A Dark Sicilian Secret(5)

Anguish and heartbreak beat at her. “I can’t do this, Vitt,” she choked, as he wrapped an arm around her waist, holding her steady against him. “I won’t be part of your life. I can’t.”

He slid his palm across her cheek, pushing heavy blond hair back from her cold face. His hand was warm, so warm, and the caress sent a shiver through her.

“And what is so wrong about my life?” he asked, his voice pitched low.

For a moment she could think of nothing. What could be wrong when Vitt held her so securely? How could feeling good be bad?

Her cheek tingled from his touch and her insides did crazy flips. She struggled to put together a coherent sentence. “You know,” she whispered, thinking of her father, his ties to the Detroit mob and the terrible consequences for all of them, although no one had paid more dearly than her sister.

“Explain it to me.”

“I can’t.” She trembled against him, acutely aware of every place his body pressed against hers. His chest against her breasts. His hips tight against her pelvis. His thighs against her thighs. The contact was both exquisite and excruciating. Her body loved it, him. Her body wanted so much more. Her mind, though, revolted.

“Why not?” He stroked her hair over her shoulders into smooth wet waves down her back.

She drew back to look into his eyes. It was a mistake, as her heart turned over. He was beautiful. Beyond beautiful. But also so very lethal. He could destroy her with the blink of his eyes and no one would stop him. “You know who you are,” she whispered. “You know what you do.”

The edge of his full sensual mouth lifted, and he tucked a tendril of hair behind her ear, his fingertips lingering a moment against the back of the sensitive lobe. “It appears that you’ve tried and convicted me without giving me an opportunity to prove my innocence, because I am innocent, cara. I am not the man you imagine me to be.”

“You deny you are Vittorio d’Severano? Head of the d’Severano family of Catania, Sicily?”

“Of course I do not deny my family or my heritage. I love my family and am responsible for my family. But how is being a d’Severano a crime?”

She held his gaze. “The d’Severano family fills pages and pages of history books. Blackmail, extortion, racketeering…and those are the misdemeanors.”

“Every family has a skeleton in the closet—”

“Yours has at least a hundred!”

His dark eyes glittered, the brown irises flecked with gold. “Do not disparage my family. I have nothing but respect for my family. And yes, we are a very old Sicilian family. We can even trace our ancestors back a thousand years. Something I don’t think you can do, Jill Smith.”

She winced at the way he said her name. He made her feel common and cheap. But wasn’t that his point? He was Vittorio d’Severano and she was no one.

He was right, of course. She was insignificant, and she had no one she could turn to, no one strong enough, powerful enough to protect her, because who would fight the mafia for her? Who would take on Vittorio, when not even the American and Italian government could bring him down?

But even knowing the odds, she still had to fight, because what were her options? Let Vittorio take Joe from her? Never. Not in a million years.

Which brought her to her senses. What was she doing in his arms, her body taut against his? It was insanity, that’s what it was, and she fought to regain control. Jillian struggled against his chest. “You forget yourself,” she gritted. “This is America, not Sicily and I do not belong to you. Let go.”

He released her and she took a step away, and then another, walking blindly in the downpour in the opposite direction of her house because she’d never lead Vitt there. Never in a million years.

“Where are you going?” he called after her.

“Continuing with my walk. Need the exercise.”

“I’ll join you.”

“Please don’t.”

But he followed her anyway, although at a more leisurely pace.

Gut churning, mind whirling, Jillian splashed through puddles as she walked, trying to figure out how to lose Vitt, how to keep him from discovering Joe’s whereabouts.

She hadn’t brought her cell phone with her, so she couldn’t call Hannah and warn her. She hadn’t brought money, either, so it wasn’t as if she could catch a cab from town.

And so she just kept walking, and the rain kept coming, and Vitt continued following.

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