A powerful Council. Five men dedicated to keeping a tradition over a century old. Five men prepared to do what it took to harbor secrets. They held absolute control over dozens of industries, with the ability to destroy anyone who refused to play by their rules.
Even after betrayal had almost destroyed everything they’d created.
Only their firstborn sons were allowed to take their place.
The majority of people went through life never experiencing the concept.
They never feared for their lives or those of their loved ones.
Danger was something seen on the media, tragedies happening to others.
They believed they were safe from the treachery of ruthless monsters.
But they were wrong…
The Sacred Sect was still watching.
I couldn’t stop shaking, my hands numb from the tight grip on the steering wheel. I’d never felt the kind of fear that snaked around every vein and muscle, twisting and yanking, a beast clawing at my system. My family had betrayed me, my mother and father pretending for years that I could make my own choices, securing the kind of life that I wanted. Me. Their only child.
I’d been a good girl my entire life, playing by the rules, never once crossing the line between right and wrong.
Now this? What had I ever done to deserve this kind of horror? I could still feel the guests’ imploring eyes as they gawked at me, could almost hear their whispered words. I could swear they’d been chanting words of encouragement, much like when Matteo had made certain I realized this was my only choice. The entire community was nothing but a cult. The fear and rage from realizing the entire situation had been planned for some time had brewed into an explosive combination. I was out of my mind with desperation to get away.
Even though I knew I would never be free of them.
Members would catch me, punish me. Then they would place me in a cage.
I was nothing but property now, at least according to the sanctimonious Sacred Sect. To hell with them.
Please. Please. Please.
“You will adhere to our rules.”
“You will obey.”
My father’s sanctimonious words had been said with a smile.
I had to find a way out of this nightmare.
I could barely breathe as I pressed down on the accelerator. I’d only managed to grab the cash I’d been given inside the ugly Box, the wad of hundred-dollar bills nothing more than blood money, a bribe to keep me quiet.
That wasn’t going to happen.
I wrapped my hand around the beautiful necklace surrounding my neck and yanked, opening the window and pitching it. How many times had I begged my mother to allow me to wear it? The lovely piece was one of the expensive items that had indentured my mother into her arranged marriage. I knew I was tossing thousands of dollars out the window, but what the hell did I care? I refused to wear a collar for anyone.
Including my intended husband.
It was nothing more than a noose.
How could he? The bastard had actually tried to befriend me, pretending he was nobody.
Not a revered god in the community.
Not a beast who could destroy people’s lives.
Now I knew exactly who the asshole was, ugly memories flooding my mind.
Matteo Capodanno was considered one of the most powerful and dangerous men in the country. His influence hovered over various cities and organizations like a black veil of death. I’d read enough about the entire family to know how connected they were.
The Capodannos would do anything to protect their own.
Including Matteo’s soon to be wife.
But only after punishing her into submission.
Me. That was supposed to be me.
“No!” I hissed as I stared into the rearview mirror, able to see the headlights coming closer.
I refused to marry anyone against my will, especially an arrogant asshole.
Everything had come tumbling back to me, including the stories my father had told me years before. Anyone who betrayed the sect was punished, several facing a horrible demise, any possible identification removed from their bodies before being dumped into the ocean.
Or set on fire.
Their families had been shunned, their wealth and power stripped from them, never to be seen again. He’d told me that very story the first time I’d attempted to run away. I’d been dragged back by the same asshole who’d come to pick me up at the airport only hours before.
I would never forget that horrible time. I’d learned at that moment my life was far from a fairytale, my parents abiding by a system that I couldn’t understand and refused to learn more about.
I’d been locked in my room like a prisoner for four weeks. Then I’d been told the story, even shown graphic pictures.
All in an effort to protect me, to help me understand the way of life within the Sacred Sect.
At least according to my parents.
Then everything had returned to normal as they attempted to soft-sell the requirements, prattling on how happy they were even as tears had filled my mother’s eyes.
