Five men slaughtered, their blood splattered across walls, furniture, and children’s toys.
My men, those I’d trained to remain loyal, protecting my family and my wealth and I’d been unable to protect them against an inferior enemy.
Revenge would be sweet.
In my world, peace was almost nonexistent, the act of war bred into my system. Very few people understood the power of influence and there wasn’t a single human soul who didn’t have a hidden agenda.
There was something innately beautiful about violence, bloodshed based on the act of revenge. It brought a sense of internal peace to a vicious world, an understanding that betrayal wasn’t an option.
I’d often enjoyed the thought of teaching lessons, providing an answer to a need that all men found locked deep within their darkest desires. I was passionate about the heavy burden, appreciating the fine art of destroying a human life while still able to control a small portion of humanity.
The drive was insatiable, the satisfaction of inflicting pain personal, a sacred yet indulgent way of handling business.
I’d been called the pain maker, a moniker that had remained with me my entire adult life.
Tonight would certainly not change the tradition or the nickname, only further encapsulating the power I held in my hands.
I’d taken over most of the family operations, my father pushed into an early retirement. He’d seemed weak, a decision made almost ten years before altering our future. The Vincheti family never accepted compromise and that wasn’t going to happen now. It didn’t matter to me about my father’s importance or his level of influence both in our city and up and down the East Coast. Now that I’d taken control, certain aspects of our business were going to change, treaties eradicated. Every betrayal, every single incident threatening my territory would end.
No matter the level of bloodshed was required.
That’s why my dinner had been interrupted, my esteemed guests ushered from my grandmother’s restaurant minutes after the remains of a delicious dinner had been taken away, a rat brought into the kitchen.
Five of my most trusted men had been assassinated inside their homes. Some fucking asshole had broken in, killing them while they’d slept next to their wives or girlfriends, taking the time to slaughter the women after using them like whores. I didn’t need a testament written down or a group of informants to tell me who was responsible.
Casimine Adamos, the ruthless pig leader of the Polish mafia had declared war on my existence. Maybe that’s because my tactics were entirely different than my father’s. I’d already taken to cleaning up the streets of the crack cocaine introduced by the pompous asshole’s men. Drugs were not allowed in my territories under any circumstances.
His response had been an unacceptable body count, picking off my men just to piss me off.
Giovanni glared at me just before I walked into the kitchen, shaking his head, daring to roll his eyes. He jingled his keys in his hand, prepared to shut down his typical workday. “Don’t leave a fucking mess, Valentin. You know how your grandmother will react.”
My grandmother, partial owner of the restaurant along with my cousin. His glare pissed me off. While he refused to become a part of the family business, his required respect was something he often forgot to acknowledge. “I suggest you spend time planning your next menu, Giovanni, instead of attempting to provide me with any demands. I assure you the place will be spotless.”
“Good. I have a date with my girlfriend. I don’t plan on returning and cleaning up after your ass. Pick somewhere else to handle business. Will ya?”
His girlfriend was a sexy blonde who’d come into his life like a firestorm. Ever since then, he’d done little more than show up at the restaurant, placing more of the burden on my grandmother. I’d deal with his appetite later, reminding him what was most important.
I ignored his comment, pushing my way into the kitchen then glaring at the asshole who’d dared to dishonor me.
I was in one cranky mood, finished with playing games with the sniveling man or anyone else for that matter.
Giovanni snorted from behind me, uttering a string of curse words. We weren’t buddies, his holier than thou attitude because he’d once considered becoming a priest. Unfortunately, the family reputation had become a significant issue, especially after he was almost killed because of his bloodline.
At least he was a man I could trust implicitly. I’d even required his expertise in marksmanship on more than one occasion. Family was family after all.
I faced the fucker who’d dared cross me and sighed. He was quivering, his stark white face a direct contrast to his dark clothing. Fuck. He was already blubbering, the usual response when my second in command brought his hunting knife. Tonight, Brando was tapping the sharp blade between Dylan’s outstretched fingers, the implied threat forcing the man to sweat.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Vincheti. I swear to God I didn’t mean to disparage you,” Dylan moaned, issuing the same statement for the second time in less than two minutes. I’d heard every excuse over the years, most of which I ignored, although there was a truthful sound to his pained voice that kept me from inflicting pain.
However, there was nothing worse than a rat.
“Please. I’ll do what you want. I don’t want to die.”
