Stefan Sabbioni showed up uninvited in my bedroom on my sixteenth birthday. He stood in the shadows smelling of whiskey and death and wrapped a broken, blood-crusted necklace around my neck. I thought he’d strangle me with it.
That night, he left a message for my father. He said he’d be back to take something precious.
I never delivered that message, though. I wonder if things would be different if I had because now, two years later, he’s back. And he’s not hiding in any shadows.
He’s come to make good on his promise.
He’s back to take that something precious.
Marchese is the manipulator of my family’s tragedy. I won’t just bring him to his knees. I’ll bury him for what he did.
Taking his daughter is only the beginning. I’ll do it knowing I’m starting a war. I’ll do it knowing my enemies will become his allies. They’ll stop at nothing to destroy me and he’ll stop at nothing to get her back.
I’ve never shied away from war, though. I’m not one to play nice and I don’t share my toys. I’ll demolish you if you touch what’s mine.
And she is most definitely mine.
“Turn around, Gabriela.”
I look at her, at the exposed expanse of flawless skin. Flawless but for those marks I know are hidden by the silky material of the dress.
The straps of the dress are thin, spaghetti straps. The patterned deep blue falls to just above her knees.
When I look up, I meet her gaze in the mirror. She’s unblinking. On alert.
I’m not an inexperienced man, but there’s something about this petulant, defiant girl, my unwilling bride-to-be because when I shift my gaze down again, down to the naked skin of her back, to the curve of her spine and swell of her hips, my cock stirs.
I reach out, touch the silk, push it wider so I see more of her.
I run my knuckles softly over her warm skin, feel the goosebumps rise as I trail my hand down, then up again, fingertips light along each vertebra. When I reach her hair, I lift the mass of it, feel the weight as I set it over her shoulder. It’s not long, it was once, but it’s not anymore. Just a little past her shoulders. But still, to see it like this, the dark, sleek mass soft over one shoulder, her back more fully exposed, it awakens something inside me. A thing that wants to claim. To mark as my own.
I lean down, bring my mouth to the curve of her neck and meet her eyes as I kiss it.
Her breathing is shallow, and she watches me as I run the scruff of my jaw along the line of her shoulder then back. She shudders and I inhale her scent, kiss the curve again, opening my mouth this time to taste her, to bite, just a little. To hear her breath catch as she gasps and to watch her eyes darken as the pupils dilate.
I run my fingers down the length of her arms, lightly circle her wrists because she’s going to fight me in a minute.
“You said something the other night, Gabriela. Something about putting my mark on you.”
I was right. She tries to pull free but I tighten my hold on her.
“Let me go, Stefan.”
“You were right. Your body is mine. But thing is, I want the rest too. Your mind. Your past. Your secrets. Your soul. I’ll take it all.