Everyone was rich within the community, their wealth measured in millions. Stocks. Bonds. Land. Incredible properties in several locations. Jewels. There was nothing that any of the members could want for, no luxury that hadn’t been supplied.
Their price? Allegiance.
Yet I knew they bathed in the blood of others, destroying anyone who stood in their way.
The men of the sect also held power up and down the East Coast, capable of putting the fear of God into everyone from politicians to members of law enforcement.
I rubbed the tears from my eyes, trying to focus on the road. I’d stolen a car. The thought made me laugh out loud. My God, I’d swiped one of the guests’ precious Mercedes.
You will face their wrath.
This was certainly a punishable offense on several levels. I could only imagine what would happen if they caught me.
I would never let that happen. I’d run far away. I’d change my name. I’d lose myself in some fucking jungle if I had to. I no longer cared. I just wanted to get the hell away from them.
To live my life.
The lights were getting even closer. Oh, God. Oh, God. I hunkered over the steering wheel, trying to pay attention to what was in front of me, but the emotions rolling through every inch of my mind were horrific.
All I’d ever wanted was a normal family with a mother and a father who were proud of me. I’d never pretended that I’d find an incredible knight or a hero of any kind who would sweep me off my feet, taking me to a magical land. That wasn’t me.
Now this. No. No!
I’d never gotten close enough to anyone to share aspects of my colorful life. To everyone who knew me, I was a simple girl from a modest family, paying her way through college like so many others. They didn’t need to know anything else. What did it matter now? Everything I’d worked for was likely already gone.
I knew how members of the sect worked and what they could do within hours. I had cash and I had my freedom.
For a few years, I’d believed my parents no longer cared about the ritual, the requirement of all girls who reached the age of twenty-four. After the day I’d been freed from my home prison, they’d never mentioned another word about the tradition or the requirements, even allowing and encouraging me to go to nursing school in another state. What had changed? Had my parents been threatened?
Or was this all about their greed?
My heart was hammering so hard against my chest that I had difficulty breathing, bitter tears staining my cheeks.
When the road shifted, the curve coming up fast, I was forced to hit the brakes. The massive engine of the car refused to let go of the rocky ride, the vehicle skidding across the road. I couldn’t be caught. I just couldn’t be taken back.
Lights seemed to be coming from everywhere as I tried to gain control, twisting and turning the steering wheel.
The hard thump as I veered over the edge of the road was jarring, the car now completely out of control. There was nothing else I could do but hope and pray.
But to what God?
I was woozy as the car continued to spin, finally slowing then stopping completely. I panted, grasping the steering wheel. The light infusing every corner of the vehicle suddenly became blinding.
Perhaps I should say a word of thanks to the powers that be that I was alive, except that wasn’t the truth.
I was now one of the undead. I laughed at the thought as a shadow shifted into the periphery of my vision, the door flung open and strong arms yanking me onto my feet.
It was him. The gorgeous man I’d kissed in the greenhouse, the one I’d hungered to lose all control with, enjoying a night of sin. The very one who’d been in on the ruse by the Sacred Sect. To hell with him.
“Are you out of your mind?” he demanded. “You were driving erratically. You could have gotten yourself killed. Fuck.”
There was no way to describe the man’s gorgeous face or stunning physique, eyes that could melt your very soul. Even the two-day stubble covering his chiseled face was sexy, his less than perfect exterior as if he was attempting to thwart the system itself, but I knew better. He’d followed in order to return me, a dedicated community member. Within days, I’d be married. Mrs. Matteo Capodanno.
A prisoner in a fancy estate where I’d lose all sense of myself.
I laughed even seeing the concern in his eyes. Who was he kidding? “Get away from me, Matteo. I’m not going to abide by the ridiculous terms. I don’t know what you thought you were doing in the greenhouse, but I almost fell for your bullshit. Almost.”
His face bristled from anger. “You know I can’t just leave you here. The greenhouse was… Are you hurt in any way?”
