* * *
Today is the day I noticed everybody looking at me crazy.
It’s the champagne—andthe whiskey I snuck at the hotel bar. It’s helped in some ways, blurred reality so I’m not upset and tearful anymore.
An hour is all it takes.
I’m stumbling, slurring, trying hard to be a blushing bride.
To Florina and Marsia’s credit, they cleaned me up well. Florina turned Lucius’ disastrous ‘whore’s’ haircut into a teased pixie that stops at my ears. It still shows off my cheekbones and the veil disguises how short it is anyway.
The dress is the star and accentuates my slender model physique. All lace. All shoulder pads. Very 80s chic.
Too bad I can’t walk in a straight line. I trip and step on the hem of my long gown. Then I giggle.
A couple guests glance my way and mutter amongst themselves.
I’mthe problem. Not the devil standing at the altar waiting for me.
I snort and shake my head. “Dumbasses.”
Papa gives a tired sigh when he sees me and my short hair. “Stefani… what did you do now? Your beautiful hair. Is that liquor on your breath?”
The music’s playing and it’s our cue. He’s supposed to walk me down the aisle. My father walking me down to my husband.
Fitting seeing as Papa arranged this in the first place. I’m a possession being passed over to my next owner.
There’s a voice inside my head screaming at me to do something. Say something. Yank my arm out of Papa’s and run for it. Make my escape.
I already look crazy, stumbling with my hair chopped off. Why not go all the way?
But I chicken out. I’m held captive under Lucius’ cold, cruel glare as he watches Papa escort me down the aisle. It’s plain on his round, pudgy face—don’t fucking try me, Stef.
My mouth clamps shut.
Today is the day I make a deal with the devil.
The minister speaks and I ignore every word. I’m swaying, glancing around, unable to focus. My thoughts are scattered and my heart’s broken. Hundreds sit in the audience and witness my mess live.
They’ll be talking about this for years. Stefania Crotone, daughter of Leandro Crotone, a drunken slob at her own wedding.
I blink and squint as a familiar face sticks out to me. Standing at the entrance of the banquet hall a man in a suit as dark as his jet-black hair. His face is expressionless, his jaw clenched and hard, though his gaze tells a different story.
What’s left of my heart disintegrates into ash.
Addio per sempre, anima gemella.
My knees wobble and my legs buckle. I lose my footing and drop to the floor. On my way down I hit my head and black out.
Today is the day I died of a broken heart.
chapter 1 - salvatore
What if life could always be this good?
I glance out at the view before me.