Claimed by the Italian Don
- Genre: Romance
- Age: 18+
- Status: Ongoing
- Language: English
- Author: Stella James
I stare at my reflection in front of the elegant floor-length mirror. The mascara does nothing to brighten my turquoise eyes, my cheeks are covered by a red rosy blush, and my lips are glossy from the scarlet lipstick. My wedding dress has long sleeves, and they’re useless in keeping me warm.
The top part of it is covered by lace, but even the sheer delicate lace can’t hide my cleavage left for all to see. It doesn’t get any better when you go down.
There are slits extending to my thighs on both sides of the dress, such that when I sit, they are exposed without a care in the world. The dress itself is ridiculous and completely not me.
I like clothes that aren’t too revealing.
More so, I hate the dress. I hate the man who bought it for me. I hate Manuel Moretti.
The door creeks open, and my sister Cara walks in. She is dressed in a beautiful off-shoulder red silk dress, her hazel brown hair up in a ponytail.
“Under the circumstances, I hate to say this, but you look beautiful,” she cries, her eyes rolling up and down my outfit. Her blue eyes are watery, and even from the mirror, I know what is going on in her head.
“Thanks, Cara,” I turn around to face her, taking her shaky hands in mine.
“Gia, it’s not too late. We can run away. Go back to Chicago.”
She says breathlessly, a single tear falling down her cheek, and I wipe away her tears with my thumb pads, brushing the few loose strands of hair from her face.
“There’s nothing left for us in Chicago, Cara. You know that,” I say, rubbing my thumbs on her palms to calm her down. Doing that always calms her down, and I will do anything to take her worries away, to take her pain away, and to secure her future.
Cara doesn’t know why I’m pushing forward with the marriage with the most feared man in Italy. But I have no choice. In order to make sure she doesn’t go through the same suffering I have endured for years, I have to marry Ennio La Monda, aka ‘Il Serpente.’
Ennio, as my nanny informed me earlier, is the leader of the Costa Natra mafia, and most importantly, he owns most of Italy.
He is the kind of man you see in horror movies, one devoid of emotions, one so ruthless, one who is vicious like a serpent, so agile when he comes to hunting his prey, and one that no man crosses with.
My nanny told me one story in particular about him, one that left me shivering in the night about what sort of man I was marrying. The tale of ‘cut the roots by which the tree stands and the whole tree withers.’
It is rumored that Il Serpente goes by that one rule. In order to conquer his enemies, he must slaughter what his enemies hold dear first, like the case of a man called Nico.
From the rumors, Nico was one of Ennio’s bodyguards, he was the only man who dared to betray Ennio, and it didn’t go well for him. He managed to escape from being caught, but his family didn’t.
He found his family slaughtered in cold blood, and having no reason to live, he went back to ‘Il Serpente’ to beg him to end his life. Of course, he didn’t. Ennio always leaves one man to tell the tale.
I am scared, but at the same time, I’m trying to reassure myself that everything I’ve heard so far is rumors.
I am praying that all those stories about him are made up because people in Italy really like exaggerating things like the mafia.
In my wrenched heart, I am praying that they call him ‘Il Serpente’ because he has a serpent tattoo on his chest and not because he is an actual serpent.
I don’t know what he looks like, and no matter how much I soar the internet, there are no pictures of him. It’s almost like my soon-to-be husband is a ghost yet real at the same time.
My right hand cups Cara’s cheek.
“I’ll be fine,” I say, my voice trembling from all the emotions going on in my body.
“You’ll not be fine; you don’t know him. You don’t love him,” she screeches, and when I’m about to tell her that love will come eventually, the white doors open again.
This time a man struts in with a golden cane helping him walk. He smiles just at the sight of me. His eyes lock with mine, and a filthy smug crosses his face, making his mustache form into one thin line.
His eyes travel south from my face to my neck, to my collarbones, then down to my chest area. I hate the way his eyes stay on my cleavage longer than necessary.
It’s almost like he is making sure his biggest asset is intact and that his billion-dollar investment still looks good.
My uncle, Manuel Moretti, is a good example of the swallowest man to walk the earth. He simply can’t wait to marry me off and get his share of the money. To him, I am the calf he has been fattening to sell in the market for the highest price.
Ever since my parents died and we moved from Chicago to Italy, my life has been a living hell.
When I came asking for his help years ago, I didn’t think he was a brute of a man. The person who has inflicted so many bruises on my back more than I can count, the person who has treated me no more than a mere slave in his home.
I suppose the bright thing about this is that not once has Cara faced the same cruel fate I have.
Not once has my uncle ever touched her or hit her, and it will remain that way if I marry Ennio. My uncle, per his word, will allow Cara to go back to Chicago and live her life. He will cater to all her needs, including her college fees and her bills.
“Sei bellissima nipote,” he coos, walking toward me as Cara steps back to give him room.
He stands right in front of me, his hand stretching out to push my hair back. At the moment I feel bile clog my throat. I want to slap his hand away so much or spit saliva on his face.
