Fragile Longing Page 2

I’d known Serafina for as long as I could remember. Long before I’d met her, her name had been whispered reverently among the boys and even the men in our circles.

The regal ice princess’s beauty featured in many fantasies.

Like magpies drawn in by a shiny object, many wanted to possess her. When she’d been promised to me at the age of fifteen, I’d reveled in the admiration and jealousy of my fellow Made Men. I’d won the sought-after prize and could call her mine.

For years, I’d counted the days to our wedding.

Everything had seemed to be working in my favor. I had been about to become the youngest underboss of the Outfit with the Capo’s niece, the ice princess, as my wife. I’d felt invincible.

Many consider arrogance and pride a sin, and I was punished harshly for those qualities.

Days before I was supposed to take over from my father as Underboss, my little sister Emma was in a car accident. Now, she was trapped in a wheelchair with no future ahead of her. The mafia world wasn’t kind. Girls and women who had obvious flaws were cast aside and deemed unworthy, doomed to a life in the shadows either as spinsters or stuck in a marriage with the first scum who accepted them.

On the day of our wedding, Serafina was stolen from me, kidnapped by our cruelest enemy: the Camorra of Las Vegas.

When their Capo sent her back to us, she wasn’t the same girl I’d known. She was lost to me, broken, and I couldn’t fix her.

My meticulously planned future was in shambles. I was left with a disabled, heartbroken sister and a dying father. Left without a wife.

I closed my eyes after ending the call with my father. He insisted that we needed to demand a bond with Cavallaro’s family. He wanted the connection to the Capo, and though I agreed, moving on from Serafina so soon after losing her cut me like an acid blade.

Life had to go on, though, and I had to appear strong. I was young. Many expected me to fail at the task of ruling over Indianapolis. They were waiting for that moment, for my fall from grace. I curled my fingers into a fist around the ring and went in search of my Capo and Serafina’s father.

Ten minutes later, Serafina’s father Pietro Mione, her brother Samuel, and our Capo Dante Cavallaro met with me in the office of the Mione mansion to settle the matter of the broken wedding bond. The matter would cause a riptide of rumors regardless of what we decided today. It was too late for damage control.

I released a sigh. “My father insists that I marry someone from your family,” I said emotionlessly, even as my insides burned with rage and guilt. “A bond between our families is necessary, especially at this time.”

Pietro sighed and slumped in his chair. Samuel shook his head and glared at me. “Serafina won’t marry. She needs time to heal.”

I’d have given her the time she needed like I’d told her, but she didn’t want to marry me anymore.

“There are other options,” Dante drawled.

The rage that burned inside me spilled free. “What options? I won’t accept the daughter of any other Underboss. My city is important. I won’t settle for less than was promised!”

More than that, I didn’t want to return to my dying father and already-grieving mother to tell them about yet another blow for our family. We’d gone through enough. They had all gone through enough. It was up to me to protect them.

Dante scowled. “Watch your tone, Danilo. I realize this is a difficult situation, but I expect respect nonetheless.”

Samuel looked as if he wanted to attack me. “You can’t have Fina!”

“You can’t have Anna, either,” Dante said.

I’d never considered his daughter as an option. If I married her, it would only cause me problems. I doubted Dante wouldn’t shove his nose into my business if it concerned his offspring. “You need my support in this war. You need a strong family at your back.”

“Is that a threat?”

“That’s a fact, Dante. I think you’re a good Capo, but I insist I get what my family deserves. I won’t settle for less.”

“I won’t force Fina into a marriage, not after what she went through,” Pietro said.

Dante nodded. “I agree.”

I understood their reasoning. Serafina didn’t want to marry me, and I wouldn’t force her into a bond when she’d already suffered a loss of control recently. “We’re at an impasse, then.”

There was only one option. It was one I wished to avoid but couldn’t. Father had immediately suggested my ex-fiancée’s younger sister as a substitute. A ridiculous idea, but the only viable option.

Dante and Pietro looked at each other, probably considering exactly that option.

Pietro closed his eyes. “Is that what you ask of me, Dante?”

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