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Hard Lessons: A Mafia Romance by Lily Harlem – Sample

Chapter One

Serena Ricci ran her fingers over the plush leather sofa. The black surface gleamed in the sunlight pouring in through the vast glass doors that led onto a wraparound balcony.

To her right was a polished scarlet kitchen with what seemed to be acres of granite work-surface, and through a door to the left a huge bedroom dressed in black silk and purple velvet.

She’d never been in such a beautiful apartment. It oozed money, opulence, and power.

And now she was here—now she’d made it to London—with the love of her life, Serena had no intention of leaving.

“You like it, mio amore?” Luca asked.

“What’s not to like?” She smiled at him, enjoying the way his joy had sent small creases from the corners of his eyes to his temples. It was a real smile, not something Luca Morretti did very often, and rarely with anyone other than her.

She was the love of his life too—so he told her every day.

“It’s stunning, Luca. And this view.” She spread her hands wide and gestured at the rooftops stretching into the distance. St. Paul’s Cathedral jabbed the blue sky and the tip of the London Eye glinted as though winking at her.

“It is a bellissimo view and exactly what I hoped to be able to give you here in London.” He stepped close and wrapped his arms around her waist, pressing his hard, muscular chest to her back. “But I know what would make it even better.”

“You do?” She leaned into him and gripped his thick, hair-coated forearms. The right one was stained with a tattoo of a skull; a cigarette dangling from its teeth. Beneath it were the words, in Italian, ‘I’ll swallow my blood before I swallow my pride.’

“What would make it better?” she asked even though she had a good idea. The workings of Luca’s mind were something she was happily in tune with. Sure, his moral compass could be a little out of whack from time to time, but what the hell, so could hers.

“You… naked. That’s what would make it even better.” He nuzzled her neck, his heavily stubbled chin scratching her flesh and sending a ripple of sensation over her scalp.

She tipped her head, exposing her neck for more of the delicious attention. “Surely you’ve seen enough of me naked.” She giggled. “We were up half the night in the Gatwick hotel.” And she was still a little tender between her legs to prove it.

One thing she knew about Luca in the year they’d been together. He liked to fuck how he lived, worked and played—edgy, dangerous, and in the fast lane.

“I’ll never get enough of you being naked. In fact, I think clothing should be banned now we’re here in our new London home. If we get cold, we’ll just turn the heating up.”

“That could work.” She smiled, love filling her heart. This was a perfect moment.


After making the decision to come to the UK so Luca could work with Giovanni Bianchi—his uncle on his father’s side—it had been a whirlwind of organizing counterfeit passports and then booking flights. Giovanni had given them use of the penthouse apartment, rent free, but it hadn’t been available until today, which is why they’d stayed overnight at the airport.

Serena didn’t know who had been in the apartment previously; she knew better than to ask.

“I think my uncle will give me a day to acclimatize,” Luca said, reaching for the top button of her silky white blouse. “Find my feet, recover from the journey.”

“That would be very kind of him.” She shifted her ass from side to side, rubbing against his growing erection.

Damn, the man is insatiable. A true Italian stallion.

But that wasn’t news to her. Since their first date they’d been tearing at each other’s clothes every chance they got. Their chemistry was off the charts and showed no signs of abating. Not that she was complaining.

“You’ll like him,” Luca said now, pulling her blouse from her tight black pants. “When I introduce you.”

“Which will be…?”

“When he says so.” He slid her blouse off, allowing it to fall to the shiny tiled floor. “But enough of him; right now, I’m only interested in you.”

He spun her quickly in his arms.

She gasped and clutched his leather jacket, her bra pressing up against the cool material.

The smile on his face was predatory and his eyes glinted with lust. “Say you’re mine.”

“I’m yours.” She spoke against his lips. “All yours.”

“And you will be forever.” He released her bra and it slackened around her ribs.


“Say it.”

“I’ll be yours… forever. Forever, Luca.”

His mouth caught hers in a wild, passionate kiss. He swept his tongue into her mouth and dragged her close. Her now naked breasts flattened against his jacket. The cool material caressed her nipples and added to her arousal.

