“By the power vested in me by the state of New York, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss your bride.”
I steel myself for the assault. Instead, his dry lips barely ghost over mine and then he’s turning us to face the small crowd comprised of only my family and the two men I assume are his. I can hear the priest speaking behind me, but I’ve blocked out the words again. My mother is crying while my father sits stoically by her side. I can’t look at my brothers and sister. My gaze, instead, locks on Granda. His expression is one of satisfaction. Why wouldn’t it be? He got what he wanted.
He rises from his seat. “Come to my office.” He turns on his heel expecting us all to follow.
My—I swallow hard—husband places his hand on my lower back, and I flinch at his touch. I hear a heavy sigh at my side. Like a sheep being led to slaughter, I leave the music room and enter my grandfather’s lair. I stand near the desk, out of the way. I’m surprised to discover the only people who arrive behind me are my new husband and the huge, terrifying man.
My grandfather scowls at his appearance. “You may leave.”
The man merely ignores the command and positions himself against the wall, arms crossed, with a bored expression on his face. My jaw nearly drops at the blatant disregard.
“I’m afraid Pierce doesn’t take orders from anyone but me,” my husband says, drily, his voice deep and low.
A vein throbs near my grandfather’s temple and his face turns the color of a ripe tomato. No one disobeys him. At least not without suffering the consequences. With a deceptive calmness he moves to his desk and picks up a pen lying on top of a piece of paper. My eyes land on it. Certificate of Marriage.
“Sign.” He holds the pen up in front of me.
I stand frozen, unable to move. With my signature, everything is final. There’s no undoing any of this.
I can’t do it.
There’s a flash of movement and then blinding pain. Tears spring from the impact of Granda’s hand across my face again. On its heels is a roar of rage. I turn my head in time to see my grandfather pinned against the wall, clawing at my husband’s hand wrapped around his throat.
“I don’t give a fuck how powerful you think you are. If you ever touch my wife again, I’ll slit your throat and bury your body where no one will ever find it. Do you understand?” he growls.
Granda’s face is turning deep purple. He manages a short nod…and my husband releases him. He coughs and chokes and desperately tries to suck in air. Utterly disregarding the man gasping for breath, my husband turns and in a blink he’s standing before me. He towers over my slight frame, and I have to crane my neck to look up at him. A shadow of brutality lingers in his eyes. He reaches out and despite myself, I flinch…again. He merely picks up the pen my grandfather dropped and holds it out to me.
“Our marriage is a business arrangement, so I understand your being opposed to it. Neither of us wants this, but one thing I can promise is that I will never lay hands on you in anger.”
I shiver at his gruff tone. Wait. If he doesn’t want to be married to me either, then why did he do it? My eyes travel over his shoulder to latch onto my grandfather, who’s still rubbing his neck and glaring at me. Next they move to the massive man who remains lurking in the corner. He’s staring at Granda. His continued silence and steely glare unnerve me. There’s an alert readiness in his body as though he’s waiting to dive into action and defend his boss. At last, I turn my gaze back to my husband still holding the pen in his hand.
I fully take him in again. His dark hair is swept back off his forehead, his eyebrows a sharp slash over eyes that bore into me. A chill dashes across me at their intensity, and I could almost lose myself staring into them. They’re the color of my father’s favorite cognac. Despite the ferocity he displayed only moments ago, they seem almost gentle now.
In a move that surprises me, I reach out and take the pen. Our hands brush. Before I change my mind, I scribble my signature on the line above my printed name. I can feel my husband’s eyes on me. He takes the pen from my fingers, his skin gliding along mine. Goosebumps travel up my arm. Confused over my reaction, I hastily take a step back while my husband—Emilio—signs his name next to mine.
He rolls up the certificate and tucks it into the inner pocket of his suit. It’s final. I’ve signed my life over to a stranger. A man who, only moments ago, showed me how brutal he is. Despite his promise, I don’t know if I can trust him.
Dear God, what have I done?
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