The sound of my footsteps as I walked across the thick mosaic tile echoed in my ears. I was in no hurry, my Capos securing the asshole without issue. The sweet fragrance of basil and oregano filtered into my nostrils while the stench of stale cigarettes assaulted my senses, the Italian restaurant considered a favorite for several of my soldiers. What few customers remained scuttled away like rats, my reputation preceding me.
The owner barely acknowledged my presence, merely going about his closing duties, but I could tell the man was nervous by the sweat stains pooling under his arms. Everyone feared my arrival. And they should.
After all, I was a man without patience. I also had no conscience.
Even before taking over the majority of operations from my father, I’d been considered dangerous on several levels. Oddly enough, I prided myself on fairness and decency. Tonight, there would be only retribution.
I pushed my palm against the kitchen door, disgusted by the amount of grease slickening my fingers. Once inside, I was able to hear the terrified whine of a man who should have known better than to embrace me as his enemy.
Cordero gave me a nod from his position, leaning against the scuffed stainless steel sink, his revolver merely nestled in his hand.
“Did he give you any trouble?” I asked in passing, as if I gave a shit.
“Nah. Good as gold,” Cordero said, chuckling in his usual dark manner. I noticed his bloodied and bruised knuckles, my anger further fueled.
The traitor remained on the floor, a rag stuffed in his mouth, his hands and feet bound with wire. Danton had once been a man I thought I could trust, allowing him to handle a good portion of the Miami Beach operation. I didn’t like being made a fool of.
My other Capo had made the call, Enrique having followed the fucker for two days. He grimaced, no doubt chastising himself for the level of trust placed in the man. Even his honor had been called into question.
This was a situation that had to be dealt with, my reputation on the line. Plus, I couldn’t stand liars.
I stood in front of Danton, taking several deep breaths. I’d been pulled from a dinner engagement, although I’d been the one insisting on handling the situation personally. “Danton. I must admit, I’m surprised at your level of betrayal.”
Danton whimpered, struggling to talk, his body twisting back and forth. Sweat beaded down both sides of his face, tears already rolling past his lashes. I also couldn’t stand a coward.
“The way I heard it, you’ve been working a deal on the side, using my money to finance your operation.” I hunkered down, allowing the man a much better look at my eyes. “As you might have already realized, that simply isn’t acceptable. Not in my city.” Rumors had been flying for weeks about a foreigner attempting to move in on my family’s turf, something I’d avoided for far too long.
He moaned, his face twisting as it turned bright scarlet. I concentrated on the trickles of blood oozing from a gash on his right cheek, taking another deep breath. This was the last thing I needed on my agenda.
I moved back to a standing position, easing my Glock from my shoulder holster. “I really do hate to lose good help and you did some excellent work for my family, but every act of disobedience has consequences. Unfortunately, some are more severe than others.” As I pulled the silencer from the inside of my jacket, I gave Danton another glance. His death would send a warning.
Cordero walked toward the swinging door, peering out the window. We certainly didn’t need any hysterical customers drawing attention.
“However,” I said in an even tone as I attached the silencer, pointing the barrel toward his forehead. “You give me no choice.”
My gun roared twice.
I stood over him while I unscrewed the metal piece, sliding it back into my pocket and placing the gun in its usual position before adjusting my cuffs.
“I’ll clean it up, boss,” Enrique said.
“Put his body on the docks in plain sight.” I turned and walked toward the door, cursing under my breath. Anyone who attempted to cross my path would face my wrath. I hissed, realizing that my next two days were going to be disrupted.
However, a trip was necessary.
I’d been called soulless, among other things, my penchant for the taste of blood almost as powerful as my hunger for passion. However, the only thing on my mind at this moment was snuffing out an inconsequential fool. I took a deep breath, attempting to restore my calm resolve.
I’d killed a man. While the act wasn’t something I engaged in often, the fact I had blood on my hands, a stain that would never go away, wasn’t far from my mind. And the man I’d spent the last three hours with was the reason.
Music, the soul and breath of life. While I enjoyed music in the background, I’d never been one to follow an artist or give a shit. The duo of piano and cello was exquisite, the notes bold and haunting, intoxication for my ears. I took a deep breath, staring out at the rolling ocean waters, content at least for the moment. Even the scents of native flowers, white ginger and jasmine, were a powerful aphrodisiac.
