Chapter Seven

The drive from the airport wasn’t as far as it had been to Hans’s house, but it didn’t matter much. Cantanzaro, Italy was simply beautiful, and it was relaxing to see the scenery. The area was lush with trees and grasses. The property was close to the seaside, as Hans called it, but far enough away from other people to have plenty of privacy for barbeques, outdoor activities, and parties.

Cassie was excited to see Justina, but more so to see how she was being treated. Despite Hans’s continued assurance that she was cared for and loved, she imagined the girl being locked in a dungeon, or tied to a bed. A part of her was hoping to find the girl being mistreated, so she could hold on to a glimmer of defiance toward Hans, but a bigger part hoped he was telling the truth. She didn’t want the girl being mistreated, and she was afraid of her fragile emotions.

Hans watched Cassie out of the corner of his eye. They sat together in the back of the Mercedes SUV, silently watching the scenery pass them by. He knew she was nervous and apprehensive about meeting Antonio’s other women, but he also knew she was afraid of finding out the truth. Without the insistence that the girl was being abused, she would have nothing to argue with him about. Depending on the outcome of this visit, Hans knew things would change at home between them. He only hoped it was for the best.

“Look up ahead,” he told Cassie, bringing her eyes off the side of the road. “That’s Tony’s property.

Cassie looked out the windshield, seeing the lush green of the rolling hillside. There was a large traditional style Italian mansion sitting at the end of a long cobblestone driveway. It was a massive two-story home, with the second level being surrounded by a covered veranda. The front of the home had large leaded glass windows that looked out onto the tree lined drive, the exterior was a combination of white stucco and colorful brown stones.

“What do you think now?” Hans asked with a half-grin. “Still think she’s locked in the dungeon?

Cassie didn’t answer the man as she turned away, watching them turn up the driveway. It was an unseasonably warm October day, with the sound of children playing somewhere nearby. Horses were grazing in the corral behind the house, and there was a field of crops with two large trucks harvesting the food.

The car stopped at the base a staircase that led to a columned front porch. There was a touch of grandeur in the home, yet a feeling of comfort and security. Cassie stepped out of the car as the front door of the mansion opened.

Antonio stepped out, wearing a pair of blue jeans and a green pullover polo shirt. He smiled and waved to the couple, closing the door behind him. Hans took Cassie’s hand and walked to the bottom step with her, as the man descended the staircase towards them.

“Ciao amici,” he said with a wide smile. “How was your trip?

“No complaints,” Hans answered. “It was just longer than I would have preferred.

“Ah, but it is worth it, no?

“That it is my friend,” Hans chuckled, shaking the man’s hand and watching as he kissed Cassie on the cheek.

“Welcome to La casa di Leone. Mama is anxious to see you. She has been preparing a magnificent festa for you all day. I hope you will not mind putting on a few pounds. When Mama cooks, you eat, and weight is never an issue.

“Thank you,” Cassie said, taking Hans’s arm and walking with him up the stairs beside their host. “I’m sure we’ll love it. Where is Justina?

“I had her take the children swimming, so she would not see you drive up. I want your visit to be a surprise for her.

“How’s she doing?” Hans asked in a soft, serious tone.

“She is well, but it was a rough start. She has never been away from the others, and she was lonely and scared. Even with all the noise and people in this place. We spent many long days talking, and she slowly came out of her shell. Fortunately, Louisa took her in hand, and helped her adjust better than I could. She has two sisters who love her and keep her actively involved with the life and work of the property. Now, she is a part of my family, and she is doing very well.

“I know Cassie has been worried about her,” Hans said, holding the door for his wife to enter the front foyer. “She’s one of her cubs, you know.

“Yes, I got that impression when I was in Germany,” Antonio said with a chuckle as the blonde turned and glared at both men. “But all girls need a mama bear to look after them. Fortunately, you do not have to worry. My mama has taken over for you, and Justina loves her. She’s even learning to knit. She and Mama have been working on booties for the new babies.

