A Russian boss. An Italian Princess.
The truth of their union would change everything …
Nothing will stop the Bratva mob boss from taking back what’s his and once he has her, he’ll do anything to keep her.
Viviana “Vine” Carducci’s and Anton Avdonin’s marriage was decided over two decades ago. The deal between leading mafia families had more on the line than anyone knew, even if the Bratva and Cosa Nostra shouldn’t have mixed. When Vine’s family is murdered and she’s left with nothing more than her grief to survive the mob world alone, she believes the arrangement won’t see the light of day.
Anton can’t allow the one woman he was supposed to love get away. At the possibility of her life coming to a quick end, he steps in with guns blazing knowing exactly what it might cost him: everything. But it’s been nearly a decade since their last meeting, and he can’t help but wonder if the woman he took back is the same girl he fell for all those years before.
Under his protection and love, Vine is unable to forget their shared moments a lifetime ago, or the future she knows they’re owed. When an old flame of Anton’s shows up to rip the veil off the carefully constructed secrets he’d been hiding, past lies surface, and Vine might just learn that nothing about her life was as it seemed. But, that’s nothing compared to the bomb about to blow. Can she see beyond the pain and blood it to take what she always wanted? And just how far will the mob prince go to keep her safe?
In a world where violence, deceit, and greed reign, your life is not your own, and sometimes, love has to be arranged.
Book 1 of The Russian Guns
Viviana couldn’t shake the feeling of a heavy pressure holding her down. Blinking rapidly, she breathed and attempted to see, move, or just do anything.
An ache had settled in the creases of her arms and legs. Bending them only served to settle the throbbing pressure deeper into her muscles. Pain radiated from the right side of her jaw as she opened her mouth to call out. With dry lips, a soreness that wouldn’t seem to disappear, and grogginess saturating her senses, she couldn’t focus long enough to remember where she was. Never mind what had happened that got her … here.
Where in the hell was she?
Breathing in, she could taste something familiar in the dark air. Like city air, gunpowder, cigars, and a woodsy cologne that reminded Viviana of home. Her fingers tightened in the blankets.
Hadn’t she been at the university dorms with Sam last night? Hadn’t she been drunk, and hadn’t Sam taken her home? Didn’t she go to that lecture in the morning?
“Sam?” Her voice was hoarse, words mumbled and barely intelligible. Her throat felt sore like she’d been screaming her lungs out for hours. “Sam, wake up.”
It wasn’t a second later that she heard shouts from somewhere outside her dark confines. A voice that resonated deep in her confused mind yelled angrily in a language Viviana couldn’t understand. A woman dressed in a grey-and-white uniform, her hair tied back, looked about as frightened as Viviana felt as she scurried past the opened doorway.
The shouts continued before something shattered, the sounds of tinkling glass spreading over the floors echoing down the hallway. The familiar voice grew scarily quiet as he spit his words out with sheer venom.
Viviana didn’t have to understand the words to know the man was livid; just barely hanging on the ledge of control. More than once growing up, she had heard that kind of anger while she stayed hidden in the safety of her bedroom. Her father’s voice carried through the house as he handled misbehaving men in the basement, or office, whichever served his purpose, depending on the soldier who’d done him wrong.
Forcing herself from the confines of the blankets, Viviana managed to get caught up in all the fabric and tumbled off the bed. Landing on the hard floor with a loud thump, she was surprised no one outside the room heard the noise. Crawling until standing was possible, she swayed on the spot, her legs feeling like a mixture of brittle sticks inside a bag of jelly. Nausea rolled through her insides like a tidal wave of sickness ready to drown and destroy.
Hangovers didn’t feel like that. Nothing felt like that. Unless death did. She wasn’t sure.
“Sam,” Viviana called out again, heading toward the lighted hallway.
Had he checked the hallway before leaving?
Just as she reached the door, something on a small stand caught her eye. The light from the hallway illuminated the framed photograph enough that she could discern the people being pictured. Finally, she remembered.
The face of Nicoli—a former boss of the Bratva, and an ally to her father—stared back at Viviana. Her shaky hand reached out to touch the photograph, snapping back almost at the exact instant she realized what she was doing.
There would be no photo of Nicoli in her dorm, nor would there be a picture of him in any house she visited. It was only then Viviana remembered the sounds of a silenced gun firing off three deadly shots. Sam hanging limp and dead off the edge of a bed. A man hitting her face and spitting words in Russian.
Blood bled red in her memories, but the too big T-shirt she now wore hung loose around her bare legs, unstained and pristine white.
She was in a car with a Russian … Boris … terrified and trying not to cry.
The name was thick on her tongue and heavy in her thrashing, thundering heart. Stumbling, she moved from the room and braced her hands on the wall, needing that solid ground to steady her swaying as she moved closer to the shouting.
Looking at her hands, Viviana noticed the blood that once stained her skin was now clean. Fingernails had been buffed, chips filed down, and the natural white crescents at the tips shined brightly under the light. Confused, she reached up to run fingers through her black hair. Instead of the tangled waves from this morning—or was it yesterday now?—she was met with no resistance. The locks felt clean and soft, brushed all the way through and hanging loose down her back.
Someone had washed her. They took meticulous care in cleaning any evidence from her hands and body, changing the clothes she wore and leaving her somewhere they thought was safe for Viviana to wake up in.
