I could almost smell it coming as the hairs rose on the back of my neck. My fingers, intertwined with the rosary I held as I sat in the pews of the Church of the Sacred Heart in the Bronx, New York, shook in anticipation. I sat among fellow prosecutors for the D.A. as well as police officers, detectives, FBI agents, and family grieving a young undercover agent who didn’t deserve to die.
I could hear the staccato of death in the distance. One bang, then two. They were coming for us.
We should have all known better. We should have known that even a funeral for a man who died in the line of duty would hold no sacred ground. No. In the turf war between the Vasco and the Moretti families, there was no mercy. There was no time-out. There was only opportunity for more bloodshed and carnage. Even in the house of the lord, there would be no peace between the two mafia kingdoms and their enemies. Wealth, power, pride, and a thirst for revenge were the tenets of their religion. We had done their families wrong by recently putting many of their men behind bars, and now they were going to make us pay for our persistence for justice.
Was it the Vasco or the Moretti family attacking us?
Did it even matter?
It was the mafia.
The fucking mafia was here to seek vengeance on all who dared to stand against their street authority. We may have won in court, but they were here to show us who the true victors were.
“Get down,” I said, barely louder than a whisper, to one of my coworkers who sat beside me dabbing her eyes with her lace handkerchief. “Get down!” I screamed as the blast of gunshots announced the assassins’ presence as they charged through the double doors.
Turning to see men with AK-47s, Colt M1911A1s, and other weapons of destruction enter the church shooting with vengeance and zero mercy, I reached for the woman’s hand. I pulled her down while other agents and officers jumped out of their seats, drawing their own guns to join in the killing sonata. We were paying the price for all of us foolishly sitting in the same room at a funeral for unfortunate Officer Antonio Ricci. We, of course, had security at the doors, snipers positioned on surrounding rooftops, and every single law enforcer was armed to the teeth. But that only added to the rain of bullets falling upon the poor Catholic Church that would surely be the location where many would die today.
Falling to the floor to shield the stunned lawyer I had barely known personally, though I had spent countless hours working with her, I tried to hide from the massacre. I watched as the priest giving the funeral service was shot in the arm as he crawled for cover, only to then be fatally shot in the back of the head before he was able to reach safety.
The sick melody of my life continued on as volleys of bullets ricocheted off the walls, the pews, and even the Virgin Mary was marred by the attack. Stained glass shattered all around as people screamed while ducking for cover.
“Get further under the seat,” I ordered, struggling to push her body beneath the pew.
I wanted to fight these bastards too, but carrying a gun as the assistant district attorney would never be allowed. I was not a cop even though there had always been a secret part of me that had desired that occupation. But no, never. Nayla Bell, the Harvard graduate at the top of her class, would never be anything less than a someday district attorney—or at least in the eyes of her parents. I had been groomed my entire life. And I was close… so very close to reaching my goals. Unless, of course, today was the day I died.
When I was met with resistance from my coworker, and she wasn’t listening to my command, I shouted again, “Get under there.” Bullets were blanketing the church, shards of glass were flying, and splinters of wood from destroyed pews made every inch of space a battleground.
With another shove, I pulled my hand away in horror to see my recently done French manicured nails covered in this woman’s blood. I turned her limp body in my arms, looking into her face. Her body was still warm yet she was clearly dead as her eyes stared up at me void of any life.
My cries blended with the last of the gunshots as the lullaby of this nightmare slowly came to an end when the remaining Mafioso attackers retreated back to their hole.
I looked up to see Dylan Bush—the district attorney—rushing toward me. “Nayla! Are you hurt? You’re bleeding,” he said as he knelt down to where I still sat. His words blended with the sounds of sirens in the distance coming too late for our rescue.
I looked down and saw that I was covered in blood, though none of it belonged to me. “I’m okay. It’s not mine.”
Physically I was fine.
“Who was it? Moretti or Vasco?” I asked.
Dylan shook his head as he helped me to a standing position. “I don’t know. But whoever it was, aimed to kill.”
“This isn’t Eddie Vasco’s style,” I said as I stared at the dead priest and then looked at all the other countless bodies.