“Babies?” Hans asked as Cassie looked around the grand foyer with its marble columns and high ceilings.

“Si, Freja is having twins, and Louisa just found out she is pregnant as well. The house will be filled with laughter and pannolinis.

“Diapers,” Hans told his wife when she frowned.

“What about Justina?” Cassie asked as Antonio led them through a family room filled with children’s toys, and into the kitchen. “When do you plan on getting her pregnant?

“Cassidy,” Hans said in a soft tone that warned her, she was moving into the gray zone of acceptable conversations.

“I’m just curious if she wanted a child,” Cassie said in defense. “She was planning on becoming a nun before…a child was never going to be part of the equation.

“It is alright, my friend,” Antonio told Hans. “Justina is not ready to be a mother. I want her to adjust to life here at home before she considers starting a family of her own. Louisa’s oldest child is eight, and her youngest is six. She is craving a bambino in her arms. As for Freja, that was a pleasant accident. She had a baby last year and has been nursing. We did not realize she was expecting until she was four months. By then, the sickness was passed, and she was free to embrace her condition, healthy and happy. Now, we learn she is having twin boys. Justina will come in handy for helping care for the children.

“So, she’s a babysitter as well as a wh…”

“Cassidy,” Hans snapped, bringing her eyes to his.

“Justina is not a babysitter, as you call it,” Antonio assured her. “Being an only child, she loves being around the children. She has made it a habit to read them all a story before bed, and she loves to tuck them in. It is a ritual with our family to spend time together. I think that is what has helped her adjust so quickly. She realizes she is part of our family, and we are part of hers.

Antonio walked through the hallway and into the kitchen, but Hans held Cassie back. He waited until the man was out of earshot before he looked down to his wife with an angry stare on his handsome face.

“Once more, and I will take you to a room and whip your ass,” he warned her.

“I am only asking questions about my friend’s life and her role in this house. Is that so bad?

“You have insinuated that she is here out of convenience and servitude, and I will not have you suggesting such a thing. She is part of a family now. Families help each other, and work together to make the day successful. Once more…”

“You’ll whip my ass. Thanks, I’ve already been warned.

Cassie pulled her arm free and walked through the door Antonio had gone a moment ago. She understood Hans’s objections, but she didn’t need threatened for stepping outside of their agreed box. She was aware she had moved beyond common conversation as soon as she heard the words come out of her mouth, but it was too late to stop them.

Antonio was leaning against the edge of a granite counter, eating a piece of bread and jam when she entered the room. A small, slightly heavyset woman with short grey hair turned as she entered the room, smiling politely. Her eyes lit up when Hans followed, and she quickly set her stirring spoon aside and went to him, her arms outstretched.

“Hans, ragazzo mio,” the woman said, hugging the man and kissing his cheeks. “It has been too long.

“Hello, Mama,” Hans answered with a warm smile that touched Cassie’s heart. “Something smells amazing.

“It is my homemade manicotti. I know how much you love it.

“Mmm,” Hans said, following the woman to the stove. “Yeah, that smells pretty good too.

Mama laughed, and Cassie smiled. This was how she always imagined it would have been like to have a mother. As close as she was with Aunt Mazy, it was never the same as having a mother.

“Mama, I want you to meet my wife, Cassie,” Hans said, offering Mama a kiss on the cheek, as he snatched a piece of bread from a pan, on the back of the large stove.

The woman turned and looked at Cassie, then immediately frowned.

“So thin,” she said, eyeing the blonde up and down. “Do you not feed the girl?

“He feeds me, too much,” Cassie smiled. “Loads of potatoes and cabbage, but I have always been partial to pasta.

“Buona,” Mama said, walking to Cassie and hugging her as she kissed both of her cheeks. “You will have your fill today. Now, Hans, take your bags upstairs. We will surprise Justina at lunch.

“We aren’t saying over, Mama,” Hans answered.

Cassie nearly laughed at the angry expression the woman gave the man, pinning him to the floor with her dark eyes.

