Wildfire

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2.

ADELAIDE

Celebratory dinners with the other families were a shit show. Hardly anyone could get along, and you could cut the tension with a knife. The wives and daughters gossiped while the men of each family separated themselves into alliance groups, families who pled allegiance to one another all standing together in separate areas of the dining room. While it was a massive room, the tension made it feel small and cramped.

Tonight would be more of the same regardless of the fact that Hannah and Roman Burton were now to be married, aligning their family with ours. What should be a happy occasion only brought more strife as some of the more powerful families felt that the Burton’s was too below our family.

I was happy for Hannah regardless where the families stood, she truly loved Roman and he loved her. I’d only hoped that the other families could set aside their opinion to acknowledge that.

I wondered if it’d be a lot of the same nonsense when Luca and I were to become engaged and marry. Though the contract had been talked about for years, engagement and wedding plans were never brought up with as much excitement as Hannah and Roman’s. As far as I knew there wasn’t even a ring.

We reached the dining room and I paused in front of the doors. These get together always made me anxious, so many people in one room and not many places to escape without someone seeing you. Somehow Cecilia and her minions from the Greene family, Eliza and Carissa, always found me and did all they could talk lowly of my family and of me. Their favorite topic seemed to be Luca and how he’d be much better off with Cecilia.

She could have him as far as I was concerned.

Liar.

My stomach suddenly tightened at the thought.

“Princess.” Luca said, pulling my attention back. I had zoned off for who knows how long. He pushed one of the doors open and lead me inside, his hand gently resting on the small of my back, electricity shooting through me.

The room was buzzing with talking, loud talking, which meant many pre-dinner drinks had been served. Wonderful. Now all I had to do was act like I’d been here the whole time and we’d be good to go.

I was acutely aware of Luca’s presence next to me, his hand still on my back, my body willingly leaning into it as if it was clinging.

“There you are!” My mother appeared in front of me, approaching me with arms wide open, a large tipsy smile on her face. I hadn’t seen her this done up in a long time, no doubt trying to show the other houses how excited she was for Hannah, her middle child now finding her husband. My mother rested her hands on my bare shoulders, her hands cold to the touch. No warmth ever seemed to come from her though, motherly or other.

“We’ve been looking all over for you, Hannah was worried you’d forgot.” She pushed me back a bit to get a better look at me. “Oh look, the dress fits perfectly, I was worried it’d be too small. Luca, you look so handsome!” She said giving me a once over and brushing a piece of hair out of my face, turning her face up to Luca with an over enthusiastic smile on her face.

No matter how thin I was, I was never good enough in my mother’s eyes. Anxiety slipped up into my throat, feeling like I’d just swallowed a brick. I smiled with no emotion through it, only to get my mother to stop talking.

“I didn’t forget, I just had something to take care of. Where’s Hannah?” I said as I grabbed a champagne flute off a tray as a waiter walked by. My mother turned to scan the room for Hannah and I downed my flute in one shot, placing the now empty flute on another tray before she turned around. Luca lightly rubbed his fingers on my back in acknowledgement of what I’d just done. I side-eye glanced at him, a slight smirk flashing across his face as he led me with his hand towards the other end of the room.

“I’d take you right here if I could, Princess.” He said in my ear as we walked, he breath warm as it swirled around my neck, his hand sliding along my back to wrap around my hip and give a light squeeze, almost unnoticeable. My jaw dropped, and I looked up him in disgust. Maybe he could say those things to Cecilia but not me. My face heated with a blush of embarrassment and not knowing how to respond to his comment.

Sometime HAD changed between us in that short amount of time, whatever it was. He’d never been that brazen to say something like that me, especially with my family so near. Amusement played on his face as he winked at me.

“Adelaide, you’re here!” A squeal and a sudden pair of arms wrapped around my shoulders, crushing me into a hug. The smell of jasmine swirled in my nose. Hannah. She was squeezing me into a death hug, the air crushing out of me.

“Oh my God, Hannah, you’re killing me!” I reached up to grab my sister’s arm, pulling them off me enough to get a breath in. I pulled her back more and looked at her, her face beaming. She looked great, really really great. It’d been 6 months since I’d seen her, since she went away to the Burton’s to be with Roman.

Her honey color hair fell in big beachy waves, her hazel eyes sparkling with excitement. If she grinned any bigger I think her cheeks would split. She was glowing in her white lace dress.

“I didn’t think you were coming! Mom said no one had seen you today. No more sneaking off, little sister.” She grabbed my shoulders warmly. I felt Luca’s hand slide from my waist across my lower back as I saw him walk away, over to the bar across the room and settle in with his brothers.

