M A R C E L L A
“Principessa, we meet again,” Dante declared with a devious smile as Mari was thrown into the room, grazing her knees against the hardwood floors of her father’s office. She scrambled to her feet, with the great help of her father’s men who enjoyed manhandling her.
She took in the sight in front of her. Her father, absolutely furious. He reminded her of the cartoons where they would have steam coming out of their ears when they were angry. But Alessandro was a lot more threatening than a cartoon.
Dante appeared equally as dangerous, but in a much more sinister way. The smirk gracing his lips held anything but kindness. And somehow, she observed a familiar look she had seen in John’s eyes. For some reason, this man was impressed.
She was in constant anxiety at where they had dragged John. She dreaded what he would have to go through. But she still had hope that they would find each other like they had so many times.
“My daughter, you are due some punishment for your little expedition,” Alessandro stated darkly, grabbing her arm.
“Wait, I have some questions for the princess,” Dante said, forcing Alessandro to drop his hand. “You had the best bounty Hunter looking for you and, after a few months, he’s in love with you. I don’t know about your father, but I have to say, I didn’t expect for you to be out there that long.”
“Let Sara go and then we’ll talk,” she spat back. He scoffed and tilted his head, examining her.
“Oh, I get it, you’re in love with him too. That’s the only reason why you would risk it all for his very pretty sister,” Dante replied in disgust. He strolled towards her and gripped her jaw in his hand. “I was impressed, bambina. How did a little thing like you evade the mafia? We had our men searching for you, along with your lover. He obviously did a lot better than us. I put my best men on it and they never found you.”
She wasn’t entirely sure what her attitude should be. She wanted to swear in his face and attack him like a little dog on a home intruder. But she knew that wouldn’t be wise. And she had to be smarter than this if she wanted John, Sara and herself to survive this.
He glared into her eyes with a deadly ferocity that deepened her fear. She fought with that emotion with equal determination, but he won. She wouldn’t shrink though. She wouldn’t just fall to her knees and beg for his mercy. She wouldn’t give him any satisfaction of his victory. But she would shut up and, at least, hold back her fighting attitude.
“I’d love to hear the story, an account of your little trip. You tell me everything and I might just spare that shithead’s sister.”
Again, she wasn’t sure what to respond with. She knew she couldn’t trust these men. They weren’t men of honor; they didn’t adhere to their word. They were all liars, every single one of them. She couldn’t fall into the trap of trust. Then she really would be a fool.
But this was a chance to save Sara. Losing her would wreck John, all because Mari was too paranoid to tell the story. She didn’t want to tell him everything only for all of them to get punished ten times worse, particularly John. She didn’t know how the men in the room who radiated dominance and violence would take to the fact that John deflowered her and even had the audacity to do it. She knew one most damning trait of the two men in front of her: they were fucking prideful.
What else could she do?
“I ran away, and you sent John to find me. Then he found me,” she replied curtly, although completely aware that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
“And then you made him fall in love with you,” Alessandro hissed, narrowing his eyes at his daughter.
“He found me several times and I got away several times.”
“Got away?” This seemed to peak Dante’s interest as he dropped her jaw. “How-”
Before he could finish his sentence, a couple of bulky-looking men, guards she had seen outside before, barged into their office. And Dante’s ferocity grew. He was about to unleash his rage upon them when they started to explain.
“The feds! They’re here,” one of them declared. Dante’s and Alessandro’s accusing gazes snapped to Mari, knowing that this could be her doing. And it was. But she needed them to believe otherwise. That would put all of them at risk.
“I’ll go deal with this then,” Alessandro said before marching out and commanding his troops.
She wasn’t certain whether having both or just one in the room was better. Dante could do anything now that Alessandro wasn’t there to protect her. Her father was all for punishing her but doing something… inappropriate wasn’t something he necessarily stood for, not until the deal was done and she and Dante were married. Dante, on the other hand, he was a different kind of ruthless. He was cunning in his plots for revenge; she could tell.
“Was this you, gattina? Did you send them here? Cold to do that to your own blood.” He closed the space between them, chest to chest, and his hand raised to lift her chin up. Their eyes met. She observed a particular glint in his she wasn’t so familiar with. But she expected it to be malicious.
“This wasn’t me,” she muttered. She attempted to control her trembling body to not give her away, but it was already too obvious. This man terrified her.
“No? Don’t lie to your soon-to-be husband, Marcella.” She gulped. She wasn’t marrying this man. She wouldn’t. But now, she could no longer say ‘not for anything or anyone’. She had people to lose. One threat on John’s life was all it took for her to be at Dante’s mercy. Before, that was something she vowed never to do. Things weren’t the same as before.
“It wasn’t me,” she stated fiercely. She was going to lie with conviction whether it served her head on a platter or not. Something that was different from before was that she wasn’t just fighting for herself. No, she was fighting for the both of them, and John’s sister. She would use the strength he gave her rather than the weakness he’d given her heart. Together, they could do anything, no matter how fucking sappy that sounded.
“Huh, would have been a better plan than just giving yourselves up. Perhaps you’re not as smart as I hoped you would be. Either way, I have to say, I can’t wait for you to be my wife. I didn’t want some submissive little girl and then you surprised me. You weren’t what I thought you were. No, you’re a lot more interesting. It’ll be enjoyable breaking that spirit of yours.”
“Nianche per sogno,” she gritted out. In his dreams. He chuckled and shoved her into her father’s chair, cuffing her up to it and watching her struggle around. Her wrists rattled around in their bonds, the metal scraping at her skin, gnawing at it, piece by piece.
“We’re gonna have so much fun when we’re married,” he told her sadistically. He bent down so that his lips were pressed against her ear. She could feel how intoxicating his breath was from the way he tried corroding her skin. “Oh, the things I’ll do to you.”
Then he took a step back and watched her quake. She finally understood something. It had been something that had been eating away at her, a thought, a question, something she couldn’t quite grasp.
John. She didn’t understand how he did it. How he found her all those times. How he was so good at what he did. Why he was called the human hound. And now, she understood. It was about understanding the person, getting into their head. He knew their motivations for every little action, whether it was compassion for those they loved, or the comfort of someone familiar, or a lust for money and power.
Whilst Dante held this lust, like her father, she could see something else. He liked to be challenged. And he liked to win. So, she had to keep challenging, just enough to keep them all alive. As soon as she became boring, he would stop being so lenient. She knew he could have done a lot worse by now, but he was holding back.
“That is never going to happen,” she finished, daringly, which caused Dante to raise a brow.
John liked a competition. That was why he enjoyed chasing her. She had an unpredictability about her. And for now, that was keeping all of them alive.