Somebody died today, someone who had a family and friends, a job they loved and plans for the future. Their life was cut short by fate, a cruel moment where a slight alteration in timing or a different decision could have prevented the tragedy. There would be sadness and tears, anger and frustration, so many demanding answers.
But they wouldn’t come.
Yes, somebody died today.
I think it was me…
Even though the blindfold was soft, preventing even a tiny amount of light, I wasn’t afraid of what he would do. Seconds later, I sensed his presence, his scent permeating my skin, yet he remained silent.
But there was no doubt he was there, watching me. Waiting.
I was amazed how heightened my other senses became when he slipped the blindfold over my eyes, awakening the dark, lust-filled needs he’d exposed the first time he’d touched me. I’d already realized that the single event had pulled me into his world, the man able to capture my soul before I’d known it had gone missing.
There was a profound need shared between us, a thirst so intense and electrifying that a single touch could light the fire between us. I lost myself when I was with him, incapable of focusing and I couldn’t understand the reason why. He’d taken me, used me, forced me to surrender to his darkest needs and still I hungered for more.
Now, as I remained in the same position where he’d placed me almost two hours before, my senses heightened to the fullest extent, I thought I’d go mad if he didn’t brush his fingers across my arm or whisper the sordid, filthy words that kept me fully aroused.
I wanted to hate him. No, I needed to despise him in order to break the spell, but every time I believed I’d found the strength, he destroyed my resolve with nothing more than a look from his dark eyes. He was a monster, a predator, an evil man, but all I could see when I was with him was the man I’d fallen into an abyss for.
Maybe I was crazy, but my mouth watered to have his cock inside, to drown in his cum.
My arms ached, the rope he used to tie my wrists tighter than normal. Every time I shifted, the thick strands chafed my skin. I was naked and bare, waiting for him to provide a command. How had this happened? How? Why?
You know the answer.
Yes, I did, although at times it was difficult to accept.
When I moved, trying to take the pressure from my knees, I finally heard a sound. Then a deep rumble, a growl of disappointment that I’d moved at all. As he walked closer, the rustle of his trousers trickling into my ears, I held my breath.
“You’re still the bad girl I met. Aren’t you? My perfect little submissive.” His deep voice resonated inside, creating a wave of desire that was almost overwhelming.
When I felt the strands of a strap tickling my back, I shuddered, wetness penetrating my inner thighs as my pussy clenched and released. He reached down, fondling my breast, flicking his finger back and forth across my nipple. Then he pinched it without reservation, twisting until I cried out.
“My beautiful pain slut. You do know I love that about you. Yes?”
This was our game, one of many. His dirty words had exposed another part of me, releasing her from invisible chains, even if physically I was his prisoner. But the two sides remained at odds, my rationality fighting the inevitable.
“Mmm… Bend forward,” he directed, still brushing the ends of the tawse back and forth across my bottom.
I did as he asked, doing everything I could to keep from placing my hands on the carpet.
“Legs open wider.”
Again, I obeyed him even as the strong woman inside tried to convince me otherwise. The man had been my undoing, his method of seduction like a maestro finessing a beloved instrument. And I’d fallen for it.
He’d stripped away my innocence, using a terrible moment in our lives to weave us tightly together. I was nothing but his possession, but there was no place I’d rather be. We were toxic, passionate, and totally incompatible. I’d taken an oath to save lives.
He’d promised to destroy them, issuing blinding pain for his amusement.
“Good girl.” He touched my shoulder, squeezing as if providing me with some comfort. Then he cracked the strap against my naked skin. The pain was instant, my pussy aching. What had started as a plan of revenge had turned into a twisted fantasy that neither one of us could control.
Now he wanted more from me, not just my full surrender.
He wanted everything.
Including my heart.
And what disturbed me was that I was ready to give it to him.
Every sound from the crack of his wrist to the whooshing made by the thick strap was amplified, prickles dancing across my skin. As he delivered several strikes, one coming right after the other, I bit back a moan. He adored when I cried out in anguish from his actions.
Today, I refused to give him what he wanted.
