“I get the whole secrecy… but does it really have to be here?”
Gabriella crossed her arms in front of her chest as she backed into the bathroom door. She had waited the whole day for this conversation… only to be dragged into the bedroom’s bathroom by Niccolo. Now, he had turned on the shower, filling the room with steam.
Niccolo smirked at her as he pulled away from the shower, turning to face her. He did not speak a word as he gripped the edge of his shirt, lifting it above his head and revealing his bare, tattoed chest to her eyes. Great. Now he was giving her a striptease.
“Calm down,” he said as he tossed his shirt at her feet. “We do have to be here. You think they don’t have their ears to the door, waiting to catch a piece of gossip. Like you did.”
She wasn’t sure if a potential death threat qualified as gossip.
Gabriella gestured at his chest. “And the nakedness?”
“No reason why I can’t do two for one. We’re in here, I might as well shower.”
“Yeah, no. Hard pass on that one.”
“I seem to recall a few enjoyable showers.”
“Then you hold on to your hand and those memories.”
He smirked as he nodded, his hands lowering to his belt buckle. “Suit yourself, princess.”
“So are you done flirting? Can we talk about what we heard?”
He shrugged. “Are you seriously surprised? You didn’t think that could be a possible outcome?”
She frowned. “Are you joking? No, I didn’t fucking think killing you would be a solution.”
“I anticipated it. Didn’t think they’d find out we were married that quickly. I also didn’t think they’d be so nice right off the bat, but… Some people have big mouths. Maybe it leaked sooner than I thought.”
These people were entertaining the idea of killing him. People that were currently in his home. People who had done nothing but disrespect him since the moment they got here. And this was his attitude towards it? Nonchalant? Seriously?
He chuckled, shaking his head at her as he slipped his pants off. “Come on sweetheart. They wouldn’t be the big-shot family they are if they didn’t entertain the idea of killing someone that stood in their way. You oughta know how it works by now.”
His boxers soon followed, leaving him completely bare. And he didn’t give a shit.
“And you’re not worried?”
“Not much I can do about it. They won’t do it here. I am prepared for it. That’s how it goes. Plus, I’m not sure how much of our little act they bought. They won’t do anything if they think you might suspect them. It won’t help their cause.”
She’d carried this weight with her all day, wondering if he might die, and he was casually talking about it, covering all of his bases.
“What about me?”
“What about you?”
“I’m in their way.”
“You’re not in their way, you’re the way. Unless they get you to pop a baby girl, you’re all they’ve got for now. If that’s the way you wanna go about it, I’m happy to help you practice.”
Gabriella ignored the burning in her cheeks as she marched towards him, raising her hand so that she could land one good slap. There was no doubt that he saw her coming but he didn’t make any attempts to stop her.
His head turned to the left from the power behind the slap, leaving a sting behind in her palm. Ouch. He was not even fazed, so she kept a poker face, swallowing the pain to retain a neutral expression.
“I don’t buy it.”
“Buy what?” he asked, his head crooked to the side.
“Nothing gets to you. No matter what other people do, what you do, you act like you don’t give a shit.”
“I don’t give a shit.”
She knew her threshold was not the same as his. She wasn’t brought up the same way, she didn’t have the same values as him. Even if her worldview had modified over time, they could never be the same. Still, he couldn’t dismiss and brush aside everything as he did.
“You’re allowed to care.”
“Thanks for the permission princess.”
She rolled her eyes. “Can you drop the fucking macho act? It’s not a weakness.”
“Really? Why do you think I have to keep an eye on your family? Because it is a fucking weakness. I have to watch them because he can use them to hurt you. My old man died because he couldn’t get his shit straight. If you’ve got something to lose, you will lose.”
He ran his fingers through his hair, a sigh rattling his chest. “I don’t hurt kids. Why do you think that fucker used one to lure me out? Why do you think he stalked you, took you, huh?”
Was Niccolo trying to say she was a weakness? That was funny. He had shown plenty of time that he would keep a distance between them and he didn’t care if he hurt her feelings.
“You care about me? You have a funny way to show it.”
Lies, betrayal, that little show for Sebastien. She didn’t say he didn’t give a shit if she lived or died, but she didn’t buy that she was enough of a bargaining chip for the Devil to use her to bring down Niccolo.
He scoffed, throwing his head back.
“I almost died to save you. I’ve got your lunatic family planning ways to kill me in case. Everywhere I go is a fucking landmine and you are busy being pissed at me because your little lover boy couldn’t stop jacking off while someone else fucked you.”
He did what?
“Yeah. That part was left out, right? I didn’t notice him until it was too late, and I sure as fuck wasn’t gonna stop. I thought he’d have the decency to walk away. He didn’t. Instead, he got busy and he got off. Maybe you should hate him not me.”
