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The Kingpin: A Dark Mafia Romance by Piper Stone – Sample

Prologue

Beautiful. Fragile. Innocent.

That’s the way I liked to think of Raven. I’d come to the realization that she didn’t belong in my world. She was far too delicate, a budding flower with tender leaves. But it had become impossible to ignore her, or the desire that had never left from the unexpected meeting. Karma had been kind, offering me an olive branch, one I would have been stupid to ignore. She didn’t realize the danger she was in or the fact a predator was studying her from afar.

Hungering for her.

Waiting for the perfect moment to strike, infecting her with my venom.

Or did she?

Was she just performing for her master, enticing the ferocious beast?

I chuckled at the thought, remaining hidden in the shadows, leaning against a large oak tree as I allowed myself to be consumed by sadistic hunger. I’d never been the kind of man to hide from anything or anyone before, but I enjoyed watching her go about her daily tasks, pretending that what had occurred between us only weeks before had never happened.

But I sensed her upheaval, a burning desire that kept us tethered. With every glance over her shoulder, every hurried step over the last few weeks, there was no doubt she realized she’d already been captured like a sweet fawn. Only I wasn’t preparing for a slaughter. No, the hunt was all about her requirement to submit to my needs.

And to exact the sweetest revenge on my greatest enemy, a man who’d once been not only my best friend but someone I’d considered a brother.

Until he’d betrayed me.

As she scurried past me barely fifty yards away, completely unaware a monster lurked in the darkness, I could almost gather a hint of her sweet perfume. She had no idea how close I was, how intent I was on staking my claim. She’d become the obsession of a ruthless, corrupt, and very depraved man, a beast who would strip away the remainder of her innocence.

She also had no idea how important she’d become in a war of prowess and intelligence, a diamond in the rough that would soon become my greatest possession.

A queen in a merciless game.

I watched with envy as Raven’s roommate stopped in the courtyard, the two young women engaging in a conversation. Then laughter drifted my way, the lilting sound forcing my cock to stir, my balls to harden. As the two girls walked away, I sucked in my breath, the ache in my groin increasing.

Then Raven stopped briefly, pulling away and turning in my direction. She knew I was there.

Waiting.

Watching.

Biding my time.

And there was no fear, only burning need.

I rubbed my jaw, enjoying the light breeze and spectacular view. Only when she disappeared out of sight did I turn away, heading to my vehicle. Once inside, I revved the engine, laughing softly to myself.

“Soon, my princess, you’ll be mine forever.”

Chapter One

Weeks before…

Raven

It wasn’t midnight yet I felt the pulse of the haunting city humming in my veins. New Orleans was an incredible place, filled with gothic homes and devilish history, acts of debauchery the usual fare.

Sadly, I wasn’t here for the festive parties or glorious food. I was here for a single purpose.

Thievery.

“‘Join a sorority,’ the high school guidance counselor had told me. ‘It’ll be fun. The experience will be an excellent addition on your resume.’” I’d muttered the ugly whisper, and it wasn’t the first time. I’d refused based on the woman’s nagging alone.

Until my mother had badgered me, relentless in her words, hiding behind her motherly love. Bullshit. It was called status, requiring her daughter to follow in her illustrious footsteps. Somehow, I’d fallen prey to the constant push, finally reaching out to the president of the high and mighty sorority much later than the typical college student.

Regrets? Oh, I had several, including this moment. Methods of revenge had already crossed my mind.

How I’d been coerced into doing something highly illegal was beyond me. While I hadn’t actually broken into the house given the festive by-invitation-only party occurring two floors below, I’d been forced to be creative in determining how to get inside without being cornered as an intruder.

Which I was.

I had no business being here. In fact, I’d lose my scholarship if anyone from the university found out. Plus, given I was sent to steal something valuable, my ass could land in jail. Awesome decision, girl.

At least no one had noticed that I’d disguised myself as one of the catering firm hired for the illustrious event. After gaining entrance, I’d quickly changed into swankier attire inside a closet, the balled-up dress no worse for wear. From what I could tell, the event was an engagement party, which made the situation unseemly in my mind. Who stole from the groom to be? The assignment was nothing but punishment for being who I was.