After a few additional strikes, he seemed to know what I was doing. He fisted my hair, yanking me back into my original position. “You’re going to deny me?”
He laughed as he twisted his fingers around my long strands, teasing me by brushing the tawse across my nipples. “Don’t taunt me. You know what happens when you do.”
His deep voice was different, darker than usual. He’d changed in only a few weeks, losing himself in a world he’d told me he’d never wanted.
Even though he’d said I was the only light to his darkness.
Whatever the case, the man would be my ultimate destruction, the loss of my freedom as well as my soul.
What terrified me was that he’d already captured a portion of my heart.
When he whooshed the strap from one breast to the other, I shivered. Then he did it again, only this time cracking the strands gently against my nipple. I bit my tongue to keep from crying out until he repeated the move a third time, shifting from one hardened bud to the other. I was electrified by the anguish, ecstasy rolling through me.
“Oh. Yes. Yes…”
“That’s my girl.” He released his hold on my hair, pressing his hand against my back then resuming the round of punishment.
I wiggled, my heart racing as pussy juice trickled down my legs, the scent of my desire floating between us. I’d never wanted a man to be dominating, but he was all consuming.
Just thinking his name brought another tickling of desire even as anguish exploded through my bloodstream. I no longer cared, the pleasure my body would receive worth every second. He issued six more then tossed the tawse aside, gently pulling me to my feet and against his chest. As he cupped my breast, caressing with the rough pad of his thumb, I couldn’t stop trembling. He had that kind of effect on me, allowing me to let go completely.
I was lost in the sea of ecstasy as he guided me to the bed, easing me down then pushing my legs wide open.
“Your pussy is beautiful, my sweet Sarah. Perfect in every way, swollen and glistening. And I’m going to gorge myself on your sweetness.” He pressed my legs wide open, allowing his hot air to flow from one leg to the other, his husky growl setting the tone.
I wanted to reach out and touch him. I craved ripping off my blindfold, able to watch his face, but he wasn’t ready to allow me the privilege. He rubbed the insides of my legs, continuing to tease me, infusing the explosive heat with more need than I’d felt before. He was a master of playing my body, pulling me to the moment of sweet release then stopping. He wanted me to beg for his touch, to scream out his name when I came. He craved me needing him above everything else. My friends. My job. The world I’d left behind.
I already did, the realization never far from my mind. He barely darted the tip of his tongue across my clit, and I bucked up from the bed.
Chuckling, he repeated the move then slid his wide-open fingers down from my breastbone to my stomach, concentrating on rolling a single finger around my bellybutton.
“What do you want, my beautiful Sarah?”
“Your mouth. Your tongue.”
“Yes, I have both of those.”
“How long are you going to tease me?”
“As long as I feel like it. Tell me it isn’t something you’d do yourself.” He blew hot air across my pussy again then swirled his tongue around my clit.
Panting, I twisted back and forth, every synapse frayed. “Please lick me. Drive your tongue deep inside.”
“That’s better. Then what do you want after that? Tell me or face additional punishment.”
“Fuck me. Please just fuck me.”
His guttural sounds changed, becoming even more intense. Then he rewarded me by pulling my already swollen clit into his mouth, sucking as he dipped a single finger past my swollen folds.
I was mad with need, tossing my head back and forth, incapable of stopping the strangled moans. I could tell he was watching me, studying every reaction, always looking for more. His hunger knew no bounds, the man capable of sparking the electricity between us with a single look.
As he feasted, his needs intensifying, I could no longer think clearly, the pleasure too great. He kept me wide open, pumping several fingers into my tight channel, flexing them open as he plunged them long and hard.
He knew exactly what I liked and had from the first, able to pull me close, so very close, building the excitement to the point I was almost always in a frenzy. Today was no exception. As I continued writhing, his growls increased in volume, drowning out the heavy beating of my heart. How could this man turn me on so much, breaking down every defense mechanism? How had I allowed myself to fall for his methods, derailing my entire life?
And why was it starting to no longer matter?
He licked and finger fucked me for an eternity, until I was breathless, exhaustion rushing through me.
