Authors: Vanessa Waltz
Tags: #mafia romance, #Contemporary Fiction, #vanessa waltz, #alpha male romance, #Contemporary Romance
End Game (A Dark Romance)
Published by Vanessa Waltz
Copyright 2014 Vanessa Waltz
* * *
I need to get out, but I can’t leave without him.
My dad was conned into working with the mob. Now he’s dead and I’m paying the price. I thought I could handle it. I thought I could control them.
Instead, they’re controlling me. They sent him to watch over me: Joe DiFiore, a soldier in the Vittorio Family who says his job is to protect me, but I know the truth. He’ll kill me if I make one wrong move.
He's my judge, my executioner, but he's also my protector. It's sick, but I want him. I’ve fallen hard for him, even though he just wants to play with me. Kissing him is like playing with fire. I should know better, but the spark between us raged into an inferno.
He has to make a choice. The families are at war—and both want me dead for what my father did.
Joe is my only chance…and I can’t believe I’m falling for him.
Note: This alpha male/mafia romance is a standalone novel of 88,000 words, but the third in the Vittorio Crime Family saga.
The inside of Joe’s apartment is fucking freezing. I don’t know whether he keeps it low because he’s some goddamn demon who needs it at a precise temperature because otherwise he’ll combust into flames, or whether he’s doing it to get to me.
I’m a prisoner. I’m
That's what he keeps saying to me in the dark, his low, gritty voice making my skin tingle as his lips whisper against my ear. His arm wraps around my naked stomach and pulls my body into his chest and his warmth engulfs me like a bath. The front of my body still feels the sting of cold until his blazing fingers travel up my stomach and tease the curve of my breasts. I shiver and arch against him as pleasure clenches inside me.
His low laugh reverberates in my ear. “See, Marisa? Your body knows it’s mine.”
I want to strangle him, except I can’t because I’m handcuffed behind my back. Yeah, that’s right. I’m
, and he’s taking full advantage.
The logical, angry part of me wants to fight him. Wants to escape. Not just for self-preservation, but out of pride.
“What you’re doing is wrong.”
I wince at the sound of my words. They’re so childish.
“God, I know, but it doesn’t feel like it. Does it?”
Another moan hisses through my teeth. He grabs my left breast and squeezes, and then his thumb makes a circle around my nipple, teasing the sensitive flesh. I turn in his arms with some difficulty. He’s still gorgeous. That smile he gives me looks more seductive in the low light, but I can’t deny he scares me. The handcuffs around my wrists aren’t a joke, even if he finds them hot.
“Joe…what’ll happen to me?”
The question shakes out of my throat, but he doesn’t stop smiling. He has me exactly where he wants me. Joe pulls me closer until my leg is forced over his thigh, and I can feel the heat of him all around me. It makes me dizzy. His finger runs along my jaw and forces my face to meet his lips, which blaze against mine. I forget about my question and respond back hungrily, my breasts flush against his chest.
I want him.
I want him and I can’t help it.
He always does this. He deflects the serious questions, makes me forget, and distracts me with his tongue. When it’s over and he’s panting in my neck, buried inside me so deep I can feel every twitch—then the questions come back.
What will they do to me? Am I safe?
But I have no courage to ask him.
3 MONTHS EARLIER
Pink rhinoceros slippers with yellow teeth smile at me from the coffee table as I bob them back and forth. In my head, there’s an inner monologue of them talking to each other. It goes something like this:
Hello, Mr. Rhinoceros! How
re you today?
(In a British accent) Oh, I
m doing well.
Whatever is the matter?
ve a toothache!
I can help you with that, old sport. Open your mouth.
No! Unhand me!
Pipe down. This
ll only take a minute.
t think you
re qualified for this!
Oh, shut up!
t touch me!
I mouth the words as I flex my slippers, laughing to myself as the voices get more and more high-pitched and stereotypically British. The sound of someone clearing her throat snaps me out of my bliss and I gaze over the coffee table.
Jessica gives me a snide look over the arm of her chair that I ignore.
, Marisa. Those slippers make me want to vomit.”
I give her a sharp look. “They’re cute. You used to love Randy.”
“Used to.” She rolls her eyes, turning her head back to the television. “I’m embarrassed for you.”
Man, when did she lose her sense of humor? Part of me feels a sharp sense of loss. My sister and I used to be best friends. I was her hero—the big sister. She copied everything I did, and I looked out for her. We both loved that stupid rhino kid show. It’s the one childish thing I still cling to.
Okay, maybe not the only one.
Dad and I still watch
cartoons on Sunday. It was a tradition that started when I was seven. My hand grabs the glass of wine sitting at my left, and I suddenly feel self-conscious and ridiculous.
I loved that goddamn rhino. Growing up, I had stuffed animals, bedsheets, and underwear, everything—the whole nine yards. There was something comforting about that big, pink costume. I’m twenty-seven.
My mother’s voice echoes inside my head. Jessica definitely took after her, even when Dad raised us after the divorce.
“You better not let Nathan see those slippers,” she says with her back turned to me, her eyes focused on the TV screen.