Infamous.

It had nothing to do with my beauty queen mother. This was all about my father.

And a dare I’d been stupid enough to accept after being forced to chug three shots of tequila.

After getting my bearings, I’d followed my instructions, going up the back stairs to the third floor, finding the bedroom suite noted on the single piece of paper I’d been provided. Once I’d located the mark’s private area, I’d used skills gleaned from my father in obtaining access into the man’s room.

I had no doubt in my mind the bitch of a sorority president Megan Montgomery had created this assignment given my father’s occupation. I’d wanted to refuse but my mother had insisted this be the sorority I pledged, LSU her alma mater. She’d been the sorority president as well. I’d been expected to follow in her footsteps when I was nothing like her. That had been the only reason I’d been granted a chance by the girls who’d taken one look at the criminology nerd and had laughed, making fun of my funky clothes. I certainly didn’t fit in with the perfectly coiffed blondes who reminded me of Stepford wives of Baton Rouge.

I took a final deep breath, contemplating running. Right. I was a hundred miles from my dorm room, my roommate away for the weekend. I’d gotten myself in this mess, I had to follow through with the deal I’d made, or I’d be the laughingstock of the university.

Likely disowned.

You can do this. In and out.

That was the mantra I’d said to myself over and over again.

Now I stood in the middle of the darkened bedroom of a man I didn’t know, searching for something that would prove I’d stolen from the owner of the gorgeous home.

However, the last thing Megan had told me prior to placing the blindfold over my eyes had driven a bundle of nerves into my system. And she’d done so with glee in her voice, trying to scare me. Well, I didn’t scare easily given I had a blackbelt in karate and knew my way around weapons. My father had insisted I have respect and knowledge for guns.

“Just be careful, Raven. The man is a monster. If he catches you, you’ll be punished. Or worse.”

In my mind, a monster was only as good as his reputation. If his lavish bedroom with an oversized king bed and ornately carved furniture made out of rich chocolate-colored exotic wood was any indication, he was a man of passion as well as commanding control. Or maybe I’d been reading too many romance novels.

So far, I’d seen an expansive living room bathed in colors of cream and gold, large enough to host lavish parties like the rowdy one going on downstairs. But the remaining rooms were more gothic in nature, dark textured walls in ruby red and deep purple accentuating the art strategically positioned under dazzling LED lights. He enjoyed ensuring his guests noticed his appreciation of all things sadistic and provocative.

Even the sweeping curved wood staircase leading from the massive marble-floored entrance foyer was a clear indication of the man’s wealth and his stance on opulence. Yet his bedroom was warm and inviting, the stone fireplace accentuating the deep burgundy comforter.

I knew nothing else about him, other than he was wealthy beyond anything I could imagine, his tastes in art and photography erotic in nature. I had to wonder whether he’d made any of the selections himself or had hired someone to provide an enviable backdrop of function versus wealth. Every piece of furniture was elegant and beautiful, so much so I was terrified of touching anything.

The mystery man was also an impeccable dresser as evidenced by his stunning and very expensive wardrobe. I’d started in the closet first, admiring his Brioni and Prada suits, his vast array of silk designer ties and crisp linen shirts in various colors.

His entire wardrobe was sensual, the aura powerful, and I craved to see the owner in one of the swanky outfits. I could only imagine his appearance—tall, dark, and all man. Maybe I needed to think about anything but the fact that what I was doing could land me in jail, destroying any hope for a decent future.

Let alone what my father would do to me if he found out about my ridiculous infraction.

Time was ticking, the requirement needing to be fulfilled. What could I take that would be enough to allow my acceptance into the snooty society?

I turned in a full circle, inhaling the mystery man’s aftershave lingering in the air. His natural musky scent was infused with hints of citrus and timber, exotic spices and a fragrance that could only be described as passionfruit on steroids. I couldn’t help myself, running my fingers across the sleeves of his linen and wool suits, bringing the tips to my nose.