If I were here for anything but business.
I was the kind of man who crushed my enemies, someone to be afraid of. After all, I was filled with darkness, danger surrounding every aspect of my life. No one fucked with me or my family. The Garcias had ruled the South with an iron fist, my father having established our stronghold decades before. Few enemies had the audacity to challenge us, those who did receiving the very wrath of the gods.
In our way.
I didn’t mind the concept in the least.
I especially loathed those who thought they could get the better of me, just because I’d yet to take full control. Santiago Rivera was that kind of man.
I’d spent hours learning all about him before boarding a jet to Cuba. I was no fool, realizing that for all the pomp and circumstance, the wealthy entrepreneur and oppressive kingpin was merely biding his time before he fully invaded my family’s territory. That just wasn’t going to happen. Danton had been working with him for a little over two months, allowing a significant amount of money to be funneled into Santiago’s hands.
Tonight, we were playing a game of Russian roulette, only he had no idea that I never lost.
I’d been given carte blanche since my arrival, Santiago ensuring that my every need and desire had been fulfilled since the night before. Food. Drink. Women. There was nothing off the table. His unlimited offers meant the man was running scared, uncertain of my capabilities.
He was soon to find out.
The cigar was incredible, the sights from his arched veranda spectacular, his posh estate positioned on a dangerous precipice, a warning to all those who dared cross his path. I couldn’t help but chuckle at the thought. I leaned against one of the carved stone pillars as the sun dipped over the horizon, marveling at the crystalline water, waves lapping at the shoreline. The heat of the summer evening was less sweltering given the light breezes while the sounds of piano concerto music floated from unseen speakers, adding to the festive atmosphere, the cellist an incredible musician. I was taken on a beautiful walk through the seductive music alone. Sadly, I wasn’t in any kind of mood for a party.
Traveling to Cuba had been against my father’s wishes, but necessary to keep the peace.
Unless the man fucked with me.
“I see you enjoy our Cuban cigars, Miguel. One of our specialty blends,” Santiago said as he walked closer, his booming baritone wafting over the light breeze. In his hand were two brandy snifters. His smile was gregarious, the twinkle in his eyes suggesting he’d won me over with his charm and hospitality.
I wasn’t a man who succumbed to anything, especially treachery.
I took another puff before answering. “Very much so. The flavor is bold with a hint of spices. Perfection. I will add that dinner was also incredible.” My mother had taught me decent manners. My father had taught me how to handle betrayal.
“My chef will certainly be happy to hear of your approval. I’ll make certain you have several boxes of our finest cigars to take home with you.” As he handed me one of the drinks, his already dark eyes seemed more volatile, his pupils mere pinpricks. He knew he was in over his head.
“How generous of you.”
“As you can imagine, I’m eager to bring them to Miami and beyond.”
Yes, I was well aware of his ploy. While Cuban cigars were no longer illegal in the United States, selling them continued to bring fines of a hefty nature. I knew all about him and his company, the cigar distribution a basic front for his drug running operation. I knew the game well. My family had several legitimate businesses, all while providing highly regarded party favors to wealthy clients. I had to admit that adding Cuban cigars to the mix was an excellent idea.
As long as he understood the parameters.
As long as he followed the rules.
By this point, he’d heard about Danton’s early demise. That gave me a certain amount of leverage.
“You are also enjoying the music, eh?” he asked in a casual manner.
I tipped my head as the song reached a crescendo, my heart racing from the intensity. “It is beautiful, although not what I would have expected.”
Santiago laughed. “There are many things you do not know about me, my friend. The solo cellist is my daughter.”
I was pleasantly surprised, the concept giving me a smile. “Please tell your daughter that I admire her ability very much.”
“I will do just that; however, I am well aware that you did not come here for my taste in music.”
“Sadly, you are correct. I suggest we get down to business.” I took a sip, savoring the expensive cognac, allowing the rich liquor to soothe my constricted throat. I’d done well holding my temper during the four-course meal, listening to his pontifications regarding his stature in life. Any other man would have already been gutted.
I wondered if he was aware of just how close he’d already come to losing his precious hold on life.