She did. She fucking hated Sebastien and she hated herself for ever thinking he was a worthy option. He was scum, and he was spineless. He thought she needed saving, that hiding the truth from her was the best option.
That didn’t excuse the fact that Niccolo kept it from her. He also decided to omit information, thinking he knew what was best. She didn’t know what he thought he gained from it, or if he had done it for the sake of his ego…
“The way I fucking see it - I’ve stuck my neck out for you enough time to deserve a fucking break. If you keep letting the dumb shit cloud your mind, you’re gonna miss the big picture. I don’t have time to waste on bullshit.”
The word infuriating wasn’t strong enough to describe Niccolo.
He was a walking contradiction. She refused to believe he was calling her a weakness. Niccolo only had his ego as a weakness, nothing else. He protected her the same way he protected everyone under his supervision. It came with the title. Nothing more.
She wasn’t getting special treatment.
“You drive me insane.”
“No, like you always want to be right, you always wanna be in charge…” No. This constant loss of control, this constant everyone deciding and her being along for the ride. She was sick of it!
Even now, he was fucking naked. Butt naked. Why? Another attempt that having sex with her? On his terms? Like he did last time they had sex in the shower? No. She thought they were going to have a conversation about what they overheard but this was more of the same.
More of him telling her she didn’t know anything.
More of her not understanding.
More of him deciding.
Gabriella flicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth before shaking her head. She was done with this conversation. She turned on her heels, heading straight for the door. As soon as she opened it, the steam from the burning hot water still running escaped the room, following her into the bedroom.
He grabbed her shoulder, turning her around. “Niccolo, stop.”
He was confident. He didn’t think she could do it. He didn’t think she would do it. Because Gabby never knew anything. Nope, she went along with everything like a good little girl. And other people decided for her. What she should know. What was best. Everything.
Gabriella yanked herself free from his grip, and then she placed both of her hands on his shoulders. He was staring at her with wide eyes, but the smirk was still present on his face. She wanted to wipe it off.
She dug her fingers into his skin, taking a good hold, before using that hold on him to turn him around and push him on the bed. He offered her very little resistance as he plopped down on the bed. Naked.
Niccolo propped himself up on his elbows, throwing up his hands as if to say what now?
He didn’t care. He didn’t care.
She stomped her foot down, unable to find another outlet for her rage. Fuck this. Her eyes scanned the room until they landed on his tie from the other day. That would do. She rushed to the nightstand, grabbed it, and headed for Niccolo.
Despite her racing heart thundering in her rib cage, she straddled him, feeling all of him beneath her. Gabriella put the tie in her mouth, and then she gripped his arms, pulling them above his head. Then she spat out the tie.
“Are you tying me up?”
He wasn’t mad or trying to stop her. He was amused.
She was fumbling, her hands shaking. Still, she wasn’t about to stop. She wasn’t about to let him win this one and have his way. This was on her terms. She was so fucking tired of everyone making decisions for her, choosing what her life should be.
She wanted control, all of it.
It was sad that a part of her had entertained the idea that her so-called family might want to get to know her. They didn’t. They didn’t know who Niccolo was, who she was. But they were deciding who she should be with simply to get their hands on something she didn’t even want.
Well, now she did.
She wanted everything so that they would have nothing.
Gabriella managed to sort of tie his hands above his head. But he was still smirking.
It was a good question.
One she didn’t know how to answer. But she was tired of this.
Gabriella got off from him, taking a few steps back. Now or never big girl. She put her hands under her dress, grabbing her underwear before pulling them down as she shimmied out of them. She bent down, picking them up from the floor, and then she walked back to him.
She straddled him and shoved her underwear in his mouth. “Shut up, Niccolo. For once, shut up.”
He didn’t say anything - not that he could - and he leaned back into the bed.
Good. She was in charge and he had to listen. She remembered his little stunt when she showed up uninvited. He tried to put her in his place. He told her he was in control and it was his way and he knew better.
Well, now she wanted to be the one who knew better, the one in charge.
There was no doubt about one thing; he was hard.
She had always been the vulnerable one, the one playing his game, according to his rules. Even when she thought she had the upper hand, she didn’t. He’d always find a way to come on top. Not this time.
Now she was the one on top.
The head of his cock slid across her slit, the wetness spreading, forcing her to tighten her thighs around him so she could lift herself up. She aimed him at her entrance once more and pushed down, feeling him stretch her slowly. She threw her head back, her body shivering as she pushed inside of her, inch by inch.
Gabriella leaned forward, her fingers digging into the skin of his biceps, squeezing hard enough to leave a mark, but she didn’t care. Good.
He should have marks.
She was tired of being the only one marked by this, the only one changed by this.
