I changed, hiding my reddened face behind my big sunglasses again so that Hannah wouldn’t see that I had been embarrassed, not hot. God, how could I have been so stupid as to not check?
I sat back on the sofas, waiting for Hannah to finish trying on her dresses. From where I was sitting I had a clear shot to look out at the street to see all the other shoppers walking up and down, some window shopping, some carrying bags upon bags. I watched girls who would probably have been friends with Cecilia go from shop to shop, wondering where it was that there planned to wear all these clothes or why there was a need for an outfit for every occasion.
My mind wandered all over the place while I waited for Hannah, still looking out the window at the world. Then I felt my mind drifting to thoughts of Luca, of how he had kissed me last night, how he’d touched me and I didn’t mind it, if we were going to kiss again anytime soon...
Snap out of it! You and Luca don’t like each other!
I blinked, bringing myself back and sliding my sunglasses off my face to notice that a man that I had been watching going from shop to shop alone, was now standing at the other end of the street, staring back at me as he leaned against a wall. I’d noticed him a bit ago, staring, but I thought maybe he was looking at a dress in the window for his wife of girlfriend. Maybe just a coincidence that he was looking in here at me, like when window shopping and your eyes meet with an employee inside the store. But this wasn’t that. This man was intentionally staring in now at me, looking as if he was watching my every move.
He was leaned casually against the wall, arms crossed nonchalant, and not trying to hide the fact that he was staring. I felt unease wash over me, as if I were to confront him it wouldn’t end well for me.
My father had enemies that I knew sometimes attempted to send spies to keep an eye on him, see who he was working with and what they were doing. They were always caught before anything became of it, and my father usually tightened up security for a few months, monitoring where I was and who I’d be with at all times. If I was ever with Luca, he lightened up his own security on me and allowed Luca to keep his eye on me, knowing that he would be able to take care of any threat. That power and threat that emanated off Luca was enough to make my father feel at an ease with leaving me with him, despite the fact that Luca’s own father had once been a threat to mine. All anyone had to do was look at Luca and they could see that he was not someone they wanted to mess with or threaten in any way.
The longer I sat there staring back at the man, the more uncomfortable and worried I felt. I got up and walked back to the dressing room to talk with Hannah so that we could give a heads up to our security team that had come along but kept their distance, trying to stay unseen.
“Hannah? Can I come in?” I knocked on her dressing room door, praying she’d let me in so I didn’t have to discuss it with her in front of the store employees.
“I promise I’m almost done! I have two more dresses!” She called back through the door, thinking I’d come back to rush her along. In fact, it was probably the opposite. Who knows what could happen if we walked out those doors?
“Let me see the one you have on, you haven’t showed me any!” I thought if I played it off that I wanted to see she’d let me in. And it worked.
“I like this one but I think the neckline is too—” I cut her off, pushing my way in and shutting the door, putting a finger to my lips to get her to be quiet and not act like anything was going on. She looked at me with concern, cocking her head slightly to the side in confusion.
I moved away from the door, towards the back corner of the rather large dressing room, pulling her by her hand with me.
“Addy, what’s going on?” She whispered only loud enough for me to hear. The nerves were starting to get to me, and I felt my pulse starting to quicken.
“I think someone has been following us. I was looking outside, just watching people, and I saw this man. I didn’t think anything of it, I thought he was just shopping too but now he’s standing against a wall, staring at me. And he has been for a while. I don’t want to overthink it but I’m worried.” I whispered back, not trying to sound like a lunatic, but I had to be worried with the line of business my father was in. And Luca.
“Maybe he’s just waiting for someone.” She shrugged, and I could tell she’d play it off like it was nothing. “You can’t think every person knows who we are or is a threat, especially with dad’s security all around. Send a text to Marcus to give him a heads up and we’ll just stay here until we get the all clear from him.” She put her hands on my shoulders, attempting to calm me down.
“Really, Addy, I’m sure everything is fine. And I’ll be out in a minute, I’m almost done.” Hannah was always more level headed, and now that she had been with Roman for long enough she had seen more into this world than me, knowing that there wasn’t always a threat around the corner and my father sent security with us for a reason.
“Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Sorry, I just get nervous sometimes.” I looked down at my hands, not wanting her to see embarrassment in my face from overthinking what was going on.