“Like father, like son,” Santiago said casually, moving toward the interior of the veranda, easing down on the supple leather sofa as if he didn’t have a care in the world. “Like you, I do my research. Your father is well respected.”
“Yes.” The single word I issued brought a single huff of disdain, creating another smile on my face.
I took a glance at one of my two soldiers who’d accompanied me on the trip, their eyes having never left me from the second I’d entered Santiago’s cliff-side mansion. Both Cordero and Enrique knew what was at stake. They also realized that with a flick of my wrist, I could unleash their talent. I chuckled at the thought.
Santiago followed my gaze, slowly unbuttoning his white dinner jacket before pulling out a cigar of his own.
“My father taught me the importance of honesty as well as a well-organized business venture.”
“Something to respect,” he said in an offhanded way, taking his time to pull the gilded cutter from the oversized astray. The snip was loud, no doubt his attempt at patronizing me.
I simply looked back toward the ocean, content in my standings with him. While we hadn’t talked business over dinner, I’d made certain he knew his place in the pecking order. He was as close to the bottom as he could be. The thought almost made my cock hard. “Yes, like father, like son. And as you know, my father is a formidable man. You want to sell cigars in the United States. I can help with arranging distribution rights as well as transportation to various cities. I can also provide you with connections, wealthy and influential clients who will gladly pay your exorbitant prices.”
“Exorbitant. Come now. These are the most fabulous cigars in the world,” Santiago said, finally taking a puff.
I twisted the cigar in my fingers, eager to get this shit over with. I had other business to attend to. “Yes, as you’ve said more than once.” I walked in his direction and while he offered a seat, I remained standing. “I’m also well aware that you’re intent on bringing drugs into my regime, a compromising situation.”
“Now, wait a minute.” He huffed and puffed as he leaned forward. Even in the beautiful evening light, I could tell his face had turned beet red.
“I’m no fool, Santiago, so don’t dare attempt to try and place me in that position. I’ve been watching you for months, your test runs to particular marinas quite resourceful.”
“No. We are not going down that road. Cut the crap. We are professionals and we’re going to remain that way. I will make you a deal but it’s the only one on the table. If I leave here, the offer will vanish. Permanently.”
Inhaling, his nostrils flared from the rage creeping into his system. I enjoyed keeping a man on edge. “I’m listening.”
“Excellent. The deal is that I will allow you to provide party favors within the city limits of Miami, but under my direction and with a forty percent finder’s fee.”
I didn’t even blink, merely keeping my stare dark and cold. “Then I guess our business is concluded here and I assure you that I have various maritime officials on my payroll. They will be notified to look carefully for any boat coming from two hundred miles in the proximity of Cuba. Oh, and the deal for the cigars? Unfortunately, that will be eliminated as well. I can also assure you that if you attempt to undermine my family or my operations, I will destroy you. I think you are well aware of my capabilities.”
“How. Dare. You.”
I took another sip of cognac, another puff then closed the distance, taking my time placing the glass on the table, stubbing out the cigar. Then I simply walked toward the door, my soldiers following.
“Wait a minute. Just fucking wait a minute!” Santiago snapped. “Fine. You have your deal.”
I took a deep breath before turning around. “Very well. I’ll draw up the papers and have them in your office in the morning. However, I will need a gesture of good faith. After all, I came several hundred miles in order to make this… arrangement with you.”
He remained seated although I could tell he was fuming. He hadn’t anticipated my wrath. “What kind of gesture do you want?”
“I’m certain you can come up with something that will appease me.” I offered a smile as I adjusted the cufflinks on my sleeves.
Santiago pointed toward the half-finished glass of cognac, finally offering a smile of his own. When I refused, his face fell. “Very well,” he said as he stood. Was there the slightest hint of a quiver in his hand? Perhaps. “I think I have something that will suit you.” He kept the glass and cigar in his hands as he walked out of the room.
I chuckled and walked back toward the ornate concrete half wall, staring down at the exquisite and colorful buildings constructed on the side of the cliff. From this point of view, the sights of the city were beautiful. Sadly, the distance masked the crumbling buildings and rundown landscaping.
Only the wealthy were able to maintain a certain lifestyle, affording the various perks the gorgeous country had to offer. A man like Santiago enjoyed his status more than most, lording his good fortune over almost everyone else.