My childish glee from playing with my slippers fades like the memory of a dream, becoming hazier by the second. Just the thought of my older brother makes my insides squirm. It’s not that we don’t get along. We get along fine now that we’re older, but when we were young, Nathan’s face haunted my nightmares and whenever I’d see him, I’d flinch. It’s just hard to forgive him for the things he’s done. I haven’t, really. I just play along and pretend for Dad’s sake.
“I mean, that’s probably why you don’t have a boyfriend.”
s more because Nathan always scared them away.
The few times I introduced guys to the family, Nathan would pull them aside and have a talk with them, and then I never saw them again. Nathan would look on stoically as my face streamed with tears and I screamed until I was hoarse in the throat.
“He wasn’t right for you, Marisa. I had to run him off.”
“That’s my decision, not yours!”
Dad always cut in before anything serious happened. He’d reprimand Nathan and tell me quietly to be patient with my brother, assuring me that he only loved me and wanted to protect me.
I want to decide who
s right for me, thanks.
I really hated him for that, but I chose to maintain a relationship with him for Dad. Plus, the family business needed me, and I needed to get along with Nathan if I wanted to help with it.
It’s not like I have time for dating. Ever since I graduated to join Nathan in the family business, I haven’t had time for myself. One day I will. I’ll slow down and take my time, but first I have to learn the ropes, and that means going to work every single day. Saturdays. Sundays. Holidays. New York City never sleeps, and neither does the Worlds Casino, which Dad owns.
“It’s not like I’d wear these on a date.”
The right slipper falls with a soft thud and I let the other one fall, too. Dad walks into the living room, along with Nathan, whose eyes immediately narrow at the slippers beneath my feet. Great. That’s all I need—an excuse for Nathan to call into question my maturity and somehow link that to my inadequacy to work at Worlds Casino.
“Kids, dinner’s ready.”
Screw you, brother.
I slip them back onto my feet, abandoning the black pumps I wear to Sunday dinner, and join them in the dining hall. Dad gives me a wicked grin when he sees the colorful slippers. The dining table is long and huge, even though there are only four of us. I take my place at Dad’s left as his personal chef asks me if I would like another glass of wine.
Nathan looks up from his plate, smirking. “Wouldn’t you prefer chocolate milk?”
“Nathaniel, stop it,” Dad says in a weary voice. His veined hands clasp together and he bends his face into them.
Alarmed, I place a hand on his shoulder. “Dad, are you all right?”
He lifts up his face and nods, looking paler than usual. “I’m just a little out of sorts today.”
After dinner is over I linger at his house for the longest and replace my slippers with my black pumps. Hesitating, I tuck the slippers into my purse and give Dad a hug goodbye.
“Bye, dear. Call me when you get home.”
When I pull away, I notice how tired he looks under the harsh lights in the foyer. Long shadows run down his face, giving me a chill as I leave the house and make the long drive toward Manhattan. My mind is in a fog as I lean in the elevator, clutching the slippers close to my chest.
Dad is getting older.
He’s only sixty, but the lines in his face are carving deeper. He’s lost that shine of youth. His eyes are duller, there’s less pep in his step, and he looks tired.
It scares me.
I toss the slippers in the living room and give Dad a call to tell him I’ve arrived. He doesn’t pick up.
I slump down on my couch, tired as hell but not ready to go to bed yet. Everything in this apartment looks so polished. Not a Tinkerbell poster or stuffed animal in sight. It’s strangely devoid of personal effects, like a staged home, or a spread in
Martha Stewart Living
. It doesn’t feel like home yet. The bright-pink slippers sit under my coffee table, horribly clashing with the decor. I slip my feet inside them immediately, reveling in their warmth and comfort.
Maybe I’ll watch a Disney movie. I haven’t in ages.
The phone rings beside me and I pick it up immediately, assuming it’s Dad. It’s not.
Nathan’s anxious voice crackles through the speaker, filling me with white-hot fear, because he is never scared.
“Marisa, it’s Dad. He’s in the hospital. The chef found him passed out on the floor in the kitchen.”
“What? We just saw him! Are you sure?”
, goddamn it! Get over here, now!”
* * *
That’s what I tell myself, over and over, as his gray hand lies limp in mine and his chest rises and falls with a horrible rattling sound that makes my blood race. My thumb runs over and over the protruding veins on his hand, one that I know very well. How many times did he catch me when I tried to run across the street?
Slow down, Marisa! You
re going to get hit by a car.
A watery smile spreads over my face when I think about how he used to chase me around.
Now he’s confined to this bed with a million tubes feeding his body with drugs. My eyes wander over him to the white walls.
Nathan leans against the wall in the hospital room, watching me, his eyes curiously dry. Finding no comfort in my brother’s gaze, I turn back toward my father’s face. He looks, or at least I think he does, at the ceiling. He looks from side to side, searching or scanning for something, his dry lips murmuring nonsense.
“Dad?” I whisper. “Can you hear me?”
I lean closely over the hospital bed as I ask him for the thousandth time. I’m desperate just to hear something from him: a grunt, an insult, anything that would indicate he isn’t beyond our reach. But he already is.
It hits me like a sharp slap to my face. My face and eyes burn, but I swallow the tears down. Tears won’t help Dad.
Hell, nothing will.
Even if I spent all the money in the world to pay for the best doctors and the most advanced treatments, I still wouldn’t be able to stop the inevitable. Death: the universal equalizer.