Out of the five Katsaros brothers, Luca the second oldest at 25, his brother Park the oldest at 26. They all looked like brothers with their black shaggy hair, all in various lengths and cuts, and tanned skin from their Mediterranean descent, gold like gods in some light. All well over 6′5" in height and built solid as rock. All were handsome, but Luca could woo any woman out of her panties with just a look.

Did you just admit that Luca is handsome?

My eyes shot back to Hannah as she grabbed my hand and pulled me over to the couch that faced the fire place, sitting us in the middle.

“I have so much to tell you about the wedding planning, did mom or Chelsea tell you about the color scheme Roman’s mother wants me to go with? Teal and pink, like a bright pink. God, Addy, I’ll look like a bad 80′s movie up there with those colors!” Hannah made a face of disgust while keeping her voice only slightly above a whisper.

“Teal and pink? Is she deranged?” I kept my voiced lowered like her, giggling like when we were younger, whispering about everyone while in these dinners together. We’d talk about which boy from which family we’d marry if we could choose, make fun of Cecilia, Eliza, and Carissa as they caked their faces in too much makeup as teenagers, and admire the beautiful dresses some of the wives wore, hoping one day we’d be able to own them too.

Now it was all wedding planning for Hannah, the next baby for Chelsea, and my upcoming engagement to Luca that we ever talked about. Never a care free chat about anything and that’s why I was glad Hannah was back, even for just a few days. It gave me a sense of normalcy and comfort to sit here with her. We carried on for what seemed like hours talking about her wedding until we had covered everything under the sun.

“So, mom tells me that Luca has been here every other week. What’s that about?” She snuck a peek at him, him now sitting on another couch across the room with his brothers, carrying on like they were the only ones here. From where I sat, Luca and I had a perfect view of each other, and every now and then while Hannah and I talked I felt his eyes on me, observing.

I also felt the eyes of Liam Blake, the brother of Cecilia, as I sat with Hannah. It had been known for years that Liam had an interest in me and wasn’t too keen on the marriage contract Luca and I were bound together with. He had made a few comments over the years about it and me in front of Luca and my father, causing Luca to punch him in the mouth once two years ago at a wedding. It had been deserved, but Luca doing that had sealed the fact that I was his and he wasn’t giving me up, even if he didn’t want to marry me. Luca and Liam had a way of making me feel like a possession, a pretty object to just possess. Liam felt his family was higher in rank than Luca’s, earning him the right to pick a daughter of whichever house of his choosing for a wife. He wanted me and didn’t like that Luca wouldn’t give me up.

Liam sat on the other set of couches across the room from Luca, with his family and a few friends from other families, almost mirroring Luca with how he was sitting and staring at me. I never had any interest in Liam, I thought he was an even bigger douche than Luca and that’s saying something. He had a temper and was known to be quite cruel to his servants in their home. Cruelty must run in the family with the way him and his sister act. Liam knew I wouldn’t break the contract with Luca for him no matter how badly I didn’t want to marry Luca, but that didn’t stop him from trying every chance he had. If presented the opportunity to pick Luca or Liam, I’d always pick Luca.

“I don’t really know to be honest. He’s usually with dad in his office most of the time he’s here though, neither of them ever tell me why he’s here. He drives me insane, I don’t know why it couldn’t have been Cecilia to be promised to him. She wants him bad enough.” Hannah scrunched her face, she hated Cecilia as much as me. Cecilia had continued to creep nearer and nearer to Luca throughout the night, becoming louder and more boisterous with her conversations in hopes she could win his attention. He continued to ignore her and look past her as if she hadn’t even been in the room and it made her visibly upset. My chest tightened in triumph.

Why do you even care? You don’t want to marry him.

“Don’t let him get under your skin, he’s as bad as the rest of them. Park still picks on me to this day in front of Roman for the crush I had on him when I was 7.” She rolled her eyes, rest her head on the back of her hand propped up on the back of the couch.

“Aw that was such a cute crush. You really believed you’d marry him and live happily ever after.” I stuck out my bottom lip while teasing her.

“Now it’s you who gets to marry into the Katsaros family and live happily ever after.” She mocked, pinching my cheek.

“I don’t know about happily either of us feel. He hates me as much as I do him. It’s just to pay off our debt and we both know it. I don’t think I could ever willingly marry him.” I glared at him, seeing he was looking straight on at me with a smirk on his face before finishing his glass of whiskey, like he’d been listening to everything we said. I rolled my eyes and turned back to Hannah.

“Well you just have to marry him but I’m sure wouldn’t have to live with him, you could live somewhere else if you chose to. Show up together for events, pretend to be a happy couple, and then be on your merry way. You wouldn’t be the firsts to do so. The Greene’s hate each other and that’s probably why Eliza and Carissa are so awful.” She gestured over to where they stood with Cecilia, the rat faced twins standing off to the side of her while she talked with her hands in enthusiastic arches and points, no doubly talking up the trip she had just taken to Paris.