He had at least three dozen pairs of shoes, more than any man I’d ever known, some polished loafers, at least four brand new pairs. Yet there were also running shoes and boots, including two pairs of rattlesnake cowboy boots. The man had fascinating tastes. I could bask in the glory of his wardrobe for a full hour, but I had limited time. Only fifteen minutes left to accomplish my goal. Of course, the two sorority sisters who’d accompanied me on the hour-plus trip were keeping close track.

They’d even told me they’d leave my ass behind if I was a minute late.

This was a test, a game they used with what they called their most prominent pledges, although the term ‘hazing’ wasn’t far from anyone’s minds. They were daughters of the most rich and powerful men in the world, considered the elite students within Louisiana State University, where I hoped to graduate from without having a black mark on my record.

I rolled my eyes; glancing out the closet window to the street below, I could almost make out the car Shelly had driven. I had been blindfolded, and they’d told me nothing other than we were headed out of the city, although I could tell by the architecture of the gorgeous aging mansion that we were in New Orleans.

I’d never seen a walk-in closet so huge, the massive island in the center a piece of decadent furniture with its multiple drawers and solid black marble top. I ran my fingers across it before noticing whoever the man was, he had four different weapon holsters hanging in one section of his closet, which meant he was either law enforcement or a criminal. My bet was on the latter. I doubted the girls were brazen or stupid enough to require me to steal something from an officer of the law.

The mystery man’s attire certainly wasn’t that of a lawman either. I knew that well enough from the work my father did and the life we’d led as a family. A cold shiver trickled down my spine as the reality of what I was doing birthed additional butterflies in my stomach. I had to get the hell out of here.

I started opening the drawers, finding additional new shirts in packages, underwear and socks in another. There was nothing of real value, which was what the president of the sorority had demanded I find, something with the man’s initials. Jewelry was what I had in mind. I moved to the other side, finding nirvana with the third drawer I opened. Nestled inside were a dozen pristine and terribly expensive watches.

There were Hermes and Bulova, Longines and Breitling pieces, every one of them as bold as the man’s tie collection. I glanced at the partially open closet door before lifting a Bulova piece into my hand, the significant weight surprising. After looking at one after the other, I was certain none of them were engraved.

When I discovered exactly what I was looking for, I almost squealed with happiness. The watch was the only timepiece protected in a box, which meant it was precious. I turned it over, holding my breath. Yes. Yes! The expensive piece had been engraved as I’d hoped.

To my beloved Arman

It was signed with a capital S and nothing more. Oh, what I was about to do was bad, so very bad. Yet I slipped it around my wrist, easing the box back into position then closing the drawer.

As soon as I was ready to get the hell out of the man’s bedroom as well as his house, I heard a noise and almost panicked. I was no career criminal. What the hell did I think I was doing? I quickly moved to the door, turning off the closet light, yet was fearful of closing the door. I remained in the shadows, shifting back against a group of the man’s suits. Fear crawled over me like a snake slithering into my veins.

Stupid girl.

Chastising myself wouldn’t do any good now.

There was no doubt someone had entered the room. I heard a voice, the deep baritone creating a series of vibrations. There was something so sensual about the tone that I was forced to place my hand across my lips to keep from issuing an unwanted whimper.

“Fuck. This is ridiculous.”

“What’s wrong?” A second man’s voice was gruff, just as exasperated.

“What’s wrong? Betrayal. It needs to be handled tonight, Maddox. The asshole fucked with the wrong man.” His harsh words were followed by a loud thud, and I couldn’t help but jump in response. “You shouldn’t have allowed the shit to go down. I thought you were watching. God fucking damn it.”

“I’m sorry, Arman. The dude came in under the radar.” The second man’s voice was raspier, as if he’d smoked too many packs of cigarettes over the last few years. Or as if he was exasperated from Arman’s angry chastisement. Hell, I would be. “We both trusted him,” Maddox continued.

“That man could ruin us. He’s talking to the Feds,” Arman growled.

“We don’t know that for certain.”

I inched closer to the closet door. Against my better judgment, I peered out the crack, trying to control my scattered breathing. At this point my heart was fluttering like a butterfly trapped inside a jar.

“Like hell I don’t, and you mean he fucking used you,” the man named Arman snarled. “Goddamn it! You know who I’m dealing with. What I’m dealing with. This could ruin us. That cannot happen.”

