I nodded nervously, skimming over the papers quickly, my pen poised over the signature line. It would be fatal to defy my father. Norman Stravkos was a no-nonsense man. The head of a powerful underground Mafia gang. A pesky drug lord that evaded the hands of the law like sudden lightning. His word was law, and his actions — unbred chaos.
Taking in a deep breath, I scribbled my signature down on the contract papers, pressing so hard that the track of my signature left a groove on the sheet of paper. Setting the pen down, I slid the papers across the table. Only this time, I wasn't passing it to my father but to her.
Guilt spiked in my veins as I braved myself to look at her briefly before turning away. I felt, more than saw her through my peripheral vision as she lifted big, beautiful blue, frightened eyes at me. There were tear streaks at the corners and her face was beeping red. Since we got here, all she'd done was cry silently.
She wrenched her gaze from me, glancing down sadly at the collected, official documents that would bind her to me forever. Documents that would make her mine. I wasn't sure of what would be running through her mind as she stared hard at the papers. Perhaps she was trying to make sense of this. Of what had just happened. Of a cold, cruel fate that had been decided for the both of us — our consents be damned.
Then she looked up again, this time directly at her father. Amidst the burning rage, betrayal, and the billion-dollar question of why he was putting her through this misery, I detected a new emotion swirling in her reddened eyes. Grief, and a plea. A silent one. She stared at him as though he was a different man. A stranger, not her loving father.
But Williams kept his eyes lowered, his head bent forward in defeat. He couldn't bring himself to look at her. To watch her cry. I knew that this was guilt that would haunt him to the grave. Giving his beloved daughter away to ensure peace. A debt settlement.
I was mad at him, but more pissed at my father. For being this cruel. For going this far in his quest for revenge and dominance. Was it worth her life? Was it worth ruining her dreams? Was it worth ruining mine as well? Surely, I could never accomplish as much as I used to while single, now that I was saddled with a new responsibility. A new trophy.
A wife. One I didn't want. One that, I was sure, would hate me for life.
Solana sucked in a shaky breath, cleaning her eyes aggressively. How could everyone be so oblivious, so unfeeling towards her pain? Towards her sorrow, which was painfully heart-wrenching? I could see the way her chest heaved, the way she tried, unsuccessfully, to shake off this absurdity and keep a straight face. Her hand shook as she lifted up her pen, meeting my gaze once more. One last plea. One last begging for me to put an end to this, but I was as helpless as she felt. At last, she gave up, struggling against the tears that threatened to spill onto her already stained cheeks.
I was numb. Here I was, a first-hand witness to an innocent girl's pain, an innocent girl's plight and all I could do was stare. It felt as though I was having an out-of-body experience. That I wasn't really sitting here. That I wasn't involved in this mess.
My Father's steel-like voice, coupled with his command made her shiver, and she turned to him. I watched their gazes collide — one filled with sorrow and tears, and the other brimming with triumph and happiness.
"We won't spend all day on this."
Norman Stravkos was indeed a man of few words. To call him domineering and difficult was simply putting things mildly. His expressionless stare alone was enough to make grown men, higher than him in rank and riches tremble.
In case you guessed right, there was no one, no one at all in New York that could match his wealth and multi-national chains of enterprises, the latter of which was a fine cover for his drug dealing escapades.
But Solana wasn't one of those cowardly men. I watched her gaze harden, her chin jutting out in defiance.
Her father came to the rescue. "Sign the papers, Solana. Please."
She didn't spare anyone as much as a glance after that. Quietly, she pressed the pen to the paper and signed her name — Solana Chloe Williams — on the dotted line adjacent to mine. She handed it over to the attorney, and the septuagenarian applied a seal to the sheets, before standing and exiting the room.
I slouched back on my seat, a chalky taste in my mouth. It was official. Decided. Done with.
Solana was mine.
My father stood, giving me a glaring once over that suggested that he wasn't pleased with my conduct, and strode out of the room. His two right-hand men followed him closely.
"Do you need a few minutes to bid your family goodbye?" I asked, hoping that she would see that I wasn't as uptight as my father.
"No. I don't," she barely looked at her father who still sat like a statue with his hands in my hands. Pushing her chair back, she stood, her plush pink gown that was now wrinkled, due to sitting for too long, falling over her thighs. She kept her hands by her sides, curling them into fierce little fists.
"All's been done, and I'm ready to leave now."