“What do you care?”
“Don’t challenge me, Winter.”
“And don’t fuck with me,” I retorted, snarling at him.
He took a deep breath, his expression becoming more authoritative.
“Just come with me and we will straighten this out,” Matteo encouraged, with clear domination in his voice.
Exhaling, I shot my gaze toward the way he was holding my arms, his fingers digging into my skin. “I will never willingly go with you. So sorry to disappoint.” I was surprised he was the only one here and that the sect hadn’t sent a battery of assholes to collect the bad little girl.
Matteo growled, making the single mistake of releasing his hold.
What a fool.
I threw a hard punch at his gut then backhanded him across the face, the force just enough to pitch his body backwards.
“What the hell?” he roared, immediately reaching for my arm, able to stop me. “Winter. Don’t do this. You need to come with me.”
“You don’t own me.”
His hand snaked around my wrist, dragging me against the heat of his body. “That’s where you’re wrong. You are mine. The Council has ruled and whether you like it or not, we are members of the Sacred Sect. There is nothing we can do. Nothing.”
“They aren’t God. This isn’t legal.”
A smirk crossed his face. “I assure you that they are more powerful than God.”
I never expected a moment of tenderness but when he cupped my face, his thumb rubbing back and forth across my lips, my heart raced for an entirely different reason. I was furious that my body betrayed me, wetness pooling between my legs. He was a true monster, a man capable of doing terrible things, just like the rest of them. Ugly memories swelled in my mind, fueling my anger even as the fear intensified.
Soon to be your husband.
The words drilled inside my head, playing over and over again like a broken record. I was attracted to him. I’d even hungered to taste him during the quiet moments spent with him in the greenhouse. Every part of me had longed to spend time with the asshole, enjoying his company.
“You are so beautiful,” he whispered, his husky voice washing over me, tingling every cell and muscle. “I want you even more than before.”
“You are a bastard.”
As I struggled, his hold only became stronger, his laugh smoky velvet on a hot summer’s day. I was incensed, swiveling my body until I was able to knee him, only my aim was off, barely catching him in the thigh. He jerked my body once again, his face pensive.
“You are a damn handful. You need to calm down and listen to me,” he stated, his tone even more authoritative than before. “You can’t run from this any more than I can. This is our destiny, one carved out years before. Accept your place. We’ll… get through this.” While his voice faltered, the conviction in his eyes was as strong as his hold.
And I hated him even more.
“You can’t keep me.”
I wasn’t prepared for the vehemence of his actions as he pushed me over the back of the car, ripping up my dress and exposing the ridiculous lacey panties I’d chosen to wear.
“You need to be taught a lesson,” he muttered.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I refused to stop struggling, kicking out several times.
He twisted his hand around my neck, yanking until a slice of pain slammed into every cell and muscle. As he crushed his weight against mine, I could feel the hard throbbing of his cock. The realization was disgusting.
No. Oh, hell no.
Very slowly he lowered his head, whispering in my ear, his breath creating a wave of longing. “Giving you a well-deserved spanking. Either you can behave, or I’ll have no problem stripping you naked for all the world to see. Then I might just fuck you.”
I heard the sound of ripping material then realized he’d torn away my panties.
The shock of his words gave way to the horror of his actions as he brought his hand down, smacking my naked bottom from one side to the other. “No. No! You have no idea who you are messing with.” The humiliation of being on the side of the road while being disciplined, fancy estates all around us, was gut-wrenching.
“I think I do. A girl who doesn’t understand her place.” He yanked the clip from my hair, immediately tangling his fingers in my long strands as he held me firmly in place. Pain tore through me as the spanking continued, his hand moving rapidly.
The audacity of the man was incredible. Who the fuck did he think he was?
I was lightheaded, stars floating in front of my eyes but even as the anguish continued, the shame of realizing my body was fully aroused was almost too much to bear. I’d been stripped of my life, my entire world, and now my humility.
