Wife By Force

By: Caro LaFever


He swirled the liquor in the glass. None of it mattered anymore. Now was the time to move forward. Time to forget the past and embrace what had always been their destiny. This resentment she held towards him would be dealt with. A few words said years ago would not stand in the way of his determination. She would soon realize who she was meant to be with.

Lara Derrick was his. Had always been his.

Her first marriage was done. Finally. It had been an eternity of waiting.

He stared at the liquor for a moment longer, and then threw back his head and swallowed. The tang hit his tongue as the burn slid down his throat. The taste reminded him of the taste of her; hot spice laced with bite.

At long last, the kiss he’d dreamed of giving her for years.

“Dante.”

He turned toward the library door. “Mamma.”

Giana Casartelli bustled in, black dress wrapped tightly around generous hips and bosom. Easing into a leather chair, she sighed. “The last guests have left. I think it went well, no?”

“With you in charge, how could it not?”

She waved away his comment with a ring-encrusted hand. “It was nothing.”

“A Casartelli wedding, and the parties leading up to it, cannot be a nothing.”

She chuckled. “Well, of course. We are the Casartellis.”

He rolled the glass in his hand and thought of a time when he would have given anything to not be a Casartelli, and certainly not The Casartelli. The mantle, the label, the duty had colored his entire existence, for as long as he could remember. Being the wild boy he’d been, he’d fought against it. For as long as he could.

Yet just as Lara was inevitable in his life, so too was his duty. The wild boy had, in the end, died inside him. In a strange way, it had been a relief. He’d eventually accepted, eventually even embraced the destiny laid out for him from the moment of his birth. A destiny that demanded he always step up to his duties. “Sandro is a good man. He will fit into the family smoothly.”

“You picked well for Carlotta.”

You’ve turned into an arrogant ass.

“She picked him herself.” He realized with sardonic humor he was answering her as well as his mother.

His mamma clucked her tongue. “With your guidance and encouragement.”

“I merely suggested.”

“You have a way of suggesting, Dante...”

He lifted one eyebrow. “Si?”

“Never mind.” Giana’s hands clapped together. “Her babies will be so beautiful.”

He hid his amusement behind another slight lift of his brow. For the last few years, his mamma had been all about marriages. This man and that man. Which daughter and what daughter. Lately, however, babies had taken over as the theme of her life. “Let us hope Carlotta’s children take after Sandro and not me.”

Her mouth pinched. “You were a beautiful baby.”

“I was not—”

“And you will have beautiful children.”

The words hit him in the chest with a punch. He’d thought, until this moment, he had one goal as far as his personal life was concerned. Now, suddenly, he knew quite clearly, he had another. He glanced over to see his mother’s keen focus upon him. With long practice, he blanked his thoughts and gave her his usual bland look. “If you say so, Mamma.”

“I say so.” Her gaze continued to cling to his face.

“Carlotta appeared very happy tonight.”

As he’d hoped, her eyes blurred with joyful tears and her attention slipped from him. “Si, si,” she gushed. “My youngest is happy.”

Happy.

Lara's face slid through his mind. She did not appear happy. She appeared tense, strained. Evidently, she was still suffering from the loss of her husband last year.

His hand tightened around the crystal glass.

“She is happy,” his mother interrupted his thoughts. “Put your mind at ease, figlio. You have done well for her.”

“I am not worried about Carlotta, Mamma.” He would make Lara forget her damned dead husband. The compulsion rushed through him, fierce and overriding.

Patience, Dante.

His father’s counsel whispered in his memory.

Si, patience.

Taking a deep breath, he purposefully closed his mind to the driving desires. A habit he’d learned and come to appreciate. With relief, he felt his passionate nature ease back, subside, disappear.

Giana brushed her hands down her dress. “And now, this part of your life is behind you.”

He leaned on the antique mahogany desk his grandfather and father had once ruled behind. He knew what was coming; they’d had this conversation many times in the past few months. Like him, his mother had the talent of being relentless in the pursuit of a goal.

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