I'm so excited for you to read the first ten pages of TWISTED EMOTIONS. The book will be out in exactly 1 week!
!!!Spoilers for BOUND BY LOVE ahead!!!
The Falcones were going to feel cheated. A sacrificial virgin was to be given to the monsters in Las Vegas for a promise of peace. I was never given the chance to be a virgin. That choice had been taken from me. Painfully ripped from me.
Fear, acute and raw, clawed at my chest as my husband led me into our room for the night and closed the door to the grinning faces of his brothers. Nino released me, and I quickly created distance between us, moving toward the bed.
Six years had passed, but the memories still woke me at night. I was scared of being close to a man, to any man, especially this man—my husband.
Standing a few steps in front of the bed, my eyes swept over the white sheets—sheets my family expected to the see stained with my blood in the morning.
Blood that wouldn’t be there.
I crept closer to the bed. There had been blood the first time, the second time, and even the third time. Lots of blood, pain, terror, and begging. There had been no presentation of the sheets back then. Our maid, who had never come to my aid, cleaned them.
I wouldn’t beg tonight. It hadn’t stopped my abuser many years ago.
It wouldn’t stop my husband.
I knew the stories. I had seen him in the cage.
My only consolation was that I doubted he could break me more than I already had been all those years ago.
“You do remember what I told Luca last time I saw him? I doubt he’ll have any kind of interest in working with us after that,” Fabiano muttered, pacing the room. “He will kill me the moment I set foot in his territory, trust me. Fuck, I would kill me if I were him.”
Remo shook his head. “He is angry, but he will see reason.”
I nodded. “He wanted to protect his property, his wife, but he’s still a businessman, and we have good arguments for cooperation. Drugs are still his main business, and our contact in his lab tells us they can’t produce enough for the increasing demand. Luca needs to import drugs, but he can’t because we hold the west and Dante holds the middle. His smugglers lose too much of the shit before it reaches the East Coast. If he works with us, we can guarantee safe transport through our territory and in return he promises us to stay out of our fight with Dante Cavallaro. We don’t even want his help.”
“We don’t need it,” Remo insisted, dark eyes hardening. We disagreed on that point; additional help facing an opponent like Dante Cavallaro would have been very appreciated, but like Luca, Remo let emotions get in the way of rational decisions.
Fabiano frowned. “Luca isn’t like you, Nino. Not every single one of his decisions is based on logical reasons. He’s furious because we insulted Aria, and his pride might stop him from making the logical decision. Trust me on that.”
Pride and fury. Neither were useful.
“If you tell your sister that you gave Leona that bracelet, she will convince him. She’ll think you are her little brother again. She’ll want to believe it. Take Leona with you. Make it out to be a family visit, for all I care, but convince Aria and Luca to talk to us. Tell him I’m going to meet with him personally,” Remo said.
I gave Remo a slanted look. Last time he talked to Luca hadn’t gone over too well. Years had passed, but if Luca held on to grudges, he’d remember that too. And Remo had a way of provoking people that didn’t go over well with the other Capo.
“He won’t believe that we’re trustworthy,” Fabiano said. “And you talking to Luca is the fucking worst thing that could happen. Remo, you are a fucking time bomb. You get a hard-on just imagining how it would feel to bathe in Luca’s blood, damn it. Do you really think you could stop yourself from trying to kill him?”
Remo leaned back with a smile on his face that I’d learned to be wary of. “The Famiglia is all about bonds to ensure peace, aren’t they? We give them what they want, what your sister wanted for you and everyone else.”
He hadn’t answered Fabiano’s question.
Fabiano stopped his pacing and crossed his arms. “And what’s that supposed to be?”
“Peace and love.” Remo’s mouth twisted as if he was going to start laughing. “We’ll suggest a marriage between our families. It worked between the Outfit and the Famiglia for a while.”