“Fuck,” he muttered. “I’d go crazy without you now, you know that. Crazy. I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t live. I have to have you.”

A familiar tremble attacked her spine. Luca’s love was intense, his emotions raw. She had no doubt she’d be his forever, but that suited her. Serena didn’t have eyes for any other guy; who could possibly compare? Luca had ruined her for all other men.

“You need to be naked too,” she said, shoving at his jacket. It joined her bra and blouse on the floor. He reached behind himself and fisted his black t-shirt. He dragged it over his head, mussing up his thick dark hair.

She slid her palms over his broad chest, catching her fingertips in the sprinkle of dark wiry hair at the center. His flesh was hot and beneath it the muscle taut and toned.

“I want you over here,” he said, grasping her hand and a wicked glint searing over his eyes.

“Over where?”

“You’ll see.”

“Oh.” Serena found herself tipped over the back of the leather sofa. “Luca.”

“So you can enjoy the view,” he said.

“I like the way you think.”

“I know you like the way I fuck, too.” He chuckled.

“Hell, yeah… oh…” She scrabbled for purchase as he dragged her pants and knickers down to her knees. He was hot for it, impatient, frantic almost. It thrilled Serena that his need for her was still so intense, so alive. Time wasn’t dampening their desire for each other. And if they could outwit time, surely that meant they could do anything.

“Ah, yeah, you’re going to love this, the first time in our new home.” He tapped her feet apart with his boots. “Open wide, give yourself up for me. To me.”

“Yes.” She gripped a cushion as a gush of heat filled her pussy; she was so damn wet for him. She always was.

“Watch London,” he said, palming her buttocks and squeezing. “Watch it while you come.”

She groaned, the flesh on her ass stinging within his hold. It hurt in a good way. He gripped it tight, putting muscle behind it, giving her that hard deep sensation that made her pussy pulsate and every muscle in her body tingle. She wanted to tell him to stop, she wanted more. Damn, how did he just ‘get’ her so well? Know instinctively what she needed.

And then his mouth was there, the tip of tongue tracing the cleft of her parted buttocks. His sharp chin grated over her skin and his nose trailed after his tongue.

“Luca,” she gasped, squirming.

He slid lower to her asshole. He buried his face between her cheeks and nuzzled, his tongue somewhere she never thought he’d put it.

Her eyes widened, her mouth a perfect ‘o’ of part shock, part surprise. The heat of his dark touch stole her breath and made her heart skip a beat. He was so damn good at being bad this hot man of hers.

His attention moved lower and he trailed his tongue over the sopping entrance to her pussy.

“Oh, God, yes…” She wiggled her hips from side to side. Wanting and needing more. Surely he knew that.

“Impatient little minx,” he said, lifting up and looming over her, his warm chest on her back, his breath hot by her ear.

“You turn me on so much,” she said. “And so quickly. I can’t help it… I want you, Luca. I want to come.”

“Ditto.” He found her entrance with his fingers. He slid in two, maybe three fingers, hooked them forward and stroked over her G-spot. He did it fast and firm, a solid, dense come-hither motion that had pressure building in her pussy and deep in her pelvis.

“Oh, Luca. Yes.” She tensed and bit on her bottom lip as her knees weakened. She was glad of the sofa for support. This wasn’t going to be a slow fuck. Luca was on a mission to get them both orgasming—the first in their new apartment, the first of their new life.

“Oh, oh…” she gasped and arched her back until it ached. “Luca! More!”

He chuckled. “See, you always want more, even if you don’t know it.”

“Just fuck me.” She was wet for him, her pussy gripping his fingers. “Now.”

He didn’t reply, instead he removed his fingers and replaced them with the tip of his cock. He gripped her hips and held her tight.

Serena snatched in her breath and braced her spine, knowing it would be a fast ride to full depth. She loved this moment though, the anticipation, the split second before he claimed her and took them both to heaven.

And then it came.

He grunted and forged in, spearing his cock into her pussy.

She groaned as she was stretched blissfully around his wide shaft. He was big and long and when he hit full depth he shunted in some more, bashing the trapped air from the base of her lungs.

Grunting, she hugged him with her pussy, tensing each internal muscle as much as she could.

