Fragile Longing - Cora Reilly
Thou shalt not covet.
I’d pined for Danilo even when he had still been engaged to my sister. It had been an innocent infatuation of a young girl, fantasizing how things would be if he were mine. My knight-in-shining armor, my Disney prince.
It had been my favorite daydream, until a simple fantasy had turned to reality when my sister couldn’t marry him.
That dream soon turned into a nightmare, and a silly girl’s fantasy burst.
He didn’t want me.
No two snowflakes are identical in shape; every single one of them is unique—magnificent, icy perfection.
Like my sister.
I’d tried to imitate her, but an imitation would never be the original. I was an echo of the perfect melody. A shadow of an immaculate image. Always less. Never enough.
Serafina had been close to perfect in people’s eyes when she was still around, but now that she was nothing but a fading memory, her absence amplified all that she had been. She’d become larger than life.
She lingered in every corner of the house, and worse, in the minds of the people she’d left behind.
How can you beat a memory?
My fingers trembled as I smoothed down my wedding dress. It wasn’t my name that would be whispered in the pews today.
Because I was the consolation prize.
The surrogate bride.
Worst of all, I was not my sister.
I peered at my reflection, my face hazy through the fine gossamer veil. Dressed like this, I almost looked like Serafina, minus the blonde hair. Still less. Always less. But maybe Danilo would see the similarities between my sister and me. Maybe, for a second, he would look at me with the same longing he used to direct at Serafina.
Before he realized I wasn’t Serafina. Before that look of disappointment settled on his face again.
Less than he wanted.
Tearing the veil from my hair, I tossed it away. I was done trying to be someone else. Danilo would have to see me for who I was, and if that meant he’d never look at me twice, then so be it.
“I can’t marry you.”
My fiancée’s words echoed in my head. Peering down at the engagement ring she’d given back to me, I tried to pinpoint my emotions—a potent mixture of fury and shock. The ring mocked me where it lay in my palm. Serafina had hardly been able to stand my closeness when she’d uttered those words.
I’d known Serafina for as long as I could remember. Long before I’d met her, her name had been whispered reverently among the boys and even the men in our circles.
The regal ice princess’s beauty featured in many fantasies.
Like magpies drawn in by a shiny object, many wanted to possess her. When she’d been promised to me at the age of fifteen, I’d reveled in the admiration and jealousy of my fellow Made Men. I’d won the sought-after prize and could call her mine.
For years, I’d counted the days to our wedding.
Everything had seemed to be working in my favor. I had been about to become the youngest underboss of the Outfit with the Capo’s niece, the ice princess, as my wife. I’d felt invincible.
Many consider arrogance and pride a sin, and I was punished harshly for those qualities.
Days before I was supposed to take over from my father as Underboss, my little sister Emma was in a car accident. Now, she was trapped in a wheelchair with no future ahead of her. The mafia world wasn’t kind. Girls and women who had obvious flaws were cast aside and deemed unworthy, doomed to a life in the shadows either as spinsters or stuck in a marriage with the first scum who accepted them.
On the day of our wedding, Serafina was stolen from me, kidnapped by our cruelest enemy: the Camorra of Las Vegas.
When their Capo sent her back to us, she wasn’t the same girl I’d known. She was lost to me, broken, and I couldn’t fix her.
My meticulously planned future was in shambles. I was left with a disabled, heartbroken sister and a dying father. Left without a wife.
I closed my eyes after ending the call with my father. He insisted that we needed to demand a bond with Cavallaro’s family. He wanted the connection to the Capo, and though I agreed, moving on from Serafina so soon after losing her cut me like an acid blade.
Life had to go on, though, and I had to appear strong. I was young. Many expected me to fail at the task of ruling over Indianapolis. They were waiting for that