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His to Break: A Dark Mafia Arranged Marriage Romance by Sassa Daniels – Sample

Chapter One

No matter how many times I come here, the disgust I feel never lessens. Aphrodite’s, the seediest strip club my family owns, reeks of desperation. It’s a foul stench that turns my stomach. We only hold onto the place because cash businesses like this are great for laundering money. Still, if I was ordered to burn the place to the ground, I’d do it in a heartbeat and with a smile on my face.

Everyone here makes my skin crawl. There are the patrons who trickle in every night after work and don’t go home to their wives until our security people throw them out at closing time. Most of them are fat, middle-aged assholes who can’t afford to chase decent pussy in a classier joint than this. Each of them would give their right nut for one of the women who bare their tits on stage to show a glimmer of genuine interest in them.

Then there are the women who only work here because life has left them no choice. They hold on to the hope that one day, some guy who’s not a complete douchebag is going to show up and take them away from this shitty place. They’re kidding themselves if they imagine Prince Charming would look twice at a bottle blonde in bargain basement lingerie and cheap plastic shoes.

The women here are not like the ones who work the high-end clubs we own. They don’t do it because the money’s good and it opens doors for them. They shake their asses night after night because they have no other way to pay the bills. Aphrodite’s is where dignity comes to die.

I skirt around the edge of the main room in the club, acknowledging no one, and push through the door to the private area out back. Dante, Antonio’s right-hand man, is stationed outside the office, a sign my brother, head of the Volante crime family, is already here.

“Dante.” I nod curtly to him as he steps aside to let me in.

“Leo.”

He doesn’t open the door for me and I wouldn’t expect him to. He’s not some lowly foot soldier. Outside of family, he’s one of the few people Antonio trusts with his life. I’ve known Dante since I was in third grade, but I wouldn’t call him a friend. The only men who get the honor of that title are my four brothers and Nico, who’s been in my crew since we dropped out of college together.

When I step into the room, which is decorated as tastelessly as the rest of the club in various shades of purple, Antonio is seated behind the crappy wooden desk. Matteo stands behind him. They’re both focused on a laptop screen but look up when they register my presence.

“Long time no see,” Matteo quips as I cross the room toward them.

I roll my eyes. It’s been less than half an hour since we were all at a party together. Emilia, who’s married to our brother, Alessandro, is celebrating the opening of her new hotel downtown. I have to admit to being skeptical about Emilia at first. A sweet Italian girl, she was so sheltered she didn’t even realize her grandfather was head of a vast criminal empire. She seemed too innocent, too breakable, to fit in with my family. But, since she met Alessandro, Emilia has dealt with all the shit life’s thrown at her without going to pieces. It seems her soft, feminine exterior hides a backbone of steel.

“Is Gio on his way?”

Even before Antonio shakes his head, I know what the answer to my question will be. Our youngest brother showed up for Emilia’s party tonight but left early, using the excuse that he had to take our sister, Olivia, home. He’s drifting away from the family, keeping his own counsel. I don’t fucking like it. Though I know he would never betray us, it worries me that he’s being so secretive. Something is going on with Gio that he isn’t prepared to share with the people he should trust the most. Antonio needs to sort him out, bring him back into the fold before it’s too late.

As I walk around the side of the desk to join my brothers and see what they’re looking at on the laptop, something sticks to the sole of my shoe. I look down in disgust. There’s gum on my new Testonis. Fuck! I really hate this dump. Even without my brother’s permission, I might just torch it.

I’m only here because Antonio got a message that Vinnie Bianchi wanted to meet him. My brother can’t face this man alone. We know nothing about him. He’s a ghost.

The younger son of Carlo Bianchi, one of our deadliest rivals, he’s been hidden from the world since he was born. Rumor has it Carlo wanted his sons raised separately to increase the chances of one of his heirs surviving if his family came under attack. A more likely explanation is that the old bastard feared the prospect of his sons conspiring to murder him in his sleep. Whatever the reason for him being kept out of sight, Vinnie Bianchi is so elusive, he’s taken on a mythical aura. Men tremble at the mere mention of him.

“So, where is this guy?” I ask.

Antonio points at the screen, which is displaying the security feed from one of the cameras in the club. It’s focused on a guy standing at the bar. He’s tall and muscular, dressed in jeans and a white shirt. His body language is tense, wary. His shoulders are taut. Though he bears no resemblance to his brother, Daniele, he’s pretty much what I expected.

