Jannine Corti Petska
After a fifteen year absence, Antonio Massaro returns to Palermo to find a war raging between his family and the evil Falcone. His refusal to accept his rightful position as the head of the Honored Society carries serious consequences. The welfare of the people of Palermo is at stake. But one look at the beautiful woman Prima has become costs him his heart. She's a deadly distraction...one that jeopardizes her life as well as his own.
Antonio ordered Prima thrown into the dungeon. In this scene, he goes down to release her from the rack where he had previously secured her wrists and ankles.
“If you confess, you will find yourself free before nightfall.”
“I have naught to confess.” She lifted her chin and met his gaze.
“You attacked me. By what reason did you greet me with unfriendly intentions?”
“I thought you were a…thief, looking to prey on the innocent women weeping for their dead.”
She glared up at him.
“You had no other reason than to seek revenge on the Massaro and the Falcone. You thought I came, summoned to Palermo by one of those families, another man willing to join forces with powerful foes.”
“Was it not I who you bade to confess? Alas, since you have spoken my truth, as I already did after you captured me, am I free to leave?”
Antonio forced back a grin caused by her saucy remark. “Clever, piccola.” He pulled open the cuffs at her wrists anyway, ignoring the shock spanning her features. “They were never locked,” he admitted, watching her shock turn to seething hatred.
She sat up, rubbing her wrists. He scooped her surcoat from the rushes and sat down beside her legs on the raised rack. When he took her hand in his, she snatched it away.
“I mean only to tend your cuts,” he said.
“I shall see to them myself.” Prima tugged her surcoat out of his hand. “The ankle cuffs?”
Antonio glanced back at her wiggling feet, all the while aware that her eyes were on the leather tie holding his long hair in place. It was uncommon for a man of wealth and honor to wear his hair below his jaw; he didn’t care. He turned then and caught her staring. The ill-lit dungeon did not conceal the warm flush unfolding up her cheeks.
“It appears we are in a small quandary. The ankle cuffs are locked, and I have not the key.” He rose to search the dungeon. He picked up an axe and curled his fingers around the leather wrapped handle. From the corner of his eye he watched Prima as he raised the old weapon to his lips and blew the dust free. When he cleaved the table with the sharp blade, Prima gasped. “This should do, I think,” he said.
“Wh-what are you about?” Her eyes widened as he raised the weapon high above his head. “What—? Dio!” She clasped her hands behind her neck and pulled her head between her knees. The chains jerked her ankles and her legs slammed together, snapping against her ears. He knew of no easier way to rid her of the chains. One final blow freed her completely. She raised her head, rubbing her ears, and shook herself of the gypsy bells undoubtedly tinkling within. She touched her hair, felt her neck, and exhaled loudly.
Astonished, Antonio asked, “Think you I would take your head?”
She boldly met his gaze. “Sì.”