I didn’t know everything about the boss of the Vasco family quite yet, but since Dylan Bush had his hands full working on an indictment of Leon Moretti, he had handed off the Vasco case to me. I had spent day and night trying to build a case on the man, and if anyone could call themselves an expert on someone, I would be in regards to Eddie.
“He’s religious and wouldn’t dare disrespect sacred ground like this,” I added, realizing I sounded more like an FBI profiler than an assistant D.A. “He’d save his killing for a dark alley. Someplace where innocents couldn’t get harmed. His reputation of a ruthless killer stops when it comes to women and children.”
“Agreed. This screams Moretti,” Dylan said as he cast his eyes around the carnage of the cathedral. “Fucking monsters. They’re all fucking monsters.”
This battle was over… for now. This song, this ballad of death had turned to an eerie sound of silence as the surviving mourners in the church stood to assess the damage.
“The good guys are losing this war,” I mumbled to myself as my body began to shake.
“Yes,” Dylan agreed, clearly hearing my words.
The Vasco and Moretti families were stronger, more ruthless, and after today’s deadly attack, outnumbered us. Something had to be done. I was close to having enough information to indict Eddie Vasco. I would do whatever it took to end this war. The Vasco and Moretti families would pay with their freedom. But I would personally take great pleasure watching as they put Eddie Vasco behind bars and threw away the key because of me. I would bring him down. The good guys would come out of this as the victors, and the animals would be put away in a cage forever.
I had stared at the wall of pictures in my apartment so many times, I could see every single detail of every single picture, even with my eyes shut. The entire wall of my living room—floor to ceiling—was covered in over a hundred pictures of Eddie Vasco and his crime syndicate. For over a year I had been working on this case with a revolving door of different detectives, but my obsession had kept it alive when others may have let it go cold. For a mafia crime boss, Eddie Vasco kept his nose clean… on the surface. I couldn’t get enough to indict him, even though I knew the man was guilty of every possible crime I could imagine and even some I couldn’t. But I had one shot to bring Eddie down, and I would need all the evidence I could to make a conviction stick.
For a man who was feared by so many, the pictures on my wall spoke of a different story. There was no bloody mayhem or torture. There was not a single picture of Eddie holding a gun or weapon of any kind. Though he was over six feet tall, muscled from head to toe, and had tattoos on every part of his arms, the pictures never captured him in any form of violence or intimidation. The man was a killer, yet the pictures didn’t reveal that fact in the slightest. There were pictures of Eddie dressed in an expensive suit going in and out of a black town car, or into five-star restaurants. There were also pictures of him dressed far more casually as he entered the local Italian restaurants that had been in the neighborhoods for decades. I had pictures of him going to Catholic mass, or buying a hot dog at the corner stand. Pictures of him had been snapped as he sat by an old Sicilian hitman by the name of Bobby Dancer—long retired—in Central Park. That was about as close as I could get at having anything worth mentioning in an indictment.
I even got the feeling that Eddie knew the pictures were being taken. There were some pictures on my wall that haunted my dreams—pictures where Eddie stared directly into the camera, his dark brown eyes locking with mine as I gazed at the four-by-six rectangles taped in the center of the photo collage. I don’t know why I’d organized them so that every picture where Eddie stared directly at the camera were in the center of the wall, but I had. His face often mesmerized me as I tried to find his secrets that eluded me. How could I bring him down? Where were the bodies hidden? Who was Eddie Vasco, and how could he rule the Vasco family and the streets of New York with such an iron fist, and yet we had nothing on him? How could this be?
My career was on the line, but this mission had become more than that. As I stared at one picture in particular, I often felt it was Eddie daring me to approach. The facial expression almost possessed a level of charm you would find in a billionaire at a fancy cocktail party. There was no threat, but there was something in the way his head tilted, the way his mouth smirked, and the way his rich eyes twinkled.
“I dare you…” the picture taunted. “I fucking dare you to enter my world.”
I needed a break. I had been working nonstop since the shooting, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I knew that Dylan Bush was feeling the same way with his case against the Moretti family, and it killed me that we weren’t making any progress.
