“Nothing important. Just mail.”
“Just mail. It didn’t look like ‘just mail’. Lemme see!”
I lunge for it and she attempts to beat me to the punch. Long arms come in handy, where as short and stubby ones don’t. We crash into each other like we’re linebackers playing football. I come out on top, holding up the envelope beyond her reach.
Still unsteady and dizzy, I put space between us by retreating to the open window.
My sharp gasp fills the room and eyes flit up to her. “Flo, you were gonna keep this from me?”
She bows her head, her shoulders slumped. “You shouldn’t read it. Nothing good’s gonna come of it.”
“You’ve got no right, hiding my mail!”
“If he finds out—”
“I don’t give a fuck who finds out—you’ve got no right, Flo! This is mine,” I say, my voice swelling with emotion. I blink and suddenly I’ve got tears in my eyes. “I’m losing everything and you’re taking this too?”
At least she looks ashamed. She has the good sense to mumble an apology before mentioning she’ll give me a moment.
I’m not even listening. I’m spinning. I’m wrapped up in a memory reel of passionate kisses and intimate caresses.
Today is the day mio anima gemella remembers me.
My heart’s racing. My cheek’s heat up. The good kinda heat. Not the panicky, stifled, I-can’t-breathe heat from earlier.
The envelope’s already been cut open. No wonder Florina was hiding it—she probably read it and didn’t want me to know.
I’ll worry about that later. For now, I take this small slice of happiness and embrace it.
He’s written me in his neat cursive:
I pause and let out a dreamy sigh at my petname. He always says me and my golden hair reminds him of the dawn. I keep reading.
I hope this letter finds its way to you. I believe many of the others have not. The decision has been made and there is no turning back, but consider this one last goodbye.
We discovered one another by mistake. I had no intention of becoming besotted by a woman, a daughter born of a rival no less. Yet, I could never resist you, even as I tried to stay away. My forbidden downfall.
Circumstances have always been impossible for us. Though it may dictate the future, it can never erase the past.
That will always be ours. Ty vsegda budesh’ moim solntsem v zimniy den’.
I’m blubbering by the time I read the last word. A couple tears roll down my cheeks and drop onto the letter, wetting the paper. Being the glutton for punishment I am, I read it again. Then again. And again.
Today is the day I lose the love of my life.
So much for positive affirmations. My heartbroken affirmation vibrates inside my chest as I wipe my swollen eyes and ponder how what’s happening is any fair.
Papa needs to marry me off. But only to the right kinda guy. The list is a short one. He vetted, he combed over the options, and eventually selected who he thought was the best fit—his successor to the Crotone family empire.
An arranged marriage. A contractual arrangement for money and power. Love couldn’t matter less.
My lungs shake exhaling another breath.