Her pace was slow at first, adjusting to the position. She was the one controlling this, choosing this. Initially, she lifted a little, never pulling him out more than halfway. Her rhythm was slow, torturous.
Gabriella moved her hands to his chest, palming at his pecs, giving herself an anchor as she used the strength of her legs to give herself a push upwards. The tip was teasing her entrance, all of him almost out. She slammed back down, groaning as he filled her to the brim.
She thrust, her body leaning forward, as she picked up the pace. She watched through half-lidded eyes as he tried to move his arms forward, tugging at the badly wrapped-up tie. But it wasn’t breaking free.
All of him was tensed, his features narrowed. He didn’t like restrictions.
She was getting off on it.
She could do anything, and he would have to stay there.
She kept him, thrusting his hips forward, trying to force her to increase the pace, trying to thrust into her harder and faster. No. This, this was good. Him, fully plunged into her while she rolled her hips, enjoying the feeling of being stretched and full.
Gabriella could move her body, and angle herself, finding the spot that would push her over the edge. As she worked towards the momentum, she did slide him in and out slightly faster. Her thighs were smacking down on him as desperate pleas died on her lips.
It had been so long.
She was drenched, juices spilling, leaving sticky skin behind. She was breathless, drops of sweat covering her skin as she kept squeezing him, thrusting her hips. More - just a little more. Her dress clung to her, leaving her feeling itchy.
His hands were always on her but not this time. Gabriella kept one hand on his chest, while the other roamed back to her own body. She slid it up, her fingers finding their way to her clit. She tilted her head, arching her back, as she began rubbing the sensitive nub of nerves.
One more roll of the hips. Her thighs were clenching, the muscles burning as she kept her pace. Up and down. Teeth disappeared into her bottom lip as the build-up squeezed her insides. So fucking close. She could hear him groaning through the fabric of her flimsy underwear, the sound rumbling in his chest - beneath her hand.
She scratched at his chest, feeling him stiffen from the probable pain she was causing. A little more, just a little more. Fuck.
She rolled her hips back, the tip of him sliding into the right position and her eyes fluttered beneath her eyelids. She almost stilled while he offered a few strokes, his hips moving upwards in harsh motions, driving deeper into her.
Her toes curled, scratching up the side of his hips, and she came undone on top of him. She squeezed, feeling him swell inside of her. He was close. He had been waiting for her. The air was knocked out of her lungs as she climaxed, her legs finally giving up.
Her palms were sweaty and clammy as she dragged her hands down, attempting to still his hips, forcing him to stay immobile. She saw confusion shine in his eyes but she ignored it. Using her newfound grip, she lifted herself off him.
He expected her to slam back down. Maybe untie him? Anything. Something.
But he didn’t expect what she did next.
She had to admit; that looked painful. He was hard so fucking hard as she pulled away. She felt herself drip down his length, even as she was sliding him out. Oh, he wasn’t going to be happy about this.
He popped out of her, his eyes narrowed, and she was smirking.
Her locks of hair were glued to the nape of her neck, sweat dripping down her spine. His hair was dripping down his forehead, his chest heaving with each breath. Completely at her mercy.
She had needed this. The release. The complete control over him. Maybe he could have taken the upper hand, but he hadn’t. She had chosen how to do this. She had controlled this. She had gotten what she wanted for once.
And he was left hanging.
Sex by her rules.
There was a rush traveling through her body, the air in her lungs feeling lighter. She wanted to run out there and tell those fuckers they were underestimating her. That she wouldn’t be their fucking pawn. She wouldn’t be anyone’s pawn.
“Well, I think I’ll take that shower now.” She smiled at him. “You’re good though, right? You don’t need anyone or anything? Wouldn’t wanna mess ya up and make you weak you know,” she added with a wink.
She popped her lips before hopping to the bathroom. She slipped her dress above her head, ditched her bra, and then she stepped into the shower.
Control felt good.
Holy fucking shit.
Niccolo stepped back, a hand flying to his naked chest. What the fuck was the old hag doing in the kitchen? At fucking four in the morning? He’d come down, starving to death. He’d left the room before Gabriella came out of her shower and he hadn’t returned yet.
He thought he could get some food and avoid them.
Apparently, there was no way to escape them.
He controlled his face, glancing away from her. Anyways, the second she had heard him come in, she had sneered at him from behind her little mug. Didn’t these fuckers sleep? Couldn’t he go anywhere without seeing one of them?
“Good manners would be to get dressed before roaming around the house. Especially when you are hosting guests.”
No, not guests. Parasites. Who were entertaining the idea of killing him. He should be polite to them? He didn’t think so. He imagined he would receive the same cold treatment he was used to getting, but they were taking it to the next level.