Turning away from the pictures and walking over to my window, I stared down at the patrol car that had been stationed in front of my apartment since the church massacre. Maybe my life was in danger. Maybe it wasn’t. But the NYPD wasn’t taking any chances and had been so kind to have someone guarding me at all times. At first, it had felt extremely invasive. I had always been a very private person my entire life, so having someone overlooking my every move unnerved me. I would attempt to hide from their protective eye much to the dismay of the police department. Lecture after lecture had informed me they were there to help and not harm. So now, as I stood in the window wearing nothing but an oversized Harvard t-shirt that hung mid-thigh, I no longer cared. If the rookie agent wanted to steal a peek of my bare legs, then so be it. I was home and wanted to be comfortable. Wearing a suit and five-inch heels every single day meant I was desperate for casual clothing the minute I walked through my door.
It was dark outside… really dark, but I could still see the shape of the car. I often wondered what the cop did in the car for so many hours. What did he think about? What did he do? Did he play with his phone and surf social media? Or did he react to every single movement and car driving by? My neighborhood was loud and active at all times, so if that was the case, the man would have his hands full all night.
My phone rang, interrupting the study of my bodyguard. Walking over to the table, I uttered a groan when I saw it was my father. I was half tempted to not pick up, but I also knew he was relentless and would keep trying all night until I took his call.
“Hi, Daddy,” I said as I sat down on the couch. I stared at the wall of Eddie Vasco as if it were completely normal to do so.
“Hello, ladybug. I’m calling to make sure you’re going to the Hamptons this weekend with your mother and me.”
I had been dreading this question. The last thing I wanted to do was go to the Hamptons and especially with my parents. The high-class life of privilege and wealth wasn’t for me. Plus, every single time I went to the family estate for a weekend, my parents would try to set me up with some silver spoon-fed boy I could barely stand. I was the classic workaholic, had zero social life, but nothing was worse than a dinner date set up in the Hamptons.
“I really wish I could, Daddy, but I have to work. Since the shooting—”
“Yes, ever since that day your mother has been a nervous wreck. She keeps telling me that I need to get you out of that job. That maybe private practice would be better.”
I swallowed down a deep sigh that struggled not to erupt from my body. “I’m close to becoming a D.A. This is what we always wanted. One more high-profile case and—”
“But your mother has a point,” he interrupted again. “You could be wasting the best years of your life chasing this dream. You aren’t getting any younger, and though your career is important, so is marriage and children.”
“Daddy—” This lecture was so damn old.
“We were really excited about the Hamptons. We’re having the Millers over for dinner on Saturday. Their son is coming too. He’s a financial analyst who is just visiting for the weekend.”
I would lose this conversation unless I did something drastic.
“I’m sorry, Daddy. But I am being sent to Chicago,” I lied. “For about a week. The tickets and hotel have already been paid for. I really wish I could have gone.”
There was a long pause before my father said in a low tone, “Your mother is going to be so disappointed.”
“I know. But I can’t get out of this. It’s work, and my reputation is on the line.”
I knew using the word ‘reputation’ would win this tug of war.
“Of course. We would never want you to soil your name. Well… next time.”
“Yes, next time. Send my love to Mother. I’ll call you both when I return from Chicago.” There was a knock at my door. “The Chinese food delivery man is here. I have to go.”
Hanging up the phone, I felt a tad guilty. I hated to lie, but there really was no other way when dealing with my parents. They were stubborn and always got their way. I was a powerful woman in the courtroom. I was someone not to be messed with. But when it came to my parents, I was weak and had no spine at all.
Opening the door, I didn’t even bother to put a robe on. I had become a regular delivery of several times per week, and I think it was fair to say the poor deliveryman was used to seeing me at my worst. It wasn’t like I was in some sexy lingerie or something, and I was covered more than any young millennial about to hit up the New York clubs tonight.
“Hey,” I said with a welcoming smile, but instantly paused when I sensed something was different.
The deliveryman—I had never bothered to get his name—appeared afraid. He looked at me with wide eyes and a pale face. My heart stopped for a split second, unsure what could make the friendly man look the way he did.
“Is everything okay?” I asked.
My question was answered for me when the deliveryman was pushed aside, and Eddie Vasco stood in his place. I finally stood before my obsession in person—dark hair, piercing eyes, and wearing one of his suits that was in a picture on my wall.
Eddie handed the man a wad of cash and gave a warning look that sent a shiver down my spine. “Continue on with your deliveries. Nothing out of the ordinary happened tonight. It would be a shame to have to find you tomorrow.”