“Please let me come,” I finally begged, giving him exactly what he wanted. He’d known it was going to happen, had prepared himself to keep on taunting me until I did. He was that way, demanding full control.
“Then come for me, Sarah. Fill my mouth with your juice.” Gabriel buried his face in my pussy, shifting his head back and forth.
My body had been trained to obey his commands and within seconds, an orgasm tore through me, my core exploding.
I gave him the scream he’d wanted, and I would do so again.
Until there was nothing left.
Which is exactly what he wanted.
He’d once told me he’d break me. I wasn’t certain if we weren’t shattered together.
Five weeks earlier
I’d watched the bloody scene unfold as if in slow motion. I’d sensed what would happen before it had, a crazy beeping sound going off in the back of my head as if a warning was being sent. I’d backed away from the street corner where I’d been prepared to cross, first in line at the edge of the pavement because that’s the kind of woman I was, always pushing myself harder.
But the crowd of people wouldn’t budge. I was locked at the very edge of the road, a sickening feeling of anticipation making me woozy. I’d glanced at several of their faces in the timestamp that had been dragged into a vacuum, knowing that not one of them was paying attention.
In fact, they’d pushed me off the sidewalk in preparation of the light changing and almost into the line of fire.
Even as the gunshot went off only inches away, the explosive crack reverberating in my ears, no one had stopped going about their daily activities or bothered to look toward the victim and the person responsible.
But I had.
I’d lunged forward, screaming for help although I doubted it was coming. I’d terrified the perpetrator with my loud voice only seconds after blood and brain matter had painted my freshly washed scrubs. And I’d reacted the same as I did every day in the operating room, dropping into action, searching for any sign the man with dilated eyes was alive.
Performing CPR was second nature to me, a course I’d learned when I was twelve, a part of being a Girl Scout. I was told later I’d been the reason he’d remained alive, still breathing when he was rolled into my operating room.
I’d been his savior once.
But the odds hadn’t been with me. Perhaps there was a random selector in the heavens, the angel in charge identifying how many saves one person was allowed. Or how many times a person could be a savior.
It had appeared I’d used up my credit for the day, the man dying on the table. His driver’s license had provided an identity, a name to be used on the death certificate. But the pictures inside his wallet had told a story about his life. A beautiful wife in her late thirties. Two adorable children and a Golden Retriever with a happy tail. They’d sent him off to work that morning with a coffee cup plastered with similar photographs, the couple likely discussing what they would do that night after he got home from his accounting position.
They’d never thought about the possibility that it could be his last day, or that road rage would be the reason. Maybe they forgot to say they loved each other. Or maybe there’d been an argument the wife would always regret. For a little while his friends would mourn his loss.
Then they’d go about their daily lives because that’s what happened.
When I’d received an early morning call from my floor nurse only minutes before alerting me another patient had difficulty breathing, I’d wasted no time heading for my car. It didn’t matter it was early or that my car was covered in frost. I didn’t listen to the forecast or worry about whether I could get there in one piece.
I jumped into the car, determined to save a life.
“She’s crashing,” Maggie said, her voice strained.
No, dear God. I wouldn’t lose another one.
Cringing, I fiddled with the heater, trying to get the defrost on high. “I’m on my way. Make certain and have the surgical team prepped. We won’t have much time.” When my main nurse called, I knew the situation was dire. I had minimal time to try to save the woman’s life. Angie had fought hard, but the blood loss had been significant, sepsis likely setting in.
“You got it, Doctor. Be careful. It’s icy as shit.”
“Don’t worry, Mags. Careful is my middle name.” I ended the call, wrapping my hand around the steering wheel so tightly my knuckles were white almost instantly. I’d prayed the medication I’d prescribed would work, but I had my doubts I’d be able to save Angie’s life.
I had to. There was no other choice in my mind.
I made a turn, the back end of my Cruze drifting to the right. Damn it. Control. Breathe. I did what I could, leaning forward as I weaved my way through the early morning traffic. Thank God it was lighter than normal, the recent early snowstorm keeping a few die-hard New Yorkers cuddled up in their beds. That’s exactly where I wanted to be, but duty called as it did so often. I loved my job, but the recent overload of patients was killing the entire team.
