The world goes sideways as my brain rattles inside my head. I look down at her. She’s trapped beneath me, no match for me physically.
I know what this is. The logical, sensible side of my brain understands. If she gives herself to me, she will not be able to blame me. If she angers me, she believes she will force my hand. And, in turn, she believes I will force her submission. It would be easier to swallow if she can blame me. Hate me.
And this. What I’m doing. Given the sheer difference between us in size and strength, it’s exactly what she wants.
I let go of her wrists and climb off the bed. I cross the room to where the bottle of champagne sits in melting ice but choose the whiskey instead. I pour myself a healthy serving and swallow it down, then pour another. I glance out the window at the vast, night sky, the stars. At this time of night, it’s hard to see where the ocean ends and the sky begins.
When I turn back to her, she’s sitting on the edge of the bed. She’s oblivious of her nakedness, and in her eyes, I see her waiting, watching me, trying to anticipate my next move. Does she expect anger? Was that accusation to anger me into action? Or was it to stop me?
“I am nothing like your brother. Never say that to me again.” I barely recognize my own voice.
She stares wide-eyed, and I swear I see the glimmer of guilt in her eyes.
“I am your husband.”
“By force. Not by my choice.”
“My protector! That’s rich. You took everything from me.”
“I’ve promised to give you what you asked for. Your sister. And in time, your freedom.”
“And I’m just supposed to believe you. You desecrated my father’s body. You kidnapped me. You say I am in danger from my brother, but what about you? What dangers lurk for me in your house? In your bed?”
My chest feels tight. She’s right in a way. If I force her, how am I any different? Me being her protector, it’s true on one hand. But on the other, who will protect her from me? From my brother?
I swallow the contents of my glass, feeling the alcohol burn its way down.
What kind of beast does she think me? That I’d do that to her? Even if she is a Russo, I wouldn’t want that for her. For any woman. My mind wanders to Hannah, but I don’t allow it to linger there. “No danger will touch you in my home, Vittoria.”
“Really? Everything that’s happened has happened to me. You’ve done what you’ve done to me. You’ve stolen my life. You tell me not to lie to myself. Then don’t lie to yourself either, Amadeo.”
“Are we talking about honesty, then? Okay, let’s do that.” I feel myself losing my patience. “What was your life exactly before?” I stalk toward her. “What are you hiding? What happened in that lost year?”
She wavers, forehead furrowing. Eyes searching for answers I don’t have. The thing is, I don’t think she has them either.
“Or don’t you know?” I ask.
She draws the blanket onto her lap, looking away uncertainly. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“What am I going to find out about Dr. Tilbury? Because I know a little already. A clue about his treatments.” I put air quotes around that last word. It was why I didn’t come up here right away once the chopper landed. Bruno was already able to find out a few things about this Dr. James Tilbury and his therapy. “Do you know his specialty?”
“Stop.” She gets up, picks up my discarded shirt, which is the nearest thing to her, and slips it on. It’s strange to see her do that. Is she shielding herself from me, or is she taking comfort from something of mine? If it’s the latter, it’s subconscious. But what does it mean? And why does seeing her in it do something to me? When she tries to walk around me, I don’t allow it. Because if we’re talking about honesty, she’s going to face some shit too.
“He wipes memories, Vittoria.”
She stares up at me, no fury in her eyes now. Uncertainty has replaced anger. Fear even.
“He treats a very exclusive clientele with unique needs.”
“Not that it matters for you. The past is the past. There’s no going back. No changing it. But I do want to know something. What memories was your father wiping away? Because he paid Tilbury a hefty sum.”
She won’t look at me. “I don’t want to talk about this.” She turns to walk away but I capture her arm to halt her.