The woman by his side, however, is a surprise. In high heels, she’s only a couple of inches shorter than Bianchi. Her figure is slender, but there’s a nice curve to her hips. Long, dark hair flows down her back. The short-sleeved dress that molds to her curves looks like something a woman might wear to a business meeting. There’s an elegance about her that’s ridiculously out of place in this dive.

“Who’s the woman?” Though I haven’t seen her face yet, I’m mesmerized.

Thankfully, Antonio doesn’t notice I’m practically drooling. He just shrugs. “His wife, girlfriend, a sacrificial offering, who knows?”

I really hope she’s the latter. My blood heats at the thought of her bound to an altar, that luscious black hair fanned out around her face, her back arched as she gives herself to me.

“Only one way to find out,” Matteo says before I can disappear any farther into that fantasy.

Antonio nods in agreement. He takes his cellphone out of his jacket pocket and shoots off a quick message. A chirping sound two seconds later heralds a reply.

“Dante’s fetching our guests,” he announces.

He closes the laptop and Matteo and I move back from the desk to flank our brother. It’s a demonstration of loyalty and a display of the power that we, as a family, wield. Matteo puts his hands in his pockets, deceptively relaxed. If Bianchi makes one wrong move, my younger brother will be on him before I even have the chance to draw my gun.

Less than a minute passes before there’s a knock at the door and Dante shows Bianchi and the woman into the room. She is stunning. Her features are delicate, her deep brown eyes wide. There’s something ethereal about her. I’ve been surrounded by beautiful women all my life, but she’s on another level. My heart actually misses a beat as she looks directly at me, unafraid.

Bianchi pulls back the only chair on the other side of the desk and helps her to sit. If nothing else, he’s got manners. The woman presses her knees together and slants her long legs to the side. Her back is straight, her head held high. She looks like a queen. I follow her movement as she sets a large black purse on the floor next to her. Dante will have checked it for weapons before allowing her to enter the room, but I’ll keep an eye on her all the same.

“I am Antonio Volante.” My brother doesn’t bother to introduce Matteo and me. If Bianchi doesn’t see the family connection, he’s blind. My siblings and I all bear a strong resemblance to each other. “What can I do for you?”

Bianchi exchanges a glance with the woman, who smiles softly as she tilts her head toward him. She gives an encouraging nod. Interesting. Is she the one pulling the strings here? Bianchi clears his throat. He’s on edge and so he should be. It’s only been a couple of months since his father tried to have my sister-in-law Emilia abducted. Whatever brought him here, he needs it badly because he must know my brothers and I would happily murder him.

“We wish to propose a marriage alliance, one that will be of mutual benefit.”

His speech is faltering, and he has a strong accent. Perhaps he was raised in Italy, as one rumor suggested.

“Marriage?” There’s tension in Antonio’s voice, but I doubt anyone who doesn’t know him well would recognize it. “Are you here to ask for my sister’s hand?”

He’d better fucking not be. Although Olivia is twenty and Antonio has been contemplating her marriage prospects for some time, he wouldn’t consider trading her off to a man we’ve never laid eyes on before and certainly not Carlo Bianchi’s spawn.

“No, no.” Bianchi holds his palms up in a placating gesture, apparently at great pains not to cause offense. Once more, he looks down at the woman. She reaches up and pats his arm soothingly. Whatever their relationship is, there’s trust between them.

Va tutto bene,” she murmurs. “Mi occuperó di questo.”

Having offered to handle things, she smiles at Antonio.

“We don’t wish to broker a marriage with your sister.” Her accent is crisp. If I had to guess, I’d say she was British, but her Italian was flawless, so who knows? “If you’re amenable to a deal, Signore Volante, I would be the bride.”

My heart stops. Did I hear her correctly? Bianchi brought this woman here because he wants her to marry into our organization. What is she to him?

“And who is the groom you seek?” Antonio asks.

“Well, you’re married, as is your brother, Alessandro. I’m not interested in a younger man, so Giovanni is out. That leaves Matteo, who is twenty-five, the same as me.” She smiles at my brother, marking him as the preferred option before turning a scowl on me. “Or Leonardo.”