And then he withdrew only to blast in again, dragging her onto his cock at the same time.

“Ah, si, fuck.” He grunted and held her tighter, his thighs slapping up against the backs of her legs. “You feel so damn good.”

Serena didn’t answer; she stared out of the window, unseeing. He was taking what he wanted from her body, but in turn giving her exactly what she needed. His raw masculinity and desperate desire for her was an aphrodisiac in itself.

She reached down and sought her clit, wanting maximum stimulation.

“Ah, no.” He batted her hand away. “I’ll do that. My duty.”

He bent over her, cocooning her with his big body and scooped one hand beneath her to rub her clitoris.

“Luca,” she gasped. “Oh, fuck.”

Si, I’m fucking you, baby.” He slid his other hand up to her neck, cupped her chin. “Look at London while I fuck you. While I take what’s mine. Tutto mio.”

Her neck arched. Her body shook. His possession of her was all she could think of. It was all consuming, the way his love was.

“Jesus, give me strength,” he cried, his fingers firm around her throat. “If you ever leave me…”

“I won’t. I won’t leave you. I love you. I love you, Luca.”

“And I love you. So much. Can you… feel… how… much?” His words were punctuated with wild thrusts.

He was riding hard over her G-spot. It was still sensitive from when he’d taken her from behind the night before. Only then he’d had her tied to the bed too, slapped her ass until it had burned red before he’d plunged in.

Will we ever get enough of each other?

The wild fucking continued. Serena was aware of the pressure building, the need to release growing. It was a delicious deep orgasm, strengthening from his skillful fingers and rock-hard cock. He was in control of her, her body, her pleasure; she didn’t need to think of anything except claiming her climax.

“Luca… I’m… oh… don’t stop!” she cried out and came. Not caring if anyone heard, or if anyone could see them through the windows.

Luca was all that existed. He was her man, her world, her everything.

As darts of pure bliss shot around her body, Luca came too, his hips thrusting in short sharp movements as he groaned through a long orgasm. He seemed to tunnel deeper than ever, his body shaking and sweat slicking over his skin and hers.

Still Serena stared at the city spread before her. But her eyes were glazed, her focus blurred. It was just a mass of concrete topped with chimneystacks and spires.

She curled her toes in her stilettoes and locked her knees. Luca’s fingers were firm around her throat, but it didn’t restrict her breathing; instead it served as a reminder of his strength and of his ownership of her. As her orgasm abated she relaxed further into his powerful hold, relished every millimeter of his body touching hers.

“Damn… this new life is going… to suit us.” He was breathless as he spoke against the back of her head. “I can tell.”

“Yes.” She pressed her hand over his, the one at her neck. “New life. Our new life.”

She was glad to be away from Rome. Things had gotten sticky there. One too many paybacks, and brushes with the law were getting too close for comfort. She’d known what she’d signed up for when she’d started dating him. Luca Morretti was a friend of her cousin, their mutual involvement with Cosa Nostra—mafia—making him just her brand of bad boy.

Not that she was a saint herself. Her entire family was knee-deep in Mafiosi; she’d had no choice but to live the same life.

Hadn’t she?

Lately she’d wondered. And with the promise of a new city…

“You’re a goddamn angel to fuck,” Luca said, finally releasing her throat and straightening. He stayed lodged deep. “Everything about you is so perfect.” He traced the line of her spine, slowly, carefully tapping over each bone, then slipped through the cleft of her buttocks again. He paused at her anus. “And this perfect ass of yours, later I’m going to fuck it so good you’ll forget your damn name.”

Serena trembled and clenched her buttocks.

He chuckled. “And don’t try and say you’re not sure, because I know damn well this sweet little hole loves my cock.”

“Luca,” Serena said, her body still buzzing from her orgasm. “I just…”


“I…” Her words caught in her throat and she wriggled within his hold.

The next thing she knew he’d pulled her upright and spun her around. He encased her in his wide arms and drew her close to his bare chest with her head tucked beneath his chin. “Shh, I’ve got you. I’ll always have you, Serena, mio amore. I love you.”