“Soon, you will be required to learn,” he stated, as if there was no other choice.
He peppered his hand back and forth, the hard snapping sound of his wrist echoing in my ears much like his musky scent filtered into my nostrils. Everything about the man was exotic, the fragrance full of spices and a wafting of timber. He was all male in every sense of the word, his square jaw and aristocratic nose in perfect proportions to his sculpted cheekbones. He was anyone’s catch, the most eligible bachelor in the entire state.
Only I couldn’t stand the thought of him touching me, using me.
When the spanking continued, a part of me slipped further into another place, trying desperately to control my emotions. This was only the beginning. I would make certain the end was something else entirely.
No matter how gorgeous he was or how much money I would have after marrying him, this wasn’t my life.
As he pulled me against him once more, his fingers wrapping around my waist, I could feel his rapid heartbeat. He shifted his hand down my side, caressing my hip before easing it between my legs. “I can’t resist you. From the moment I first saw you, I knew you would belong to me.”
His words burned into my very soul, my pulse skipping, the electricity shared between us shifting into high voltage.
As he cupped my pussy, a single finger swirling around my clit, I was paralyzed by the intense heat as well as utter shock. There was no doubt that he could feel how wet I was, how much my body had betrayed me.
I was unable to stop the moan from escaping my lips as stars floated in front of my eyes. The sensations were dazzling, my desire increasing with every passing second. The moment he slipped his finger past my swollen folds, I arched my back involuntarily.
My God! I was inviting him, my desire unbridled. I couldn’t believe I was attracted to him. Was it his looks and sophistication or the power he exuded with every word and action? I didn’t give a shit. I would fight my attraction, refusing to give in. “Mmm…”
“Shhh,” he said quietly, sliding a second and third finger inside.
The explosion of hunger was horrifying.
“So beautiful. So alluring.”
Then he whispered words in my ear, the ones I would never forget.
“Make no mistake, Winter. Even though we have yet to marry, you are mine. I will ravage every ounce of your body anytime I desire, the passion shared raw and savage. I will protect you from harm, but I assure you that there will always be enemies. I will also do everything in my power to make your life pleasurable, but only if you obey me.”
Obey? Who the hell did he think he was?
Love, honor, and obey, ‘til death do us part.
The words shot through my mind like a bullet, destroying a portion of my brain. Everyone in the house had been serious, including my parents. This nightmare was real.
“You will learn one way or the other.”
I’d know the sound anywhere, a man unzipping his fly. I was paralyzed even though my pussy continued to quiver, the electricity from before sparking, driving into my very core. Yes, I’d been attracted to him instantly, more aroused than I should have been. I scanned the empty road, searching for any sign of other vehicles, forced to realize that no one was coming to help me.
Or spy on our wicked sin.
I couldn’t believe I remained rigid, unable to fight him off as he jerked me by the hips, shoving me over the glorious vehicle that likely cost more than I could make in two years. I wanted to scream at him, to call him every horrible name I could think of, but my mind also became a treacherous beast.
Even his manhandling was delicious, a filthy fantasy that I didn’t want to refuse. Just like before. Your destiny.
No. I didn’t believe in fairytales and fantasies.
You want him.
Hell, no. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.
Matteo wrapped his hand around my hair as he kicked my legs apart, his body shuddering against mine. He was as aroused as I was, his chest heaving as he pressed his lips against my neck. It was as if he held the pulse of my life in his hands, hungry to control every aspect. As he ran his fingers down the inside of my leg, I clawed the car, hoping my nails dug into the expensive paint job.
“I could feast on you for days.”
Why did his voice excite me? Why did I envision his naked body hovering over mine, controlling every inch of my pleasure and pain? I was rattled beyond understanding, still trying to fight him even though my body had a mind of its own.
“And I will dig out your heart with a spoon,” I countered, cringing as he laughed, his hot breath cascading across my skin, leaving me tingling all over.
“I look forward to taming you beginning the day you are my wife.”