“You will not leave,” she argued. “You just got here.

“I’m sorry Mama, but we’re only in Italy for a few days. We’re leaving tomorrow. I brought Cassie to see how well the girl is doing.

“No,” Mama snapped. “You will spend the night. If you must leave, you will do it tomorrow, and you will be back by Christmas.

“I was hoping you would come to Germany for Christmas. We’re having a holiday party instead of an auction.

“That would be great,” a woman said behind them. “We haven’t left Italy since last spring when we went to France for our anniversary.

Cassie turned to see a very attractive woman walk into the room. She was tall with shoulder length blonde hair and big blue eyes. She looked to be around twenty-five years old and had a round belly that made Cassie think she was Freja. She watched with a frown as the woman walked up to Hans and wrap her arms around his neck, and worse was when he returned her hug. He kissed her on the lips, briefly but too familiar to be friendly, then moved out of her embrace.

“Freja, you look wonderful,” Hans said, looking down to her stomach. “Motherhood agrees with you.

“Thank you, Hans. I’m quite happy being a mother. It’s the best role I could have ever asked for.

“Cassie, this is my second woman, Freja,” Antonio said, introducing the two women. “Cassie is Hans’s wife.

“Tony said you were married, but I couldn’t believe it,” the woman said with a wide smile that revealed her perfectly straight teeth. “Of all the people I’d expect to take a woman, you were at the bottom of my list.

“That is only because I was waiting for the right one,” Hans chuckled as he slipped his arm around Freja’s waist. “Cassie was a surprise to all of us.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Cassie,” Freja said, reaching her hand out to greet her. “I can see why Hans decided to wait for you. You’re beautiful.

“I could say the same about you,” Cassie replied, shaking the woman’s hand. “At least my husband seems to think so.

Hans smiled, knowing she was referring to his arm still around Freja’s waist, but it didn’t bother him. A little jealousy would keep his wife’s mind off Antonio’s way of life and focused on how familiar he was with the women.

“Don’t worry about Hans,” Antonio said. “Freja is mine. He’s just flirting.

“Enough,” Mama said, scolding the men. “Go set the table and get the others ready. I want to see Justina’s face when she sees her Mama.

“I’m not her…” Cassie began with a frown.

“You’re her protector, aren’t you? At least that’s what my son has said. A mother protects her bambinas, and worries about them. That makes you her mama.

“I suppose…I never thought of it like that…”

“Mama knows all about protecting her young,” Freja told her with a friendly smile. “Anyone wants to hurt us, they have to go through her.

“And that includes me,” Antonio smiled, reaching a hand out for his woman.

Cassie watched the blonde walk out through a set of glass doors with Antonio, before turning and glaring at Hans. He leaned against the counter and folded his arms across his chest, in a cocky sort of way, that told her he was still in control. Even thousands of miles away from Hennhofen, he was still the Master.

“Hans, take this to the veranda, and stop staring at your wife like a spoiled little boy who got his way. I want to talk with Cassie.

Hans obeyed and took out a large bowl of pasta and a plate of fresh baked bread. He glanced to Cassie as if to say 'you asked for it', then left the room and the two women alone.

“Antonio has told me that you are worried about Justina,” Mama began as she turned and wiped her hands on her apron before untying it. “I understand how you feel about the way she came to live with us, but she is under my protection and I will not let harm come to her. Antonio never raises a hand in anger, to her or the others, and he never will.

Mama took Cassie by the arm and gently led her to a large round table on the other side of the room. She sat down in a chair and waited until Cassie joined her before she continued.

“Has your husband told you how Antonio came to be friends with him?” the older woman asked.

“Not exactly,” Cassie answered. “He said you arranged for him to go to an auction, but that’s about all I know.

“Si, that is how we got the women, but they have known each other for years. Konrad von Hennhofen would buy wine from my husband, Emilio. We knew what kind of man he was, but we were frightened of his power. He was a mean, hateful man, and he could cause a lot of problems for us, especially after Emilio died. We had no choice but to close our eyes to his evil ways.