Jesus Christ. I hated when they resorted to acting like whimpering children. He knew exactly what I expected out of my employees.
In my line of work, a traitor usually meant an interruption in business, often leading to a tragic end. Unfortunately, for Dylan, that meant an end to his employment with my organization, his treachery unforgiveable. His punishment had yet to be determined.
While I’d attempted to be fair in my determinations, my brutal nature refused to allow his lies to be ignored, and a message needed to be sent to others in my employ.
Don’t fuck with me.
I rubbed my jaw as I glared at him, taking my time to consider how best to handle his unseemly infraction.
Dylan was shaking, his right foot tapping against the tiled floor of the kitchen, which was almost as annoying as his heavy breathing. He was a large man, someone who’d spent far too much time feasting on his own cooking. He continued to blubber, which was a typical reaction when found in my crosshairs. What I wouldn’t give for a man to act like a man, admitting their sins and accepting defeat.
“What do you want to do with him, boss?” Brando asked, his gruff voice indicating he was itching to take the lead, removing one or several of Dylan’s digits. It was late, almost closing time, Tuesday nights the least popular. I hadn’t intended on handling the difficult situation inside Mama Lucia’s restaurant, but given his treacherous act, I couldn’t allow his egregious behavior to continue even another night.
My men had dragged him here in the trunk of a vehicle, waiting until most customers had left, including the men I’d been meeting with, contracts signed for another commercial real estate development. Thankfully, only a few employees were left on the other side, clearing dishes and tablecloths, preparing to leave. They all knew to keep their mouths shut.
I glanced at my Capo then back to the rat. “Dylan. I need to know the names of everyone that you felt compelled to provide detailed, sensitive information to, including the addresses of my soldiers.”
He looked away, which was another sin for someone attempting to plead their cause. I moved toward him, my enforcers backing away. He’d been brought here solely because I’d been detained by the meetings, my men spending time working him over beforehand. I usually abhorred this part of my job, but war was brewing. Thankfully, it wasn’t often I was required to resort to physical confrontation, those in my employ realizing it was in their best interest to remain loyal.
Brando dragged him away from the stainless-steel table, still holding the knife. When he pressed the tip against Dylan’s jugular, I shook my head.
“Looks like you might keep your hand,” my Capo hissed.
Dylan continued shaking, his eyes open wide with horror. “Please. Please. Please.”
After backhanding him, I flexed then fisted my hand, furious with myself for not tightening security the minute I’d detected a breach. Dylan had been on my radar for at least two weeks, my informants providing details of his various… infractions. I’d been busy accumulating additional business but that shouldn’t have been allowed to interfere.
I’d gotten greedy. That couldn’t happen again.
He balked, his mouth twisting and his eyes dancing with a wildfire of fear and confusion.
I smashed my fist against his cheek, shaking off the ache as I glared at him, drops of his blood splattering against my jacket. He tumbled backwards, slamming against the wall. He was nothing in my world, yet I’d accepted his employ, pretending I could be anything other than what I’d become, a ruler of the city. “Dylan. I have no more patience this evening. This is your last chance to tell me what the fuck is going on.”
The four seconds I allowed to go by were four seconds too long. This wasn’t the time to go soft, not for anyone.
“They made me, Mr. Vincheti,” he finally spit out, choking as he gasped for air.
“Who made you spill your guts, Dylan?” I needed him to say it, confirming what I already knew.
When he lunged toward me, my enforcers grabbed him by the arms, shoving him against the back wall. He hissed, dragging his tongue across his bloodied mouth.
I was losing patience.
“Tsk. Tsk, Dylan. That wasn’t very nice of you. I’m going to ask you one last time,” I said, lifting my arm and pointing my index finger toward his face. He broke into hives, his face immediately blotchy.
After ten full seconds, I nodded to Brando, who shoved the knife directly under Dylan’s chin.
“No!” he screamed. “Filip Adamos. He threatened my family. I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry, Mr. Vincheti. I’m so sorry.” Dylan’s chest heaved and he dropped his head, openly sobbing.
It seemed the Poles believed they could shatter the hold on the city we shared with the Bratva, even though there wasn’t a person in New York who didn’t know we were connected to the Russians by an unholy marriage, one that I continued to seethe about occurring. However, the sanctioned relationship had given both our families increased power, the South American Cartel backing down as if God above had a hand in the loss of hundreds of their soldiers.
“Please, Mr. Vincheti. I’ll do anything. Anything!”