Swallowing hard, I sensed his utter fury. A light was flicked on inside the room and I knew I should dip further into the shadows, but the warm glow allowed me to catch a glimpse of the enraged man and I was certain my heart was ready to cease beating.

The man was a Greek god reincarnated into the body of a GQ model.

Arman was without a doubt the most sinfully gorgeous person I’d ever seen in my life. Maddox wasn’t too bad himself, but I was instantly drawn to the angel who’d fallen from the heavens. Standing in his exquisitely tailored suit, one that matched the contours of his muscular physique perfectly, Arman appeared as if he’d just stepped out of the pages of a men’s fashion magazine. I could imagine the cameras loved him from every angle, especially given the mahogany sheen of his curly locks and a body polished from the finest stone.

Whew. I found myself dragging my tongue across my bottom lip from concentrating on the fullness of his.

His name suited him. Strong and dominant, powerful in every way.

Arman was debonaire, his features aristocratic, but there was a rugged as well as dangerous air about him. Glowering, his jaw and the icy look in his eyes didn’t detract from his stunning good looks. With the hint of gray at his temples, I placed him in his early forties, a man completely comfortable in his own skin. I noticed black onyx cufflinks studded with diamonds on his shirt cuffs, something few men wore except with expensive tuxedos for stuffy events. I had a feeling they were the norm, a gesture stealing attention away from every other male in a room.

But when he placed his hands on his hips, shifting both sides of his jacket back by several inches, I knew I’d been right about my assumption that the man whose watch I wore on my small wrist was a criminal. That was easy to tell by the weapon he carried in the shoulder holster. Who the hell was this guy?

Then the handsome man with the chiseled good looks swung a brutal punch, catching Maddox in the jaw. A tiny moan slipped past my lips before I had a chance to slap both hands across my mouth. Then I closed my eyes, praying to God I hadn’t been heard.

Arman was no angel, unless he’d become one kicked out of heaven, sent spiraling into the darkness of hell.

“It won’t happen again, Arman. I thought Grayson was trustworthy. We vetted him.”

“Not enough. You should know better than to trust anyone in this business. Haven’t I taught you anything?”

“Yes, sir. You certainly have.” There was annoyance in Maddox’s voice, but I also heard respect for the man who’d just punched him. Something told me they were friends. “Do I make an example of the son of a bitch or drive a stake through his heart?”

I couldn’t help but notice the dusting of stubble covering Arman’s strong jawline as he rubbed his hand from one side to the other, obviously deciding on his answer. When he lifted his head toward the man who worked for him, I was able to catch the coldness lacing his whiskey-colored eyes. The vengeful expression he wore sent a shower of fear down my spine but the power he exuded, the aura of superiority created a spiraling rush of electricity all the way to my passion pink painted toes.

Even his name exuded raw brutality.

“Teach Grayson Alexander a lesson he won’t forget, Maddox. Then dump his mutilated body on the doorstep of the man who thinks he can destroy my family’s business. I want the bastard shitting in his pants.”

“Are you certain you want to do that?”

“Are you questioning me?” Arman snarled.

Maddox exhaled as he paced the floor. “I’ll take care of it, boss. I’d never question your… authority. Do you need anything else?”

“Just a way of escaping my own party.” Now Arman laughed bitterly.

“You can’t leave. You’re the host.”

“Unfortunately so. Edmee would kill me. Call me when it’s done. We’ll need to handle damage control tomorrow for the destroyed product.”

I stood frozen, unable to take my eyes off the scene. A murder had just been ordered, a hit, and I knew the name of the victim. Oh, my God. If I was found here, I’d certainly be killed for what I’d overheard. Horrified, my instinct and everything I’d been taught screamed that I needed to get the hell out of here and head to the police. But if I got involved, that would place my life in danger.

The gorgeous man with the luxurious ebony hair lifted his chin, staring at the closet door. I bit back a scream, moving away from the slight opening.

“Got it, boss. I’ll be here first thing in the morning. I’ll also make certain our merchandise is locked down for the night.”

I realized as Maddox headed to the door that I’d been holding my breath. I slunk further back into the clothes, praying that Arman would leave soon, or I was certain my thudding heart would give my presence away.