"Alright." I nodded, gesturing to the waiting men. She didn't wait for him to lead the way, but hurried ahead of him, as though he was escorting her to her execution. I took one last fleeting glance at her father, then at the clear glass table, the wrinkles on the leather chair where we'd all sat, taking a girl against her own will. It was all so shameful.
But I knew it could've been much worse for her. If it had gone the way my father had wanted, then there was no saving her. She would do much more than just cry. She would tear at her hair and wish she had never been born.
Norman Stravkos' cruelty was that stifling.
I'd done more than save her. I didn't intend to treat her harshly, either, now she was my wife. So why did I feel so sore? Which did I feel like a monster? A spineless idiot?
I sauntered out of the room, riding down to the lobby, all the while wiping my eyes. My throat felt tight, and there were heavy knots in my stomach. I needed fresh air. I needed a distraction. Anything at all to clear my head.
Walking out the entrance door onto the cozy Manhattan sidewalk, I clambered onto my waiting SUV wordlessly. The driver knew just where to take me, and a few minutes later, he pulled up in front of Evie's house. My mistress never expected any of my visits, but she was ever ready to satisfy me. I knocked on the door, twice, and she opened it — donning my favorite black miniskirt and a spaghetti strap top.
"Well, hello darling," she drawled, her fake Southern accent making my ears throb as she pulled me in for a hug. I wrapped my arms loosely around her waist, capturing her lips. She tasted like strawberry, and a little something more. "How did the meeting go? Was it successful?"
"I don't want to talk about it," I said stiffly, walking into the living room of her small apartment. Plopping down on a sofa, I shut my eyes and tried not to remember the fright in Solana's eyes as she lay, bound and spread out on the floor before me, with the Irish doctor probing her, and confirming that she was intact.
I'd sat there watching, and at one time I raised my voice at the doctor when her muffled screams became unbearable, urging him to go easy on her. Did that make me a little less guilty? A little more humane?
But I was aroused, my cock threatening to burst out of my straps.
She cried a lot. Each teardrop that slipped down the corner of her eyes made my collar tighten around my neck, made my head burn, and my eyes water. I'd forced myself not to hear the sounds, not to react to my father's harsh, insensitive words, her shallow breathing as she sought to remain quiet.
I'd sat there through it all.
I deserved whatever nefarious opinion she was of me right now. I was a devil. A cold-blooded monster. A puppet. Because when I finally willed myself to look at her, to meet those sea-blue eyes that were disarming, I saw the plea in them. A cry for help.
In her darkest hour, she'd sought my help, but I turned my back on her.
Her father began crying when he realized the full cost he'd agreed to; the payment of the debt he couldn't wiggle out of alone.
Her life for his. Hers for theirs.
Norman Stravkos was that evil, but it didn't absolve her father from blame. He was a coward. A selfish man and a deadbeat father. He should have done anything, everything within his power to protect her. He should have given up his life for hers. He was her protector for fuck's sake.
I sucked in a breath, blindly reaching out for the glass of wine Evie held out for me. I downed it in one go.
"More," I growled.
She did as I asked, pouring me a second glass. And one more after that. And one more till I couldn't feel my feet anymore. Yet, the alcohol did nothing to wipe that scenario from my mind. Her big sea-blue eyes were frightened. Terrified.
"I know what would make you feel better," Evie chirped, sinking to her knees before me. I widened my legs to accommodate her, sighing as she whipped out my cock from my pants gradually. She mouthed a few words — words I couldn't catch, thanks to the pounding in my head and took my already hard cock into her mouth.
I exhaled, grabbing a handful of her mousy brown hair for support, and closed my eyes, letting her do her work, taking me deep into her throat. But she was too gentle tonight, handling me like a delicate glass you that could break. I didn't want gentle.
I needed more.
Standing, I tightened my grip around her hair, squeezed my eyes shut against the image of Solana sprawled helplessly on that table, and fucked her face until she choked on my dick, tears streaming down her cheeks. I came harder than ever, groaning as I emptied down her throat. But surprisingly, my release didn't make me feel any less guilty. I still felt bad, still felt dirty, and frankly, perhaps I deserved my prickly conscience. I'd allowed it to happen. I'd sat by and done nothing when I had the power to help.
Even though it could've cost me my life, still I should've helped some more.
Now she was mine.
And she wouldn't stop loathing me till the day she breathed her last.