“I love you too.” She clung to him, inhaling the scent of fresh sweat lacing his skin. She closed her eyes and sagged closer still. His strength wrapped around her, held her upright. Luca seemed to instinctually know what she needed and when. And right now, she needed to be embraced.

He kissed the top of her head. “Catch your breath, I’ve got you, everything is okay. It will always be okay. I have you. I will care for you, protect you. Always.”

She didn’t need to answer. She just let the words wash over her and soothe her emotions like a balm.

He ran one hand to her right buttock and cupped it, the other he pressed into her lower back, keeping her held firm. His touches were always possessive and territorial. She was his, and he made sure she knew that.

“Luca,” she murmured, wanting his name on her lips.

“Serena. You will always be mine. I will always be yours. That can’t change now.” He paused. “What’s on your mind?”

She looked up at him, taking a moment to focus. His dark eyes were brimming with intensity, sincerity, and love.

“It’s just that maybe…” She glanced away.

“Maybe what?”

She didn’t know how to articulate her ideas. They’d barely formed in her own mind. But it had been a little seed, a kernel of a vision that had been germinated and now was growing, very slowly, struggling to peek through the earth, the dark corners of her mind, but still… it was trying.

It stemmed from a dream she’d had. She and Luca in a small house by the coast, rugged hills behind them and a garden complete with vegetable patch, chickens, and a children’s climbing frame.

“Tell me.” He hooked his finger beneath her chin. “I want to know everything that’s going on in that pretty head of yours.”

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Luca glared in the direction of the apartment door. “Who the fuck is that?”

“I don’t know.” Serena stepped away, suddenly acutely aware of her pants bunched around her ankles.

Luca swept his gaze over her. “Cover up.”

“I am.” She was already dragging her knickers and pants up. After fastening them she slipped on her bra and blouse.

Luca did up his black jeans, but didn’t bother with his t-shirt. He strode to the door, the muscles in his back and shoulders rippling. He paused at the small table in the hallway, picked up his gun and slid it into the waistband of his jeans so it sat at the base of his spine.

Quickly Serena patted her hair, hoping she didn’t have the just-fucked look. Their visitor could be any number of people come to welcome Luca onto English soil—or not.

She hoped they were friendly acquaintances, but it wasn’t wise to presume. Clearly Luca wasn’t taking any chances.

Not that Luca wasn’t more than capable of looking after himself. Hell, he’d brushed shoulders with some of the worst of the Mafiosi in Rome, some of whom had been on his side, some he’d had to square up against.

He was tough, skilled, and, if he needed to be, ruthless. The guy had grown up with drugs and arms being dealt in the room next to his bedroom. His father—may his soul rest in peace—had lived into his seventies at the center of an organized crime ring and never been caught by the police or a bullet. Sadly he hadn’t been so lucky at dodging cancer.

But a friendly visit—no bullet dodging—would be a good start to London life. Luca would be an asset to Cosa Nostra business here. With his bulk, disregard for getting down and dirty when necessary, and his keen, sharp mind, he’d be welcomed with open arms.

Linking her fingers, she walked to the kitchen area. She hoped a lucky streak would come Luca’s way and he’d be able to stay below the cop’s radar. Attention from uniform wasn’t something either of them needed right now. A quiet life, with a few low-key jobs for his uncle; that would suit them well. She wanted to be able to relax in her new home. See the sights, enjoy the shopping, perhaps some of the nice spas and restaurants that she’d read about in glossy magazines.

“Luca, finally.” A deep, heavily accented voice boomed through the apartment.

Serena shut the cupboard door on a stack of containers holding rice, cereal, and pasta. In the next she found a wineglass then opened the refrigerator. It was also fully stocked including a nice cheese board from Selfridges. Pulling out a bottle of Pinot, she turned at the sound of footsteps on the tiled floor.

“And you must be Serena, what a pleasure.”

A short bald man held out his hands. His smile was wide and his cheeks rosy. His nose and ears were too big for his head. Flanking him were two beefy guys with grim expressions and faces that reminded her of bulldogs. One had a beard, the other clean-shaven but with a tattoo of a cross on his right cheek, just below his eye.

“Serena, this is my uncle, Giovanni Bianchi.”

“Wonderful to meet you.” She stepped up to him and he kissed each of her cheeks. His cologne was strong and spiced.

