“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war and then seek to win.”
Waging a battle.
The Benedetti Empire had engaged in battles only when necessary. They were proven to be costly both in money as well as human lives. However, showing weakness of any kind was unacceptable in the world of organized crime. To do so meant almost certain defeat. My father had taught me that long ago, his method of teaching valuable lessons often brutal and without remorse.
I’d hated him for years, cursing him at every chance I’d had, but I’d learned as I’d gotten older just how wise he was. My respect had been without question, even if the man had never been forthcoming in his feelings.
My two brothers felt much the same, our decisions driven by the necessity to keep our family’s corporation lucrative and constantly growing. In addition, none of us allowed a single asshole to betray us on any level.
Especially after the brutal murder of our father in the bowels of New York. We’d learned quickly enough the identity of the three men behind the attack. Two had been dealt with in accordance with an unusual method of retaliation my older brother had suggested. I suspected that the police commissioner was remaining in the shadows out of fear of further retaliation. While the two assholes certainly had proven to be adversaries, their power was only fueled by one brutal, ruthless dictator.
Now it was time to deal with the last asshole who’d continued to attempt to deceive us.
Only this time, we were out for more than just the man’s daughter and his kingdom in New York.
We were out for blood.
The Irish mob holding court in New York had a holier than thou attitude, their entitled behavior making them reckless. While powerful in their own right, their methods of operation were Neanderthal at best. While our empire was based out of Tuscany, we’d held a presence in New York for almost a full decade, only in a limited format. Now we wanted more.
And we always took what we wanted.
Michael O’Sullivan was about to learn what happened when someone fucked with our family. As we surrounded his property, my anger only increased. While most of his soldiers lived in poverty in battered brownstones and small houses throughout Brooklyn and the Bronx, he lived a lavish lifestyle in Wainscott, a small but wealthy hamlet in East Hampton directly on the river. It was one of several properties he owned, only one based in New York City.
As we surrounded the property on all sides, including positioning some of our soldiers in boats on the river, a rush of adrenaline pulsed throughout my veins. There were no gates, no clear indication that his home was protected, but we weren’t going to take any chances. We’d brought a force with us from Italy with the sole intent of ensuring the bastard understood our demands.
There would be no negotiations.
I adjusted my jacket after exiting the rear of the SUV, donning my sunglasses given the bright sun. The morning was warm, the early September weather making it a perfect day to be on the water. I couldn’t help but smile as we headed toward the door. I missed the water, although this particular trip didn’t allow for any recreational time.
“This should be interesting,” Matteo said half under his breath.
I glanced at the man now considered the Don of the family, unable to keep a smirk off my face. My brother had orchestrated the events that had occurred over the last few months, both he and my other brother, Stefano, obtaining wives in prearranged marriages. In turn, we’d managed to keep both a prominent New York senator as well as the New York City police commissioner under our thumbs. While they were both considered just as dirty as O’Sullivan, we’d allowed them to keep their reputations intact for their continued good behavior. Unfortunately, the senator had taken his own life. While a tragedy, it had spared him from any retaliation from O’Sullivan.
Only O’Sullivan wasn’t playing by the rules.
“What if he refuses?” Stefano asked.
I unbuttoned my jacket on purpose. “Then the man gets a bullet in the brain, but only after we cause him pain.”
Matteo chuckled. “You’re getting more like our father every day.”
I took his comment as a compliment, our father charismatic but ruthless.
“Let’s get this over with,” I huffed.
“Sounds like you’re eager to meet your bride,” Stefano joked.
I gave him a sideways glance, my expression turning into a sneer. Then I took long strides forward, wasting no time pounding on the door. As expected, a housekeeper opened it just a crack, her eyes opening wide as all three of us filled her space. We were formidable on any day, today even more so given our level of anger.
“Michael O’Sullivan. I know he’s here,” I stated as I gazed into her big brown eyes.
Her lower lip quivered, and she finally nodded several times, doing nothing more than pointing to an entryway behind her as she backed away from the door allowing us inside.
I glanced over my shoulder at my two brothers, all three of our Capos following us. We’d brought enough personnel with us from Italy that we could claim his territory within twenty-four hours, but that wasn’t our intention.
Unless he refused to cooperate.