As I made another turn, the windows started to fog. “Come on, you piece of crap. Work!” I fiddled with the blower, turning it on high, but the fog kept sliding across the windshield’s surface. No. No. If I had to pull over, it could mean the difference between life and death. As I braked for a stoplight, I could feel the tires losing traction, the salt covering the surface of the crunchy snow not able to work in these temperatures.
Please. Please. Help me get there.
When the light turned green, I wasn’t shocked the asshole behind me immediately started honking his horn. Everyone was in a hurry. I carefully pressed on the gas, barely able to see out the window. Panting, I leaned forward as far as possible, rubbing my gloved hand across the surface. The minimal help gave me a three-by-four-inch view of the road. Damn it. The conditions were getting worse. Only four blocks. Four little blocks.
“Come on, baby. You can do it.” I kept my speed well under the limit, crawling toward the hospital. When another light turned yellow, I sucked in my breath and pressed on the brake. At that moment it seemed all time stopped, the car skidding to the left. Then to the right.
As my beautiful red car spun in the opposite direction, I noticed approaching headlights, the driver barreling toward me. All I could do was keep my hands on the steering wheel, gently pressing on the brakes.
The car skidded again and I almost panicked, the other car close. So close.
Two minutes earlier
“I’m going to kill the motherfucker. That’s what I’m going to do,” Luciano bellowed.
There was more rage in my brother’s voice than I’d heard in a long time. “You can’t kill Joseph Moretti.” While the Moretti family had been considered our enemy for years, our father had attempted to make a truce, offering one of our sisters as a potential bride for the brutal man’s oldest son and the one expected to take the throne when Joseph was killed or died of natural causes. At the point, I knew it would be the former. Yes, the entire Moretti family deserved to be wiped off the face of the earth. I had my personal reasons why, revenge almost all I’d been able to think about for years. However, for my brother to go off the deep end now could be traumatic for the entire family.
There were enemies all around us prepared to swoop in like freaking vultures. I might have been away from the family business for a few years, only recently lured back into the fold, but I knew exactly what we were facing.
The powerful hold the Cosa Nostra had once had on the city was waning, cartels and Russians breathing down our necks. The old methods taught in Sicily didn’t work in a technologically advanced city like New York. The various businesses were suffering, my brother concerned a traitor was in the mix providing information to God knew who. It was my job to find that out. I might hate my father and all he stood for, but no one fucked with my brother or sisters.
Luciano and I had been engaged in a phone conversation minutes earlier, his lack of patience making him refuse to wait until I arrived at his house. Then he’d ended the call, required to take another. Only minutes later he’d called me again, this time from his car, his rage uncontrollable.
“Like fucking hell I can’t. Goddamn this weather. I’m sick to death of winter.”
I glanced out the windshield, hoping to notice his car. He couldn’t be more than a couple of miles in front of me. At least I hoped that was the case, but with Luciano, when he made a decision, nothing would stop him from carrying it through.
No matter the consequences.
He was nuts for taking on the man without backup. I refused to allow that to happen. I only hoped I wouldn’t be too late.
“What the fuck happened?” The call had initiated what would end up becoming a war between two powerful entities. My brother had never become this unhinged.
“It doesn’t matter. The man will die,” he snarled.
Goddamn it. What the hell was wrong with him?
“Don’t do anything stupid. Just wait for me, for fuck’s sake. You know the kind of security he has in place.” I was a goddamn stockbroker, loathing the shit my family continued to undertake. Yes, we were powerful, my father having blackmailed or ‘convinced’ influential citizens that they would look the other way when business was handled, but I wanted no part of it. Luciano had insisted I take on a role. Up until now, I wasn’t interested in getting additional blood on my hands. However, the fact our father continued to insist Theodora marry the fucking pig pissed me off. Nico Moretti was nothing more than a primate who enjoyed breaking a man with his bare hands.
I knew my father well enough to know there was a hidden reason behind the marriage. I planned on finding out what it was. Luciano had been too busy putting out fires, attempting to keep our stronghold on our empire to figure out the great mystery.