It’s clear this woman has done her homework, but she obviously missed that I never shy away from a challenge like the one she just presented me with. Insulting me is like waving a red rag at a bull.

“No offense, darling,” Matteo says, “you’re beautiful and all, but why would either of us be interested in marrying you?”

She half-smiles and offers a self-deprecating shrug, though I sense she’s anything but unsure of herself. “I come with…” She pauses as she considers her words. “Shall we call it a dowry?”

“A dowry?” I scoff. “What is this, the Middle Ages?”

“In the outside world, no.” She glares at me. “Within an organization such as yours? Perhaps.”

She may have a point. When it comes to relationships within the Volante family, men are firmly in charge.

“So, what do you have to offer?” I demand. “A couple of cows and a half dozen chickens?”

The raven-haired beauty purses the crimson lips I’d love to see wrapped around my cock. “Fifty million dollars.”

It’s a nice sweetener, but a financial incentive isn’t enough to persuade either me or Matteo to marry. Our family doesn’t need the money. Unless she has some other value, I’m going to have to pass.

I’m about to not-so-politely decline when Matteo snorts derisively. “You think you can waltz in here and buy a husband? Who the fuck do you think you are?”

“Who the fuck do I think I am?”

Coming from her lips, the curse sounds incredibly provocative. She tosses her hair back and sits straighter, fixing Matteo with a glare that would shrivel a lesser man’s balls. My brother doesn’t flinch.

“I am Venezia Giulietta Maria Bianchi.” Her lips quirk in a vicious smile. “It’s a bit of a mouthful, I know, so you can call me Vinnie.”

Chapter Two

Vinnie

If my sole purpose in coming to this fleapit had been to shock the hell out of the Volante brothers, I’d congratulate myself on a mission accomplished and head for home. Unfortunately, as amusing as it is to see these hardened mobsters with their mouths flapping open like startled fish, I need their help.

Marrying into a powerful family is the only thing that will protect me from my father’s wrath. By now, he’ll know I slipped away from my guards back in England, where he’s been keeping me under lock and key. If he finds out I came to New York to seek refuge from the enemy, he’s going to flay the skin from my bones. That might sound like hyperbole, but with my father, the cruel and merciless Carlo Bianchi, it’s a very real possibility.

As I look across the table at the three quintessential mobsters, each tall, dark, and achingly handsome in their black suits, I wonder if I made a mistake in coming here. I knew I’d feel out of my depth, but they’re even more intimidating than I imagined.

None of them are easy to get a read on. Antonio is calm and in control, a natural leader. He gives little away. Matteo has a gleam in his eye that tells me he can be quite the charmer when he wants to be, but so far, he hasn’t shown much interest in me. And Leo? The second oldest of the brothers is the most dangerous. When he fixed his cool, assessing gaze on me, it took everything I had in me not to crumble. If I’m honest, he both scares and intrigues me. I don’t know how I’d cope if he was my husband.

“You’re Vinnie Bianchi?” It’s Matteo who recovers first.

“I am.”

From the corner of my eye, I catch Leo glaring at me as if I’ve personally deceived him. It’s not my fault my father fed a lie to the world about having a prized second son instead of a disappointing daughter.

“You can prove this?” Antonio asks.

“Of course.”

Expecting this and knowing I can never return to my home after coming here, I gathered every piece of documentation I could think of. I pick up my purse and place it on the table before sliding it across to Antonio. “My papers are in there.”

It’s Leo who grabs the bag. He examines it closely, turning it one way and then the other, checking it from all angles.

“Your lapdog already checked there’s no bomb in it,” I tell him. “Believe me, if there was, I wouldn’t still be sitting here.”

Leo clearly isn’t the trusting sort because he simply raises an eyebrow and continues his thorough inspection. Eventually satisfied that it is, indeed, just a purse, he opens it and removes the contents, one item at a time, placing each in front of Antonio when he’s done with it.

“Passport. Driver’s license. Birth certificate. Parents’ marriage certificate. Proof of paternity.” He looks at me, waiting for an explanation.

“Yes, when I was born a girl, my father saw it as some sort of insult to his masculinity. He accused my mother of cheating.”

Leo shakes his head at that and mutters something that might have been ‘crazy bastard’ under his breath. He takes out another document. “Credit card statement.” His eyes widen as he scans it. “Guess you like shoes.”