Remo hadn’t mentioned anything to me. Usually he consulted with me before he made these kinds of decisions. For Remo, it was a surprisingly reasonable plan. Marriages had prevented many wars over the centuries of human history—of course, they’d started just as many as well.
Fabiano laughed but I could tell that he was displeased from the narrowing of his eyes. “For a few years and now they are back to killing each other.”
“A few years is all we require,” I told him. “Luca knows as well as we do that any kind of peace arrangement will always only be for a short period of time.”
“You can’t believe that Luca will agree to an arranged marriage.”
“Why not?” Remo asked, grinning. “It worked for him and your sister. Look at them, sickly in love. I’m sure he can spare one of his cousins. Didn’t you say his father had three sisters and two brothers? There have to be a few cousins in marrying age, or even a second cousin for all I care.”
“One of those sisters was married to a traitor whom our father killed. I doubt she will give her daughters to us,” I reminded Remo.
“One of her daughters is the fuck-thing of that bastard Growl. As if I’d accept her or her sister for our family,” Remo spat. I inclined my head in agreement. It would send the wrong message if we allowed the Famiglia to give us the leftovers of our traitorous half-brother.
“Luca wouldn’t choose either of them. But who the fuck is supposed to marry a woman from the Famiglia?” Fabiano asked, raising his blond eyebrows at my brother. “Don’t tell me it’s going to be you, Remo, because I won’t make that fucking offer. We all know that you are the last person we can parade around as a husband. You lose your temper all the time. That will end in a fucking bloody wedding and you know it.”
Remo grinned, his eyes shifting to me. That explained why he hadn’t consulted with me. “I won’t marry anyone. Nino will.”
Lifting my eyebrows at him, I asked, “Will I?”
Fabiano sank down onto the sofa, grimacing. “No offense, but Nino isn’t really the right person to play husband either.”
I tilted my head. I’d never considered marriage. It seemed unnecessary. “If you’re referring to my lack of emotions, I can assure you that I can fake them if required.”
Remo shrugged. “It’s not like it’s a marriage for love. Nino doesn’t have to feel anything to marry. He only needs to say yes and fuck his bride, perhaps father a kid or two, and keep his wife alive as long as we want peace with the Famiglia. You can do that, right?”
I narrowed my eyes, not liking his tone. “I can do that.”
Fabiano shook his head. “That’s a fucking bad idea and you know it.”
“It’s unconventional,” I conceded, “but it’s a practice that’s been used in our circles for generations. Even before our families came to the US, they arranged marriages to establish bonds between different families. And the Famiglia has old-world values. They are the only family outside Italy that still follows the bloody sheets tradition. I’m certain that Luca’s family will welcome the idea of another arranged marriage between families; Luca needs to keep the traditionalists in the Famiglia happy, especially now that he had to take in some of his relatives from Sicily. And there are still traditionalists in the Camorra who’ll appreciate that kind of agreement.”
Fabiano shook his head again. “I tell you again, Luca won’t agree. He will kill me.”
Remo smirked. “We will see. I hear he needs to protect his children.”
Fabiano jerked. “Aria’s got kids?”
Remo and I had known for a while. One of our contacts told us. Luca made sure to keep Aria and the kids out of the press and even killed a few photographers who didn’t grasp the concept of privacy. Remo hadn’t wanted Fabiano to know because he worried Fabiano would get too emotional during his visit in New York. Apparently, he changed his mind.
“ A daughter and a son,” I said. “He needs to protect them, and if we offer him peace in the west, that should convince him.”
Fabiano was silent. “How long have you known?”
“Is that important? It’s not like Luca would have let you anywhere near his kids,” Remo said.
Fabiano nodded but his mouth was tight. “You know Dante wasn’t the main force behind the attack on us. It was my father.” He looked at me then at Remo. “Dante might kill my father before we get our hands on him. I don’t want that to happen. Let me go to Chicago and bring him to Las Vegas. We can still ask Luca for peace after that.”
Remo gave me a pointed look, obviously needing me to be the voice of reason as usual.
