Authors: L.A. Witt
If The Seas Catch Fire
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 L.A. Witt
Cover Art by Garrett Leigh
Editors: Danielle Poiesz & Jules Robin
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the publisher, and where permitted by law. Reviewers may quote brief passages in a review. To request permission and all other inquiries, contact L.A. Witt at
Sergei Andronikov was a child when the Mafia wiped out his family, leaving him with nothing but a hunger for revenge. Years later, through ruthless strategy and tireless patience, he’s a contract killer working for the three families ruling Cape Swan… and he’s nearly in position to bring them all down from the inside.
Domenico “Dom” Maisano is Mafia royalty, a made man… and a hitman. He’s caught up in a violent life he can’t escape, struggling to maintain an image he doesn’t want, and suppressing desires he can’t have.
A chance encounter throws the killers into each other’s paths. Though Dom knows he’s playing a dangerous game, he’s intrigued and keeps coming back. Sergei can’t resist him either—Dom is everything he set out to destroy, but he’s also everything he’s ever ached for in a man.
Then Sergei gets the contract he’s been waiting for—the hit that promises to bring the town’s Mafia to its knees.
But when a boss makes an unexpected move, Sergei must choose between dropping the hammer on the families he vowed to annihilate, and protecting the man he swore he wouldn’t love.
And the wrong choice—or even the right one—will destroy them both.
Huge thank you to Erica, Allie, Suzanne, Chris, Danielle, & Jules!
“Trust your heart if the seas catch fire,
live by love though the stars walk backward.”
– E.E. Cummings
Sergei Andronikov hadn’t been in the guy’s lap thirty seconds, and there was already a hand on his ass.
Carefully schooling his expression—keeping the irritation well beneath the surface—Sergei batted the asshole’s hand away. This was Sergei’s fourth or fifth client of the night, and he was one of those middle-aged financial types. The kind who’d been behind a desk in a bank long enough to think he was God. Sergei hated those fucks.
But he was getting paid, so he writhed and undulated on the banker’s lap, sharing it with a sizeable paunch. And after a few beats, the hand was back, this time coming up off the armrest to caress Sergei’s hip. Before it could inch toward his ass—these fuckers were so goddamned predictable—Sergei again pushed it away, adding a playful, “No touching. That’s the rule.”
The banker grinned, revealing teeth that were flawless aside from the misfortune of being in this man’s head. “I’m paying you good money.” He placed a defiant hand firmly on Sergei’s leather-clad hip. “I’d say the rules are negotiable.”
“Actually.” Sergei dropped the playfulness as he grabbed the man’s wrist and shoved his hand away. “They’re not.”
Do it again, and you’ll be swallowing those pretty teeth.
The guy snatched Sergei’s arm, gripping it painfully. “Customer’s always right. Now you’ll—”
In a heartbeat, Sergei had him shoved back against the chair, fingers around the asshole’s throat. Blood pounded beneath the skin, one squeeze away from being cut off, and Sergei dug his knee against the man’s crotch.
“What the fuck?” the guy ground out.
“The rules are not negotiable, and this dance is over.” Sergei dug his thumb just hard enough against the banker’s jugular to make him nervous. “Now get the fuck out of here before I turn all three of the ex-Special Forces bouncers loose on your ass.” He leaned in closer. “You know what kind of ex-Special Forces guy becomes a bouncer in a gay strip club in a shitty little town like this?”
Eyes widening even more, the asshole shook his head. “N-no…”
“The kind who are too fucked up in the head to do anything else.” Sergei pushed himself up, using the stupid sap’s throat and balls for leverage and nearly tipping the chair back in the process. “Get the fuck out of here.”
The banker wisely got the fuck out of there. Probably the smartest thing he’d done all night. He’d have moved even faster if he’d known just whose ass he’d been trying to grope.
But he was gone, and Sergei still had a few hours left on his shift, so after he’d straightened his hair and clothes, he stepped out of the booth.
Roy, the burly black bouncer hovering near the entrance to the private dance booths, grinned at him. “That guy left in a hurry. You feed him that ex-Special Forces line?”
“Maybe.” Sergei batted his eyes. “You have to admit, it gets the point across.”
Roy laughed. “Well, I think you scared him good.”
“That’s the idea.” Sergei headed back out to the lounge, ignoring the creepy tingling where the asshole’s hands had landed. He was used to a lot of things in this job, but the groping still made his skin crawl. Oh well. Occupational hazard.