“Hans doesn’t speak of his father much.

“He was no father, he was…how do you Americans’ say…a sperm donor? He was abusive, and Hans suffered his wrath. Hans was sent away to school, and he finally saw the right way to live. He and Antonio were in school together, and it was an instant friendship. Antonio’s papa died when he was a young man. That left me alone with two boys to manage this large property. My second son, Marco, is six years younger than Antonio, and he looked up to his big brother for guidance and help. Antonio is a good man. He kept the vineyard going, even after he left for school. He came home every weekend to oversee the vineyards and stayed in contact with the workers. When he graduated, he came home and opened a clinic in Cantanza. Within three years, he had four more clinics, and was able to relax more.

“What kind of clinics?” Cassie asked with a curious frown.

“Antonio is a psychiatrist,” Mama answered proudly. “He helps people who are depressed, anxious, or has phobias. He is a very successful man, and he put his brother through school. But he was too busy to meet women, and he was shy. He was always very awkward when it came to girls. I believe he was a virgin when I learned about Hans's business.

Cassie didn’t say anything, she just smiled. Looking at the man and remembering how he acted at the castle when he met Justina, it was hard to think of him as ever being a virgin.

“Hans invited us to the castle for the autumn auction, and I helped him bid on Louisa. You will meet her in a little while. She took Mario to town for a new saddle for his horse. When she was brought out to the stage, I saw the attraction in my son’s eyes. He fell in love with her. She is very beautiful, and as soon as he started to bid, I knew she was the right woman for him. He won the auction but was nervous about their first night together. Hans told her to introduce him to sex, and in the morning, he was more in love than ever.

“He fell in love?” Cassie asked with a frown.

“I know what you are thinking,” Mama chuckled. “Men only buy women for sex, but it was more than that. I wanted grandchildren, and Antonio didn’t know how to talk to women. He’d spent his life taking care of his family and putting his needs second. Louisa came back here with us and made him a very happy man. She was pregnant with Christina, their second child, when she suggested he contact Hans for another woman. She was having problems with her pregnancy, and there was a chance we could have lost them both. She was put in bed for the first few months. It was a frightening time and Louisa did not want Antonio to be left alone in case things went bad. She went with him to Hans’s auction and came home with Freja. They were very happy. When Hans contacted him about Justina, he talked with all of us, and we decided he needed to bring her home. She needed a family, and Hans was afraid of her mental state.

“He never told me any of that,” Cassie said with a frown.

“Hans is from old German thinking,” Mama chuckled, patting her hand. “He has always believed men do not need to explain things to women. Women have babies, make love, and obey. It’s not just the castle that has convinced him of that, it is also his heritage. But you are American, and you have a strong personality. When Antonio returned from Germany, he said he envied Hans and felt sorry for him, too. He said you would keep him happy and drive him crazy at the same time. But that is good. You are the kind of woman he needs.

“I just wish…” Cassie paused, looking down to her hands.

“That he would give up the castle?” Mama asked with a knowing smile. “Antonio said you were not happy with the way he makes a living. But, you are aware he cannot do it? His father demanded he continue his family tradition in his will. If he gave it up, the castle would go to his father’s valet, and his two sons.

“I didn’t know that,” Cassie said with a frown.

“Yes. If that man took over the castle, things would have stayed the same as when Hans’s father had it. Women were treated badly,” Mama said shaking her head. “Hans changed everything. He made it comfortable and a much happier place. He has instigated a very strict order of lessons, and he does abuse the women - but not for long. And he makes much more money than his father ever dreamt of.

“Why didn’t he tell me that?

Cassie’s frown deepened when she considered what the woman was telling her. She thought he enjoyed what he did, but now she had to wonder if he was acting out of duty, rather than perversion.

“He is German,” Mama laughed, patting her hand again. “Remember that, and you will be able to break through the ice wall he has built around his heart. He had a horrible childhood, and he hides his emotions from everyone. But I can see the love for you in his eyes.