I fucking hated it when they broke down. Next, Dylan would beg me for his life. I rubbed my eyes, my anger only increasing. I was getting nowhere with him, other than the confirmation he’d been forced to spill his guts. He knew nothing else, a pawn used to deliver a message. It was obvious, just an idiot in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Suddenly, there was a pounding sound coming from the front of the store, the doors to the bakery, another goddamn irritant I didn’t need. People died when I was cranky. Filip was a merciless son of a bitch. He acted as if territories didn’t exist, often ignoring his father’s rules in search of more power. The single run-in I’d had with him should have ended with me putting a bullet in his head. Instead, I’d honored certain rules established by my father as well as the Pakhan of the Bratva, both believing that by coexisting with the smaller organized crime families, continued peace could be maintained.
It was just another compromise I would never honor.
Sighing, I looked away, pacing the kitchen floor. The space would need to be disinfected by morning prior to the employees returning to work. Shit. Mama Lucia would absolutely kick my ass. La Travitorria was her baby, not to be fucked with, even by her grandson.
“How many additional addresses did you give him?” Goddamn it, the asshole was begging for me to kill him. “How many?”
“That was it. They only wanted five. I swear on my mother’s grave and my baby daughter. I swear.”
Brando lifted his eyebrows, shaking his head. Dylan had no way of knowing the names he’d selected had turned him into an executioner. If I didn’t put a bullet in his brain, his guilt would eventually force him into doing so.
“You should have come to me, Dylan. That was your fatal mistake.”
Just as I was prepared to make a decision on his punishment, I heard an unknown female voice, the strong, seductive tone yanking my attention away. I moved toward the swinging kitchen door, peering through the oval glass allowing a view of the bakery counter. While the lighting had already been dimmed in preparation of closing, the few overhead lights created a beautiful shimmer floating around her lithe body.
My cock instantly twitched, the wave of hunger unexpected.
“Thank you so much for letting me come in. I wasn’t supposed to be this late. Damn the airlines and damn this fucking city. I’m sorry.” The voluptuous woman laughed and immediately my balls tightened. “Please tell me you have eclairs. At this point I’ll pay anything for them. I couldn’t care less how much.”
Brando glanced at me, lifting his eyebrow. I placed my finger over my lips, listening to the limited conversation.
“No problem, ma’am. Looks like we have ten of them left.” Poor Michael’s voice was strained.
“Thank God. Now I won’t have to go home with my tail between my legs.”
The bakery closed an hour before the restaurant, the separate door supposedly locked. Yet as I moved toward the door, glancing out the small window allowing a full view of the limited space, my anger shifted to another level.
The women with the sultry voice stood just in front of the counter, her mouth twisting as she peered through the glass. As she tapped her fingers on the surface, I took a deep breath. Damn it. Why in God’s name had Michael allowed her inside in the first place?
Inhaling, I returned to the business at hand, images of the mysterious beauty remaining in the back of my mind.
“This is your lucky day, Dylan. Trust me, there won’t be a second one. Take our guest to the warehouse. Put him on ice. I’ll handle this issue later,” I threw over my shoulder then pushed my hand against the swinging door. The moment it was open by two feet, Dylan let out an intense wail, begging for his life. “And shut him the fuck up.”
I waited as my men dragged him toward one of two rear exists, Dylan continuing to wail. Fuck. It used to be easier handling issues. I rubbed my fingers down my jacket before pushing my hand in the swinging door and moving into the room.
The dazzling customer lifted her head, her eyes penetrating mine, her long curls dancing across her shoulders from the limited movement. I’d expected to see a look of horror or at least fear on her face from what she’d heard, but instead she appeared curious. Or maybe she hadn’t paid any attention. As I walked further into the area, her body tensed, a slight smile curling on her lovely lips. She was a stunning woman, her long raven-hued hair glowing in the limited light above the counter.
No, she was drop dead gorgeous yet there was a toughness about the way her jaw was clenched.
There was a crackle of energy driven through both of us, not quite a thunderbolt but the shockwave was enough her eyes opened wide.
While I was unable to see the color of them in the dimness, the way they twinkled added to her sultry appearance and voluptuous body. I was instantly drawn to her beauty, more so given her lack of fragility, which I was unaccustomed to. Just the way she was staring at me threw a gut punch, knocking the wind out of me. She dragged her tongue across her lips, defying the instant attraction.
Tell me, il mio bellissimo angelo, do you crave a taste as much as I do?
