“I know about her mother, if that’s what you’re getting at.” I spit out the words, clenching my fists at my side, trying to mentally get a step ahead of her. What does she want? “There’s nothing you can tell me about Riley that will change my opinion of her.”
There—there. The tiniest flicker of something works across Emilia’s face, but it’s gone in the blink of an eye.
“I was worried that you might say that.” Emilia smiles, and doesn’t look concerned at all. “So let me lay this out for you. I want what was promised to me. Either I get it, or I fail to pull the plug on a nasty little fall that little Miss Riley is set up to take for a mafia drug ring.”
“A drug ring?” I’m incredulous. “Are you nuts?”
Something in my choice of words seems to make Emilia snap. She slams her hands on the desk, standing, baring her teeth at me. “I am not crazy, Matteo Benenati. But I’ve paid in full for what I was promised. And I’ll get it, or your wifey poo goes to jail for life. And a sweet little thing like that? I think we both know what will happen to her there.”
“What is it that you think you were promised?” I want to punch Emilia in the teeth, but there’s a look in her eye, a slightly unstable one, that makes me think I should play along.
She smiles, and looks like nothing so much as a snake. “Ever since I first joined your family, Matteo, your father promised me two things... Benenati Enterprises. And you.”
I bark out a laugh.... then fall silent. The Carmine I knew was a chauvinist pig of the highest order, and I would never have imagined that he would leave his legacy to a woman.
Then again, didn’t he open us up to the possibility of just that with this ridiculous clause in his will.
“He gave you a shot at it, Emilia.” I try to sound reasonable. “You know that’s more than he had to do.”
She shakes her head, the movement wild. When those dark eyes focus in on me, I realize that her pupils are so dilated I can’t differentiate between them and the thin ring of dark iris that surrounds them.
She looks more than a little crazy.
“He gave me a shot at the company, yes. But a shot isn’t possession. And it doesn’t clear up the matter of him promising me you.” She steps toward me, and the cloying scent of her perfume, and of sweat, makes its way to my nose. After days spent with the fresh scent of Riley’s shampoo, it makes me nauseous.
“I’m married, Emilia.” And even if I wasn’t...
I wonder now, how I ever lusted after this woman. It’s so... wrong.
“That can be taken care of.” Emilia says this so matter of factly that I think I must not have heard her correctly. But when the words sink in, a chill runs through my blood.
I think of Riley, downstairs in the car, and have to resist the urge to run straight toward her. She’s with Franco. She’s fine.
But in that moment, I’m not sure I trust my bride with anyone but myself.
Emilia laughs at my expression, a tinkling little sounds that grates on nerves that have just gone raw. “Oh, your little wifey is safe as can be, Matteo. As long as you give me the down payment I ask for.”
“How am I supposed to do that, when you siphoned off all of my money?” I bite out through gritted teeth.
Emilia’s expression darkens. She stalks across the room toward me, and I, a man who hasn’t been afraid since his father nearly bashed in his skull, feel fear.
“I made you a very nice offer, Matteo, that could have let us all live happily ever after. You hurt my feelings terribly when you refused. And so rudely. So now I need something more.”
“I need your body. Right now. Or your little wife is going down.”
Matteo has been upstairs for a very, very long time.
And in that time I haven’t seen a single person go in or out of the tower.
Something’s not right.
With trembling fingers, I wrench open the car door. Franco is outside, leaning against it. He looks at me questioningly as I start up the stairs to the tower.
“I’m just going to see what’s taking Matteo so long.” I laugh nervously. I don’t know how I know, but I do. Something’s just not right here.
“I’ll come with you.” He looks around at the lack of people and visibly shudders. “Creepy vibe going down today.”
He follows me into the elevator, and up the interminably long ride to Matteo’s office. He doesn’t ask me about the headlines, and I’m sure as hell not going to bring them up.
We step out into the empty reception area—no secretary, no assistants. Franco’s brow furrows.
“I’ll wait here.”
I nod, my feet taking me across the thick carpeting to Matteo’s office. I’m still wearing the backless sundress, and I shiver as air conditioning wafts over my shoulders.
There are voices inside, quiet but definitely there. I sigh with relief, swinging open the heavy wooden door.
“Matteo? Are you almost done?” I step inside.
And my world shatters.
Matteo is leaning back against the desk, his shirt open, his tie askew, and his pants around his ankles. Straddling his hips is Emilia.
The engineer of this entire mess.
“Matteo?” They’re not having sex, not yet, but they’re definitely on their way.
Matteo looks at me, and his face is absolutely expressionless, his eyes empty. I can’t breathe. This man was inside of me just hours ago.
He blinks, then, as though with an effort, pushes himself up. “I didn’t think you’d find out about this. You should have stayed in the car.”
My mouth works, but no sound comes out. All the noise is inside, the sound of my heart shattering into a million pieces.
“If you tell anyone, it won’t end well for you.” Again, that blank look. “Emilia and I have reached an... agreement. You’re no longer under any obligation to pretend to be my wife. The money is yours. Just go home.”
A choked sound escapes my throat. I tear my gaze from Matteo to Emilia, and visibly recoil when I meet those dark eyes.
I’ve never seen so much hatred on a person’s face.
“Go on, little one.” Emilia smirks at me, waving a hand in dismissal. And in that moment I hate her, hate her more than I’ve ever hated my mother, or the men who used her.
I hate her for taking away what I’ve only just gotten.
I back away from the horrible scene, looking again at Matteo. His jaw is tense, but other than that, there is no expression on his face.