Cara takes a step back into the corner of the room. She’s afraid that I’m also afraid, but I try my best to keep myself together. The days of threatening us are over. Once I marry, I will be away from him, and he, on the other hand, will keep his end of the bargain and allow Cara to go back to Chicago and live her life.
“You should smile more, look happy in front of him. Our future depend on this, remember?” He says, his finger brushing past my collarbone.
For a while, I’ve been scared of him, of his touch, afraid that every time he touches me, he’ll hurt me in one way or another, but now I’ll be free, and that scares me since I’ll be a slave to another man worse than my uncle.
“How can I forget that when it’s all you have groomed me for?” I hiss back. “I won’t disappoint,” I mock.
Another knock resonates on the door, and my uncle steps back, evading my eyes, which are as fierce as ever.
Our maid peeps her head in the room and says, “It’s time.”
Time for me to wed. Time for me to meet my fate.
“Mi scusi,” another voice comes from behind the meek maid standing by the door, and my hopeful eyes turn to the door.
The door stands ajar, and Stefano walks in. He has the same look of anger in his eyes, his deep black hair tousled to the side, and there’s a five o’clock stubble on his face.
By the looks of it, he is either nursing a hangover from yesterday, or he is still mad at me for going through with this madness.
“Are you going to let her do this, papa? She is a child,” Stefani confronts Uncle Manuel, his heavily Italian accent laced in his voice as he totally avoids staring at me.
I search for his eyes, trying to make him see reason. Trying to make him see there’s no way out of this.
Stefano has always been a good guy, a good cousin, in fact, but after many years of being away from Italy, he had been oblivious to how cruel his father was.
I don’t want to be the one to slap him with a cold dash of reality that his father is a monster and not the saint he thinks he is. Uncle Manuel is all he has, and no matter how much I hate him, I love Stefano, and the last thing I want is to hurt him.
“I’m not happy with this,” Stefano states furiously, making his opinion on the situation known.
“You do not get a say in this. None of you do,” my uncle spits viciously, tapping his cane on the floor furiously. “The limo is on its way,” he rolls his eyes with no hint of emotion on his face.
He simply can’t wait to get rid of me, can’t he?
I hold onto Stefano’s arm as the limo finally pulls up. We all get into the car, with Cara helping me with the dress and the bouquet of red roses in my hands.
I hate red roses. White roses are my favorite, just like they were my mom’s.
Immediately we get to the cathedral, the chilly breeze hits my arms without any warning as I stare at the large building in front of me.
This is how my life ends, huh?
I interlink my arm with Stefano’s. He’ll be the one to walk me down the aisle against his bitter judgment.
I want him to be the one to do it because he’s like a second father to me.
“Are you sure you want to do this? It’s Ennio La Monda we are talking about. He’s called a snake for a reason. He’s ruthless, merciless. The guy has no heart!” Stefano continues, and the more he talks, the more shivers I have.
“It’s too late to back down now. I am doing this,” I release a shaky breath as we climb the few stairs and stand outside the huge cathedral doors.
The huge doors open, and Stefano says disappointedly, “This is not what I wanted for you, Gia. I wanted you to find love on your own. Find true love and be loved like the precious rose you are.”
I don’t say anything, afraid that I may actually shed tears on the spot. Behind the big doors lies a huge crowd, all standing and staring at me.
The room is silent, and once I take a step down the aisle, murmurs fly across the room.
I try focusing on the interior of the church, and the whole thing only scares me as I see a bruised Jesus looking down on me from the altar.
In front of the huge cross where Jesus is nailed stands a bald guy wearing white, and next to him is… my soon-to-be husband.
He is dressed in an elegant black suit. Only his left side is visible to me. His face is hidden from me because he doesn’t even try to look at me.
Once we reach the end of the rather long path, Stefano flips my veil, letting go of my hand and kissing my cheek.
I take my rightful place in front of the altar, and only then do I face my husband squarely.
Indeed, just like I thought, he has a serpent tattoo, not on his chest, but on the left side of his neck.
My eyes travel to his cold, lifeless blue eyes, and they draw my attention. They stand out against his bronzed skin. His sharp jawline is covered by dark, elegantly shaved stubble.
His lush dark hair is styled in such a way that would put the Hemsworth brothers to shame. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the handsome, mysterious man in front of me is the most feared man in Italy.
Though, to be honest, I feel scared myself. My legs are shaky as he zeroes his eyes on me. His eyes move from my eyes to my lips, and unintentionally, I swallow an invisible lump of saliva down my throat.
His eyes travel south, and I hate the smirk he pulls off on his face when his gaze falls on my cleavage.
“Dearly beloved-” the old bald priest starts until my soon-to-be husband cuts him off.
And everyone gasps, me included.
The priest turns to me, “Do you, Georgia Marie Moretti, take Ennio La Monda to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
I hesitate, my watery eyes trying to find Cara in the crowd. I find her, and she mouths, ‘No, don’t do this.’ Stefano is seated next to Cara, and he bears the same expression on his face. The look of ‘I shouldn’t marry the man in front of me.’
The priest asks the question again, and the more words escape his mouth, the more the big room becomes smaller.
I can’t do this! I won’t do this!