“And you’re right, the neckline on that dress is a little high, it’s weird.” I said, trying to calm my nerves by focusing back on the dress Hannah had on to distract myself. I pulled my phone out and shot a quick text to Marcus, describing the man and where I’d seen him. He sent a text back not even 5 seconds later to say he was on it and he would send someone in to get us when it was safe. That calmed my nerves some, and I left Hannah’s dressing room to go back to the register to buy my dress, peeking around the corner to look out the window. It had gotten darker out and I couldn’t see anyone which meant Marcus and his men had found him or he had left. Like Hannah said, maybe he was just waiting for someone and I thought too much into it.
I had paid for my new dress, and sat on a sofa that wasn’t in the way of the window, closest to the fitting room so I could wait for Hannah. I played on my phone for a bit longer, texting with Edie back and forth about her coming home this weekend and everything she had done in Bali. She had always had the bug to travel, she’d never stay in one spot for long. Always off on some new adventure. Our mother’s were best friends which meant as we grew up, we became best friends too, each finding something in our friendship the other needed.
I hadn’t gotten around to updating her on Luca and our newest situation when the bell on the door rang as it opened, and I assumed it had been one of Marcus’ men to give us the all clear. I had gotten up to check, and froze when I looked around the corner.
“I can’t leave you alone for one second without you getting into some kind of trouble, can I?” He said, looking at me with annoyance on his face as he walked up to me, towering over me.
“I didn’t get into any trouble. What are you even doing here?” I crossed my arms and narrowed my eyes at him, knowing I would never hear the end of this from him.
How did he even know where I was?
“Marcus. He’s required to let me know anytime there’s a threat against you.” He said as he slid his hands into his pants pockets. He was in a nicely fitting gray suit and a white button down, earning him a few lusty looks for the employees who had been helping Hannah and me. I rolled my eyes.
He did look really good
“Can you help me? Oh Luca, hi!” Hannah said from behind me, coming out with her arms full of dresses. I swung around and grabbed some of the dresses, helping her put them on the counter.
“You’re buying all of these?!” I looked at her, my eyes huge. All these dresses for one dinner?
“I needed options. Plus I need to match it to whatever Roman is wearing.” She shrugged. “Did you get that dress you tried on? It’s so pretty, I wish I had seen it first.”
“Yep.” I said, my face heating up as I remembered that I had accidentally sent Luca the photo earlier. I didn’t even have to turn around to know he was smirking with his eyes on me, thinking of it.
“Did you hear anything back from Marcus?” She directed at me, digging through her purse to pull out her wallet to pay for the 10 plus dresses. I had totally forgotten about it with Luca showing up.
“That’s actually why I’m here, Marcus let me know everything was clear but Adelaide is to go with me. I have my men assigned to escort Hannah home safely. Roman’s also been notified.” Luca said to both of us.
This is the first time he had said my name when he wasn’t angry or picking on me. I liked the way it sounded coming from him. He was always more formal in front of my family, never showing how much distaste we had for each other. He almost made it out like he actually did like me.
Hannah finished paying for her dresses and Luca carried the bags for her like a gentleman, keeping a close eye on me as we left the store and loaded Hannah’s car up. I went to walk around to the passenger side when I felt Luca grab hold of my upper arm, with enough pressure to stop me in my tracks.
“You’re coming with me, remember?” He pulled me back to him, placing his hand on my lower back as he guided me towards his car.
“But what about Hannah? What if something happens?” I looked up and my eyes met his, my anxiety spiking again, almost as high as when I realized that man had been staring at us.
“I have 6 of my men following Hannah as well as your father’s men who will be in front of her. Nothing will happen to her, she’ll be just as safe as you.” He stopped as we got to the car, opening the door to his SUV for me. I looked from him to Hannah, seeing her safely get in her car and the security team surrounding her. I had to trust that Luca wouldn’t let anything happen to her and that Marcus had everything set.
“Everything will be fine, Princess.” He stood in the way of the car door, his forearms resting on the roof and the top of the open door, and leaned down to kiss my temple. My heartrate slowed as he shut the door and walked around to get in.
There’s that kiss you wanted. Just not the way you wanted
I warred with myself again, trying to calm my nerves from today and being shut in the car with Luca with nowhere to go. We hadn’t spent this much one-on-one time together since the contract and it was nerve wrecking knowing what we both thought of each other, and now him having to take me home instead of letting me go with my sister. I had nowhere to go if things went south and we fought, no room to shut myself into to block him out, nowhere to leave.