“Yes, sir,” the man said and turned to quickly walk away. He didn’t even look at me, but I didn’t blame him. Who would stand up against Eddie Vasco? I didn’t think the money had anything to do with him leaving and no doubt keeping his mouth shut.
Then it dawned on me that I should fear for my life as well.
I tried to slam the door shut, but Eddie had already placed his black leather shoe in the threshold and used his arm to open the door even wider.
“Now, Miss Bell, this isn’t how you treat a guest. With all your proper boarding school upbringing, I expected better from you.”
My breath hitched as Eddie forced his way into my apartment, shutting the door behind him. I glanced over my shoulder at the couch where I had left my cell phone. I also considered screaming, but for some reason felt I should be very careful in how I handled this situation with Eddie. Screaming, running, or even fighting could get me killed. This was the mafia boss and not some random burglar. This was Eddie Vasco, and he knew exactly who I was.
“I don’t know why you’re here,” I said, taking a few steps backwards toward the couch.
“Oh, I think you do,” Eddie countered as he walked toward me slowly. He reminded me of a mountain lion stalking his prey—calculated, stealth-like, deadly. He stopped when he stood directly in front of the wall of pictures and stared at them.
He chuckled, which wasn’t exactly the reaction that I expected. “I knew a lot of pictures were being taken of me, but I had no idea just how many.” He turned his head to look me in the eye. A small smirk lit up his face. “This is quite the invasion of my privacy, wouldn’t you say, Miss Bell?”
“There’s a patrol car right outside,” I warned.
“If I scream,” I began.
“If you scream, then innocent people die. I have my men in the hallways prepared to clean up any mess that should arise.” He looked back at the pictures on the wall with his arms crossed against his chest. “My hope is to keep this as clean as possible. But that’s entirely up to you.”
I could hear the rapid beating of my heart in my ears. “I want you to leave right now.” My voice cracked as I issued the demand.
“Yes, well… we all want things in life, now don’t we?”
I stole another peek at my phone, wondering if it were even possible to reach it and dial 911 before Eddie could stop me.
“You could try for that phone,” he said, never taking his eyes away from the photos but somehow reading my mind, “but then things would get dirty.” He turned to glance at me from head to toe with a devilish grin. “Do you like things dirty, Miss Bell?”
“What do you want?” Asking the words seemed to take whatever breath I had left in my body. I felt faint as I tried to play out every scenario of what might happen to me in my head. The probability of me getting out of this situation alive seemed less and less likely with every gruesome thought playing in my mind.
“Why do you have all these photos on your wall?”
“It’s my job.”
“To have pictures of me on your wall?”
“Well, no…” I swallowed hard.
“Then why am I plastered all over your living room?” he asked as he took a step closer and peered at some more intensely.
“Because it helps me,” I said softly, repositioning my weight from one bare foot to the other.
“Helps you? How?”
I didn’t know how much I should answer, but decided I really didn’t have a choice in the matter if I wanted to keep things clean. “Having the photos hung up helps me live and breathe the case. It helps me see the bigger picture.”
I had just revealed that I was working a case, and he was that case. But I also clearly could see that Eddie Vasco was already aware of that fact.
“And what is that bigger picture?” he asked.
“I haven’t found it yet.”
“And do you think you will?”
“Well, that depends on if you are here to kill me or not.” I wondered if I could pound on the glass window and scream loud enough for the police officer stationed below to hear me and get up here in time to save my life.
“Do you think I came here to kill you?” he growled as he took slow calculated steps toward me, closing the distance between us.
“I don’t know why you’re here,” I said as I spun on my heels and bolted toward the window.
A sharp pain erupted on the back of my head.
I was taught to never hit a woman. My strict Italian mother would be livid with me for knocking Nayla Bell out the way I did. Men did not abuse women. Not a pop to the face or anything that could mar a beautiful smile with bruises or blood. That’s not to say the men in my family didn’t swat a naughty ass here or there when deserved, but we did not physically harm an innocent female in an act of uncontrolled violence. The Vasco family had rules, and that was one of them.
I would have to ask for forgiveness later in confession and pay my penance with saying my Hail Marys. I also would keep this little tidbit of information from my mother in fear that she would beat me over the head with a wooden spoon if she became aware. But I didn’t have a choice. I knew that Miss Bell would not go quietly. I saw her cagey eyes darting around as she tried to come up with an escape plan, and now was not the time to quiet her screams or deal with her nails clawing at my face. There was plenty of time for that later.
