M A R C E L L A
They found her father’s body fairly quickly and the Caruso family left before any blood could be shed. They weren’t idiots. Perhaps they each thought one of their own had done it. So, they fled.
Mari sat in the chaos of it all, simply at the table. She acted as though she was trying to take it all in, which she was. She was in shock. She only delayed it. And now she would pretend as though she was grieving, however much someone in her position should be grieving. It wasn’t a secret that Mari didn’t care much for her father, but she would mourn anyway. It was the normal reaction.
Men moved in and out of the dining room all night, the commands of Dante heard and echoing through the halls of the house. Eventually, everything settled down. They were most likely waiting to plan an attack on the Caruso family.
“Marcella,” a voice called out. She glanced up at Dante with a blank expression and watched as his hand extended to her. Acting like the dazed girl she should have been, she simply followed along, even though she noticed she was being led into Dante’s bedroom.
Was it her father keeping her safe from Dante’s advances this whole time?
She was sat on the bed and Dante bent down to her height. Every action of his confused her, as she did him. Was this all a game? Was he still playing, even now? Or did he know? Did he know what she had done?
“I’m sorry for your loss.” She didn’t know for certain, but she had the sense that he was testing her. He wanted to see her reaction, a true reaction. Perhaps it was all too coincidental for Dante. The little girl had left his side for a while and Alessandro turned up dead.
“I’m not,” she replied coldly, staring off into space. She wasn’t sure what Dante expected from her, so she would just emote the same grief she did have.
Alessandro was still her father. A horrid father and yet still her father. She knew it would all hit her. She knew the weight of his murder would soon crash down on her. She knew it. So, she waited.
“Bambina, did you see anything tonight?”
“No.” It was best to stay out of it rather than implicate someone else. That would draw unnecessary attention to her. She needed to avoid any limelight and hopefully no one would suspect her.
“Okay.” He seemed to just accept it. Did she have him convinced?
She felt his arm hook under her legs and the other arm around her back. Then he lifted her up and placed her lying down on the bed. What was he going to do? She couldn’t act nervous. She still had a part to play. But every time he touched her, she wanted to run for the hills. No act was worth letting him have his way with her. She would not allow it. She would rather die.
Then again, she was thinking for two now. She had a baby’s life in her hands. She didn’t know whether she could risk that life. She had been reckless when it was just her because it was only one person she had to think about. But what did her baby deserve? Was it survival or a good life?
He crawled into the bed beside her and grasped her jaw slowly, turning her face to look at him.
“You are unbelievably smart. I was almost fooled. It was an amazing plan. Had you pulled it on someone else, you would have won. But, still, your secret’s safe with me,” Dante said darkly, shuffling closer.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Mari replied innocently. She hoped that sounded convincing. This was a longshot. He didn’t know whether he knew the truth and she didn’t know what he believed was the truth. She would continue to act dumb. He couldn’t prove anything. He wanted her to admit it, whatever he suspected he knew.
“No? You disappeared tonight. Then your father ends up dead. And a war threatens to break out between us and the Caruso family that could potentially lead to my death and your freedom. It would be an ingenious plan.”
“If it was my plan. You think I killed him?” Mari scrunched up her face and feigned the best act she could.
His hand stroked her cheek softly, narrowing his eyes at her.
“I don’t know. I don’t know you, wife. You were confusing before, but now, I’m not sure I know anything about you.”
“Does it scare you?”
“Do you scare me, piccola?” He scoffed. “You think I’m scared of you? No. You don’t have the stomach to do anything to me.”
“But I can to my father?”
“No. I was wrong. It would have been a great plan, though. Perhaps I overestimated you.” He laid back and closed his eyes, finally resting for the night.
Was she supposed to sleep in that bed? With him?
She did anyway. She slept. And whilst she slept, she had terrible dreams, horrifying dreams, dreams that made her skin crawl. She dreamt of what would happen to her child, that Dante would hunt them down and slaughter her innocent baby. She couldn’t stay here. She couldn’t. She needed to leave, for her own sanity as much as their survival.
The longer she stayed, the more chances she would have to do hideous things. Like murder.
She murdered her own father. She stabbed him in the eye. And she didn’t have any doubts doing it. What did that make her? Was she as monstrous as him?
When she woke, the other side of the bed was empty. She snapped up straight and glanced around the room. She peaked out through the door and tiptoed down the hall. There was no one watching her, no one keeping an eye on her to stop her escape.
She continued down the hall and sighted a window slightly ajar. She reckoned she could jump from the second story and have a good chance of surviving and getting away, especially with the bush cushioning her fall. She pushed the window slightly, widening her exit, and then she glanced around. One could hear a pin drop. There were no cars outside. There was no movement inside the house. There was nothing to be heard asides from the chirp of the morning birds.
She wondered whether she should risk finding another exit, a safer one. But she thought that they would be smart enough to lock all the doors up if they had left. She climbed onto the window ledge and took a deep breath.
She was doing this for her freedom.
But she was yanked right back in. Arms locked around her abdomen, roughly dragging her back inside and across the floor by her hair. She yelped as the force and the friction of the wood floors against her skin. The door slammed behind them as they entered Dante’s bedroom once again.
“Now, where do you think you’re going, gattina?” Dante whispered dangerously in her ear. She was then thrown onto the bed and Dante’s face came into view. “It’s cute that you think you can run away from me.”
“Where did you go?” she asked curiously, ignoring the pain she felt. She knew it couldn’t have been good for the baby when she was dragged along like that, but she thought it was too early for any harm to be done.
“Missed me?” She didn’t respond to that. She just waited. She waited for an answer. She waited for what she thought she already knew. “The Caruso family is gone.” Her plan had failed, once again. “Disappointed?”
“Of course.” They both knew it to be true so why lie? It was better to be honest about things both knew so when the other doesn’t know it, it may just sound like the truth too.
“Planning to break some bones jumping out of that window?” he asked.
“No. I was planning to escape jumping out of that window. I would have.”
“You don’t quit, do you? Still fighting. I can see it in your eyes, the fire, the lust to run.”
“Then let me go. You don’t have to honor some stupid engagement anymore. Alessandro is dead. There is no reason to keep me here. You don’t need me.”
“You’re mine, gattina. The only way you’re leaving here is in a body bag. I don’t share and no one gets what’s mine.”
“I’m not yours,” she argued, backing away from Dante. “I never was. You know that. You don’t have to do this. You don’t have to go through with this.”
“But I do. Because I like you. I like you more than any other bitch I’ve met. And you are still a De Luca. The De Luca men will probably work for me anyway but with you by my side, that alliance is still intact, and I secure myself a strong bride. So, I’m telling you, Marcella, and get this in your damn head. You are mine.”