We sat quietly for a bit, Luca following behind his security team following my sister. It had gotten dark now and all the lights from the city were lit up, lighting up the night for those who chose not to sleep and enjoy everything it had to offer. We had made it to the outskirts of the city before either one of us talked.
“So you want to tell me what the hell happened today?” He said, not taking his eyes off the road, boredom in his voice.
If Marcus had contacted him then he should already know?
“Didn’t Marcus already tell you? That’s why you’re here.” I said, continuing to look out the window, my fingers fiddling with the edging of the of my sleeves on my sweater.
“Yes, but I want to hear it from you what actually happened. Marcus just has to give me a rundown on whether you’re safe or not, but I want the details if someone was actually following you.” He got tense, I could see that from the corner of my eye and feel it in the air. Not much other than me seemed to bother Luca. He always had a bored, annoyed with every situation look to him unless he was going at it with me. Then those hazel eyes lit up with amusement, curiosity, sometimes fury depending on what I had done or said to him.
“Nothing really happened. I was just looking out the window and saw that man going from shop to shop for a bit, and then he was standing outside one leaning against the wall and staring directly at me. He stared for a while and it just freaked me out is all. I know there’s men who spy on my father and family, I just had a feeling.” I turned slightly to peek at him, his jaw tense and sawing back and forth, like he was trying to figure out who the man was.
“And he didn’t come into the shop or approach you at all? He just stayed outside the store, staring?” He pinched his lower lip and glanced over at me, and I could see his brain ticking, attempting to decipher the situation.
“No, he stayed outside. I went to let Hannah know and then when I came back he was gone, but it was getting dark so I couldn’t really see him anymore. Maybe he was just waiting for someone and I overreacted.” I shrugged, turning to look back out the window. There wasn’t much to see, we were driving through a wooded area so it was dark for miles around out here. My father liked his privacy so the further away from the hustle and bustle the better. It attracted less attention to him.
“My father knows, doesn’t he? That’s why he sent you.” I said after a few minutes of silence.
If he did, that meant I wouldn’t be allowed off the property for a bit without heavy security or Luca. I didn’t know which was worse, the loss of freedom until they found out who it was or being stuck with Luca if I wanted to go anywhere.
He wouldn’t be that bad to be stuck with if you kissed him more
“Yep. But you saved me from a rather boring meeting so thanks, Princess.” He said, a smile creeping across his face as I rolled my eyes again.
“Why do you always call me that? I have a name.” I fiddled with his radio, trying to finally break the silence.
“It’s fitting. Your constant attitude, the way you carry yourself, the stubbornness until you get your way. And I know you hate it.” He said and put his hand on my thigh, lightly squeezing it. His hand was warm and I could feel my body wanting to cling to the warmth he offered. I crossed my arms to keep my hands away.
“I didn’t say that.” I said quietly, almost as a whisper.
And I didn’t. I never had. I always knew it was a little pet name, and I knew that was how I carried myself. I had to with how I was raised, me and my sisters were raised to never let anyone step all over us, to never back down no matter what. Which meant I would never back down against Luca, I would always keep the fire burning even if he somehow broke through. He was just the only one to never use my name unless he had to.
“Then Princess you’ll stay. It’d still stay even if you did hate it.” I saw him smirk, and felt him rub his thumb against my thigh, having no intention of removing it.
“What did you mean earlier when you said Marcus is required to tell you if there’s a threat against me? Do you have Marcus spying on me for you?” I snapped my head to fully look at him, my eyes narrowing as I remembered that.
“There’s a lot of powerful and pissed off men ready to do whatever they can to see your father’s empire fall, and bring my family’s down with it. All it would take is for someone to take or harm you or one of your sisters and he’d crumble. We all would. So the better I can keep you safe and protected, the better off. So Marcus gives me updates when you leave the property.” He kept his eyes on the road again, not letting me read his face in the dark light.
“Isn’t that what your father and family want though, my father’s empire to crumble so you can take it? Isn’t that what this entire marriage contract is about, your family gaining power over mine? I’m sure you’d let me go for the right price.” I turned to look forward, waiting for him to answer.