I took my time moving through the expansive foyer, even taking the time to enjoy the art positioned on the walls. The man had decent taste for being such a freaking thug. As we strode through a massive living room complete with a stone fireplace, I had to admit I was impressed with the house. Far too large for my tastes, but brilliantly decorated, the classic design reminding me of a cabin in the mountains.
Maybe a change in the interior of my home was called for.
Maybe I’d allow my new bride to provide decorating tips.
Only if she remained a very good girl.
We found Michael in his breakfast room, still in a thick terrycloth robe even though it was almost eleven in the morning. The element of surprise had worked, at least to some degree, although the smug look on his face did make me question whether he’d been told about our arrival. I couldn’t put that possibility aside.
The woman sitting with him gasped, gripping the edge of the table as she stared at us. Interesting. The buxom blonde certainly wasn’t his wife. Tsk. Tsk. It would appear Michael was just as gluttonous as we’d all believed.
Michael tossed his napkin into his plate, immediately jerking up from his chair. The force he used was enough to topple the hardback piece of furniture to the floor with a hard clang.
“How dare you enter my home!” Michael snapped, his face turning a bright red.
Within seconds, two of his men bounded in from outside, their weapons firmly placed in both hands. He threw out his hand in a meager attempt to keep them from starting a war.
“How dare we?” I asked, laughing heartedly. “You have to be kidding me.”
My brothers remained silent, although Stefano selected the juiciest strawberry from a bowl positioned on the table, making sucking sounds as he consumed the fruit. Other than a single bead of sweat across Michael’s forehead and the color of his skin, there were no other outward signs that he was disturbed at our presence.
Bravo for him.
“I heard you were in town. The question is, why are you here?” he demanded.
A little bird had sung. My instincts were almost always correct. There were two possibilities of who’d betrayed us, the first being the pilot. However, the man had worked for us for several years, receiving three times what a typical pilot would earn. I doubted he would run the risk of losing his family to provide information to the pig sitting in front of me. The only other possibility was an informant I’d obviously made the mistake of trusting for years. I would deal with the asshole at my convenience.
I yanked out one of the chairs, sitting down slowly. The aroma of the delicious-looking food reminded me I hadn’t eaten in almost a full day. “I think you know why. You interrupted Stefano’s wedding, which wasn’t very nice of you. I hope you enjoyed the way we gift-wrapped your worthless soldiers before sending them back to you.” While some of the man who’d attempted to kill our entire family at our parents’ estate had been hired guns from other mafia organizations as well as freelancers, a good portion he’d sent over from his own army to do his bidding.
The other assholes had also been handled. This was the grand finale, or at least the second to the final act. I kept a grin from crossing my face for the time being. The game the three Americans had played was becoming more enjoyable since we’d taken the upper hand.
His stern expression changed, his mouth twisting in frustration and uncertainty. “What do you want?”
Of course he wouldn’t admit what he’d done. How noble of him.
Matteo approached, moving to within inches of him. “What we want is payment for such an egregious decision.”
Exhaling, he glanced over at his companion, jerking his head as if to get her out of harm’s way.
“Not so fast, Irish boy,” Stefano barked. “She stays here. She might as well be a part of the celebration.”
“Celebration?” O’Sullivan snarked, darting his gaze from one to the other of us.
“Yes,” I said then selected a red grape, popping it into my mouth. It was sweet and packed full of juice, enough so I had to wipe the tip of my index finger through a trickle sliding from my mouth. “Of my upcoming nuptials.”
He didn’t react at first, simply glaring at me as if I had two heads.
Then he burst into laughter. “You really think I’m going to fall for the same bullshit you forced Gregory and Douglas into? You’re out of your fucking minds.”
“Ah, yes, the obedient Police Commissioner Gregory Wiltcher and Senator Douglas Starling. They did what they knew was necessary. In turn, at least the commissioner remains alive.” I cocked my head, curious as to how he would respond. We’d had nothing to do with Starling’s death, other than putting pressure on him.
Sniffing, he lifted his head higher, as if he believed he had an advantage. “You might think my security is lax, but I have a solid dozen soldiers waiting to eliminate my problems. I don’t really think you want to face the possibility of dying on American soil.”