Catching Nayla’s limp body in my arms, I cradled her closely to my chest, trying to ignore the wafting aroma of rose petals coming from her long chestnut hair. I also tried not to pay attention to the smoothness of the bare legs that I’d scooped over my arm—flesh to flesh. Her small frame made it easy for me to walk toward the wall of photos with her still in my arms. I had never seen anything like it. I thought my mother was bad with all the pictures of me as a child displayed in her home, but this was hands down borderline stalker. Nayla Bell was clearly obsessed with taking me down. This wasn’t news to me, however. You couldn’t be the boss of one of the largest crime families on the Eastern coast and not think that every law enforcer wanted you behind bars. But to see a display of this magnitude in a woman’s apartment. To see me in her home…
As I exited her place, my men were waiting outside the door. I could have handed Nayla off to any one of them, but I liked the warmth of her body against mine. I would never admit that fact to my men, but I wasn’t going to give up this small pleasure. I would be handling Miss Bell myself. Plus, I didn’t trust the bastards to not take advantage of a lady. Captive or not, she was still a woman and the words of my mother were ringing in my ears. I wanted to silence them—it would make this entire situation easier if I did—but they were still present whether I liked it or not.
“You take care of the cop?” I asked as I walked down the stairs, paying close attention that Nayla’s head or feet didn’t hit the railing or wall.
“Yeah,” Frankie—my second in command—said as he followed close behind with his gun ready just in case. “We’re good. The car’s in the alley waiting.”
I picked up my pace when Nayla began to stir. A soft groan escaped her pouty lips, and her long eyelashes fluttered. I had a sleeping beauty in my arms who was about to become a screaming banshee if I didn’t act quickly. I didn’t want to have to knock her out again, but I also didn’t want to deal with a hysterical woman fighting for her life. I needed to get her in the car before she came to.
“Pack her a bag and lock up the apartment. Make it look like she went on a trip. Grab her phone on the couch and ditch it,” I commanded. I didn’t need to look over my shoulder to assure someone was doing as I asked. My men always did my bidding without the slightest hesitation. I didn’t just demand their respect, but I also had busted my ass under my grandfather’s reign, as well as my father’s, to prove I was the right man to run this family. I’d earned my position since the day I was born into the mob. I was a young boss, but not a single man questioned my authority. Or at least not a man still alive today.
When I reached the town car, I positioned Nayla’s lifeless body in the backseat as gently as I could. She was already going to wake up with a nice size goose egg on the back of her head, and I had no intention of adding any more bruises and cuts to her body if I could help it. I quickly walked around the other side of the car and crawled in the backseat next to her. Without giving much thought, I lifted her head and positioned it on my lap. Banging on the bulletproof glass that separated me from the driver, I signaled that it was time to leave. My men would catch up with me later.
Nayla groaned again and moved her head side to side. I instantly regretted the placement of her head as the side of her face brushed up against the tip of my cock. I didn’t have time for this, and the last thing I needed was to muddy the waters—
Her face touched it again, and my cock had a mind of its own as it hardened and tented my slacks like I was some horny teenager. Thank God Frankie and the others weren’t here to witness this. I would have never heard the end of it.
I stared out the window and thought of the task at hand… focus, focus. I would not look down at her angelic face, her luscious lips, or the way her silken hair cascaded around my thigh. I would not look at her white lace panties that were on full display since her shirt had bunched up when I placed her in the backseat. I would not picture my cock plunging into that pussy of hers that only hid behind a thin piece of fabric.
Yes, I would.
I couldn’t help but imagine how tight her tiny little hole would feel milking my—
Like a bolt of lightning, Nayla opened her eyes and sat up. Cowering against the door with wild eyes, she put out her hands to block an attack that wasn’t coming.
“Stay away from me!” she screamed. “Don’t hurt me.”
Yes, this was the reaction I was expecting. Luckily, we were already in the car heading to my hideout, and there was no one to hear her cries.
“Calm down,” I said as I repositioned my throbbing cock so it wasn’t so obvious how hard it still was.