As he stepped up to the bar for some water, Jesse, one of the other strippers, came running up to him.
“Hey, Sergei.” Jesse grabbed his arm, eyes huge and face
. “We gotta call the cops.”
He gestured shakily at the back door. “I was outside having a smoke, and some guys pulled up. Started fucking up some dude they pulled outta the trunk.”
Oh, shit. Not here. Not this close to where I work
“No cops.” Sergei squeezed his shoulder and started toward the back. “I’ll chase ’em off.”
“What?” Hot on his heels, Jesse said, “Dude, they’re big guys! They’re—”
“I’ve got this. Relax.”
Jesse exhaled sharply and muttered, “Your funeral.”
“I mean it.” Sergei spun around and stabbed a finger at him. “
“Okay, okay!” Jesse showed his palms. “No cops.”
Sergei quickly went into the back, opened his locker, and pulled up the false bottom. Beneath it was a .22 pistol and an extra magazine. With those in hand, he replaced the false bottom and headed out to the back alley where the goons were apparently conducting business.
This was just not his night, was it? He’d already had to deal with the son of a bitch who couldn’t keep his hands to himself. Now there were Italians in the back alley, one of them getting his ass handed to him, and Sergei wasn’t having it.
brought Mafia business this close to his club. Not unless they were there to discreetly contract him for their dirty work, and only a handful of people knew who he was or where to find him. Otherwise, the Italians were taking their lives in their own hands if they brought their kind—and potentially the cops—this close to his club.
Especially now. It had only been three days since Lorenzo Barcia’s body washed up by the docks, and up until tonight, everybody in Cape Swan had been laying low, keeping their heads down while the cops hunted for anyone who might be connected. Shit like that happened here all the time—violence was unavoidable with three Cosa Nostra families vying for dominance—but when a murder was clearly set up to send a message, it got attention. After all, though the saltwater had fucked the asshole up good, it was a safe bet he hadn’t died of natural causes. Not with his balls torn off and shoved into his fat mouth.
In the days since he’d been found, the town had been as quiet as the July heat had been oppressive. Tensions were running hot, someone was going to get blamed for that murder, and
wanted to be anywhere around when any bullets started flying.
Least of all the man who’d stuffed Barcia’s balls in the guy’s own screaming mouth before shoving him off the pier for the crabs to snack on.
But Sergei wasn’t in charge of what went on in this twisted little world, and now, before the shit had even begun to die down, some fucknuts were beating up some wise guy in the
alley. Of all the times and places, they’d decided to rough up the asshole here, on the outer edges of Cape Swan, just a few blocks down from the Pacific waterfront, behind the
fucking strip club.
Sergei shut the back door and barricaded it with the folding chair that his coworkers sat in whenever they smoked. This was the windowless club’s only rear exit, and he didn’t want anyone following him outside. At least the other businesses along the alley were closed this time of night. As long as a roving police officer didn’t happen by, he was in the clear to shut this bullshit down.
As soon as he’d stepped outside, Sergei knew exactly where the assholes were, as if there’d been any doubt. Their Italian-accented shit-talking made his teeth grind—
way to be subtle, guys
. Two men had a third backed up and bloody against the bumper of a late model Cadillac, and they weren’t done with him. A punch doubled the poor fucker over, and he grunted and wheezed as they hauled him upright again.
Gun in hand, Sergei strode across the gravel. He knew he hardly cut an imposing figure—he was half their size, for one thing, and his skintight red leather shorts and crop top weren’t exactly the stuff of nightmares. Fine. They didn’t need to be intimidated.
One turned and did a double take. He snapped his fingers and pointed toward the club, as if Sergei were a stray dog who’d come to investigate the noise. “You! Get the fuck outta here, fag.”
Sergei continued his approach. “How about
idiots get the fuck out of here.”
The second man muttered something as he lowered his fist, which he’d probably been about to shove into the third guy’s gut. “You got a problem, fag?”
“Yeah, I do.” Sergei stopped, keeping the gun at his side. “How about you assholes take this somewhere else?”
The first rolled his eyes. “Or what?”
Sergei nodded toward the unfortunate asshole pinned to the bumper. “Or you both get to bleed more than him.”
Both men glanced at the pistol, but laughed.