I took a deep breath, trying to keep from laughing. I eased to my feet, flanking Matteo’s side and making certain he saw the whites of my eyes. “Your security is shit, asshole. I suggest you allow one of your useless soldiers to make a call or two to the others. That’s when he’ll be able to confirm for you just how many of our soldiers are surrounding your property. Oh, and there are others in strategic locations prepared to take all we want.”
The words seemed to take a few seconds to sink in. When they did, he instructed one of the hulking masses standing behind him to follow my instructions. We all waited for a few seconds while the brute made a call.
“Yeah, you need to find out how many fucking assholes have surrounded the property. Get back to me real quick.” The soldier didn’t bother lifting his head, merely standing like some statue as he waited for a return phone call.
In the meantime, I took a handful of grapes, moving away from the table as I munched on them. Outside the oversized window was a picturesque view of a gorgeous pool and tiki bar along with a perfect line of sight to the river. The man certainly knew how to use the money he’d extorted from others to his benefit. Maybe I’d give him another round of credit.
“How much did you pay for this property?” I asked casually.
“What?” O’Sullivan croaked.
“How much did you pay for the house and grounds? I kind of like it here. Could be a summer home for Gillian and me.”
His body was shaking from increased fury, which pleased me tremendously. “Seventy million.”
“A bargain,” Stefano said. “You should consider it, brother.”
“Maybe I will.” I finished chewing as I watched O’Sullivan intently, enjoying the way he was becoming rattled. The sound of the soldier’s phone ringing actually made him jump.
We were getting to him.
“Yeah?” the soldier answered gruffly.
That’s how many seconds it took until the man snapped his head in O’Sullivan’s direction, his brow pinched. He ended the call almost immediately.
“Well?” O’Sullivan demanded.
“He ain’t lying. At least a hundred of the bastards. They’re everywhere.”
O’Sullivan took several deep breaths before turning to face me. “You’re ready to start a war?”
“We had no intention of doing so, but that was only if you followed the rules,” Matteo answered.
“Now, things have changed,” I continued. “I want your daughter now. Well, I’ll give you twenty-four hours to bring her to me. After that, you can expect we’ll be out of business. It’s a simple case of math, Michael. Nothing more. Nothing less. Your choice.” I folded my arms as I leaned against the counter, basking in the moment.
“If I give her to you then you’ll leave me the fuck alone?” O’Sullivan hissed only ten seconds later.
Goddamn. The man was greedy as fuck.
“We’ll leave you alone.” Little did he know I had my fingers crossed, the lie only something we’d keep under the wraps for so long. He needed to feel comfortable in the decision he made for a short period of time. That would allow him to resume business, which would provide us with additional contacts and avenues.
We’d take over those as well.
He closed his eyes, fisting both hands. Then he blurted it out like the stuffed pig he was. “Fine. Take her. I don’t care. Just leave my empire alone.”
Empire. The man had no understanding of what that meant. He’d never earned a penny from doing hard labor, only lording his brutality over his subjects. Why they followed him around like sheepdogs was beyond me.
“I think you made an excellent business deal, Michael.” I checked my watch, tapping on the glass. “I’ll expect a call from you later tonight, this time in the morning by the latest. If you don’t comply, you’re going to learn what true revenge is like. And trust me, you won’t like the taste.” I smiled brightly after issuing the words.
He glared at me, but not with the amount of hatred or fury I would have expected.
“Another thing. Make certain your wife provides the wedding of the decade with all the bells and whistles. Unless you’d prefer your flavor of the month to do that instead. If so, I’ll have a nice conversation with your wife.” I purposely glared at the woman sitting at the table. She cowered even more.
After shooting her a look, Michael snarled, “Fine. I’ll make certain it gets taken care of.”
“With all the appropriate guests, including the worthless asshole you’re working with,” Matteo added, a gleam in his eyes.
Michael dared to hold up his hand, pointing his index finger in our direction. “You’re going to pay for this.”
“We will look forward to seeing you try,” Stefano said before laughing softly.
We’d concluded our business. I grabbed another handful of grapes and moved toward the door. We could enjoy the rest of the day. Perhaps grabbing some lunch was in order.
I couldn’t wait to taste the lovely Gillian, her beauty undeniable.
Then I’d discipline her.
After that, she’d become my bride.
All in a good day’s work.