Bound By Temptation

By: Cora Reilly


Pushing my disappointment down, I nodded. “Yeah. I’m going to read in my room a bit.” I rose to my feet, hoping my face didn’t give my emotions away, but I needn’t have worried. Romero gave me a distracted smile and picked up his phone to check his messages. I backed away slowly. He didn’t look up again. I needed to figure out a way to get his attention, and not with stupid games.



***

Aria had decorated the entire apartment with balloons for my birthday, as if I was a kindergarten kid. I’d thought we might be allowed to head to one of Luca’s clubs but he and even Aria had refused to take me there. The amount of food on the table made it look as if a huge party was planned, but it was only us and Romero’s two younger sisters. Aria had asked him to bring them. I felt like the looser kid without friends who needed her big sister to find friends for her. Maybe I should have stayed in Chicago, then at least I could have spend the day with my friends.

When Romero arrived with his sisters, I put on my brightest smile. “Happy birthday, Liliana,” he said, handing me an envelope. It was a voucher for a bookstore. “Aria said you love to read.”

“Yes, thank you,” I said, but somehow I’d hoped for a different gift from Romero. Something personal, something that showed I was special.

“These are my sisters.” He pointed at the taller girl with thick brown curls. “This is Tamara, she’s fifiteen like you.” I smiled and so did Tamara but she seemed as embarrassed as I felt. “And this is Keira, she’s twelve. I’m sure you’ll get along fine.” It was obvious that I was supposed to spend time with them because I was still too young to hang with Aria, Luca and the others. It annoyed me, even though Tamara and Keira seemed nice enough, but I hadn’t come to New York for a kid party. With another smile, Romero headed for Luca and Matteo, and I led his sisters toward Aria and Gianna, and the buffet.

I tried my best to enjoy the evening and be nice to Romero’s sisters but I wanted something special for my birthday, something I’d been dreaming about for a very long time. When I noticed Romero heading out onto the roof terrace for a call, I snuck out as well. The others were hopefully busy enough not to miss me for a couple of minutes. Romero talked on the phone and didn’t notice me at first. I followed him quietly and watched as he leaned against the banister. His sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, revealing muscled forearms.

When his eyes settled on me, his brows drew together in a frown and he straightened. I moved closer and positioned myself beside him. He hung up and put his phone in his pocket. “Shouldn’t you be inside with your guests?” he asked with a smile, but I could tell that it wasn’t as honest as usual.

I moved a bit closer and smiled up at him. “I needed some fresh air.”

Romero’s eyes were alert as he watched me. “We should return.”

“There’s something I want for my birthday,” I said quietly. “Something only you can give me.” I’d repeated the words in my head countless time but aloud they didn’t sound half as flirty as they had in my imagination.

“Lily,” Romero began, his body brimming with tension.

I didn’t want to hear what he was going to say. I quickly stood on my tiptoes and tried to kiss him. He gripped my shoulders before my lips reached his and held me away from him like I had an infectious sickness.

“What are you doing?” He let me go and took a few steps back. “You are a child, and I’m a soldier of the Famiglia. I’m not a toy you can play with when you’re bored.”

I hadn’t expected that kind of reaction from him. Surprise and shock, yes, but anger? No. “I only wanted to kiss you. I don’t want to play games. I like you.”

Romero shook his head, then gestured toward the glass door. “Go back inside. Your sisters will start to wonder where you are.”

He sounded like a big brother, and that was the last thing I wanted him to be. I whirled around before I walked back in a rush. My heart shriveled in my chest. For some reason I’d never considered a rejection from Romero. I’d fantasized about our first kiss so often that the option of it never happening had never crossed my mind. The rest of the evening, I struggled to keep a happy face, especially whenever I saw Romero. I was actually glad to return to Chicago. I wouldn’t get to see Romero for a long time, enough time to get over him and find someone else to crush on.

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