark, her voice still watery with tears. “You’re so full of yourself.”
I smiled, relieved to see her return to her usual self. “You could be full of me too, you know. I don’t mind sharing.”
She giggled into my chest, her tears smearing into my skin. I was shocked by how much I enjoyed the sound of her laugh. It was something I had yet to experience. In a matter of moments, I had witnessed this woman’s tears and laughter, and I’d be lying if I said that didn’t reside with me.
Slowly but surely, I was peeling away the layers of her defenses – catching a glimpse of the woman beneath.
“Do you want to talk about it?” I offered not just because I was desperate to know the truth about her, but because I wanted her to be the one to share it with me. I’d have the information on my desk by tomorrow night, but I wanted to give her a chance to open up to me.
She shook her head in the negative and looked up at me. “The last thing I wanna do is recall that part of my life. I just…want to move on.”
I cupped her cheek because she was so beautiful, and I couldn’t help myself. Aside from the dull overhead light in the kitchen, the house was cast in darkness. The window behind us allowed the moonlight to filter in – the soft white illuminating her caramel skin and emerald orbs.
“If someone’s after you…” I said carefully, brushing my thumb over her soft cheek, “just say the word and I’ll handle it. You can trust me, Raven.”
Her eyes darted between mine and she pinched her bottom lip between her teeth. She looked as though she would consider my offer but quickly shook her head. “It’s okay, Luca. It’s been a long time since I’ve suffered at the hands of that man. I got away a long time ago. It’s just gonna take me a little while to overcome these demons.”
So, there was a man. And he had hurt her.
I couldn’t explain the surge of violence that ripped through me. I wanted to demand that she give me his name so I could hunt him down and kill him with my bare hands.
“Who is he?”
She shook her head again, making me suppress a growl.
“Goddammit, Raven, tell me. I’ll erase him, he’ll never bother you again. You don’t have to live in fear. Just let me –”
My words died in my throat when she kissed me hard on the mouth. Her lips were soft, a mixture of salt from her tears and her naturally sweet taste taking over my senses. My eyes rolled shut automatically and I kissed her back with fervor.
Her lips parted, and she gave me her tongue, sweeping it across mine just the way I liked. Her hands found the hair at my nape and she tangled her fingers through it, holding my face against hers.
She straddled my thighs, her dress riding up to her hips and her bare sex rubbing my cock through the flannel pants I wore. I stroked her naked back, enjoying the way her soft skin felt beneath my callused hands. I’d never been so hard in my life and so far, all we’d done was make out.
She pulled back, her dark hair falling forward and framing her face. She tugged on her dress, freeing her breasts as she shoved the fabric down to her waist. My eyes were glued to her tits, unable to look away. Like an adolescent, I stared at them in wonder – treating them like the first pair of boobs I’d ever laid eyes on.
I was so shocked by what was happening, but I didn’t dare protest for fear of ruining the moment. Maybe I was dreaming. Whatever the hell was going on, I wasn’t about to fuck it up by opening my mouth.
She took my hands and placed them on her tits, leaning in to kiss me again.
I palmed them in my hands, squeezing them and teasing her nipples as I kissed her hard. My dick threatened to tear through my PJ bottoms when I felt her wetness seep through the fabric. She spoke against my lips and I swore I nearly died right then.
“Take me to bed.”