There were no other sounds, but I knew Arman had remained in the room. What was he doing? I waited for a few seconds before returning to my perch. He stood with his back to me, staring out the window of his bedroom. Then he turned around abruptly, heading toward the door leading to the hallway, slamming it shut after leaving.

Jesus Christ. Megan had been right. The man was a monster.

Only then did I take a deep and very ragged breath. I waited for almost a full two minutes, ensuring that he wouldn’t return before slowly swinging open the closet door. After counting to ten and calming my nerves, I stepped into the bedroom, trembling all over.

Then I sensed a presence behind me and stiffened, ice running through my veins.

“Good evening, princess. It would seem I have a beautiful disaster on my hands. Now, what am I going to do with you?”

Chapter Two

Arman

The last thing I’d expected was to find a stunning young woman standing in the middle of my bedroom. Although I wasn’t immune to women attempting to seduce their way into my bed in hopes of garnering a hold on both my status and bank account. That had already happened twice during the festive evening.

I’d also partaken in the joys of fucking several beautiful women over the years, but never inside this room. There was no particular reason why other than this was my sanctuary, a private space allowing me to strip away the pomp and circumstance of my position as Don of the most powerful crime syndicate in the south.

That wasn’t completely the truth. Why I was continuing to lie to myself I wasn’t certain.

When I craved the company of a woman, I used hotels, including the one the family owned, which allowed me privacy as well as additional security. I had no desire to be on someone’s Facebook page the next morning. That wouldn’t bode well for my reputation or my secure methods of handling business.

Over the past few months, I’d stopped bothering, the act of sin turning into drudgery more than anything. I’d been told time healed wounds. For me, it was the opposite. Nothing had soothed the darkness inside. I’d buried myself in work instead, doubling the family’s wealth. I’d been set to enter into yet another lucrative contract in another state when Grayson had decided to betray me. While Maddox was handling the necessary retribution, it was the aftermath that most concerned me. That’s why I couldn’t put it past Grayson to hire someone to provide additional ammunition. What I wasn’t certain of was whether he’d sold his soul to the FBI or another enemy.

Either way, the appearance of the gorgeous girl couldn’t be a coincidence, the party something Grayson had been invited to originally. He would have known the security system would be off, and the number of people inside my house I didn’t know prevented me from easily identifying another saboteur.

I was known for being an unforgiving savage, someone who should be feared. Maybe this girl had no clue who I was.

My father had coined the name Kingpin for himself, which I found offensive. Unfortunately, the term had stuck throughout New Orleans, the title falling to the firstborn son when my father had retired only two years before. However, there was no denying I’d turned into a man even more brutal and unforgiving than my father. Therefore, the title would stand.

Even if I was in the process of attempting to clean up the Thibodeaux name and our reputation. We were well known throughout the country, the entire family wealthy beyond our means. However, most of it had been made through illegitimate sources, which consistently placed us in the scrutiny of law enforcement. I’d grown weary of it, my determination to drive us into completely legitimate markets receiving tons of negative feedback from family members and employees alike. Who hadn’t enjoyed the extra perks over the years? Myself included.

I’d also grown careful of who I chose to eliminate. Now, the fact she’d overheard my plan could derail the next several months of business. I couldn’t allow that to happen.

I chuckled thinking about it as I noticed the look of terror in the girl’s large eyes that were the color of emeralds on a sunny day, completely mesmerizing. She was petite, several inches shorter than me, but I’d gathered immediately upon realizing she was hiding in the closet that she was a force to be reckoned with. And with her long ebony hair falling halfway down her back in soft curls, she was the kind of woman that could take a man’s breath away.

No matter her stunning beauty, I couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room. She’d overheard me discussing an assassination of a man who’d made the mistake of crossing me. I rarely discussed business in any other location than what my brother had affectionately termed as the war room, a location I’d designed to be soundproof and impenetrable, swept daily to ensure no one had managed to breach my security, planting listening devices. That had happened to my father, his two-year prison term for racketeering a result.

At least that had provided me with a taste of leadership in my twenties, a lifetime ago.