“Get out of here, fag.” The second turned and balled his fist, drawing back to punch the goon again.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Sergei raised the .22 and put a bullet through the Italian’s knee.
The first guy jumped back. “Holy shit!”
The second howled in agony and dropped to the ground.
The third, with no one to hold him up, crumpled to his knees. His head lolled a bit, and he blinked a few times, probably trying to stay conscious. He’d taken a hell of a beating. Sergei couldn’t tell how much of the blood on his knuckles was his, but it looked like he’d given as good as he’d gotten. And he was alive. That said a lot.
The one with the bullet in his knee whined and writhed on the ground beside his own victim, blood seeping through his fingers. “
Pezzo di merda! Figlio di
Sergei faced the man still standing. “Weapons?”
“Don’t fuck with me. Weapons on the ground, or bullet through the dick.”
The uninjured Italian’s eyes widened. Hands shaking, he withdrew a pistol from inside his jacket, and a set of brass knuckles.
The man he’d been beating saw the brass knuckles and gulped.
“Put them on the ground.” Sergei gestured at the man he’d shot. “Out of his reach.”
The Italian glanced at his wounded partner, then crouched and laid his weapons where the other guy couldn’t reach them. Hands up, he stood again.
Sergei nodded sharply toward the car. “Open the trunk and get in.”
“What?” The guy laughed, a borderline hysterical sound. “You crazy? I’m not—”
Sergei leveled the gun at the goon’s face. “Get in the fucking trunk.”
His eyes widened, and his tanned Italian complexion paled. Then he shoved his would-be victim aside, sending the man crumpling the rest of the way to the ground, groaning and clutching his chest. The goon eyed Sergei and the open trunk, and then he climbed inside.
With his foot, Sergei nudged the one he’d shot. “You too. Get in.”
“What?” The Italian blinked up at him. He clutched his knee, blood soaking his pant leg and streaming from between his fingers. “I can’t walk, you fuck!”
“Stop being a pussy.” Sergei aimed the weapon at his other knee. “Or I’ll make sure you can’t crawl, either.”
The man struggled to his feet, using the car bumper for support and whimpering whenever he moved his wounded leg. He started to climb into the trunk but couldn’t bend his knee.
“Fuck. I can’t…”
Sergei shoved him unceremoniously into the trunk, and despite their significant size difference, he knocked the sobbing Italian on top of his partner. Sergei didn’t even flinch when the guy’s head smacked against the trunk lid. By the time both men were completely inside the trunk, the wounded one was howling in pain, and from the smell, Sergei was pretty sure one or the other had pissed himself.
Whatever. Wasn’t Sergei’s fault they’d chosen this alley out of all the other options in this town. He grabbed a roll of duct tape from the trunk and put a piece over the screaming man’s mouth, but it didn’t muffle him all that much.
“Shut the fuck up,” Sergei snarled. “Or your other kneecap is gone.”
The man shut up. Tears were streaming down his face, and he was hyperventilating now, but he was more or less quiet.
Sergei bound the first guy’s hands, and then put duct tape over his mouth too. Thank fucking God—another minute of his bullshit, and Sergei would’ve shot them both then and there. Even now he was tempted just to rid the world of two more Mafia scumbags like the ones who’d murdered his family.
But not here. Not this close to the club.
He slammed the trunk and turned to the other thorn in his side—the guy they’d been roughing up. Leaving him here wasn’t an option. The cops were too jumpy to ignore a battered Italian, and they’d start prowling around in this part of town. A little too close to home for Sergei’s taste.
He didn’t care if the man lived or died as long as he didn’t do it here, so Sergei crouched beside the wounded man and quietly asked, “Can you walk?”
“Let’s see if we can get you into the car.” Sergei offered him an arm, keeping his pistol firmly in his other hand in case the wise guy decided to try something funny, and helped him to his feet.
He didn’t try anything. The poor bastard probably had some busted ribs, maybe even some bleeding on the inside, judging by the way he doubled over and kept an arm around his middle. With Sergei’s help and a pained sound, he lay back across the backseat.
Sergei shut the car door and scanned the dark alley. As far as he could tell, no one was around. No one had seen a thing. He fully intended to keep it that way.
None of the men in the car were going anywhere without his help, so after he’d collected the weapons and kicked some gravel over the blood, obscuring it enough that it wouldn’t draw attention, he headed back inside. He took the chair away from the door and strolled into the club.