F O R T Y - O N E
It was one thing to say to Lilliana that I would convince Ralph of our marriage, a decision I had taken overnight but didn’t regret for a moment since then, but executing the plan was another thing. For fuck’s sake, he was my father’s right-hand man. I have grown up watching what he did to people who pissed him off or posed trouble for the Romanos.
So, I knew what he was capable of doing.
But when the door opened, and I saw Lilliana, donned in a sea-green dress and paired with sexy stilts, her hair let down and her eyes shining brighter than the stars, I found all the strength and determination to make this woman mine - officially, legally, and perpetually fucking mine.
“You are here,” she said, mirroring the excitement of a toddler.
Stepping inside, I hugged her, banding an arm around her waist to pull her closer and planted a kiss on her blushing cheeks.
“You are looking gorgeous,” I whispered and watched the color of cheeks deepened.
“And you look decent, too,” she quipped with a wink, breaking free of my hold.
Decent? I wanted to take her away and show her what decent looked like, but instead, I only scoffed.
Lilliana smiled and led me into the house and towards the dining space. As soon as I crossed the threshold, my eyes fell on Ralph. And I could see that he wasn’t obviously happy.
I could not pull out a charming card out of my pocket and try to impress the man who has known me all my life, and I knew he wouldn’t approve of me ever. However, what I could do was show him how sincere I was about Lilliana and the fact that I have adamantly come here to ask for her hand in marriage, despite my glorious reputation.
“Dominic.” Ralph’s tone was flat and clinical. In our world, you welcome a friend with an insult, an enemy with a wicked smile, but when we use that cold voice, it means death. And in all possibility, Ralph wanted to bury me alive.
“Ralph.” I tried to keep my voice as amicable as possible while I handed him the bottle of wine.
Even though he took it graciously, I could see the surprise in his face as evident from the rise of a questionable brow.
He carefully inspected the bottle, visibly impressed by the choice as he nodded slowly. “Good choice; thank you.” He thrust the bottle back towards me. “Why don’t you open it for us?”
Strike one. I can’t open a fucking wine bottle. In my defense, I wasn’t a wine drinker in the first place.
I hesitantly took the bottle from his hand, flicking a quick look at Lilliana, and begin to undo the ribbons.
“Papa,” Lilliana condescended, “he is a guest.” She came over to my rescue and took the bottle from my hand. “Let me take that.”
Ralph shrugged a shoulder. “I thought he’d be honored to open such a rare bottle of wine.”
“I am,” I agreed solemnly. “But I was hoping we could enjoy the drink when Lilliana was allowed to have it as well. If I am not wrong, she is still on some medications that prohibit alcohol. Isn’t it?”
Ralph’s eyes narrowed in on me, regarding me with a silent sneer.
“Why don’t we eat?” Lilliana chirped in happily to diffuse the thick tension in the air. “I am totally starving.”
Ralph took the seat at the head of the table as Lilliana sat by his left, and I took the one by her side. His fierce gaze was trained on me, like a tiger sizing up his prey but unable to act.
The food was served, and the awkward dinner began quite silently except for certain occasions when Lilliana kept making small talks. In between, Ralph threw a couple of punches at me, indirectly, and I was quite honestly tired of this game.
A few bites later, I placed down the fork and spoon and looked him directly in the eye. “Ralph, I wanted to talk to you about something.” I approached cautiously. “I think you already know, but--”
I stopped mid-sentence, falling short of a loud gasp as I felt a hand under the table, right between my legs and over my balls.
Fucking hell. Lilliana.
“Know what?” Ralph demanded.
“Uh, I am sorry. What were you saying?” I replied distractedly.
I shot Lilliana a look, as discreetly as possible, except the vixen drew her fingers upwards and began to tease my cock. Under her bloody ministrations, the underwear and slacks were nothing for my protection.
Ralph gave me an irritating look. “What did you want to talk about?” he asked again.
“Uh, yes,” I stammered as Lilliana began to explore like I was her little fuck toy. “Like I was saying that...we...I mean, Lilliana and I...”
Her deft fingers roamed all over the place; her nails gently raked my nerve ending. I inhaled sharply and held my breath to prevent the bloody moan from escaping. “Both of us...we...FUCK!” She squeezed the tip of dick so hard that the curse just flew out of my mouth.
Ralph angrily crumpled the napkin aside. “I am sorry. What did you just say?”
Whatever words I construed in my mind, whatever gentlemanliness I gathered--everything flew out of the window right on the dinner table. “I am marrying your daughter, Ralph,” I tattled. There, that’s it.
