A Dark Sicilian Secret(10)

“Past tense.”

Her eyes looked enormous but she didn’t back down. “Past tense.”

He glanced briefly out the window at the twisted, gnarled limbs of a cypress tree before focusing on her. “So what changed, Jill Smith?” he asked, emphasizing her name because her name, like the rest of her life, was invented. Jillian Smith didn’t exist. Jillian Smith was a fabrication. A very good one, but a fabrication nonetheless.

Her lies had made it difficult to track her down, but he was persistent, and he’d succeeded.

Now all that was left was bending her to his will to ensure his son’s health, wealth and happiness.

“Nothing happened.”

“No? Nothing happened?” One black eyebrow lifted quizzically.


“No one whispered in your ear? No one told you something that sent you packing?”

Her jaw dropped a little before she snapped it closed, and yet even then she looked sick. Scared. He wondered if that’s what she felt that day in Bellagio when his young housemaid told Jill he was part of the mafia. Silly housemaid to talk of things she knew little about. Silly girl to think he wouldn’t find out. His staff had to know there were security cameras everywhere.

“What did you do to her?” Jill whispered hoarsely.

“Fired her.” And then he rolled his eyes at Jill’s expression. “You think I’d hurt an eighteen-year-old girl for saying the word Mafioso? Ridiculous. That just proves how little you know of me. I am not a cruel man. I do not hurt people, or give orders to have people hurt. That’s barbaric.”

And still she looked at him warily, her emotions volatile as fear, anxiety and uncertainty flitted across her face one after the other. “So you really do mean to take me to Sicily with you?”

“Yes,” he answered decisively.

“And you won’t keep me from Joe?”

“Not as long as you cooperate.”

A tiny pulse jumped at the base of her throat. “What does that mean?”

“It means you’ll cooperate. You’ll do what I ask you to do cheerfully, pleasantly and immediately.”

Apparently she didn’t like the sound of that as her brown eyes shot daggers at him. “And if I don’t?”

“You will be sent packing.”

“You can’t do that.”

“No?” His dark gaze met hers and held for long, tense seconds. “You will be living in my home, in my country, among my family and my people. Who will stop me? Hmm?”

She inhaled sharply. “You can’t use Joe as a weapon against me,” she whispered, her voice failing her.

“But isn’t that what you did to me?”

“I was trying to protect him—”

“From me, yes, I figured that out. But Jill, what a serious, terrible, tactical error.”

Her gaze searched his, a deep line of worry between her eyebrows. “And if I cooperate for seventeen years?”

“You’ll remain with us, enjoy my protection, wealth and all the privileges of being part of the d’Severano family.”

“And yet if I stand by and cooperate, you’ll succeed at turning him into one of you.”

“You make us sound like a horde of vampires.”

“You’re not much different, are you?”

“According to today’s popular culture, vampires are in.”

“Not with me.”

“You’re anti vampire?”

“I’m anti bullies, thugs and thieves. I’m anti predators. Anti organized crime. Anti anyone who forces other people to their knees.”

“È gran pazzia lu cuntrastari cu du nun pô vinciri nè appattari,” he quoted, then translated the Sicilian proverb for her benefit, “It’s insane to oppose when you can neither win nor compromise.” The corner of his mouth quirked. “You’re either shockingly brave or stupid, Jill, considering you have so much at stake.”

“A great deal is at stake. We’re talking about the life of a little boy. What we do now will impact him forever.”

“Exactly so.”

“Which is why I can’t just roll over, Vittorio, and pretend that who you are, and what you do, is good. Your values and morals aren’t mine—”

He’d heard enough, more than enough, actually, and tuning out the rest of her speech, he gestured to one of his men, who then tapped the glass partition, getting the chauffeur’s attention. The driver immediately slowed and pulled off the highway onto the rain-lashed shoulder.

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