“I guess we’ll have to see. It’s far enough off I don’t have to think about it. He’s a jerk anyways.” I looked down at my hands, imagining what my left hand will look like with a ring like Hannah’s on it. Hers was massive, an oval cut diamond on a band filled with smaller diamonds. Though not my taste, it was beautiful and fit Hannah perfectly.

“Besides,” I said as a waiter walked by with more champagne, and I grabbed two glasses for us, “Chelsea comes back next week, and we have that to look forward to.” I sipped my champagne, swallowing half of it. It was a hell of a lot easier to make it through these dinners with a few drinks in my system. It calmed the anxiety.

“Oh that’s right! That’s next week! I’m so excited to see Chelsea while we’re there, even if we can’t do anything with her. Who knew having babies was her life’s plan?” Hannah giggled as she drank her champagne. Chelsea had been adamant about never having kids and now she was on baby number 3. I’d loved my nieces though, I’d never trade them for the world. I finished my second half of my champagne before I noticed Roman had approached us.

“Sorry to interrupt, I need to steal Hannah for a few moments.” Roman reached his hand out for Hannah and she grabbed it, standing up while he protectively wrapped his arm around her. It was nice to see Hannah so happy and with someone she loved.

I’d gotten up when they left, making my way out to the patio covered in climbing ivy. There was a small alcove where I could be hidden behind all the ivy and look out at the ocean, it’s glassy surface reflecting the moon.

I’d wondered what it’d have been like if Luca and I had actually liked each other like Hannah and Roman, actually chose this marriage. Instead, we had it forced on us with no say as teenagers. Neither of us knew what it truly meant for us until now, knowing we could never pick who we’d be with.

I leaned against the stone railing, letting the breeze swirl around me, closing my eyes to enjoy it and the salty smell of the ocean. It was my favorite scent. I heard someone approach, my eyes shot open. I peeked to the side to see Luca leaning over the railing next to me.

“Haven’t you tormented me enough with your presence today?” I rolled my eyes, propping my elbow up on the ledge to rest my head on my hand, turning to look at him.

He gave me a playful grin and flicked a piece of hair over my shoulder. Usually I minded when he touched any part of me. Now, I didn’t mind one bit.

What has gotten into you? This is Luca, not a guy you actually like

“Can’t help it, I just love getting under your skin.” He took a sip of his drink, turning to look at the water. “Are you hiding from me out here?”

“Hiding from you and Liam both actually. It’s more peaceful in my life when I imagine you both don’t exist.”

“You’re a spiteful little brat, aren’t you, Princess?” He arched his eyebrows, knowing he was pushing my buttons.

“Which one is it, a spiteful brat or a princess? I can’t be both at the same time, it’s exhausting.” I exaggerated my eye roll.

“So much fire in such a little thing. You’re going to be so much fun to tame when I finally fuck you.” My face instantly burned, appalled he’d even say that, even think that! It didn’t matter if there was a marriage contract, it wasn’t going to happen.

“You’re such a fucking dick!” I let out an exasperated growl, storming away from him before he grabbed my arm and spun me back around to face him. He pulled me against his chest and wrapped a hand in my hair, slamming his lips against mine.

It was like my entire world around me had just shattered.

My lips moved against his, following his lead. He gently nipped my lip, causing me to open my mouth and him to slide his tongue in, tangling with mine. The kiss was like a storm stirring, the air around us charging and popping before a lightning strike, the wind swirling around. He was possessive too, chasing my mouth and lips, like he was afraid I’d slip away. I’d been kissed before on a dare when I was younger with one of the kitchen boys, but never anything like this.

He pulled away finally, leaning his forehead against mine, both of us panting. I noticed that my hands were clenched around the opening of his jacket as if I was holding on for dear life. His hand was still tangled in my hair, the other around my waist, keeping me from pulling away.

“What the fuck, Luca?” I breathed out, not even sure what to say or do at this point. I let go of his jacket and just stared up at him, still registering what had just happened. His eyes were wild, burning with so much intensity I thought I’d melt. I couldn’t read the expression his face, it was like he was wearing a mask to hide any feelings other than his eyes.

He’d kissed me.

And I liked it. I liked it a lot

“Taming some of that fire.” He stared down at my lips, contemplation playing on his face. I pulled away before he was able to kiss me again.

It was too foreign, too much against my own will. My mind was racing with all different thoughts and emotions, making me feel vulnerable. I couldn’t let him see that, couldn’t let him have the kind of power of me. I couldn’t let him know that I’d like it because if I did, that would mean I was submitting to him. It would be mean he’d be able to tame me.

“Well you won’t be doing it again.” I seethed out, spinning on my heels and storming back inside.

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A/N: What do you think of that kiss? Do you think Adelaide will let him do it again? Let me know in the comments!

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