Was it him, she wondered. Was it Anton who did that for me?
Beyond the fear and nerves, something that scared Viviana even worse resided in the pit of her stomach: want. She wanted that. Wanted to know he had touched her. Cared for her. Worried over her. But she shouldn’t have wanted that at all.
Finally releasing her hold on the wall, she felt stable enough to walk on her own. Moving at a speed that was too fast for her still upset insides, Viviana made it to the partially opened French doors at the end of the hallway. With dark blinds covering the glass, no one on the inside noticed her approach, and the woman who had previously passed the doorway had long disappeared. The men’s voices became louder again, fury hissing with a burn between every word she couldn’t comprehend. Looking through a crack in the door, the sight staring back was shocking.
At least five men were inside the room, and while four stood upright, the one who had hit Viviana in her dorm—Viktor—was lying prone on the floor. With his head bent at an awkward angle, the barrel of a gun pressing to his right temple, Viktor gritted his teeth and continued to say the same phrase over and over in Russian.
“Boss, let it go,” one man said quietly. “He’s apologized, he’s never skimmed off his boys or done you wrong in the past. Your grandfather would have done the same.”
It wasn’t his face Viviana’s eyes were drawn to, or even the man that spoke in a language she could finally understand. Instead it was the hand holding the gun with a painful force. That hand didn’t shake; there was no hesitation in the action. She had the distinct feeling if those fingers that had once touched her skin so softly pulled the trigger, they wouldn’t find regret in that choice.
Anton’s voice sounded darker than she had ever heard it. Hardened and cold, like shards of ice to her soul. Wearing only dark wash jeans that sat low around his hips, the waistband of his boxer-briefs were visible. The black hair, now kept a little longer than when she had last seen him, was wet and hanging over blue eyes. She couldn’t help but wonder if those eyes blazed a dark blue in his rage like they did when he fucked and loved.
Every muscle tensed and shuddered as anger rolled over his broad shoulders, the six-pack of abs clenching like the white teeth he bared when he growled out once more, “Eta ruka?”
Viktor nodded, raising the hand his boss had tapped with a boot. The chiseled line of Anton’s jaw grew impossibly harder as he breathed heavily through his nose. Something unknown washed through Viviana’s insides, sending her desire ramped up while fear prickled elsewhere.
“Do you think it is appropriate I let this go, Viktor?” he asked, warningly. The slight Russian accent in his dialect wasn’t nearly as thick as some of the men around him, but the more irritated his voice became, the more prominent it sounded. “Do you agree with your brothers that your actions should simply be overlooked because of your lack of past transgressions? Would that be to your liking?”
“It is a yes or no question!” The barrel of the gun pressed harder against the older man’s temple. Viviana’s heart stuttered. “I don’t wish to hear your excuses, or apologies. I want a fucking answer!”
Viviana’s fingers tightened around the doorknob as Viktor’s voice turned quieter and he said, “Yes, I was wrong.”
Anton gripped the gun, and he tapped the piece three short times to the man’s head. “This hand,” he stated, his foot tapping against Viktor’s clenched fingers once more. “You hit her with this one, so open it up against the floor. Now.”
“Would you like to be next, Boris? I should take a pound from you, too, considering you didn’t step in until after he’d smacked her around a little. I was very clear with my instructions. Neither of you idiots managed to follow them properly.”
Anton stood straight, turning to face Boris, and giving Viviana a view of the wide plains of his back and shoulders. Stretched with bands of muscles, his shoulders were strong, wide, and shuddering with barely contained fury. Black ink crisscrossed his skin in a tribal design and a black star resided on both of his shoulders between the inky licks of color.
“The orders were clear, and you allowed him to break my protocol. At the very least, you could have used that sedative before you took her from the dorm, and he did not have to end that bull inside the complex. Those are issues I have to fix now. Too sloppy for a brigadier of your age and knowledge. Both of you are losing the thirty percent share from your boy’s tributes this month, and maybe next, too. I haven’t decided, yet.”
“Yes, Boss,” Boris replied quietly.
Anton turned back to Viktor, the gun in his grip aimed and ready. Viviana choked knowing what he was about to do, but still unable to turn away from the sight. “Hand out,” he ordered again. With a shaky exhale, Viktor unclenched his fingers and laid his palm flat to the floor.
Closing his eyes, he apologized once more in his mother tongue. Anton kneeled down to thrust the gun against the back of the man’s hand. “You will apologize to her. You are not to speak to her directly, or indirectly, without my immediate presence and permission. I do not want to see your face before I request it, and I suggest you stay away from my clubs and homes until this has blown over. Are we clear?”
“Yes, what?” Anton barked.
Without a second of indecision, Anton pulled back the hammer on his gun. Viktor flinched, and she felt suffocated by the realization that a man was about to be shot for hitting her. Bile rose in Viviana’s throat as she pushed open the door and stumbled through. With it came the attention of every man in the room, and the appearance of their guns pointed directly at her.
Bethany-Kris is a Canadian author, lover of much, and mother to four young sons, one cat, and two dogs. A small town in Eastern Canada where she was born and raised is where she has always called home. With her boys under her feet, snuggling cat, barking dogs, and a hubby calling over his shoulder, she is nearly always writing something … when she can find the time.
To keep up-to-date with new releases from Bethany-Kris, sign up to her New Release Newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/bf9lzD
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