She was a beautiful angel, more so any other woman I’d come in contact with.
“Is there a problem, Michael?” I asked the employee, not bothering to glance in his direction. He was nervous, fearful I would retaliate for his decision to allow another customer inside.
“I would hope there isn’t a problem. It was two minutes before your closing time. While I apologize for coming in so late, rules are rules,” she said, the whiskey-laced molasses tone in her voice seductive and strong, managing to condemn me without even trying. The sound alone was enough to drive my cock to full attention.
I found myself drawn to her more than I had been with any other woman in a long time. She dared to move closer, as if she was planning on protecting Michael should I bring down the wrath of God.
An irrational thought pushed into the back of my mind. Fuck. I wanted a taste of her. That never happened.
“No, sir. She pounded on the door and begged me for service. She’s right though. The doors were locked early.” Michael immediately looked sheepish, taking a step further away from me. In his hand was a box, several pastries placed inside, and he was shaking like a leaf.
“Should I assume you don’t want my business?” she asked as she placed her hands on her hips, tilting her head and allowing me to see the long line of her neck.
My cock ached, enough so my balls were tight as drums. I moved closer, expecting her to back away.
But she didn’t. Instead, she lifted her head to ensure her eyes remained locked on mine. My God, this woman was feisty, enough so filthy thoughts ran through my mind.
“Michael, you did the right thing, and you are correct. We shouldn’t have closed early. Please accept my apologies and the pastries are on the house.”
She gave me a wry smile and purposely reached into her purse, pulling out her wallet. “Thank you very much for the offer, but I always pay for goods and services. How much do I owe you, Michael?”
Yes, the woman had balls. I was more than intrigued. I inhaled her fragrance, jasmine with a hint of vanilla, and resisted grabbing her by the wrist, dragging her into my office in order to fuck her for hours. Eclairs, Mama Lucia’s favorite pastry, a delicacy only she knew the recipe to. The luscious woman had exquisite taste.
Her look was one of amusement as well as disdain, a dangerous combination in my world. It was obvious she had no idea who I was or that she’d just found herself in a den of vipers.
“Sir?” Michael asked, his voice quavering as he asked for my permission.
“Allow our new customer to do what she feels is necessary.” I closed the distance until we were standing only a few inches apart. In crowding her space, I was able to detect a slight hint of fear; it wasn’t about the big bad man standing in front of her but the uncertainty of why her body was reacting to our intense connection. I lowered my head, studying the carved line of her jaw, the softness of her cheeks, able to catch a slight blush sliding up from the long line of her neck.
However, she wasn’t budging, although she allowed her eyes to slide ever so slowly down the length of me. She was tossing my obvious interest back in my face. When her gaze drifted back to my face, she held a smile, one of unbridled interest.
My sinful thoughts turned darker, hunger breaching the surface. While it wasn’t in my best interest to engage in any carnal activity, her tempting attitude and beguiling smile almost forced me to break my own rules. Sadly, I’d be forced to decline.
I took a step away and judging by the smile sliding across her face, it would seem she believed herself to be victorious in backing me down.
“Here you are, ma’am. Your change.” Michael backed away almost immediately after handing it to her, rubbing his hands on his apron.
“Thank you for your hospitality, Michael. A little something for you.” She slid a twenty-dollar bill across the counter, turning her head and giving me another hard onceover before grabbing the box. Then she headed for the door, slanting her eyes down one last time then tossing her hair.
“Be careful. The eclairs have been known to lead to filthy activity,” I said with a slight growl in my voice.
Laughing, she tossed me a look then opened the door. “I’m never careful in anything I do.” Now her tone was little more than a husky purr.
Fuck. I wanted more than just a taste of her.
I shoved my hands into my pockets, taking my time heading closer to the door. She had no idea how close she’d just come to being devoured by a predator.
With power came danger and men who dealt in both exuded a seductive, dangerous aura. The man inside the restaurant was malevolent, virile, and strong, a predator who savored every moment of feasting on an innocent soul.
I shivered from the alluring thought, incapable to finding the right words to describe him adequately. As I glanced toward the moon, the visions became reflective, filthy, and vile. And I loved every one of them.
Life was cruel.
I’d just met the man of my dreams and I’d never see him again. Even if I could, I couldn’t allow myself a taste. I wasn’t a danger junkie.
Or was I?