Ralph glanced from Lilliana to me and then rose to abandon the chair. “I want to talk to you alone, Dominic,” he told me straight-up and then looked at Lilliana, who by now, thankfully took back her vixen hands off me. ”Bambina, would you mind if we take a walk outside?” His tone was abhorrently soft this time.
“Sure, papa.” She nodded as I sent her a scathing look.
“Let’s go,” that was all he told me before turning on his heel to storm out.
Shaking my head, I turned to Lilliana, who only winked at me. “You will pay for this,” I promised her with the look when Ralph was out of the earshot.
“I know,” she whispered back.
I caught up with Ralph, jogging my way out of the house as I found him taking angry swigs out of a beer bottle. When he saw me coming, he began to walk towards the poolside, silently ordering me to follow. And I did.
It was a good thing that I could swim if he decides to throw me into the water - was my first thought as I joined him on the chaise lounge.
We sat silently for a long time, staring into the water. I could have used this golden opportunity to say my glorious piece, but I was far too distracted when my vixen began to tease my cock and balls. I only hoped to God that my boner wasn’t as prominent as I felt.
“What does she mean to you, Dominic?” Ralph asked, cracking the silence like a bullwhip.
It was an easy question with a tough answer. Undoubtedly, Lilliana meant the world to me. I have loved her with everything that I was, and the glory of my love shown through it.
“She is the love of my life,” I said.
“And what happens when she stops being the love of your life?”
I smiled softly. “The day I found out that Lilliana betrayed me, she stood with her gun raised, and I still loved her. I know you are not going to believe this, ralph, but I have never stopped loving your daughter ever since the day I fell for her.”
“I won’t believe you.” He snickered, looking away from me.
Deep down, I knew that Ralph would never trust Lilliana with me, or with anyone else. The acceptance I was looking for would never be there until I prove it to him, and even then, I would merely be tolerable to him.
“Can I ask you something?” He looked at me, slightly vexed, but I took that as a yes. “When you met Lilliana’s mother, and when you fell I love with her, did you think worthy of her?”
Ralph drew his gaze back to the cool blue water of the pool and smiled into the memory of his unrequited love. “Sophia was so pure, so perfect,” he reminisced. “And I was the least worthy of her love or friendship. If I was, then, she would have been alive today.”
I could see the pain in his eyes, the resonation of grief in his voice. And I understood why he held on to Lilliana. It wasn’t only because she was his daughter, but she was also a part of Sophia.
“This is our world, Ralph,” I reminded him. “Danger becomes us. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we pay the price.” A flash of Stefan’s face floated into my mind as I blinked it away.
“I know,” he mumbled and exhaled hard. “You have to understand, Dominic, Lilliana is my girl. I found her after so many years, and I cannot lose her again. Even if one small indecision of mine ruins her life, I wouldn’t forgive myself. And I wouldn’t forgive anyone who’d hurt her,” he warned.
“I can’t think of hurting her.”
“I was hoping this would be a fling or just a passing affair.” He grimaced and then sighed. “You don’t deserve my little girl.”
I didn’t, truly, but there wasn’t a man walking on the face of this earth who would love Lilliana more than I do. “You want a slick, Wall Street guy, or an ivy-league perfection of a man for your daughter?” I asked him. “And what happens when your enemies would come for her? Because I would tell you this, Ralph, nobody would fight for her or protect her as ruthlessly as a Romano would do. And I am a Romano.”
“I have a few conditions.”
“Let’s hear them.”
“One: Lilliana keeps my surname along with yours. It is the only thing I can give her. Two: if you ever cheat on her...”
“I would never dream of it,” I cut in.
“As I said, I don’t trust you. But if you so much so kiss another woman, I wouldn’t care if Alessandro is like a brother to me--I would kill you.”
I chuckled and nodded. “Agreed. Do you have anything else to make me back out? Because I am not going to, Ralph.”
“Don’t piss me off, boy,” he warned as his eyes narrowed.
I raised my hands in surrender. “So, I take that I have your blessing to marry your daughter?” I chanced.
“Do I have a choice?”
“If it makes you feel any better, your daughter is in love with me. And I love her equally, if not more. I have read it somewhere that only a handful of people are blessed to be loved in such a way.”
He suddenly got up, ready to retreat. “If you have taken the pain research romantic quotes for her, I believe, you really do love her.”
This time, I smiled triumphantly, knowing the toughest day of my life was over, and I came out as a victor.
“Go home, Dominic,” was all he said as he made his way back into the house.
I glanced up towards the window of Lilliana’s room on my way out, watching her silhouette from behind the curtain, and then strode back to my car.
This night, one of the most hard-earned nights of my life has just begun.