“He’s always threatening to punish me,” she said boldly.

“Because he does not know how else to deal with a woman’s strong mind. You must teach him.


“You will think of a way,” Mama laughed again, then stood up from the table. “Come. Let’s go get your friend and have lunch. I hope you will change your mind and stay. You need to see that Justina is happy.

“I’ll see what Hans says about it,” Cassie said with a smile.

The two walked out onto the veranda and saw Hans sitting in a chair with a dark-haired girl in a swimming suit on his lap. She was laughing as he tickled her, and she smiled, wondering what kind of a father he would make.

“Ah, here you are,” Antonio said, taking the hand of a small boy, about four years old. “Now we can get Zia Justina.

Cassie took the chair next to Hans, frowning. Not only did she have to learn German, she had to learn Italian as well.

“Aunt Justina,” Hans said with a smile, reading her mind.

“Oh,” she blushed, then looked at the little girl. “What’s your name?

“Christina,” the girl said proudly, hugging Hans around the chest. “Are you one of Papa’s girls, too?

“No, Angioletto,” Hans answered for her. “Cassie is my wife.

“But…I thought you were going to wait until I grew up,” the child said with a sad look on her face.

“You will always be my Angioletto. Even Cassie cannot stand in the way of that, but one day you will want a man your own age.

“By the time you’re old enough for Hans, he will be a very old man with white hair, flabby muscles, and wrinkles,” Cassie told the girl with a wink. “You want someone handsome, and young, who you can order around.

“I won’t be that old,” Hans smiled to Cassie.

“Will you have bambinos?” Christina asked with a sad expression.

“Perhaps, one day.

“Can I marry one of them?

Hans hugged the girl to his chest and kissed the top of her head.

“What do you say if I promise to help you pick out a man who will treat you like a queen?

“Will he be handsome, like you?


“Alright. Then I’ll let Cassie have you. But remember, you promised.

“I will never forget,” Hans chuckled, hugging the girl again as she jumped off his lap.

“Go get Zia Justina,” her father told her. “But don’t tell her what her surprise is.

“Okay Papa,” the girl answered, and ran off to the side of the house.

“So, I have competition?” Cassie asked Hans with an amused smile.

“Never, but Christina is special.

“Hans is her Godfather, and he helped bring her into this world,” Antonio said, watching the color steal into his friend’s cheeks as Cassie’s eyes widened.

“You seem to be full of secrets,” she said.

“It wasn’t anything heroic,” he answered.

“It was for us,” Antonio added as Freja sat down next to him. “Louisa and I had gone to pick out Freja, when she went into labor a month early. We thought we still had time, but the baby had other plans.

“She should not have been traveling at all,” Mama added with a tone that said it had been a long-standing argument in the house.

“Despite that, during the heat of our first night with Freja, Louisa’s water broke, and a small hand came out before we could get help. We called Hans who arrived in time to catch her. She was not going to wait for anyone, and he was there when we needed him, just as he always has been.

“He is a good boy,” Mama said, causing the man’s color to turn a deeper shade of red.

“I suppose that does make you a hero,” Cassie teased.

“I’ll show you my super powers later,” he promised with a wink.

“Keep your eyes closed,” Christina said, as she pulled Justina by the hand, followed by another little girl about a year younger.

Cassie stood up followed by Hans, watching as the child tugged Justina beside her, eyes closed and dripping wet.

“Christina, wait,” Justina giggled. “You’re going to run me into a wall.

“I won’t let that happen,” Cassie said, watching her friend open her eyes wide.

“Cassie!” she screeched and let go of the child’s hand as she ran to the blonde, hugging her tightly, despite her wet condition. “When did you get here? Why didn’t you tell me you were coming? How long are you staying?

“Take it easy, amore mio,” Antonio said as the others laughed. “She can only answer one question at a time.

“I’m so happy to see you. We had to leave without saying goodbye. Are you alright? Hans said you were sick, and Liam told us you were found unconscious and bleeding.