It’s almost comical that all three men peer over the desk to inspect my footwear. I don’t, as it happens, have a thing for shoes. My reason for buying so many pairs was not vanity. I was never allowed access to cash, but I knew I’d need a lot of it to make my escape. So, I started buying designer shoes and selling them, often for a fraction of what they were worth. I didn’t care if I made a loss as long as the customer paid cash. Beniamino, my closest friend and the man currently standing by my side, facilitated the sales so none of my father’s men would guess what I was up to. Everyone just assumed, as the Volante brothers seem to have, that I’m materialistic.

“Show me a girl who doesn’t,” I say flippantly, because nobody needs to know my true motivations.

Leo shakes his head disapprovingly. Okay, so playing the spoiled mafia princess isn’t going to win him over. It doesn’t matter. Matteo Volante is the prize I came here for. Digging into my purse, Leo withdraws a large brown envelope. “What’s this?”

“A copy of my grandmother’s will to prove that I stand to inherit the money I’m offering.”

Charlotte Winchester, my maternal grandmother, died three weeks ago. Though I barely knew her, she left her entire estate to me. I guess it was a fuck you to the mafia Don she never wanted for a son-in-law. I’m not naïve enough to think the money will protect me from my father, which is why I need to secure a union that would probably make my grandmother turn in her grave.

“I’ll need to have that looked at before anything is agreed,” Antonio tells me.

I expected that. “Of course.”

I watch as Leo fishes the final piece of paper out of my purse and scans it. “Phone numbers?”

“Yes. The first is my doctor’s. I’ve given him permission to share any medical information you may require. The others are numbers where you can reach my brother, including his private cell. If you wish to speak to him, he will verify I am who I claim to be.”

Antonio cocks his head, surprised, I think. It’s hard to tell with him. His facial expression barely changes.

“Daniele knows you’re here?”

“Not here, precisely.” Daniele will probably freak out when he discovers I’ve come to New York, to the Volantes of all people. “But he knew I planned to seek an alliance with a prominent family.”

Antonio narrows his deep blue eyes on me. “Why do you wish to marry one of my brothers?”

I flick my hair back over my shoulder, hoping I come across as more confident than I feel. “My father has plans for me that I just can’t get on board with.”

The looks on their faces tells me these guys know exactly what I mean.

“An arranged marriage?” Matteo asks.

“Yes. My father wants me to marry Umberto Gallo. You know, the octogenarian who rules over one of the most immoral families in Chicago. He wants me to give him more sons.”

The old creep is also a cousin of my father’s, which makes the whole thing even more depraved. Antonio, apparently sharing my disgust, wrinkles his nose.

“An unfortunate predicament, certainly.” His expression has smoothed over once more. “But it doesn’t answer my question. Why one of my brothers?”

Now I see what he’s getting at. He doesn’t want to know why I’m looking for a husband, but why I singled out his family.

“Why not? They’re young, rich, handsome. If I must have some man I don’t love grunting on top of me each night, why not pick one who’s nice to look at?”

To my surprise, Leo bursts out laughing. Antonio ignores him.

“Your view of sex seems somewhat pessimistic, Miss Bianchi. Are you a virgin?”

This may be a deal breaker for men like these, but I won’t start a relationship, business or otherwise, with a lie. “No, I’m not.”

Three sets of near identical eyes flick in Benny’s direction. Seriously? Do they think I’d parade a former lover in front of them?

“No, it wasn’t Beniamino who claimed my virginity.”

“So who is he?”

“His name is Beniamino Rossi. He works for me.” That’s not the whole story. Apart from my brother, Benny is the only person I truly love in this world. Telling the Volantes that would give them leverage over me, so I don’t reveal our friendship. “He’s been very loyal. If you agree to my proposition, I’d ask that he be allowed to remain in my service.”

Antonio shakes his head. “If I agree to this, you will be provided with guards of my choosing.”

I don’t like the sound of that, but I’m not in a position to argue.

“He isn’t my guard.” Considering the muscles on Benny, I can see why they’d make that assumption, but despite his size he’s a teddy bear. “I don’t think he’s ever so much as hit a man, never mind killed one.”

Non mi piace la violenza,” Benny mutters. He doesn’t like confrontation of any kind. That he chose to come here with me shows his dedication to me because he’s not equipped to deal with men like these.

“If he’s not your bodyguard, what is he?”