The breath caught in my lungs as I thought about him, doing my best to keep from turning around and staring at his intoxicating masculinity again. At least I’d kept my cool while he’d undressed me with his eyes, only it hadn’t been just about peeling away my bargain basement special skirt or one of the few nice silk blouses I owned. He’d stripped away my packaging as if opening a fine piece of chocolate, drinking in the aroma before daring to unveil the rich decadence inside.
He’d been larger than life and the moment he’d walked out from behind the kitchen door, my entire mind had almost turned to mush. I’d allowed myself a crushing vision of him taking me into his arms, refusing to accept no as an answer, sliding the tough pads of his fingers across my skin. His hardened expression would seem cold to anyone else who’d come in contact with him, but I’d seen through the mask of steel he’d chosen to wear to the fire flickering inside. The man was a risky vice, but fantasies lived out in the lurid dark reaches of my mind.
It was rare for me to consider a man stunning, but with Valentin, I was fully aroused from a single look, but he was the exception to any rule. When he’d approached, I’d felt the warmth pooling between my legs.
Flames had erupted all around us, the ignition switch hot. Everything about the man screamed of domination and power, his aura crackling with electricity. He had obsidian dark hair, the thick waves highlighting his aristocratic high cheekbones and chiseled jaw. Even in the dim lighting, the way he’d looked at me had been destructive, all consuming. There was no hiding his sinewy muscles even under his perfectly tailored charcoal suit. His jaw was angular, chiseled to the point I could swear it would cut through stone.
He was model gorgeous except that there was such an air of danger surrounding him that it took away from his natural beauty. Even his voice was like the softest velvet yet commanding in the way he enunciated words.
His eyes had smoldered as he’d looked at me, an invitation of the very filthy activity he’d alluded to. They were the bluest I’d ever seen, holding an intensity about them. They also exuded as much power as the rest of him, a fierceness that had captured his soul a long time ago.
In my mind, the stranger had devoured me, allowing me to see his predatory methods for a brief second, sinful images that should drive me straight to the confessional. There was no doubt he was a savage man, but that intrigued me even more. What was he doing running a restaurant and bakery in a fashionable section of New York?
There was something terrifying about his dark beauty, the allure that threatened to pull me into a deep abyss. However, I could study him for hours, drinking in his angular jaw and broad shoulders. Jesus. His scent was breathtaking, leaving me tingling all over. I could still gather a whiff of his glorious aftershave even through the rich aroma of something incredibly delicious.
My stomach rumbled. I hadn’t eaten all day, the package of goldfish crackers hardly fulfilling. However, the burning hunger swelling inside of me had nothing to do with the need for nourishment. I smiled at my lurid thoughts, dragging my tongue across my lips. The man was certainly edible. He exuded raw animal magnetism, which was something I’d never experienced before.
Bad girl. Very bad girl.
What did I care? I’d never see him again and what a shame. For some reason my palms were sweaty, my heart rate just as rapid as it had been before. I felt slightly dizzy and laughed at myself because it was all about being aroused by a mysterious stranger. I wasn’t that kind of girl. In fact, I’d barely paid attention to men at all, concentrating on making a name for myself in the competitive world of media.
But this man, this delicious chunk of chocolate was perfect. I could spend hours licking him. Sighing, I admonished myself, almost dropping the pastries given my lack of concentration.
He wasn’t just a typical bad boy. He was a man not to be trusted, someone who could twist me into indulging in a fantasy. I almost laughed. When was the last time I’d been out on a date, let alone had a wild night of any kind? The answer was depressing.
I exhaled, only realizing at that moment that the taxi I’d insisted wait for me had sped off, leaving my single suitcase tossed on the sidewalk.
“Bastard,” I snarled, yanking the case to an upright position. I was lucky no one had stolen it. I didn’t miss being in New York one bit.
“Damn it,” I hissed, immediately searching for another taxi up and down the dimly lit street. It wasn’t late by any means in the Big Apple, but this location was obviously not highly trafficked at this time of night.
I’d taken far too much time toying with Mr. Dangerous. Damn it. Sighing, I yanked on the handle of my suitcase, continuing to curse as I headed toward the corner. The plane had landed over three hours late. I’d thought I’d have plenty of time to find the freaking eclairs my mother had insisted on. With several bakeries closed and the others sold out of the pastry, this had been my last stop. Obviously, it had been for the impatient taxi driver, who’d cursed me out more than once. I should have forced my mother to learn to live with disappointment, even if everything had to be perfect in her world.