Except those within his inner circle.
Within five minutes I heard footsteps on the terra cotta floor, only this time there were two sets. I didn’t bother turning, anticipating some fabulous crate of cigars or perhaps a case of his favored liquor.
“Miguel. May I present my daughter, Valencia. She is the musician you spoke so highly of. Valencia, this is a very important business associate, Miguel Garcia, all the way from America.”
I shifted until I was able to see the doorway. Santiago stood like the pompous ass he truly was while the lovely woman standing beside him had a furious expression on her face. I’d seen pictures of her in my quest to learn every sordid detail about the man, including his weaknesses. However, there had never been any mention that she was an accomplished musician. Valencia was his only child, at least by legitimate means.
She was as incredible as her music.
“Valencia. What a lovely name. I’m pleased to meet you. You play beautifully.”
She nodded out of respect then looked away, her breath scattered.
“Some respect, pequena princessa,” Santiago rumbled, anger in his tone.
“I am not a princess, father. While it’s good to meet you, I was in the middle of practice. May I go now?” Valencia asked as she folded her arms.
“I’m curious. What game are you playing, Santiago?” I asked casually.
“You will learn, Miguel, that I also don’t play games for anyone,” he said in an offhanded manner.
She gave me a heated glance, as if disgusted with my appearance, now remaining quiet. A good daughter and one entirely under her father’s thumb.
The girl was beautiful, her long dark hair flowing to the small of her back, her large blue eyes stunning. My cock twitched from the way her lips pursed and I allowed my gaze to fall to her voluptuous breasts and slender waist with rounded hips that accentuated long and sexy legs. Even in the simple cobalt blue dress that hugged every curve, she was glorious.
Santiago walked closer, a wry expression on his face. “You wanted an appropriate gesture of good faith. I have something you will admit is truly remarkable.”
I studied his eyes, the way he gestured toward Valencia, my anger riled. I knew all kinds of men, their power allowing them to presume they owned a woman. I abhorred any man who treated women with anything but the utmost respect. I knew exactly what he was offering, and the thought left a wretched taste in my mouth.
“I give you my daughter for one night. You can do with her as you please, but keep in mind that she is willful and often disobedient. You are welcome to punish her as necessary.”
“Papa!” Valencia screeched, her entire body shaking from anger. “I will not go with this pig.”
“Enough! You will do as you are told! I am ashamed of your behavior!” His chest rose and fell, his expression prickled with anger. After running his fingers through his hair and taking a deep breath, he finished his statement. “You are showing our guest a good time. Anything he wants. Anything,” he snapped, not bothering to look in her direction.
I held my breath as well as the nasty words ready to spew from my mouth. For all my bravado, the man had taken back the upper hand. To refuse would be considered a slap of the man’s honor. He was offering his most precious gift, one I would be required to accept. I knew right then that one day, I would indeed gut the heartless pig, enjoying every moment of watching him writhe in pain.
“No, Papa. No hare esto!” she hissed.
“English, daughter. Our guest prefers English and you will honor him in every manner that he requires. Is that understood?”
“Fine. I will not do this,” she repeated. “He is a repugnant man, disgusting in every manner.”
Santiago confronted her, lifting the hand holding the cigar in a manner to suggest backhanding her.
Bristling, I unbuttoned my jacket, walking closer and making certain the asshole noticed the Beretta positioned in my waistband. “There is no need for violence, Santiago. I’m certain that Valencia will enjoy my company for one evening only.”
She snapped her head in my direction and to my surprise, she spit on the floor before storming away.
“Pequena perra!” For a father to call his own daughter a little bitch infuriated me. Every hair stood up on the back of my neck, my fingers itching to slap the barrel against his forehead. Envisioning his ultimate demise was the only way I could keep from wrapping my hand around his throat.
Instead of unleashing my rage, I took a deep breath before moving in front of him. “I assure you that I will handle her in my way. She will do exactly as I demand.”
Santiago snarled, glaring at her as she walked away, her heels clipping against the tile floor, no doubt matching the rapid beating of his heart. I had to admit, I enjoyed his discomfort. After a few seconds, he smiled once again, nodding several times as he turned to face me.
“You are a very formidable man, Miguel. I am certain that you will be able to handle her. I apologize for her actions. As I said before, she has a mind of her own. Extremely willful. Very much like her mother.”