I lift my chin, daring one of them to laugh. “He’s my personal chef.”

To my relief, none of them make fun of Benny. Leo, however, scowls at me. “You came to meet the head of one of the most ruthless families in North America with only a personal chef for protection?” He shakes his head in disbelief. “Are you even safe to be out of the house?”

Now I’m the one to cast a dark look at him. “I knew I wouldn’t need protection because everyone knows your brother is an honorable man. He wouldn’t hurt an innocent woman. Had I known you were here, I would have come here with a fucking army at my back.”

Leo doesn’t like the implication I consider him to be lacking in honor. He folds his arms across his chest and glowers at me. “The fuck does that mean?”

“Work it out, Neanderthal, or are you too stupid to realize your reputation for violence and immorality wafts ahead of you like a bad smell?”

“Immorality?”

I notice he doesn’t take exception to my accusation of violence. “Yes, immorality. Is there a woman in the state you haven’t fucked yet?”

Leo’s lip curls into a snarl. “Only you, sweetheart.”

Before I can come up with a clever response to that, Antonio abruptly pushes to his feet. Shit! Have I blown this? Men like them don’t like to be challenged. I should have been more submissive.

Signore Volante…” I hate the pleading tone in my voice.

Antonio holds a hand up to stop me from speaking. “My brothers and I need a moment to discuss this. Wait here.”

As the brothers file from the room, tears prick my eyes. I look up at Benny. “I made a mess of that.”

He shrugs. “I wish you did not have to do this. If I had more than my mother’s cannoli recipe to offer, I would marry you in a heartbeat and save you from this fate.”

That makes me smile. “If circumstances were different, I’d marry you for the cannoli recipe alone.”

In reality, marriage between me and Benny would never work, not least because he isn’t attracted to women.

“Do you think they will kill us?”

His question catches me off guard. “What? No, of course not.”

They have no cause to kill us and a man like Antonio Volante doesn’t act without good reason. At least, I hope that’s the case. My father needs only the slightest provocation to order someone’s death. Though everything I’ve heard suggests Antonio is a very different breed of mobster, I realize now how naïve I’ve been in coming here. I’ve put myself in enemy hands and they have no obligation to help me. They don’t have to let me leave, and there’s no way I can fight my way out of this situation. These men can do whatever they want with me. They could use me against my father, my brother. Shit! What have I done?

When the door opens, I jump to my feet and spin around. Benny puts a comforting hand on my shoulder as Antonio re-enters the room alone. He doesn’t shut the door behind him.

“There are a few things we wish to check out.”

“Okay,” I say warily.

“You understand I can’t just let you walk out of here.”

Although I have no idea where I would go anyway, it’s scary to hear Antonio tell me I can’t leave. He must see the fear in my eyes because he offers me a semi-reassuring smile.

“You have my word no harm will come to you, Miss Bianchi. One of my men will escort you to my brother’s home, where you will remain until we’re satisfied you are who you claim to be.”

“And Beniamino?”

Antonio holds a hand up and waves two men into the room. Panic surges through me.

“No, please, you can’t.”

“Calm yourself. Nothing is going to happen to him. He will be taken to a secure location and treated well. However, if it turns out you lied about yourself or your relationship with him, I cannot guarantee he will remain in one piece.”

As the men move to either side of Benny, my friend looks stricken.

Va bene. Vai con loro. Andrá tutto bene.” Though I’ve assured him everything will be okay, I’m not entirely sure that’s true. I watch the men lead Benny from the room and pray I haven’t led him into danger.

“You promise he’ll be okay?” Tears well in my eyes as I look at Antonio, hoping I can trust him.

“He’ll be fine. Now, go with Dante and prepare yourself. Unless something goes wrong, you will marry my brother in three days.”

It’s both a relief and an ominous thought that the Volantes are prepared to accept my proposition. Feeling numb, all I can do is nod as the man Antonio called Dante takes my arm and gently steers me out of the office. He leads me along a corridor toward an exit.

There’s a black Audi SUV waiting for us. A large, bald man sits at the wheel. I climb into the back and Dante shuts me in. There’s an ominous click as the locks engage. It’s like a prison door slamming shut. As Dante gets into the passenger seat and we move off, driving slowly through the parking lot, I realize I forgot to ask Antonio a vital question. Which of the brothers am I supposed to marry?

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