I allowed my heated gaze to fall to the floor, deciphering what I had to deal with. Given her young age, maybe twenty-one if that, she wasn’t law enforcement. Although I certainly knew looks could be deceiving. I certainly didn’t suspect she was a hired assassin. But it was entirely possible she’d been sent by one of my many enemies to gather information by an act of seduction.

However, if that was the case, the dazzling creature would be wearing couture clothing instead of a lovely, form-fitting dress purchased off the rack of a chain department store. Still, my mouth watered at the thought of peering underneath the crimson attire, her hourglass figure accentuated by the silky material.

Then I noticed the watch she wore on her small wrist. My watch to be exact. Was it possible she was nothing more than a common thief? If so, she’d picked the wrong house to steal from. Growing amused, I headed to my bedroom bar, pouring a generous measure of whiskey. I was surprised she hadn’t tried to bolt, instead staring at me with ferocious intensity.

That intrigued me even more. After downing the liquid in a single swallow and returning the glass to the wooden surface, I shoved my hands in my pockets and walked toward her. I was an observant man, which had kept me out of harm’s way more than once. With every step I took, her emotions ratcheted, both anger and terror mixing to create an explosion waiting to happen.

While I preferred my life uncomplicated, it would appear the gods had other things in mind. Even as I closed the distance, she held her ground, lifting her chin in defiance. My cock stirred, which it hadn’t done in weeks.

“Now, do you mind telling me who you are?” I asked, curious as to what her answer would be.

“One of your guests. I apologize but the bathroom downstairs continually had a line. I stumbled in here by accident.”

The lie wasn’t bad and if I wasn’t certain I’d locked my door to keep the riffraff from picking through my things, or the fact she’d been in my closet in the dark, I might have believed her. “A wonderful story, princess, but we both know it’s a lie.”

“I’m not in the habit of lying.”

She’d very carefully eased one arm behind her, attempting to hide her theft. I moved closer, taking my time studying her shining irises, almost mesmerized by her lush lips. For a few delicious seconds, I sensed her burning desire as it ebbed and flowed. That allowed me to slip my arm around her waist, caressing the small of her back with gentle strokes.

When I wrapped my fingers around her wrist, yanking her arm up by several inches, she squealed as if I’d caused her pain, but the fire in her eyes forced my balls to tighten.

“Let go of me!” she demanded.

“You might not consider yourself a liar, princess, but you are in the habit of stealing.”

The raven-haired beauty had a look of fury on her face, matching the spitfire image of her rolling through my mind. But the evidence was clear. As I removed the single piece of my past I’d kept, a flash of anger rushed through me. No one had dared touch the piece, not once. Even my family knew better. They comprehended my wrath would not be denied had they done something so egregious.

However, with the young woman, I felt admiration for her technique and her balls. I slipped the watch into my pocket, a moment of sadness almost shoving the agitation aside. My mysterious visitor jerked her arm free, rubbing her wrist, giving me an indecent onceover.

When she turned and raced toward the door, I couldn’t help but grin. She must truly believe she could get away from me.

“Tsk. Tsk, bad girl. You’re not getting away that easily.” I sprinted toward the door before she had a chance to wrap her hand around the handle.

She backed away, her chest rising and falling as she pointed her index finger in my direction. “Just stay away from me.”

I locked the door, allowing her to see my action. Then I took a single long stride toward her, and she bolted for the French doors leading to the balcony, throwing them open easily and rushing outside.

I trailed behind her, noticing her hesitation from climbing over the iron railing. Then I leaned against the doorjamb, the amusement continuing. “While you won’t jump to your death, princess, given the tall foundation and the fact we’re on the third floor, it’s likely you’ll break a bone or two. I would hate for that to happen.”

After taking several scattered breaths, she turned around to face me, her anger more tangible. “Let me go. I did no harm to you.”

I rubbed my jaw, amused her tone was demanding. “I would be happy to do so except we have two issues to deal with. One is the theft of my favorite watch.”

“Which you have back in your possession. No harm, no foul.”

“Yes, however, that doesn’t mean I can ignore the act itself. For every action there is a consequence. Certainly, you were taught that as a child.”