“Nothing that a hard whipping can’t take care of.”
He narrowed his eyes then stormed toward the table, grabbing my glass into his hand. “Excellent idea. We should have a toast to sharing our long and prosperous business together.”
The blood running through my veins was ice cold even though the electricity racing through my entire system was humming with need. I accepted the beverage, taking a sip as I studied him and the nervous tic appearing briefly on the corner of his mouth.
“I do ask that you take care of her. I have many enemies who would enjoy taking something so precious from me.”
His shell had a crack. Good to know. I gave him a respectful nod. “I promise to care for her with my life. Anyone who attempts to betray me will meet a horrible end. I’m certain you can appreciate what I’m saying.”
He seemed relieved, his breath still ragged. “Yes. Yes, I can.”
“Excellent. As far as our business deal. If I find that you deceive me in any way, I will take what is most precious to you.”
“And what is that?” Santiago’s arrogance had returned.
I polished off the drink, allowing the thick base to hit the coffee table with a hard thud, and headed toward the door. I stopped long enough but only tilted my head, allowing me to see the whites of his eyes. “Your daughter.”
While tonight wasn’t what I’d expected, I would use her in every way I desired. However, there would come a time that Santiago would pay for this atrocity.
Her lovely name rolled off my tongue, her hourglass figure spawning desires involving dark and heinous acts. She obviously had no understanding of who she’d been sold off to for a night, her haughty attitude and rebellious demeanor intriguing. After a few heated words spouted off by Santiago, the girl had obviously acquiesced, now waiting patiently just outside the front door.
She’d changed attire, the flaming crimson dress much more to my liking yet still accentuating the beauty God had given her. Her long hair was fastened in a loose ponytail, the luxurious strands glistening in the glowing candlelight. As she stood with one hand on her cocked hip, she glanced everywhere across the expansive landscape but in my direction.
I was forced to admit that breaking her would be far too exciting.
Neither my cock nor my desires would be denied.
I eased out of the rented Ferrari, taking my time as I sauntered in her direction. As I moved up the stairs, she yawned, waiting a solid two seconds before covering her mouth.
I snapped her wrist, yanking her against the heat of my body and towering over her. “While I may be repugnant to you, make no mistake that you belong to me for one night. One. Solid. Night. You will do exactly what I want when I require you to do so without question. If you choose to disobey, you will be punished. Am I very clear with you, princess?”
She clenched her jaw, struggling to get out of my hold. “I’m not your princess, buster, and you will not speak to me that way.”
I lowered my head until she could feel my hot breath cascading across her porcelain skin. “I will speak to you any way I please. The sooner you realize that I am in command, the better off you’ll be.”
“You’re threatening me, the daughter of the richest man in Cuba?”
While I enjoyed sparring with a woman better than most, my blood already pumping, I had no desire to continue playing useless games. “Princess, I only make promises.” I crushed her mouth with mine, immediately thrusting my tongue past her ruby-stained lips.
Valencia beat her fist against my chest, whimpering and wiggling until I snaked my arm around her waist, keeping her in position.
Within seconds, her clenched hand opened, her fingers digging into my jacket, her whimpers becoming ragged moans of passion. She trembled in my arms, no doubt a mixture of fear as well as hunger. The taste of her was the sweet, simple ambrosia of the gods. I wasted no time dominating her tongue as I inhaled her exotic perfume, the scent far too intoxicating.
My cock ached to the point the confining zipper on my trousers was biting, a reminder that I hadn’t been with anyone in a very long time. I had no time for passion in my life, no desire to pretend I was anything but callous. This gift I would enjoy with every ounce of my being.
When I parted our lips, she tipped forward on her toes, her eyelids half closed.
“Now, you’re coming with me where we’ll enjoy the time we spend together. After that, you will never have to see me again.”
“Hmmm…” Valencia seemed to regroup, taking an awkward step backward. Even in the twilight of the evening, I could see that she’d rolled her eyes. “We shall see, Mr. Garcia. Never forget that I am a woman to be reckoned with. If you do, my sting is much deadlier than that of a scorpion.”
I knew in that moment that the vivacious fireball would be mine.
Mine to taste.
Mine to take.
Mine to own.