Her eyes darted around the car and at the passing scenery. “Where are you taking me? What are you doing?” Her voice was high-pitched, and her chest heaved with every syllable.
“I said calm down. Panicking right now isn’t going to help your situation.”
She reached for the door handle and quickly found it to be locked from the outside. I couldn’t help but grin imagining the woman jumping out of a moving vehicle in nothing but a t-shirt, panties, and running barefoot on the dirty streets of New York.
Like a caged animal, she pressed her body further against the door—if that was even possible—as she stared at me with wide eyes and a trembling lip. “You can’t just kidnap me,” she said. “They’ll find me and”—she glanced outside again—“where are you taking me?”
I didn’t answer her. I knew she was afraid, but that was exactly what I needed right now. Fear gave me power, and Nayla Bell needed to truly understand how powerful I was.
“Please,” she said as her body shook slightly. She didn’t cry, which I admired. I figured she wouldn’t break easily, and she wasn’t letting me down in my assumption. I knew she would be a worthy opponent. “You don’t have to do this. It’s not too late to let me go.”
I still didn’t say a thing but stared out the window instead. I knew Nayla Bell was one of the best lawyers around. I had done my research on the woman. I had studied her every move just as she had studied mine. I also knew that if I wasn’t careful, it was very likely she would be able to read my face. She was trained to analyze people in a courtroom to aid her in battle. I wasn’t going to give her any weapon to use against me if I could help it. She might have been a fierce opponent within the four walls of the justice system, but she was nothing in my world. I would make damn sure she knew that fact by the time this night was over.
“Listen, motherfucker!” she shouted as she pummeled me with her fists. “Stop this car immediately!”
And there it was.
The reaction that I had truly expected.
I already knew Nayla Bell was no wilting flower. This was the spunk I had prepared for, and I already had a plan on just how I was going to handle this little pistol.
It didn’t take much effort to snatch both of her hands together while glaring directly into her eyes. “No,” I stated sternly.
“Fuck you,” she spat. Her eyes glared back but I could see a twinkle of fear in them. I had killed enough to know exactly what the look of fear was, and Miss Bell possessed it even though she was doing a hell of a job attempting to conceal it from me by her aggressive bravado.
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with,” she continued as she struggled to free her hands from my hold.
“On the contrary. I know exactly who I am dealing with. You’re the only daughter of Jonathan and Naomi Bell. You were brought up as Daddy’s little rich girl—half Italian, half Jewish—but always struggled to live up to their version of perfection. You attended two different boarding schools and spent more time away from your home than in it. You went to Harvard to study law and graduated near the top of the class but not quite good enough… especially in your father’s eyes. Your mother is a socialite who has to attend a function nearly every evening or has to pop pills to control her anxiety of missing out. You work all the time and have very few friends. You both love and hate your job. You also love and hate your parents. So, yes, Nayla Louisa Bell, I know you.”
I released her wrists and turned my head to stare out the window again. I’d given her enough to stew on to keep her behaving.
“You son of a bitch,” she screamed as she punched me square in the jaw.
I didn’t see that coming.
“You leave my family out of this! Do you hear me?” Nayla continued to punch me as I shook off the blinding stars from a strong right hook. “Torture me. Kill me. Rape me. Dump my body in some shallow grave, but leave them the fuck out of your sick madness!”
Snatching her wrists again, I struggled with her attacking body. “I’m giving you to the count of three to stop. One,” I snarled. “Two,” I continued as her body yanked and gyrated around in a futile combat. “Three,” I said as I flipped her body over my lap, pinning her down with the weight of my legs on top of hers to prevent her from kicking. I didn’t torture or kill women. But that didn’t mean I wouldn’t torment her in other ways. Ways that might make her wish I chose to treat her like I treated the men who crossed me instead.
“Let me go!” she screamed over and over as I made sure there was no way she could break free from my hold. Nayla’s balled-up fists were pinned behind her back with one of my hands, and her body lay rigidly over my knee.
“Bad, bad choice, Miss Bell. Bad.”
Her shirt was already halfway up her torso exposing most of her stomach and all of her bottom half. Her panty-clad bottom was on full display, upturned on my knee as I pressed her down. She continued to demand her release, but I ignored her futile dictates.
“I’m about to show you what happens if you’re bad.”