His grin widened and he clasped her shoulders. He gave the impression of a cuddly bear, though it would be foolish to think he wasn’t as dangerous as an angry, cornered viper. “Nephew, you have done very well for yourself, your beautiful lady is a goddess.”

Serena laughed.

“You’re right.” Luca slipped his hand around her and pulled her from his uncle’s grasp. “She is a goddess, and also bewitching, enchanting, and the love of my life.”

“Which makes you a very lucky man.” Giovanni squeezed Luca’s shoulder. “And I would like to invite you both to my home tonight for spaghetti, Maria’s old family recipe.” He tapped the side of his nose. “A secret recipe.”

“That sounds wonderful.” Luca squeezed Serena a little closer. “Doesn’t it, mio amore?”

“Yes.” Serena really wanted to stay in their new home, recover from their journey, have Luca to herself, but that would have been rude. Refusing to attend dinner at the Bianchis was not an option.

“But right now,” Giovanni said, nodding at Serena’s wine, “I’m afraid that will have to wait; there is business to attend to.”

Serena held back a frown. They’d only just arrived and Luca was having to go off with Giovanni on business? It didn’t seem fair.

“Understandable.” Luca nodded. “Always work to be done.”

Giovanni’s attention stayed on Serena. “And you will do very nicely for this job.” His grin broadened. “You’re just his type.”

“Whose type?” Serena asked, not liking where this was going.

Luca tensed.

“David Watson, distinguished Member of Parliament representing Peckham, only from the back benches of course, but still, he’s an MP, which means he has power. Power I like. Power I need.”

“Go on,” Luca said, his voice tightening.

“David Watson is an MP who until recently was behaving himself.” Giovanni turned and walked to the window. A bulge in the material covering his lower back showed he was also carrying. “Great view, don’t you think?”

Si, we really appreciate the apartment,” Luca said. “It’s great.”

“Yes.” Serena forced a smile and squeezed a little closer to Luca. “Thank you.”

“It is my pleasure. Anything for my favorite nephew and his beautiful lady.” Giovanni turned, hands on hips.

Serena’s heart tripped along. What exactly were they to do with this MP fellow?

“David Watson,” Giovanni said, “is rather partial to a liquid lunch on Friday at his favorite haunt, The Rook and Tower. It’s an upmarket public house, discreet, overpriced, dark corners for dark deeds. Think of it as the London version of Maritozzaro, si.”

Luca nodded. “I’ve been there a few times.”

Serena also knew Maritozzaro. It was a Rome hangout for mafia types who were schmoozing with the corrupt population of the police, justice department, and of course politicians.

Giovanni looked at his Rolex. “Which means you’ll have to get a move on.”

“Now?” Serena said.

Si, now.” Giovanni nodded. It was clear he expected to be obeyed without question.

“What do you need from him?” Luca asked.

“I need.” Giovanni paused then jabbed his finger in the air, the softness that had been around his eyes hardened, leaving anyone who saw him in no doubt he was not a cuddly old Italian grandfather. “I need him to know he cannot screw me over this way. He owes me favors, there’s promises he hasn’t been good for. What’s more I know he’s had the ear of the Parvo.” He looked as though he might spit after saying the name of Cosa Nostra’s rival. “He’s been pulling strings that aren’t playing to my tune and I want him to hurt, in here.” He banged his chest. “Go for the heart, the jugular, make his balls twists until they go fucking blue.”

Luca nodded. “We can do that.”

“I knew I could rely on you, nephew.” Giovanni gestured to Serena. “Put a dress on, some lipstick, heels. I’m sure his wife of fifteen years would throw him to the paparazzi dogs if she saw him salivating over a gorgeous Italian woman when he’s supposed to be in the House of Commons studying bylaws and amendments. Get evidence, photographs. Show them to him and send them to me. I want this guy over a barrel and squirming. Maybe then he’ll play nicely for my team.”

“Of course.” Serena set her hands on her hips. This was something she could do, make a man salivate. So she made for the bedroom and her suitcase; the sooner they got to the job at hand, the sooner they could get back to their new life. “I’ll go and get changed.”

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