A Hunger for the Forbidden - By Maisey Yates
ALESSIA BATTAGLIA ADJUSTED her veil, the whisper-thin fabric skimming over the delicate skin of her neck. Like a lover’s kiss. Soft. Gentle.
She closed her eyes, and she could feel it.
Hot, warm lips on her bare flesh. A firm, masculine hand at her waist.
She opened her eyes again and bent down, adjusting the delicate buckles on her white satin heels.
Her lover’s hands on her ankle, removing her high heels. Leaving her naked in front of him, naked before a man for the first time. But there was no time for nerves. There was nothing more than the heat between them. Years of fantasy, years of longing.
Alessia swallowed and took the bouquet of bloodred roses from the chair they were resting on. She looked down at the blossoms, some of them bruised by the way she’d laid them down.
Brushing her fingertips over the crushed velvet petals brought another wave of memory. A wave of sensation.
Her lover’s mouth at her breast, her fingers woven through his thick dark hair.
Her head snapped up and she saw her wedding coordinator standing in the doorway, one hand covering her headset.
Alessia nodded, and headed toward the doorway, her shoes loud on the marble floor of the basilica. She exited the room that had been set aside for her to get ready in, and entered the vast foyer. It was empty now, all of the guests in the sanctuary, waiting for the ceremony.
She let out a long breath, the sound loud in the empty, high-ceilinged room. Then she started her walk toward the sanctuary, past pillars inlaid with gold and stones. She stopped for a moment, hoping to find some comfort, some peace, in the biblical scenes depicted on the walls.
Her eyes fell to a detailed painting of a garden. Of Eve handing Adam the apple.
“Please. Just one night.”
“Only one, cara mia?”
“That’s all I have to give.”
A searing kiss, like nothing she’d ever experienced before. Better than any fantasy.
Her breath caught and she turned away from the painting, continuing on, continuing to the small antechamber outside of the sanctuary.
Her father was there, his suit crisp and pressed. Antonioni Battaglia looked every inch the respectable citizen everyone knew he was not. And the wedding, so formal, so traditional, was another statement of his power. Power that he longed to increase, with the Corretti fortune and status.
That desire was the reason she was here.
“You are very much like your mother.”
She wondered if there was any truth to the words, or if it was just the right thing to say. Tenderness was something her father had never seemed capable of.
“Thank you,” she said, looking down at her bouquet.
“This is what’s right for the family.”
She knew it was. Knew that it was the key to ensuring that her brothers and sisters were cared for. And that was, after all, what she’d done since her mother died in childbirth. Pietro, Giana, Marco and Eva were the brightest lights in her existence, and she would do, had done, whatever she could to ensure they had the best life possible.
And still, regret settled on her like a cloak, and memory clouded the present. Memories of her lover. His hands, his body, his passion.
If only her lover, and the man waiting behind the doors to the sanctuary, waiting to marry her, were the same.
“I know,” she said, fighting against the desolation inside of her. The emptiness.
The double doors parted, revealing an impossibly long aisle. The music changed, everyone turned to look at her—all twelve hundred guests, who had come to watch the union of the Battaglia family and their much-hated rivals, the Correttis.
She held her head up, trying to breathe. The bodice of her dress threatened to choke her. The lace, which formed a high collar, and sleeves that ended in a point over her hands, was heavy and scratched against her skin. The yards of fabric clung to her, heat making her feel light-headed.
It was a beautiful dress, but it was too fussy for her. Too heavy. But the dress wasn’t about her. The wedding wasn’t about her.
Her father followed her into the sanctuary but didn’t take her arm. He had given her away when he’d signed his agreement with the late Salvatore Corretti. He didn’t need to do it again. He didn’t move to take a seat, either, rather he prowled around the back of the pews, up the side of the church, his steps parallel to hers. That was Antonioni Battaglia all over. Watching proceedings, ensuring all went well. Watching her. Making