“If Liam offered me a high enough price, sure. I’d hand you right over.” I heard the amusement in his voice, knowing now he was toying with me to get a rise out of me as he squeezed my thigh again.
“You’re such an ass!” I ripped his hand off my thigh and threw it back at him, fuming now. He laughed knowing what he’d done.
I wasn’t a toy to be played with and given up when he got bored with me. And it would be a cold day in Hell before Liam Blake ever got me in any way other than my fist meeting his face like Luca’s did two years ago.
“No. I wouldn’t. As much as I want to kill you most days because of that fucking attitude of yours, I wouldn’t give you up. I don’t like sharing what’s mine.” He said as we pulled up finally to my house, pulling into the looped gravel driveway out front. He parked his car and got out before I could say anything, before I really had time to think about what he’d said.
He opened my door for me and I got out, my eyes searching to Hannah to make sure she was home safe. I caught a glimpse of her as she was lead inside by Marcus before Luca grabbed my hand. The second he grabbed my hand it was like sparks shot through me.
What in the Hell was going on with my body lately? And what is he doing grabbing my hand?
His fingers laced with mine as he gently pulled me along, his thumb gently rubbing my hand as we made it inside and I saw my father pacing with concern and worry creasing his face, no doubt waiting for word or me to walk through the door in one piece. Our eyes connected and he stopped pacing, looking down at my hand laced with Luca’s, his face softening. He knew that if Luca had me then I was fine, even if he didn’t like or trust him like his father. My father approached us, and Luca’s hand went back to the small of my back, leaving my hand tingling.
“You or your sister aren’t hurt, are you?” My father gave me a once over, looking for any damage on my skin or clothing to indicate something worse had happened than a man staring at me. I shook my head, looking down at the floor in embarrassment thinking that I had made a big deal out of it all.
“I’m glad you let Marcus know when you did, the Moretti’s sent a man to follow you and your sister. Had Luca not shown up, he probably would have tried to harm one of you. Until it’s safe, you’re not to leave the property without Marcus and his men or Luca. Is that understood?” He father said sternly, lifting my chin with his fingers to that my gaze would meet his.
My father was never a very affectionate man, he’d kept distance from my sister and I growing up. My mother had always told us it was because he was busy, his work required a lot out of him, but she always assured as that he did love and care for us. As I got older I saw how much his work really did take out of him, late nights and gone for weeks sometimes on ‘business trips’ but we always knew better, what they really were. So to have my father show this much concern for Hannah and me was surprising to say the least.
“I understand.” I said quietly, rolling around in my head how serious the situation really was. I hadn’t overreacted. The gut feeling of unease I had was real.
“Thank you for ensuring she got home safely. We’ll continue our discussion tomorrow, we didn’t make much progress when you left.” My father said to Luca, trying to make sure he didn’t reveal too much with me standing there.
“Her safety is just as much my priority as yours. I think Adelaide could use the rest, so if you’ll excuse us.” Luca said respectfully to my father, leading me up the stairs to go to my quarters. There had always been tension between Luca and my father because of his family but that didn’t seem to show at all at the moment, only the concern for my safety. My father turned back to talking to Marcus’ team, paying no mind to Luca or me anymore now that I was home safe.
“I can walk there myself, you know. I don’t think you need to worry about anyone in the house.” I said as we turned the corner to walk down the hall leading to my room. He kept his hand on my back, the heat burning through my sweater.
“I’m aware. But my room is next to yours and I’d really like to get out of this suit now.” He said as we reached my door, standing outside it. My hand reached for the doorknob as I felt him not pulling his hand from my back. In fact, I had felt the slight pressure as he pushed his hand further into my back, only noticing because of my nerves. I was still a little one edge and probably would be for a bit. Before I turned the doorknob, I spun around to look up at him, his hand pulling me closer to him. His warmth surrounded me, melting me a bit to him. He looked at me curiously, cocking his head slightly. I looked into his eyes, the gold in them burning with such intensity all of a sudden.
“Thank you, for making sure Hannah was safe and so was I. You didn’t have to do that.” I said quietly. I couldn’t believe I’d ever be thanking Luca Katsaros for anything but here I was. His face didn’t change, that curiosity staying on his face. I went to turn back to my door when he spoke.
“Always, Princess. I’ll always keep what’s mine safe.”