The mysterious beauty glared at me incredulously. “You must be kidding me? You’re obviously a very bad man and you’re challenging me on my behavior?”

I folded my arms, studying her just as intently. “And what makes you think I’m such a bad man?” Her statement confirmed she not only knew who I was but had overheard the conversation.

She realized what she’d said, the twinkling exterior lights my sister had insisted on having installed for her elegant engagement party highlighting another moment of fear on the girl’s face.

“You punched that guy.”

I laughed softly. “That guy deserved it.”

“For disobeying you?”

Maddox was not only my second in command, but he’d been my best friend since high school, replacing a treacherous bastard now considered my enemy in the process. We’d played sports and commiserated over girls. He’d had my back a number of times, even taking a bullet for me on one bloody night of violence. He was someone I trusted, knowing all my secrets as I knew his. He’d also faced my wrath more than any human should. “For not doing his job. Now, it would appear we need to come to an understanding about the indecent incident you were involved in.”

“Indecent?”

“Highly,” I retorted. “You need to be punished.”

“Let me guess. You believe yourself to be judge and jury.” She planted her hands on her hips, giving me a haughty look.

“For someone found inside a man’s locked bedroom, you’re quite bold. I assume you know who I am.”

She rolled her eyes. “No, I don’t. And in truth, I couldn’t care less. I’m sorry about invading your privacy and stealing something from you.”

I was certain she had no clue who I was, which meant she wasn’t from New Orleans. I’d gone from intrigued to feeling a level of hunger that had already thrown me. I wanted not only to tame the little lioness, but to possess her. The question was why she continued to fascinate me. She was far too young, enough so she could be my daughter. Maybe that forbidden, slightly taboo nature was the reason for my fully aroused cock and blue balls.

“I’m sorry, princess, but your apology isn’t good enough. I don’t think your act was so innocent after all.”

“Meaning what?”

“Who are you? Who are you working for?”

“Who are you?”

“You don’t get to ask the questions, princess. You were the one standing inside my room.”

“I’m nobody’s princess.” She snarled at me after making the statement. God, the woman needed to be dragged over my knees, her bottom turned a bright shade of crimson.

“Then what are you doing in my bedroom?” I couldn’t help myself, inching closer, my desire increasing tenfold.

“Exactly who are you? Why should I tell you anything?”

“Let’s just say I’m a very dangerous man, sweetheart. You broke into the wrong house and the wrong room. Now, you’re going to face the consequences. But first, it’s best if you told me who you were working for. If you provide that information freely, I’ll be lenient in your punishment.”

She offered a sinfully sweet smile, swaggering toward me. “First of all, I’m not working for anyone. Second, you’re not going to lay a hand on me. This is an engagement party. Right? Would you dare want to have your bride to be discovering another woman inside your bedroom? I’m certain I can make a scene that will present a serious problem for your impending marriage. I assure you I’m a damn good actress.”

With a single stride, I was able to wrap my hand around her long throat, using my thumb and pressing it under her chin. She reacted by slamming her fists against my chest several times in a futile attempt to get out of my hold.

I lowered my head, drinking in her sultry perfume. Everything about her was intoxicating including her sensual fragrance. As I took a deep breath, her eyes darted back and forth. She was doing everything in her power to keep from showing her fear. It was a trait I admired. “You’ll be sorely disappointed to learn that you can scream all you want but it won’t mean anything to my guests.”

“And why is that?” Her voice was breathless, little more than a whisper. I lowered my head until our lips were close, oh-so close. My pulse raced, my cock throbbing. I wanted to feast on every inch of the delicious treat.

“For one thing, I’m not the one getting married, my sister is the lovely bride to be, and this is her engagement party. As far as who I am, my name is Arman Thibodeaux. More important, as the owner of this house and the leader of the Thibodeaux Crime Syndicate, all that would happen if you screamed is that several of my armed soldiers would burst into the room with their weapons drawn. And they’d do exactly what I told them to do, princess. Given what you overheard after breaking into my room, I’m certain you understand how my soldiers handle people who betray me in any way and if I’m to follow my instinct, your robbery was only hiding the real reason you’re here. So you see, it’s best you take your punishment like a good little girl.”

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