After glaring at the pastries, I picked up my pace, determined to find an open bar before falling into bed.
The eclairs smelled as sinful as they looked, the rich dark chocolate tempting, but not nearly as much as Mr. Dangerous had been. At least I could still dream. After wrangling with the box of goodies, I yanked my phone from my purse, moving toward the cross street. It looked like I’d be taking an Uber. I found the number and hit dial, struggling to keep the box under my arm.
Then my hackles rose as I felt a presence behind me.
Before I had a chance to react, the unknown assailant attacked, smashing something against the back of my head. I was pitched forward onto the sidewalk, the feel of cold hard steel pressed against my temple terrifying. I watched as the box tumbled to the street, the contents splattered from the force, my suitcase knocked against a parked car. The sight of the eclairs pitched onto the cracked asphalt pissed me off almost as much as being assaulted by some prick.
“Just want your purse, bitch.” The voice was gravelly, quaking as if the asshole was on drugs. While I knew better than to fight back, self-defense had been ingrained my nature. Addicts could be unpredictable, but my gut told me this was something else entirely.
Get control of the situation.
“Sure,” I said through gritted teeth, struggling to get my footing, acting as if I was going to comply. I ached from the fall, but at least nothing was broken. As soon as I moved, I heard him laugh, the tone startling. Then I swung around, throwing a hard punch, managing to catch the asshole off guard. Unfortunately, my footing was off, the hit doing little more than pissing him off. I shifted quickly, racing toward the door to the bakery. He snagged my arm, tossing me against the brick wall.
“Well, well. What do we have here? A real bitch. You’re coming with me.” His voice had changed completely, the ominous tone like the one I’d heard on the phone only a few nights before. “Someone needs to talk to you.” His laugh shoved a wave of terror deep into my core.
My instincts had been spot on. The attack had nothing to do with drug money.
This had to do with revenge.
The threats had been real.
Fuck, no, this wasn’t going to happen.
I managed to get off a slight scream before he reacted, the bastard slapping one hand against my mouth, another around my hair. I threw out a second punch. This time I caught him just under the chin, his look of shock quickly turning to one of rage. Someone had followed me from Chicago or worse. Oh, God.
“You’re going to regret that, bitch!” He raised his arm, prepared to strike when there was a blur of activity, a deep growl blasting into the night air a mere second before the perpetrator was dragged away, his body slammed against the brick façade. The man howled until he was tossed against the hard surface several times.
Gasping, I scrambled to get to my feet, folding my arms and backing away.
Mr. Dangerous had come to my rescue. He stood with one hand wrapped around the assailant’s throat, the other already retrieving the asshole’s weapon, tossing it aside. Then he pulled a gun from his pocket, pushing the barrel against the man’s temple.
“Don’t kill him,” I said for no other reason than I wasn’t in the mood to spend the rest of my night dealing with the police. Granted, I didn’t think the sultry savior was the kind to allow the police to interfere, but I wasn’t willing to take that chance. “It’s not worth it. He just needs a fix.” I prayed the asshole would take the bait. Complications I didn’t need, including my father finding out. I could only imagine how he’d turn the city upside down, making both the assailant and my life miserable.
“Drugs are bad for your health,” Mr. Dangerous stated with absolute authority in his voice as he glared at the asshole. Somehow, I could sense he wasn’t buying the excuse.
“Yes, sir. I mean, you’re right, sir.” The asshole grinned before tossing a hateful look in my direction.
Sir. I found it fascinating the perpetrator had lost his nasty tone. Maybe he was afraid of Mr. Dangerous. I let out an angry sound, the pain in my knees finally materializing.
Mr. Dangerous threw me a look, his eyes slanting down toward my feet. Then he turned his full attention to the perpetrator.
“Here’s how we’re going to play this. If I agree to let you live, you will promise never to show your face on my street again. If I even catch a single glimpse of you, just one, I assure you that you won’t like the kind of punishment you receive. Do you fucking understand me?” he stated calmly, with absolutely no emotion.
While the assailant was huge, more than I’d realized, he was no match for the man who’d come to my rescue. The aura around the gorgeous hunk had only increased, giving him a few superpowers on top of his electrifying persona.
I was still frozen, unable to think clearly. In all the years I’d lived in Chicago, I’d never been assaulted nor had my small apartment broken into. Just threatened with bodily harm. I hated the reminder, my inner voice echoing in my head. I remained on edge, woozy as I watched the scene play out in front of me.