I didn’t want to be anyone’s wife, especially not for a man like him. Cold.
I shoved hard against the car, my actions only pushing my uplifted bottom against his throbbing cock. Fuck. Fuck!
As he shifted his hips back and forth, I dropped my head, struggling to control my breathing. The feel of his cock pressing against my pussy lips was scintillating.
The dichotomy of emotions slammed against the incredible sensations and all my rationality was lost.
“Now, I make you mine.” His words were a proclamation. When he pressed the tip of his cock past my swollen folds, I held my breath. Very slowly he inched inside, allowing my muscles to expand, to accept his incredible thickness. No man could be that large. I ached immediately, struggling to calm my breathing even as a whimper slipped past my lips.
“God, so damn wet. So tight.” He rolled his lips across my earlobe, finally sucking on my tender lobe as he thrust the remainder of his shaft inside, the force driving me brutally against the car. “I can’t wait to take you all night long. Slow and easy, taking my time to get to know every inch of your luscious body.”
His words clung to me much like his musky scent stained every inch of my naked skin. He really believed his sultry way with words was going to make any of this all right.
He was wrong.
“Fuck you,” I managed, shivering when he laughed.
“That’s exactly what we’re doing.”
He drove into me with savage strokes, the fury of his desire increasing with every brutal thrust. The man was like a live wire, powering into me with destructive purpose, as if he was attempting to ward away his personal demons. He thrust hard and fast, my pussy muscles clamping around his cock, drawing him in even deeper.
I closed my eyes, trying to imagine life spent with him, a stranger, a man who seemed larger than life. Could I ever matter to him? Would he share his world or shut me out?
Every muscle in my body relaxed, succumbing to his barbaric needs, fighting the tingles that turned into vibrations as a climax raced around the corner. There was no way. None. Yet I was forced to gasp several times as my eyes watered. Oh, God. Oh… No, I… I threw back my head, the orgasm so damn powerful I could no longer feel my legs.
The bastard noticed, chuckling softly, refusing to let me go. With every hard thrust he turned the single climax into one hell of a wave crashing over me.
“Oh. Oh. Oh…” I purred, biting my lower lip to keep from screaming.
“That’s it. Come,” he instructed.
There was no holding back, the wave crashing down then coming back for more. The utter ecstasy was indescribable and for a few seconds, I smiled.
Until he spoke.
“I can give you everything you desire, Winter, but only if you’re a very good girl.”
“Not a chance.”
His laugh was just as I would expect, his actions becoming even more forceful.
During the next few seconds, his breathing changed. The man was close to coming. As his cock expanded, the hard throbbing matching the beating of my heart, my body did the unthinkable.
My pussy clenched.
“Yes…” he whispered then threw his head back, letting off a ragged howl.
He’d taken me.
Claimed me as his own.
Ignoring the ugly rules, the sect’s requirements. Marriage first.
And I knew in my heart he would do so again.
As he filled me with his seed, my mind had a foretelling of the future.
The unholy union wasn’t only contrived for the purpose of keeping wealth and status. It was an attempt at keeping the monsters from breaking down the coveted walls of our community.
Maybe the circus would be fun to watch.
He released his hold and the moment his cock was pulled from my wetness, I bit back a strangled cry. Fury rushed into me, biting and nasty. I wanted nothing more than to rip out his heart, but I wasn’t entirely certain he had one. Inhaling, I turned to watch as he brushed juice-soaked fingertips across his lips, a barbaric growl erupting from his throat.
What a fucking bastard. I would hate him until the day I died, and I would find a way to make him suffer.
“You’re coming with me,” he said quietly, a man in full control.
“You will pay for this.” A flash of his gorgeous eyes was a small reward for my rebellious behavior.
As he led me to his car, securing me into the seat in a dominating manner, I knew that the nightmare was only beginning.
I was the possession of Matteo Capodanno.
And he would never let me go.
We were to be married. Then?
Until death do us part.