“That seems unwise,” I said. “You are too emotionally invested to lead an attack on Outfit ground, especially on your father. And we don’t know for certain if your father acted without Dante’s direct orders. Dante might not kill him.”
“It was my father’s plan. You heard what the Outfit fuckers said when we tore them apart. My father sent those fuckers because he wanted me dead,” Fabiano growled. “And I want to kill him. I want to tear him apart limb by limb.”
“And you will,” Remo said firmly, touching Fabiano’s shoulder. He paused. Again with that smile. “But it would be a good wedding gift. If we get our hands on Scuderi, we could have his death as a peace offering for Luca and his clan. After all, the Scuderi sisters don’t hold much love for their father either.”
“Of course they don’t. He is a despicable asshole,” Fabiano said.
“We can’t waltz into Chicago and drag their Consigliere out. You realize that, right? Dante will have put every possible protection in place.” I had to say it because it was becoming increasingly obvious that neither Remo nor Fabiano would make the wise choice when it came to bringing down the Outfit. “The only logical choice is to send me to New York for the meeting with Luca. I’m not emotionally invested. I will be able to deescalate the situation if required.”
Remo shook his head. “I am Capo. I should be at the front. Only a fucking coward would send his brother out to risk his sorry ass in a situation like this.”
“What about my fucking ass?” Fabiano muttered.
“Your ass is safe because of your sister. No matter what Luca says, he’ll always think twice before putting a bullet in your head. With Nino, nothing’s holding him back.”
“He won’t shoot me. His next delivery will have to pass our borders in the upcoming days … if our informants in Mexico are to be believed. We intercept it, keep hold of his men and his drugs until the meeting, and I’ll give the order to have them released as a peace offering, a sign of goodwill.”
“Drugs and expendable soldiers won’t stop Luca from killing you,” Fabiano said.
“We will see,” I said. “It’s the only logical choice.”
“Your fucking logic is pissing me off,” Remo muttered.
“I’m the future husband, so it is the logicalchoice to send me. We’re doing this on my terms, Remo. I won’t have you two mess this up with your emotions.”
“I think he’s pissing me off on purpose,” Remo said to Fabiano.
Fabiano nodded. “I think he is.”
“It doesn’t take much effort to piss you off, Remo.”
Remo narrowed his eyes at me. “The logical choice would be to take someone with you. You shouldn’t go alone. Take Fabiano.”
Fabiano rolled his eyes. “Yeah, take me. Because apparently I’m bulletproof because I’m a fucking Scuderi.”
I regarded the blond man. “Maybe your presence would rip open too many wounds for Luca. We don’t want to start on the wrong foot.”
“I think that ship has sailed,” Fabiano said.
“Do you want to come with me to New York?” I asked, my expression doubtful.
“I’d rather go to Chicago and kill my fucking father, but if an insane marriage between you and some poor Famiglia woman brings me closer to that goal, I’ll go to New York and talk to Luca fucking Vitiello. But I don’t think he’ll be very happy to see me. He won’t believe I’ve changed for one fucking second.”
“You haven’t really. Except for your behavior toward Leona. You are still a cruel bastard, so Vitiello shouldn’t trust you,” I said.
Fabiano looked between Remo and me. “Am I going or not? I’ll have to figure out a way to tell Leona about this without freaking her out.”
Remo shook his head. “I should go as Capo.”
“We’ll save that reunion for the second meeting when Vitiello is convinced the benefits of a bond outweigh the joy of cutting off your head,” I said.
“I take it that means I’m going.” Fabiano got up. “I really hope this fucking ordeal allows me to kill my father, or you two will have a lot to make up to me.”
I still wasn’t convinced that Fabiano’s presence would improve our situation. He was Aria’s brother, true, but even that wouldn’t protect him forever. Taking Remo was out of the question. I’d have to make sure Luca and Fabiano would follow my reasoning and not let their unpredictable emotions run the show.
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