Page 2 of Defiant Princess

When Emiliana’s dark gaze swung my way, I mouthed “Tony” so she and Sofia both knew what sparked the crying jag.

“What did that fucker do?” Emiliana growled.

Sofia rested a hand on Marissa’s shoulder, flashing me a questioning look.

Marissa swiped at her face then pushed herself into a sitting position, drawing her knees up and looping her arms around them. Then she held out her left hand, and our eyes dropped to a large diamond ring.

Dread hit me hard. “So it’s official, then. You’re engaged to Tony.”

“Yep.” She dragged in a stuttered breath then met our gazes with red-rimmed brown eyes and flushed cheeks. “Seems Dad didn’t want to wait to marry me off. It’s the same thing that happened to Camila.”

“Why?” I didn’t get it. Her dad had also married her sister to the enemy before she graduated college, but it wasn’t the same, not really. Camila had it so much worse.

Sofia furrowed her brows, glancing at Emiliana and me. “But to Tony Caruso, right? Not someone in the Russian Bratva?”

I tensed. That’s what had happened to her sister. And there were rumors that one of the Bratva had been spotted in Chicago. I sank my teeth into my lip. At least she wasn’t promised to one of the Russians.

Marissa let her head fall back, and some of the emotion was doused. “Ah—no. Not a Russian.”

“Tony’s an asshole.” Emiliana frowned. “What can we do?”

“Nothing.” Marissa’s lip trembled.

“How long do you have?”

She snorted. “The ironic part is that Tony said—and I don’t believe him—that he tried to convince our parents to let me graduate first.”

“He probably wants the freedom.” I couldn’t help it. Tony wasn’t exactly a saint. Tying himself to one woman had to be as much of a jail sentence to him as marrying him was for her.

“Yeah. I’m sure he does.” Marissa curled her shoulders in a little more. “Dad refused. We’re getting married over winter break. Tony said I can finish my senior year and graduate, but I have to live in their house.”

“With Antonio Caruso?” Emilana’s face drained of color.

Huge tears fell from Marissa’s eyes, following the tracks from earlier as she nodded. “He’s so creepy. I don’t want to be anywhere near him.”

“At least Nicole will be there.” I tried to smile but failed. Marissa’s eye roll only confirmed that.

“Will she be much help?” Sofia frowned. “Antonio has a puppet-master kind of grip with how he controls his wife and son.”

“Maybe you can convince Tony to get his own place? That way, you wouldn’t have to live under the same roof as the Caruso boss.” It was a long shot. I knew that, but the alternative was going from her father’s home to Tony’s father’s residence—from one abusive, controlling household to another. At least if they had their own place, she would have some semblance of peace.

A spark of hope flashed in Marissa’s eyes, and she straightened slightly. “I could try to push him to do that.”

“Play up the freedom angle,” Sofia said. “You and Tony enjoy going to clubs. I mean, you guys are friends, at least sort of.”

Emiliana snorted. She had no love lost for Tony. I understood—he’d always been a jerk, and after what Emiliana had gone through, I couldn’t blame her for not giving him even an ounce of the benefit of the doubt. Men triggered her if they touched her after the abduction, at least all except the one who’d saved her—Stefano Rossi, Marissa’s brother and the underboss to their father, Frank—another monster in power within the Five Families.

Honestly, we were all screwed up. My head thumped against the wall, and I closed my eyes briefly. “We were supposed to have the rest of our senior year until our fathers messed with our lives.”

Marissa squeezed my hand, her voice subdued. “I know.”

“At least you’re marrying someone you might be able to control.” I tried to find the positive.

Marissa snorted. “I don’t know about that. I mean, he’s a friend, but he’ll change as my husband. I already see it in the power he’s wielding that he thinks he has over me. And… I’m not attracted to him, not that way.”

Emiliana continued to scowl.

It had to suck for her, not being attracted to her future husband. I worried about that too. I squeezed Marissa’s arm. “That might change. At least you have friendship to use as a base.”

Tags: Amy McKinley Romance
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