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Bound By Hatred

By:Cora Reilly

a farce. Aria leaned away from Luca and clutched my hand the moment we sat down. It was obvious how unhappy she was. She was trying so hard to hide it, but for me it was plain as day. Of course nobody gave a shit. It was pretty much standard that the bride was forced into marriage, so unhappiness was a given. Nobody ever asked what we wanted. Nobody ever cared. Not even the other women.

It was then that I made a promise I was determined to keep: I wasn’t going to end in a loveless marriage. I didn’t care if it was my duty or if honor dictated it; nothing in this God-forsaken world could make me marry for anything but love.

Matteo kept glancing my way from across the table, that annoying cocky grin on his face. He’d pretty much ogled me throughout the entire wedding so far. I had to admit he didn’t look too shabby in his light grey vest, white shirt and dress pants. Somehow his tall muscled frame stood out even more dressed up like that. Of course I’d have bitten my tongue off before admitting to anyone that I found Matteo’s looks tolerable, especially when his personality wasn’t anywhere close to being sufferable.

Aria clutched my hand under the table even tighter because of something Luca had said to her. She was oblivious to Matteo’s flirting with me. Oblivious to anything but her distress.

I squeezed her hand but then the dance floor was opened and soon we were ripped apart as Luca led her to their first dance as a married couple. I quickly pushed to my feet, desperate to sneak away toward the bay where I could be alone, but Matteo cornered me at the edge of the dance floor, that same cocky grin on his striking face. Why did the bastard have to look so good?

His dark hair was intentionally messy and his eyes were so dark, they were almost black. It was impossible not to check him out. Of course he was perfectly aware of the effect he had on most women and obviously expected me to fawn over him as well. Hell would freeze over before that happened.

He bowed without taking his eyes off me. “May I have this dance?”

My stomach did a stupid flip at the sight of his grin. He was more easygoing than most Made Men, but I had a feeling that was only a cover up. Maybe he’d perfected the boy-next-door routine, but beneath that a predator was lying in wait, ready to pounce. I wasn’t going to be his prey.

Father watched me from his spot at the table, so I had no choice but to nod in response to Matteo’s question, or risk a huge scene. Not that I would have cared but I didn’t want to add more stress for Aria. She was already on edge.

Matteo took my hand and rested his palm on my lower back, the warmth of his skin seeping through the thin fabric of my dress. My stomach lurched but I forced my face into a mask of boredom. I hated how my body seemed to react to Matteo. If I’d be allowed to interact with other guys, I’d probably be unimpressed by Matteo. Right?

I peered up at him. This close up I could see that his eyes were dark brown with an almost black outer ring. He had thick black lashes and the shadow of stubble ghosted his cheeks and chin. His smile widened and I turned my head away, focusing on the dancing guests around us. Everyone was laughing and smiling, enjoying themselves. From the outside it looked like a marvelous feast. It was easy to be taken in by the mansion’s garden that was decorated to perfection. It was so damn easy to let the breeze drifting over to us from the ocean carry away reality. The unique atmosphere only a place in the Hamptons could offer could convince anyone that life was a dream.

I knew better.

Matteo pulled me even closer, pressing our bodies together so I could feel every inch of muscle as well as the weapons hidden beneath his vest. I squirmed, though part of me wanted to lean in, get closer, and claim his mouth for a kiss. That would have been the scandal of the wedding, no doubt.

Father would blow a gasket. That was almost enough to make me want to do it. Why should girls be forced to wait with their first kiss until they were married? It was ridiculous. I pitied Aria for having to experience her first kiss in front of the entire wedding party. That wouldn’t happen to me. I didn’t care whom I had to bribe to kiss me.

Matteo leaned down, a teasing smile curving his mouth. “You look gorgeous, Gianna. The pissed off look goes really well with your dress.”

Before I could stop myself, a laugh burst out of me. I tried to cover it up with a cough but Matteo didn’t buy it judging from the look on his face. Damn it. I narrowed my eyes – in vain. I decided to ignore Matteo for the rest of our dance, hoping that my body would do the same, but then the bastard started moving his thumb back and forth on my back, and every nerve ending in me seemed to jerk to life.

I wanted to kiss him, and not just to spite my father and every other male in our world who thought it was okay to keep women on a leash. I wanted to kiss him because he smelled delicious, and that was exactly the reason why I needed to get away from him quickly.

Sadly, Matteo seemed intent to drive me crazy, because after our first dance he managed to steal two more dances from me, and to my utter annoyance my body didn’t stop reacting to his closeness. I had a feeling he knew, and that was why he kept stroking my back ever so lightly, but I couldn’t ask him to stop without admitting that it was bothering me, and somehow part of me didn’t want him to stop.

It was almost midnight when people started to shout for Luca to bed Aria. She didn’t manage to hide her panic. When she stood and took Luca’s offered hand, her eyes met mine but then Luca was already leading her away, followed by a crowd of shouting men. Anger surged through me. I pushed to my feet, determined to follow and help her. Mother gripped my wrist, jerking me to a stop. “This isn’t your business, Gianna. Sit down.”

I glowered at her. Wasn’t she supposed to protect us? Instead she watched withou