“I was?” Cassie asked with a frown as she turned to Hans.

“Yes. Quite a lot.

Hans looked serious and she realized she’d never really asked him much about the day she’d lost the pregnancy. She’d just assumed he’d taken her to see Rosa and left it at that.

“I’m sorry you lost the baby,” Justina said, holding her friend by the hand as they returned to the table. “But you’ll have another chance, won’t you?

“She’ll have many more chances,” Hans chuckled, causing Cassie to blush this time.

“So, how long are you here for?

“Just today, I’m afraid. Hans needs to get back to the castle and we’ve made arrangements to have supper with a friend of his tomorrow before we leave.

“But you can stay the night,” Justina urged. “It’s not that long of a flight, is it? Can you leave tomorrow? I have so much I want to tell you. How are the girls?

“They’re all fine,” Cassie chuckled as Mama and Freja began dishing up the lunch. “They are still…”

Cassie paused and looked to Hans. She wasn’t certain if she should say anything with Christina around, and now there were two other small children, one barely two years old, in his father’s arms.

“They are advancing to level five at the end of the week, and doing very well with their lessons,” Hans answered for his wife.

“I wish I could see them,” she said sadly. “How’s Anne?

“She’s doing well,” Cassie assured her. “They all are. And they are all happy for you.

“Hans has invited us to the castle for a holiday party,” Antonio told the girl as he took a plate from Freja, smiling at her with a promising wink. “If you would like, we can accept the invitation now.

“Yes, please. That will be so much fun.

“Then consider yourselves on the guest list,” Hans smiled.

“And the others? Will they be there? Can I see them?

“They will all be there, and you can spend as much time as you’d like with them,” Hans promised.

“It will be so much fun,” Justina laughed. “I’ve never been to a real holiday party before.

“You’ll need a dress for the occasion, and some new traveling clothes,” Antonio told her. “Marco will be home for the holidays, and we can invite him to join us.

“Marco?” Cassie asked as she took her fork and stuck it into the pasta.

“My younger brother. He has just graduated university and will be home for a few months to sort out his career.

“I want Marco to meet the girls,” Mama said. “I think it is time he finds a woman for himself.

“I think Marco has had more women than Hans,” Antonio laughed as the sound of a car pulled up next to the large home.

“If he wants to be invited to the auction, he will have to agree to testing,” Hans said. “But I don’t see any reason not to let him check out the inventory for next year.

“What kind of testing?” Cassie asked as the sound of voices echoed through the house.

“All the buyers have to provide proof of disease testing,” he said softly as the sound of a boy’s voice called out to his papa. “The women are clean, and the men must be as well, or they won’t receive an invitation.

“I wasn’t tested,” Cassie said with a frown as Antonio stood up and walked into the kitchen.

“I had no worries about you, my love,” Hans smiled, reaching over and caressing her cheek. “You had the blood tests when you were brought to the castle, but that was all. The other girls had vaginal testing as well as the blood.

“I don’t remember that?

“That’s because you were unconscious,” he smiled.

“You…when we were…”

“Calm down,” he ordered staring at her shocked expression. “We’ll discuss it later.

Cassie decided to keep her mouth shut for now, but she had a lot to say once they were alone.

“Papa said we can go riding,” a young boy said as he came bounding out of the house. “Christina, come on. I have a new saddle. Let’s go ride the horses.

“No,” Mama said sharply. “You come eat. We have guests, and you need to show your manners.

“But Nonna, I have a new saddle,” the boy whined, then looked to Hans and smiled. “Zio Hans.

“Hello Mario,” Hans chuckled hugging the boy. “Come eat with us like Nonna said, and after you’ve finished we’ll all go ride the horses.

“Not Cassie and me,” Justina said, wiping her hands on the napkin. “Tony promised to take me to Cantanzaro for new shoes, and I want Cassie to go with us.