After Mr. Dangerous rolled the barrel down the side of the perpetrator’s face, shoving it into the asshole’s mouth, the jerk whined, nodding as much as he could given the situation.
My hero waited for a few seconds to ensure the man meant what he was agreeing to before removing the weapon, shaking his head.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Vincheti. I didn’t realize this was your street. I’m so sorry. I’ll never even walk within a block of this place.” The assailant coughed and sputtered, but still managed to throw a leer in my direction.
Mr. Vincheti. Why did that name ring a bell? Exhaling, the pain in my head forced me to close my eyes. My mind was fuzzy, and I loathed the weakness.
At this point, I knew the perp would agree to anything to get out of my hero’s clutches. Who was this guy anyway? As I watched the man’s actions, a cold chill scuttled through me. Whoever he was, he was more than just dangerous.
Wait a minute. Oh, no. I couldn’t have this kind of bad luck. Vincheti. The name lingered in my mind.
He was mafia, a member of one of the most powerful crime syndicates in New York.
I should have caught it right away. That was my job, for God’s sake. I was usually very good at picking out a member of organized crime. I’d been far too attracted to the man to pay any attention to the usual behavior. A wash of anguish in my temple stopped all rational thoughts.
I backed away, almost tripping on the sidewalk before tumbling against the side of the building. Shit. That’s when my legs started to shake, anguish crashing through my temple.
Nothing usually bothered me, at least not physically, but this was… I took several deep breaths, spots appearing in front of my eyes. My legs seemed wobbly, and I pushed my hands against the cold brick, digging my freshly manicured nails into the mortar.
Valentin backed away, letting the asshole go, the gun remaining firmly planted in his hand. I’d been a witness to several crimes, but there was something terribly frightening about this one. At first the asshole acted as if he was going to walk away. Then a quick movement pushed another yelp from my mouth as the creep yanked a second weapon from under his sweatshirt.
Mr. Dangerous didn’t hesitate to react.
“Asshole. You invaded the wrong place,” my hero huffed. “Se pensi di potermi mentire, ti sbagli.”
He’d shot the attacker twice before he’d had a chance to get off a single shot. Oh, God. Oh, God. My entire world seemed to fade to black. I was suddenly falling, my body swaying toward the unknown. He’d just killed a man. Because of me. That wasn’t possible. It was… I started to pitch forward, my legs no longer able to hold me upright.
Then I felt a pair of strong arms around me, holding me. I gathered an intoxicating whiff of his aftershave, the aroma thick with the scent of spices and sandalwood, further igniting my senses. I blinked several times until I realized what had happened, lifting my head until I was able to look into his eyes.
I was mesmerized by the way Mr. Vincheti was looking at me, his eyes illuminated by the single streetlamp, his thoughts easy to read.
They were all sinful things.
He’d kept me from falling. Now he was close, so close that I could almost hear his heartbeat. The same explosive heat remained between us, yet I felt an odd chill trickling down my spine, tingling my legs even more than they already were.
The fire I’d felt was even more combustible.
“The fucker will never hurt you again, sweet angel. The pig was in the wrong territory. You’re going to be just fine.” He angled in, lowering his face even more, his tone husky and full of the same darkness that enshrouded his predatory nature. His touch seared my skin, every nerve ending erupting as if ignited from a firestorm.
I didn’t want to push away from him, but if he held me any longer, there was a chance I’d never want to leave.
“What did you do? What did you say to him? Did you kill him?” No. No! I was seeing things. Right?
“I did what was necessary. And I reminded him that he was wrong in thinking he could lie to me.”
“Thank you, but you didn’t have to kill him,” I managed, pushing my hands against him. His muscles were as carved as I’d thought, rippling through the thin cotton shirt. My heart was pitter pattering from the touch, the filthy thoughts trickling through my mind no longer a shock. He was the perfect chocolate eclair.
What are you thinking?
“As I said, I did what was necessary. I certainly couldn’t allow my newest customer to be assaulted just outside my restaurant,” he said, the gruff tone embroiling every one of my senses.
“You can let me go now.” Don’t let me go. Kiss me instead. My dirty thoughts at least brought a smile.
When he didn’t move for at least twenty delicious seconds, I tilted my head, adding gasoline to the fire. I could swear he was going to kiss me. I closed my eyes, the hard thumping of my heart echoing in my ears.
Then everything faded to black.