“I cannot answer those questions for you, honey. They’re for your father and you to deal with. Give Damon some … time.”
She looked toward her only friend. “Fine.”
“Don’t kill him.”
“I will if he thinks he can walk all over me.” Climbing out of the car, she tucked her hair behind her ear and walked across the street. Still in mourning, she wore a simple dress with flared-out sleeves. She hated the color black and much preferred to have something floral, but she had to show respect.
Entering the café, she couldn’t help but smile, it was so … normal. To her, it meant she’d entered a foreign land.
Attending her father’s business and all the shops and establishments aligned with the Family, she was used to an element of fear and respect facing her. Here, there was nothing. It reminded her of her own little establishment she’d set up, with her father’s blessing, but also in secret.
Damon was already sitting in the corner.
He stood up and she ignored him as she slid into the seat opposite him. “You know it’s not proper, me meeting you alone.”
“It’s not proper for a girl to have a kill record, so I think we can let this slide as well.”
She nodded her head.
The waitress came over, and she ordered a tea and a cream biscuit. She hadn’t eaten much in the past week. Food didn’t hold any appeal. All she wanted to do was lie in bed and cry. Each day she got up and worked was a small victory. The main file her father had left her scared the shit out of her. Businessmen, politicians, family men, and even some of the capos, all of them her father had dirt on.
With dirt came a lot of risks. There would be men, close men who’d want her dead if they knew she was aware of their … betrayals.
“How did you sleep last night?” Damon asked.
“You brought me here to talk about sleep?”
“I know what it’s like to suffer after you lose someone.”
She thought about his potential wives. Dropping her gaze to the table, she shook her head. “No, I didn’t sleep well.”
“One day, you will.”
“Is that what happened to you?” she asked.
“You learn not to care.”
“I’ve had my mother, brother, and now my father die on me. I’m sure I can handle it.” She didn’t want to appear weak.
Damon smiled. “As I’m sure you know, I’ve had cousins, family, and even potential wives die, some at their own hand. I’m more experienced with this.”
“I know what you’ve been through. It’s why I’m curious why you would ever want to spend any time with me,” she said.
Damon sat back. He lifted up his coffee cup and took a sip.
She hated waiting.
“Your father, what he did, it goes against every single Family code. You know that. Training a woman to take a man’s job. Your brother should be sitting here right now, negotiating your marriage. I see the look in your eye. It’s one that means you know things you really didn’t want to know.”
“Look, I don’t know what it is you want from me—”
“I want everything, Isabella. You’re not a fool. An alliance between the two of us will make us unbreakable. I can protect you.”
“I don’t need protecting.”
“No? Then tell me why I know for a fact that there’s a meeting right now between the capos and the Boss to see you married?” he asked.
“I would know that. There’s no way they’re organizing a marriage or who should take me.”
“You’re nothing but a woman. They don’t need to ask for your permission. You’re the property of them. Nothing more. I’m a man. I know what they want.”
Rage filled her.
“Get angry,” he said. “It’s good.”
“What do you want?” she asked.
“Your father knows I’m not like other men. I’ve had my share of losses and I need an heir.” He locked his fingers together. “I know about your training. You’re strong. A fighter. I don’t want a submissive woman who’s terrified of me. I’ve been near them my whole life and as you can see, it never ends well for me.”
She didn’t know why he was telling her all of these things. “What do you want?”
“Your hand in marriage. That’s all I want. In return, I won’t stop your involvement with the business. You’ll be by my side in every single decision and when the time is right, we’ll have a child together.”
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