“I had no idea I would find a guest in the kitchen before sunrise,” he said through gritted teeth as he opened the fridge.
Now he no longer had an appetite, but walking away was not an option. He had to maintain a certain level of politeness, but he wouldn’t let her win. This was his home and he would not be chased from his kitchen by a granny who called him boy.
“You should. Then again, I do not believe you understand the meaning of hard work.” She sniffled. “Niccolo Serrano was it?”
He paused, his fingers gripping at the fridge’s door. If it had been any other type of material beneath his touch, it would have bent under the pressure he was applying. His jaw was shaking, his pulse point pounding in his neck. She did not fucking call him that.
Niccolo wanted nothing more than to turn around and slap her across the face. No, no he wanted to do more than that. He wanted to take that knife from the counter and shove it in her fucking wrinkly chest.
He took a few quiet breaths through his nose, his nostrils flaring each time he did. His shoulders were tensed, lifting to his ears. “De Luca.”
He heard her chuckle. “Right. You changed your bastard name to your father’s name. Less Spaniard, more Italian. You took everything from him, why not his name?”
It was meant to piss him off. He knew this. He knew she wanted a reaction from him. So why was he giving it to her? His elbows were far from his body, his chest thrust out as a glaze covered his eyes.
He could play that game too.
“Some people take pride in their family name.” He didn’t. He needed it to get what he was owed. A means to an end. “Others get rid of it. Shame maybe?”
Isabella Mancini had her pick of last names. She could have even kept it. She didn’t. She ran away from everything and she left them nothing. It was worst than being the bastard he always knew he was. She had everything and it wasn’t enough to make her stay.
He heard her put her mug down louder than necessary. He struck a nerve.
“Arrogance is nothing but smoke, dear. There is a reason your family is unfortunately down to you, while my family could not care less about your opinion.”
He closed the door of the fridge and then he turned around to lean on it. “Mine? Maybe not. Hers, though.”
His game was fizzling away. This wasn’t the way he meant to handle this - he slipped.
“Gabriella is her own person, she can make her own decisions.”
“Poor ones it seems.” She scratched her nail on the edge of the wooden table. “She has been lacking the proper guidance and has been kept away from better options.”
“Maybe she’s continuing her grandmother’s tradition.”
“I suppose young girls have always been swayed by older men with fake promises. Men do have a long-standing tradition of taking advantage of a young woman’s naiveness.”
Granted, Gabriella had gotten more than she bargained for, but he had never forced her into anything. Her curiosity had gotten her this far, and he had simply provided her with the means necessary to gain the information she wanted.
She could have walked away.
She didn’t. And now she couldn’t.
Caterina didn’t know the first thing about Gabriella. If she did, she would never try such a stupid ploy to get to her.
Gabriella had guts. More than he expected - and he would get her back for that little stunt. No one had pulled that one of him before. He thought by letting her have an illusion of control, he’d get the upper hand back.
He’d been wrong.
Every time he made an assumption about her, she proved him wrong.
It would be the same for these fuckers.
“Is that what happened to Isabella? So foolish and naive, she was taken advantage of?”
They both knew that wasn’t true. She was smart - that was why she got away.
“It would explain it. Why else would a girl give everything away? I always wondered. She could have had everything. Did she give it all up… for love? Now, Isabella was so beloved and cherished. Surely you could have made it work. Conticello wasn’t the most powerful man, but we both know he was efficient. So why?”
“Maybe girls in our family tend to run away and get married without consulting their family.”
No, it was more. There was tension in her mouth, and her fingers were crisped into a ball. He hit a nerve. So there was a big why. And it wasn’t love.
So what was it?
What made a smart, cunning girl like Isabella do what she did?
“I assure you, Gabriella’s mother adores me.”
“Does she now? We’ll have to see that. At the wedding.”
Since Gabriella’s mom already had an incline regarding what was happening, he knew she wouldn’t be easily swayed. But, he’d keep an eye on her. He had promised to protect her family, no matter what and he would make good on that.
“Of course. Now, I don’t mean to be rude, but my fiancée is waiting for me.”
“Fiancée, is that what you are calling her?”
“What else would I call her?”
She wouldn’t admit that she knew they were married already and he wouldn’t freely volunteer the information. They were stuck. It didn’t matter. He got what he wanted from this discussion.
There was a secret to unravel.
The answer had to be somewhere. If Gabriella wouldn’t fork over whatever it was that she was hiding, he might have to go to another source. It was risky - but maybe it was worth a shot.
Maybe he could visit her grandfather. He forgot about the future, but Niccolo didn’t need the future.
He needed the past.
A/N: That was difficult! Am I the only one struggling with the website today? Anywhos! Have a good weekend everybody :)