“Why don’t you girls go instead, and we’ll keep the children here,” Antonio said in a distracted voice as he helped his son dish up the pasta. “You can get the shoes and anuthing else you would like. I’m sure Cassie would love to have something pretty to wear as a souvenir of her stay in Italy.

Cassie stopped eating and stared at the man with wide eyes, before turning to Hans. The look on his face was stern and set, but before he could reply, Justina squealed.

“That will be so much fun,” she said excitedly. “I’ll get my purse.

Cassie drew a breath to object to the girl, but she moved so quickly, she was gone by the time she formed two words in her mind. She looked back to Hans, watching him stare at his plate. She could feel his anger radiating from the chair next to her, and she was afraid of what he would say in front of his friends.

“Justina is very excitable,” the petite brunette said with a smile as she reached her hand out to Cassie. “I’m Louisa. I assume you’re Cassie? Justina has told us so much about you, it’s like we already know you.

“It’s nice to meet you,” Cassie said, shaking the woman’s hand, then watching as she walked to Hans who stood up.

“I can’t believe you came,” she said, offering the man a warm hug, then kissed him on the lips.

Cassie glared at the couple as Hans returned Louisa’s hug, but their eyes didn’t meet. She knew he was angry, but he was trying to be as well-mannered as possible. She may have had certain freedoms at the castle, and in Veneto, so long as she was alone when she took them, but going into a village full of people, was something he wasn’t bargaining for.

It wasn’t her fault Antonio suggested she go with Justina, but she was certain she’d be the one to suffer the wrath once they were alone. She was technically still his slave. A slave with a title, and piece of paper that declared her his wife, meant little to a man trying to hide her from the rest of the world.

The group disbursed over the next few minutes, with Antonio heading to the stables beside Mario and Christina, as promised, while Freja put the younger children down for a nap. Mama insisted on making a shopping list, and took Cassie with her, leaving Hans alone on the shaded patio with his former slave, silently fighting his emotions. If he’d had his way about it, he’d have ordered Justina to her room and took Cassie back to the villa.

“Stop worrying so much,” Louisa said with a knowing smile. “Your wife will not be alone, and Tony said she doesn’t speak Italian. What harm can she cause?

“A lot,” Hans grumbled. “You don’t know Cassidy.

“And you don’t give her enough credit,” the woman laughed. “She will not do anything. She’s in love with you. Even if she’s angry, or frustrated with what you do at the castle, she won’t leave your side.

“You overestimate her. Regardless of how she may feel about me, she is more concerned about the girls at the castle. She’s always bartering for special privileges for them, even to the point of giving me her virginity so they could play in the pool. Everything she does is for their sakes.

“You let the women out to swim?” Louisa asked with wide eyed amusement. “I wish I’d had her there when I was in training.

“It’s not funny, 211,” he said, using the number she was once known by. “Cassie and I are always at odds with each other over the girls. If she thought she could get help for them…”

“You need to give her some space and make her feel like a part of your life. Make her feel like she’s your wife and not your whore.

“Easier said than done,” he grumbled again. “If I give her an inch, she barters for a mile. If I give her five minutes, she wagers for an hour. She’s never happy with the rules, and she pushes them to the breaking point.

“Who does she barter with?

“Me, of course.

“Nobody else?” Louisa asked with a raised brow, causing him to frown.

She wasn’t using her special gifts against him or using them on anyone else. She barters with him, and him alone, and she never tried to weasel her way out of duties or responsibilities. Even the night he brought Spangler and her friend to their room, she didn’t try and barter her way out of it. She always surrendered her beautiful body to him, just as he used it in exchange for special treatment for the girls.

“You really do love her, don’t you?” Louisa asked, watching the man’s expression as he thought about his wife. “Hans, trust her. Tell her how you feel and remove the leash. If she does try to seek help, you’ll be the first one to know about it. If she doesn’t, she’ll be back.

Hans frowned as he thought about the talk they had several weeks ago. She said a part of her would never stop trying to get away. He was giving her an out, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He only hoped her love for him was stronger than her hunger for freedom.

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