Home > By Virtue I Fall (Sins of the Fathers #3)(8)

By Virtue I Fall (Sins of the Fathers #3)(8)
Author: Cora Reilly

“No?” I asked curiously, sauntering over to him. “Shouldn’t you guard me until our wedding night so I stay untouched?”

“Hell no,” Clifford exclaimed, looking honestly put off. “Waiting until marriage, where’s the fun?” He scanned me once more, lingering on my long legs. Today I’d picked an outfit I had designed myself and then let one of our maids who was a talented seamstress sew it for me. It was a cutesy blazer with flowy gossamer sleeves and a narrow waist with a silk bow and matching shorts that looked like a skirt. My legs looked particularly long in it and my high white heels only helped.

“Ahh, you want to sample the goods in advance.”

“I want to sample plenty of goods, believe me, not just yours.”

My eyebrows shot up. “So you won’t even pretend to be faithful?”

Clifford got serious. “Listen, Anna, I know you’re from a conservative background, but I have no intention of settling down with one girl right now and I definitely won’t stay celibate until we marry. As far as I’m concerned, we have a pre-contract but the real contract won’t get into effect until our wedding day. From that day on we can be faithful if that’s what you want but until then we’re not a couple and I’ll sleep around.”

I hadn’t expected Clifford to be this direct. I liked it, just not what he proposed. Even if I wasn’t jealous, that didn’t mean I wanted to be insulted by constant sleeping around.

He must have seen my fury because he quickly went on, “You’re free to do the same of course.”

My lips parted in shock. “You want me to sleep with other men?”

He laughed. “Well, I wouldn’t put it like that, but I don’t care what you do until we’re married as long as you are discreet and keep it out of the tabloids. I don’t want to give my mother more reason to eat her pills like skittles.”

I could tell he regretted his words the second they left his lips. Pill abuse was definitely a secret worth filing away for later use.

“You really won’t feel cheated if I’m not a virgin on our first night together?” I asked, suspicious of his motives. Maybe he was trying to lure me into a trap and test my virtue. Maybe his words about his mother taking too many pills was also false and a way to make me lower my guards.

Clifford shook his head, looking mildly nauseated. “I’ll be blunt. I’ll be glad if you aren’t. I’m not in the business of deflowering girls. I’m not into blood play. No sex during periods and no virgins, which is basically the same.”

I burst out laughing. I fumbled in the pocket of my skirt, which was discreetly hidden in the big elegant pleats, for a cigarette. “May I? Or do you want me to go outside?”

Shock crossed Clifford’s face. “You smoke?”

I shrugged. “Sometimes. When I’m stressed, mostly.”

“I stress you out?”

“You caught me by surprise. I thought you’d be different.”

“Many people do,” he said cryptically, then motioned at my cigarette. “Go ahead.” He pulled a packet from a drawer and lit a cigarette for himself.

After he blew out smoke, he said, “I’m not a virgin, by the way.”

“I didn’t ask,” I said with a laugh. “But thanks for the info.”

I wasn’t even curious when he’d lost it or to whom, but it made me want to ask Santino about his first time. I couldn’t imagine Santino as a fumbling virgin.

Clifford regarded me closely. “And if you are a virgin, then have some fun. Just make sure you don’t leave me at the altar. A scandal’s rarely a good start to a political career.”



I nodded. “That’s good. I want a man who knows what he wants.”

“I do. I want to be president one day, that’s all I care about.”

I tried to see myself at Clifford’s side in a few years, being the doting politician’s wife. It would be a life full of duties and few freedoms, but that would have been my fate in any marriage.



The Christmas party was in full swing. Music floated through the room, some upbeat jazz that had everyone over thirty swaying back and forth as if it was a disco tune. For some reason everyone thought jazz was the perfect music for a party. This being my fifth Christmas party of the season, and it was only the beginning of December, I couldn’t stand it anymore. Today it was the Christmas party of the Alferas, one of Dad’s captains who handled our drug deliveries to Canada. I was one of the few guests under eighteen, and neither Sofia nor Luisa were invited. As the Capo’s daughter, I always had to be at social events, no matter how much of a bore they turned out to be. All the girls who envied me for being at so many parties throughout the year had never suffered through an endless string of awkward jokes and horrid music.

Maybe I’d find the music more tolerable once I was drunk like many of the adults. I scanned my surroundings. Mom and Dad were talking to Mom’s best friend Bibiana and her husband Dario on the patio, and Santino had disappeared fifteen minutes ago so he wasn’t there to stop me. I’d mastered the art of sneaking alcohol into my drinks at parties last Christmas season. I found it ridiculous that I was supposed to abide to drinking laws when ordinary laws pretty much didn’t hold meaning in our world. There was no way in hell I’d wait almost four years to have alcohol.

My hand snuck up to the bowl with punch and quickly filled my glass with it before anyone could notice. As I sipped my drink, I allowed my eyes to scan the guests. After a while, I grew bored—I knew everyone and there was no new gossip afloat—and decided to find Santino. Teasing him definitely brought me more joy than any of this. He was too easily riled up. Sometimes I was sure he enjoyed it as much as I did. Other times I was concerned for my safety.

Taking another sip, I slipped out of the living room. The sounds of the party were too loud to search for him by noise, and he was a master at blending in. I strolled through the first floor for a while, enjoying my drink, before I followed my gut instinct to the back of the house. Santino probably needed some quiet. Polite conversation always made him murderous, so he probably needed time to himself. I didn’t feel guilty in the slightest for wanting to disturb him. His anger was the hottest thing there was.

A strange noise came from behind a heavy oak door. I’d gotten a tour of the Alfera’s house last year so I knew it was the library. I slipped in as quietly as I could and closed the door behind me.

I loved books, so I took a moment to marvel at the many spines on the shelves, even if the room wasn’t as big as ours. I had a feeling this wasn’t a place that was used very often. Many people in our circles had a library as a status symbol and not because they enjoyed literature.

A wheeze caught my attention and I tiptoed farther into the room.

My mouth fell open as I spotted Santino’s upper body peeking out behind a shelf. Santino had his fingers wrapped around the throat of none other than Mrs. Alfera, the wife of Dad’s captain. Her lips were parted, her face red. Apart from his head, I only saw his forearm and hand, the rest of him was hidden behind the bookshelf. Mrs. Alfera was kneeling, judging from her propped-up arms.

Had he lost his mind? I rushed forward and froze, my eyes growing wide. “Oh fuck.”

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