“Hell, no, brother. One of my soldiers informed me that Joseph has plans on leaving town today. He’s already hiding in an alternate location like the coward he is. But I found him.” Luciano laughed maniacally, the sound as damning as what he was about to do. “My guess is he got word how unhappy I was in finding out he invaded our territory. Then the ultimate betrayal. Motherfucker.”
I’d already heard Moretti had ordered two of our men killed, which had set the stage for having him eliminated, but whatever Joseph had ordered in addition had set things in motion. I only hoped Luciano was ready for the fallout.
“I’ll be there in eight minutes.”
“The deed will be done by then,” Luciano said, half laughing. He enjoyed the hell out of this.
“Fine.” Hissing, I tossed the phone onto the seat. As my chest tightened, I glanced into the rearview mirror. I couldn’t recognize myself any longer. I’d spent years distancing myself from the family, pretending I had no responsibilities.
And I’d suffered, wallowing in self-pity like some wounded animal.
“You’re worthless,” my father had told me several times.
I was furious with myself for all the years that had been lost. Truthfully, I didn’t give a crap about the money or clout. I made a damn good living and enjoyed not having to look over my shoulder every two seconds. I slapped my hand on the steering wheel, the crunch of ice under the tires of the Charger another indication the timing couldn’t be worse.
That Luciano had managed to convince me to take a leadership position in running Club Rio was a reminder of his influential ability. Granted, he had too much on his plate already and no one outside of the family was allowed to run a single one of our businesses. I’d been given two choices. Take the second in command position over everything or manage the club. I’d chosen the latter, maybe because the corporation was completely legal. Hell, what did I know about running a freaking private men’s club? I’d never be king, a position I’d never wanted in the first place.
As I rounded the corner, forced to stop at a light, ugly memories of the past resurfaced. No. I refused to do that to myself. The Morettis had reared their ugly heads again after several years of playing fair in the sandbox, but the truce had obviously been temporary.
Why would they suddenly threaten our family when another deal had been made?
Something didn’t add up, but my brother was too embroiled in bloodlust to notice.
A few seconds later, I was far too impatient to wait, speeding through the red light, daring a fucking police officer to stop me. Maybe I was just like my father and brother after all.
With horns blaring, I pressed down on the accelerator until I noticed brake lights in the windshield. Forced to slow down then stop, I craned my neck to find out what the hell was going on. Five seconds passed. Ten. Then a full minute.
A sick feeling jetted into my system. I grabbed my phone, dialing my brother’s number. Four rings then his voicemail. Fuck. I leaned back in the seat, taking deep breaths. Nothing was moving.
Another thirty seconds passed, and I threw the gear into park, tossing open the door. I didn’t give a shit if I ended up stalling traffic. Something was wrong. I slipped as I jogged forward, people yelling at me from their car windows. As I started to make headway, my feet keeping traction, I heard a siren in the distance.
Oh, hell, no.
An icy chill shifted down my spine, a sixth sense swirling through me like a firestorm. As I moved around a corner, my mind couldn’t process what I was seeing.
Two mangled cars.
I moved closer, barely able to breathe.
There was no doubt one of the vehicles was Luciano’s. I wasn’t the kind of man to pray. I’d known early in my life that there would never be any salvation for a member of the Giordano family. That had been proven several times. Our blood was tainted from generations of evil deeds. Even my mother’s devout Catholic faith and her determination to raise decent children who believed in all things good hadn’t cracked the surface of our evil coating.
But at that moment I said my first prayer that my brother was still alive.
As I approached, I sensed the other driver had been the cause. Both cars were flipped on their sides, the stench of gasoline filling the air. There were dozens of bystanders, but no one was trying to help. Goddamn them. Goddamn them to hell.
Luciano had been thrown from the windshield, his stupid habit of never wearing his seatbelt to blame. Blood was everywhere, the crunch of shattered glass pinging in my ears. I knelt onto the snow, feeling for his pulse. He was alive.
“Luciano. Help is on its way. Everything will be okay.”
He moaned, his eyelids moving. “The woman,” he croaked out.
“Other… vehicle.” He continued coughing, blood flowing from his mouth.
I glanced toward the red car, noticing smoke was billowing from under the hood. “So what?” The sirens were closer, but people and cars were blocking them. Get the fuck out of the way.
“Fuck, no. I’m staying right here.”
He managed to lift his arm, placing his bloody fingers on my shirt. “Do… it. My… decent… baby… brother.”
Damn the man. Was this his last-ditch effort to buy his way into heaven? “Fine.” I reacted, stumbling toward the other vehicle, scanning the area. The car would catch fire at any second. Fuck this. I scrambled onto the car, jerking the door handle. It was locked. Fuck. As I peered in, I noticed long blonde hair. Luciano had seen her face before the crash.
She was slumped over the steering wheel, the seatbelt possibly saving her life. How ironic. She’d caused the fucking accident and she might survive. Luciano had known the good side of me, the one he’d often made fun of would never be allowed to walk away from her. I knew all the pressure points to a windshield. Our father had made certain every one of his children had training in weaponry, defense, and knowing how the hell to get out of a damaged vehicle, even one submerged in water.
Enemies had gotten creative in their methods of eliminating their prey.
I jumped off, moving to the other side, a puff of smoke drawing my attention. I’d have one shot at this and with the car being on its side, it would take a miracle of God to get her out. As I started to kick the pressure point on the glass, I almost slipped twice. But I kept going, drowning out the noise of the useless bystanders who were gasping and cheering me on.
Worthless pieces of shit.
When the windshield finally cracked, I wasted no time, punching out as much of the glass as possible. Then I crawled inside, her weak moans indicating she was alive. “I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’m getting you out of here.” I pressed the button for the seatbelt, not surprised the damn thing was jammed.
She moaned again, suddenly trying to move.
“Don’t. Stay right there. I’m going to need to cut you out of this.” The flames were already increasing, the stench getting worse. I yanked out my switchblade, wasting no time cutting her free, catching her before she moved. As I gently eased her into my arms, a rattling sound coming from somewhere under the vehicle kicked my adrenaline into overdrive.
I had to wrench my body trying to keep glass from her face. When I finally got out, I held her tightly against my chest, slipping on the ice as I moved as far away from the vehicle as possible.
“Back away,” someone yelled. “It’s going to blow.”
The boom drove me several feet further, dropping us both hard into the snow. At this moment I was grateful for the blanket of white to soften the fall. Panting, I immediately pulled away, lowering her gently onto the surface. “Someone take care of her!” I peered down, noticing her eyes were open. They were the most beautiful shade of blue I’d ever seen. When she blinked, I rubbed her face for no other reason than to give her comfort. “You’ll be alright. You’re in good hands.” Good hands. Hell. She’d just faced the devil and he’d allowed her to live.
As soon as I stood, I noticed EMTs racing in our direction, a fire engine managing to make it through. Then I rushed back to my brother’s car. As I peered down, I sensed he was losing his will to live.
Then I threw my head back and roared.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
I hated hospitals. The smell. The noises. The rush of people when catastrophe struck. And the wails of those left to pick up the pieces.
Today was no different, except my mother and sister were the ones crying. I’d heard my mother cry before, but always softly, as if she was trying to hide her sadness. Everything was different today, the woeful sound unlike anything I’d ever heard.
I stood in the same place I’d been since entering the hospital, trying to breathe while a suffocating weight remained on my chest. When I felt a hand on my shoulder, I bristled.
“It’s up to God now.”
I was shocked to hear my father say the words. He’d never acted as if he believed. As I tipped my head, I could see tears in his eyes. “Someone is going to pay for this.”
“Who, son? Mother Nature? There’s no one to blame. Shit happens. It’s how we move on that matters in the end, especially in this family. There must be no weakness shown. Ever. Do you understand me?”
My God. My brother hadn’t taken his last breath and my father was already returning to business. I gritted my teeth, trying my best to keep from saying something I’d regret. Now wasn’t the time to engage in a battle of wills with the harsh man. The single time I’d challenged him just before walking out of his house, he’d broken my nose and injured my pride. I’d sworn to hate him on that day. Up until now, I’d managed. But a broken man was standing in front of me, even if he refused to allow me to see just how weak he’d become.
The four years since I’d left the family fold had taken a toll.
“Listen to our mother. She’s bawling her eyes out. Do you plan on telling her the same shit?” Anger continued to build, the kind of rage that could become uncontrollable. The woman I’d saved was to blame. I had to cool down or this would turn into some kind of family brawl.
Fire burned in his eyes as he stared at me. “Revenge is best served cold, Gabriel. And you know I’m a proponent of making all those responsible for a treacherous act pay for their sins, but in this case, the young woman in the other car isn’t to blame. Besides, you saved her life. That was your choice.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”
“Stop it. Just stop it, both of you. Our brother is in surgery and you both act as if you can control the damn world!” Theodora’s exclamation was louder than normal, her usual demure demeanor coming apart. She was shaking, her makeup smeared.
“You don’t understand,” I half whispered. Weakness. Don’t show any weakness. That wasn’t allowed in our family. Not for one second.
“Be a man,” he’d told me at age twelve. Fine. I would be a man.
“Don’t be a fool, Gabe. I love Luciano. He’s my rock, a big brother who looks out for me. You’re never around. You’re too busy sucking up to your wealthy stockholders to give a damn about family any longer. I hate you.”
“Don’t you dare say that,” our mother snapped. “We are family. Period. We will not come apart. Do you hear me?” She looked each one of us in the eyes, finally ending with me, her stare long and cold. “Did anyone contact Maria?”
Our other sister had a modeling gig in Italy. That’s all I knew. “I made contact,” I told her, although I’d been forced to leave a message. I walked away, guilt riding me hard. Theodora was right. I’d done everything I could to avoid family functions, let alone business meetings where I was listed as one of the stockholders. I’d pretended I was far too busy to engage. I’d tried so hard to shove aside my responsibilities that I hardly knew either one of my sisters any longer.
The ache inside was the most painful thing I’d been through that I could remember. I headed toward surgery, uncertain what to do. What I did know is that the weight of the family’s business would fall on my shoulders even if Luciano survived, the recovery time likely long and arduous. I shoved my hands in my pockets after pressing the button for the elevator. Why did I continue to have a feeling there was more to the accident?
My gut was usually right, but in this case, I wasn’t certain my thoughts were based on anything but grief, an emotion I knew far too well. As I leaned against the cold wall, I thought about the last conversation I’d had with Luciano prior to this morning. It had ended in an argument after I refused to quit my job. I’d even hung up on him. Then he’d left a terse message regarding the Morettis and something had clicked inside of me.
Family had to stick together.
Too little, too late.
As soon as I stepped off onto the surgery floor, I became nauseous. As I walked down the corridor, a set of double doors flew open, two people walking beside a gurney. My heart raced the second I realized the identity of the patient.
The woman I’d saved, the creature who looked like an angel sent from the heavens.
She was alive.
I’d managed to save her.
As she was wheeled by, she opened her eyes and for a few seconds, I allowed myself to be mesmerized by her beauty. She was without a doubt one of the most attractive women I’d ever seen and all sound was blocked out, time ceasing to exist. A strange set of sensations vibrated through, a roar of desire forcing my cock to twitch. There was a shot of electricity, even though I was being pushed back violently. There were four people surrounding her gurney, one straddling her body, performing CPR. She was likely dying and I was aroused. What the hell was wrong with me? I remained unblinking until I could no longer see or hear the slight creaking of the wheels.
A part of me wanted to possess her.
The other needed her destruction.
The two sides were at odds, but one way or the other, if the woman lived, she would pay for destroying my family.
Either with her body or with her life.
Hearing my name, I slowly turned my head, Luciano’s surgeon standing in front of me.
Then he shook his head.
And my world collapsed around me.
As he explained what happened, the words faded into a pool of bloodlust. I made a promise to my brother and one I intended on keeping.
If the woman was responsible for his death, I would kill her with my bare hands.